The Philippines

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Debut: The Philippines' fancy coming-of-age celebration for young women

Debut: The Philippines’ fancy coming-of-age celebration for young women

It’s my birthday tomorrow. I know you didn’t get me a card but it’s OK – you weren’t to know. I’ll be turning 30, if you’re wondering, and I’m not at all happy about it. 30 is the oldest I’ll have ever been. But at least I’m not a girl from the Philippines who’s turning 18 tomorrow – I’m not sure I could handle the fuss.

Everything you've always wanted to know about coconuts

Coconuts: What are they and what do they do?

Over 62 million tonnes of coconuts are grown worldwide every year and, if you think that sounds like an awful lot of Malibu and Bountys, it just shows how little you must know about them.

The surprising history of the gin and tonic

Certain drinks seem to be associated with Britain, and for good reason. We all love a tea, a glass of Pimms on a hot summer’s day (still too close to a salad for my liking) or a nice G&T. But as with many things, there’s more to a drink of gin and tonic than you might expect.

Tikbalang: A mythical demon horse from the Philippines

Tikbalang: A mythical demon horse from the Philippines

I’m not sure if it says something about the Philippines, but the people who live there certainly believe in a lot of strange creatures. Of course there are giants, mermaids and vampires – all the usual ones – but there’s also manananggal (a monster who can split in two and the top half flies off), pasatsats (ghosts of people who died, specifically, in the Second World War) and Tikbalang (a misdirecting horse/man/horse).

8 foreign words that don't translate into English

8 foreign words that don’t translate into English

There are many things that we, as a nation, are good at, for instance: making tea, apologising needlessly and… drinking tea. Learning other languages isn’isn’t one of them. We are the slow learners of Europe. And can you blame us? Not only do we have to get our heads around words very often being male or female (why does anyone need a lady-word?) or sentences being the wrong way around (I don’t have “eyes blue”, “hair blonde”!), there are words and phrases we don’t even translate into English!

Unexpected fast food from around the world

Kentucky Fried… Shrimp? Bizarre fast food from around the world

When on holiday, after days of sampling the local cuisine, it can often be tempting to relax by stepping into a recognisable fast food restaurant. After all, at least you know what you’re going to get there, right? Wrong, actually. Around the world, fast food chains are all too eager to adapt to local tastes, sometimes leaving tourists in a state of bewilderment.

6 incredible natural features from around the world

6 incredible natural features from around the world

Pretty temples, weird statues and funky bridges are all well and good but in my opinion, some of the best sights you’ll ever see are natural. Everyone knows about the usual suspects – your Grand Canyons and your Mount Everests – but what about the natural features that are just as incredible, but not as well-known? Well, here are six such natural features…