Survival Guide: The Philippine Pension House

FROM THE DESK OF: Aiza

So you find your visit to the Philippines involves staying at a pension house (hotel) instead of a traditional hotel. Except for costs, I initially didn’t quite understand the differences between a traditional hotel and a pension house. It does seem pension houses/hotels are likely found in the more remote provinces because it wouldn’t make sense (financially) to build a large hotel in these small towns. If you are going to be in the province, be prepared!

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Kissbone Cove – St. Bernard, So. Leyte

One major distinction of a pension house involves amenities. A pension house provides private rooms with no or few amenities. While staying at the pension house you more than likely will get a window air conditioning unit, hopefully cable TV (but don’t think HD cable or anything) and in some cases hot running water in the shower. However, I am not sure the staff is required to clean the room every day and there definitely will be no room service available.

Basically, the key expectation with pension house stays: Little or no amenities.

During my most recent Philippines trip, I found a way to make the pension house accommodation more comfortable despite the little amenities. If you have time (or slight OCD like me) to prepare for your pension house stay, see my list of recommendations/suggestions:

  • CLOROX WIPES. Trust me, you will be so happy you brought these to the Philippines. Nothing beats having the chance to do an extra wipe down of the toilet or sink. The night I arrived at the pension house, the room I was originally assigned to wasn’t ready and definitely was not cleaned. I did get assigned another room, but the poor service at check-in really made me wonder about the cleanliness of the on-site staff. So first thing I did when I got to the room was take the Clorox wipes to the toilet, sink and basically every surface in the room.
  • DISPOSABLE GLOVES. If you have access to a couple disposable gloves or surgical gloves, I recommend taking a few. You never know the extent of cleanliness in the room when you arrive. Giving the room your own wipe down/clean sweep will set the tone of your stay.
  • PILLOW CASE. Remember a pension house is not the same as a hotel. Reality check, the pension house bedding will not be Egyptian cotton. Bringing your own pillow case that is soft and clean will make all the difference when you rest every night. I actually was fortunate enough to bring a flat sheet with me during my last visit. I put the flat sheet and pillow case on top of the bedding the pension house offered. I loved that I didn’t have to look at glaring weird sheet stains by covering the bed with my own luxury sheets. More importantly, I had with me a little piece of home when I was so very far away.
  • TOWELS.  Not sure the towel quality the pension house will provide so bringing your own towel will allow you some comfort.
  • ZIP LOCK BAGS. There are a lot of bugs in the Philippines. There might not be screens on the bathroom window and bugs just find other ways to get into the room. Zip lock bags are great for keeping the bugs out of your stuff. Zip locks are also the best way to make sure those bugs don’t come back home with you.
  • SHAMPOO/SOAP/TOOTHPASTE. Key word of pension house- little or no amenities. There is a good chance that there will not be shampoo/soaps/toothpaste in the room so just prepare yourself with all your toiletries.
  • CUP (PAPER/GLASS). Just to be safe, I usually don’t use the tap water to brush my teeth. Instead I use bottle water to rinse my teeth and toothbrush. You will need either a cup or something to fill with filtered water. Remember: No amenities. Thus, the chance your room has cups, not very likely.
  • LYSOL. How great would it be to just disinfect real quick once you arrive in the room?

One of the positives about staying at a pension house is that you have some cost savings. With the money saved, take a trip to the local market and buy some inexpensive items to make your stay as cozy as possible:

  1. FLIP FLOPS. Flip-flops are so ridiculously cheap in the Philippines. Buy a bunch. I’m not saying getting Havaianas, but instead the cheap-o ones. For sure, you are going to need slippers as shower shoes. I use a pair just to walk around the hotel room. I also keep a spare pair in case I have to go to someone else’s house and I need slippers at their house. Likely, you will be offered a pair when you get to a family member’s house, but I get grossed out using other people’s flip flops. Best part, these slippers are cheap (maybe 50cents ) so just leave them when you check out.
  2. BATH MAT. In the Philippines you will notice that the bath mat is placed outside the bathroom door as opposed to right next to the shower. I figure it is because there is a chance that water splashes everywhere while people shower or use the bucket to bathe. To avoid getting the bath mat completely drenched, people keep the mat outside the bathroom door (almost like a door mat). But for me, I want to step out of the shower onto something soft and cozy. To solve this problem, I went to the local market and bought a cheap towel that I folded a couple times to make cushy. When I stepped out of the shower, I had my bath mat.
  3. HAND TOWEL. I am the type of person that wants a hand towel in both the bathroom and kitchen. Buy a couple of cheap-o washcloths or small towels just so you have something in the room. The pension house will likely only provide one bath towel to you during your stay.
  4. PLASTIC BASKETS. At the local market, I bought a couple cheap plastic baskets to hold miscellaneous stuff. I used baskets to store my toiletries or toilet paper or anything else. Since it is so cheap, I just picked up a few “in case.”
  5. SMALL GARBAGE BASKET. Since the pension house limits the amenities, this might also include garbage cans in the room. I have a separate garbage basket for my bathroom and other rooms. There is a chance the pension house will only give you one basket so might as well pick up that extra inexpensive garbage basket for the bathroom or the living area.
  6. BUCKET. If you end up having to use the bucket to bathe instead of getting a running shower, wouldn’t you want your own bucket that you know you were the only person that used it to clean yourself? Maybe it doesn’t make a difference but for me, I need to know that strangers weren’t washing themselves with the bucket I’m using to wash myself. Plus, who knows what else that bucket was used for.

This survival list is always evolving and as time goes on, maybe the pension house will improve with the amenities and none of these items will be needed. But in the meantime, if you are amenity-driven (or OCD) as I am and don’t deal with roughing it too well, these suggested items will start you off on the right foot.

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