To say that the US territory of Guam is small is an understatement. In fact, Guam’s 540 square kilometers is comparable to the size of the island province of Camiguin and can be toured literally in half a day by car. But beyond the size of the territory, Guam, with its natural beauty, shared history with the Philippines, a sizeable Filipino community, and tax-free status has a lot to offer which I discovered during a recent trip hosted by the Guam Visitors Bureau and Cebu Pacific.
Located in the Western Pacific, Guam was discovered by explorer Ferdinand Magellan, the same explorer who reached the Philippines. Turned into a strategic Spanish colony, Guam was the first stop in the Western Pacific by ships coming from Mexico on the famous Galleon Trade.
Today, the island is the Easternmost point of the United States since it sits West of the International Date Line making it 14 hours ahead of most of the US. The territory’s thrust in tourism make it a heaven for tourists from Japan, Korea, China and the Philippines who want to experience the American style of shopping and dining, tax free and without the tiring long-haul flight.
When Guam Visitor Bureau marketing account director for the Philippines Carmel R. Carpio said that shopping in Guam is one of the best in the world, she was not kidding.
From the luxury brand sales at Tumon Sands Plaza, to the endless buys at DFS Galleria Guam, to the crazy discounts on discounted items at Guam Premium Outlets, it is just incredible for me. Imagine taking 60 percent off an item, and then taking 20 percent more, and then finally taking 15 percent more thanks to a coupon. Every dollar goes a long way.
There are also retail stores that are open 24-hours a day, for those who can’t find time to shop in the morning and afternoon. Personally, this is the way to go if you want to shop with shorter queues.
Shoppers can also be confident that they are buying the real thing. “There are no fakes in Guam, since Guam is a US territory, US copyright laws are also enforced.” said Pilar Laguaña, Guam Visitor Bureau’s marketing manager.
Aside from the shopping, the food scene in Guam is also a draw with a vibrant restaurant scene. Various international cuisines such as Japanese and Korean can be found on the island but the biggest draws should be the Chamorro style grills such as that of the Taotao Tasi which feature a buffet of local-style grilled meats and seafood served by the beach with a cultural presentation featuring the people of the Pacific.
People who love steaks can take comfort that USDA-certified meat is served almost everywhere in Guam but my favourite steak meal during my Guam trip is at the Pacific Star Resort and Spa’s Manhattan Steakhouse which serves USDA-certified “Prime” Angus steaks. For the steak connoisseur, I would suggest ordering the signature 28-day wet aged Tomahawk steak that can literally feed a small family.
Warmth of the people
Of course, all the shopping and dining comes to nothing without the warmth and the “can do” attitude of the Guamanians. I got that impression while watching a cultural dance presentation at the Sheraton Laguna Guam where our tour group was billeted. The smiles remind me of our own Filipino smiles, genuine and bright like the warm Pacific sun.
Yes, Guam may be a small island in the Pacific, but what it lacks is size, it makes up bigtime in unique magical experiences.
Guam is a three and a half hour flight from Manila and Cebu Pacific flies to Guam three times a week. A US visa is a must since it is US territory.