The Philippines so far has been an incredible adventure. With high expectations after seeing postcard like photos online, we have not been let down.
We landed in Manila, into a surprisingly calm airport. A five hour stop over until we flew down to the island of Cebu. A few days staying close to the airport where the locals reside in a town called Mactan. It was completely chaotic and rather dirty throughout most of the area but we stayed in a lovely complex with a pool. A few laps of the pool in the rubber duck and the tan begun to appear. A trip into town on a jeepney (a cramped, overloaded, kind of small bus) and we were the centre of attention, being the only foreigners to wander the market place. As a naked guy casually walked past us in the middle of the street we decided to head back to the complex and plan the next destination.
In need of a beach we made the long, sweaty journey down to Moalboal. A place where locals go to relax. And after entering Cebu city you can understand why they would need to get away.
Although we were only passing from a taxi to a local bus there was something that didn’t feel as comfortable as we’d experienced in Vietnam. Everyone seemed to be on edge and have their guard up. Backpacks were worn on the front so that people were less likely to rob them and even the locals walked with a hand constantly hovering over their pocket, checking to see if everything was still there.
Onto a bus and we met a couple of fellow backpackers which made the 4 hour trip fly by. Sharing any gained knowledge so far and swapping stories of previously visited countries. With Prevelly catching up on some sleep we sampled a variety of snacks as locals jumped on at each stop, selling some form of pastry nibbles.
With a night spent in a hostel with bunk beds, a manner that Daniella and I were well accustomed to, so many years ago now, we knew that our Philippines budget would be shattered, and quickly. As we searched for a new dwelling we decided that we deserved to experience the Philippines as is was meant to be, in a beautiful resort on the beach, sipping wine and eating like Kings and Queens. Easily done here, with a small coastline hosting a number of such resorts, we found one for the costly sum of £20 a night.
The mood lifted to a new high as we entered into the grounds. The beautiful huts were strategically placed aside the walkway, that in turn lead down to an open restaurant and viewing area beside the ocean. A few kayaks, a swing and a number of hammocks to let the worries of city life wash away and we were ready to embrace our new way of living.
First thing on the list was to test out the picture perfect, crystal clear sea water. We took four steps down from the hammock area and into the water. Carefully stepping over the starfish as we made our way to a bathe able depth. Pure paradise achieved on day one.
After a discussion had the night before from our tiny bunk beds, as we were being feasted upon by numerous mosquitoes, we wanted to embrace all that each area had to offer. So day two came with a Christopher Columbus mentality and we set off on the moped towards Kawasan falls. A slight detour to the top of the mountain and then back down to the base. A beautiful walk to the first step of the falls. Accompanied by a couple who had definitely carried out their research, we all headed up to the top tier where most are unaware of. We mingled with the locals and splashed in the fresh water for several hours. Prevelly was leading the way with a no fear approach to the chilled waterfall and was first to greet the locals and offer them some of her beloved mango.
A trip to the locally famous white sand beach for some Xmas photo posing and a spot of brunch, filippino style. Some local site seeing from the seat of our bike and then a journey to Snorkel among the sardines. An incredible experience, with only a 10 m paddle and we were swimming into a school of sardines in the thousands. A few days embracing the hammocks, beautifully cooked English dinners and snorkeling along the reef and we were ready to venture on. But not before Daniella made the decision she’s been pondering for many months now, whether to leave the blonde and start a fresh new look. She started the job with a home dye kit and finished in a salon run by transvestites, who gave an outstanding haircut for a pricey 50 English pence. The end result is amazing and I would like to take this chance to say that she looks incredible.
Oslob was the next stop on the map. A small fishing village that has boomed on the back of the whale shark feeding in the local bay. With mixed opinions on how the feeding habits of the incredible mammals will be affected with this type of human assistance and the possible ripple affect it could have on the rest of the sea life around. Knowing this we were then informed that it was extremely well managed by marine biologists and were advised to try the swim, as it may not continue for long. Having a slight fear of larger sea animals, I felt that this was an excellent chance to embrace my fear. The result was breathtaking and one I will never forget. An extremely elegant and docile creature that casually passed by as it consumed everything thrown in its path.
With this being ticked off the list we spent a day exploring the town and took advantage of some very cheap local toy stands for a spot of Xmas shopping. With Prevelly feeling more relaxed when it came to locals than she did in an overwhelming Vietnam, she walked the streets, waving at everyone and falling in love with the deep fried chicken stands. As always, she had crowds of people mesmerized with her but they were less reluctant to invade her space which has been a refreshing change. With a spot of rain in the evening she showed everyone how to live life to the max in any condition and found some puddles to play in.
Pamilican Island had been booked for the Xmas period for some time now, so we decided to head to its mother island – Bohol. A nice 4 am ferry which involved us slumming it in the Port motel the night before due to a typhoon warning canceling our planned ferry. With a sweltering room and an outside bathroom we spent our time in the tranquil restaurant in the harbor before trying to get a few hours of sleep. No P&O club lounge treatment but we were given a number on a bench and 3 hours later we landed on the beautiful island of Bohol.
Nearly 8 am and with the temperature rising into the thirties as we wandered to the nearest Cafe to abuse the WiFi to find a place to stay. With only a few pesos left in the wallet and no WiFi we stumbled across two of the most welcoming guys who let us use their internet, gave us a lift to the ATM and invited us to join them for breakfast. Armed with money, a new resort booked and a wealth of local knowledge we bundled onto a Tricycle and headed to another white sanded beach.
Paradise was found again as we stayed ten feet from the beach. A family run resort who couldn’t do enough to make you feel welcome. We purchased a much needed bucket and spade set for Prevelly and took advantage of the shallow waters. In the last four days we have played as a family so much, found a lovely Swedish restaurant which has served food as good as, if not better than back in Sweden. We were also fortunate enough to have located a dunkin donuts. 12 donuts down in two days in preparation for the annual new year diet. A trip to the city and a few to the diving centre of the island and we are now ready to set sail for a six day getaway upon a nearly deserted island.
The sun has constantly shone and the tans are now in full swing. The smiles have consistently got wider as we’ve absorbed and embraced the relaxed way of living here. Prevelly has taken on board all of her schooling and is starting to make a lot more noise that occasionally resembles that of the English and Swedish language.
We wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a happy New Year and we send all of our love to those back home.