With Christmas celebrated in style we left the tiny island of Pamilican and headed back to what was quickly becoming our second home – Panglao. Into our beloved Manuela resort and like always, greeted as tho we were part of the family.
Seven days had past with only a bucket to wash from so we took the opportunity to have a much needed shower. Sun lotion applied and bite cream dotted all over us and we were ready to embrace some western comforts.
A tricycle to Alona beach and into another familiar abode, the Swedish restaurant. No fish, vegetables or rice were even thought about as we received our steak and mash. Beautifully finished off with two boxes of dunkin donuts. Peace had been restored and energy levels were high enough to go on a sandal hunt for Daniella. Within minutes we had found the shop that not only provided Daniella with a much needed replacement pair but also a second, fancy pair of flip flops for those times you need to show a little more class along the shore line.
As we strolled along the promenade, passing restaurants, fish vendors and numerous holiday goers receiving massages we contemplated our next move.
A day of exploring Bohol and then we go. Go where – 3 islands down, around 7000 left to choose from. A decision that could wait until the eleventh hour. Firstly we wanted to have a full on day of being tourists.
To achieve this there are a few things that you need to do on Bohol and we most definitely gave it our all.
The day started with a long scooter ride, leaving the coastline for a more mountainous terrain. As we filled up the tank after an hours drive we were sitting a kilometer south of the swinging bridge. With a bumpy ride to the entrance, we dismounted and were hit with the plus thirty heat that had been hidden so well by the rides breeze.
Water and camera at the ready and we made our way across a bridge that most definitely lived up to its name. A few stumbles across the first bamboo Bridge with the statuary selfies and we were met by a souvenir haven of stools and food carts. With a surprisingly low amount of gifts purchased to date we loaded up on some funky key rings and magnets. Prevelly joined in but didn’t quite get to grips with the need to pay. Grabbing as much as she could in both hands she happily tried to wander off with her new keepsake. A few snacks down and we headed back along the second, equally unstable bridge. A few more swings and stumbles and we were back at the bike. A fried banana on a stick was purchased to keep us going until the next stop.
Our next stop was high on Prevelly’s list as it involved seeing the famous little island monkeys – the tarsier. A sanctuary dedicated to these wonderful little creatures which was overloaded with tourists a like, trying to spot and capture a picture of them sleeping in the
bamboo leaves. A near silent place due to the natural behavior of the tarsier and their sleeping patterns, which Prevelly soon changed as she let out a beautiful wow as she saw the first one. With a tarsier cuddly toy that as rarely left her neck over the past few weeks she was connected in a much stronger way than the rest of us. Second site ticked off the list and spot of lunch was in order. Surrounded by more souvenir shops, Prevelly picked a t shirt to remember the occasion.
The next attraction was the big one of the island – the chocolate hills. On route we passed through the mahogany forest which is a man made forest stretching two kilometers that stands out in a beautiful manner. A quick bike selfie among the tourists sitting, jumping and even laying on the main road and we were nearly at our furthest destination for the day.
The chocolate hills are quite self explanatory but what should be noted is that they are not chocolate, or brown, all year round. When the vegetation upon the hills dries up, a beautiful brown colour coats the hundreds of hills along the horizon. If folk legends are to be believed then the hills are the tear drops of giants who once roamed the island. We didn’t encounter any larger than life characters so we will have to take their word for it.
We rode up to the viewing point upon the highest hill and parked up. Around 50 steps and we were standing above the landscape admiring this very unique, natural occurrence. Surrounded by like minded tourists, we stood as tall as possible and got the background in on numerous selfies. From past experience we have learned, in a non racist or stereotypical way, the Asians are by far the best photographers. Family together and our trusted camera women snapped away for us.
Whilst in the mentality of true tourists we felt that matching t shirts were in order. We had passed a few matching couples and families along the way and chuckled at thought of it. Sporting our newly purchased, brightly coloured, locally promotive attire, we headed down to the main road. We had passed a dairy farm not far from the hills and decided an ice cream was on the cards. Surprised to see queso on the menu, cheese for us English speakers, we thought it necessary to try the local favorite. Not a flavor of ice cream that we will be trying again but it did hold a slightly addictive after taste. Prevelly was ecstatic after seeing three cones ordered and cleverly managed to end up holding two of them, leaving the cheese choice for her duped parents.
With the sun setting and a long ride home we decided it was nearly time to leave the treats that the inland had provided. But not before a grilled snack from a locals house along the roadside. After finally being told that the skewer we had seen so often and even tried previously, was in fact, chicken intestines, we opted for the breast this time. We made it back to the resort in time for a late dinner and to see our little girl pass out after a demanding day.
Siquijor was the next island that had been chosen and we boarded the boat for a quick 90 minute crossing. A Tricycle to the other side and we arrived at Chelles guesthouse. A lovely piece of land with a few bamboo huts standing on stilts, surrounded by hammocks and coconut trees.
After some research about the island we had managed to end up at the witch craft center of the Philippines. Even now, people are still scared to visit here due to the possible effects of curses and magic that looms throughout the forests. We looked on line and found the master of all healers – Nannay Conchin. An elderly lady who found a black stone in her pocket as a young adult whilst swimming. She then had a dream that inevitably lead to her healing locals and anyone brave enough to muster up the courage to travel to the village where the magic resides. Unfortunately on a trip to a beautiful Waterfall we were informed that Nanay had passed away. The exact response was ‘Ohhhh Nanay, the real healer’. There are a lot of impersonators within the village of San Antonio and surrounding areas. We opted for a massage as a good replacement whilst we were here and let the well respected, magical powers stay an island mystery.
With Paliton Beach only a few minutes drive from Chelles we were back into the sea life and splashing around, in yet another paradise location that is in abundance when you start island hopping. A few days of fun and some local exploration and we saw in the new year in true parent style. With a bottle of red wine as we cuddled up in a hammock and reflected on an incredible year of firsts. With Daniella feeling ready to start the new year on a high and with purpose, we searched online and purchased some Swedish stocks. If we don’t return in March then you know they have done very well. Prevelly slept soundly and started 2018 with her morning smile and dancing in the bed.
With the sun shining and 2018 in full swing we headed down the road to our new base. Good vibes was the name on the sign and it echoed its name sake as the tenants of the 3 other rooms congregated at the beach bar. A Swedish owner who was welcoming, accommodating and for the most of the time, happily drunk. We were planned for two nights which quickly turned into five. Breathtaking sunsets, gorgeous beach front and a very relaxed, good vibe, was how the new year kicked off.
With a moped parked out front we decided to have a few days riding around the one main road of Siquijor. I took the lead on the first destination as I had read about a beautiful coffee bar and restaurant sitting on top of a small mountain, overlooking the capital – Siquijor. A fun, bumpy journey up and we were met with panoramic views of the entire island. The only downer to the whole experience was that they were without power that day and coffee was off the menu. A nice meal and quite possibly the strangest dessert we’ve ever tried with the halo halo special. A mixture of ice cream, cereal, fruit and noodles, we think. Lacking caffeine but high on sugar, we flew back to our spot that we were now calling home.
With more than just witchcraft on offer here we stopped off at the natural spring in the Centre of San Juan. A very refreshing bathe for Prevelly and Daniella as they were accompanied by locals hurling themselves as far as possible and a few fish swimming besides them for good measure. A local hot-spot to cool down from the unforgiving sun.
One ride lead us to the century old tree, a must for visitors and locals in need of a foot scrub. The eerie old tree has sprawled branches in every direction, most of which are now digging back into the ground, looking like something you’d see in a horror movie. At the base is a spring filled with hundreds of fish ready to clean, tickle and torment you as you sit there having your feet cleansed. Daniella won the bravery contest as she quickly managed to go from one foot at a time to a constant bathe of both. The only occasional flinch appeared as the larger, and I do mean larger fish showed an interest. Prevelly had no qualms with the concept but with her still un weathered soles the fish showed little interest. I let the family down in true fashion as my hatred of feet touching became abundantly clear within seconds. A few light nibbles followed by a very unmanly scream saw the end of my feet cleaning session.
On the next sweltering day we aimed for a Waterfall so that Prevelly could practice her swimming and Daniella could continue with her rock jumping. Guided down by a local we bathed in a beautiful area and ended up playing around for a good hour or so. With only shallow sea waters along our bay this is now Prevelly’s favorite type of swimming pool. Surrounded by lush greenery and blue skies we had a perfect start to the day. Topped off with an Italian lunch on the beach as we made our way back for some good vibes.
The last days were spent admiring the sunsets, chasing the beautifully colored orange and blue crabs and dinning in the local aloha restaurant. With each dining experience Prevelly took center stage as she mingled, danced and generally entertained anyone who sat down.
With the final few weeks of our Philippines tour planned for Palawan we now have three days before our flight and head to the city of Dumaguete.
As, with most of this trip, there has rarely been a day that hasn’t provided us with a memorable experience. We have cemented our love for the beach life even more so, from an island that wasn’t even originally on our radar. A beautiful surprise in Siquijor and a lovely chance to meet some amazing people.
Much love to everyone around the world