Hello from the Philippines

Hello – I hope everybody’s Monday off to a good start. This post covers my first experience of Filipino culture, the true meaning of ‘island lifestyle’ and a catch up with a good friend.

My first experience of how friendly the locals are was through the very nice security guard who let on the airport shuffle bus in Manila take me from my arrival terminal to the one our hotel was near for free, despite my flight not leaving until the next morning. Excellent start.

It was here that I was meeting my friend from uni, Mopkins, who has also been teaching in, and traveling around Asia for the past month. Once reunited, we headed off to Palawan, where we then had a 5hr van transfer for us to get to El Nido, our home for the next 4 days. After a delightful chat with a lovely Filipino guy sat next to us on the plane, again showing how friendly people are by giving us loads of tips for the archipelagos, we got our first taste of island culture. We’d agreed a price with a man in arrives for a van to take us to El Nido. What we didn’t appreciate was that they only leave once they’ve filled up the van. This included waiting for the next flight to come in, going to pick other people up at 3 different locations, and an hours delay. Despite our initial grumblings to the driver, we finally made it to this view, which was kind of worth it.

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Sunset views from Outpost Beach Hostel, El Nido

However, after such a beautiful introduction to El Nido, it proceeded to rain for the next 2 days. Torrentually. So we had to postpone our boat tour of the area (we chose Tour A to start with, out of the 4 options available) from Saturday to Sunday, crossing all fingers and toes for good weather the next day.

The first day of rain crept up on us after lunch, and resulted in us actually having beers on the beach (granted, we were trapped in a restobar we’do run to seeking cover) with a lovely scottish couple wed met the day before on our bus here. It was unfortunate that on this day, Mopkins had decided to wear his new multicoloured shirt from Indonesia, which is apparently not weather proof – the blue dye ran all down his arms, making it look like he had a serious gym vein pump going on. The second day of rain caused us to seek activities where rain could enhance the experience, and therefore went chasing waterfalls (well, one called Nagkalit-kali waterfall). The rain held off for most of the trip, only coming down as we left the actual site to walk back. In keeping with yesterday’s theme, Mopkins lost on of his flip-flops in the mud and had to walk back barefoot. Not a good few days for his wardrobe! At least he remembered his towel when we left though 😊 (inside Warwick Big band joke)

Our final full day here was spent doing Tour A around El Nido, visiting 3 Lagoons  (Big, Small and Secret) and two stunning beaches (Shimizu Island and 7 Commando’s Beach). Lucky for us, and the group of fellow backpackers that we’d met over the past few days, the weather was beautiful. We all had a blast with the 3 Filipino couples on our boat, who were all about the group shots, but the pictures below should sum up what an amazing day we had.

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Half of our group in the small lagoon

 

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Big lagoon

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View of the beach around the Secret Lagoon

I was also really lucky – a friend of one of the girls on our boat had a drone, and filmed the whole day. I can’t include the link to the video but I’ll see if I can just put it on Facebook somehow. It’s really not stolen from a marketing site, it was filmed on the day I was there!

To celebrate how much fun we’d had on the tour, Mopkins and I decided to try the local desert, called halo-halo, which is the strangest mixture of foods I’ve ever tried together. Wouldn’t say I’d have it again, but when in Rome…

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Halo Halo deserts

Our last day in El Nido was spent on Las Cabanas beach, which was just around the corner from our hostel and truly was beautiful. It was a long old bus journey back to Puerto Princesca, where we flew into Palawan initially, and where Mopkins and I finally parted ways. It was a brief visit, but really nice to spend time with someone I know well from home. Also, a very surreal experience to be catching up walking down a beach in the Philippines! If anyone else fancies coming out and visiting me in the next 6 months, you are more than welcome!

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Mike and I overlooking the Las Cabanas beach

 

My last day in Palawan was spent exploring the city, which was surprising beautiful. If I’d known before, I’d’ve stayed an extra day to visit some of the surrounding areas more.

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From here, I flew into the group of islands known as the Visayas, and stayed a few days in Cebu city. The first day was really enlightening, as I knew nothing about Filipino history, and by exploring the older town, where the Basilica del Santo Nido and Fort San Pedro are based, allowed me to learn quite a lot in a short space of time. The Spanish came to the Philippines in the 1800’s and introduced catholicism here, which remains strongly practiced today. The Basilica is also one of the most beautiful 16th century buildings I’ve seen for a while.

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The main chapel of the Basilica

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Megellan Cross

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Entrance to the Fort, initially built by the Spanish to defend against hostile local Filipino inhabitants

However, I wish I’d just ‘bit the bullet’ and traveled down to Oslob (south of the island) for a day trip, rather than spend another day in the city. I did go to the beach with the lovely woman running my Guesthouse, which was good to get to know a local personally, but the beach was man-made, rather than the natural beauty further down or up the island.

And before I hop off to another island, I shall end this post!

Until next time, please all stay safe, especially friends and family in London.

E x

 

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