Time Traveling to the Philippines

Life has been a little crazy for us over the past month. I went to Bali, then a few days later Holly arrived, overlapped with a visit from Jeff, followed by him and Fabien going to Japan, capped off with his parents arriving a day after his return and concluding with 4 of his friends arriving a week after his parents, who are here for 3 weeks. Not to mention, we’ve both been trying to secure jobs in Detroit and plan our return to Michigan. Phew. BUT, it’s all fun stuff, so we are not complaining.

The first week his parents were here, we decided to go to the Philippines. Instead of taking a plane there, we took a DeLorean back to 1960. Arriving in Manila for an overnight stop over, we were introduced to rainy season. Throughout the city we saw locals taking Jeepney’s, which instantly reminded me of something I would’ve seen in a Vietnam war based movie. Our hotel was in the Makati District which was filled with people, restaurants, bars and girls who didn’t even have to say “me love you long time” because their body language and clothing said it for them. Manila was a rather disappointing and sad city. For being the capital, we expected to find plenty of monuments and other tourist attractions. Unfortunately, we saw many homeless, children begging for money and a beach that looked like a land fill. The highlight of the visit was dinner at a seaside restaurant complete with fireworks. The next morning, it was sunny and our drive to the airport was scenic in the sense that we saw people living in shacks made with tarps, abandoned buildings and under poorly made highway underpasses. Sad.

Arriving in the Cebu province was much more uplifting. From there we took a boat to it’s neighboring province of Bohol and checked into a resort on the beach to spend the afternoon napping and swimming in the clear blue water. The next day, we arranged for a driver to take us to all of the great Bohol sights. The pictures will give the best description, but we saw the Chocolate Hills, a beautiful man made forest, a few churches, adorable tarsiers and took a lunch cruise where the riverside villages provided entertainment of dancing and singing. Both evenings were topped off with fantastic dinners on the beach where we picked our own fish which was caught earlier that morning. A perfect couple of days.

Some friends who had been to the Philippines made us promise that we would go to Malapascua Island during our week. So, we took the boat back to Cebu and a taxi to the bus station. With a little hesitation and a big sense of adventure, we boarded a $2, unairconditioned bus for a 4 hour journey through rural Philippines. It turned out to be one of my favorite parts of the trip. Yes, it was windy, uncomfortable and a little scary at times, but driving through the villages, seeing school children wave and the beautiful scenery of the country is something I will never forget. As if our traveling couldn’t get more grassroots, when we arrived to the port, the boat we needed to take made us nervously laugh. If I thought that taking the little fishing boat in Bali was scary, this was really, really scary. We hopped on a 4 person, turned 6 person fisher boat that took us to a bigger boat (yes, we changed boats in the middle of the Indian Ocean), which took us to another little boat, that took us to the very remote island. Fortunately, it was worth it because Malapascua was paradise and, considering that it was a mission to get there, the island was empty.

We checked into our hotel which had a front porch in the sand. For the next two days we napped in the sand, swam in the blue water, ate way too much, snorkeled and got massages on the beach. After major relaxation it was time for the long journey back to Guangzhou to greet Fabien’s friends. So, we boarded the boat, then a smaller one, bus for 4 hours, taxi to the hotel, shuttle to the airport, plane from Cebu to Manila, transfer shuttle to the international terminal, plane from Manila to Hong Kong, car from airport to China border, bus to Guangzhou and finally a taxi to the apartment. Again, phew.

The Philippines is not for those who are high maintenance or looking for a luxurious vacation. Also, if your looking for the latest and greatest amenities, you’ll need to look somewhere else. The whole country is decades behind, but for a week, it was nice to be in a more simple world. It’s also one of those place that requires hard work, thick skin and patience to discover the beauty. But once your there, it’s totally worth it!