We landed in Cebu, Philippines at a stupid early hour in the morning and had such a long queue for immigration. Walking like zomibies to our taxi we finally arrived at our place for the night and got several hours sleep. We wanted to make the most of our time in this beautiful country and headed straight to the port to catch a ferry. Little did we know, that this was the day after a huge celebration in the Philippines and all the locals were heading back to their homes on various islands around Cebu, which meant that the ferry ticket queue was extremely long. We headed to Bohol next, which was a nearby island famed for its beaches and natural beauty and most importantly tarsiers. We were dropped off in the dark at a beach where we were told to use our torches and eventually we'd find our place we were staying. We walked along this beautiful beach with hundreds of stars above our heads and found our place. The next morning we woke up to beautiful sunshine, palm trees and the clearest blue water. It felt like we were on our honeymoon round 2. We discovered a flavour they use a lot in their food called 'Ube' which is a purple yam and when asking the locals to describe the flavour they couldn't quite put their finger on it, but the Ube flavoured ice cream was addictive and so refreshing. We ate plenty of fresh fruit, BBQ'd meat and mango milkshakes and became beach bums for the week. We did some snorkelling on the beach and found some large colourful starfish!
After almost a week of sunbathing, eating and relaxing in the crystal clear water we decided to wake up and adventure on to the chocolate hills and the tarsiers. First stop was the tarsiers and they were so much smaller than I thought and roughly the size of my fist. They were very snoozy and slept in the trees. They are also very sensitive to noise so we had to be very quiet and we were told that noise can cause them to get stressed and die! We then drove through some very heavy rain to the chocolate hills and the sun came out to dry us and all you could see were rounded hills off into the horizon. The drive was sensational, passing so many friendly locals waving, smiling and shouting 'hello!', even the kids would give hi-fives and would get so excited to see you - it was so heartwarming.
It was very easy to quickly hop over onto the next island. I loved that at most ferry ports they would have inspirational quotes on the wall about travelling and adventure. Transport was pretty quick and the local bus around Cebu was great fun. Jonny got his bag locked inside the bus and the locals had to climb in the other side to open it, it was hilarious as the bus guy was just kicking the door to make it open! There was a lot to see and do on the island of Cebu, beautiful waterfalls, snorkelling with sardines, whale sharks and enourmous sea turtles.
The island of Siqiujor was known for its witchcraft and the locals were afraid of visiting, which is perhaps why it is such a quiet island but I'm sure it was to scare off others from coming so they could have it all to themselves! It has fantastic scenery and had an amazing ring road all the way around the island and the sights were breathtaking. The Filipino people are some of the friendliest and kindest people I have ever met, the amount of hellos and smiles were the most I've ever gotten in a country and made us feel so at home.
In Singapore we spoke to a Filipino lady who was working as a nanny for a family and had been there for over 20 years, whilst her children were growing up back in the Philippines so that they could have a better livelihood and get an education. What a sacrifice! She was an amazing strong women who made this decision to help the future of her family even though it has been difficult situation with some of the children she has worked with, she looks forward to the day where she will be reunited with her family back in the Philippines. What incredible courageous women, I can’t even imagine doing such a thing, how lonely they must feel and the time they have missed being part of their children’s lives – what a massive and selfless sacrifice to better the lives of their children.
Two weeks into our adventure around this amazing country we decided to fly to the Island of Palawan. We then took a 5 hour bus to the town of El Nido the journey wasn't that bad and was relatively short compared to some of the bus journeys we have taken through Asia. We were really excited to see El Nido as we had heard a lot about it and it's natural beauty. We arrived in the dark and headed straight for our guest house to get some sleep. The next morning we woke and started to explore the area. El Nido has exploded in popularity over the last 5 years and to be honest we were a little disappointed with what we found. The landscape is very beautiful and we explored some incredible beaches about 40 minutes north of El Nido, but we were just disappointed with the level of construction and development that was taking place. We found it difficult to understand why they were building right onto the beaches and ruining the natural beauty of the area. We understand that tourism brings income and is a major income in the Philippines but it just didn't make sense to ruin what was attracting the tourists in the first place. If they had only built around 50-100 yards back it wouldn't have ruined the beauty of the beaches. We were also a bit sad to see that Nacpan beach is also starting to be built on. It was hard to see the negative effects of tourism when not managed properly and the price nature has to pay. This is one of the unfortunate truths of the impacts of tourism on local communities when not managed properly and consequently the natural environment suffers which is not sustainable. We understand that we all have a part to play in this to ensure that development is done in the best way possible, ensuring that waste management systems and that the natural environment is protected.
Two days after arriving in El Nido we had lunch at a busy cafe while a storm passed. That evening we both had the worst food poisoning within an hour of each other. Hannah fainted every time she threw up and while being really sick myself I had to support her so she didn't smack her head on the ground which she had already done twice at this point. It was an intense 48 hours of taking turns on the toilet and trying to sleep! After a day of rest, we wanted to make the most of our time in Palawan and we hired a scooter to visit Duli beach. It was the worst scooter we have ever ridden and it broke down and the engineer had to come out and replace the battery. When he left it seemed to be ok so we carried onto the beach and made it safely. On the way back from the beach the brakes failed causing us to crash! It was a scary experience and left us a bit shaken, Hannah had a large exhaust burn on her leg and Jonny had multiple wounds on his knees and arms. The following day despite all the drama we went on an island tour and enjoyed swimming in the waters around the beautiful islands. We were very much looking forward to relaxing on the boat after a few eventful days but the downside of the island tour is that they try get you to pay for extras like hiring kayaks to actually get into the lagoons and we were a bit disappointed with this as were most people on our boat. Our boat captain said our boat was too big to go into the big lagoon despite us watching larger boats happily sail into it. El Nido was significantly more expensive than other island around the Philippines and we felt like we could have seen other beautiful islands at a fraction of the cost. We enjoyed our time here but we both felt like we didn't have a pull to return due to what we've already mentioned but there are so many other beautiful parts of the Philippines untouched by the quick development where you are able to have a much more authentic experience of the Philippines and how the locals live and experience the culture.
The Philippines has been one of the best countries we have ever travelled to we just couldn't get over how kind the people were. We especially loved how the women are treated completely equally to men and very well respected and how they valued their relationships with family and friends as a huge priority. We couldn't recommend this beautiful group of islands more and if you ever visit you'll be sure to be looked after and will leave an imprint on you to return.