Wow, the Philippines has the most incredible beaches and the friendliest people on earth!
We first touched down at dinner time at Cebu Airport and got a cab to our hotel, we decided to treat ourselves to a double bed and shower after sleeping in the airport the night before.
Once settled, we went out to grab some dinner – holy! It’s so cheap here! $1.60NZ for a main. The Philippines isn’t really known as a food destination though and after a few days we could see why, it’s very strange and not that great. Half the time, they don’t have the food that’s on the menu – but the place has so many other qualities to offer.
On our first full day here we slowly made our way through the city to the ferry port to get to a little island called Bohol.
The first thing we noticed was how incredibly friendly the people were, I felt like a celebrity! Everyone waves and says hello and some ask if they can have a photo with you, all the younger girls giggle and get really excited when you say hi back to them – it’s so cute!
Before crossing the sea we explored the Santo Nino Basilica Roman Catholic Church (free to enter), built in 1565 – it was a beautiful building and there were many locals worshiping which was lovely to watch.
We also checked out the Fort San Pedro, a military defence structure built by the Spanish in 1738. We didn’t spend too much time here as we were keen to get to the beaches and it cost to get inside, we thought we’d save our money for something more worth while, like rum!
When we got to Bohol we found an awesome place to stay called The Coco Farm, it was made up of little bamboo huts and the common area was a massive bamboo shelter with no walls. The place was run by a Filipino family who were very friendly and helpful. We would totally recommend staying there – $11NZ each a night, and the rum I mentioned – a local brew called Tanduay – was only 90Peso for 1 litre ($2.50NZ), ridiculous!
We spent three nights here and crammed in a whole lot!
ISLAND HOPPING + BEACHES:
On our first fall day in our new found paradise we joined a half-day island hopping tour, starting and ending at the beautiful Alona Beach with a couple of small islands in between, costing 1200 Peso ($33NZ).
The first was Balicasag Island, it took about an hour to motor across to on our little bamboo boat. We saw a couple of dolphins on the way and went snorkelling as soon as we arrived. Unfortunately, the reef was over crowded with people and boats so the water quality wasn’t that great, but it was nice to finally be in the water.
After this we went across to a massive sandbar in the middle of the sea called Virgin Island, spectacular. You could see water all around from every angle and just randomly placed were three trees growing out of the sand. We also found a lot of colourful and patterned starfish.
After this we got dropped back at Alona Beach and swam and chilled for the rest of day until dinner time when we ate by candlelight on the beach.
Overall we were a little disappointed in the tour – the snorkelling was average and we felt very rushed. The highlight was definitely Virgin Island, I would recommend packing a lunch and your swimmers and getting a private boat to take you for the day rather than doing the full tour.
On day two we were going to hire a scooter and see the countryside ourselves, but it rained! Luckily, it was one of the only rainy days we had in the Philippines, but because of the weather we decided to join a tour group so we could be dry in a van in between stops. It cost us 1000 Peso each ($28NZ) as well as other costs for the different attractions throughout the day and was well worth it.
There were nine stops: the Chocolate Hills, tarsier watching, a Loboc river cruise for lunch, a man made forest, the Baclayon Church and museum, the Blood compact Shrine, a python sanctuary, a butterfly conservation centre and a random bamboo bridge that scared the shit out of me.
The Chocolate Hills were amazing. There were hundreds of rolling hills all around and no one has even worked out how they formed or why. While we were there they were green, but in the dry season they turn brown, hence the name. Standing at the look out was beautiful, the hills went for days and the birds flying around us were all different colours, what a sight.
What the heck is a tarsier? It’s a weird furry creature about the size of my fist with huge eyes and creepy fingers, so adorable! These little dudes are very territorial and like to be alone, each one has a hectare of land and a certain tree they spend most of their lives in. If they want to mate the male finds a female and spends one day with her then he goes home, never to see her again. They can’t rotate their eyes so they have to turn their head to look at you and they stress out if there’s too much noise and start banging their heads against their tree until they die. Tarsiers are probably the weirdest creature I’ve ever seen, but also one of the cutest.
Lunch time was a highlight – the group had loosened up and we were starting to chat and get along – we got to cruise down the Loboc river and have as many helpings of the buffet as we liked while a band played, beautiful.
The bamboo bridges, called the twin hanging bridges, were slippery and not very stable. I was proud of myself for getting across and back but I don’t think I’ll be doing that again anytime soon!
The rest of the tour was pretty average, I feel like we could have skipped it and we wouldn’t have missed anything. I was excited to see a python at first but when we got to the enclosure it was just this concrete floor with a snake laying behind bars – we didn’t go in to pay for it because it seemed cruel. There is a lot of animal cruelty in South East Asia, but I don’t think I’ll go into that right now, perhaps another blog!
Nevertheless, we really enjoyed our day out in the countryside and made a lovely new friend, Leiali from England, who joined us for dinner, and some rum, where we meet two German brothers, Mario and Johannes. The next day the five of us travelled to Siquijor, our favourite place in the Philippines. Stay tuned for that adventure!