Coming Home To The Philippines [Guest Post]
I can’t even remember the year I first visited the Philippines, but I can remember the feeling, the smell, and the atmosphere. No, I’m not Filipino, but my family and I had spent several holidays there when I was younger—and in February 2016, I found myself coming back after almost ten years.
Excited and full of anticipation, we took the airplane to Hong Kong, and after a short stop there, we finally arrived at the Cebu City Airport. We had everything pre-arranged by the Sea Explorers, so at the airport, a driver from them picked us up and took us to a little ferry port that is three hours away. We were heading to Malapascua.
Guys, that was one adventurous road trip, I can assure you! It was not at all comparable with anything you can experience in Europe. It was fascinating to see the different way of life, the landscape and, by doing so, gain some insight into the Filipino culture.
Diving at Malapascua
We arrived at Buena Vida Resort, a cozy and comfortable resort with a lovely garden, nice rooms, and attentive staff. Every evening, they hung some cookies on the door handle and left some thoughtful sayings and wishes. And even though there had been a monsoon rain one or two weeks before we arrived, diving was incredible! We saw a lot of nudibranchs, lionfish, and water snakes.
We made a day trip to Gato Island to do one tunnel dive to watch some sharks and another night dive. And I have to tell you this: If you visit Malapascua, you should definitely go to Gato Island. Lying on the sandy ground at the end of the tunnel, watching the sharks circling illuminated by the sun shining through the surface of the water, it is such an amazing diving spot! During the night dive, we saw a lot of colorful nudibranchs passing by because the current was a little stronger than expected.
But there is one thing Malapascua (and the Philippines) is really famous for—it’s the thresher sharks. We got up at about 4:30 a.m. to take a banca and watch them. Sadly, we just saw a fin of a thresher shark, but at the end of our dive, shortly under the surface, we saw a gigantic eagle ray. It was so close that we could almost count the white spots on its back!
Keep coming back to Bohol
After our stay in Malapascua, we transferred back to Cebu, had another road trip of about three hours, and took a high-speed ferry. We were heading to Bohol.
The weather in Bohol was fantastic. We finally got a tan and weren’t sunburnt anymore. When I was a child, we visited Alona Beach every single stay, so I was so happy to see all the lovely people who had already been there about ten years ago! The feeling was so delightful and almost felt like coming home after a long time. These same people organized amazing dives and enabled another highlight of our stay for us: a trip to see the tarsiers, a walk over a hanging bridge, and a nice boat tour on a river.
If you want to see the tarsiers, please don’t pay people who keep them together in a cage. Tarsiers aren’t made for cage rearing and will commit suicide. We visited a research center where they lived in trees and had a lot of free space.
Also, another tip for you guys: Don’t book lunch for the river trip because then you’ll have to take a huge boat with a lot of other tourists—not at all typical Filipino style, and most especially, not at all romantic or quiet. We took the river taxi, and that was fantastic. We learned a lot about the Filipino culture by talking to the boatman. He brought us to a really nice and quiet place with two little waterfalls where we could go swimming or just splash in the water with our feet.
Enjoying delicious Filipino cuisine
Aside from the diving spots and beautiful landscape, I really liked the Filipino meals. In general, you should try as much Filipino dishes as you can because they mostly are delicious!
A definite must-try is the kinilaw. It might sound a little weird that it’s actually raw fish, but don’t let this deter you because the taste is amazing, I promise!
At the end of a day full of diving, action, and sun, we enjoyed sipping on banana or mango shakes, or a good glass of Tanduay Rum. This rum is famous in the Philippines, so you should definitely take home with you a bottle or two to let your friends taste it.
This was just a little summary of our trip to the Philippines, but trust me, no well-written write-up or description could ever capture the magic of this country. It will always feel like home to me, and I’ll never get tired of visiting this country. I hope that you go and experience it yourself, and maybe, you will get just the same feeling, too!