The biggest nightmare of travelling in the Philippines is you are always unsure of the true cost of something, no matter who you have spoken to or how much research you have done, every trip you will be stung by some unexpected cost.
On departing Bohol for Cebu, we found, in addition to our greatly overpriced ferry tickets, a ‘terminal fee’, an ‘environmental fee’ and a ‘ticket charge’. I don’t even know where to start with the last one! However, the ferry was enjoyable. I rocked out in my seat to the music that Tom had transferred for me and kept one eye on the film being shown in our nice deck.
2 hours later we were in a taxi once more, the Norwegians sleeping in the back (the world is too big for them). I called Rebecca, (a British girl we met in Bohol who lives in Cebu), who had told us about a rock festival on the beach in Mactan Island, off the southeast coast of Cebu.
We got horribly ripped off by our taxi driver on the journey from Cebu to Mactan, who had needlessly driven us between places far out of our budget range
and we eventually decided to walk around ourselves and slumped about trying to get the best deal of the few surrounding places.
Things for the evening looked optimistic at last; we found a place for 1200 pesos total, an air conditioned, marble studded hotel with a pool to boot! We contacted Rebecca again and arranged to meet her tomorrow for the festival and decided to take a chill day for the remainder of the evening. I have never hit anything as hard as I have these last weeks; I have had as many bottles of Tanduay as I have hours sleep...about 20! Rewarding my body with an early night and an intoxicant-free evening seemed like a good plan so we hopped down to a local restaurant, grabbed some comforting burgers and headed back in to watch X-men while I drew in my scrapbook!
The next day we caught a tricycle to the beach and met Rebecca and her Filipino fiancé Rubin, and his brother Lox who would be headlining the festival with his band.
We spent the afternoon paddling about in the scorching water and drinking Tanduay. We decided we would probably crash out if we spent the
The worlds most 'perfect' volcano
whole day there and decided to head back to the hotel for a freshen-up at 4ish. I decided this would be the day I would attempt to actually brush my hair and look like me again! It paid off too, with lots of compliments! Full of excitement, we polished off another bottle of Tanduay and a great delivery pizza and we headed out for the festival!
On arrival back at the beach, we all spent the first few hours discussing various comparisons between our countries (which I love) and drinking heavily. Isa was quite taken with Lox and we all enjoyed ourselves a huge amount. After a while the first few bands started up. Feeling completely hammered I was more than up for a dance and jumped around in the sand like a lunatic, feeling completely high on life. I was rewarded with a free CD of the night’s entertainment and a free drink for being the first nutter to get up and dance in front of the crowd!
Without warning it was suddenly half past midnight and time for Lox’s headlining band to play. They were fantastic and played a brilliant cover of ‘Kiss from a Rose’
by Seal. They called Isa and I up on stage after a few shout-outs and dedications to us with topped most other festivals I have ever been to, in addition to the fact that this was still 30+ degrees and on a beautiful beach!
The vodka started to be passed around as the band came to a close and the house music was pumped up. Suddenly it was a rave, which was equally as good as the rock festival given everyone’s mood!
The rest of the evening was a bit of blur and that’s all I will say on the matter. I danced my socks off all night, and somehow lost everyone and all my things. No matter, I found my way home at 6:30am and spent the early hours of the morning in Toms arms before we rushed out the door at 8am for our flight to reputably the most beautiful island, Palawan.
At the airport we coincidently ran into Amos, our Israeli friend from Bohol. He had decided to fly to Palawan on my advice :) We grabbed a tricycle together to a guesthouse in the capital of Puerto Princessa, recommended by a Maartin, a
The view from my room
Dutch friend of the Norwegians whom they had met in Manila. We would be meeting him and his friend Renée there.
The guesthouse was gorgeous and had a fantastic ambience. It was literally IN the jungle, with vines creeping throughout the wooden structure and the huge trees and palms supporting the roof, 5 minutes tricycle ride from the coast!
After an hour settling in the new formed, larger gang decided to go to a local beach, somewhere no tourists get to. It was as expected, stunningly beautiful and pretty empty but for a few Filipinos dotted in the sand. We grabbed a few bottles of rum and relaxed for hours and the place more than lived up to my long awaited expectations.
Renée and I went for a mangrove swim between the branches of the low slung trees, searching for snakes and other interesting wildlife that we felt David Attenborough had promised us. It was indescribable; we found a number of starfish and lizards, no snakes though. We paddled about in the scorching hot waters collecting shells and talking for a while. On our return back to the swamp we discovered our clothes and shoes had been
stolen. Luckily for everyone else, I was too drunk to care at this point and I borrowed Toms scarf as a makeshift skirt for the ride back to the paradise guesthouse.
The following evening and the next day were spent playing cards. Having had no sleep at all the night of the festival and days upon days of drinking, I began to crash out at and opted to stay in. Somehow it still turned into drinking and staying up late but it was relaxing and slow paced, and thoroughly enjoyable. For our next destination, we decided to skip El Nido, my preferred destination, after discovering the only road was under construction, leading to a long, difficult and dangerous journey. With that we decided to head on the 7am bus to Port Barton, about halfway up Palawan Island, a few days later.
At the bus stop very bright and very early, Tom and I opted for the roof again to skip the dusty, smelly and hot interior. As usual, it was a lot of fun, smoking, drinking and rocking out to music in peace of the outdoors. I wish you could travel like this in Europe.
Despite the sun
cream, we both got very burnt and looked forward to the beautiful ocean we had seen in the distance from our roof top ‘seats’.
We arrived on the beach and before even bothering to check out the accommodation situation, we jumped in the sea together, very grateful to have arrived 5 hours later. After a short investigation we settled on an amazingly cheap place, 300 pesos per room no less, with great and cheap food and solid wood throughout.
We quickly decided to stay for the rest of my final week in the Philippines because the beach was just too wonderful to bother heading anywhere else. We were all too tired and worn out from the stupid bus to do much. The whole area for a few hundred kilometres only received electricity from the capital, Puerto Princessa, from 6pm till midnight so we went to bed before the fans and lights were shut off!
Most of my time in Port Barton was spent much the same is in Cebu and Bohol; I did pretty much nothing but swim, drink, rock, talk and smoke. And it was amazing.
The only thing of note was organise a boat trip
for my penultimate day, which left at 9:30am bound for 4 islands, lunch and snorkelling.
On the way to the first island we did some snorkelling in the middle of the bay, miles from anywhere. It was great; I watched a giant fish take out a crab and eat it right in front of me. I dived down for a closer look and found an electric-blue starfish, my personal highlight of the day!
When we arrived at the island, we walked through the shallow sea to a second and snorkelled and clambered about the rocks for a few hours. It was fantastic. We hopped on bard for the second island, which we had to pay extra for but it was worth it. The white sand almost blinded me in the sun, this may also be due to being drunk by this point (1pm) and Tom and I decided over ambitiously to swim to some rocks jutting out of the perfectly clear water.
We were shattered when we finally reached it, and we had both cut ourselves on the shallow coral beneath so we decided to just chill there talking till the semaphore signals from the others beckoned us
The most fantastic Hostel
Vines and palms creeping right in!
...and yes, I'm wearing a bedsheet due to having my clothes stolen...
to swim to the boat for our trip to the third island.
This was probably the best of them all. We ate a wonderful lunch of grilled fish, the freshest you can imagine and quickly decided that everyone was too drunk to take any more sand, sea or sun and we decided to head back to Port Barton before the sun set.
On arrival Tom and I went for a little siesta; life is so exhausting!
I spent the last evening in paradise on the beach listing to locals sing me songs. They let me play their guitar (which I can no longer play unfortunately due to my broken hand) and drum, and then I went to bed with Tom to watch a film.
The last day had arrived. We woke up for 6am and headed for the Jeepney back to Puerto. We were all devastated to find no space whatsoever on the roof this time and enough room for one or two regular sized people inside. We had no choice but to squeeze in the dirty, cramped piece of shit bus as I had a fight to Manila and onto Singapore in the evening.
Putting the brave face on, we all forced gigges about the putrid smelling crates of fish we were sitting on in the back of the Jeepney for 4 hours. The pain was almost unbearable but we all laughed through it. It was either that or cry about it after all! :)
We arrived at the bus terminal and took a tricycle to the airport together. I was so grateful Isa and Tom came to see me off but it was a heartbreaking goodbye. I am wondering how many people I can get this close to and then say goodbye, knowing I might never see them again!
I am not quite sure if I am ready to leave the Philippines. When I exited China I knew I was done with it for the time being and was eager to see something fresh. This time around I have a very strongly contrasting mix of horrid and fantastic memories. Some of the best and worst of my life and I will miss this dangerous and wonderfully beautiful country and I am sure I will visit it again someday. At least I ended things on a high!
A 6 hour bus,
followed by a 3 hour airport wait, an hours’ flight, another 2 hour wait and then a 3.5 hour flight to Singapore and I was very VERY pleased to see my mum.
I wonder how staying in the clean, enforced, tidy, smart Singapore at the Hilton on Orcahrd Road for $300 a night will compare to a month in the Philippines. Can’t wait to find out!
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