Warning: this will be a long read (playing catch up for lack of wifi in the Philippines & having too much fun with Dan & Kelly to write!)
Our first ferry in the Philippines, from Oslob to Siquijor Island, was a great experience (ferry horror stories to come). We were lucky enough to have a pod of wild dolphins swimming and jumping beside us at one point. One even did a few barrel rolls in the air, almost as if he was putting on a show for us.
Siquijor is a small island known for a few beautiful waterfalls, caves, cliff jumping and witchcraft. We stayed in San Juan, a smaller town on the southern side of the island. As we got settled, we realized there was a tiny fishing village in between Dan/Kelly’s resort and ours, so Dan and I asked some locals if they would take us out fishing. Tom & Paul, two local fisherman, told us they would take us the next morning if we gave them some money for gas which costed us 1200Pesos, only $32CA for an experience we will probably never forget. They asked if we prefer to fish with nets or with hooks, we told them we would do whatever they do to fish. The next morning Dan, Paul & I hit the water in their traditional bamboo fishing boat (that somehow had an in board motor rigged onto the back of it.) Paul equipped us each with an empty water bottle that had fishing line wrapped around it and a tiny hook on the end. After Paul took us a few kilometres off the coast we ended up dropping lines in with water bottles in hand. The technique was quite straight forward but a lot more challenging than fishing in Canada... and for those of you who know me would say my fishing skills in Canada are mediocre at best (I still think it’s tough luck). So, you put some bait on the hook, lower the line into the crystal clear water, hold your water bottle in your left hand and hold your line with your right hand, lean over the side of the boat and when you can spot a fish interested you’ll feel the slight tug, rip the line up with your right hand to set the hook. After 2 hours scorching in the sun, the fish count was: Dan 2, myself 1 and Paul 6 or so. My favourite part was when I asked Paul why he was wearing a long sleeve hoodie while Dan and I were in tank tops roasting/sweating. My first guess was safety from long exposure to the sun, but Paul informed us he’s still single and Filipino women don’t like tanned skin Filipino men!
Here’s Danny with the prize catch Lapu-Lapu:
After fishing we took motor bikes and set off to explore some of the nearby waterfalls, with the plan to ultimately circle the entire island. We came across two amazing waterfall areas that resembled natural playgrounds. Rope swings, cliff jumps, waterfall slides and hidden coves.
Realizing we were on the opposite side of the island as our resort and had only a few hours until sunset we quickly hopped on our motor bikes and made moves through local villages and towns on the only road home. We were just about back at the resort, when Britt hit me to pull over to look at the sky. What we didn’t realize is that it was the beginning of the most beautiful sunset we’ve likely ever see (and had our first taste of local lumpia - Filipino spring rolls).
One piece of advice to anyone considering travelling to the Philippines, especially Siquijor, is to BRING money with you! There was only 2 ATMs on the whole island and when we finally made it to one, it didn’t work (thanks goes out to Dan & Kelly for funding this portion of our trip until we finally made it to the working ATM!)
Also, if you ever go to Siquijor you need to hit up Baha Bar, the most welcoming tree house style restaurant/bar with some dynamite food and cocktails! We had one of the funnier dinners thanks to our boy San Miguel (Filipino beer)!
Carter signing off. Britt’s taking over...
Our next destination was the island of Bohol. We stayed in Alona Beach, which must be the equivalent to Wasaga Beach for the Philippines. This was the first time we were actually somewhere touristy, with restaurants, menus, locals trying to sell you handmade jewelry and a hundred tour boats lining the shore. We immediately wished we were back in Siquijor, where the locals were happy to see us, kids waved, and it was super authentic. Dan quickly reminded us that “this is what we asked for”... because for the first time, we were able to look over a menu and all order what we felt like - not what was cooked up by the owner and left in the pots and pans for us to dish up for ourselves. That night we enjoyed a great meal, watched a beach fire show, and Ti-guy (cheers) a couple San Miguel’s.
The next day we woke up and enjoyed a local delicacy... cat-shit coffee (but I think the Filipinos refers to it as Civet Coffee). This wild cat-like animal hunts down and eats the most ripest berries, and like all animals do, they digest it and poo it out. That’s how the beans are made, and yes, it was a great cup of coffee. After that, rented motor bikes and visited a cave, which luckily enough was empty aside from us! This was a great experience... however, I think we all enjoyed the eating food off menu part more.
Our next stop (and my personal favourite): El Nido, Palawan! After a gruelling 6 hour bus ride through the mountains (that’s what I was told anyways, as both Kelly and I were passed out for the majority of the trip) we made it to El Nido! Carter had booked The Outpost Hostel through Thrifty Visuals, so that was our homestead for the next 3 nights. It’s a cool little spot right on the beach, that’s perfect for younger backpackers looking for a very friendly, welcoming, good time! The best part is the sunset deck looking out over the ocean:
We used the first day to get our bearings, walked around the small town filled with souvenir shops, shake shacks and beachfront restaurants. We ending up eating dinner at Big Bad Thai, the same owners of Outpost Hostel who opened this new restaurant only a day before we got there. It was DELICIOUS Thai food, I would know as I accidentally ordered 2 servings of veggie and chicken pad Thai.
The next morning we, yes - you guessed it, we rented motor bikes to explore! We ended up at Nacpan beach: the most beautiful, miles long, soft white sand beach, ever. What wasn’t beautiful, nor easy, but was miles long was the craziest ride in, ever. I’ll let the pictures do the explaining:
This beach could only be topped by the adventures of the next day, which was Island hopping boat tour A. But before we get into the details of our tour, I will let Carter get into what happened that night...
So there Dan and I are minding our own business at our hostel. We finish up dinner with the girls and we decided it’s probably best we pack it in early, maybe some lite reading in bed, get up early and mix in some morning stretching before the big boat tour. When all of a sudden our Filipino buddy working at the hostel points to a sign that reads “Wednesday night: Beer Pong Tournament!” He say’s “2 players, 100php buy in, winner takes the pot!” Well...wouldn’t you know it, moments later Dan and I have a record of 2-0 after beating teams from England and Germany. We’re feeling good heading into the quarter finals of what we were calling “The El Nido Open 2017” playing with Red Horse Beer (6.9%) laying it all out on the line for our country. Long story short we beat two British blokes the finals and humbly collected our winnings of 1,800php. Needless to say we’ll never forget the night we went 6-0 at the Outpost Hostel and won it all for Canada! Anyways, we won, paid for half of all our Tour A and held our heads high for a few days (BW correction: he’s still talking about it)
Tour A included the Big Lagoon, the Secret Lagoon, Beach, Small Lagoon and 7 Commando Beach. Everything was so beautiful - but we’re not fooling any of you, there were hoards of tourists at each stop which hindered the beauty of it all, only slightly.
Our last and final destination of the Philippines was Coron. Booking a fast ferry was easy they said.. it would be great they said. No one told us that we should be booking this fast ferry in advance, so behold, an actual photo of the 8 hour slow ferry (from hell) that we had to take to Coron:
I won’t bog you down with the gory details of the “bathroom” facilities, or the “lunch” they served, or the storm we passed through which made seasickness a reality, or the sunburn slash probably heat stroke Carter got from spending the entire journey on the top deck... but you get that it was a pleasant journey, right?
But we finally made it to our last stop of the trip! Kelly and Dan were absolute sweethearts and treated us to our last two nights together in an amazing resort that overlooked the ocean.
Also, as our last time together, we rented motor bikes to explore. This time didn’t go as smoothly as the rest. We were about an hour out of town when Carter and I started to feel the bike shaking, I looked down to discover that we were riding on a completely flat back tire! I ended up hopping on Dan & Kelly’s bike with them and they took me into the next town to search for someone to help. Meanwhile, Carter looked like Dumb & Dumber driving the flat-tired bike slowly down the road to get closer to the next town. Little did we know, “town” on the map was actually just a village - with one school and one bakeshop and nothing more. A local teenage girl ran up to Carter when she saw him rolling in and told us to wait there, she would get her Dad. A Filipino man came out of a hut, inspected the tire and started to work on the bike. We were a bit nervous if this random man should be working on a rental bike we were responsible for, so I asked the girl, what does your dad do? Can he help us? And she responded with “yes! He’s the village motorbike repair man!” So to our dumb luck, we ended up literally on the front door steps of the most perfect man in this seaming less empty village.
Dan and Kelly made sure we were in capable hands and then we urged them continued on to the waterfall we had all planned to visit. Carter and I ended up spending 2 hours in this village, talking and playing with all the kids who came out to see us. There was an older man, who was the grandfather of all the kids that were present. It turns out that they were all relatives in this small village! The grandpa (which is what I called him to his face as well) was very good at English but when I said that, the teenage girls giggled and said “he’s only good because he’s drunk!” And that made us and Grandpa laugh out loud as well. Carter saw a young boy with a Golden State Warriors jersey on, so he asked if he wanted to play basketball. (Side note: basketball is the country’s favourite sport and is a huge reason why so many Filipinos know about Toronto because Demar Derozen on Raptors is a favourited athlete)
After 2 hours, our bike was good to go! We hit the road and not even 2 seconds of heading back to Coron, Dan and Kelly pulled up beside us. This time, they drove behind us, juuust in case anything happened again.
The next morning, Carter and I woke up at 5am to climb 740 steps up Mt Tapyas to catch the sunrise over Coron.
We were at the top of the above mountain with the Hollywood-like Coron sign!
After climbing down, we traded in our bike for a working one and headed wake up Dan & Kelly to go to the hot springs! We had to make the most out of the day because Carter and I had to head out on an overnight ferry to Manila at 2pm and because of this, we got to the hot springs at 8am, we were the first and only ones there which was completely relaxing.
After leaving the hot springs, we had our last lunch together, said our final goodbyes to the last bit of Home we had, and made way for the Port.
Overnight ferry 101: pay the extra $8 for tourist Aircon room, bring ear plugs & sleep mask & toilet paper, be ready to smell things you don’t necessarily want to smell when you’re trying to sleep, don’t look too close for long black hairs on your bed because you’ll most definitely find them, and whatever you do, try and avoid getting sick - which of course, is what a both ended up doing.
Upside: ending up at the Mall of Asia in Manila which is the 4th biggest mall in Asia and 11th in the world. Where there was ample westernize food chains to choose from. So when Carter saw the glow of the Golden Arches, he headed there for breakfast.... lunch..... and dinner. And ample amount of bathrooms with plenty of stalls to choose from too ;)
All in all, the Philippines with Dan and Kelly was a great way to kick off our year-long adventure around the world. The country has so much to offer: picturesque landscapes, hidden waterfalls, paint-like sunsets, and turquoise blue waters. Filipinos are happy, helpful and trustworthy people; the children are always smiling, playing and excited to see you. We feel like the Philippines have yet to really figure out, and capitalize on, tourism because it’s still so authentic and untouched. This was the best part of the Philippines for us. Aside from a few locations like Alona Beach and El Nido, seeing another tourist was few and far between. Just like the restaurants. If you’re looking to check it off your bucket list, I would so sooner rather than later before everywhere is built up. Trust us, it’s coming...
Next time you’ll hear from us, we’ll be in Indonesia!! XO
Carter Bender & Brittany Wilson left Toronto, Canada to travel the world. Where will they be next? Follow their #cbwtravels blog to find out!