Trip to the Philippines, Aug 10-17, 2011

It’s been a while since I’ve been anywhere to write a travel post for! Most of our first two days on this trip were spent travelling. We arrived to KL’s LCCT early in the morning for a flight scheduled at just after 7am, but ended up departing two hours later, after we had to swap planes due to our first plane needing some engineering work. This essentially meant we didn’t really have time to do much once we arrived in Quezon City, especially since the bus from Clark takes a couple hours to get there. Our friend Reileen met us at the bus stop, and took us to our hotel. She had also made us adobo and leche flan, two Filipino dishes, which we ate at the hotel, so we didn’t need to go out except for buying stuff for breakfast the next morning.

As I mentioned, the 11th was also a full day of travel. We headed over to Manila airport to catch a Cebu Pacific flight over to Cebu, and my first experience with that airline had me never wanting to travel with them again. We happened to get into a queue that had us waiting an hour, and almost missing our flight. They didn’t care to tell us how long this one group in front of us were going to take (they were the primary reason our line was so slow), and they didn’t care that Leo was screaming for about half an hour. In the end, it was other passengers choosing to let us in front of them that allowed us to eventually check in because the airline staff were appalling.

Anyhow, that meant we arrived in Cebu a little late, but that was okay since at least I’d insisted we not pre-book our ferry. The first ferry we tried was full, though, so we had to go to a different pier and wait an extra hour for the next one. We then ferried over to Tagbilaran, Bohol, which was about two hours, and the people at Bohol Bee Farm, where we were staying, picked us up at 7:30pm. So, another day gone to travel, and all we had time for when we arrived was to have dinner at the restaurant.

Friday, August 12th, 2011

The first day we had to actually do anything interesting! The first thing on the agenda was the included breakfast, which was mango pancake (in reality, it was a waffle) with scrambled egg and glazed ham, which we ate quickly to make our appointment on time.

The five of us – Jeremy, Reileen, Doyle, Leo and I – hired a car to take us around to various tourist locations in Bohol. We left the farm around 9am and our driver first took us to the furthest location on our list, the Chocolate Hills. These hills apparently look like chocolate when they’re not green, though they were green when we visited. There are quite a number of hills, shaped like giant mounds, spread over the region.

Our next stop was the butterfly garden, where we got to see some native butterflies, and learn a bit about how butterflies live. We had a tour guide, who took us through the garden, and showed us some butterflies up close. He gave me one to put in my hand to see it play dead, and then told me to move my hand as if to drop it, only to watch it fly away. There was another butterfly that the guide put on people’s hair and faces for photographs, which was pretty neat.

We skipped past the rice granary tour we could have done, though did see a number of rice fields, and then had a brief photo stop in the Bilar man-made forest. After that was a stop at a sanctuary for the Philippine Tarsier, which is said to be the smallest primate in the world. They’re pretty creepy looking things, with giant, alien-like eyes!

Lunch, at around 2pm, was a buffet served on a river boat that took us down the river in Loboc. We were meant to have a musician play for us during the ride, while we ate our lunch, but he was late so we finished eating before we even departed! There was one stop on the trip where we got to watch some locals dancing on a sort of jetty on the river.

The next place our driver took us was a very old church in Baclayon, where a wedding was being held and we weren’t appropriately dressed to enter, since Catholic churches in the Philippines have very strict dress codes, but we were able to have a look at the museum that is attached to the church.

Our final stop was a monument known as “Blood Compact,” which is a marker for the location where an agreement to be friendly between the Spanish and native Filipinos was made. The view out to sea at sunset from here was just stunning.

Once we got back to Bohol Bee Farm, where we were staying, we just relaxed for a bit and decided to get some things from the shop for our dinner rather than eat at the organic restaurant.

Saturday, August 13th, 2011

I was pretty easy going on the decision making for what we would be doing on this trip to the Philippines, but once Reileen had suggested we could go see live dolphins in the sea, that was the one thing I wanted to do most. Dolphins, of course, being my favourite animal ever since I can remember.

We had a 5am wake up call to make sure we could leave early enough to actually get to the dolphin-watching spot. The Bee Farm is right on the coast, which meant our dolphin-watching boats departed from a jetty just below the restaurant on the farm. It was highly convenient! And they packed us a breakfast that we were able to eat on the boat, which we got through before we arrived at the dolphins. With some difficulty, in my case, since I was also looking after a cranky baby, and the boat was rather bumpy.

It took a while to get to our destination, and there were a lot of other dolphin-watching boats, all moving around to try and get the best spot to see the dolphins. Whilst we didn’t have any right next to our boat, it was still an incredible experience to watch those animals jumping out of the water and diving back in. The waves moved in such a way that sometimes it was hard to tell if it was just the waves, or if we’d see dolphins, but I reached a point where I was spotting the families of dolphins at the same time as the people who took us out there on the boat. It was just such a magical experience for me.

When we were done spotting dolphins, we were taken over to a nearby island where the coastline was covered in shells rather than sand, which made for an interesting feeling beneath my feet. It was easier to walk barefoot than in the thongs I brought with me!

We were let off on one side of the island, and then one of our guides from the boat led us on a short journey across the island. It was nice having Reileen there to translate what he said in Tagalog, because otherwise we wouldn’t have known that one building we walked past had previously been used to house Spanish mistresses. Mostly we walked through farming areas with chickens and goats, but it was pretty interesting to see how the locals lived there. We ended up in a beach resort area, but we didn’t stay there too long because Jeremy was feeling ill and there wasn’t much to do. So we got back on the boat and went back to Bohol Bee Farm, arriving a little while before lunch.

Since the cleaners were in our chalet when we got back, we decided to spend some time by the pool, just relaxing, until lunch time. We ate our lunch right by the pool and it just felt rather serene.

We didn’t do much between lunch and dinner because Jeremy and Reileen had some work they needed to do, even though we were on holiday, so they took a break to do that while I looked after Doyle and Leo.

Then for dinner, we were back at the organic restaurant.

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

It was rather a rainy morning so we weren’t able to do much. We had to get to the restaurant for breakfast and back between showers. It also meant that we couldn’t do the farm tour until after the rain stopped. Luckily this happened with still enough time for us to do that before lunch. The farm tour included discussion and smelling of various herbs grown on the farm, followed by a visit to the bee hives where we learned a bit about bees, and Doyle, Jeremy and Reileen were all brave enough to hold part of the hive that held a ton of bees on it. The last part of the tour was a discussion and visit with the earthworms.

After lunch, we got a ride back to the ferry terminal where we caught a ferry back to Cebu.

There wasn’t really any time for sightseeing once we arrived in Cebu, so we checked into our hotel and then went out to a mall to pick up a few things we needed to get whilst in the Philippines, as well as found a restaurant for our dinner.

Monday, August 15th, 2011

The morning was uneventful for me because Reileen and Jeremy had more work to get done, so I looked after the kids again until we checked out around noon. Reileen had tried to organise a taxi that would try to take us around for the afternoon until we had to be at the airport, but she hadn’t been given the right phone number so we ended up going with a taxi that happened to be at the hotel right when we wanted to leave. It’s a good thing Reileen isn’t shy and is comfortable talking to strangers because she really helped us out in talking to the driver and working out things for us to do on our own self-guided tour.

The tour of Cebu was pretty much for my sake, since Reileen and Jeremy had previously planned to spend our whole time in Bohol. This had disappointed me a bit because I had thought, what was the point of flying to Cebu if we weren’t actually going to do anything there? So I was glad when they changed the plans for my sake. Originally we were going to try and fly to Bohol and then ferry to Cebu and back, but it ended up cheaper for us to fly to Cebu.

Anyhow, Jeremy was keen to try lechon, which is a particular Filipino way of cooking pig. So our driver took us to a popular place that locals like to eat lechon.

After that, we went on up to the beautiful Taoist Temple in an area of Cebu called Beverly Hills. I’m not entirely sure why but it amuses me how much of the Philippines makes me think of America… mind you, we also passed a sign between Clark and Manila that told us it was only x distance to Mexico. That caused a bit of a laugh out of me and Jeremy. Back to the subject matter, I really enjoy looking at temples like this one because I think the architecture is quite stunning. I especially liked the dragons on the roof; there was just something special about them that made me want to photograph them a lot. Architecture designed for specific cultural purposes is one of the many things I really enjoy seeing when travelling to different locations.

Our next stop was the Museo Sugbo, which is a museum that housed historical artefacts from Cebu, particularly in prominent points of their history, such as World War II. I’ve only learned about WWII and how it relates to the Philippines, Japan and America through visits to museums in the Philippines and Hawaii, but if I had more time, I think it’s something I’d be interested in learning more about. Sadly, it is hard to pay too close attention to some of the details at such museums when you are there with children who need to be looked after. I also find the history between Filipinos and certain Spaniards to be quite interesting, and that’s something else I wish I had more time to learn about. There really isn’t enough detail about it in the museums to get a complete picture – just enough to make me more curious.

On our way to our next stop, we passed an interesting monument in the middle of some streets, which we decided to stop at for some photographs. I have since learned that it was the “Colon Monument.” It was only a brief stop before we went on to another museum, which was unfortunately closed.

The next tourist stop for us was Fort San Pedro, which I had first seen from the window of our taxi on our way to the ferry a few days earlier, and was somewhere I specifically wanted to stop, because I love old structures like that. It wasn’t as big as the fort that we went to in Manila in 2010, but I still enjoyed walking through it and looking at the old stone that was used to build the structure. This is another architectural fascination I have when travelling.

Our final major point of interest stop in Cebu was the Basilica del Sto. Niño and Magellan’s Cross. Magellan’s Cross marks the spot where Magellan first planted a cross in Philippine soil. The basilica is where some Spaniards found an image of Jesus Christ, and therefore both locations are important spots in terms of the Catholic history of the country.

We still had a bit of time on our hands before we needed to be at the airport, but without anything specific in mind, so our driver then took us to a local market where we saw a lot of dried fish. I kind of don’t really understand who Filipinos can eat a lot of the things they do, but at least I don’t feel sick at the thought of everything they make… Anyhow, we looked through the market for a while and I took photos of really small chorizo sausages because it kind of amused me, and then Jeremy bought some otap to share with his co-workers when we got home. The way Reileen described it made me want to try it, so perhaps I should’ve spoken up and suggested he bought a packet for us as well. Such is life.

We then drove for much longer to stop at a mall on the way to the airport because there was one last thing Jeremy wanted to try and find, but the trip was unsuccessful.

Our airport arrival was well before check in time, but that was planned so that we would have enough time to have dinner there first. I shared a cheeseburger flavoured pizza with Doyle, which was actually quite nice, to be honest. Then we hung around and used the free Internet for a little while until we could check in. It was a late flight and we didn’t get back to our hotel in Manila until after 1am.

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

The late night/arrival back in Manila meant that it was a good idea to let Doyle and Leo sleep as much as possible before we headed out. Indeed, we didn’t even have breakfast until around 11am. The only item on our agenda for the day, however, was a trip to Ocean Park. We had been there on our last trip to the Philippines to meet some of Reileen’s friends for a drink and dinner, but we didn’t actually look at the attractions. This time, we did.

We first went to the aquarium section to see a lot of fish, and my favourite part of that was the seahorses, because I just find those creatures so fascinating to watch and look at. Then we followed the exit route and came upon the jellyfish attraction, before stopping for some fruit shakes.

The next attraction was a sea lion show, though we didn’t have especially good seats because we arrived just before it started. Reileen, Jeremy and Doyle were at least able to stand to see, but I was busy trying to keep Leo from crying, so I didn’t get to see much unfortunately.

Our final attraction that we could actually attend was the fish spa. I have never been to a fish spa before, but it is a very popular thing to do in various parts of Asia. There are a lot of places like that in Malaysia, but we had never gone. Personally, I didn’t like it very much. Sticking my feet in a pool of water where it felt like fish were eating said feet did not grow on me. It was ticklish and I had to keep removing my feet from the water.

After that, and since Leo was getting fussy again, we got a taxi back to our hotel. Then Jeremy and Reileen went out to try and get some ingredients from the shops so Jeremy could make Reileen sausage rolls. They didn’t quite end up with enough ingredients, particularly for the pastry, but Jeremy did a pretty good job of it considering it was the first time he’d ever tried to make sausage rolls!

And that’s essentially the end of the trip since we had to check out of our hotel early the next morning to catch a bus to the airport, where Leo flirted with some nice Filipino women. Both Doyle and Leo slept on the plane for most of the flight, which meant I had a chance to catch up on some much needed sleep. We pinched a sick bag from the plane, though, because Doyle had been sick on the bus to the airport and had been looking like he’d need to be sick again. And it was a good thing we took it because he used it in the taxi on our way home.

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