Our trip to the Philippines was supposed to begin on a Wednesday but when we arrived at the airport we weren’t allowed to board since we didn’t have an outbound flight. We tried but failed to get a ticket prior to check in closing, so instead we had to pay to reschedule our inbound flight and buy outbound flights giving us only ten days in the Philippines. Hoping to make up for lost time, we skipped Manila and flew directly to Cebu to island hop from there.
We started out with one night in Cebu City before taking a two hour ferry to the island of Bohol. We spent two days scootering around checking out the beaches, Spanish colonial churches, the Chocolate Hills, and a tarsier sanctuary. Tarsiers are nocturnal so we watched them sleep under leaves, occasionally opening their eyes which we learned are as big as their brains!
After Bohol, we took a ferry to Siquijor and enjoyed an amazing sunset our first night in the small town of San Juan. The next day we did the scooter thing again, this time visiting a beach that was fantastic for swimming, which was awesome since most of the beaches we had visited so far were beautiful but too shallow and rocky for swimming. We also visited some waterfalls and a centuries-old balete tree that is said to be enchanted. At the base of the tree is a small spring filled with fish that will give you a pedicure. We had been joking that we should have done the fish pedicures in Thailand, so we opted in this time since it cost a whopping forty cents for the both of us.
The days following Siquijor were a bit of a flop. We took a ferry from Siquijor to Dumaguete where we planned to go diving at the nearby Apo Island. However, it turns out EVERYTHING is closed on Good Friday of Easter weekend in the Philippines. Everything. Many places were also closed Saturday and Sunday so we basically ended up with two entire days of nothing.
Our next activity was snorkeling with the whale sharks back on the island of Cebu. It was an awesome experience swimming next to animals that size - although we did learn later on that it’s not the most environmentally friendly situation. Originally the whales would migrate through the area, but now they stick around because they’re fed by the fishermen who want to make money off the tourism. Hopefully next time we can see them in the wild!
Since we weren’t able to go diving on Apo Island, we visited Moalboal on Cebu. Neither of us had been scuba diving in years so it was nice to do some diving in the Philippines before we got to Australia and the Great Barrier Reef. We did two dives that day, one in the morning along a shelf coral reef and a second one in the afternoon to swim with the schools of sardines just off shore. The water was a little cloudy due to a storm the night before, but it was still pretty awesome and SO cheap relative to other places!
Our final stop in the Philippines was back in Cebu City to catch our flight the following morning to Jakarta. We learned from another diver in Moalboal about a microbrewery run by a guy from California, so that night we visited Turning Wheels Craft Brewery. We had an amazing time chatting with a few expats and enjoying the first good beers we’d had since Saigon. Apparently we had so much fun at the brewery that we nearly missed our flight the next morning by sleeping through our alarm. The travel gods were finally on our side, and after a super late arrival and a full blown sprint through the airport (practically skipping security) we made it just in time.
Overall, we thought the Philippines was more of a hassle than it was worth. This was partly our fault, having to reschedule flights and greatly underestimating the Easter holiday, but there were other problems too. The Philippines was insanely hot and humid; we wouldn’t even want to go outside during the day. It had some of the worst internet we found anywhere, which made planning on the fly (our normal method) impossible. Touts were extremely pushy, and once we even had a taxi driver sit outside a restaurant for over an hour even after we repeatedly said no. While the beaches were beautiful, we only found two that we could actually enjoy for swimming. And worst of all: we found we couldn’t even enjoy the standard beer because it gave us such bad headaches after only one or two! That being said, we found that the Filipino people were some of the friendliest and most welcoming people of the entire trip, and they make some pretty delicious food too!