The Philippines Part 2
Hey, this is my 2nd post (if you’re reading chronologically) about my month-long trip to The Philippines. Here I tell you about Bohol and Siquijor. For part 1 click here.
Back to Basics in Bohol
Our 2 night stay in a homestay in Bohol was something special. The people that live in this community lost their homes in Hurricane Yolanda in 2013. With the help of charitable organisations they relocated and rebuilt their homes. Companies like G Adventures take tour groups there to help them financially and the share their culture with us travellers. Our stay there coincided with Gary’s birthday. Our tour leader knew this before we arrived and called ahead. What the villagers did for Gary was very touching and left him rather speechless. I’ll get back to that.
We had to take a ferry from Cebu to the island of Bohol where we had lunch (terrible service again) and stocked up on supplies as well as buy some rice and gifts for our hosts and the children respectively. After a lot of driving we arrived at the Chocolate Hills national park. In April we were in a season where the hills were more green than chocolate brown but they were an interesting shape nonetheless! For me it was a photo opportunity and nothing more. I was more interested in our next stop: the
Tapir Tarsier Sanctuary.
The Philippines is one of only a small handful of countries where it’s possible to find tarsiers. My first impression: that they are a lot smaller than I expected! I’m not sure why I had such an expectation. Nonetheless they are bizarre looking creatures! Huge eyes, very prominent finger and knuckle joints, and they can turn their heads 180 degrees! Be careful, a camera flash can kill them. Their eyes are so sensitive to light which makes them perfect nocturnal animals. I had to be extremely patient to get a good shot.
Getting to our accommodation for the next two nights we are greeted by a welcome song and dance and shown to our homes. A local custom is to give guests your roof for the night. Being very basic huts, with one room to sleep, one room to wash and go to the toilet, we felt quite bad taking their homes, but they insist! Out of respect you have to shut up and accept their generosity. Very humbling. The second thing to note is how happy everyone is! With only basic English we managed to get along quite well with our host Sam, and his wife. A very religious people, there are Christian-themed pictures up everywhere.
After having eaten a tasty dinner, the local children gathered around and sang Happy Birthday to Gary (that was his 5th serenade of the day!), gave him birthday cards, a cake, and held up pieces of paper that spelled out his name. Amazing considering they didn’t know us. I was blown away by their appreciation for everything, no matter how small. Lots of the kids knew One Direction and Justin Bieber songs off by heart, haha.
The next 2 days involved a trip to the local farm, and finally (after what seemed like forever) a beach! Panglao to be precise. I regretted my eagerness to swim when I got 5 days worth of painful sunburn.
The 2nd and final night at the homestay we were given a farewell meal. This seemed a little strange after only 2 days but it’s something they off to all their visitors. Again, out of respect we ate separately from the locals. We had chipped in to buy a whole pig for them to roast. It was an incredible sight to see them remove it from the spit and prepare it. So crispy! Unfortunately the meat was so damn tough to eat. What followed was an evening of performances from the children, including dancing, beatboxing, and party games in which we were involved. We also all gave a little speech thanking them for their hospitality and declaring what we liked about their country. I said the colours, and the sunsets!
First thought when getting off the ferry in Siquijor (pronounced Sicky-hor) was: hot. Certainly hot with the backpacks. I was still significantly sunburnt (silly Alex) from Panglao so that didn’t help. Said sunburn meant I couldn’t enjoy the hammock that was placed outside our bungalow however I doubt wicker hammocks are ever comfortable! Where we were staying was the Casa de la Playa, situated on a small hill that overlooked the beach, with more bungalows actually on the shoreline. A cosy place with friendly staff, Filipino beer, and the aforementioned hammocks. Did I mention it was hot? There was no air conditioning in the rooms and this was a downside but we managed with a fan because we had to. Still, it’s worth mentioning. The bungalows were equipped with a small kitchenette and a fridge and there was ample space for a couple of backpackers.
The best part of my stay here and one of the best memories of the whole trip was a stunning sunset on our 2nd night. I believe that it’s not the sun that makes a good sunset but rather the clouds. The sun sets in the same position every day, but the clouds are different. On that day there was a towering cloud that was isolated from the rest and it really made the sunset rank highly in my head. The tide was very far out so we walked quite far out from the shore, treading carefully around lots of starfish (and baby ones!) as we went. Cue camera batteries draining to zero capturing this sunset for 45 minutes.
Other highlights include a trip to a waterfall with a rope swing. I loved just treading water behind the waterfall itself. Although loud it was a consistent noise and so it blocks out everything else. Great! Had to get this shot though:
At the top of the hill we had to climb to leave the falls was a long line of trikes waiting to take fares. I got this cool panorama. So much colour. Love!
We stayed here for 2 nights before heading on to Dumaguete.
Stay tuned for the next part – Dumaguete & Borocay!