Philippines ~ Part 1

I thought I’d break this blog down into a few parts. The reason being, we did so much that it would be an overwhelmingly long blog. Due to living in Vietnam we had decided that we needed to spend a Christmas away from home and experience a new place we’d always wanted to go. We were weighing up between Australia and the Philippines, however Philippines won us over when we knew our friends living in Oz weren’t going to be around. We booked flights and started planning back in October, however our original plan and route we had decided to take took a different turn a couple of weeks before we were due to fly. We did some more research and figured out our route wasn’t going to work, so we cancelled and rebooked a lot of the trip.

We travelled to Cebu via Manila through the night of Friday 21st December. We had a nervous moment where we almost missed our connecting flight. It took our plane over an our to be parked once we had landed in Manila – pretty ridiculous. But luckily with our speedy legs we ran through Manila airport with only 20 minutes to spare and made the connection to Cebu.

On arrival we bought SIM cards (highly recommended) which allowed us to have data and access to the internet, quite necessary with the amount of travelling and moving around we were going to do over the course of the next 2 weeks. We had our first night booked in Bohol on Panglao Island at an air Bnb. But to get from Cebu to Bohol we needed to take a ferry. Weary eyed and with hardly any sleep we took a taxi to the ferry port at around 6.30am, to try and get the earliest ferry possible. We had been warned about the ferries and their inconsistency and likelihood to sell out fast. The earliest ferry we could take was 9.20am, so knowing we had over 2 hours to kill and with a sign for a nearby McDonalds looming we had no choice but to indulge in a greasy sausage and egg McMuffin to kill the time. The boat to Bohol was smooth and our tired bodies forced us to sleep most of the 2 hour trip. That night we spent time exploring nearby Alona Beach (a tourist hub on Panglao Island) full of restaurants and bars, budding divers and families from across the globe. Our air Bnb host had offered us some recommendations of where to eat which we pursued before heading to bed for an early night.

The next day we needed to travel across to Camiguin island, otherwise known as ‘The Island Born of Fire’ for its inactive volcano. This was where we were going to spending the next 3 nights and Christmas Day. We had been told that there was only one boat crossing there everyday so we knew we had to make it down to the port early to get a ticket. We arrived at the small town of Jagna port 3 hours before the boat was due to leave, however we were greeted with the news that the boat was already fully booked. Oh no! Stranded on the spot and over an hours drive away from where we had just come from we knew we had to get across there today! Jonny went in search of other potential boat companies that might be running across there and we also thought we might offer to pay over the odds to get a seat on the boat. Nervous looking on the side of the road with our travel bags, a Filipino lady stood next to me approached. She told me that her and her Mother and 3 small children were in the same position and had spoken to a local fisherman who had agreed to take them over in a ‘small vessel’. She was very kind and genuine and said we could join her if we were willing to share the cost. Without hesitation and knowing we had to get across that day we agreed to go with her.

We were driven about a mile along the coast to where the fisherman’s boat was. My initial reaction was excitement about the adventure we were going to have on this small boat and laughter about the scenario that was unfolding. Jonny was a little more apprehensive about this small wooden boat taking us across but I was surprisingly calm about the whole situation. That day the ocean was completely calm, without a wave in sight and Camiguin Island was clear to see in the distance, so how bad could it be? The fishermen arranged our bags in the bottom of the boat and assembled wooden planks for us to sit on top. With the family behind us, we sat up front with stunning and ethereal views of calm ocean that spread to the horizon ahead. The weather was overcast light cloud, so it wasn’t too hot, making for a comfortable trip apart from that numb bum feeling towards the end. Along our journey we were fortunate enough to see hundreds of flying fish taking off as our boat disturbed them. We also saw 3 or 4 pods of dolphins which was incredible and made the whole experience even more worthwhile!

As we landed on Camiguin island relieved to have made it safely, we were picked up by our next air Bnb hosts. They came for us on motorbikes and took us through the forest roads up to their house on the hillside. Our air Bnb host was a British guy called Oliver who was living there with his Filipino wife and had done for many years. He greeted us into his home which he’d built himself – a huge mansion with 2 sides, one for air Bnb guests and the other where they slept. An amazing place with high ceilings and views of the hillside all the way down to the sea. What a find! Oliver sat us down with some coffee as we talked for over an hour about his life and ours. Wow that guy has some stories to tell about his exciting life abroad, we could have talked for hours. He gave us plenty of recommendations of what to do on the island which he lived and one of his friends soon dropped off a bike for us to use during our stay. That night we went to a restaurant (Casa de Rocca) which Oliver recommended, owned by a Canadian guy who was one of Oliver’s friends. We loved the place so much we ended up eating there every night on Camiguin!

The 24th of December was the day that the Filipinos celebrate Christmas. Strange but quite nice for us to be able to celebrate for 2 days. This day our air bnb hosts told us they were having a hog roast which we were welcome to join them and their local friends. Free food… I’m there! This day we decided to explore some of the island on our motorbike. We took a trip across to a small sand island called ‘White Island’, around a 10 minute boat ride from the main land. This was very picturesque and was just a small sand strip in the middle of the sea. Jonny and I got our first taste of some snorkelling in the crystal sea, seeing plenty of starfish and beautiful coral.

Back on the mainland we also visited a hot spring where we swam for a while with plenty of locals enjoying their festivities. We decided that evening it would be great to catch the sunset at the sunken cemetery. This place was incredible, once a real cemetery for the island but after a huge landslide had been forced out to sea and was now underwater. All that could be seen was a huge white crucifix still protruding from the water. We sat on the rocks watching the sun go down across the water before heading out for dinner at our favourite restaurant once again, Casa de Rocca.

Christmas Day didn’t really feel like Christmas, a weird feeling and one that I did miss a little bit. Not waking up surrounded by family and the excitement of Father Christmas visiting from my Mother was strange. But Jonny and I exchanged small gifts to each other as a memento before a day of exploring which we thoroughly enjoyed nonetheless.  Jonny brought us both Mariah Carey t-shirts with the quote ‘All I want for Christmas is you’ which we endeavoured to wear all day! ce2dd738-1c71-43f0-b31e-02a8517f797fWe had decided we wanted to visit Mantigue island, another small island a short boat journey from the main land. Here we did some more snorkelling, seeing plenty of tropical fish, corals and more starfish. It took around 10 minutes to walk about the island which was inhabited by a few people all living very simply in their hand build wooden huts. That afternoon we enjoyed driving around Camiguin where all the locals were very friendly. Waving at us as we whizzed by and shouting Merry Christmas! We visited a waterfall which was beautiful and had some locals swimming in the pool below. We considered getting in to cool off, but after dipping our toes into the freezing cold water we soon decided we’d better not!

Our Christmas night and last night on Camiguin was rounded off by another night at Casa de Rocca. We sat under the stars and enjoyed delicious cocktails and some hearty food. Our closest to Christmas at home was a glass of Baileys on the rocks after our meal, perfect! As we sat chatting the night away and devouring some lovely food, the island had a power cut for around 5 minutes. An incredible moment where the stars were clearer than we’ve ever seen before and a really magical moment and one that I won’t forget.

Later that night we facetimed our families and enjoyed telling them all about our day as their Christmas Day was just starting. Time difference is a very strange thing! Content from a lovely day out and speaking to our families put us to sleep in a great mood and ready to travel onto our next island the next morning.

I look forward to sharing part 2 with you all in a few days. Much love xxx

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