The Philippines is its own animal. At first, it is slightly disarming (especially when coming from a country as vastly different as Indonesia). But, it just as quickly warms to a person and you end up falling in love with the wonder and quirkiness it has to offer.
Here is some stream of consciousness writing from our adventures so far (feel free to scroll down a couple paragraphs to keep reading, or you can relive my experiences through the next blurb, either or!)
Puerta Princesa. Being called "ma'am" and "sir" everywhere we go. Tricycles. Cover songs. Way too much meat. Pik Niks (new favourite ketchup chip - hickory stick hybrid snack). Pineapple juice. San Miguel's. Political campaigning. NCCC supermarkets. Banana crackers. Pocari Sweats (like Gatorade, but better!). Nagtabahn Beach, riding on the back of the motorcycle, one hand on the seat, one hand on our groceries, worst vegetarian food ever at Ima's, best hospitality ever at "Susan's Place". El Nido. Crazy 6 hour van rides to and from. Kayaking, Merimegmeg Beach (most beautiful beach ever), journaling, Palm trees, ants everywhere, Tanduay Rum and Coke, tapas, epic sunsets, hilarious airport security, roof top infinity pool at our hotel in Cebu, sweatiest workouts ever (from working hard or humidity, no one will ever know). Siargao. Buddha's Surf Resort, smoothie bowls, epic tidal rock pools, learning how to drive a motorcycle (semi automatic), more Tanduay rum, meeting English friends, private beach side yoga, surfing, all the mangoes, movie nights, calamansi juice, relaxing, exploring.
Motorcycles with attached car windshields, extra tire, and a bench make the local transportation, tricycles, very entertaining and enjoyable to take part in. Especially when they're decorated or have "Porsche" painted on the front, flowers strung across the bumper.
There are political campaigns everywhere you go (even the smaller islands). Being a republic, everyone and their dog is running for a position in office, and we often found ourselves giggling at the crazy amount of political posters or the exciting rendition of "we are the champions" blaring from some of the local truck loudspeakers in the streets.
The music here is awesome, and I have often found myself listening to covers of songs that I will most likely never hear again (in the same way). There is party music before and after every flight (which is a really cool initiative by the way, come on West Jet//Air Canada, get to stepping) and most restaurants will be playing great playlists that both surprise you and bring back memories from childhood. We have yet to dance our booties off here in the Philippines, but are both aware that the opportunity is definitely around.
The cuisine is hugely pork and sauce dominated (even veggie dishes come with sausage or "meat bits"), so it's been interesting for me to stay alive here. Mostly, I've stuck with fish and rice when possible (even when "bihon" [rice noodles] are available, "canton" [wheat egg noodles] are preferred, so rice is safer), eggs and fruit for breakfast and I have only had to send back my meal a few times, explaining that "no sauce" means no sauce at all, "no, not even gravy." They think I'm insane for eating my food "dry" (still smothered in oil). I'm just trying not to go into anaphylaxis.
The BEST part about the cuisine here in the Philippines? The MANGOES! Oh my Lanta, you have not lived until you've had the mangoes here. Sweet, soft, juicy and insanely abundant, Brandon and I pick a handful up every couple days from a local fruit stand and enjoy them at all hours.
And perhaps the absolute best part about the Philippines?? The people. Have you ever felt someone smile at you with their eyes? Like that purely genuine, "I'm so happy to see you" kind of smile? Well almost EVERYONE here does that! Most of the small children wave and smile and are elated when you wave back. I made paper airplanes for a couple kids on the street and they were so excited. Riding on the dirt bike through surrounding municipalities, every single person waves at you and smiles like they are so happy to see you. I love Pilipino people. And I love this place.
Yesterday, we had an awesome adventure, and since sharing is caring, I want to tell you all about it.
We rented a motorbike from our awesome resort, Buddha's, here on Siargao island. After taking instructions from our friendly manager, Becky, we set off to fill our bellies with smoothie bowls, our tank with gas, and then we're on our way.
We drove around 45 minutes north, passing shacks on stilts in swampy areas, children playing with old bike tires and sticks and doing hopscotch on the side of the road, the cutest baby animals there ever were (I almost stole a baby goat it was THAT cute) and a bit of warm island rain.
Finally, we found ourselves at the entrance of Magpupungko, the local tourist attraction: epic tidal rock pools that are only available to explore at low tide (unless you want to make friends with the fishies and get swept out to sea). We were the only two white people there, which was really entertaining. People stared, smiled, waved and one guy asked incredulously, mouth agape, "but like, where are you from?!" These people are amazing.
The rock pools themselves were incredible! We walked over seabed-type rocks to get to them, but since the tide was down, it was possible. The aquamarine water holes were full of laughing, smiling people, out on vacation with their families. The water was amazingly warm and small fish swam below us. Just a couple hundred feet out, at the edge of the reef, huge swells crashed into the ocean, but dissipated before reaching us at the pools. It was beautiful and I was so happy to have explored yet another of Mother Nature's mysteries on our trip.
On the way back, Brandon taught me how to ride a motorcycle (semi automatic) and It was such a freeing experience to try it on my own and feel comfortable enough to ride with him on the back. Bucket list item? Check! Back at our place, we enjoyed fresh eats from the kitchen at Buddha's and had a nighttime sasser.
The Philippines has been wonderful to us so far and I'm greatly looking forward to spending the last week of our trip exploring more of the island.
Wishing you all a wonderful week,