Our own paradise on earth - El Nido, Palawan
Uninhabited island in El Nido
Island hopping in El Nido
“It’s more fun in the Philippines”, goes the new tourism campaign slogan that’s sweeping my home country which has been going viral in the last couple of days. I’m actually very happy that finally tourism is being given a boost. It’s high time for the Philippines to shine as a must-see country in Asia. Thailand has its “Amazing Thailand” campaign and Malaysia has its “Truly Asia” slogan. The Philippines was left out for a long time in the cold when in fact, she has so much to offer.
I’ve got a long way still way to go with my Loire Valley castles blogs but what the heck…let me blog about the many fun things to experience and see in my beloved Philippines. I’ve seen those gorgeous pictures of must-see places so let me show you this country through the eyes of my Dutch husband who really see the fun part of the Philippines like any tourist would.
The financial district of Makati in the distance
There’s no denying that just like any developing country, the Philippines has high poverty incidence which exists side by side with enormous wealth. Thus, it is normal to see high-end cars alongside rickety buses and cars on the highway, to view shanties in the metropolis with the high rise buildings of the financial district in the backdrop. The drive from the airport to the hotels in the more opulent areas like Makati will mean passing through congested areas with ambulant vendors selling anything from “balut” to household merchandises, beggars asking for small change, flimsy built shops that offer vulcanizing services, cellphone charge loading, etc.
Meeting friends mean eating and more eating
To holiday in the Philippines is a combination of fun, pleasure and discomfort (to those who never experienced brownouts for instance). When meeting family and friends, expect that to be a marathon of eating after eating. Being invited for a snack means finding ourselves guests to huge parties so there are times when the hubby would ask if it is possible to meet my friends just over drinks and no more food ;-)
The hubby and the jeepney
My husband and I are unconventional travelers. We hate organized trips so we always take the off the beaten tract kind of adventures. We’ve traveled by plane, buses, tricycles, jeepneys and motorcyle to reach places that we want to see. I remember a time when we were in Camiguin and we wanted to see a waterfall. We were told that the way to go there was either to hike for 5 kilometers or go by motorcycle. To our surprise, there were 7 of us in that motorcycle.
Hidden Valley, a tropical rain forest resort in Laguna which is south of Manila
Hidden Valley Resort
We were last on holiday in the Philippines way back in 2006. It was for 2.5 weeks with half of the time visiting family and friends. We stayed a few days in Manila, then off to Lucena City where I used to be assigned as a bank officer to meet up with friends and former colleagues, then to Bicol to see my family and then off to El Nido, Palawan (that place which we would never miss for the world).
Riding a carabao
Driving a jeepney
Meeting friends in Lucena was fun. My husband was able to satisfy his wishes of riding a carabao and a scruffy horse and then driving a jeepney. He thought it was so easy to ride a carabao as he see very young boys on top of carabaos but realized that some things were easier thought of than done. Then it was off to driving a jeepney which he thought was also a very cool thing to do but realized that it was not built for his size and comfort. He struggled with the drive because the jeepney did not have even the standard direction indicator, the steering was tough and he could barely see what was in front of him because his sheer height means that his eye level was far higher than the small Filipino driver behind the wheel.
Island hopping to uninhabited islands
Having this place all to ourselves, what more can we ask for?
Grilling tuna for lunch
Freshly grilled tuna, island-style
Fun with children who serenaded us with lovely local songs
Our holiday was capped by a trip to El Nido, Palawan, the place where our love story started way back in 1996. We were then both backpackers who met on the beach with that excellent view of limestone mountains. We remained true to that memory of our first meeting, backpacking again and stayed in a simple cottage by the beach. We enjoyed our glorious days in this island paradise, island hopping every day and having picnic on the beach. We saw the guests of the exclusive resorts in El Nido also visiting the uninhabited islands where we were — they were ferried by speed boats and the resort staff would set up table for them with the finest table cloth and the finest china and were served posh meals. We, on the other hand, far enjoyed our meals of barbeque and grilled tuna with the boatmen with us.
Transporting a pig, Palawan-style
We felt so sorry to leave the island as during our stay, we developed an excellent rapport with the people we met there. Some evenings we were serenaded by the children who were just so happy to regale us with their stories. My husband cannot think of any best place to be for holidays. The best holidays are those filled with happy memories, with inconvenient experiences that stick to memory long after the holiday like our stay at a pension house in Taytay where we stayed awake the whole night because the bed was just filled with bed bugs.
Market scene that we really love
We saw and experienced a lot of things that we will forever cherish. Most of all, what makes the holiday more fun in the Philippines is the friendliness of people we met everywhere.
More pictures here: