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Where Have We Been?

I need some vitamin sea...


We booked our trip to the Philippines, and in less than 24 hours we had arrived.

We did not have any time to plan, so every day was very much go with the flow. Vicki, Amy, and Thom flew ahead of me, and I met up with them Monday morning. We flew Cebu Pacific, and the plane was one of those smaller, more personal aircrafts, however, the lady at the ticketing counter bumped me up to the first row with lots of leg room (always be kind!). Once I landed, I took a taxi from the airport to our hotel. We stayed at EGI Hotel on Mactan (airport) Island in Cebu. The hotel was booked very last minute, and was nice, however, next time, I think I would recommend not staying on Mactan Island. With three of us staying in the room, we paid a little extra to get the baby bed!




 I unpacked a bit, then we all headed in to Cebu city for some wandering about. The first stop was the Basilica del Santo Nino, which was one of the first Roman Catholic churches discovered in the country in 1565.








Since it is a church, one must cover their short tourist shorts inside (the woman handing out scarves had me wear more than one because of my bare shoulders as well).


 Across the street was another (more modern but equally as beautiful) church that we wanted to visit. 

Although the Philippines is absolutely beautiful, it is hard to walk around the city and see all the children begging for money and not want to feed them all. We often would stop and take time to play with the children, which they seemed to enjoy more than receiving even a single coin. Occasionally we would buy them little treats from a bakery or something nearby, but only if they didn't ask, or had done some sort of service first. This was my absolutely favorite thing that we did the whole time we were there, and I would have totally taken all these kids home with me if I could have.

Professionals at posing

Waiting for treats



Surprising some new friends with cake
The children below were very different to the ones we met on that very first interaction though. While walking around Cebu city, we met 5 very, very young children who were covered in dirt from head to toe, trying to take care of one another. The oldest could not have been more than 8 years old. These kids absolutely tore my heart to pieces. They had some sweets from others who had passed by, but it was very apparent that this was not what they needed. We went to the street markets and got some water, corn (the favorite), apples, and some other things. When we gave it to the kids, they chowed down immediately, barely stopping for air. 


this little guy was the cutest and way too excited about his corn

we also had to take the wrapper off for them because they were a little overly excited 
It was amazing to watch how these children interacted together. One of the little ones was trying to share his corn with a smaller one, and ultimately ended up wacking the corn against the side of the building to break it in half.


I could have just stayed here with these kiddos the rest of my five days and been totally content. I did not want to leave, but eventually we started walking to Fort San Pedro just in time for the sunset. The fort was all set up for an event and we had some fun exploring and taking some model-y pictures, since we were being constantly stared at anyways (and I thought the staring in China was bad...).












Evening approached quickly, so we took a taxi to a market near our hotel where Amy and I both bought some cute ked style shoes for about $2 USD. I think markets are my absolute favorite way to get to know a culture and I always try to make them a priority. 



Trying to get back to the hotel, we took a Jeepney, where everyone crams into a small truck and you sit bent over or you'll hit your head. To stop the car you just make a kissy noise sound (which took us forever to figure out...). The drivers also love to pimp out these rides with lights, music, and crazy paint jobs.



For dinner, we found a sweet karaoke place (karaoke is huge in most Asian countries) that had some amazing Filipino dishes. We tried Lumpia, Pancit, and ate our weight in pork adobo. 


 That night we headed to bed really early because we had to be up at about 4am to take a bus to Oslob.
 The bus was freezing and air conditioned and had some spotty wifi, but here, this was luxury. It also took us about 3 hours to get to Oslob, but we found ways to keep ourselves occupied.




Once we got to Oslob, we knew we wanted to swim with the whale sharks, but had no real plan. The best plan of action we were told was to simply get off the bus and find a small resort place to swim with. We ended up at AJ's, and I highly recommend it! The staff was so incredibly helpful, and assisted us with everything we needed... they had a cute little tiny kitten which I think helped sell me over. 





After a small walk, and small safety session, we were on the beach getting in a boat to go swimming with whale sharks!


Before Vicki could even finish the sentence "are actually going to see any whale sharks", this giant mass of a thing swims right next to our boat, and the paddlers are instructing us to take our life vests off and get in the water.



While swimming with these massive creatures, one pinned me between itself and a boat. I know they are harmless, but we had been joking on the bus that you don't want to get sucked in by its giant mouth, and I am the one who of course thinks this is nonsense...until it almost happened. Note that Amy shoves me closer to the whale shark in order to save herself. Check out the encounter for yourself here:






and now you will see just how close it actually was to me...




The man in the boat the whole time is very unenthusiastically telling me "ma'am this is not your boat, watch your head". I am panicking and trying to claw my way (backwards) into the boat, meanwhile, Amy and Vicki are cracking up getting it all on video. When the whale sharks weren't trying to Jonah me, they were actually pretty amazing, and I would 100% recommend this on your trip to the Philippines. 



just to clarify, any time there is a peace sign in the picture...its amy.



this pose we called the koala, whenever it got too close for comfort, we koala-ed


 
note: the koala.

After my near death experience, we headed back to AJ's for some lunch (more adobo, of course)and and some beach time (and more model pictures).

the reenactment.


right off in the distance where those boats are are the whale sharks







i love the glass soda bottles
AJ's arranged for us to take a motorbike ride to Tumalong Waterfalls. The waterfall was so high and incredibly beautiful. 





view from in the pool looking straight up
view looking toward the waterfall
We had to walk quite a bit (all uphill) after playing in the falls till we met up with where the motorbikes could take us the rest of the way back. Once back to AJ's, we said bye to our new friends (mostly the kitten), and then looked for a bus on the way back to Mactan. The trip back was not on our air conditioned coach, but instead a more local bus that was very full. We kept ourselves entertained on the long trek though playing with two little kids who were playing in their mom's hats. 

When we got back to Cebu City, we knew we had to squeeze in a Jollibee (the Mcdonalds of the Philippines) visit and order some of the more unique menu items. 




That night, Vicki and I said bye to Amy, since she was leaving super early for the airport. The next day, Vicki and I hung around a bit in the morning because I had some homework to finish up. Around 1pm, we took a private boat arranged by the hotel (meant for about 10 people, carrying only two of us) to the hotels private beach. In order to get to a to the giant party boat, a man had to pull us by hand in this little boat first. 



The party boat...




anyone wanna come party with us?


 The trip out to the island, we managed to spot some wild dolphins! 


When we arrived at the private island, it really was a private island; there was no one else around! 

We went snorkeling in the smaller, blocked off area, where we saw lots of little fish, but in all captivity. There were a couple of starfish laying around as well that we held (my favorite part!). The owners had threw some fish food toward us, so the fish would swim at us, which was a little overwhelming because swarms of fish would be swimming in and out of your toes. 






struggling to put my life vest back on, but starfish in my hand!

 One of the guys helping out on our boat was a diver and he took us to free dive in the open water. This was such a one of a kind experience that I will never forget because we saw angel fish, a seahorse, some eels, barracudas, crabs, and some other amazing marine life. We had spent the perfect amount of time on the island to see the sunset on the way back.



For dinner that night, we ended up back at our favorite karaoke place for more adobo. We also had some street food, including rice woven coconut leaves (called Puso), and sea pickles. They were very interesting, but I don't think I would necessarily try them again.


puso

sea pickles


The next day last full day in the Philippines. Vicki and I woke up early to grab a cab to take to the ferry station to head to Bohol. One of the major scams in this country you have to look out for is getting ripped off by taxi drivers. We had done a great job of not allowing this to happen until that morning. Not only did he take us in a huge round about way, he got us stuck in traffic, causing us to miss the morning ferries and having to wait two hours for the next one, giving us about two hours on Bohol.It allowed me to get some pictures of Cebu though...



crossing the bridge from mactan to cebu city

truck full of chickens 


 
The white thing pictured is where you can fill a bag up with water to drink out of!

Two hours later than we wanted to leave, we were finally on the ferry toward Bohol, about a two hour journey.


trying to block the sun (unsuccessfully)
 When we got to Bohol, we were a bit overwhelmed by all the transportation options that were aggressively being offered by those at the ferry station. We ran across the street to the parking lot and hid behind a van just so we could get our thoughts together. While hiding, a man came to ask if we were ok, and he ended up being our transportation option in his tuk tuk tricycle. 



We headed to Carmen (another hour and a half journey) by tuk tuk to go see the amazing Chocolate Hills, which get their name from their appearance of chocolate truffles. The motorbike sounded horrible the whole way there, but it actually made it the whole journey until the very last leg uphill.The bike overheated, and we ended up having to walk up a very steep hill, and then climbing over 200 steps. It was a great workout, but totally worth the view at the top.


stairs (200+)

view of down the stairs




From the hills, it was only a short journey to see the baby monkeys Bohol is known for, called the tarsiers. 

The monkeys are super tiny, so this is an up close google picture of them so you know what they actually look like before I show you my terrible pictures of them.

So we arrive at this enclosure that is still semi in the wild for these monkeys, and we think that you have to go in and find them yourself....so this is us searching for them because we have no idea what we are looking for....



When we rounded the corner, we found that there were guides standing where the monkeys were and pointing them out to people... which is probably a good thing because they are very small and we never would have noticed them.


Since you couldn't see the monkeys very well, Vicki and I decided to pose like the monkey so you could see what they were doing...


monkey is in the tree behind us, holding on with large eyes forward


monkey above was faceplanting as though it had just heard a dad joke

(note the giant rat like tail)

this one was dramatically looking away

another holding the tree and doing an over the shoulder model shot
Over all we saw about five tarsiers. They were super cute and just starting to wake up. 

One of our souvenirs we purchased at the conservation was these peanut kisses! They were like a soft peanut cookie, and I ate all of them in a matter of seconds. 




 Since we didn't have much time left in Bohol before the last ferry left, we had to head back in to town in our tuk tuk. On the way home, we passed Baclayon Church. It was founded in 1596, and in 2013, it met its demise to an earthquake.



We finally got back to the ferry terminal and took the 2 hour journey back to Cebu. On the journey home we made friends with aone of the locals, who showed us where to grab some amazing dinner.

We tried Lechon and Sisig, which turned out to be my favorite dish of the whole trip.


We headed into the city a bit more, where Nervin showed us a dinner place that celebrates fiesta style. Although we didn't get the chance to eat here, it looked amazing.



The city was all decorated for Christmas and the upcoming Sinulog Festival in January.



One final Filipino treat we wanted to try was Halo Halo, which means "mixed together". This treat is a dessert with mixtures of shaved ice and evaporated milk added to boiled sweet red beans, flavored jellos, and fruits. It was unlike anything I had tried before!

You don't eat it all pretty and like this though, instead you mix it all together into a purple blob.

This was our final adventure before heading to the hotel for five minutes of sleep since we had to be at the airport at around 4am. Thanks for showing us some cool Filipino treats Nervin!

It was time to say farewell to the Philippines, and as we boarded our plane we saw the most incredible sun rise.



I could not have asked for a better spontaneous journey though, and we had the greatest time. Until next time, Cebu! Salamat po.




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