The Philippines…and the first month on the road

Map of the PhilippinesFIlipinas Bandera

So one month into the trip, (it flew by, by the way!)  I wanted to post some photos and tell you about some of the experiences. It has been awesome so far and the Philippines has exceeded my expectations, although in the last year two people who had come who I met told me it was their favorite country in South-East Asia, which is a bold statement.

The people are very friendly (not as friendly as my fellow Colombians, but very friendly!), and it´s interesting to see an Asian country with some Spanish influence (the Philippines was under Spanish rule for over 400 years and are actually named after King Felipe/Phillip), so although people don´t speak Spanish anymore (people tell me that up until the 80´s they taught Spanish in schools, and that many of the older people still speak Spanish). The people though generally are curious and smile and greet you and want to know where you´re from.
The language they speak here is Tagalog, and only a few words are the same like the numbers of 1 through 20…uno, dos, tres…etc. I’ve managed to pick up some basic phrases including one that I found challenging, but the big smiles I get in return make it worth it:
“Masaya Ako Na Nakila la kita,” which means, I´m happy to meet you.

Beside the local people, I’ve been blessed to meet some great people from all over the world, and since I stay in dorm rooms of hostels and have been very social since I´m traveling alone and if I´m not I´ll prob feel very alone, I’ve been meeting lots of people  and noticed the majority are German, Dutch, French and a strong Canadian presence in the Philippines. I’ve had the pleasure of traveling, exploring, and partying with people from everywhere. It took like 3 weeks, but finally came across my first Colombians of the trip, and it´s always nice to come across my countrymen!

The food has been tasty, and they seem obsessed with pork, which is fine by me since I don´t eat beef, and love pork! Some typical dishes are vinegar and soy sauce marinated meats called Adobo (pork, chicken, fish), Curries, various fish, squid, etc. with rice… and some curious additions like spaghetti which are offered on most local fast food places (perhaps U.S. occupation influence, which I’ve been curious about and tried a few). I also sometimes just get interesting looking street food where I often don’t really know exactly what I’m getting which is exciting…and more predictable things like some skewers of pork on a stick, fried plantain on a stick, or try different street food made of rice or veggies, and a fruit shakes. Something interesting is that they don´t really use or offer knives. At eateries you usually get offered a fork and a spoon. An interesting dessert I´ve encountered is Halo-Halo, which means mixed together, and is a shaved ice concoction with lots of ingredients which you might not think of including in a dessert and with other ingredients like (Wikipedia description):
boiled kidney beansgarbanzossugar palm fruit (kaong), coconut sport (macapuno),and plantains caramelized in sugar, jackfruit (langkâ), gulamantapiocanata de cocosweet potato (kamote), cheese, pounded crushed young rice (pinipig). Most of the ingredients (fruits, beans, and other sweets) are first placed inside the tall glass, followed by the shaved ice. This is then sprinkled with sugar, and topped with either (or a combination of) leche flanpurple yam (ubeng pula), or ice creamEvaporated milk is poured into the mixture upon serving.

The Philippines is a tougher to explore than most countries I’ve visited since it is spread out on around 7,170 islands, which make it a little more challenging to travel with the connections between buses and ferries, but it´s definitely worth exploring and it has had some of the best beaches I’ve seen in my life (the ones on El Nido on the Island of Palawan and Boracay are both legendary) and spectacular. As well as the north and It´s Mountains and famous rice terraces, and southern islands.

My route: I arrived in Manila and spent a weekend exploring it and it seems like a gritty city that isn’t full of traditional beauty, but it has character. After a weekend I took an overnight bus (around 10 hours) to the Northern Ifugao province to visit some legendary rice terraces in Banaue and Batad (a Unesco World Heritage site, for its famous rice terrace “amphitheater”, which are both beautiful and impressive for their irrigation system where they divert natural water ways to the terraces and the water trickles down from higher to lower terraces keeping the rice with enough water which is vital.

After that I went to Sagada a beautiful town in the mountains that had a great vibe and was easy to spend time in. I went with my new Canadian friend Kayt, and Anne and Jill from the UK and the US and we shared a room there and we explored the amazing caves nearby and then saw the famous hanging coffins (http://www.urbanghostsmedia.com/2014/01/mysterious-hanging-coffins-of-sagada-philippines/) then Kayt and I parted ways with Jill and Anne and headed towards the west coast towards San Juan, a surfing town. It was nice, but there were no waves and after four days of waiting for the waves and meeting amazing people from all over, I let a new Canadian friend, Jordan, convince me to go to the east coast to a sure thing surf spot called Baler. On a whim I said why not and we left a little later than we should have, but it was only supposed to take six hours and a 3 buses, but after around 8 hours and arriving at a city in between (San Juan) around midnight, we decided to stay for the night and were told by the locals to go to a hotel because this town did not have hostels. The good news was that the kind of fancy (20 dollars a night hotel) had an option that was called “Drivers Quarters” which we were curious about and saw it was a dorm for around $7usd, much like we were looking for, so that was settled. We told them that if other drivers came in the night we´d fight them to the death. Our intimidating threats worked.

The next day after a few more buses and hours we arrived in a surf town called Baler, and were soon in the water surfing. It was nice to surf again and let the ocean give me a welcome-back beating. I love surfing, and am very much a beginner as I’ve only surfed like 10 times, and have found that there is nothing in this world that is more humbling to me than surfing. The ocean shows me how small and insignificant I can be, especially with poor abilities of getting past the break.
Although I always take a beating, I come back with a smile. The next day was better and I caught a few waves and loved the beautiful green mountains and beach around.

The next day I was up by 6 and grabbing a bus to Manila that should take 6 hours, by 6:30. I wanted to take a 28 hour ferry that leaves once a week from Manila over to the island of Palawan. The ferry leaves at 5pm, and that´s what time my bus arrived in Manila after many delays and flat tires…. so much for the ferry.

After spending that weekend in Manila I went to Boracay, (which I wasn’t sure if I´d visit since some people said it was only a party place, that was home of the world famous White beach. I decided to check it out for myself and it was beautiful. I was also lucky enough to run into Agata, a lovely polish girl I had met in Batad on the beach in Boracay and it was amazing because I had no idea she was there and then we found out we were staying at the same hostel in Boracay and she was in the room next to mine. After we met some great people we went partying that night and that night I had a few too many rums and forgot to have dinner so, so naturally I lost my shirt (the next day went to ask at the bar we were at and they had it 🙂

After a few days in Boracay I wanted to go to the island of Palawan that everyone raves about and after arriving in El Nido I understood why. Wow. It is SUCH a beautiful place. One of the prettiest things I’ve ever been lucky enough to see.
When you go on “island hopping” tours around the Bacuit Archipielago area visiting gorgeous beaches surrounded by limestone Cliff Mountains all around. With some hidden beaches and lagoons that you have to enter going under water, etc.  El Nido town is quaint and I met really nice people and beside the island hopping, we rented scooters and went to visit some nearby beaches which was fun, spent a few nights at the local reggae bar dancing inside it and outside on the beach, and I also played football with the local kids at the school, and even spent a night “camping” on a nearby island´s beach. Where after our group had enough rum and music and good conversation under the full moon and stars I passed out on the beach. It was a beautiful experience to go to bed under the moon and stars and wake up to such gorgeous scenery.

Before you know it I had come to the end of the 30 days the Philippines gives you to visit the country without a visa, and I went to extend my stay and get the stamp yesterday, only to find it was a national holiday and now I think I might have to pay a fine for overstaying since I have to wait until Monday to extend my stay. I think I´ll stick around town and around and do the extension on Monday and request my visa for Indonesia, before going off to explore some more south eastern islands of the Philippines.  It has been a great trip so far and loving that it´s only the beginning!

I´m still trying to learn how to use this blog, and sometimes there isn’t Internet connection and sometimes it’s terrible and the uploading of the pictures takes a long time, so patience with me! But below are some pictures from the first month of the Philippines, as I´m not sure how long I am going to be here, but this morning I extended my stay in the Philippines (after a night out where I almost went from the nightclub to the Immigration office) and have another 30 days to explore this awesome country.

Here are some links of some videos:

Headfirst Cliff Diving from 50 feet / 15 meters: 

 

Deciding my 2nd time Longboarding, I was good enough
to do it being pulled by a motorcycle:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X7oiZvOLIC4

And here is a responsible thing we did with some other people in our hostel in Manila, where we bought some food and took it to a nearby slum to give to the people and then even stuck around to play basketball and hang out…one of the better experiences of the trip so far:

 

The Big Lagoon, El Nido
Entering one of the lagoons around El Nido

DSC04578
T
he colorful and vibrant stalls of the Chinatown in Manila (supposedly the oldest Chinatown in the world). I ended up

buying a few irresponsibly really cheap things like $2 shoes and watches, etc…

DSC05489
Spectacular colors of the water and jagged limestone
mountains on the island hopping tours around El Nido, Palawan.

DCIM100GOPRO
Swimming in beautiful places

View from El Nido
A
aaamazing views and beaches near el Nido.

SONY DSC
More gorgeousness seen island hopping around El Nido.

loving life in El Nido with cocount
Enjoying one of my favorite things in life in paradise.

Below some cool picture someone took of me between 15m dives (50 feet) at Ariels Point, near Boracay.
11313174_10155609803605385_6953055214598642879_o 10344402_10155609803625385_5432161095664084120_o11334031_10155609803815385_2509050319019694353_o11165145_10155609803850385_5605130062405840847_o1040196_10155609803910385_7779340215001485513_o11212734_10155609804025385_2230389982943541456_o

885682_10155609803590385_7307115168845557266_oTaking a view before the 15 meter (50 feet)

DSC05632
The garbage filled sewer in the slum we visited in Manila.

another view of the 15m
A picture I took of someone else at the 15m (50 feet) diving board for perspective.

DSC05530
A delicious meal I shared with a lovely Spanish and Venezuelan

couple I met at Nacpan beach, near El Nido.

Basketball crew
New friends we made playing basketball during our visit to

give food at the slum in Manila. It was fun to play basketball
again after many years. Probably due to U.S. occupation,
The Philippines is a rare non-football country, and is all about
basketball.

DSC04580
Fruit stands at the Chinatown Market in Manila.

DSC04624
Some beauty in the chaos of the wires in Intramuros, Manila.

DSC04619
Some of my first friends of the trip I met at the hostal in Manila

From Canada and the U.S.

DSC04582
Some kids playing between the chaos of the stands in the
Chinatown market in Manila.

DSC04602

Children at the Chinatown market in Manila.

DSC04600

Colorful duck eggs at the Chinatown market in Manila. DSC04576
Some chaotic looking views around the Malate hostel I stayed at which was a bit of a gritty, yet well located neighborhood I ended up

getting pretty familiar with.
DSC04605
Some views around the Chinatown market.

DSC04636
Some beautiful drawings at the Manila National Art Museum.

DSC04733
A friendly and colorful person we met on a walk in a dodgy neighborhood near the hostel in Manila.

DSC04735
A chicken meal after the sketchy neighborhood walk.

DSC04611
Side view of the jeepneys in Manila.
DSC04666
Great atmosphere with guitars and singing by the pool at the Pink Manila hostel in…well, you know where…

DSC04770
Beautiful walks between the rice terraces near Banaue.

DSC04755
Views of some beautiful rice terraces near Banaue.

DSC04739
Friendly group who wanted a picture of my German friend and me at Rizal park in Manila.

DSC04724
Cute kids with sad background in Manila.

DSC04776
Some locals giving me some of the stuff they chew on and spit…it was not very tasty, but similar to the tradition of chewing coca leaves.

SONY DSC
Some beautiful views of the Batad Rice Terrace Amphitheatre.

Fotog photo
Cool picture my friend Hussein from Canada took

from our ride back to Banaue on top of a jeepney.

DSC04803
Yours truly with some rice terraces in the back.

DSC04846
Some mystery street food I bought that was a rice
treat..not much taste, but filling!


DSC04840
Fried banana on a stick I bought at Rizal Park, Manila. Tasty.

DSC04878
Dinner with new friends at the Surf shack in a surfing town, San Juan de la Union. The food was delicious.

DSC04910
Some lovely friends from the UK, Holland and Italy that cooked an amazing barbecue that a big group of us enjoyed on the beach! Thesquid was amazing.

DSC05015
Some sweet kids at a town outside Baler. They loved

playing around with us and taking pictures.

DSC04944
The Options for accomodation at a hotel we had to spend the night at after only making it half-way of our jorney to Baler… this town was San Jose . If you notice they have something called Driver´s Quarters, which was a bunkbed room that we would have to share with “other drivers” if they arrived. This is the option we chose..around $7 usd.

DSC04995
This is a beautiful waterfall we went to that is outside of Baler, Aurora.  We also managed to swim past the super strong current and get under the waterfall which was amazing.

DSC05041
Some really friendly locals that invited me to drink coconut wine with them, so I happily obliged and hung out with them for a good while.

DSC04984
This was a view on the way to the waterfall, and we went with Mike, a Bob Marley obsessed surf instructor who loaded up his Tuk-Tuk with his longboard and us, and off we went to find a waterfall!

Great story about Baler
Description of how the Baler surf scene came about. Amazing story,

and beautiful surf town where the locals are super friendly to share the amazing waves in a beautiful setting of lush vegetated mountains and rivers meeting oceans.

DSC04959
Jordan and I on our 2nd day of journey to get to Baler.

DSC04996
Some snacks that were on sale on the way back from the waterfall.

DSC05054
A really fun experience of being towed by Mike´s

Tuk-Tuk back into Baler, after a few coconut wines.

SONY DSC
Some of the terraces in Batad.

DSC05038
The lovely kids around Baler.

DSC05065
Enjoying the ride with good company.

DSC05126
The cockfight I saw in Manila at the same stadium

where the famous “Thrilla in Manila” took place.

DSC05115
Fancy plates from fancy dinner I had with family friends

I had always heard about in Manila. It was a beautiful evening
of stories and good food.

DSC05118
The spectacular “palace” I had the aformentioned dinner before.

DSC05098
Me all cleaned up and groomed on the way to the dinner

in the car they sent for me at the hostel. The shirt I am
wearing in the picture cost me around .80 cents Usd at
a 2nd hand place earlier in the day and I borrowed shoes.

SONY DSC
The beautiful and fabled rice terrace “amphitheatre”

in Batad.

DSC05156
When I first got to White Beach on Boracay…it was spectacular.

DSC05143
The blades they put on the talons of the roosters for the cockfights…

this makes the fight quick and deadly, sadly enough. I even went to the clinic where the fighters are treated after and most of them don’t make it…

DSC05197
Some football on White Beach, Boracay.  My new argentines and myself put up a display of quality south american futbol.

DSC05187
White beach on Boracay.

Another Sunset in Boracay
Sunset on White Beach, Boracay with moon and stars included.

DSC05292
I was in good company in Boracay with Agata from Poland and Darielle from the U.S. We had a great time together.

DSC05338
Some delicious fish we had by the sea.

DSC05251
A beautiful sunset at White Beach, Boracay.

DSC05229
A good crew we had for drinks before going out and forgot to eat dinner. That was the shirt that was misplaced for a few hours.

4 thoughts on “The Philippines…and the first month on the road

Add yours

  1. Looks like you had an amazing trip in the philippines! 🙂

    Mike was my surf instructor too when I was in Baler. If you dont mind me asking, were you able to get his contact number? Or do you know how can I reach him. Please. Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: