The Philippines was one country that the 3 of us could not wait to get to. Partly because of it’s famously beautiful beaches, but primarily because we were going to be joined by the fourth member of our squad, our favourite ginger Sarah 🎉👐. On top of that, we were also going to be reunited with our school friend Tim, who we had not seen since he moved from Oxford to Cebu, about 5 years ago. It was so great to see him, he really hadn’t changed! From the moment we landed in Cebu, Tim took such good care of us, and was the best host ever. It was SO nice not having to organise hostels, transport, activities etc. He made us feel right at home.
After an evening spent catching up on the last five years, and recovering from our night of sleeping on the floor of Kuala Lumpur airport, we headed back to the airport bright and early the following morning to collect Sarah! It was so wonderful to see her again after too many months apart. Tim had organised a van rental for the day to take us, some of his cousins, and his friends (13 of us in total) down to the south of Cebu, and so poor Sarah didn’t really have a chance to rest after her ridiculously long journey. But she is a massive trooper and was still as cheerful as always! Our original plan had been to make our way to Oslob, where the main attraction is a trip where you can swim with whale sharks. We didn’t however make it in time, and this turned out to be a blessing, as we later got round to reading into the activity more closely. We realised that it was not the ethically sound trip we had thought, as in order to attract the sharks fishermen are throwing bait into the water. This is severely impacting the whales’ behaviour, as they are seeking their own food out less and less. They have become reliant upon human beings, and are no longer migrating as they used to. So we vetoed the idea, and hope that as awareness is increasing, more people will do the same.
We had a fantastic day with Tim and his friends and family. First we were treated to a delicious picnic beside the sea, where we got to sample some Filipino dishes, such as pork adobo (drool). Then we all piled back into the van and headed to a series of waterfalls (unfortunately we’ve forgotten the name, whoops), which was so much fun. It involved a number of different levels where you could rock climb, swim under the waterfall, jump into the water, rope climb up the waterfall…it was basically a big kids playground! And very tiring, pretty sure Tim (as the driver) was the only one who didn’t crash out on the journey back home.
The next day Tim and his lovely girlfriend Bea were kind enough to take us on a tour of Cebu city. As we’d had a lazy morning while Tim was at school, we drove straight out for lunch at a restaurant where the view was phenomenal, and the food even better! Ordering duties were handed over to Tim and Bea, and we were presented with the most incredible feast of Filipino dishes. We ate until we were in full on food comas. Next stop was Tops Lookout, where the whole of the city was spread below us. Tim pointed out all of the different places we’d been, and gave us lots of information about what it’s like to live in the city. Lastly we stopped off at a Chinese temple, where we took turns throwing all of our random assortment of currencies into the wishing pond. It was so nice that he took the time to show us around his home town. We had to repay our wonderful host in some way, and so forced him to let us cook him dinner that night. Can’t say that it was entirely selfless though, as it felt great to be back in a kitchen!
Tim had a full day of classes the next day, and so dropped the four of us off at one of Cebu’s gigantic malls, with instructions to find a particular Korean restaurant at 6pm. First stop involved trying to resolve my phone issues (long story short, I bought a replacement for the one stolen in Hanoi, the day before leaving Thailand, only to find out too late that I had been sold a dud. Even though I had made sure to go to a legit store. Meaning I was STILL phoneless 😭). After a bit of haggling, we found someone to diagnose the problem, and provide a (semi) fix. So I finally had a (mostly) functioning phone again, hallelujah! We spent a large amount of the afternoon leaching off various WiFi connections, in an attempt to put together a concrete plan for our time in the Philippines. Unfortunately we hit a snag when we saw that all of the affordable flights to Palawan had disappeared. So we sadly decided that we would not be able to make it there during this trip. Luckily we had 7,106 more islands to choose from, and settled on splitting the rest of our time between Bohol and Boracay.
Once 6pm hit, we went and found the chosen restaurant, where we met Tim and his friends, before later checking out a fun fair. It was not your standard fairground experience, as all of the rides were powered by car engines, and they were far from the rides you get in our health and safety mad country, it was great! Unfortunately Sarah started to feel ill that evening, and was struck down with food poisoning the whole of that night and the next day. She did not have an easy start to her holiday!
Our final day was spent booking flights and hostels in a coffee shop, whilst Sarah recovered and Tim went to school. Once we felt we’d finally got our lives sorted out, we collected our tickets for the ferry crossing to Bohol, and headed back to Tim’s, where we spent our last evening with him eating pizza, introducing him and his family to the joys of Dobble, and playing with his cousin’s new puppy. All in all a really lovely few days catching up with Tim, meeting his wonderful friends and family, and exploring the city from a local’s point of view!
A & K