Around the Northern tip of Cubu lies two stunning small islands, Bantayan and Malapascua. Some would say Bantayan is a lazy retreat, I would say it’s a bone idle sanctuary. The perfect place to recharge the metaphorical batteries and reflect as our time in the Philippines draws to an end. I’d read Kota beach was home to a blinding stretch of white sand, but didn’t realise this meant literally. Stepping out of our hut in the morning was like the scenes from Lost when everything turned white before they travelled through time, shades were essential. In almost a week that we spent here, I really did love every minute of it. Bantayan has such a laid back vibe it is hard not to lose track of time here. Without ditching its local touch for a pretentious vibe like other tourist hotspots in the Philippines, Bantayan hit all my buttons. The town of Santa Fe has some of the tastiest (and cheapest) food I’ve had in the whole of the Visayas, which we ate a lot of. I also climbed a few trees and drew a face on a coconut…
Over in Malapascua, an island overrun by expensive resorts, we still managed to find the cheapest place going. The lodgings were more like a mosquito motel, but thankfully they accept humans also, always willing to run the risk of malaria for the sake of my tight budget! Malapascua is, you guessed it, one of the best diving spots in the Philippines. Its most well known dive is Monad Shoal, a sunken island that is home to the Thresher Shark. An early start is required in order to see the sharks, where they congregate at the cleaning station for their daily wash. Getting up at 4:15 and out in the sea for dusk was certainly worth it, the beautiful creature has such a unique look I could have watched them all day. Their elongated tails are said to be used like a weapon to whip and stun their pray.
Island life and diving, two of my favourite things about this country and a class way to end my stint here. It got me thinking about my other highlights of this unique nation, so without further ado, here are the top things that I have loved about Ng Pilipinas!
Once voted the sweetest fruit in the world by the Guinness Book of Records. I think it was more deserving of the lushest fruit in the world prize. Cheap, healthy and makes the mangos back home look like stale and sour prunes…
Making it from A to B can sometimes mean many different forms of transport. Jeepney to trike to habal habal to jeep to bus etc, etc. You won’t need to worry about finding where to go for your next leg, your cramped mode of transport will find you. You will rarely have to wait, most of the time your bags are in the trike before you step off the bus. Travelling like this can be fun and frantic, you might not always get a seat, although clinging to the back of a jeepney is highly recommended!
There is nowhere else in the world that shares the same passion for this ancient blood sport, in the Philippines cockfighting is truly astronomical…
The Philippines are not known for producing mouthwatering cuisine, their most famous dish being ‘balút’ a boiled egg that contains the dead embryo of a chicken. Adobo however, is simple and delicious. A vinegar and garlic based sauce served with a selection of meat, spices, herbs, vegetables and sometimes fruit. There is no right or wrong way to make adobo and it is different almost every time, depending on who’s making it. Oily, but I can safely say that I have never had a bad one.
Filipino Facial Gestures
This is one thing I could never get used to, Filipinos are known for getting their point across using their face instead of their mouths. The answer ‘yes’ is signalled with a sharp raise of the eyebrows. If you ask for directions, you won’t get a point of the finger and a ‘that way’, the person will simply poke their lips towards where you want to go. There were many more gestures to learn as I found out that Filipinos are capable having a full conversation using only their face!
Sadly the stamp in my passport says time is up, after seeing every last minute of our visa. Over two months navigating the archipelago, we’ve barley scratched the surface of the what the Philippines has to offer, but what I have seen, has been truly breathtaking…