The Philippines

Reading time: 8 minutes

A very slow start

1st January 2015

This first week in the Philippines has been a bit disappointing.
I arrived full of expectation, conscious that the first two days in Manila wouldn’t have been the best time of my life. I’m not really into big cities, especially around Asia. I find that the poverty of these countries is pushed at its extreme. Here in Manila, you can visit luxurious malls where happy families are shopping around for Christmas, while just outside the doors little children sleep on the ground.

I spent my second day in the capital wandering through the city to take some pictures, passing from the favelas to the city centre, which hosts even more homeless.

IMG_0343
IMG_0340
IMG_0310
IMG_0307
IMG_0303
IMG_0427
IMG_0424
IMG_0421
IMG_0420
IMG_0418

The weather was quite pleasant, so I decided to spend the day outside at the Rizal Park and the nearby Intramuros, the old walled city.

Rizal is one of the major tourist attractions in Manila, also commonly known as Luneta, and was named after a national hero, Jose’ Rizal, whose public execution led to the revolution against the Kindom of Spain.
His remains rest where the bronze and granite Rizal monument lies, at the western entrance of the Park.

The closeby walled city of Intramuros, which means “inside the walls”, was first built in the 16th century for protection against foreign invaders. Even though this historical part of the city was partially destroyed during WWII by the Japanese army, it still hosts some important buildings like The World Heritage San Augustine Chruch.

I ended the day at the Mall of Asia, the third biggest Mall in the Philippines, 10th in the whole world. Nothing special I must say, just very crowded, but the view is quite pleasant as you can see.

IMG_0392
IMG_0396
IMG_0399
Mall Of Asia Ferris Wheel, Manila, The Philippines

The day after I travelled for 4 hours, taking a bus and a ferry to get to Puerto Galera, a small town north of Midoro Island. It’s been the worse three days ever. I hadn’t seen the sun since when I arrived, and I haven’t been to the beach yet, it’s always raining, and all paths are muddy. It is so noisy, the screams of the kids in the neighbourhood start at 5 am and last ’till midnight, and the parents, well, are too busy doing nothing to take care of them.

The positive thing so far is that, unlike Indonesia, you can take local transport and pay the same price as Filipinos. They usually speak English, someone better, someone worse, but always enough to help you find your way. People, in general, are friendly and easy to deal with, but those annoying neighbours are crossing the line.

The lack of sleep is causing a killer instinct rising inside me. I just wanna sleep, especially after spending the whole New Year’s Eve in bed with high fever and a sore throat so bad that made me cough like there’s no tomorrow. Can’t wait to leave this bloody place and visit other islands.
It’s always raining, there’s nothing to do, everybody’s cranky, I can’t sleep. I hope to see the sun very soon ’cause I’m getting very nervous.

Hiking a volcano

10th January 2015

Things have gone much better since last week. For the last three days I’ve been roasting my boobies under the sun, but let’s start from where I left.

After an awful New Year’s Eve spent in bed, I needed two more days to recover. My only activity was walking to town to get some food. I was going crazy. Not only I hadn’t seen the sun for 6 days, but I didn’t even see a single square meter of the sky. It was like living in a dark grey cloud.
On the attempt to shy away from getting nuts I ended up joining a German couple, Sophie and Dominik, and a Korean girl, Jane, who were on their way to hike Mount Pinatubo, a volcano few hours north of Manila.

We all left on 3rd January early in the morning, when we jumped on some local’s motorbike that brought us to the pier where we got a boat to Batangas, after two hours of terror. Jane and I were on the front of the ship, the worse place in case of waves, which was precisely the case that day. Few kids next to Jane vomited, and she was trying to fight the need to puke as well. From Batangas, a popular port south of Luzon Island, we took a bus, and in about 3 hours we were breathing Manila’ smog. We then caught the Light Train that in 30 minutes brought us to the north border of the city, and after three hours on another bus we finally arrived at the destination, Capas.

We walked a bit to find accommodation, ending up in a nice hotel, all of us in the same room with two king size bed, a terrace, and en-suite bathroom with hot water! That sound weird, does it? But I assure you that find hot water in the Philippines is like finding a diamond.
And all this for a price cheaper than the hostel we stayed in Puerto Galera.
Awesome.

The following day we woke up at 5 and managed to take a tricycle to San Juliana were we hired a jeep to get closer to the crater. At some point we stopped the car and hiked for 2 hours under the scorching sun, to arrive at the beautiful lake formed in the cavity since the last eruption in 1991.
The stunning view repaid the pain in the arsh of travelling for a whole day across Luzon.
Sat on the shore eating a sandwich, I couldn’t take my eyes off the emerald water. It was hypnotic. I was happy.

The return was less tiring being downhill, but once back to our room around 5pm, we all passed out.
The day after we separated. Jane went to a small town nearby while Sophie, Dominik and I tried to go back to Manila. We weren’t aware that day was the end of a long public holiday. All the buses were super full, and the drivers didn’t even stop. I started to worry a bit as I had to catch a flight in the afternoon. I managed to get back to the city with a shuttle, and a few hours later I was in Puerto Princesa, in Palawan, which is considered one of the most beautiful islands in the world, were I stayed only one night because I was too anxious to reach El Nido, a tiny little village up north.

I’ve heard so many things about that place that I couldn’t wait to get there.
Even if popular between travellers and tourists, in El Nido you can breathe the typical Filipino vibe.
There’s not even an ATM, the closest one is in a village two hours away.
Once there I had a taste of how the paradise must look like.
These three days have been just amazing. And this is just the beginning.

20150114_163434
20150110_172245
20150106_161514
20150106_122038
20150106_122021

the beautiful beaches of Palawan

19th January 2015

Well, well, nine days have passed since the last update. Seems to me it’s been forever.
I admit this is the most fantastic place I’ve seen so far.
The days passed between long walks and drinking fresh coconut at the beach. And when I say fresh, I mean FRESH, just harvested from a palm tree by one of the locals.

On my second day, I went out on a tour because there are so many things to see around here that I couldn’t have done it by myself, and that was a really good choice I must say. Lots of people around, but I had so much fun.

From El Nido, I boarded a boat that brought me to the small island of Miniloc. I stopped first on the northern shore in what is known as the Small Lagoon. I then visited the adjacent Big Lagoon, and after lunch I headed south to visit the Secreet Lagoon, which despite its name is a quite popular tourist spot. The lagoon is accessible only through a small cave. The boat left me at the entrance and I snorkelled my way through the cave to reach the lagoon. The photos and the video below are from the daily tour to Miniloc Island.

Few days after the tour, I opted for the wild option of an overnight stay in Nacpan beach, which is one of the most peaceful places I have ever seen. Only a bunch of hatched huts scattered here and there, golden powder sand, and that’s it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t go there by myself due to the cost of the trip. Even though Nacpan is only 20 km from El Nido, the path is very rough, and drivers ask, understandably, a lot of money to take you there.

I took one hour to reach the beach with a tricycle. The 5 of us fit in one of those small wheeled tuna cans. I still do not know how we made it. That was an insane drive, but totally worth it.
The other guys just wanted to have fun, while I intended to forget about human beings, so I left them getting drunk with cheap tequila, while I wandered along the beach by myself.

At night I assisted to a beautiful spectacle, a sort of double side sky, cause above me a ceiling of stars lightened the dark night while the shore was a carpet of glowing plankton.
The wind was chill, and I had to wear all my clothes and wrap myself in a bed sheet, and next to the bonfire I slept only for a few minutes.
What a wonderful trip.

Another fantastic panorama was a hidden beach which I don’t know the name of.
I discovered it walking for a couple of hours north of the town. Nobody goes north ’cause nobody knows about this beach. It doesn’t even have a name. Walking north from El Nido I passed through a narrow path and climbed rocks to get to a long stretch of wild and untouched beach. An old wooden pier, that’s all I saw that would confirm the presence of people over there.

IMG_0574
20150114_110530
20150114_112744
20150114_112940

time to leave paradise

11th February 2015

No need to say that I didn’t want to leave, but life goes on. I left El Nido on 15th January at 8.30 pm, with a van that brought me to Puerto Princesa to a hostel where I slept for a couple of hours before heading to the airport to catch a flight to Manila. Once in the capital, I took another plane to Bali where I stayed one night, and believe me, that was horrible. Everything looks awful compared to the Philippines but take a look at the Indonesia post I wrote to see what I’m talking about…

from Bali, I flew to Sydney where I got stuck. I had an open ticket to fly to LA, but the flight was always full, and I slept for two nights in a row at the airport. I mean, I had few naps every now and then. Exhausted from 4 days of travelling and no-sleep, I bought another ticket with a 9 hours layover in Fiji. “Good,” I thought, ” That’s plenty of time, I might have a walk around!”.

Fuck that flight. Half the way to Nadi a very strong turbulences made me fear for my life. I stopped shaking only when I put my feet on the ground in Fiji, but once there I spent the 9 hours layover fighting panic attacks, and I miserably failed as I spent a right amount of time crying in the bathroom. I must have looked very miserable because a woman approached me and gave me some pills to calm down, and 4 more to use during the flight. I had to spent other 11 hours flying above the ocean, and I couldn’t stop crying at the idea. I hadn’t sleep ’till the night of the 14th, and it was the 21st. 6 days without sleep make your brain do funny things. I was tired and terrified. I forced myself to get into that goddam plane and swallowed two pills, which didn’t knock me out as I hoped, but still, helped. After 5 hours I took the remained pills and arrived safe and high in Los Angeles.
It’s winter here, and even though it’s 29° outside, I do not like this place. It’s just a bad copy of my lovely Oz.
I’m sick, I keep coughing like an old man, my runny nose doesn’t wanna give me a break. I really cannot wait to go back home. I miss Australia so much.
But it’s ok. Better catch flu rather than a crashing plane, no?

Tags: