Sunday, May 22, 2011


For a while now I've basically been telling everyone that asks that my favourite country is the Philippines. I don't know if this is actually 100% true, but it is certainly up there amongst my favourites and I had been really looking forward to going back, so much so that this whole 3 week to the Philippines is a side-trip that wasn't really supposed to happen. When I changed my plans to go to Europe from Australia I got carried away with the idea of a short hop over here on the way.
I decided to fly into Cebu instead of Manila because it was a direct flight option, I have never been there before and I currently have local friends residing there to hang out with. I landed in Cebu at 4am, which might not have been the best idea because I felt a little jet lagged and exhausted for days afterwards. It probably didn't help that I met a whole group of people, friends and friends of friends and hit the ground running. Still, that's the best way, especially when you don't have much time. I actually hate the idea of only having 3 weeks here to do what I want to do. I spent 2 days in Cebu meeting people and hanging out around town before a group of us went to Moalboal at my request. It's a well known diving spot on Cebu island about 3 hours from the city. A Japanese guy, Muko, and I dove while the others just swam, snorkeled and relaxed. I was a little disappointed that there is really no beach and as a diving hangout town it seemed pretty dull but maybe it's just the time of year and lack of a beach to draw other crowds. It was great to get back in the warm water and dive again after a year away from the sea. If I was honest though I'd say that of all the dives I've done in the Philippines this was the most disappointing, with a lot of broken coral. I'd have to recommend Apo Island or Panglao over Moalboal but I'd suspected such would be the case even before I dove... I still saw lots of different fish and the dive conditions were good so I can't complain. I just wish I had time to do more in other areas as well.
We came back to Cebu for a night and the next morning took off again on a trip to Siquijor island. It's a small island known for “witchcraft” and being really quiet. Nobody had been so it seemed like a good idea to explore for a few days. Funnily enough a lot of Filipinos are actually kind of scared of it and talk about it like it's a really bizarre and haunted kind of place. Maybe that was why it was sort of a disaster in ways because we kept running into problems, the first being a late start which resulted in us arriving in Dumaguete late so we were unable to catch the last ferry to Siquijor because it was full. All the cheap hotels in Dumaguete were full so we had to fork out more than we wanted in a place we didn't want to be. I'd been to Dumaguete briefly before and it's actually quite a nice provincial capital with it's long waterfront boulevard so it's not really the worst place to get stuck.
When we finally did get to Siquijor it seemed to have a lot of potential. It's quiet and the water at the pier when we arrived was very clear. We stayed in a very big house in a quiet area 1km out from the main town of Siquijor. Big room, big balcony, big yard, ornate staircases, etc. On the day we intended to get across the island to the nice beach area we were driven all the wrong directions by some idiot of a tricycle driver, including a period of literally bushwhacking on a trail that got progressively narrower until we had to turn around and go back (just like our failed trip in Gabon). The locals must've been a little shocked to see a tricycle burst out of the bush onto the road covered with branches and leaves and what must've looked like wild people inside. I swear we could've driven over to the nearest ecological centre and discovered new insect species to name after ourselves. We wasted so much time and were so mad at the guy that we cut him loose at the closest town and never got to the beach because we were on the wrong side of the island by that time and the public transport system is quite slow and infrequent as expected on a quiet island like this. Oh well, you win some and lose some I guess. At least I'm fully back into the realities of travel mode. The next day we went to a beach (but not THE beach) for an hour or two before it was time to pack up and leave for Cebu again.

The road just outside out guesthouse in Siquijor.

Coconut people for the festival in Maria town.

The "beach" at Don Deesco, just outside Siquijor town

I really didn't have much time in the city itself but on my last full day I did get the quick historical tour of Cebu. Cebu is actually the cite of the first Spanish settlement in the Philippines and I think the coolest thing in Cebu is Magellan's cross. It's a monument with a cross which is supposed to encase the original cross that Magellan planted in that exact spot when he landed in Cebu in 1521 and converted 800 locals to Christianity. He was killed just a few days later on neighbouring Mactan island where the Cebu airport is located. It wasn't until 1565 that the Spanish managed to start a permanent colony in the area and started building the small fort San Pedro and the Philippines' oldest church which we also visited.

At fort San Pedro.

It seemed like the social scene for my friends in Cebu revolved around 2 places, the photo studio where one of them works, and Popeye's bar where we went all the time to play pool. I suppose it was only inevitable that on the evening of my last day we ended up in the studio goofing off and taking ridiculous photos of ourselves (this was not a first for them). I don't think I've ever had so many photos taken of me in a single day in my life...

Goofing off at the photo studio.

Somehow the 9 days I had scheduled for Cebu passed in a flash and I've now returned to Iloilo where I was teaching a year ago. I've come back to reminisce and visit other friends...


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