Soooo its been a a little while since I’ve written anything in here as I’ve been a little busy since coming back home for my Graduation ceremony at UTS and all – and then I went to Japan! But more on that later, this post will be about my time in the Philippines.
I had not been back to Manila since about 2008 and even then didn’t see too much of the city as I was mostly there for family but this time I was by myself, although I would still be visiting my grandpa and my uncles and aunties. I had arrived during Holy Week which is a super big deal here being a very Christian/Catholic city – Good Friday itself seemed like the city was a ghost town, a far cry from the chaotic and traffic jammed city that Manila almost always is. Most people go back home to the provinces to spend time with family and whatnot which leaves Manila pretty deserted and many places were closed for business so there wasn’t too much for me to do at all. At night though there were some parades for Jesus and stuff – was mostly people carrying around floats with statues of Jesus or Mary, other than that there were barely any people out.
And so most of the time I spent watching TV back at my hostel, catching up on a few series here and there and skyping with friends and family back home, games and music, anything I could do to pass the time – socialising with the fellow hostel guests was not an option, quite bluntly I would put it – they were mostly all a bag of dicks. Annoying, inconsiderate, smelly and rude and by far the worst group of backpackers I have met. I don’t think it was at all the fault of the hostel though, it just so happened that at this time most of their guests were A-grade assholes.
Anyway when I wasn’t at the hostel I was hanging around the malls as it was pretty hot outside and Manila itself isn’t quite good for walking around and the public transport options aren’t great either – it was faster for me to walk a few kilometres back to my hostel from the centre of Makati (CBD) than catch a Jeepney or wait in line for the MRT.
However it was good to go and see family again, we had some nice meals over the Easter break and my uncle took me to a cockfight which was very interesting to say the least. A more bloody affair than I had expected, though the clock timer reads a 10-minute round, most matches are over within 20 seconds in a flurry of feathers and spurts of blood. Pre-round betting is also very loud with many people betting in the range of around 500 pesos to more than 10,000.
I also got to see a quarter final match of the PBA (Philippines Basketball Association) with my uncle which was pretty good, though it seems many fouls go unnoticed by the umpires, especially if its a star player. Either way it was nice that it wasn’t too much of a blow out as the underdog was trailing by 18 points at the half and the lead changed 2 or 3 times until the favourite came out on top with a 9 point win
Now it was time for me to head off to Boracay! The small island paradise which I have been told has become quite touristy in recent years – I was about to find out just how much so. At the airport there were small prop planes leaving for Boracay almost every 20 minutes, so already I had an idea of how crowded some places in Boracay might be. And of course there are people peddling you for a hotel transfer service at the terminal when you arrive – later I discover I should have only paid half the price I did and got pretty overcharged (scammed?) Anyway I am not too fussed as the weather is quite nice and its nice and sunny – enough of the hot and humid weather of what seemed like most of South East Asia.
There are a crazy amount of people out to view the sunset every day, an insane amount of selfie sticks (which I loathe most vehemently) and also a ridiculous amount of boats.
Anyway all along White beach are a long string of cafes, restaurants, bars and nightclubs all solely devoted to Tourism with prices that I would not call cheap. But it seems most people are happy to pay – most tourists seem to be families, couples seemingly on honeymoons and most of all, Koreans! Yes I was so surprised to see so many Koreans all very pale in stark contrast the quite tanned local Filipino population and domestic tourists. On an interesting note, many East Asians seem to be quite dressed up and with lots of makeup despite being at the beach and even wearing high heels in the sand – needlessly trying to impress? I have no idea.
There isn’t a very big backpacker community on the small island, though they are very friendly. There are 3 hostels, and over the course of 2 or 3 nights out you will probably have met or seen mostly all of the guests – it’s easy to tell as we are the only ones left out drinking after 10pm; all the other tourists have gone to bed.
Anyway I was closing in on the end of my trip which meant my budget had to be stretched out a little bit and couldn’t afford too many more nights out especially given the prices of some of these bars – not outrageous but not the cheap galore I was used to in the rest of South East Asia. A large chunk of my budget had been eaten up by my diving certification course – which was my main reason for coming to Boracay.
I had chosen to go with Fish Eye divers to get my Open Water diver certification over the course of 4 days. I would start by watching videos on diving theory such as how to manage pressure and air among other things – its a very technical adventure sport. On my second day I would do a confined water dive just around the sandbars of the beach in no more than 2 or 3 metres deep water to practice diving in full gear.
Now my second day was a whole lot more interesting. I had made the mistake of having a very big breakfast before my first Open Water dive in the morning. I felt queasy the whole way to the dive site at Crocodile Island while on the boat and the rough seas didn’t make it any easier. And of course I felt very nervous going down to 12m depths for my first time.
There was a mild current and from the surface you could not see the bottom – I was so nervous I had focused all my energy on keeping my eyes on my dive instructor and completely ignored all the beautiful and cool things around me for fear of fucking up somehow. After 15 minutes or so I settled in and it was much better to relax – not only for your state of mind but your oxygen supply. We saw sea snakes and all sorts of weird little sea creatures. Upon surfacing though I had the enormous urge to throw up – and so I did. All the egg, bacon and sausage all spewed out into the ocean. But I felt so much better!
After a little break we went for the second dive out at Little Fridays and it was so much clearer, the clouds had moved away and my stomach no longer had problems. Most of the footage I took was on my GoPro which I can’t quite be bothered to embed here but it was cool seeing the replay of my underwater practical tests (exercises for emergency situations) – I was doing things like clearing flooded masks, retrieving lost regulators and using dive computers, etc.
My third and fourth dives were pretty much fun dives as my instructor said I was quite a quick learner and had achieved all the practical tests in our first two already. We went out to BalingHai and Virgin Drop to check out sea turtles, sharks and the big drop into the abyss, was some really good stuff. Anyway not long after and now I am a certified PADI Open Water Diver!
The rest of my time I spent lazing about on the beach and reading a book I picked up in Cambodia, The Life of Pi. I remember seeing the movie but could not at all remember some of the more crucial plot points and I have to say now that the movie is very faithful to the book and quite a good read in itself – some of the self-monologue going on in Pi’s head doesn’t quite translate well to film. Anyway it was quite relaxing if you got away from White Beach and all the tourists, I took a tuk-tuk to the north of the island and did some snorkelling around Baling Hai beach, I was pretty much the only person there. The waters are quite calm and so instead of walking to the next beach I decided to use my waterproof bag and just swim there and enjoy the sun.
The end of my trip was nearing, not just for the Philippines but my journey through South East Asia. I had quite some time to reflect and contemplate my own journey so far and whether my adventure has changed me at all and I must say it has indeed. It has fostered my love for seeing and experiencing new things and going into the unknown, I have vastly improved my social skills not only around backpackers but trying to communicate in languages not of your own and navigating unfamiliar territory – all these things I see as a positive boost to my character. I also now see the benefit of growing up in such a safe and place full of opportunity as Australia. To see all the hardships and the lifestyle people lead here it is hard to take for granted all the luxuries and even the simplest of things we have back at home.
I hope my next long adventure which be just as exciting!