Tag Archives: Philippines

Wanderlust Wednesday:Philippine Adventure

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Hello again! My husband and I recently had the amazing opportunity to visit the Philippines, where I learned to love fish and to sleep with the constant sound of car horns blaring. It was a wonderful adventure almost a year in the planning (for me) and I’d love to share a few of the things I learned about this beautiful country while I was there (accompanied by random pictures).

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But first, for the curious, a little background. WHY the Philippines, do you ask? Well, about 17 years ago, Mr. LPMD served a mission for our church there. He mostly served in Manila and some of the nearby areas. He loved the country and the people, but thought he would never get to go back. And then a bit less than a year ago I got this crazy hair-brained idea that I could surprise him with a trip back. Unbeknownst to him, I spent the next several months secretly saving my dollahs and feverishly typing up his journal from the time he was there (whenever he wasn’t home). A couple of months ago I let him in on the surprise and he got as excited as he gets. Which pretty much equates to a smile and a little bit of shock. And that was that.

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On our trip, we spent 5 days in the general Manila area and then flew over to Puerto Princesa on Palawan and spent 5 days staying in a lovely little place in Buenovista. Can we just enjoy a bit of the beauty of that place for a minute?

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Facing the house and cabins

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Facing the ocean

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Not a terrible place for some morning yoga, eh?

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Teeny tiny shells and coral covered the beach

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All of our accommodations were found through AirBnB.com and they all turned out to be great places to stay.

So…what did I learn from our trip to the land of over 7,000 islands (though we barely even scratched the surface)? Well…

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1 – Driving rules are rather like the Pirate Code.
cc9e1cf6aebe92588ca7586f89959de7The honking made me crazy at first, but eventually, I just found it rather amusing. If you’re driving in the Philippines, especially in the cities, you might honk if: you’re about to pass someone, you’re letting someone know you’re there, you’re in a bigger vehicle than someone else, you’re a bus, jeepney, or trike that can or can’t pick someone up on the side of the road, you’re coming around a corner, you exist, you want to see if your horn works, it strikes your fancy. There’s a plethora of reasons, really. The place we stayed in Manila (Mandaluyong, actually), was right next to a light rail station, so a whole lot of transportationess was going on outside our window. I realized one morning while I was lying awake from jet lag, that the muted sound of horns in the distance had become rather like listening to quiet classical music as I fell asleep. It was almost peaceful.

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Early morning, before the traffic set in.

Aside from the constant honking, I’m not sure why there are lines painted on the roads. Because it’s not like people stay in any kind of lanes. Three lanes could actually be 4. Or 5. Depends on if you can squeeze in there or not. Standard mode of driving is, if there is a space in front of you, you speed up and continue speeding up until there isn’t space in front of you anymore, then you stop, with probably 2 inches between you and any vehicles in front of or next to you. Motorcycle? Well, as long as you fit between or on the side of the other cars, you’re good to go. But watch out for the busses, because they’re bigger than you, and frankly, bigger has the right of way.

2 – Fish can be delicious.
I went into this trip a little hesitant about possibly starving because, frankly, I don’t like seafood. Hey, I have an idea – let’s go spend 2 weeks in an island country where the most common meat is fish! What a great idea! {Can you feel that sarcasm? Because it’s dripping.} My husband assured me that I wouldn’t starve because there would always be rice (which, there definitely was) and I promised him that I would at least try some fish. And miracle of miracles, I can honestly say that I tried all the fish I was served and ENJOYED it! Something about fresh sea fish is sooooo much better than the stuff we get here in our little landlocked state, that’s for sure. I also tried some fried calamari (didn’t like it) and clams. Well…one clam. Ew.

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3 – “House spiders” are no joke.
I can’t. I just can’t.

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Here’s The Man trying to catch one because there’s no way no how I’m peeing in a teeny tiny bathroom with that thing on the wall a foot away from me. (That’s an extra big prescription bottle he’s using, and it was too small to get the stupid thing.)

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And, as Mr. LPMD lamented, I unfortunately “didn’t even get to see any of the big spiders.” Oy!

4 – In a public restroom, look for the toilet paper dispenser before you go into a stall.
Because it’s probably outside of the stall. But there might not be any. But if there is, don’t flush it. And maybe be prepared to squat.

5 – Taal Volcano: you won’t get lost.

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View of Taal Lake from the balcony of our apartment in Tagaytay

Luckily for us, I read some reviews of the hike up the side of this volcano before our trip and knew we’d get hounded by a “guide” to lead us up the trail. So when a very nice guy began to walk us from the registration desk, I mentioned to my husband that he needed to shake the guy off or he’d act as our “guide” and then demand money at the end. Holy Hannahballs, was he hard to get rid of! He kept saying that we needed him or we’d get lost. We finally convinced him we’d be fine and off we went. Hint: Follow the horses. Extra hint: You CAN’T get lost. For real. It’s like a straight shot on a very well worn path up the side of the hill.

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The trail on which you’re sure to get lost without a guide. ;)

But if you’re around Tagaytay, or have a chance to take a trip down from Manila for the day, it’s a very nice (though a bit overly tourist-ified) hike. I loved the (somewhat expensive) boat ride across the lake and the view from the top was awesome.

 

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Crossing Taal Lake

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My favorite flower

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View of the volcano lake from the top

Granted, you’ll be met at the top by the standard vendors for tourists, but still totally worth it.

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The other view from the top

6 – Rural driving is quite like the city driving, but without the traffic.
A thought I had while riding one of the local busses on Palawan from Sabang to Buena Vista: This reminds me of an amusement park “jungle tour” kind of ride, only it’s real. Lush green scenery, steep hills, sharp curves, never know when you’re going to stop to pick someone up or so some bus passenger can exchange money or goods with someone waiting for them on the side of the road. Lanes don’t really matter, especially on curves. It’s all just a bit of a thrill ride. And you know what? I loved it all.

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Loved these bright masks

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Drinking buko

7 – The Underground River: go early or be prepared to wait…
…for hours. And by early, I mean, be there at 8am when the office opens.

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Beach by the Underground River waiting area

We did not arrive early (probably around 9:30-10?), but it was the only thing we had planned for the day, so it wasn’t a big deal. It is a cool experience to see, but patience is key. There’s a lot of paperwork to fill out. And also, keep your own ticket! We were not with a tour group, so rather than pay for a boat all to ourselves, we decided to share a boat with a group that had a couple of extra spots. The tour guide had Mr. LPMD give him our registration paper thing, and then they went off to do some mangrove tour during the anticipated 90 minute wait for a boat. We opted not to go with them, so we set up a meeting spot. We spent the next bit wandering among the little shops where we bought some $3 “Prada” sunglasses and had delicious fruit smoothies, and when the time came to meet up, the group never showed. Our boat number was called and no one was there. Luckily, another tour guide had us join her group to ride over and told us we could meet the first guide on the other side to get our papers. (Little did we realize that there is another long wait once you get across the ocean to the entrance to the cave as well.)

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Our boat

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Super Goobers!

So we waited and waited and it was time for our second group to go into the cave and STILL no signs of the first guy. The awesome second tour guide got us through, though, so it was all good in the end, but hold onto your paperwork, even if you’re sharing a boat!

We truly enjoyed the adventure to and through the underground river. The recorded tour audio is a little hokey (at least in english), but it was still quite enjoyable.

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8 – You can say a lot with your eyebrows.
Yes, for instance. Or hello. Add a little “mm” if you feel the need to verbalize.

9 – Andok’s.
Skip Jollibee (that might be sacrilege to say in the Philippines) and go to Andok’s. Oh my delicious chicken. They make what is quite possibly the BEST chicken I have ever had. It’s cooked on a rotisserie and when you buy it, they wrap it up in a banana leaf and holy moly it’s delicious. Mr. LPMD laughed at me while I devoured half a chicken in no time flat. But I was hungry and it was so good!

And also, get some Spanish bread from a little street bakery. Mmmmm. Great way to spend a few pesos.

10 – You are beautiful.
Here in the US of A, we are bombarded with the message that dark, tan skin is beautiful and tanning products abound. So I was a bit surprised in the stores to see so many products boasting “skin lightening” powers. My husband explained to me that in the Philippines, light skin is considered beautiful (whereas I am so use to hearing the opposite). And then it hit me pretty strongly that the beauty industry the whole world over isn’t trying to sell beauty – they’re selling self doubt. They tell us, “You’re not good enough, but if you use our product, you will be.” But you know what, they’re wrong. You are good enough. And you’re beautiful too. Your beauty and my beauty and that kid down the street’s beauty isn’t about the color of your skin or your hair or what kind of makeup you wear or how tall or short you are. It’s about who you are as a person. It’s how you treat the people around you. It’s about the love and joy you spread, the light you exude. You don’t need to lighten your skin and you don’t need to darken your skin. You just need to be you. And in that vain…

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11 – The Filipino people are beautiful.
I loved all of the people I was able to meet on our trip. Everyone was kind, genuine, and helpful to us. The people there are humble and happy. For many, life is simple and sweet. One man told us that “Filipinos, we are always smiling. There is trouble – we smile; we have a problem – we smile; something does not go right for us – we smile; and because we smile, we can be happy, even when things are hard.” I loved this, and, for my brief visit, I found it to be true. I hope I can follow his example and be better at smiling, even when things are hard.

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So there you have it, 11 random things I learned in the Philippines. It was a wonderful trip and maybe, just maybe, we’ll be able to return again some day and see even more of what this country has to offer.

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So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, good bye, & hanggang makikita tayo muli

Have you ever been to the Philippines? What did you learn and what did you love? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments!

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