I’ve tried to write this post a few times. I want to talk a little about my 3 week trip around the Philippines, Asia. But this isn’t a travel blog so I don’t want to go into great detail about everything we did. It’s a Malta blog so talking about anything other than Malta seems a bit out of place, but, cliche as it is, the trip really changed something in me and it’s something I’d like to write about.
6 of us, 3 couples, travelled to the collection of islands in Asia, called the Philippines, in March. We moved around whilst we were there, visiting Boracay, Cebu, Sabang, El Nido, a private island just for us called Brother Island and a 3 night camping tour which took us to various deserted islands between El Nido and Coron.
I am so pleased we got to see Boracay. Yes, it’s a mess and needs cleaning up but it was our first taste of the Philippines and I loved it. A few days after we left the island was closed for rehabilitation so I feel incredibly lucky we got to see it before that happened.
In Cebu we went trekking up Osmena Peak, swam with whale sharks (in the wild, but I have mixed feelings about it and would not recommend) and canyoneering. In Cebu I faced and smashed a lot of my fears. I snorkelled for the first time and ended up seeing and swimming alongside huge sea turtles, beautiful corals and more shapes and colours of fish than I can remember.
Our time in Sabang was way too short. It’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen in my life, but there isn’t a great deal to do. We did visit the Peurto Princesa Subterranean River National Park (it’s an underground river) which is both a UNESCO world heritage site and one of the new 7 wonders of the world. It was stunning and we enjoyed a jungle trek home afterwards.
El Nido, a must see place in Asia, was as picturesque as everyone said it would be. Everywhere you looked was a photo opportunity and it felt like living in a post card. Brother Island, a tiny private island just for the 6 of us, was quite an experience. The island is gorgeous, with white sands and clear blue sea, good food, and the perfect place to relax.
The host was somewhat… quirky… and it was the first (and hopefully last) time we saw a 70 year old naked man. But this guy was fascinating. We were 6 people, all different nationalities and he spoke all languages except Maltese (so that’s English, German, Spanish and RUSSIAN!) yet he knew Malta well and had spent time there years ago and name dropped a politician he was friends with back in the day.
The camping trip was a real highlight for all of us. For me, it took me further out of my comfort zone than I’ve ever been. But I saw some of the most incredible sunsets and sunrises. I spent 3 days on a boat and survived. I camped on beaches with sand up my butt and no running water but it made me realise I can live without so many of the things that I thought I depended on back home.
For most of the trip there were no flushing toilets, often questionable shower water (smelt strongly of sewage in more than one place), sometimes no running water at all. We had to shower in buckets, I had to poop on a beach. On one island there was no electricity between 6AM and 6PM. I didn’t feel clean for 3 weeks. As we were travelling with backpacks we packed lightly so I had no hair dryer, no straighteners, minimal makeup and none of my usual skincare. As somewhat of a princess I thought it’d be a real struggle and it was certainly a shock to start with but it’s amazing how qiuckly you adapt and adjust your priorities.
I remember walking into the first guest house, in Boracay. There were cockroaches, there were local kids playing in our garden, one pissing right in front of our window. My first thought was ‘oh my god, I can’t do this. I can’t stay here. I can’t do this trip.’ That guesthouse ended up being one of the nicest we stayed in and each time it got a bit worse, I managed and had a great time regardless.
Seeing how most of them lived was hard. In the places we were staying, most people were living in tiny huts made of light materials, all of which looked like a good gust of wind would knock them over. Many had holes where there should be windows or doors and the amount of people they crammed into such tiny accommodation was mind blowing. Despite all of this, the people in the Philippines were the nicest people we have ever met. Everyone smiles, everyone waves and says hello. As soon as they see a camera everyone wants to pose for you, no matter if they are 5, 50 or 95.
This doesn’t even go into the half of it. The trip was the best experience of my life and I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to describe it properly. I’d recommend the Philippines to anyone looking to explore somewhere new. There is so much to see, and each island is so varied that there will be something for everyone to love.