Upon arrival, I immediately purchased a sim card because I was sure many people would want to call me for my Birthday and shared the number with my closed ones. Please remember this detail.
Well, where to begin? I am sure you are familiar that the Filipinos are the latinos of Asia. Music, openness, selfies.
Jon had booked a very central hostel for us http://www.tambayanhostel.com/ It was at least where he thought the center is. Haha
Manila has the slowest and heaviest traffic in the world (official stats) and it is a Huge city.
(the densest in the world — at 46,000 people per square mile, twice the density of New York City )
To go to any island, you need to go back to this airport and then head back to the islands. To go to the airport and not miss your flight, depart a few hours in advance.
A lot of people from the islands come here to make money.
Filipino workers are notorious for cheap labor in Dubai for example. In multinationals such as Microsoft and SAP, we open service centers there. They also make excellent English teachers because they all speak English. As a dominant immigrant population in Dubai after the Indians, I met many when I lived there. And once you meet 1, they introduce you to 20 more, they all want to have a white girl friend. Yes, that is exactly what they told me lol.
The hostel had an interesting set up and Jon and I shared a room with a bunch of guys who snored. The area was quite strange. There were many clubs but they were all empty and the streets were dark and looked dangerous. On our exploration of the hood, we discovered:
-Robinson’s mall http://www.robinsonsmalls.com/mall-info/robinsons-place-manila where we saw the Sully movie (10 stars) and stumbled upon a dance competition
-We also went to the biggest mall SM City Manila and there was Xmas music and decorations (it was beginning of Sept!!) and we also stumbled upon a taekwondo competition, the kids were super talented
-Jollibee restaurants, which offer Filipino fast food. Fries with pasta!….yay
Typical of me, I made friends with the receptionists and when they were leaving work, I invited myself and Jon to their friend’s birthday party in some other part of town. It was exciting to party with the locals. Getting there gave me a real impression about the city: super noisy, dirty, over populated, but smiley people who all speak English.
The bar was really large like a warehouse, but it had little light and no air so I felt a bit claustrophobic. We let our new friends order food for us, it was mostly chicken fried in different ways with sauces. Please note the abundance of chicken fast food here. They love it so much. The drinks were a variety of cocktails that came in huge plastic containers. The Filipino crowd was super fun and approachable and also quite handsome/beautiful, well dressed and in a way- Americanized. I noticed a prominence of gay guys that I did not see anywhere else in Southeast Asia. (without counting the ladyboys). We tried to change bars but the entrance fees were quite high, so we went back to the hostel instead.
I loved how active Filipinos are. However, just judging by interaction, they are a bit…NON-serious. They don’t take commitments or friendships very seriously. They are chatty and always maintain an adorable smile but are not completely reliable. (of course exception for my great friends F and M who helped me in Dubai or tried to)
Well, we just wanted to head to the islands. Jon was taking me somewhere as a surprise for my 27’th birthday.
The next day we headed to the airport and we had to pass security scans even at the entrance. Shortly inside, a tv crew and a journalist interviewed me and asked if I heard about the bomb scare and where am I going and what do I think of the country ☺.
It was amusing and I was proud to be able to improvise and make up so many random answers.
FAME- An early bday present I guess.
I never found the footage, but here you go: a photo caught in the moment
The secret location was not EL Nido- as many of you might have expected. El Nido has beaches and lagoons, and islands, and paradisiac beauty, virgin nature and colorful aquatic life.
In Coron, there is all that Except the beaches and for a Big fraction of the price of the touristy El Nido. ☺
Jon was smart about it and when we landed with the small plane- there was nothing around-no signs of where we might be headed and no tourists.
We arrived at the port and our hotel sent a boat to fetch us. The hotel was on another island, a 10 min boat ride away. The hotel island had coconuts, a friendly dog, the rooms were simple,no pool, no wifi, had its own restaurant and many spaces to relax. I wish I had brought a book then.
We explored the city and climbed Mt Tapyas -720 stairs to the top of the highest hill to discover an amazing view of all the little island hills. I still don’t know how we made this walk up, please bring a lot, a lot of water.
There was not much to see around Coron city/village and Jon probably saw more of it because he went looking for medicine for me (it has become some weird birthday tradition for me to get sick) also sunscreen and aloe vera for his massive sunburn.
We negotiated for 40 $ extra a private boat tour of 9 beautiful stunning locations because Jon insisted we don’t follow the touristic tours and we make our own way not waiting for other passengers. We also picked the food and drinks that they were going to serve us during the tour.
This day will forever stay in my memory as the most amazing nature and clearest turquoise waters I have ever seen. EVER.
We visited those locations:
A coral garden to snorkel and explore the tropical fish and amazing corals.
Hidden Lagoon is the most notorious place in Coron. It is putting it mildly: paradise on earth. Awestruck by its beauty, I still get shivers thinking of how lucky I am to have been there: the wind in my hair, on our private boat, tasty fish and rice being cooked just for us, rum and drinks in the cooler waiting to cool us down and this view all around us.
After our swim, we visited a shipwreck where Jon dove.
We spent the rest of time having lunch (most delicious Fish and rice I ‘ve Ever had, plus we were starved from jumping in and out of the water) and exploring Kayangan lake and its caves which was equally stunning. I didn’t want to leave and I should have stayed there….forever.
Okay, to be honest with you all- we were quite DUMB lol. We put sunscreen once, did not always wear the hats, drank booze. We both got sun sickness. Me more extremely with fever, throat pain and voice disappearing. ☹ damn you sun, you saw how much fun I was having and punished me for it. Jon had some serious burns that bubbled up. The hotel gave us some aloe but it was too late for it.
What we did not like in our hotel is that they charged us for the boat rides to town, the food was pricey and the cocktail I had was awful, there was not even tv lol, and they charged around 20% tourist charge (always read the small Expedia print!!!! Remember when you book anything that this is a special Filipino law). We got out of paying the boat rides because Jon defended his rights. Always negotiate or try to.
No words, even in my genius creative writing, can’t properly describe our one day excursion. Just look and salivate:
Coron was finished for us and we needed to go back to Manila, in order to go to the next place–→ BORACAY!
From the old airport, it was a long bus ride and then a ferry to the island. Beware as there are scammers drivers offering rides to the ferry, just line up at the little tents where most people go. They offer a package, Bus+ferry+van to hotel + Van from hotel, ferry, bus to Airport when you depart.
This is where I was going to celebrate my birthday and even though I was sick, I was so so excited because I have only dreamt of one day going to Boracay!!!When I heard the song in my youth, I thought it was a made-up place.
It’s very real. Boracay is how you could expect it to be: very small streets, 2 cars barely pass, a main beach lane, many restaurants along it, touristy activities like jet ski, para sailing, excursions and tours, pub crawls, shisha bars, young people (most of them were filipinos) and ONLY the most perfect Beaches I’ve seen in my life (except the ugly white nylon protecting the restaurants from wind blowing the sand. Well, that was Fugly. Lol )
Still the main beach was amazing, please check my video below of angry Chinese man throwing Crock at the harmless water.
Also note, there is a midget bar where all staff are little people!
Boracay is also the place where I met my future assailants who robbed and assaulted me when I visited them in Dubai, so I will avoid focusing this story on them.
The Boracay sunsets, the softness and pureness of the sand, the crystal water, the charming restaurants, the transparent canoe we rented- well, Boracay is one destination I would Love to come back to.
On my birthday night (September 10th)
Taking a moment here to describe our Airbnb place
(quite difficult to find) Ultra modern, at the beach with a pool in the living room in front of the TV! Well, this is how a girl should be spoiled. Thank you Jon and thanks to the Universe. And also- screw you Universe! Because on my own birthday, I had zero voice to say thanks to the well wishers, could not drink a lot because of medications, and had such low energy. The rentable apartments were owned by a Canadian. So all you rich readers of mine, Philippines is a 100% Krissi guarantee place to invest in. I would if I could.
We toured the markets because I needed a new bikini but found nothing for my taste. I got my nails done and this was the longest service I had. It took 2 hours but the nails lasted forever. We did find some unique flip flops shaped like fish and other animals which were hand made and a typical souvenir. I loved them! Jon also took me para-sailing which was something I always wanted to do- but those guys in the boat jetted us 10 km up in the sky and I freaked out. They didn’t understand to go lower and just took us completely down which made me look like a bit of a pussy. But I am. I dislike all extreme adrenaline hype attractions like roller coasters.
We decided to ignore my sickness. I put a lot of makeup, dressed up with my Texas dress (bought 5 years ago, always fits like a glove) and went to a restaurant and then a Pub crawl. The attendance was 95% filipinos, the rest was us and some Indians. Check the photos! I looked for them really hard especially for the blog post! Good times. It brought back memories of photo sessions on the beach, shot glasses necklaces and cutting and styling off my pub crawl tshirt. During the pub crawl, we made some local friends, we saw a few bars on the main beach shore alley and some hidden ones in the city, we danced a lot and also met a fun british couple. The lady was a professional dancer in a circus and with my charming and approachable personality I convinced her to dance in the circle and show us what she got. Well, she got nothin. Lol. 😀 but she was very lovely and her boyfriendo got us many drinks. They live in Singapore.
Here comes the sad part, get the tissues. At midnight NO ONE called me to wish me Happy Bday on my filipino sim card. 😀 Eventually, I was the one who skyped out to receive my wishes. Oh well!
We ended the pub crawl at very Late o’clock, quite drunk, we headed home under heavy rain and the next day the little streets were super flooded.
On my actual BirthDAY (September 11th)
I woke up to a surprise breakfast, coffee, juice, huge cake, a homeless cat by my bed, a gift and a card.
It was very romantic and lovely.
Later, we got the big cake and joined our new friends( I still did not know that those Bastards will be the ones who will rob me in Dubai). I would have never imagined my future robbers would be those people who shared so much laughters, dance and fun times with me on my birthday. We got many drinks, took many pictures. We partied with them and I cut the cake in many, many pieces and went around the bar to share my birthday joy with strangers. They were all sweet and I found it was the perfect way to begin this new year of my life. We went to another bar that had black lights and everything glowed neon- which is basically my dream lol, and also- hosted a beer pong competition.
I personally prefer flip the cup, but we played and I performed amazingly. By the time I turned, a big crowd had gathered watching my successful throws and cheered for the most beautiful birthday girl.
I think what happened ultimately (i don’t remember anymore) is my parents tried to reach me on Jon’s phone and I was talking to them on the beach. It was emotional. We were very far apart. I had grown up! Not a little girl anymore.
Still pretty bad at taking the right or mature decisions, but still look at where it led me, just look at where I was then: hopefully all wrong decisions lead me to these destinations.
Here, readers is my daily wisdom. Don’t be afraid of screwing up, it’s part of growing, it’s indispensable for pushing yourself further. I failed and made mistakes, maybe I didn’t even learn from them, they stung, life kicked me when I was already down, I was digging my own hole deeper and deeper. But when you are out of the hole, you observe the hole and you say: Hell, yes. Hell, yes. Look at all I lived through. I truly lived and it looks glorious. I am a legend! Cheers to me!
It’s a colorful life, so my advice is as hard as it seems is to Enjoy the time in the hole.
The next day we wanted to do some touring around the island. We took a random tuktuk to take us to the other beach: Puke. Then, we drank coconuts, took romantic beach pictures (this is where there are a lot of wedding photoshoots) and I saw those Instagram worthy transparent canoes! I begged Jon and he paddled me around in it while I kind of helped and observed the sea life. So many blue star fishes! Amazing, I wish it was much longer but Jon was rushing everything. To be honest, I would have loved just a complete beach day, but he wanted to go explore all the time. Men!
It was time to head back. Be aware that the sea could be quite uneasy so take the ferry in advance.
Our return was marked by an unfortunate event. We had to get the bus to the airport but the office did not let us because the house keepers had reported that we have broken a vase in the Airbnb place. We were shocked that they lied in such a way and we were afraid we will miss the flight because of dishonest people. This ruined a bit my impression of filipinos as well as my birthday mood. But at the end, we were let go and Jon received an apology email from the Canadian airbnb owner.
The end of this glorious trip was in the same Manila hostel where me and Jon had to say goodbye for a bit- I was going to south korea to teach English for 1.5 months.
What I loved:
- The friendly and easy-to-talk to locals
- Every experience we had in Coron was out of a fairytale. THE CAVES! Out of this world beautiful nature.
- Boracay was everything I dreamed about for my birthday and much more! The main beach, I could stare at this water for centuries.
- Our Airbnb place
- The fact that the nature is still VERY preserved. Not too touristy yet and I hope it stays this way.
- EVERYTHING! -Thank you Jon!
What I did not like:
- Okay, be cautious. Filipinos might seem friendly but could have ulterior motives and the country is very Americanized in the sense of them embracing Kardashian behavior and culture. (SO MANY SELFIES)
- There is terror and disturbance in the south of the country, be careful when choosing which islands to visit
- The local food for me was nothing special
- Manila is as dirty as a dumpster
- Transport between islands is inconvenient
*notable moment: in Dubai i met a Filipina named Fetus. Her parents thought she was majestically white, hence this name…..oh … OK :S