Katara’s Trip to the Philippines

First guest post! Katara, our dearest friend, flew all the way from Singapore to meet us in Philippines during the last leg of our trip. Being the awesome person that she is, she brought lots of delicious snacks, extra earrings and her signature sense of humour with her. All the memories we have of Philippines Day 7 onwards were created together, and we couldn’t be more grateful for it. Here’s what she had to say about the trip. Thanks for travelling with us, dearest Katara, Yolek loves you!

In addition to this story, we’ll be blogging about the rest of our Philippines trip as before in the coming week. Happy reading, folks!

I generally travel to meet people and just sink into the culture of the country. So this post, unlike the other posts in this blog, will be of a different nature. I will not try to put in the commute details, etc. Yoda and Dalek will do it in another post.

My cultural experiences

Having grown up in nearby Indonesia, I thought that Philippines would be similar. Surprisingly, it turned out to be way different in all possible ways.

Filipino culture has a strong western influence and an outsider can easily find it in their American accent, the TV commercials, the name of restaurants, and the love for basketball. Christianity is the main religion and is deeply ingrained in the citizens. The Christmas decorations in the country  are put up right from September (the first ‘-Ber’ month). I loved the the fact that they looked so authentic and non commercialised.

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Simple but effective Christmas decorations near Cebu City

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Massive NBA store in Cebu City!

We were surprised to see phrases from the Bible painted on the local Tuk tuks. When we mentioned it to our guide in Bohol, he told us that years back tuk-tuks used to be painted with “inappropriate images”. The government  wasn’t happy about it and enforced people to paint phrases from the Bible instead. Maybe they thought it was a good way to teach and ingrain in the goodness of a religion into the citizens.

Most of our waiting time for our flights and ferries went staring at the lounge television watching Filipino soap opera. Even though we couldn’t understand the language, the plot lines were pretty absurd, and I come from the land of mother-in-law melodrama shows! Our show’s episode was based around something evil conspiring in a bunch of people planting trees. To kill time, we got creative and dubsmashed our way through the shows!! 😛

I have immense respect for the work ethics, the customer service and the diligence that people in Philippines have. A waitress in Cebu made it a point to get us a cab from the main road, even though she was extremely busy, just because she knew we needed help. Our guide in Bohol was also pretty good at his job.

To add to that, people are really friendly and willing to share their stories. I remember a particular instance: while I was sitting in the bus to the long ride towards Kawasan Falls, Cebu, an elderly retired gentleman was very friendly. He spoke about his life and his work; how he used to import machines from America and sell them in Philippines, but with the devaluation of the Filipino currency his business collapsed. Now, even after retirement, he wants to start a small scale beverage distribution business. He was keen to understand the  Indian business dynamics and enquired if I was travelling for business purposes.

My travel experiences

Our travels began with a day trip around Bohol island which we had pre-booked. Bohol’s chocolate hills was one of the main attractions of our tour and it was by far one of the most unique landscapes I have ever seen. They actually looked like Hersheys chocolate kisses but green in colour. Our guide told us that’s how the name came about when Nancy Reagan used this description. The other local tale about the chocolate hills is that they’re the dropping of a giant buffalo strewn around 😛 Maybe the chlorophyll didn’t lose its colour and the droppings were greener than ever!

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Bohol’s chocolate hills

Something about Bohol which did not go down well with me was the attractions where animals (pythons, monkeys, etc) were caged. It was depressing 😦 I thought I would be happy to see the Philippine tarsiers, who were still in their natural habitat, but I wasn’t. The reason was that tarsiers commit suicide if they feel stressed. This stress comes in if they feel their homes are being intruded and that’s what we were doing! People were there taking pictures and being happy about the whole thing and yet the animals were not happy! We tried our best to be really quiet and didn’t use flash photography, as recommended.

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The little tarsier

The next stop at Bohol was the hanging bridge made from bamboo which was atleast 300 metres in length. It was scary!

We had our lunch buffet on the Loboc river cruise. It was a nice, relaxing cruise with live music (American 80s songs were played). It was hot, yet one could feel the soft & relaxing breeze blow. There were a couple of pitstops on the banks where locals did a small traditional song & dance. That combined with boys jumping from tree branches into the river made it all the more entertaining!

Our next stop was the Baclayon Church. When we saw the church from outside, I asked Dalek, “is khandar mein kyun interest hai?” (What’s interesting about these ruins?). Little did I know that I would be blown by the sheer beauty of the dilapidated old wooden church once I entered it. The sculptures, the old maps , the historic clothes and church uniforms took us into a historic & spiritual place. The 1st floor itself was made of wood centuries ago and walking on it made me jitter :D. In the end we sat in front of a statue of the Virgin mary where people were lighting candles and saying their prayers. I too prayed for our wellbeing!

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The Baclayan church

The day ended when we caught our fast ferry for Cebu. We sat in the AC compartments and not in the open (I’d have liked the latter). I did  sneak out into  the open for a few minutes to feel the liberating breeze!

Our day of sightseeing in Cebu consisted of visiting Kawasan falls, 3 hours away from Cebu city. The bus ride was quite rickety but  it was worth the effort. The clear pristine water, the small fishes swimming about and the falls themselves were pretty amazing.

Here i did something very touristy! I sat on a guided raft with other people which was then taken right below the waterfall. It was exhilarating, woohoo #nowordstodescribe

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One of them is me!!!

The last day of the trip was a food and mall day. We devoured spicy lechon, Filipino desserts, eggplant omelette. Let me tell you something, you should go to Philippines for the food. If I ever turn non-vegetarian it’d be in Philippines just based on Yolek’s look while eating the spicy lechon, something I’ll let them describe in their post.

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Delicious purple rice dessert, a sweet finish to the trip

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