© 2015 Lindsay Cope

Kitty and Lulu’s Adventures in the Philippines!

Katie arrived to Manila late on Saturday July 18, 2015. I picked her up at NAIA Terminal 1, the notoriously horrible Manila Airport ranked as the worst airport in the world. The cab I took to the airport could not drop me off at the arrivals, so I had to walk down from the departure area to the parking lot, to then find the waiting area. Katie’s flight from Turkey was delayed, so I waited an extra hour at the airport for the flight to arrive. I was so happy to see Katie when she emerged from the terminal in hiking boots, braided hair, and a large backpack; she was ready for adventure!

We arrived in Pandan the following evening. My host family invited us for dinner. Nanay Judith had recently completed some landscaping so we sat in the garden to enjoy all the wonderful foods prepared. Katie got to taste all kinds of wonderful Filipino dishes, inihaw nga baboy, pancit, shanghai lumpia, and all washed down with a fresh buko juice.

We spent two days in Pandan, I introduced Katie to my office and showed her around my town and we spent a day at the mangrove sanctuary in Kalibo. Our next stop was Carles, Iloilo where we met up with Geoff and his friend Randall. The four of us spent two days on the islands of Carles. The morning of our departure for the islands, we decided to have a breakfast at the port. We approached a canteen and asked if they had any eggs. They informed us that they were out, and offered some other meats and fish. We decided to buy some hopia and other pastries, and the woman decided she could prepare us some eggs and went off to the store and told us to have a seat. We at our hopia and waited for our eggs. They brought us a bowl of fresh scallops, which were perfectly cooked and delicious. They also brought us a grilled fish and some conch as we waited for our eggs. It was the best meal of the trip, the hospitality was unparalleled and they only charged us for what we ordered. Amazed and well fed, we overpaid and headed toward our boat.

We hired a banka for the day and night to return the following day, and cruised leisurely among the islands, stopping to swim and walk on secluded beaches. The most memorable stop was at Tanke, a lagoon tucked within a rocky fortress. Our banka apparoached the entrance slowly, the waves rocked the boat, and our guide did his best to stabilize the boat for us to jump onto the rocks. Yes, he wanted us to jump from the rocking boat onto the sharp rocks! I made the first attempt and lost my balance, almost falling from the boat. I retreated to allow the others to pass. Geoff thought it would be better to get in the water first and climb onto the rocks, but that was no better. Eventually we all made our departure to the rocks, thanks to some ingenuity of our guides (they used a bamboo pole as a railing to help us stabilize ourselves to cross). The lagoon was shallow and completely enclosed by walls of rock climbing to the sky.

After Tangke we stopped at the famous Cabugay Gamay, a small white sand beach stretched between two rocky masses. We had the island to ourselves and climbed up the rocks to take pictures and walked around the beaches before we took off toward our resort as storm clouds approached.

We stayed at Arjan, a very nice small resort on Isla De Gigantes. We rented a Nipa Hut for the night, forgoing aircon because we were beachside with a nice cooling breeze. The menu at Arjan is simple, but we were delighted with the delicious and affordable spread of (more) scallops and chicken adobo. We befriended a group of young local kids who entertained us throughout the night. I introduced Katie as Elsa from frozen because over her long blonde braid and blue eyes, which prompted all the kids to sing songs from Frozen! It was a joke I repeated any time we met children on the trip!

After Carles, we made our way to Bacolod on Negros Island. We made it to Negros in the afternoon and enjoyed a delicious dinner at Inaka a Japanese restaurant on Lacson St. Our dinner was delicious, sushi, tofu, dumplings, sake! It was a delicious treat for all of us. After dinner, we crossed the street to an outdoor bar area to enjoy the street art on display. Bacolod is known for the art scene, and I would love to return and enjoy some more of the art district. Unfortunately, we only stayed in Bacolod for one night before we took the bus south for Dumaguete.

Let me just start by saying Dumaguete has been one of my favorite places to visit in the Philippines. I loved my time in Negros, and Dumaguete was not only clean but also filled with great food, nice people, and a great jumping off point for our adventures. On day one, we made our way to Apo Island for some dives/snorkeling. When we arrived at the dive resort in Dauin the water was smooth as glass, and Apo Island sat pristine ahead of us.

We were all psyched to get in the water, Geoff perhaps most of all because it was his first dive in the Philippines! Our first dive site was Chapel, a densely coral covered wall. Almost as soon as we were in the water, I saw a sea turtle swimming about a hundred meters away from me. There were sea turtles everywhere! It was awesome! The fish density and the coral cover was unlike anything I have seen before. There were nudibranch all over the place too; it was a great first dive. Our second dive was at Rock Point, another great dive with plenty of turtles swimming around. The dive was beautiful, many hard and soft corals on a gentle slope. On our way back to the boat, a HUGE purple puffer fish began swimming beside us. The puffer fish lingered ominously and began following us; it made me uneasy since it was clearly being territorial. Our dive master gave us the okay sign and approached the puffer to chase it off. We returned to the boat, but not without looking back ever so often for the approach of that massive puffer fish.

Geoff and I didn’t do the third dive, deciding instead to snorkel. The coral was amazing and formed around these underwater channels, it was as if we were swimming through underwater canyons covered with corals. It was gorgeous, but there were a ton of jellies in the water. I told Katie I was going back after I had hit my threshold of minor stings, as I swam back I got stung a bit more intensely and was surrounded by jellies. I yelped and booked it back to the boat braving any additional stings for preference of simply getting out of the water. Katie retired from snorkeling a little while later after getting a sting on her wrist as well. As we rode back to Dauin in the boat, we were visited by a leaping pod of dolphins, which was a great end to an exceptional day in the water.

We took a rest day after diving, making our way to the public market to stock up on fresh fruit (LOTS OF MANGOES) and some native goods for gifts. The public market in Dumaguete is massive, there were 10 separate buildings each focused on different products. It made for a good one-stop shop as they had many options of native goods for Katie to select to bring home to France.

Our next adventure was to visit the Twin Lakes in San Juan and Casaroro Falls in Valencia. We hired a truck from Harold’s Mansion, where we were staying to get around. It would have been hard otherwise because the sites are out of the way and only accessible by motorcycle otherwise. We got an early start, and when we arrived at the Twin Lakes after a windy ascent up the mountain, we had the vistas and the trail virtually to ourselves.

The trail was slippery since it was made of large rocks covered with moss. The lingering dew made our trip particularly treacherous. Katie slipped within the first few minutes as we descended toward Lake Balinsasayao, we continued along slowly. The trail around the lake toward Lake Danao is just as slick, but we made our way slowly capturing pictures of crazy bugs and listening to the cacophony of insects along the way. The view from both lakes was peaceful. There were no obstructions to the landscape, simply the reflection of the mountains and sky against the quiet lakes. It was a lovely and worthwhile trip. As we made our way back, we took the trail more quickly since the sun had dried the stones and had lunch overlooking the lake. We met a group of travelers from France who were making their way, like us, to Casaroro Falls next.

Casaroro Falls was about a 40 minute drive away. We drove down the mountain slowly, stopping to photograph the scenic vistas. We passed through Dumaguete to drive up to Valencia. At the falls, we climbed down 335 steps to get to a trail up the river. The trail had been damaged in a storm, so it only lasted about 50 meters before we had to start ambling over the rocks. We made our own path around and over large boulders, crossed the cold river a few times, and finally after a difficult climb up the river, we saw the falls; one hundred meters of falling water in a single column. It was breath taking. It was loud. We had to get closer! Kate and I climbed up further and put our bags down to take some pictures. Katie made her way as close as she could to the falls. The scene was impressive, the air was filled with mist and we were surrounded by sheer rock cliffs covered in moss and ferns. It was an amazing place to be, completely secluded, completely natural. We enjoyed the impressive falls for a while before making our way back. It was my turn to fall as we crossed the river, my foot slipped on a rock and I fell flat onto my stomach. Water rushed around me, but I was able to get up without much trouble. It took me a moment to collect myself because I was laughing so hard at my clumsiness. We continued our way down the river and made our way back up the 335 stairs to the top.

Waiting for us was our awesome driver, Butch. He was a kind and patient Filipino man who dreams of visiting Banff National Park in Alberta, and an all around great guide. He offered to bring us to one more spot, a hot spring near Pulang Bato, another waterfall known for its red water. We rode through Valencia to the hot springs, past plumes of sulfur escaping crevices in the rock face. The hot spring was exactly what we needed at the end of our long day. We met some students there from Silliman University in Dumaguete City and they gave us a tip to head to Hayahay for Reggae night the following night.

We had another rest day, and made our way to the beach in Dauin for some afternoon snorkeling. It was a good easy day. Later we made our way to Hayahay which was truly awesome! We had Dumaguete Express, a take off Bicol Express, which is a seafood dish cooked with sili (hot peppers) and coconut milk, the Dumaguete Express is topped with Lechon Kawali. It was delicious! After we ate, the music started. The bands at Hayahay are awesome; we had such a great time listening to reggae music.

Following our extended stay in Dumaguete, we made our way to Siquijor where we met up with some volunteers, rented a jeepny, and explored the natural sites of the island. When we first arrived Katie and I trekked to the Lugnataw Falls, about an hour walk from our resort. It was beautiful and we had the falls all to ourselves! The highlight of Siquijor was our whirlwind trip around the island, where we went caving, visited the enchanted Balete Tree and had fish nibble the dead skin from our feet, and enjoyed more waterfalls! Siquijor is a great place to visit for a short of long getaway, it is hard to get around without a motorcycle, but our Jeepny was amazing. It was pimped out with mirrors and lights, come nighttime it was a moving disco! However, we were so exhausted and thus simply amused by the ostentatious transport.

Katie and I had a wonderful adventure and it was so great to reconnect after a year apart!


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    Thank you for sharing this interesting story. I always liked to read about how someone travels and about some new experience. It seems to me that I had the courage to go somewhere. By the way, I advise you to read an essay EssayBison about why you should travel.

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    I was so happy to see Katie when she emerged from the terminal in hiking boots, braided hair, and a large backpack; she was ready for adventure!

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