An Unexpected Journey in the Philippines
A few years ago, before we got married and became full time world travellers on YouTube, we went on a two week trip island hopping around the Philippines where we planned to visit Donsol, Cebu and El Nido. In those days we both worked full time jobs just outside of London in corporate roles and always tried to cram as much in as we could during our 2 week annual leave trips, but after what happened during this trip it led us to start thinking that we needed to find a way to give ourselves more time to see the world.
After 3 days/nights rushing around to see Hong Kong (as it was on our flight route), we flew to the Philippines and spent a few days in a resort in Donsol to see Whale sharks which hadn’t arrived yet as they came a little later that season- typical! We really did try to see them and spent an entire day out on a boat but no luck, if only we could have stayed a few days longer we could have seen them as they migrate there naturally each year. We did at least get to see some fireflies at night on a boat which was pretty magical to see against the dark night with zero light pollution.
After a few days we left early in the morning to head off on a boat over to Masbate where we planned to catch a flight straight out of the tiny airport over to Cebu. Our trike driver dropped us at the port and we boarded the ferry which was a smooth quick crossing over to Masbate. However, when we got off the ferry it was like another world, Masbate was so busy with no buildings, only shacks everywhere and seemed a lot more run down than anywhere else we had seen until this point, it was not a touristy area and we were the only non Filipinos there. We managed to get into another trike (a really battered one this time, that conked out mid journey and the guy took ages to re start it, it was like whacky races going through sneaky shortcuts racing us to the airport!) We went through two wired fences, security gates and stood outside a wooden structure that was the airport. The security gates shut and were manned by armed security guards so we were safe but we couldn’t actually get inside the airport yet as our flight wasn’t until about 3pm, the doors were closed and didn’t open until 1.30pm. We stood there with all our bags just the two of us, looking at the gates and seeing the hustle and bustle around the shacks beyond it and just had to sit and wait there outside in the heat, no airport lounge or even a café in this place!
After a while another passenger joined us in our wait and unlike most of the Filipinos in Masbate he actually spoke English so we were able to have a conversation. He was a friendly guy from Cebu and this had been his first ever visit to Masbate too, he said Masbate is very different to Cebu and a much less affluent city. We were pleased to hear that Cebu wasn’t like Masbate from what we had seen and couldn’t wait to board the plane and get out safely. We finally got inside the airport, checked our bags in and sat by the window and watched our plane come in. Unfortunately when our plane arrived it circled twice in the air and then left! The tail wind was too strong for the tiny plane to land so the flight got cancelled. We were given our bags back and sent back outside the airport and the doors shut saying we could get a flight tomorrow at 9am.
Great, we were stuck here in a place dubbed ’The wild East of the Philippines’ by Lonely Planet and a lawless city by Google. The relative lack of infrastructure on this island made us wonder where we would be able to sleep over night or how we would communicate with anyone to even arrange this, our Tagalog (Filipino) is limited at best. Craig had gone to speak to someone official to figure something out and I got chatting to the same guy (Ronnie) that we had been speaking to earlier Another Filipino lady overheard us speaking in English, understanding our fears she insisted we must go and stay with her for the night.
It was very kind of her but I couldn’t help but wonder what type of housing there was on this island given that we had travelled through it on trike and seen nothing but wooden shacks and not a single proper building. This lovely lady (Maggie) turned out to be one of the wealthier inhabitants of the island (hence being able to afford flights) and told us how she was the head mistress of the school up the road and that she was flying to Cebu to visit her daughter who was studying there. Maggie said we could stay in her daughters’ room as it’s vacant and that she and her husband would bring us all (including Ronnie) back to the airport the following morning to all get the flight at 9am. I thanked her and found Craig to tell him, the next thing she spoke to someone on the streets, two trikes arrived and we were in one of them following her to her house.
The trike journey was quite long as we had to go quite far out from the main busy part of the city, it was a little scary not really knowing what was going on but we had no choice but to sort of go with it and hope. Luckily we eventually saw some infrastructure/housing in the distance and we headed towards it in the trikes, phew! There was a small row of houses and thankfully Maggie's trike stopped outside one and then ours did too. We got out and she welcomed us to her house which was a lovely 3 bed house and she had a cute little dog too. We took our bags up to the room and Ronnie headed to his separate room.
We took a shower and enjoyed sitting in the cool aircon after being outside in the heat at the airport all day. Maggie told us her husband would be home soon and that she had arranged for her friends who ran a catering business to cook some food for us and bring a feast over for her ‘stow away guests’ as she called us. She also told us that although Masbate does have it’s problems and is a poor island, there are some beautiful parts to it, just unless you look Filipino you stand out in the city and everyone stares at you purely because they rarely see non Filipino faces as few of them can afford to even leave the island let alone the country.
It transpired that Maggie's husband just happened to be the head of security for Masbate and had just about every gun you could imagine. He came home and we had a lovely traditional dinner of rice, chicken and seafood and we all got on so well. After dinner we went out onto the porch to have some drinks which was lovely although I found it pretty terrifying when the conversation of guns came about and then several guns including an AK47 were casually brought to the table. As we went to sleep that night we thanked our lucky stars that we had received such kindness and generosity from this lovely family and also of all the places to stay on this island we felt pretty secure knowing we’d ended up in the house of the head of security who had plenty of guns and the skills to use them if needed.
We woke up early the next morning before sunrise as Maggie and her husband wanted to show us some of the islands natural beauty before we left. We took a short drive and got on a tiny boat which took us over to a sandbar and watched the sunrise, it truly was beautiful and hard to believe we were on the same island with all the chaos of the city and ferry port only 7km away. We were so thankful to get to see this side of the Island and despite our initial fears about being stranded in Masbate we then felt so lucky to have found this place. If you find yourself in this part of the world head to Masbate, make your way out of the city quickly as there is nothing there and you do stand out a bit if you don’t look Filipino, but head just outside of the city and there you’ll find a nature park and Buntod Sandbar with so much diving and snorkelling, we wished we had longer to enjoy this treasure but our flight did leave at 9am and this time we were on it!
The flight was not a direct flight to Cebu so we flew back to Manila with Ronnie and Maggie. Whilst we were waiting for our connecting flight, they introduced us to Jollibee, a Filipino fast food restaurant, so we had our first ever Jollibee there in Manila airport! When we finally made it to Cebu late afternoon we said goodbye to Ronnie and Maggie and then boarded the public bus from the station. Unfortunately, the traffic in Cebu was awful due to an event that was taking place, meaning we didn’t get out of the airport and onto the bus until gone 8pm, the journey from the airport should have been about 3 hours! We arrived in Moalboal at 1.30am and got off the bus in the middle of the street in the dark. Luckily there were some guys with trikes and we got in one quickly and hoped he was taking us to the correct location as we disappeared off down a really dark back lane, thankfully we arrived at our resort, checked in and got to sleep.
The next day we woke up to a complete paradise, our resort Pescadores Seaview Suites was perched right on the edge of the sea, from the pool we stepped straight down and swam along the coral looking at starfish and beautiful scenery, we even found a huge sea turtle that swam along with us for about an hour. It was a great way to get over all the craziness of the last few days seeing this gentle creature pecking away at the coral and elegantly gliding around. We booked massages for later that evening and booked to go on a dive the next day with a nearby dive school. A short walk from our resort there was a selection of bars and restaurants and we got talking to a Russian girl who told us all about El Nido and the tours there, we were excited as that was our next planned destination.
The next day someone from the dive centre came to pick us up on his motorbike so the three of us got on one bike with our fins and snorkel and headed off for the short ride to the dive centre. Diving in Moalboal was beautiful, there is so much life there so close to the shore. We didn’t need a boat we just strolled straight in off the beach. We got back to our resort, had lunch, then spent the afternoon lounging in the sun and did some more snorkelling along the reefs. We had planned to visit Kawasan Falls whilst in Moalboal but having lost a day travelling we will have to return another time to visit. After dinner we packed our bags ready to head off the next day then relaxed into the night with a full body massage in our accommodation, we needed to de stress after all the craziness and prior to travelling onto El Nido which was thankfully much smoother than the journey from Donsol to Cebu!
We fell in love with the Philippines and really hope to go back some day and take a bit more time really enjoying, learning about and seeing the country properly. It’s been just over a year since we took the decision to leave our 9-5 jobs and travel the world full time and although it’s not always easy we think this world is so worth the time and effort to explore and we can’t wait to find more adventures as we go (we’ve certainly come across a few challenges this year including getting stranded from the pandemic and also getting trapped inside by a hurricane, it’s not always glamorous but it is exciting and we feel more alive than we ever have before!
We share all our travel adventures on our YouTube channel Tide Knot Travellers and although it's hard work making and editing videos, we love the reward of sharing our crazy stories with the world and seeing the comments people leave about our adventures, we plan to continue travelling and hope to inspire others to chase their dreams whatever they may be!
We are so happy to share this story from Tide Knot Travellers. It is a great story to show that you should always expect the unexpected whilst travelling and every place has it's own hidden gems. Tide Knot Travellers is a great YouTube channels for those who love to see the visual side of travelling and you should go check this out by clicking on the links below.
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