after our three and a half week adventure in japan, we spent two heavenly weeks in the philippines. daniel had been there before and, in order to sell me on adding it as our ‘exotic’ post-japan destination, he showed me the pictures he had taken there. i wanted a shrinking machine so that i could hop into the photos and live there forever. it didn’t take long for me to agree, but when we got there i started having doubts. the philippines is a collection of many islands and a lot of domestic flights are required to get to the picturesque spots i dreamt of. you know, we should really start at the beginning – the whole ordeal to the philippines started off on the wrong foot. for starters, our original flight to manila from tokyo was cancelled and rescheduled for the following morning. the next day, the flight was delayed a good three hours or so and we missed our connecting flight to kalibo. not to worry, we quickly became accustomed to flight delays in the philippines. a delay of at least two hours per flight was standard and, frankly, by the third domestic flight if i didn’t get my extra two hours of staring at the flight status monitor, i would be disappointed.
when we did finally get to kalibo it was around 10pm and we had the pleasure of riding a smelly, packed van for an hour and a half to get to caticlan port, where we would board the world’s shadiest ferry to boracay island. the whole process is disorganized (sometimes payment is made directly to an eight-year-old child who knows only to say “one-hundred pesos” and “pay” and may or may not just take your money and run) and damp. not just the humidity, but also the wading through water to get on the ferry. at this point – okay, way before this point – i’m thinking this is probably not going to be worth it. but when we got to boracay island 30 minutes later, i was positive it would definitely not be worth it. disembarking the ferry was followed by a flurry of tricycle drivers trying to coax passengers into paying them more than they would ever dream of charging a local. and when we finally got a driver to accept only 200% more than he would normally charge, he had never heard of our hotel. what should have been a quick ride became a long, sweaty and uncomfortable search – complete with stops at every corner asking random people, who are out at 1am for whatever reason, if they can point us in the right direction. at some point, our driver stopped at the entrance to a dark, muddy (a typhoon had hit there not too long before) alley and said “okay, now walk.” i think the death glare daniel got from me at that moment is the stuff of horror films. our walk to the hotel was packed with excitement, twists and turns eventually leading us under a construction site that may have been built with the intention to kill construction workers in safety-related accidents. we did get there, in the end. the room was more than what i was expecting and after a transit time of about 30 hours, i said “goodnight” to this nightmare of a place – and through my mind runs for the love of all that is good, daniel, where did you bring me?
turns out, he brought me to heaven on earth. i should have known that from the photos i had seen a few months earlier, but my mind was clouded by my current discomfort. i really felt as if i was living in one of those photos. we spent three leisurely days in boracay and moved on to el nido, the journey to which made boracay seem like a distant memory with all its flight delays and eight(!) hour van rides. and yet again, another piece of heaven awaited us the following morning. in el nido we spent three days island-hopping and snorkeling and one day laying out on the beach. then we moved on to coron for more of that. to summarize the philippines: white sand beaches, beautiful vistas both on land and underwater, fresh seafood and extremely friendly people. i retired my camera for this part of the trip so all photo credits rightly belong to daniel, who would never put down a camera so that he can have his hands free for food and beer. that’s just me.