The wonderful people and places of the Philippines

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[This is Steve’s post about his experiences in the Philippines]

My third trip to the Philippines during the past 12 years has inspired me to think about all the good times I’ve enjoyed during my visits, while also reflecting on what I’ve learned about the good people there.  I’ve also found that I get somewhat depressed about the hardships that folks have to deal with in their day-to-day lives on the many beautiful islands (7,107 to be exact).

Philippine Map

We spent 8 nights with Mona Liza’s family in Moalboal on the southwest end of Cebu, then several nights on gorgeous Palawan – the island to the left in the image.

I want to stress that this post is a very general comparison of life in the Philippines, in contrast to living in the good old USA.  Like any place in the world, there are many exceptions to the following characterizations, but I thought it might be worthwhile to offer my insights into what I observed while there.

Jeepney

Just another day heading into the office or school

Pasil, Cebu

Squatter’s shacks along the water – the worst of life in the Philippines

My recent trip reminded me how upbeat, tough, resilient and flexible the Filipino people are.  These folks generally work hard for extremely low wages, and there are no pensions, retirement plans or medical benefits in sight.  There’s no “attitude” here as there is with many young people in the USA, and these are non-violent people.  Their biggest joys are spending time with family and chatting comfortably with complete strangers.  They are friendly, helpful and respectful with anyone they meet.  Life is much more leisurely, and it’s almost as if time is not a factor when trying to get their jobs done (ie. a very low-stress lifestyle).

Tri-sikad

Mona Liza’s sister Thelma returns home from the market – this is the way to get around town, and I totally enjoyed the ride several times!

Wanna talk about tough?  Many people in the U.S. choose between living in areas that experience either brutal weather or earthquakes.  In the Philippines you get both!  We arrived in the midst of a “signal-1” typhoon, which caused some damage but never made the news.  Several typhoons cross the islands each year, but only the “super typhoons” make the news.  Fortunately, the recent huge typhoon Hagupit headed north of our stops and spared us and ML’s family.

Kawasan Falls

The typhoon we endured while on the island of Cebu caused quite a bit of damage at the popular waterfalls

No matter how terrible things get with regard to weather or their job situation, Filipinos rarely fail to show up at church on Sunday to thank God for what they have.  Amazing!

Farmers Market in Moalboal

A typical market that we enjoyed on a daily basis

Although I love the beautiful islands and warm Filipino people, I have to admit that I’m probably just too spoiled to live there full time.  I would never drive there; although the drivers appear to be insane as they negotiate the roads with no attention to any kind of traffic laws, they somehow make it work and defy my certainty that accidents must occur every few seconds.  On my first trip in 2002 I was terrified as we weaved through traffic at high speeds.  This time I just sat back and enjoyed the ride.

Sabang, Palawan

You think you’ve seen crazy drivers?  How many violations can you spot here?

Sabang, Palawan

Hauling coconuts to a stand for sale. We loved drinking the milk and eating the meat of these yummy delights!

Saavedra, Moalboal

Life can be difficult here, but they always get the job done

Despite the fact that I don’t speak the language or even fit in very well, I always look forward to my next adventure in the Philippines.  So many beautiful islands to explore and friendly people to hang out with.  You simply must make a trip there one of the items on your “travel bucket list” – you won’t be disappointed!



 Next up:  More about our exciting visit to the Philippines

Party time at North Myrtle Beach, SC

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Lewis

Isn’t Lewis cute?  This guy enjoys posing for pics!

What do bloggers do when they meet? Well, they eat, drink, talk and have a ball – especially when they happen to land at the same RV park!  And that’s exactly what we have been doing here.  Heading toward North Myrtle Beach, we learned that Dave and Sue of Beluga’s Excellent Adventures were already settled in at Briarcliff RV Campground.  Then we discovered that John and Pam of Oh the Places would be arriving at the same campground the day after we got there.  None of us planned it that way, it just happened!  Following each other’s blogs helped us to track our movements, and – viola! – we all ended up here at the same time.  Now, how cool is that?

Oh the Places they go

Happy Hour at John and Pam’s site (John and Pam on the right).

This was our first time meeting Dave and Sue, and their very well-behaved black beauties, Lewis and Sasha.  We had met John and Pam earlier this summer at Lake Erie, NY.  Both couples have been on the road longer than us and had lots of stories to tell and experiences to share.  There were a lot of laughs as we got caught up on our adventures.

Briarcliffe RV Resort

Happy Hour #2 at Dave and Sue’s

Good times with good friends was the main affair here.  Happy hour in the afternoon…

Briarcliff RV Resort

Happy Hour #3 at the Lowe’s

…and dinner in the evening at the excellent restaurants that were just a short walk away.  All we needed were hungry tummies and the gate combination – “lower, middle, top”, according to Dave.  We had themed dinners – seafood night first, then Italian and finally pizza.  I forgot to bring my camera to our unexpected family-style Italian dinner.  That doesn’t happen very often!

Joe's Crab Pot

Seafood night at Joe’s Crab Shack

California Pizza

Pizza night, and we were happy to have leftovers of this pizza!

Each night, Steve and I arrived home with full tummies – oink, oink!  We don’t normally go out for dinner so often, but we had a blast enjoying good meals with our friends at these excellent restaurants.

Hungry Warriors

Hungry travel warriors heading out for pizza – don’t get in our way!

Just like the Outer Banks in North Carolina, Myrtle Beach is pretty quiet this time of the year.  And to quote one of the servers we talked with, “it’s boring here now”.  Wasn’t a problem for us!  Unlike at the OBX, we had to drive just over a mile to access the beach here.  But parking wasn’t an issue, and it was free.  So, we made the most of our time, hanging out at the beach whenever the weather permitted.

North Myrtle Beach

Looks like someone’s ball left behind from busier times

Myrtle Beach

Each stop on our way south is getting a little warmer – in about 500 miles we should be down to shorts and tank tops every day – yay!

North Myrtle Beach

North Myrtle Beach, SC

These guys seem to be enjoying the quiet times

I want to take a moment to thank all of you who have asked about my family in the Philippines after Super Typhoon Haiyan devastated my country.  Mom and the rest of  my family in Cebu are safe and out of danger.  However, as of this post we are still unable to contact my nieces and nephews who live in the province of Leyte, which bore the brunt of the powerful storm.  We’re praying for them as we wait for communications to come back up.

Update: As of today Nov 11, the fourth day after the storm we finally heard from my nieces and nephews. They are all alive, safe but are now homeless. Thank you all for your thoughts and prayers.

Next up:  Charleston, here we come!

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Island Girls meet on Prince Edward Island – fun, fun, fun!

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Great Heron

Prince Edward Island was such a fitting place for the “island girls” to meet.  But before I reveal who they are, allow me to first share more sights and scenes around PEI.  Being a small island, its waters are teeming with all things seafood – including lobsters, mussels, oysters, quahogs and bar clams, among others.  We can proudly boast that we have dined on the freshest and best PEI mussels in existence.  Steve got adventurous and ordered two new shellfish in his food vocabulary, Quahogs and Bar Clams.  That was a great decision – yum!

Our new friend Brenda tipped us off about French River, which was just a few miles from our campground.  It is one of PEI’s most famously picturesque fishing villages, and what a view it is!

French River

My panoramic shot cannot capture it’s unique features, the contrasting yet complimentary combination of water view and farmland in ONE  single vista.

French River

And so here is my attempt to take section shots.  They were taken on a perfectly clear day from left to right on the pano shot. Just imagine yourself sitting on top of a hill overlooking this vista. Simply beautiful.

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French River

French River

We spent a while here just admiring gorgeous views we haven’t seen anywhere else!

Now, back to the “island girls” meeting.  When I learned that Island Girl was in the Canadian Maritimes the same time we were, my desire to meet a fellow blogger kicked in.  We had been following each other, and a rendezvous was in order at the right place on the island.  As you know, I hail from one of the thousands of islands in the Philippines – Cebu – while Brenda is from another beautiful island – Puerto Rico.  They appropriately named their coach Island Girl!  So, we had our own little summit on PEI.  Brenda, Hector and the very sweet 4-legged doggie Angel were perfect hosts at their campground right on the sea.

Island Girl

What a view they had – I’m almost standing in the water to get this shot!

Hector who comes from Cuba showed us his shucking skills, offering the “boutique” oysters from the area – Malpeques and Raspberry points.  Both are delicious!  We shared travel ideas and tips, and enjoyed each other’s company so much that we forgot about the time.

Check them out, as they have covered a lot of ground while here in the Maritimes.  Not to mention, Hector’s photography is outstanding!

Island Girl

Brenda and Mona Liza at the official Island Girls site!

Also, they happened to be at an awesome spot for a gorgeous sunset.

New Annan, Sunset

Sunset at New Annan

 

Next up:  Betsy goes to the hospital – Halifax, NS

 

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Playing tourist in my hometown – Moalboal,Cebu, Philippines

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San Juan Nepomuceno Ruins

How time flies when you are having too much fun in the Philippines.  I’m back after a one-month visit to my home sweet home in Moalboal, Cebu, where I survived daily temps of 90 degrees with 96% humidity.  Whew!  It felt like being in a sauna 24/7.  So where the heck is my hometown of Moalboal?   The Philippines is situated in south-east Asia in the South China Sea, between Hong Kong, Vietnam and Indonesia.  My country is an archipelago made up of 7,107 islands, and Moalboal is located on the southwestern tip of Cebu island, in the central part of the Philippines.  The flight from New York – where the overseas portion of my flight originated – to Cebu took 14+ hours, including a stopover in Incheon, Korea.  Yes, that’ s a lot of sitting on airplanes!

Moalboal,Cebu

Moalboal, Cebu, Philippines

Despite the heat and humidity I played tourist in my town, hanging out with old friends and bonding with family.  My blog would be far too long If I related all the fun activities I did while in the Philippines.  I will spare you by giving just the highlights, or I might put you to sleep.

  1. The main reason for my visit was  to celebrate my  mom’s 95th birthday on May 4.  She is an amazing mother who raised her dozen kids alone, as my dad passed away early.  I am #11 in the family hierarchy, and I certainly hope her longevity is passed on to me.  Her birthday celebration began at 4AM, when she was awakened by a dawn serenade given by family and friends.  The day ended with a family tribute to her, as she was surrounded by her ever growing big happy Sandalo family.
  1. Every town in the Philippines celebrates a fiesta in honor of a patron saint.  My hometown’s fiesta is every 15th and 16th of May, when we celebrate our patron saint, San Juan Nepumoceno.  The fiesta is part and parcel of Filipino culture, the roots of which goes back to before the Spanish arrived in 1500.  Fiesta is the time of eating, drinking, and revelry all over town.  But due to the regional elections during the month, fiesta activities were somewhat limited.  A fiesta would be incomplete without lechón, or slow-roasted suckling pig, the Filipinos most beloved dish.  Anthony Bourdin of No Reservations hailed it as the best pork ever!
  1. If you like scuba diving, my town is home to one of the best diving destinations known globally as Pescador Island.  The diving spots there offer an amazing “sardine run” and various  underwater creatures.  The coral you see underneath is one of the best of the world.  Unfortunately, I have not seen it first hand, but Steve had an amazing time when he dove there a couple of years ago.  On this trip we hired a boat and went to Pescador Island where my friends and I swam in the crystal clear waters and watched divers and fishermen around the island.
Busay Cave and Spring, Moalboal

Busay Cave and Spring

  1. Although my town is mostly known for the diving its coastline’s multiple reefs provide, there are many more natural wonders to explore.  The mountains inland offer spectacular vistas and the area is covered by dense tropical rain forests and rice fields.  One is the Busay Cave and Spring, which is an underground spring where the town get its potable water supply.  Once I dipped into the the cool fresh waters it was difficult to get back out into the sun and sauna again.

We used to have beautiful long white beaches, but because of a typhoon in 1984 much of Panagsama Beach (Basdiot) has been blown away.  The typhoon damage and poor coastal development have led to the sand being washed away.  Today Panagsama beach resorts cater mostly to divers, and diving schools and dive centers dot the area.  The many diveshops in Panagsama beach are mixed with a lot of bars and restaurants, and you can find both luxury and budget-friendly accommodations.

About 7 kilometres north of Panagsama is White Beach or Basdako, meaning ‘Big Sand’, a nice white sandy beach lined with a beautiful coral reef about 30 meters out.  This is a very popular beach among the locals as well as  tourists where accommodations are pricier.  My mom, who seldom gets out of the house, was so happy when my sister Becky and I took her there for relaxation away from the family. During our bonding time with mom I observed that she may not be a spring chicken but she is still very mentally sharp.

5) Our small town has a burgeoning economy and has grown amazingly fast since my last visit.  Because of that, it seems to me that our town has shrunk and is getting very crowded.  However, I was also pleased to see many visual improvements.  The town now has a Heritage Park and a to-be-completed multipurpose building.  Our “Tulay” (wharf), of which everyone has fond memories, had been extended.  I was even more glad to know that one of the leaders credited with these improvements is my childhood best friend, Asuncion Palmitos.  Kudos to you my friend, I’m proud of you.

I hang out with her and other friends while there.

Best Friends Forever

(l to r) Asuncion Palmitos, Gigi Page and I- childhood friends

These and many more fun outings made Steve jealous – he is going to be sure to go home with me next time!

Finally, be sure to click on the pictures below to see scenes you only see in the Philippines:

Next up: Back on the road!

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