Friday, December 14, 2012

Vacation: Boracay, The Philippines

I never told you guys about my trip to Boracay over Chuseok (which fell on the first weekend of October)!  I'll share through pictures.

Boracay vacation in the Philippines
On the way out to the island of Boracay, we took one of these small banca boats.

Boracay vacation in the Philippines
Some of my companions weren't entirely pleased about the small, tippable size of the boat, but once the engine had started and we were cruising through the crystal clear water, they were more than happy to smile for a picture.
** Check out Sumuroy Ablen's comments below for excellent information on these boats and why they're actually super safe!  Thanks, Sumuroy!  **

Boracay vacation in the Philippines
This was my first view of the island.

Going to church during our Boracay vacation in the Philippines
My friend and I at church!
Going to church was my favorite part of my entire trip.  It's a challenge having to write about what happened, but as I do my best, remember that my experience there was deeper than anything I ever would have expected to come out of a 5-day vacation to paradise.

I was having some serious personal issues going on during this time, in many different areas, too.  I was feeling swamped with pressures all over the place.  Well, who knew that the messages communicated through children's singing (which I usually don't care for), a solo number by a fantastic belter, and the sermon delivered by a visiting missionary pastor from Shang Hai would flip my entire perspective upside down.  I know, I know it sounds so cheesy, but if you'd seen my face as we walked out of the building and into the sunshine, you'd know it was real.  Such a great weight had been lifted and had been replaced by a joy I hadn't know in ages.  Ages.

The church we visited was where a virtual friend of mine went.  See, I was searching the internet for blogs about Boracay and found Gretchen.  I messaged her, and we struck up a conversation which led to me visiting her here and to us becoming real life friends.  (Read the whole story here and see Gretchen's blog here.)  Well, not only was it really cool getting to make Gretchen's actual acquaintance, but it was super neat meeting the other missionary teachers there and the locals.  Gretchen invited us over to their certain area of the island for snorkeling, a boat ride, and beach volleyball.

Of course pick up beach volleyball usually isn't the most organized of affairs, but it was a blast.  Missionary teachers, two of my friends, and local children all having fun together.

Little guys in the sun

Boracay vacation in the Philippines
This is the boat my friends and I got to ride on!  We sat out on the ends of the balances.  We got so wet, and Sim almost lost his glasses.

Boracay vacation in the Philippines
Young'ins being cool

D'Talipapa, the market on Boracay in the Philippines
This is a side street that takes you to a great open market called D'Talipapa.  There were all kinds of fresh fruits and seafood as well as dried fruits and other snacks.  There were island shops and trinkets to buy along with jewelry and wonderfully priced freshwater pearls.  (I bought a few pairs.)

D'Talipapa, the market on Boracay in the Philippines
D'Talipapa
Don't take anything at asking price.  I would bargain down to half of that and later realize I'd been ripped off still.  And, it's tricky bartering down, because The Philippines is a developing nation with so many people living in poverty.  Sometimes I just wanted to help the people make their living.  However... I also don't like being taken advantage of.  It was a strange line to have to walk.

Vacation in Boracay, the Philippines
Buko shakes!  Buko shakes!  Buko shakes!
Besides the fresh, melt-in-your-mouth mangoes, these were the most delicious thing I had on the island!  The buko is a fruit similar to the coconut.  It makes a damn good smoothie.  Sweet yet just that perfect amount of salty and a touch of savory.  Rich and thick like the best cream you've ever had.  They were mind blowing good.

Vacation in Boracay, the Philippines
This is the view from our beach house balcony.  Right on the beach, beautiful colors, sea smell... It reminded me of a perfect home I had in Puerto Rico.

We stayed at the beach house of the Pito Beach Huts.

I visited the missionary school one morning.  I just watched for the majority of the time, but I did get to have a few small conversations with the kids.  (Their English was so much better than my students' in Korea!)

Some kind of wall ball in the hallway of the school
Vacation in Boracay, the Philippines
The strip along White Beach
Hawking vendors galore, massage tables, restaurants, and in the evening, open air buffets on the sand.  The man you see in the foreground was selling ice cream bars.  I bought a homemade variety that was made by his wife.  It was super yummy and cheaper than the name brand stuff.

Vacation in Boracay, the Philippines
The lady on the right is the current principal at the missionary school.  Her twin daughters are on the left.  She was the one who introduced me to the ice cream man in the previous picture and who gave us the tip about the homemade ice cream bar.  She was super friendly and very happy to be there.  I'm really glad I got to meet her and her family.
Like how India has its untouchables, these native-native children are part of a castaway people group.  They are part of the race that was in the Philippines before the Spanish settlers.  Many of them are beggars along the beach strip.  As I was walking home from a restaurant a little behind my friends (I'd been trying to take a picture), I saw a young man giving food to these children.  I asked if I could take their picture and caught up with my friends.  I realized that it was my friend Jason who'd given them the food.  It was a sweet moment when I got to show him the picture I snapped.
Here are two other young beggar children eating at a buko.

There I am on the beach with the evening blue sky.

Vacation in Boracay, the Philippines
And here I am in my Chacos and super happy to be on a tropical island again.

Vacation in Boracay, the Philippines
The entire stay in Boracay was lovely, but it was unfortunate that the clearest surf was saved for the day we left early in the morning.  As our boat pulled into the dock, I had no trouble at all seeing the blue and white starfish, sea urchins, and fishes in the water below.  It was beautiful.

Filipino anti-trafficking sticker
In a van we drove in

Walking by an airport in the Philippines
There is a small airport we stopped at between Manila and the small island of Boracay.  On our way back, we had a little over an hour before we had to check in.  I convinced my friend Felicia to go exploring with me outside.  Near the airport were some houses and rain forest.  I was taking a picture of this place when the man you can see in the shadows asked if I'd like to buy the house.  

Walking by an airport in the Philippines
I really like cows.

Walking by an airport in the Philippines
I really, really like cows.  

Walking by an airport in the Philippines
On the way back to the airport

Walking by an airport in the Philippines
Right outside the airport, this young man was selling some drink that I only caught a glimpse of as he dipped some out for a local.  I jumped at the chance to have something legitimately Filipino, and I paid about 50 cents for whatever was in the buckets.

This is what was in the buckets.  Tapioca, tofu, and some syrup.  It was warm.  I really wanted to like it, but I didn't get far before throwing it away.
(Keith Cruise commented below let me know that the drink's name is taho.  Thanks, Keith!)


Almost out of the country, two friends and I arranged to spend a good sized layover in Manila.  We hit up the Mall of Asia and, after wandering around the stores and getting our fill of Western food, collapsed in the Starbucks for hours.  I know that's a strange thing to do in a foreign country, but maybe it would help to know that The Philippines is a very westernized country in the first place, and also we were pretty pooped after our trip and just wanted familiar and low key things to enjoy.

And there you have it!  My favorite part, outside of church and its effects, was getting into the culture.  I hung out with local children, got to spend time with them at school, I got off the beaten path by roaming around the streets that go deeper into the island, and I asked some of the locals for their picture.  (I'd never asked strangers for their picture before.)  It was so great, and I'm so glad that I dug into The Philippines.  I know that I would have had a great time if I'd only stayed on the beach and in the restaurants, but it would have been as rich nor as memorable.  Through my short stay there, through the purpose behind my wanderings and the response I got from the people I met, I've developed an affection and a heart for the country and its people.

God bless Boracay.

6 comments:

  1. Hi thanks for visiting the Philippines. Just an FYI though, the boat you rode in is the banca. It is one of the boats that is hardest to tip over. Unlike the usual boats, its outriggers stabize the boat. It is small because it's designed to be fas and better navigate the waves of the ocean. This is why up to now the fisherman have not ditched it in exchange of the usual boats. In the south Philippines, these little boats traverse the seas between Malaysia and Philippines in an hour and a half.

    In the earlier times, this boat has crossed oceans and seas and created maritime empires like the Madjapahit, Shri Vijaya empire and brought Austronesians the people of the Philippines and majority of the ASEAN to places like Madagascar and the Pacific Islands.

    Just some infos. :). Glad that you liked your vacation. Try visiting my islands Samar, Leyte and Biliran next time, I bet you'll love it there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow! Thank you for the information, Sumuroy Ablen! I would Love to go back and to visit new islands. :) I hope it will happen!

      Delete
  2. It's so cute to see foreign people having fun visiting the Philippines, the Boracay in particular. By the way, the drink you were talking about, that is called "taho". :) - hotel in boracay

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you enjoyed the posts. We foreigners had a blast! And thank you for telling me the name of taho. I still drool thinking about it!

      Delete
  3. I think when you heard the word "Boracay" the first words comes into your mind are happiness, and relaxing place. I'm so happy that all people even the foreigners loves Boracay. So thanks for writing about BORACAY!
    Boracay deals Philippines

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for sharing your thoughts! If there is something you want me to respond to specifically, feel free to send me an email; I'd love to chat.