I tried to describe the Philippines with a complicated metaphor: Costa Rica and Hawaii fell in love and got married in Asia, then fell on hard times, but they’re still smiling about it. Like Costa Rica, the Philippines was once a Spanish colony, and like Hawaii, it is an island chain with the distinctly island-y values (“island time” is definitely in effect there). But I realize that I can’t sum up the Philippines in a sentence. It’s an intensely complex place; there are layers of Malay culture, Chinese culture, and Spanish, there are over 1,000 languages and dialects spoken, there are overcrowded slums and sprawling resorts. The Philippines is an assault on the senses, and I loved it. I only saw one small region, known as the Visayas, or the central Philippine islands.
Experiencing the kind of debilitating exhaustion that comes from a red-eye flight, we (two of the other American teachers at my school) decided to lounge by the pool. But there is no rest for the wicked, especially not during Lunar New Year. Since we wouldn’t go to the party, the party came to us. Literally. Like, at the pool.
Easily our busiest day on the trip, we decided to go snorkeling and visit the Chocolate Hills in one fell swoop, as both activities are centered around the island of Bohol. We took a ferry from Cebu city to the much smaller island and then traveled by tricycle to Alona Beach, a snorkeling hot spot.
(A tricycle is basically a dirt bike with a side car attached, and I spent the majority of day 2 in one. It was a beautiful, often hilarious, often uncomfortable way to see Bohol’s countryside).
Our snorkeling guide was a man named Itang, a local who speaks three different languages and has never left his home island.
The water was amazingly clear, and it made me wish that I’d thought to bring an underwater camera. But I didn’t, so no fish photos 😦
After a quick lunch break of delicious filipino tacos, we continued our journey to the Chocolate Hills.
We spent about an hour and a half traveling through the Bohol countryside on the somewhat dilapidated tricycle. It was incredibly unsafe but equally eye-opening. There is nothing like sticking your head out of a sidecar and into a tropical rainstorm.
The Chocolate Hills are improbable and hilarious looking, and if you go to the Philippines, it’s completely worth trekking out to see them.
After taking about 10,000 pictures, we hopped back on the tricycle and headed home. To be continued…