Growing up, my family visited Philippines quite often. Every few years or so. I would spend my entire summer vacations here. Can't say I was terribly too thrilled in visiting, due to the fact that it was always summer when we came. Insane humidity. Tons of mosquitoes. Baking in the sun - bleh. Why would I want to come to a place that's not much different from Houston? Though, all my complaints are superficial. I really do have many, many fond memories of The Philippines that easily overshadows the cons. The cultural traditions and family social interactions and street scene vibes. The village life, the food, the cousins - I loved it all!
This time around in The Philippines, it was all about that hostel life in Makati. To be fair, we did spend the beginning of our trip with V's family for Christmas and New Year's in the outskirts of Manila. That, in itself, was a whole 'nother new experience in the motherland. Considering most of my previous visits to The Philippines were just for my family!
But, yes, the majority of our one month stay mostly involved life in and around Junction Hostel. In 2 weeks time, we soon became very familiar with our little bubble of Metro Manila. When we're not out and about scavenging for food or hitting up one of Makati's many malls, we were spending an obscene amount of time at the hostel's lounge area. Trying to catch up on work and talking endlessly with the many fellow travelers passing through. The conversations with these travelers were, at the very least, highly interesting. Hearing their version of The Philippines. Totally opposite from The Philippines that I'm familiar with!
Anyways, if you're wondering why we'd stayed in Makati for so long ... rain. Unseasonable monsoons everywhere we wanted to go: Kawasan Falls, Caramoan, El Nido, Banaue Rice Terraces. Everywhere, rain! But we did eventually find a place with less chances of showers. Coron. 30% with mostly clouds. I can live with that! So we caught a flight from Manila and found ourselves in Coron an hour later.
Coron got moved up high on our list after extensive research. Less tourist crowds, not overdeveloped with luxury hotels (yet), still has a small village vibe. After hearing how overcrowded El Nido and Borocay are from other travelers - something off the beaten path sounded very attractive. And Coron did not disappoint. The visit felt more like a leisure adventure, with the streets full of tricycles and cute stray dogs and typical street vendor bustle. It felt very familiar, like being back at my parent's villages in Cebu. The fact that the dock itself (and certain parts of town leading to other popular sights) is still covered in dirt, and not pavemented, shows just how off the beaten path Coron is. (For now.)
We opted to do a boat tour for our island hopping between Bulog Dos, Banana Island, and Malcapuya Island. Nothing too terribly out of the ordinary except the good beach life - snorkeling, swimming, napping - with insanely clear water and white sands. It's nice being one of the firsts to arrive at these islands (even if it's just for a little bit!) before all the other tourists get in the way.
A side story on Malcapuya Island, while V was snorkeling, I was snapping photos of these baby chickens trying to eat a bunch of coconuts next to a hut - the guy in that particular hut popped his head out and said, "Only in The Philippines, huh?" And thus, started small talk between me and him. He also used to live in Houston, but wait!, in League City of all places - where I'm from! Then he mentioned an unusual name, and I'm like, hold up I actually do know someone with that name. It's his half sister. No way! I grew up with her! More excited talk followed. SMALL WORLD. Anyways, nice guy. He hooked us up with his private tour guide so we could do more island hopping to other notable places, like Kayangan Lake and Twin Lagoon. Awesome.
We didn't expect to stay in The Philippines this long. 2 weeks stretched into a month. And I really was looking forward to visting more places on my Bucket List! Stupid, stupid rain. Although things didn't work out, Coron ended up quite an enjoyable experience. Highly recommend to visit now before it gets super touristy!
When: Late December to Late January
Temp: Mid-High 80s
Cities: San Pedro, Makati, Coron
MAKATI Stay: Junction Hostel
MAKATI Shopping: Greenbelt Mall, Power Plant Mall, Century City Mall
MAKATI Food: Nightly Filipino street food market next to A.venue Mall. Gourmet food court called Hole In The Wall (located on top floor of Century City Mall). Many food options at Greenbelt Mall.
CORON Stay: Haven 1916
CORON Sights: Mount Tapyas, Maquinit Hot Springs, Kayangan Lake, Twin Lagoon, Bulog Dos, Banana Island, Malcapuya Island. ** For island hopping, consult hotel/hostel for boat tours. If you prefer private tours, the hotel/hostel will help.**