Every time I travel back to the Philippines, I always leave feeling somewhat refreshed and different. The kind of feeling you get being away from your hectic life and realising you forget to stop and think to actually enjoy it at times. This trip was even better.
My Mum and Dad, born and raised in the Philippines, have family there, and being able to spend Christmas and New years with them after many years was one to look forward to. Alongside spending a couple of days in Boracay and Vigan.
Arriving on Christmas eve, it was crazy seeing how everyone has changed. Our first few days were spent in the town where both Mum and Dad grew up. Walking around, visiting family and settling in. Christmas day and New years we ate a Filipino style feast called a Kamayan (Tagalog- by hand)/Boodle fight - which is when you eat with no cutlery just your hands, and food is laid onto banana leaves. It's a lovely way to eat together with the family, celebrate and talk lots!
The one thing I love when going back is how relaxed and open it is in the neighbourhood. Each house is gated, but once the sun comes out, all gates open! At 6am I'm already listening to karaoke 2 doors down, children playing outside, and people walking to the local bakery to pick up their pandesal (sweet bread eaten for breakfast), and my Lola already preparing Lunch for 11am?!
Many of their day job's include running a little tuck shop or sari sari store, where they sell different things to cater to the neighbourhood. You need a drink? I'll just walk next door to my neighbour and get it for you. This is my aunties...
Little backstory - Vigan is a world heritage site known for being one of the few Hispanic towns left in the Philippines and preserving much of its Hispanic colonial character. The streets are lined with Spanish Era ancestral houses and cobbled-stoned streets. It was amazing to see a different side of Philippines I've never seen and some of the history.
The scenes here were beautiful and peaceful as it wasn't very busy at the time. This is a project known as the NorthWind Bangui Bay project to help reduce greenhouse gases and is the first 'Wind Farm' in the Philippines. We visited this on the way to a beach in Pagudpud with amazing mountain views which I didn't take a picture of but highly recommend going to.
Everything in Boracay was beautiful, the beach, the atmosphere and the hospitality. Unfortunately at the time that we went, days before it was struck by a Typhoon and was upsetting to see how much the locals were affected by it.
During 2018, Boracay was closed to tourism for six months as an attempt to clean up after environmental concerns from being a high tourist island. A lot had changed and bars had to be around 100ft from the beach, meaning the beach was nice and clean. This is what also made it so beautiful, the sand and sea were clear, and being a little walk away from the main bar areas made it such a peaceful holiday for us.
Our hotel, Ambassador in Paradise, situated in station 1 which is away from the 'party' station was amazing! When the sun sets, the view is amazing and the hotel is on the beachfront, so you can enjoy it from a beach bed or enjoy a lovely meal by the beach. I'd highly recommend.
Definitely try the mango ice cream!
It's always a hard time having to say goodbye. Spending the last 3 weeks with family and having to say goodbye was hard because we don't get to see them often. This time taught me a lot about appreciating the things I have back home in England. We complain about many things and don't realise how 'first world' they really are. Though everyones problems are fair, this trip made me realise how many opportunities I have and just brush them off, when someone else would do anything for that opportunity. This trip ended up being a massive reflection on my life and how I look at it. But that's for another time.
I hope you enjoyed this little blog after being away for a while, and learnt a little a bit my home country.
Thanks for reading!