We have arrived in the Philippines!  We’re staying on a small island called Boracay, where the sand is fine, the temperature is hot, and there are more tourists than we’d anticipated.  It’s still technically the off-season here, so we’d hoped there wouldn’t be so many visitors, but we’re making the most of it!

We’re staying in a place called Orchid Resort, and for $12 a day, we get pretty decent accommodations.  The owner is likely an american ex-pat, and it would seem he’s had this place for awhile.  The people here are extremely friendly.  And we’re only a few seconds from a beautiful, endless white beach called White Beach.

We arrived last night, and for anyone attempting to visit the Philippines, when they tell you they want a print-out of your onward airplane tickets, they mean a print-out, not a pdf displayed on a computer.  That alone held us up at customs for about an hour.  The officers there are brusque, unorganized and are looking for any excuse to give you a hard time.  Their reason for not accepting our e-tickets wasn’t that they didn’t trust us, but that they wanted us to prove we know how to follow their rules.  The problem was, I’d booked that ticket mere hours before, and had absolutely no means of printing it.  But that explanation didn’t seem to matter.  In the end I think they realized that they didn’t have a good enough reason to deny us entry, and relented probably because we were taking up precious space in their cramped, little office.

We want to extend our 21-day visa-on-arrival to a 59-day visa, and Manila is apparently not a good place to do that.  We decided to venture to Boracay island where we could relax on the beach while they processed our papers.

Just before we left Hong Kong, we booked our subsequential flight to Boracay, and Tyson found us our accommodation, though we booked that through a third-party site.  We received a standard email saying they’d be in touch to confirm our reservation.  But we didn’t have time before the plane left, to check our email again.  When we arrived at the Manila airport, we couldn’t get the wireless internet to work, and we had to rush to another terminal to catch our flight to Boracay.  After the fandango at customs, and an hour-long flight on a quirky little local airline called Cebu Pacific Air (reminds me of a miniature WestJet) we arrived in Caticlan, and were hustled into small boats which took us to Boracay island.

We still didn’t know if we had an accommodation, which made us a bit nervous, because the alternative was going to be one of many expensive resorts.  The local taxi is called a Pak-pak, and is a small, open car attached to one side of  a motorcycle, which is driven by a young Filipino.  We boarded one of these and asked to be taken to Orchid Resort.  He dropped us off near the beach and told us to walk straight and then left.  Do you think we could find the place?  We spent the next half hour to 45 mins walking up and down the beach, and through a few narrow streets.  We witnessed an incredible sunset but hardly had time to stop and photograph it.  We asked a few people who gave us vague directions, in a place where there are no real streets, let alone street names.  Finally, as darkness set in, we stumbled upon Orchid Resort, and crossed our fingers they had room for us. They did, and after a hot shower, and a litre of water, we clambered our exhausted bodies into a surprisingly comfortable bed.

Today, Tyson and I got up at a leisurely hour, had our breakfast and went to the beach.  We swam around in the shallow, warm water for about half an hour, marvelling at its clarity. Then we randomly started making a little pile out of pieces of coral we stumbled upon.  I got bitten by a fish!  A group of four small filipino children were splashing happily near us, and one of them smiled.  They were watching us curiously, and they noticed we were up to something. They came over to enquire.  They immediately got to work enlarging our pile of coral to the point where it became a bit of a hazard.  Each piece was held up for admiration and acceptance to the pile.  I started talking to the oldest one, a girl named Ella, 10, who told me all about school, her favourite sport, which is soccer, and her five favourite animals.  English is their second language, but they’re taught it from a young age, and Ella’s english was very good.  I told her I was envious she could speak two languages.  She said it was her favourite thing to study along with Mathematics.

We spent over two glorious hours with these kids, (two younger ones clung to Tyson almost the entire time) playing games, laughing, collecting coral and asking them questions about life on Boracay.  As their older cousin beckoned them to come for dinner, they begrudgingly complied,  but made us promise we’d be around tomorrow.  Our fingers were pruned from being in the water so long.  Back in our room, I said to Tyson, “I bet we made their day.”  He grinned and said, “They made my day!”

Hong Kong