Nope, my Plus 1 is not a baby in my tummy. I went home with Phil and this was his first trip to my homeland, the Philippines!
It was nearly the end of 2015 and what better way to end it than to go back home for the Christmas holidays! Ok, I did not originally plan to be home in December 2015 because (1) I already went home in April that year, and (2) going home in December is a little bit expensive due to more expensive flights and because it’s a time of festivities and meetups and what have you. But then, because Phil has expressed his want to meet my family, (and I thought this is a milestone haha!), I decided that December is the best month to go, mainly because it generally is the coolest month (although it was still averaging at 30 deg. C!).
Mainly went home to introduce Phil to the clan, and then to let him see the best spots in the Philippines! For me, it was more of to revisit the places that I personally like from past travels, and to create new memories together in those places where I haven’t been to before.
- Firstly, checked any visa requirements for Phil to travel to the Philippines.
- Picked dates for travel, booked for holiday off work, and then booked for our flights.
- Came up with the most effective itinerary to make the most of our 2.5 weeks in the Philippines. This included booking for our internal flights within the Philippines.
- Pre-booked tours, where applicable, to minimise the hassle.
- Packed and then set off to the most beautiful country in the world. :D
Having a British passport is an advantage when it comes to traveling as holders are not usually required to have a visa to visit a country (most countries that is!). So it wasn’t a problem for Phil to get into the Philippines, which was one less of the hassle.
We decided to travel on Christmas Eve and returning at end of the 2nd week of Jan. This was (initially) the better option because (1) it allowed me enough leave credits considering that the trip is partly consuming my 2016 leave balance; and (2) flights were cheap when traveling on Christmas Eve. And so we booked our flights with Malaysia Airlines, although very hesitant at first because of the recent tragedy of flight MH307. But then we took the risk (1) thinking that that incident was not really the airline’s fault and so (2) their flights are really among the cheapest that time.
Significant issue noted: The problem that we had was that in the morning before our afternoon flight, we received a travel advisory that our flight will be 12 hours delayed due to some technical issues; that meant that our flight has moved from 9pm on Christmas Eve to 9am on Christmas Day. We were given the option to stay over in one of the Airport Hotels, all expense paid for by the airline. And so we had our first Christmas together, in an Airport Hotel. *sigh*. Overall, we still arrived in Manila as scheduled, it just meant eliminating our supposed to be 12hr layover in KL, Malaysia (which we could have spent exploring KL). Oh well, we are currently still chasing Malaysia Airlines for our claim for compensation for the inconvenience.
1. Flight Dates and Route
I think we’ve had a total of 12 flights during this trip—the most number of flights we’ve had so far in one chunk of a holiday! Thanks to my organisational skills! Haha!
25 Dec 2015 – 09:30am Flight from London to Kuala Lumpur
26 Dec 2015 – 10:20am Flight from Kuala Lumpur to Manila
27 Dec 2015 – Banaue-Sagada-Baguio until 28 Dec
29 Dec 2015 – Manila Day trip
30 Dec 2015 – 17:39pm Flight from Manila to Zamboanga
31 Dec 2015 – Zamboanga City until 02 January 2016
03 Jan 2016 – 06:25am Flight from Zamboanga to Manila; 11:100am Flight from Manila to Puerto Princesa
04 Jan 2016 – Puerto Princesa
05 Jan 2016 – 12:50pm Flight from Puerto Princesa to Manila; 19:45pm Flight to Siem Reap (the surprise trip!)
06 Jan 2016 – Siem Reap, Cambodia until 07 Jan 2016
07 Jan 2016 – Late evening Flight from Siem Reap to Manila
08 Jan 2016 – 06:05 Flight from Manila to Caticlan (Boracay)
09 Jan 2016 – Boracay trip
10 Jan 2016 – 07:10am Flight from Caticlan to Manila
11 Jan 2016 – 15:05pm Flight from Manila to Kuala Lumpur and then to London
Click here for a more detailed itinerary! :D
2. Itinerary – a summary of our trip in the Philippines
Below are the highlights of our full-packed trip to my beloved country, the Philippines! (Separate posts per location will hopefully be up soon).
a. North-bound: Banaue-Sagada-Baguio
Banaue has been one of my early wanderlust triggers, and I thought that the rice terraces and the mountains are just stunning, and therefore Phil would surely love being there. Also, Banaue-Sagada-Baguio area is the coolest part of the Philippines—so my extra treat to Phil! We went with Klou (my Manila-based friend) along with her officemates. Perhaps our hassle during the trip was that we were still so tired from our long flight from London and then we immediately went for this long drive to the north on the same day as we arrived in Manila! Rest is for the weak, eh?
I didn’t mind that this is already the 3rd time that I am doing Banaue-Sagada-Baguio trip; I am still impressed and stunned of these places, every time. I just hoped we had enough time and not having to rush to go back to Manila. Maybe next time, will take it slow. :
Tour operator: Leap & Smile Travel & Tours
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/pg/Leap-and-Smile-Travel-Tours-464078796979831/about/ —not sure if this is still active
Tour Agent: Ronald Manguiat (contact # per his email, 0917-8103303 / 0925-8121218
Past trips: Click here for my 2011 trip with former colleagues (Banaue and Sagada) and 2015 trip with my family (yup, twice in a year! :D)
b. A day-trip around the City of Manila
We had a full day in Manila after coming back from Baguio and before our flight to Zamboanga City, so we decided to explore Manila. I don’t know, but I was a bit reluctant to roam around Manila with Phil because of how he is so obviously foreigner, but then we defied this fear and ended up in Intramuros, exploring the old corners, walls and churches via a pedicab.
And then continued our daytrip by visiting the Ayala Museum–that was also a first time for me although it is so close to where I used to work! We ended the day with a very sumptuous meal at Fely J’s in Greenbelt, because I am so proud to let Phil try Filipino dishes, especially this lechon kawali! And then went to watch the Festival of Lights at the Ayala Triangle Gardens and caught up with some former colleagues.
c. Zamboanga City – my beloved hometown!
The main reason for the homecoming. Home, in the truest sense of the word. We decided to schedule our trip to Zamboanga City in time for the New Year’s Eve. I always have that impression (and expectation) that it’s the happiest celebration in the Philippines. And so Phil met my entire immediate family on New Year’s Eve.
We didn’t get to explore much around the city as I was a bit worried of his security—our city and the Philippines in general having a number of incidents whereby foreign tourists are kidnapped for ransom. And Phil is very much obviously tourist. We could have gone to Sta. Cruz Island, but decided not to. Nonetheless, his meetup with my family has been a success (I hope :D). I can’t wait for the next homecoming, and hopefully, this time, I can bring him to Sta. Cruz Island.
d. Puerto Princesa, Palawan
The main reason that we went here was the Underground River, knowing that this is one of those listed under the New7Wonders of Nature. It was also my first time to be in this part of Palawan, so I said why not?! Because of our limited time (because Phil has already booked a surprise trip to somewhere, which had a very awkward flight schedule), I had to find a tour agency that could fit an itinerary into our schedule. And I did!
We’ve had a few hassles whilst we were in the island, to name: (1) The hotel where we were staying was just full of mosquitoes. Sorry to say, but yes, we killed a lot of them in our room! (2) I almost lost my phone; ended up going to the police station to report the case. It was a hopeless case I thought, but then we were able to get it back–thanks to the honest trike driver!
But overall, we loved Puerto Princesa. We would have loved to go to El Nido, but we just didn’t have enough time as we had to return back to Manila for the surprise trip to Siem Reap! :D
Tour operator: SMDC Tours, managed by SMD Online Exchange Corp
Tour Agent: Sheryl Tan (cell: 09219752463/ ( +632-546-9397))
Accommodation (included in the arrangement): D’ Lucky Garden Inn & Suites
e. Boracay Island, Aklan
I’ve always thought Boracay to be cliché—too commercialised hence I have never thought of going there before. But because I am with Phil, I thought to give Boracay a chance to show its glory to us.
Like Puerto Princesa, I had to pre-book a tour with a travel agent to minimise the hassle whilst we were there and so that we won’t be wasting too much time trying to come up with what to do. And I’m glad to have pre-planned for it; we made the most of our time in Bora, with Phil managing to do a quick run on Bora shores! We did island- hopping, snorkeling, helmet diving, ATV riding, parasailing, and loads of beach bumming.
You know what, Boracay never failed! As Phil said, it defined paradise! And I am glad we gave Bora a chance. I think, it’s one of those places that we’d love to go back (if it’s just easy to get there, then why not?!).
Read here: The day that I gave Bora a chance…
Tour operator: Your Boracay Abettor Tours and Services
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org/ email@example.com
Accommodation (included in the arrangement): St. Vincent Cottage
With a total of 12 flights, at least 3 beautiful spots in the Philippines (Banaue, Boracay, Puerto Princesa), and daytrips in Manila and Zamboanga, how can I not say that we haven’t made the most of our holiday in the Philippines in 2 weeks?! Of course we did! The only downside was, we were so exhausted at the end of the holiday, which was not a very good disposition to be as I was returning to a very busy period in my audit life! But then, I would still say that it was all worth it! ♥️
One of the things that I am most proud of of the Philippines (other than the naturally friendly people and good food), are the many natural wonders that abound the archipelago! Most of them might not be easily accessible, but trust me, it will all be worth the hassle! I often wonder why I didn’t explore Philippines as much as I should whilst I was in Manila, and then I end up in the realisation that I wasn’t earning that much before to afford traveling, haha! Oh well.