I have now traversed 20 countries (Canada, USA, Mexico, Aruba, Liberia, Ireland, Northern Ireland, England, Scotland, Spain, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Czech Republic, Italy, South Korea, Cambodia, Thailand, and Philippines), 4.5 continents and yet I just returned home from one of the best vacations of my life to the Philippines! Hiking to remote jungle water falls, massages, snorkeling, walking around the top of a 40-story building with only a harness, scrumptious cheap food, site seeing and excellent company were just some of the highlights.
The Philippines is a Y-shaped archipelago south of China in Southeast Asia. Its 7,100 islands have a total land area of 300,000 sq. km. The Philippines is the third largest English speaking country in the world. It has a rich history combining Asian, European, and American influences. Prior to Spanish colonization in 1521, the Filipinos had a rich culture and were trading with the Chinese and the Japanese. Spain’s colonization brought about the construction of Intramuros in 1571, a “Walled City” comprised of European buildings and churches, replicated in different parts of the archipelago. In 1898, after 350 years and 300 rebellions, the Filipinos, with leaders like Jose Rizal and Emilio Aguinaldo, succeeded in winning their independence.
The Philippines was the first republic in Asia (1898), the first to be decolonized partially by a Western colonial country (1935), and the first in Southeast Asia to be granted full independence after the Second World War (1946). Following the Philippine-American War, the United States brought widespread education to the islands. Filipinos fought alongside Americans during World War II, particularly at the famous battle of Bataan and Corregidor, which delayed Japanese advance and saved Australia. They then waged a guerilla war against the Japanese from 1941 to 1945. The Philippines regained its independence in 1946.
Named after Philip II of Spain, the Philippines is a beautiful country and has been called “Pearl of the Orient”. With a fertile soil, healthy climate, rich and natural resources and fishing grounds, it is poised on the brink of an agri-business and aquaculture revolution. The chief agricultural products are rice, coconut, corn, hemp, tobacco, sugarcane and tropical fruits. It ranks first in world production of coconut oil, second in sugarcane, and fifth in tobacco. It is the greatest gold-producing country in Southeast Asia, ranks third in chromite, and has one of the world’s largest deposits of nickel, deuterium and copper.
It has the world’s longest discontinuous coastline (34,000 km.). Its forest provide one of Asia’s best supplies of timber and forest products, but forest resources have been seriously damaged by slash-and-burn farming, illegal logging, and poor management in the past.
The Filipinos are a racial mixture due to their reception of different cultures in history. Intermarriages are common, and the majority of the people have mixed blood. Aboriginal tribes populate the mountain Interiors. Most Filipinos belong to the Malay race, with a tawny complexion, black hair and black eyes. Because of its strategic location it has been a bridge between the East and West, a rampart of Christianity, and a showcase of democracy in Asia. Of the total population of 56 million, 93% are Catholics or Protestant Christians, followed by Islam and the Iglesia Ni Crito (a local sect). Thus, it is Asia’s only predominantly Christian country.
The National Language (Filipino) has become dominant, although English is still widely used in education, commerce and communication. The Philippines has the world’s third largest English-speaking country. Spanish and Chinese (Fukien and Cantonese) are also spoken by a minority. There are 55 regional languages and 142 dialects in the country. The Filipinos take pride in their education and literacy (at 90% the highest in Southeast Asia). Their 50 colleges and universities attract tens of thousands of foreign students all over the world for courses in medicine, nursing, dentistry, etc. Filipinos are famous for their warm hospitality, friendliness to foreigners, musical and artistic talents, romanticism, deep religiosity and bravery. They are fond of music, fiestas, and politics.
The group was comprised of me, Chris, and my coworkers Ellie, John and Andra. We left Seoul at 10 pm in the evening on Sunday September 15th. We arrived to Cebu in the early morning hours. My coworker, John, who was born and partially raised in the Philippines had family there to pick us up from the airport, which was lovely. We checked into the hotel that his aunt and uncle had recommended for us around 4 am, took a nap and were up and dressed by 9 am to begin our busy day! Only… the driver was “on Filipino time” and arrived at 11 am. I was anxious about this, but all worked out and we wound up seeing some amazing sights.
First stop- the Chinese Taoist Temple.
Next is Magellan’s Cross:
Magellan’s cross is believed to be the original cross planted by the Spaniards and Portuguese conquerors, as ordered by Ferdinand Magellan, who came here in the Philippines in 1521. It also marked the arrival of Christianity in the Philippines. The aged facade of the original cross is covered with newer wood to protect it’s integrity.
Minor Basilica of the Santo Nino was founded in the 16th century. It is the oldest Roman Catholic church established in the country, purportedly built on the spot where the image of the Santo Niño de Cebú, a statue depicting the Holy Child Jesus was found in 1565 by Spanish explorers led by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi. The image is the same statue given by Ferdinand Magellan to the wife of Rajah Humabon as a gift over forty years before after Humabon’s baptism to Christianity on April 14, 1521. It was found by a soldier preserved in a burnt wooden box after Legazpi razed the village of hostile natives.
The present building, which was completed from 1739-1740, has been the sanctuary of the oldest religious image in the country ever since. A full schedule of masses from 5:00 am to 12:00 midnight are held every Friday at the basilica for devotees of the Holy Child Jesus and followers of novena.
Honestly it looked like the first episode of Toddlers in Tiaras, featuring a transgendered male who longed to be fabulous. Too creepy!
The image merited a Papal blessing on April 28, 1965, the 400th centennial anniversary, when Pope Paul VI issued a papal bull for the Canonical Coronation and Pontifical High Mass via the papal legate to the Philippines, Cardinal Amleto Giovanni Cicognani.
The Santo Niño image is replicated in many homes and business establishments, with different titles reinterpreted in various areas of the country. The image’s feast is liturgically celebrated every third Sunday of January, during which devotees carry a portable Santo Niño image onto the street fiesta dancing celebrations. The image is one of the most beloved and recognizable cultural icons in the Philippines, found in both religious and secular areas.
Upper left: two Catholics traversed down the isle on their knees, presumably completing the practice of adoration and prayers.
Jeepneys are the most popular means of public transportation in the Philippines. They are known for their crowded seating and flamboyant decorations, which have become a ubiquitous symbol of Philippine culture and art. A Sarao jeepney was exhibited at the Philippine pavilion at the 1964 New York World’s Fair as a national image for the Filipinos. Jeepneys were originally made from US military jeeps left over from World War II.The word jeepney came from the combination of the words “jeep” and “jitney“, a small bus that carries passengers on a regular route with flexible schedule.
Lunch stop for Cebu’s infamous Lechon!
Lechón is a pork dish in several regions of the world, most specifically Spain and its former colonial possessions throughout the world. The word lechón originated from the Spanish term lechón; that refers to a suckling pig that is roasted. Lechón is a popular food in the Philippines, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Canada, the Dominican Republic, other Spanish-speaking nations in Latin America, and Spain. The dish features a whole roasted pig cooked over charcoal. Additionally, it is a national dish of the Philippines with Cebu being acknowledged by American chef, Anthony Bourdain (Chris’s man crush) as having the best pig.
After seasoning, the pig is cooked by skewering the entire animal, entrails removed, on a large stick and cooking it in a pit filled with charcoal. The pig is placed over the charcoal, and the stick or rod it is attached to is turned in a rotisserie action. The pig is roasted on all sides for several hours until done. The process of cooking and basting usually results in making the pork skin crisp and is a distinctive feature of the dish.
We decided to enjoy some post-pig delights! Below Chris is eating durian ice-cream. If you remember from the Chiang Mai blog, durian is a fruit. It is foul smelling and not allowed in many public establishments. I tried one bite of the ice cream and it was disgusting- a combination of rotten wet garbage and gym sock! And this was only the ice cream, mind you! I’m sure the pure fruit is much worse. Chris thought it was delicious. He tried to bring it in to the restaurant while the rest of us were eating Halo Halo, but we all told him to leave because the odor was so profoundly rotten!
Halo halo is very similar to the Korean Patbingsu, except in the Philippines it is much sweeter. Halo halo consists of a bowl of shaved ice with many different odd toppings such as jello, corn, ice cream, syrup, and corn flakes. It was a tad bizzare but I enjoyed the experience!
Below: I be kitty huntin’ all over the world!
Night time stop at Mactan Shrine and Lapu Lapu monument.
The Mactan Shrine located in Mactan Island, Cebu is dedicated in honor of Lapu-Lapu, Ferdinand Magellan, and the Battle of Mactan. Lapu-Lapu was the native chieftain of Mactan Island, and he resisted the efforts of Magellan to subdue his people and to be converted to Christianity and to be subjected to the throne of Spain. The subsequent battle on April 27, 1521 between the Spaniards and Lapu-Lapu and his men resulted in the death of Magellan. The shrine was erected on the supposed spot where the battle took place.
The Magellan monument consists of a plain obelisk on whose apex rests a sphere. A heroic sculpture of the chief of Mactan who defeated Magellan, Lapu-lapu stands near the Magellan monument. Lapu-lapu, sculpted with great realism, stands tall, with a shield held by his left and while a curved kampilan sword, drawn is held by his right. The sculpture celebrates the readiness of the brave warrior to confront aggressors.
Our last stop of the evening was to the Crown Regency hotel for the ‘Sky Walk’ experience. The Crown Regency is the tallest building in Cebu. Towering at 40 stories high, it gives breath-taking views of the city from the top. We decided to do the Sky Walk which was walking around outside the tower with a harness attached. This was one of my favorite parts of the trip. Everyone, except Cbear, was in a good mood, we saw amazing views and the weather was fresh, breezy and cool. Chris is terrified of heights.
In order to do the Sky Walk, one must wear rubber soled shoes. Chris did not wear his. They assured us that they could fit Chris for some shoes. Little did they know that he wears a size 16. Six employees came to stare at Chris’s feet in amazement and assured him that they would help him out. Their solution? Using shoe laces to secure his adjoshi-style sandals to his feet. I didn’t say anything at the time because I knew how terrified he was, but I would not have felt safe in that feet contraption.
After going to sleep around 2 am, we got a nap and were ready by 9 am for our day excursion to Kawasan Falls. It was a 3 hour drive. We stopped midway to purchase our lunch (rice, EIGHT roasted chickens, mangos, and drinks) and a soy drink desert pictured below. It was warm and gooey. I honestly would not have it again, but I’m glad I tried it.
Kawasan falls is located in the dense jungle. There are three levels of falls. We made it to two. At the second tier, we were the only ones there. This was such an amazing experience to dive, swim and relax in the cool refreshing clean water. We got a water massage from the falls the raft, climbed the rock edifice, and enjoyed the swing, pictured below. The whole day was quite fun, from the huge roasted chicken lunch to hiking, to hearing John giggle like a school girl in the falls to making out alone under a remote waterfall with my lover bear- magical memories 🙂
Let’s get on a catamaran!
The best part of the day for me was eating at this floating village. The temperature was perfect and there was a nice ocean breeze. The 7 of us were all really comfortable with one another as we enjoyed some of the best seafood I have ever eaten. We drank, smoked, listened to a great local music group and ate some much desired fruit (which is pretty much impossible to find in Seoul unless you want to pay a fortune).
After sunset, we returned to the hotel, got delicious BBQ dinner and then enjoyed some $6 massages that felt like they could have charged $100. We departed the city the next day after final goodbyes to John’s aunt and uncle around 1 pm. The whole experience was just so lovely. Good sights, great people, and amazing memories.
One of the spectacular aspects of the Philippines is that vacationing there is so affordable. Including tickets, food, transportation, 3 days with a personal driver, and activities, Chris and I together spent under $1200 for the 4-day trip.
Information for this blog was gathered from: library.thinkquest.org, wikipedia, http://www.explorephilippines.org, www.wowphilippines.ca and www.cebucitytour.com.