The next day, on Christmas day, we went out to Bohol on the ferry, but Dora went off to meet up with a friend. It was pretty empty in Cebu on the way, especially compared to the madness of Cebu coming up to Christmas Eve. We stayed at the Tr3ats in Tagilarund (capital of Bohol), which was the same hostel we stayed at in Cebu. Till, Hao, Maikel and I arrived and woke up the other person in the dorm. A traveller named Vandana. We went out for food. Some of the only places to find food in Tagilarund are at the malls. Later we found out that there is some decent street food near the port, but not really in the rest of the city. That night, Christmas night, on the TV there was Frozen. I love that movie and own the soundtrack, so I started singing along. Louder and more effusively as there were more drinks had. The rest of the night was spent talking, drinking, and watching the stars.
I did very little the next day. I slept in and almost went to the beach, but didn’t. The next day or so I ended up at Alona Beach with Thomas and Felix, the Swedish guy that I might have mentioned earlier. We swam, and had some drinks and it was good times.
So it was right before New Years and everyone had plans except for Maikel and I. Felix had invited us out to meet up with him in El Nido, and Farieza and Shaira were there as well. It sounded fun, but there was no available accommodation and the tickets were a little pricey. After much waffling we said fuck it and booked the tickets. We high fived, and then ten minutes later someone asked us if we had heard all boats off the island were cancelled because of the typhoon. I believe our reactions were to swear and laugh. Yo get our refunds we had to go out in the storms and go to the pier, then wait in line for hours at the airport. It took almost the whole day. So after the next day the boats were cancelled again. The typhoon was coming and everyone at the hostel was stuck on the island just like we were. Some people were bummed, but as I always say when life gives you typhoons make TYPHOON PARTY!!!
We grabbed a huge amount of alcohol from the corner store, and waded through all of the rain that was already piling up. The hostel had BBQ in the evenings out back so food was taken care of, pay no attention to the plastic they use to start the fire. A few Aussies apparently had the same idea and brought a few more bags of booze and by the time everyone was out back it was maybe twenty of us. The party was a ton of fun, but it was cast in perspective the next day. We had been on the edge of the typhoon that hit Bohol and only had some light flooding and strong winds and lost power and water for a couple of days. There were about 140 dead on the island, bridges were down, houses were destroyed, and there was flooding in all of the rivers. To put it mildly we all kind of felt like assholes.
The boats were cancelled the next day and we were pretty sure that we were going to be spending New Years on Bohol. Maikel and I were OK with it, because when the boats were going again there was maybe a half kilometer line for tickets in the sweltering heat. We weren’t going to wait in that. Fortunately for us our friends Nana and Bella were already in line and got us tickets. We were set to go back to Cebu City for New Years. It wasn’t El Nido, but a sight better than Bohol.
We got business class tickets because that was all they had, and we got back to Cebu in the afternoon. Everybody ended up bailing except for me and Maikel. We met back up with Dora, and her friend. We hustled together more people from the hostel and were going out maybe 12 deep when we hit the bar district in Cebu. The bars in Cebu are not very big, and were all pretty full when we got there maybe an hour before New Years Eve. Corralling that many people is also inherently difficult. We ended up, at the recommendation of our Russian friend we met in Bohol, just grabbing some brandy, some mango juice and some cups and just going to the main square in Cebu uptown and hanging out and watching the fireworks. The fireworks in Cebu on New Years are impressive. We were in the center of Uptown, so some large buildings blocked some of our view, but you could still see a ton. Sitting on the grass around the giant Christmas tree was a great way of ringing in the New Year.
Maikel, Dora, and I had decided to go up to Malapascua, and one of the Americans that we went out with for New Years was heading that way too. Shantae was a backpacker/diver from Utah, and was going to dive with the Thresher Sharks. Malapascua is one of the only places to dive with them in the world. Maikel was a diver too and was psyched. Dora and I were not divers, and I was just looking forwards to some drinks and some beach. So we took the bus at like 5 in the morning. I think Maikel enjoyed waking me up much too much. Shantae, me and some other people from the hostel had been up drinking until like 2 or 3. I was not bright eyed and bushy tailed to put it mildly.
We took the bus to Maya, then the boat to Malapascua. The day was dark, and the water was rough, so we made it on the last ferry going out and it was pretty wet and very up and down on the way there. It is worth noting that this was the time that I decided to get a dry bag. A dry bag, for our friends that aren’t aware, is basically a bag made out of rubber that is waterproof and airtight. They are popular with divers because you can drop them in the water and they generally float because of the air trapped inside. My bag was soaked. This was mostly my own fault because the captain had told me that putting the bag below decks was going to be drier. Long story short, get a dry bag. They’re awesome. So we got to the “Pier” in Malapascua, but it was just a beach. They laid down some boards for us to walk to, and then we were on the beach. There are no cars on Malapascua, so you get around by walking, or by hiring a motorbike, which comes with a driver (20p/person). If you have two bags being on the back of a motorbike is a pretty tight fit. We stayed one night at Thresher Cove. It was a beautiful resort, and one that had dorms. The dorms were thin mattresses in a concrete room, but it had a private beach, a pool, and was meticulously maintained. It was a bit outside of the village though. We took it pretty easy that night and the next night, on recommendation of the resort, we went to Villa Sandra.
Villa Sandra was probably my favourite hostel I’ve stayed at. Simple, inexpensive, right in the village, and the people were amazing. It rained for two days, but then the sun came out. The beaches in Malapascua were some of the nicest I saw in the Philippines, and they were pretty empty. The island is still primarily a place for divers, so during the day most tourists are out diving. The nights were filled with drinking, talking, and the occasional bout of karaoke in the village. We all spent several afternoons at Maldito’s, a bar with the IQ special. 60p for a single rum and coke, 50p for a double, and 40p for a triple. It led to fun times, and harsh mornings. Malapascua was my favourite place in the Philippines and I’m not quite sure how to get across the charm of the place, and of Villa Sandra. I awoke each day to people drinking coffee on the patio, smoking cigarettes, and listening to reggae. You could ask about snorkelling places and someone would volunteer to take you. Maybe it was the people I was with, and the people I met, but it was a very chill place. It was also just what I needed right then. It was one of the only places I could see living/working for a month or more in the Philippines.
I stayed in Malapascua for 5 or 6 days, but I wish I could have stayed longer. However my visa was running out and I needed to renew it. I also wanted to get my diving (PADI) certification, but the money/time/scheduling didn’t work out.
I came back to Cebu City after Malapascua and just hung out in the city while I waited for my visa to be renewed. I met some more people. I was planning on going back to Malapascua sooner rather than later because Sinulog was coming. Sinulog is the biggest party/festival in the Philippines. For scope I’ll tell you this. The Metro Cebu area has a population of about 800,000. During Sinulog the city swelled in 2014 to about 3-4 million people. Every street in the city is a party. I wasn’t going to do it, but after a night with Keith and Emmett, who were in town for the party, they convinced me to do it. Red, Will, and Marina were all in town for the festival too, so we all made plans to do it, but there was a problem with accommodation. We didn’t have any, well, Keith and Emmett and I didn’t.
Keith, Emmett, and I all went out for drinks with some friends of theirs that they met on the flight into the Philippines. We had dinner, then went out for drinks. We were telling people that we were looking for accommodation, and they just laughed and said that we were screwed, which was funny, but ultimately unhelpful. It was two days before the festival and people generally book months in advance. However after the dinner one of the guys said that they thought they had a friend that owned a guest house that might have a free room. We said that we would take whatever they had as long as it had a floor, and that was negotiable. The room ended up actually being pretty nice. Will and Marina ended up grabbing a hotel. It was kind of pricey, but it was available..
It was Sinulog, so it was pretty hard to get back to the guesthouse, but I made it. I was burnt out. I did not go out on Sinulog, and my friends gave me no end of crap about it, but I was feeling kind of sick. By all accounts it was crazy. Marina made a Youtube video of it, and if I can track it down I’ll link it.
After Sinulog I checked into a nice hotel to get some work done. I sat in a room just working and sleeping for a week, then I was going to go back to Malapascua, but some friends invited me down to Boracay. I ended up going to Boracay, but that story is for another time.