A few weeks ago I was invited (actually Dan was invited but thankfully couldn't make it, so sent me instead) to the Philippines as part of an initiative to propote tourist in the Philippines. Koreans are the number one tourists over there and the Philippine Department of Tourism invited us so we could share our experiences and try to lure some more Koreans over. A free trip? Free tour? Top rate hotels and restaurants? Hell yes I’m in. I am horrible at planning vacations – a year ago I spent 10 days in Vietnam and literally never left Ho Chi Minh City. My friend and I barely left our hotel rooms. We beelined to French bistros and then back home to safety. So, having a tour all planned out let me turn my mind off, my audiobook up, and zone the f out.
I loved the Philippines. It stole a part of my heart. It was beautiful, relaxing, and all that stuff that tropical islands are. But most importantly, the people were warm and welcoming. I think I miss a culture where strangers can talk to each other, smile for no reason, and be loving to a complete stranger. Before the Philippines adopted their current slogan “It’s more fun in the Philippines”, it used to be “Your Home Away From Home”. I wish they never changed it – the latter is much more fitting. “It’s more fun in the Philippines” implies a wild lifestyle to me, like Vegas or something. But the Philippines isn’t like that. It’s just homey. I’ve already half decided to move there.
I'll be posting 8 posts in the next 8 days about my 8 days in the Philippines.
Traveling is partially about the places you go, but to really have a good time, it's more important to travel with the right people. You can spend a day in a dumpster, but if you're with the right person, it'll be a good time. I lucked out and met some amazing people. Before I go any further I'd like to introduce them: In order - left to right.
Jin Seok Jin - Youtube extraordinaire. And member of Talk to me in Korean.
Kei Cho - From http://mangsangk.com/
Julia - Korean tour guide.
Alessa Mae Entienza - The group baby and our representative from the Philippine Tourism Department.
Harry - Korean tour guide.
Javi Maldonado - Owner of Somos in Hongdae, Youtube genius, and blogger at Todo Corea. He's basically the guy you follow if you speak Spanish and are interested in Korea. Also a professional at splitting his pants. He managed to ruin two pairs. He also loves to eat crickets, as we'll see in part 2.
Jasmine Bae - Blogger at http://mee0102.blog.me/ Also winner of most clothes worn down a water slide prize.
Wonsup Kim - Travel photographer genius, my personal hero, and also my roommate throughout the trip. Blog at http://blog.naver.com/gida1. He pretty much had the same photo kit I left back in Korea and so I unendingly envied his gear and cursed myself for leaving mine at home.
Darwin - Our tour guide at the Bananue Rice Fields. After 3 hours of trekking he barely broke a sweat. I, on the other hand, was burned and continuously self-showering. I have no idea how he's chubby, he does that hike 3-4 times a week.
Hyojin Ahn - Not pictured, but she'll show up in many photos to come. Talk to Me in Korean rep and the only one who didn't eat any rice or bring a camera on the trip.
Actually to be honest we didn't do all that much on day 1. When we arrived at the airport we were immediately greeted by the intense Philippines heat and humidity who'd be our constant companion throughout the trip.
We ran into this dashing through of security guards so we just asked if we could snatch a picture. The guy on the right wasn't really into it. The girls seemed to like it though.
Here's Hyojin, Jin, and Javi saying what's up at the airport before we loaded into our van.
We landed in Manila and we all pumped and excited to meet some Filipinos, eat some Filipino food, breathe the Filipino air. So after we leave the airport we go directly to... a Korean restaurant! Hahaha. It wasn't what we were expecting, but the rationale was that we were just about to drive 10 hours north into remote mountain areas and this is going to be our final Korean meal in quite a while.
Here we had 돼지고기 Fried Spicy Pork. It was actually really delicious. With the nice air conditioning going inside and the owner speaking to us in Korean, it felt as if we hadn't left Korea yet.
And this is what happens when you have a group of 7 bloggers at a meal... no one can eat for at least 5 minutes while we all perfect our photos. Hahaha. I actually had a lot of fun this trip documenting the life of bloggers and their obsession with documenting. I documented the documenters.
Should you find yourself in Manila craving some Korean food... here are the contact details.
After lunch we began an arduous 10 hour bus ride north towards Banaue. Our bus and the driver and everyone on it were great. But I came unprepared. Alessa had warned us to bring one of those traveling neck support pillows but I had stupidly ignored her. Throughout the ride my head flopped around like a tortured fish. But that's okay, there were some great sights along the way.
The Philippines is about 90% Christian (80% catholic) and so there are churches and religious symbols everywhere. This was one particularly beautiful church I spotted from the bus. It can't really be overstated how prevalent religious signals are here. Bible verses are scrawled on cars and crosses can be spotted anywhere.
Here's a bird, chillin.
As I said earlier, we were excited to try out traditional Filipino food. But instead we went to Chowking. HAhaha. Actually it wasn't bad, but it's the McDonalds equivalent of Chinese food in the Philippines. Don't worry, the food gets better. It was just humorously not Filipino this first day. Hyojin and Javi had fun with the name.
That's the end of day 1. Stayed tuned tomorrow for day 2. Also, I just wanted to make a note of what camera I'm using before anyone asks. For this trip I left my Nikon set at home and took only my new Fujifilm x100s. Typically for a trip like this I’d bring my Nikon D700, 3-4 lenses, 2 flashes, and a tripod. I even considered taking my softboxes. I actually had all my batteries charged and all the gear organized, but the day before leaving I decided to leave it all behind and just take this Fuji x100s. I’m glad I did. The Fuji was perfect for 90% of the trip. The only time I really wanted my Nikon kit was during action shots, and those were few. The fuji just isn’t built to capture action. The autofocus is slow and it doesn’t let you recompose without refocusing. It’s quite annoying actually. But other than that the camera was/is perfect. It’s small, silent, and damnnnnnnn sexy.
This guest post is written by Dustin Cole of Dustin Cole Photography.