Pay it Forward Philippines
The second trip of our year long Pay it Forward travel initiative brought us to the Philippines. I was most excited about visiting because it's one of the few countries we'll be visiting this year that I had never been to before. I entered this trip similar to how I have others my first time visiting: absent of expectations. An authentic experience of the many islands we visited and people we met is what I received as a result. The Philippines was filled with many unforgettable firsts for me. Firsts that I do not intend to allow to be lasts.
The people of the Philippines
As a brown man traveling, it is certainly comforting and cool to land in a place where people aren't staring because of the color of my skin. Since I was more closely related to skin tone to all or most of the people in the Philippines, the stares were most certainly for the few times the lotion missed my ankles. Our first in depth encounter was with our Uber driver. A local of Cebu City he gave us a full run down of the do's and don't while looking for food, entertainment, and safety precautions while exploring the city. Having Uber was an obvious plus for getting around especially when you're trying to save cash, but the conversation that resulted from the trip was a gem to say the least.
His friendliness and generosity toward us as first time visitors to the Philippines definitely helped us have an amazing first two days in Cebu City, and maximized the experiences we were able to have and the things that we were able to see. This experience was consistent with the majority of the people we met while island hopping through the Philippines. I never felt as though we were being hustled or had to hassle for anything. (we also did our research so we knew in advance). The hospitality was way above standard, and the conversations we had with people were engaging and fruitful. The majority of the people on the islands spoke English as well which made making connections with people in the community that much easier. Good peoples over in the Philippines. Certainly a welcomed highlight of the trip.
Cebu City at first glance during our cab ride. Our temporary place of residence in the city was tucked away down a long stretch of developing alley ways filled with wild roosters, goats, and the occasional runaway baby. The resort we stayed in included a swimming pool, gym, sauna, jacuzzi, and security guards throughout the facility. Like getting to our actual residence, the same can be said about Cebu City. The 'happenin' places may not be in your face, but if you walk a little further BAM! they sneak right up on you.
The IT Park is great day or night for tasty food, some great architecture, live music during the evenings, and an incredible place to meet new people and try different foods. We spent quite some time tasting the different food they had to offer, interacting with the vendors, and taking in the scene altogether.
From there we went to City Time Square. Lined with bars from left to right the rectangular outline along with bright orange neon lights was all the welcoming we needed to enjoy our time in the area. Whatever your fix, this area seemed to have it. Indoor bars, outdoor bars, hookah, small lounges, a big club, midnight snacks, and all the drink specials you could ask for. Cebu City certainly did not disappoint.
Dumaguete and Panglao were the other city towns that we were fortunate enough to visit. Dumaguete, while small, certainly had a lot to offer in regards to history, culture, and food. Walking down the ocean front near the pier you can find restaurants from all corners of the globe. Historical monuments, parks, and schools were just a short distance from that area as well. The hospitality continued with our Airbnb stay in Dumaguete. Our host was kind, generous, and very hospitable. She took us to and fro our pier, arrange a driver for us at the very last minute, drove us to get food, and brought our bags to our midway point before heading to our next destination. Needless to say she got an excellent review on Airbnb, and we will be recommending her moving forward. She definitely maximized our experience and what we learned while in Dumaguete. A small, convenient, historical, and relaxing place indeed.
Panglao, while a bit bigger and more spread out than Dumaguete, had a similar feel to it, except beaches and ocean views were more readily accessible and more a part of the experience in Panglao. With island countries you expect such, but Panglao certainly has a good mix of relaxation and the occasional turn up in it's beach areas which made for quite the experience. The availability of food, the ample food selections, different genres of music steps away, and the way to local and tourist crowd came together in Panglao was remarkable. It's usually quite the task searching for places less visited by tourist and more frequented by locals to get an authentic day or nightlife experience. In Panglao you didn't have to go far, and it felt encouraged with every interaction with had with people who lived in the area. Every city or town we visited while in the Philippines had one thing in common; it was beautiful.
What we did
There was definitely a lot of fun and excitement packed into the seven days we spent in the Philippines. I could spend several pages and articles describing what we saw, what we did, who we met, and how generally happy we were every day that we were there. So I put together a collection of photos and videos to give you a better idea of exactly what all went down.