One of my favourite aspects of travelling is all the new foods I get to try. Going to the Philippines, Dave and I were especially excited because we’ve always enjoyed Filipino cooking in Winnipeg (where the Filipino population is huge!). Unfortunately, the food on Cebu Island was a bit of a let down.
This wasn’t what I was expected when I ordered my first corned beef sandwhich in The Philippines
Canned food is something Dave and I hardly ever touch
Even when it wasn’t canned food, it was still processed
At the end, that isn’t ground beef. It’s corned beef.
Even the coffee is processed
There was one exception to this rule, however, and luckily, we discovered it early in our trip!
The Bee Farm is so much more than just a place with a lot of bees. We stayed at the Bee Farm hotel on Panglao island, but we also visited the restaurant in Cebu City as well as The Buzz Cafe in Tagbilaran. All 3 of these locations had honey products for sale, and so much more!
Everything is made by locals
They also make textiles and art using plant based organic materials
We stayed at the Panglao Bee Farm Hotel, which was quite an experience! We shared the family room with Deb and Dedrick, with us taking upstairs, and them taking the main floor. The whole cabin had such a rustic feel to it. The bathrooms even included soap made right at the Bee Farm!
With 3 pools to choose from, it was a beautiful hotel to stay at!!
The weather was a bit gloomy our first day there, but it didn’t damper our moods!
The view from the dock
We didn’t take the Bee Farm tour, because Dedrick and Deb had actually visited a few weeks earlier (they were leaving the Philippines just as we got there), but we still walked around and admired the very well-kept grounds.
An adorable bench.
Some farm grown herbs and plants
What I loved most about The Bee Farm was the quality of fresh and organic food. With so many of our options being processed food, it was so nice to eat good whole grain bread, and proper coffee with honey instead of sugar!
Honey Glazed Chicken
Cassava chips and pesto sauce. Cassava is similar to potato but a healthier option
Very tasty veggie wraps drizzled with a honey dressing
My Salted Honey Frappe at The Buzz. Delicious!!!
The only problem I had with the Bee Farm was that their products were mostly in containers that were too big for carry-on luggage (we had traveled to the Philippines without any checked bags). Still, I couldn’t resist making a stop in Cebu city, on our way out of the country, to pick up my 2 favourite Bee Farm Products: Honey Spread and Chili Honey. I knew there was a chance that they would be taken from me at the airport, but it was worth the risk.
The Buzzz Restaurant in Cebu City
Lots of products for sale here, including honey, coffee, tea, cassava chips and so much more!
They did make it home..and I’ve been putting spicy honey on all my farmer sausage all month!
That’s it for the Philippines! I still have posts about Malaysia and Indonesia planned, plus several posts about Southern Manitoba. Stay tuned!
It’s no secret that Dave and I love snorkeling. The ocean life fascinates both of us, and although I can find it mildly anxiety inducing (I get claustrophobic), I never let it stop me from diving in, taking some deep yoga breaths and enjoying the world below the surface.
The Philippines boasts some of the best snorkeling in the world, so we were very excited to see what there was to see off the coast of Cebu and Bohol Islands. We had 3 snorkeling trips in total and I’m sad to say that only one of them was very enjoyable.
Our first snorkeling trip was with our friends Deb and Dedrick off the coast of Bohol Island. They organized an exciting morning of snorkeling for us, which started with a boat ride through some rather choppy water, and ended up at a small island where there are sea turtles and plenty of ocean life to enjoy.
This was our first snorkeling experience in The Philippines, and as is always the case when travelling…we had to learn the ropes. Every country does things a bit differently. In Thailand, we booked day tours that would take us out to several islands on a speedboat, and took us to several locations to snorkel. In Indonesia, we did 2 nights in a boat to see the Manta Rays in Komodo National Park. In Cuba, we often just snorkeled off the beach, or hopped on a Catamaran for a day trip to various small islands. Usually, the prices of the trip, boat, food, park fees etc are included in the package price you pay for the day.
Snorkeling in Indonesia was quite an experience!
The mantas in Komodo National Park were beyond beautiful
Vibrant and healthy reefs
Things are done differently in the Philippines. We were told we needed to pay 1800 pesos to rent a boat to get to the island where there are turtles and fish to see. Then, we were told there was a fee to get into the park. Then, when we arrived, we were told we needed to pay another boat to take us to the ACTUAL snorkeling area (another 800 pesos). In total we ended up paying nearly $70 Canadian and there wasn’t a whole lot to see.
Unfortunately, the trip got worse, the longer we stayed in the water. The boat we hired had a captain who wanted to go and take more tourists out to make more money…so after only 20 minutes of snorkeling, he was trying to get everyone back in the boat. I obliged because I’d been stung by a few jellyfish and wasn’t feeling very well, but getting onto the boat was another ordeal yet.
Filipino fishing boats have wooden bars that come out on either side of the boat to help stabilize them and prevent capsizes. The captain of this boat wanted to ‘help’ me get back on, but instead, I ended up hanging off the side as he bashed me into the side of the boat repeatedly…bruising my ribs in the process. My friend Deb wasn’t as badly hurt in her trip back onto the boat, but she also didn’t find the task easy either. Both of the boys just swam the short way back, because it was a much safer choice.
Don’t bruise your ribs when snorkeling.
Wear sunscreen…even when it’s cloudy (we were out of commission for a few days we burned so badly!!)
Bring good people with you on trips like this so that even if the snorkeling isn’t fantastic…the company is!
Sumilon Island Snorkeling
Our second trip snorkeling was on Sumilon Island. I wasn’t sure whether or not to count this as a ‘snorkeling trip’ though, because we never actually snorkeled. Allow me to explain…
Sumilon Island is one of the things I’d read very little about. We mostly went off of what locals told us….and it all sounded awesome! We were told to expect:
An amazing beach with chairs set up for rental
Clear and calm water around the island where you can swim and snorkel
Of course, what we got was very different than what we expected.
We spent 1500 pesos on the short boat ride to the island.
This was a cheaper option than booking with the Resort’s boat, which was 2500 pesos PER PERSON.
At least the boat was fast and big enough that we weren’t sitting beside the engine, breathing in fumes!
As it turns out…it is a beautiful island and it does have amazing snorkeling…but only if you hire a boat (which we couldn’t do once we were there, from what we saw). There was definitely no snorkeling from the shore because the water was simply too rough. What’s worse, is that boats were coming and going constantly, taking up most of the public beach area. They didn’t have anywhere to dock, so they’d just come up on the beach.
There were 0 chairs or umbrellas for rent. We arrived at around 3pm, and were on the west side of the island, so it was HOT!!!
Taken from different parts of the island. We wandered around for a while, trying to find some shade
The waves were huge
We only lasted a few minutes in the water before we had to get out.
It turns out that the only way to get beach rentals was to book with the resort that’s only the island….which was WAY out of our budget. So, instead of the amazing afternoon snorkeling we had planned, we crouched under an area of rocks for shade until the next boat came around.
We hid under the lip of this cliff to try and stay cool
It smelled like stale seafood and gunky water. The short time we spent looking for shade resulted in the sun burn you can see already appearing on me. It got quite a bit worse than this…
Somehow, $122 Canadian did not seem like a reasonable amount of money to spend for a 5 minute boat ride, some snacks & the use of a beach chair….
Lesson Learned: Do reading ahead of time! You never know what information you might be missing that will greatly impact your day. We would have had a MUCH different experience if we’d organized a snorkeling or diving tour. This island is an AMAZING place to snorkel / dive if you do it right!!!
You had to walk out into the water to climb up some stairs to get into the boat. With the waves, walking in the water wasn’t as easy as it would have seemed
Tourists, trying to keep their skin safe from the sun!
Our best snorkeling adventure was the last thing we had time to do in the Philippines. Tingko beach is just outside of Alcoy on Cebu Island. Our bus back to Cebu city only left at around 4pm, so we decided to try snorkeling one more time before leaving the Philippines.
We were a bit worried when we arrived, because once more, there was nowhere to set up or put our things. There were also no umbrellas. We were about to walk away when a young Filipino man came over and asked us if we’d like to hire him and his boat for some snorkeling.
There were a few picnic tables, but not many
Mostly, the beach was full of families with little ones
The beach also wasn’t very wide, so there wasn’t much room for picnic blankets etc
I was VERY skeptical at first. We asked him about a price, and it seemed a bit high, but he quickly lowered it (probably more than he needed to). When he said he had a ladder to get in and out of his boat (to avoid further rib bashing), we agreed to hire him for an hour to do some snorkeling. I was so glad we did!
He brought us around to 3 different spots in that hour. I only snorkeled at the first spot, because I wasn’t actually feeling very well that morning, but it was an amazing area to explore! We actually even saw a sea snake swimming through the seaweed! Unfortunately, we didn’t have the camera with us…but we’ve learned over the last few years that some experiences just need to be experienced. The little snake swam away as quickly as he appeared, so I doubt we could have gotten any shots anyway.
While Dave explored stops 2 and 3 on his own, I chatted with our captain. He was no more than 25 years old, but has 4 children, all under the age of 5. He told me how much he loves being a dad and how he adores going home and hearing his kids scream ‘Daddy!’ when they see him. He seemed like a really nice person, and in the end, I paid him his original asking price.
Lesson Learned: Not everyone in the tourism industry is trying to rip you off. Some people are just trying to make an honest living while trying to be a top-notch husband and father.
Alright….1 post left about our time in the Philippines! Stay tuned! I’ll be back before you know it!
Usually, if Dave and I take a trip, I do quite a bit of planning ahead of time. I always leave a bit of room for free time, of course, but we don’t usually stay in the same spot long enough for us to discover more than what have planned for. I did things differently in the Philippines.
When we first arrived in Dalaguete, we knew we would discover some hidden gems, but we didn’t expect to find a spot as beautiful (and apparently unknown) as Osmeña peak.
We learned about this hidden gem while relaxing one evening with our Air Bnb host, Thomas. He was very surprised we’d never heard of it, and told us that it was very beautiful and very worth the short hike up. So, the following morning, we set off to check out the highest point on Cebu island.
The ride up into the hills was very pretty!
The roads wind around all the small mountains. Really beautiful!
A lot of the roads are currently under construction, making it easy to get lost on your way up…
We were using an app to navigate to the entrance of our destination, where we’d heard of a relatively easy hiking trail up to the peak. When we arrived at our destination, a young boy hopped over and pointed us in the right direction.
About 5 minutes into our walk, a little boy ran up behind us and started shouting in a local language. He seemed insistent that we should turn down a tiny, mud-covered path. It wasn’t long down that path that we realized we’d come in through the ‘wrong entrance’. We head back to our motorbike, but not before getting some great pictures first.
A very worthwhile detour
We could see people in the distance, and we were pretty sure we could reach them via our little mud path…but it didn’t seem safe, or enjoyable, so we head back and searched for the correct entrance with the well groomed trail we’d been promised by Thomas
Along the way we spotted a goal tangled around a tree. Dave helped the little guy out.
A beautiful area!
We drove around a bit more and found the actual entrance to the peak. In hindsight, it made a lot more sense than our original stop. For one thing, there was a ticket office and a little store at Stop #2, instead of a couple of farmers sitting on the back of a truck, grinning at us. Having said that, if you’ve traveled in South East Asia, you learn that things aren’t always as official looking as you expect, which is why we went with it at Stop #1.
We also saw other tourists…which was a good sign.
The police office
A very sun faded sign
The hike up the hill was nice….especially when we got high enough that a breeze made it through the trees. The trail is well maintained and if you’re in reasonably good shape, it isn’t too difficult of a trek. It took us about 25 minutes to make it to the top, but we also stopped for quite a few pictures along the way (and a dog followed us up, so I stopped to pet him quite often!)
The trail is small but well groomed and not muddy
I saw this shot and made Dave stop so I could frame it properly. On our way back down, this little hill was crawling with tourists trying to get the perfect selfie. I think it looked better this way
Along the trail there are a few people selling water. A lot of farming is done in the area too, so you can also buy some cabbage, if you’re so inclined
Aside from our experience with scarf snarfing selfie seekers, our time on the peak was beautiful. I managed to get some pictures without tourists in it, which is always a challenge.
You can rent little cabins up at the peak, which is pretty spectacular!
People enjoying a different peak
The path to the final peak
Shot from above
I did actually manage to get the shot I waited so patiently for…after the selfie seekers left.
I did take a few selfies myself. I’m not here to condemn selfies. But when you’re in a place as beautiful as this, please be considerate of other people. You can take 1 or 2 selfies…but a series of 8-10 poses is excessive!
Osmeña peak is a very worthwhile trip. If you’re looking for additional information about the hike, I found a fantastic website with lots of information including directions and fees. You can check out that website here.
I have a few posts left about our time in The Philippines, so stay tuned!
Dave and I have done a lot of travelling for the last 4 years. Each country we’ve visited has offered new insight into the different cultures, languages and history that make up our wonderful world.
Although there are so many differences between each place we’ve visited, there have also been similarities. One thing that we find pretty much anywhere we’ve ever gone, is that every place in south east Asia has a waterfall for tourists to visit.
Of course, Cebu island has several waterfalls, but we only had the chance to visit one: Tumalog Falls. Located just outside of Oslob, it’s easy to rent a motorbike to visit, or even hire a motorized tricycle (although, they may have a hard time getting up the hills if their motorcycle isn’t in tip top shape!)
When we arrived the entrance to the falls, we were asked to park our motorbike and walk the last kilometer or so to the actual waterfall. It was a steep climb down to get there, and then, of course, a tough climb back. The first time we tried to visit the falls (we tried twice), we were actually scared away by the mid-day heat and the idea of climbing a km uphill. We normally wouldn’t be worried about a short hike like that, but after suffering from heat exhaustion for several days, we weren’t keen on getting sick again. But, when our Air BnB host told us we could hire a special motorbike to bring us back up the hill, we decided to try again.
Of course, pictures don’t show slope very well…
The little entrance where you pay a very small admission to get into the falls
The falls were well worth the visit. They were very tall and they trickled more than spilled, making them quite peaceful.
The area was very peaceful too. There was lots of bamboo growing, and it even created a bit of a dome over the area, giving us the feeling of being enclosed by the jungle.
The small pools around the falls were also stunning.
These blue pools of water are as peaceful in person as they are in photos
Lots of people brought their swimsuits and were swimming in the pool at the bottom of the falls, but Dave and I hadn’t brought ours. I’m glad others had more foresight than me though, because the shots I got of them in the water help to show just how high these falls were.
The falls go up about 2x as high as the picture shows
Tumalog falls was a worthwhile trip I’d recommend to anyway staying in the Oslob area!
Our first real stop in the Oslob area was not planned. We were driving around, looking for a market when we came upon this huge and beautifully old Church.
It took 18 years to complete The Immaculate Conception Church, beginning in 1830. There are several buildings on the grounds, including the church itself, a bell tower, and a parish house. All buildings have had some reconstruction over the years, due to fires and other damage.
From the side. In the background, you can see the ocean 🙂
From the back
There are beautiful mountains in the background.
The church is made of a made of coral stone, which was very popular in Spanish architecture during colonial times. Coral stone is excellent at repelling heat, so it is a perfect choice for a church in The Philippines. While we were walking around, we saw that a funeral was being held inside the church, so even now…this parish is active and the church is in use.
The old bells are rusted out, but still beautiful
I loved the bell tower against the blue sky
The bell tower is covered in vegetation, giving it an overgrown feel
There are also several buildings nearby that were equally beautiful. We spent a bit of time exploring the unfinished “Cuartel”. This large building was suppose to house Spanish soldiers during colonial times, but for some reason, it was never actually completed. Now, it serves as a beautiful place to take some pictures on a sunny day.
The area around the church and Cuartel was also beautiful. There were a few vendors out, selling treats to kids and their parents. There were some really nice benches as well, and some trees, providing shade. Dave and I actually visited the area twice during our week in Oslob. It was so hot the first day that we couldn’t stay for very long, so we came back a second time.
The part of this historical site that interested me most though, wasn’t actually the church itself. Although the church was beautiful, the Baluarte, or watchtower, was even more interesting yet.
The Baluarte has an important place in Oslob history, having helped protect the town from attacks in the past. Now, it serves as a photographic reminder of times past. Most interestingly, there are chunks of coral built into the wall. It’s really very beautiful, overlooking the ocean the way it does.
The view if you’re standing in front of the watchtower
I really enjoyed this ‘surprise stop’ in Oslob, and I encourage anyone in the area to check it out if they have the chance!
My sunburn has subsided, and the bruises I collected on our Cebu holiday have now all but disappeared, but my memories of our time in the Philippines have not.
Now, before I get into writing about our time in Cebu, I want to write about one activity we decided NOT to do. Most people who travel to Cebu Island stay in the little town of Oslob. We opted to stay in a town nearby this popular tourist destination, but we skipped the activity most people do while in the area: swimming with whale sharks.
For those of you who know me, this probably seems like the kind of thing I would love! Swimming in the ocean…seeing incredible wildlife…learning about a fascinating animal… but after spending the last 4 years learning how to be a responsible tourist, I took the time to learn about the Oslob Whale Sharks, and I learned how human contact affects the fish.
First, I should say that unlike riding an elephant, swimming with whale sharks is not as obviously harmful to the animals. They are not captive or trained in any way, so on the surface, it doesn’t seem like swimming with them should be too much of a problem. After all, they are just being given some free food. What’s the harm?
Unfortunately, whale sharks in the area are becoming too comfortable around boats, and are frequently hurt when they approach fishermen, expecting food. Some fish are also dealing with malnutrition, because the krill they are fed by the fishermen is only 1 of the various types of fish they need in their diets. Unfortunately, if their bellies are full of this free krill, they don’t search for food, and don’t get all the nutrients they need.
But there’s actually a bigger problem with feeding the Whale Sharks of Cebu Island. The free food they receive is actually changing their migration patterns and many scientists believe that this will ultimately result in fewer whale shark babies being born.
Ultimately, we decided that seeing the whale sharks was not as important as protecting them, so we chose not to go on that adventure. We did, however, see Tumalog Falls, a church made of coral stone and of course, and the highest point on all of Cebu Island!
Over the next few weeks, I have several posts planned about our week in paradise. They will all be short, and full pictures, so stay tuned!
Today, we leave the Philippines. Our flight actually leaves at 1:50am, but with everything closing down in Cebu city, we find ourselves at the airport 5 hours before our flight to Shanghai.
Our busride back to Cebu City was pretty miserable. 3 hours (a lot of it stuck in traffic), in a standing room bus…. Full of cranky people (us included!). At one point, someone brought in a massive Nemo balloon, filling up a large portion of the top of the bus. I thought I was going to suffocate.
At least they played a movie: The Fast and the Furious. I had actually decided never to watch any of those movies, after seeing the first 10 minutes of the first one. Fate had other plans…
The following 2 days will go like this:
Wake up at 8am
At 3pm, board a 3 hour busride to Cebu city.
Grab a taxi to the airport after getting a quick bite to eat.
Our flight to Shanghai leaves at 1:50am
We arrive at Pudong airport at 5:40am
We travel to the hotel we stayed at before leaving for the Philippines and pick up our luggage.
Our flight to Vancouver leaves at 3:55pm
We arrive in Canada at 11:40 am… On the same day…due to time changes.
At 1:25, we depart for Winnipeg and will arrive at about 6pm.
Long story short…
We will be on the go for a good 42 hours…. Sleeping only if our flights allow it.