Family, TRAVEL

Our Apo Island Adventure (Persistence Pays Off! 2)

After our super fun and satisfying day in Manjuyod, we were scheduled to go to Apo Island the following day. When we woke up, it was raining. Staying at Bethel Guest House, we could usually see the Boulevard and the sea clearly. But because of the rain, the sea seemed foggy and the sky was dark and gloomy. King then asked the dreaded question — is it safe to go?

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View from our room in Bethel Guest House, on a nice sunny day.

I thought for a minute and also asked my mom. But before she answered, I already thought about a few boat rides we’d already experienced that were worse, also due to rough seas. I mean we got through okay. We didnt capsize or fall into the water or lose our things. So King and I both said that yeah, it’s fine. Persist we must, haha. Besides, we were assured by our tour operator that the waters going to Apo Island are more calm than in Manjuyod at this time of year.

We were picked up by our van around 7am and we got to the port maybe an hour later. We passed through a market to get there. It was a Wednesday so it was market day. They sold all kinds of stuff including different kinds of dried fish and even lechon, which of course my mom did not hesitate to buy. It was actually good. We also saw the area where the locals auction off their animals (cows, pigs, goats, chickens).

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On our way to our boat. Light rain and loud waves.

We were required to wear life vests as soon as we got off the van, and Gianna had to endure wearing hers haha. It was too big. Our tour guide, who was actually quite nice, told us that it was going to be rough out there but it was normal because of the Amihan (cool northeast wind). My mind immediately went to her words about it being more calm. But no matter. We were excited to see the turtles!

True enough, the boat ride was rough. Our things were secure underneath the boat floor. I was warned about my camera getting wet so I made sure it was safe as well. But it sure was rough enough to make Noelle cry. I had to cross over from where I was seated, to where she and my mom were. On that side, it felt like we were being lifted off our seats. It was like a wet and wild roller coaster ride! But really, it was fine. Thank God all it took was a prayer and mommy holding her. And thank God it took only 30-40 minutes to get to the island. Danae had no issues. Gianna was quiet, covering her face, while King held her.

 

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my view from apo island 

Apo Island is beautiful! Only 14 families, if I recall correctly, live there. There are only a couple of resorts. Power is only via generator. They have worked to protect the beautiful sea turtles, so now it is a conservation area. To watch and swim with the turtles, snorkelers are guided by the locals within a roped area. Like the whale sharks in Oslob, the turtles must not be touched. There are gear for rent and if you don’t have companions to watch your stuff, you can also rent a cottage. I was able to go with King and the girls while Gianna was with my mom and our tour guide, yay! It was actually also Noelle’s first time to snorkel!

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“marine turtle area”
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it’s dude crush!!! the picture does not depict its actual size.
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King and Danae witnessed this turtle swim!!! Noelle and I only saw the other one which was huge!

The guides lead a group of 2-3 to the turtles using a rubber tube, which you can hang on to when you’re tired or are a poor swimmer. There were a lot of sea cucumbers, tiny neon blue fish, and light blue starfish (too bad I have no picture!!!). We would have loved to see more turtles and swim with them, but Noelle and I only saw one, while King and Danae saw two. One of the guides said it was because the tide was low and so the turtles were out in the deeper parts. Still, it was one of the coolest experiences.

When we were done, we proceeded to the other side of the island so we could have lunch. It was nothing like our fresh sea food in Manjuyod, but it was okay. Our table was set in Apo Island Beach Resort, where the kids enjoyed the beach. Just be wary of foreigners who sunbathe in the nude, haha. My girls were baffled as to why some people do that in public.

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beautiful rock formations 🙂
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we went up a short set of stairs, to this….
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….and then, paradise!
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beautiful 🙂 

We left Apo island around 2pm because we didn’t want to risk travelling through stronger and bigger waves. Halfway through the boat ride however, we noticed the boat suddenly slowed down. The boat men said something broke. King thought it was the anchor or something inconsequential, but to me it seemed like they were talking about the rudder. I understand some Visayan, but unfortunately not the Visayan for rudder hehe. Everyone was relaxed, while I was observing the boatmen handle the situation. They dropped the anchor enough to create a drag I suppose. I heard a tiny hint of panic in the boatmen’s voices but they followed the instructions of the boat driver. I didn’t understand a word they said. Too deep for me, I guess. I also saw their interaction with the boatman of another pump boat that passed us. I was thinking that it would be good to have a boat near us just in case something bad happened. But our tour guide said nothing. Our boat driver seemed calm and confident. Noelle fell asleep on me even, no crying.

When we got to the port, they “parked” in the area that was a bit far from the shore. The tide had risen and the waves were strong, so it was difficult to get down. When our tour guide asked if we could move, they said they couldn’t because the rudder broke. I knew it!!!    Thank God our boatmen did not just say, “Um the boat is broken. Sorry. We’re basically sitting ducks here until help arrives.” Imagine the horror! But they kept going. They persisted. And they got us to safety. They got skillz, haha. Whoo! What an adventure!

Indeed, persistence pays off! Especially when it’s a matter of life and death. And indeed, the Lord is good. He protects and He saves. 🙂

 

TIPS:

Wear aqua shoes. The “sand” is rocky and painful to walk on barefoot. They have those for rent on the island as you pay for the sanctuary fees, but it’s always better to bring your own. We as well will invest on our own, especially the kids’, life vests.

Bring some cash. Some manangs (ladies) sell magnets, shirts, sarongs, and dresses in the island.

Go on a Wednesday, so you can experience Market Day before you board your boat to Apo Island. They end at 2pm so you’ll miss it if you wait ’til after.

Family, TRAVEL

Persistence pays off!

We just came home from our family vacation in the Visayas. We went to celebrate Noelle’s 8th birthday! I chose Dumaguete because I wanted to see the Manjuyod sandbar again with my family. I’d been there with my parents before, like more than a decade ago. The sandbar wasn’t visible anymore at the time we went, but we were able to swim. We also went dolphin watching and the dolphins gave us a show! I only had a regular, non-digital camera then, so I wasn’t able to capture much.

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A day before she turned 8, in Sans Rival. 🙂

 

My mom was the one planning the whole thing (haha, yes I chose the city and dates, but she planned almost everything), and she got our contacts through my cousin. She was told by one tour operator that it was not safe to go to Manjuyod in January because of the Amihan, or the cool northeast wind. My mom says it’s my hardheadedness (I call it my persistence and faith), but I just did not want to believe that we were going to Dumaguete and not be able to enjoy the Maldives of the Philippines. I needed to hear it from the tour guide/driver/boatman myself that it was not safe, before I was going to concede. We kept it in our itinerary.

Thankfully, our other contact assured us that the coastguard would advise the boat operators whether it’s safe to go to sea or not, and that they in turn would advise us. And it was a go! It was definitely safer than our boatride to and from Apo Island (our 3rd day), which we were told would be more calm haha. It was a little windy, but the twenty minute boat ride to the sandbar was uneventful. And the sandbar — massive and beautiful!

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On the boat, with the sandbar in sight. The sandbar is 7km long.

 

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With my mom, Gianna’s first boat ride ever. 🙂 

 

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King and I took a walk on the sand, but didn’t even get to any other end. It was huge! And we had to go back to our kids haha. Gianna didn’t want to leave the shore.

 

We got there at the right time. Good thing I researched and read a blog that said low tide was between 6am and 9am, and that by 10am the sandbar would be submerged already. You could still swim of course, but you would miss the sandbar. So we made sure that our van picked us up around 6am, and we got to Bais by 7am or so.

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the birthday girl happily playing with her little sister 🙂

 

When we got to the Bais port/pier, the boat owner’s wife asked us what we wanted for lunch because the boatmen were going to cook our food for us on the boat! She bought the ingredients for us in the nearby wet market, and in about twenty minutes, we were off to the sandbar. The water was so blue and just beautiful! The kids immediately got off the boat. The boatmen told us that we should just get our picture taken first with the sandbar and go dolphin and whale watching, then come back for lunch and swimming. But then Gianna was so happy on the beach, not even changing into her swimsuit, that we decided to just enjoy the sandbar. We’d gone dolphin watching in Bohol and swimming with the whale sharks in Oslob a few years ago already anyway.

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Gianna dumping sand on the patient starfish haha. Don’t worry, it was not harmed. 🙂 *No starfish was harmed by us on our vacation. We were gentle in handling them and putting them back in the ocean.

 

And our lunch! Grilled pork, sinigang na hipon, grilled okra, huge wild scallops, seaweed, coconut juice in their shell. Soooo good! We ate with our hands so I couldn’t take photos haha. The bonus was those wild oysters in vinegar that we bought from a couple of boatmen. They were selling the whole container for only 300 pesos. We opted to just buy 10 pieces for 100 pesos, because we had too much food already. And it was the highlight of our lunch! Unforgettably yummy!

The best part? Noelle kept saying “best birthday ever!”

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It’s alive!

 

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A tiny starfish family under a shell! I found them when I picked up the shell, but put it back right away. 

 

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Gianna wasn’t afraid to touch, but she was gentle as well. 🙂

 

 

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Beautiful spongy starfish 🙂

 

 

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Our boatman caught a couple of sea dragons and showed us. We tried to take a video in the water but they swam away way too fast! They literally zipped away as soon as manong released them to supposedly let Danae hold them. So he caught another and placed him in a container so we could take a good look. One of the coolest sea creatures ever, with a tail and dragon wings (fins). We put him back of course. 🙂

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Our boatman/diver/cook/boat owner. He found a crab to show the kids. Super cool!

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The tide was coming in at 930am.

 

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I think this was around 1030 to 11am. The sandbar was submerged in water already.

 

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Beautiful Philippines 🙂 

 

If I readily accepted what we were told from the beginning, we would not have been able to experience the beauty of Manjuyod! Persistence with prayer pays off! Faith with wisdom pays off! Thank you Lord for allowing us to enjoy and be captivated by the beauty of your creation. For surrounding us with your angels so we can safely travel on foot and by land, air, and sea. For giving us the opportunity to celebrate and build wonderful memories with our family. We are so grateful.

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Me and my forever travel buddy  ❤

 

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Me and my little sisters hehehe ❤ 

 

Family, TRAVEL

Last Hurrah Before School Started!

With so many things going on during the summer, I had to make time to plan ahead for homeschooling year 2014-2015, especially since I’d be giving birth in August. I had to consider not only Danae’s subjects and lessons, but also Noelle’s. Danae was incoming grade 3, and Noelle was officially enrolled in Prep/Kinder 2, her first serious year of homeschooling. I would be having two homeschoolers at different levels, and then a newborn. And since we wouldn’t be able to go on vacation for a while, I thought a last hurrah was in order before school started.

I asked King to book us an overnight stay in one of the resorts in Laiya, Batangas. We ended up staying in Blue Coral Resort. King took a leave, and we didn’t tell the girls where we were going. We just let them sleep early, and I packed while they were asleep. They were mostly asleep in the car too, but at one point Danae woke up and saw Blue Coral’s signage on the road. So of course, there was no fooling her. She knew where we were going, as she has heard us talk about the resort before. They were both excited when we arrived.

It was a nice family trip to have before homeschool began, especially as I realized that it was our first family beach trip by ourselves. All our trips, whether locally or internationally, have always been with other people. We usually travel with my mom, and we’ve travelled with her and my brother’s family. We’ve travelled with friends too. It was a first for us to be just us four. It was a good time to bond as a family.

Breakfast at McDo. :)
Breakfast at McDo. 🙂

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Playing in the sand near our cottage, while the  sun is still too hot. :)
Playing in the sand near our cottage, while the sun was still too hot. 🙂
Our bodyguard. :)
Our bodyguard. 🙂
I was able to enjoy the water as well. :)
I was able to enjoy the water as well. 7 mos preggo. 🙂
The water was great, but we had to vacate as soon as we saw some jelly fish. It was interesting for the kids (well, us too) because we thought it would feel jelly-like, but it was more like a hard gel.
The water was great, but we had to vacate as soon as we saw some jelly fish. It was interesting for the kids (well, us too) because we thought it would feel soft and jelly-like, but it was more like a hard gel.
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King and the girls enjoyed the pool. 🙂
Noelle was scared to slide down by herself but she eventually got the hang of it. It was her first time to conquer the water slide! :)
Noelle was scared to slide down by herself but she eventually got the hang of it. It was her first time to conquer the (small) water slide! 🙂
Me and my girls, after dinner. :)
Me and my girls, after dinner. 🙂
Playtime in the sand before going to bed. Had a couple of funny boo-boos -- one of em picked up something gross while thinking it was a coral or rock; the other picked up something that she thought was a rock but she literally freaked out & cried when it moved. Haha. :)
Playtime in the sand before going to bed. Had a couple of funny boo-boos — one of em picked up something gross while thinking it was a coral or rock; the other tried to pick up something that she thought was a rock but she literally freaked out & cried when it moved. Haha. 🙂
They found a hermit crab. :)
They found a hermit crab. 🙂
It was Danae's first time to kayak! :) I did some kayaking too, and almost tipped the kayak over with King in it, as I got down, hahaha. Heavy at 7 mos. :)
It was Danae’s first time to kayak! 🙂 I did some kayaking too, and almost tipped the kayak over with King in it, as I got down, hahaha. Heavy at 7 mos. No picture though, sorry. 🙂
She did it on her own too, but I was in the water so I have no picture. Hopefully she has one in her dad's cam. :)
Danae did it on her own too, but I was in the water so I have no picture. Hopefully she has one in her dad’s cam. 🙂
Last chance dip in the ocean. :)
Last dip in the ocean, after a couple of hours in the pool. 🙂

It was a short trip but we gathered a good bunch of memories out of it. The next time we travel, there will already be 5 of us. 🙂

Family

MY PALAWAN BIRTHDAY

We were scheduled to fly to Busuanga on July 6. A few days before, I was perfectly healthy. Then I started sniffling on Monday, July 5. What a time to get sick! My mom and King were waiting on me to decide whether we should push through or not, seeing that I had not packed and that I was feverish and feeling bad. I was telling King they could go without me, but of course he didn’t want to since the trip was actually to celebrate my birthday. So with barely 3 hours of sleep but with a burst of God-given energy, I got up the next morning, packed, and got ready for our flight. I only started feeling bad again at the airport and on the plane. Noelle, of course, was awake the whole time, while I wanted to lay down and just sleep. My head was heavy, I had fever, cough & colds, and my body was just aching and weak. Noelle also looked like she was pooping on the plane, but we were afraid to check because the smell would reek. I checked when we landed. Thank God it was a false alarm! I didn’t have energy to change her diaper in a public restroom.

Birang

On the way to and when we got to quaint Birang Lodge in Coron, I just slept. I did not go with my family when they had lunch. I felt cold, weak, and just terrible. Thank God we were not bound by a pre-determined schedule like that of a package tour. I was able to just rest. I drank meds and asked my mom to massage my arms. This whole time, I just kept praying and praying that God would heal me so that I could enjoy our vacation. By mid-afternoon, I already broke into a sweat. My head still felt heavy but my body was feeling stronger. I was able to give Noelle a bath. By evening, I was able to join my family with our friend Hilbert and his mom for dinner. Hilbert, by the way, cooked super yummy adobo and super yummy fresh lapu lapu! We were not only his clients, but also his guests, so he was kind enough to bless us with his delicious cooking. The next morning, I was up and about for our first trip to the islands! I still had cough & colds, but God totally healed me from the flu! I know it was God because with the way I was feeling, normally that would have lasted a whole week. Amazing!

Hilbert hooked us up with this big bangka (pump boat) to go to Malcapuya Island to swim and have lunch, then we went to Banana Island for some snorkeling. At first we thought it would be rainy all day, but the sun was out by the time we got to the first island. The next day, we took a smaller boat and went island hopping again, visiting this shipwreck for snorkeling, Banul Island for lunch, Twin Lagoon to take a dip in the calm, brackish water,  Barracuda Lake hoping to get a glimpse of one barracuda (to no avail), and to the marine park Siete Picados to snorkel some more and see more corals & bigger fish. Though it was a bit rainy already on the 2nd half of our boat trip, it was so much fun for us all! Hilbert’s “people” prepared delicious food for us to bring on both trips. The boatmen were really nice to us. We enjoyed the beautiful beaches and the beautifully clear blue water. We especially enjoyed the fish feeding and snorkeling! Even Noelle was in on the feeding, totally unafraid. Danae at first kept saying that she didn’t want the fish to eat her, but when she learned how to use the snorkeling gear, we would hear her scream through the snorkel in excitement! She’s a water baby anyhow, so swimming alone makes her happy. Her deep tan speaks for itself. 🙂

By the fourth day, we moved to Darayonan Lodge because Hilbert’s aunt’s lodge (Birang) was already occupied by new tourists, and we still had 4 days left to enjoy Coron. Both lodges are affordable places and nicely situated in the town proper, but Birang is actually on the water. The boat “parks” right in front of the lodge. No need to take a trike, lug all your stuff including food to get to a dock. We appreciated that when our starting point for our last island hopping trip to go back to the shipwreck, Banul Island and Siete Picados, was Darayonan. We also had to look for food to bring for that trip, which turned out not to be that great. In Birang, it was easy, plus the food was good, except in our case, we had to tell the cook not to make too much haha. Their bathroom was big enough too, bright and clean, and their water supply with hot water, great! Darayonan was a good place to stay during the last days of our trip because it had a nice pool. King and the girls enjoyed it while my mom and I rested a lot.  Their restaurant was big and also served good food, though some food on the menu were not available. There was also a little monkey in the store right across the lodge, which entertained my girls a lot, especially when Noelle was cranky already. She would get excited and say “ooh, aah, aah.”

There was a nearby pizza place called Bistro Coron, which we visited twice. We liked their pizza and pasta. It’s owned by a foreigner who’s married to a Filipina, and is a pretty popular place. It’s near a drugstore and the local market too, so it’s very convenient.

King & Hilbert

On my birthday, the 12th, Hilbert invited us over to their house for lunch. He cooked pork humba, grilled squid and crabs for us! We were so full! Even their rice was so yummy! Afterwards, Hilbert and King had a short meeting about how to help the incoming youth pastor jump start and nurture the youth ministry in Coron. Hilbert is involved in their church there and he asked King for advise. Later that afternoon, King also met with the pastor himself. It’s so great to be a blessing and help others in reaching the next generation! I’m such a proud wife!

All in all, our Palawan trip was a blast! Even though I was sick, and my mom and the girls had cough & colds, and even though Noelle had one night with fever due to her vaccination the day before we left, we definitely had fun and made memories that will last a lifetime! The islands in Coron are just breathtaking. They have the strangest rock formations, smooth white sands, water that displays all the shades of blue, beautiful corals & lots of fish. Coron is just another reminder of what an awesome Creator we have and of how beautiful the Philippines really is.

Still thinking about it? Stop thinking, and book that flight! Who better to fix your package tour or to fix your itinerary if you don’t want a package, than a local like Hilbert Enriquez? Add him up on Facebook, so you can personally get in touch with him.

Click here for Hilbert’s Facebook