20+ years of friendship in Cebu/Bohol

Since I was a baby until we moved to Sweden, we lived in an apartment within the campus of the University of the Philippines Diliman. My sister and I weren’t the only babies and children in the area, two floors above us for example lived two girls our age, the youngest only being 3 months younger than I was. As we were around the same age and lived so close to each other, we became best friends when we were babies until we were children, and remained so until I moved to Sweden.

After a few years in Sweden, we unfortunately lost contact. However after over ten years later, we reconnected again a few years ago. It’s funny how life turns out sometimes, as everyone were surprised at how alike we still are despite growing up apart. Some things just never change.

To celebrate our over 20+ years of friendship, why not go on our first vacation together to somewhere we have never been to before? Bohol it is.

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As the goal of my trip was to see as much of the country as I can, I was excited to visit a new place. I have heard a lot of positive things about Bohol, especially about its snorkeling on Panglao island. But before that, we decided to pass by Cebu because why not!

We had no plans when we were in Cebu, but somehow, we managed to see all the must-sees. Sto Nino church, Sto Nino’s mom’s church, Magellan’s cross, eat lechon and buy a ukulele. We just walked around with our suitcases and somehow we managed to do everything we wanted to do. Even if it included walking through basically ghetto with people lying in the streets to get my ukulele. It was worth it nevertheless. We were happy with our short few hours trip to Cebu, and all the friendly locals greeting us as sole two female young travellers. Short but sweet, enough to make us want to come back to see more! But now time for Bohol.

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In Bohol, we stayed with my mom’s friend on Panglao island, who slowly but surely became like a grandfather to us both. He picked us up from the ferry in Cebu and took us first to Alona beach in Panglao for dinner. Let our Bohol adventures continue.

On the first day, we went island hopping on “grandfather’s” boat, with our boatman Joel. You know those National Geographic programs talking about fishermen who can dive deep in the ocean and shoot spears underwater? Basically that’s what Joel did for a living. Joel took us to Balicasag island where we – tried – to snorkel, but unfortunately owing to the strong waves, he ended up just pulling us all the time on our life buoy… But we saw a sea turtle at least! Afterwards he took us to the Sand Bar on Virgin Island, where basically they sell food in the middle of the sea on a little beach area. Really random, but interesting nonetheless! Lastly, he took us to Islo Francesco which is part of Virgin Island, a religious island dedicated to Padre Pio (who happens to be my favourite saint!). I’ve never thought I would kneel down to a shrine and pray while wearing only my swimsuit…

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On the next day, we did our land tour of Bohol. We ticked off all the must-sees such as the Chocolate Hills and the tarsiers. To be honest though, the other places like the Butterfly House and the cave were more fun. Mainly because of the guides that we had. Nevertheless, they are must-sees for a reason, and those Chocolate Hills are pretty cute in the end. Tired owing to the heat and all that walking touring around, we came back beached and napped, preparing ourselves for our night out in Alona. Which we did well, because as it turned out, Alona nightlife delivers.

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While doing shisha, two Australian-Chinese sisters joined us where we bonded over being international. We decided to continue up to the bar, and there we met a group of medical students from Leeds in the year below me in medical school. You know it’s a small world when people you meet on the other side of the world are friends with your friends in the UK. Yup, they knew my medic friends in the UK. They even went in the same class as an acquaintance of mine. Crazy isn’t it?! It was a fun night being with international people, and I guess that’s the type of crowd this place attracts 🙂

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On our final day, our “grandfather’s” niece decided to join us, and together we went to the mall to buy souvenirs and finally got to try snorkeling again. This time we were lucky with the winds, and managed to properly snorkeling. Wow, it really is this beautiful and calming under the sea. We ended the day by checking in to Bohol Plaza hotel, with a beautiful view of Bohol. We jumped in the pool, sat in the jacuzzi and just reminisced of the days past. What an amazing trip it has been.

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Bohol you have truly been amazing, and we are in love with your beautiful waters and even more wonderful people. What an amazing way to celebrate our over 20+ years of friendship. We promise to return, but until then, stay beautiful. Until next time! ❤

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I fell in love with Baler and surfing

As the Philippines is surrounded by water, surfing is a relatively common sport to pursue here. My dad, as it turns out, grew up an area with perfect waves for surfing. At the end of my stay with dad, they took me to Baler in Aurora where I discovered my new found love for surfing.

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Baler is a magical place. So magical I can even see myself staying here for a long period of time. Filled with relaxed, friendly, welcoming locals, who are really there to make sure you will have a good time. You’d see people of all ages on surfboards, from children doing crazy tricks on the waves (yeah, I felt super self-conscious with them around as a first-time surfer), to grandparents still rocking their surfboards in the water. If they’re not on their surfboards in the water, you’d see the locals on their bikes or longboards, cruising down the long boardwalk by the surfing beach. Their lifestyle really is sleep, eat, surf, party, repeat. Surfing 6am in the morning and again in the afternoon, eating and napping in between until you end your day with a beer. Surfers are my new favourite type of people. If medschool fails, I’ll retire to the beach with a surfboard and spread love to the world with my ukulele. Sounds like the dream to me.

It’s hard to describe the exhilarating feeling when you’re surfing a wave on a surfboard. The adrenaline kick of cruising on top of a wave, taking you to shore. Kuya Doods my surfing instructor from Baler Surf School was very patient but supportive. He was so good that he already managed to get me surfing on my third wave during my first lesson. By the end of my one hour session, I was already longing for my next lesson the next day. Really, I couldn’t sleep because of my excitement and even watched Lilo & Stitch in true surfing spirit. Nevertheless, I managed to sleep 4h and woke up at 7am again to go surfing. You can say I am now hooked.

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The next day came and after the end of my second one-hour session with Kuya Doods, I am now ready to take on waves by myself. Bring it on!

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Thank you Kuya Doods for introducing me to my new-found love for surfing, and my family for bringing me to Baler. I’ll definitely be back. Next time I’ll bring more people and definitely stay for longer than just overnight. Next time I’m back, you’ll see me cruising the big waves, I swear!

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