Category Archives: Philippines

A Story Worth Telling – True Manila

Edwin Runs a tour called True Manila in the Philippines.  Essentially it’s an opportunity to visit the projects in Manila, meet local families and offer a small bit of charity in the form of cheap snacks for the kids and Rice and Noodles for the families.  It’s the only place I’ve seen this.  It’s a chance to see how people in poverty stricken countries live in the poor neighborhoods without feeling like a intruder.  You walk the through shanty towns, visit their homes and meet the families.  Edwin and True Manila have also set goals to start raising money to offer children from the projects the opportunity to go to school in an attempt to change their lives.

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The reason Edwin started this was because of one story he told.

Years ago there was a boy from the projects that started following two Americans walking through his neighborhood.  The boy was 10 years old, from a really poor family and couldn’t speak any English except, “photo”.

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The Americans took the photo he requested and offered him a meal and some Coca Cola.  They ended up seeing this kid several more times during their stay and ended up forming a bond with him.  Over the next several years the two Americans did everything they could to offer help to this kid in the form of small amounts of money and guidance.  The boy ended up learning English, going to school, and eventually college.  In time the boy became an actor, has been in commercials and just finished his first movie as the lead actor.  Shortly after starring in the movie the boy started true Manila.

Edwin was telling us his story.  How a few people passing through his neighborhood changed his life, and how he wished the same for others.

Me, Edwin, Mark, Edwins son - True Manila, Philippines
Me, Edwin, Mark and Edwins son.

Beach Life – The Philippines

Philippines had it’s work cut out for it, “Show me something I haven’t seen after 9 months of travel”.  Well it may have just risen to the challenge.

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In fact, hardly anyone has seen it before.  There is no real backpacker trail.  There’s nothing it’s really known for.  In fact the Philippines doesn’t even know what to show you.  All they say in their commercials is, “Everything is more fun in the Philippines”.

What the hell is everything?

Well, everything’s not more fun, but exploring it is.  Philippines is an undiscovered gem in South East Asia.  A place where you could miss on several destinations before finding that spot that makes it all worth it!

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Philippines is the spirt of backpacking.  It’s venturing into the unknown.  With over 7000 islands the possibilities greater than most will ever achieve.  With that being said, the only right way to do it is just go and figure it out as you travel.  However, if I ended there I suppose that would defeat the purpose of this site.  So here’s a synopsis of my journey.  19 days… go;

Manila – Stayed at Pink Manila.  Met a crew of travelers listening to music and drinking $2 bottles of rum in the roof top pool.  Did charity work in the projects handing out treats to kids and bags of rice to poor families.  Met up with Jaylee.

El Nido – Flew with three friends I met in Pink Manila.  Celebrated Tyler’s birthday by bribing a shop clerk to sell us whiskey during a 3 day election liquor ban.  Got a little overly wild then day tripped to three beautiful islands.

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Coron – Split from the girls then took an eight hour boat ride.  Tyler and I rented Scooters with a Dutch couple, drove to an isolated sketchy beach then moved on to an amazing hot spring (Even though it was already 100 degrees out).

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Cebu City – Flight.  First experience with Jolly Bees (Bad Philippines version of McDonald’s).  Jumped on boat.

Bohol – Stayed in bungalow in the Jungle (Nids Bungalows).  Searched all afternoon for scooters to take to chocolate hills.  Failed. Jumped back on boat.

Met Jaylee back in Cebu City… another boat.

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Camotes – Took advice from random traveler and headed here with Jaylee. This was the “spot”.  (See, The “Secret”).

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From Camotes took a Jeepney, Ferry, Bike trike, Van, Taxi, Plane, Bus, and another Taxi to get back to Manila, played a little more, then headed to Japan.

The Secret – Philippines

One of the challenges with the Philippines is trying to decide what to do and where to go.  It’s not yet a very popular destination for travelers, so not much is known about the best spots.  This can be both good and bad.  The Good; You can still find hidden gems and enjoy them with a few close friends.  The Bad;  Trying to find the hidden gems.

That being said, I found one.

Santiago Bay Resort Philippines, Camotes - Backpackers Union

The Island is called Camotes and it’s two hours by boat from Cebu which has a major  airport making it easy to get to.

Santiago Bay Resort Philippines, Camotes - Backpackers Union

I traveled there with a friend named Jay-Lee from California who now lives in Manila.  The day we met in Cebu we still didn’t know where we were going to travel.  In the airport she talked to a backpacker who recommended Camotes and a beach called Santiago Bay Beach.  No one knew anything about it but we decided, screw it, why not?

View from Santiago Bay Resort Philippines, Camotes

Camotes, Philippines - Sunken Ship

We’re glad we did!

For $18 each we stayed in a resort on the beach with two pools, bars, a secret abandoned cove, jet skis, mopeds, trampolines on the ocean… the works.  For two days we lived the high life for pocket change on a beautiful Island.

Jay-Lee’s also a babe, so that helps.

The Cave:

Santiago Bay Resort Philippines, Camotes - The Cave

Santiago Bay Resort Philippines, Camotes - The Cave

Santiago Bay Resort Philippines, Camotes - The Cave

Check it out!

Hong Kong to Philippines

Now in the Phillipines!  Hong Kong, and so far in the Phillipines, could mostly be described as a vacation from a vacation.  I’ve done stuff, but not a lot.  Although one activity in Manila did make me feel good about my self which I’ll talk about later.

Clark Airport, Manila, Philippines

A lot of people said to escape Manila as quickly as you can, and I now see why!  I stayed at a hostel with a Pool, Bar, and terrible view for an expensive $10 a day.  Really tough living!

View from Pink Manila Hostel, Philippines

Pool at Pink Manila Hostel, Philippines

*(The place was great and easy to meet people.  It’s called “Pink Manila” and is run and owned by and awesome girl from Florida.)

Manila was actually a lot better then most described and seems to be growing quite a backpacking culture.  It’s also said to have one of the most robust couch surfing committees in the world.  It has a good night life, shopping, it’s pretty affordable and you can get circumcisions the same place you buy rice.  Convenient!  But the islands are suppose to be amazing and that is why it’s my next destination.

Circumcision sold at rice stand, Manila, Philippines

Shortly I’m catching a flight to the islands with a crew of four (One Canadian guy and two Danish girls) and will get productive again.  So I hope.