Bohol’s Chocolate Hills
I’ve been asked a number of times how my vacation to the Philippines was, and while I categorize it as good, vacationing in a third-world country can be exhausting.
For instance, my family and I visited Jagna, my mother’s hometown, which lacks the typical amenities one simply expects in the States. It’d been 11 years since I’d last been in Jagna, and almost nothing had changed save for an Internet café in the town market. Collarless dogs still freely roam the highways and chickens are tied to street corners to provide them exercise. Cockfighting rings, basketball courts, and Catholic churches border jungle; there are no supermarkets, fast food restaurants, or department stores, simply a half-built marketplace and a number of open-air homes that anyone in the States would consider a shack. We got a lot of blank stares from people simply because of our skin color–that’s when it becomes clear that many of the people have never left the town.
“Prony,” a 25-foot python and the largest snake in captivity. The caretakers actually let us enter the cage and pet the snake, something unheard of in the States.
I could also point out:
- There’s no processed chocolate for sale–anywhere–which was downright killing me. Cocoa beans grow on the trees, but the means to process chocolate are simply too expensive.
- There’s almost no brewed coffee, although instant is very popular.
- The water isn’t potable in many areas, and while showers often have heaters by the spouts, I didn’t have a hot shower until I got back to the States.
- Like hot water, water pressure is no guarantee and the power outages are more common.
- Toilet paper can’t be flushed, and some toilets are flushed using a water bucket.
- Almost every shower we came across had a toilet in it. There was no division between the two. I’m still pondering the reasoning behind this.
- Mosquitoes are pretty abundant, given all the red marks up and down my arms and legs.
- I couldn’t find a wireless signal anywhere, even in Manila (Daphyn figured it was the only way for me to take a real vacation). My iPhone was pretty much a paperweight until I found a signal at the exclusive Tagaytay Highlands Country Club on Luzon.
- Almost every meal consisted of rice and pork. Did I mention I don’t like pork? It was kind of funny talking about it to my cousin April when she was shocked that Americans (or at least me) don’t eat rice with every meal.
- It’s pretty hot, and the natives rarely use the air conditioning since they’re so accustomed to the temperature.
Bohol Beach Club: It definitely wasn’t the Jersey Shore, but I assure you we made do 🙂
Then there’s the travel aspect of it all.
We were only there about a week, and it’s roughly 24 hours of flying each way and a 12-hour time difference.
That’s not to say all the experiences were rough, though, as I had hot cocoa every morning and needed no guarantee to tell it came straight from a cacao bean. The calamari was caught and fried fresh and was arguably the best I’d ever had. Then there’s the mangoes, bananas, and pineapples (minus coconuts, which are downright nasty to me)–I don’t think you can fully appreciate the taste of any of these fruits outside of their geographic origin. Lastly, there’s the beaches, which are nothing short of beautiful. It’s definitely nice to not have to compete for sand space on an empty beach.
Food was definitely fresh. We watched our lunch get sewn up and roasted over an open flame.
This is the remains of my grandparents’ home, which a number of family members in Canada and the U.S. are having torn down and rebuilt. It’s a bit hard to believe coming from the States, but my aunt and cousin still live in the remains of this building. Homes that look like this in rural areas aren’t that uncommon.
One of several red dragonflies I captured while visiting the Highlands Country Club.
My cousin asked me what I thought of the Philippines compared to the U.S., and I said I’d ask her the same question once she moved to San Francisco. She wasn’t thrilled at the perception of how impersonal Americans are compared to the Filipinos of her small hometown. Luxuries aside, I would tend to agree.