Love,Laughter,Lechon & Karaoke in the Philippines
Trip Start Jul 11, 2010
21Trip End Apr 22, 2011
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My previous visit to Davao, I had come with my Mum and Sister, having my mum there made it all seem a lot easier; the language barriers, understanding what’s going on, not getting lost and knowing what you were eating, figuring out the secret rules of the Jeepney (including where are they even going or how do you get off one), things like that, things that may seem simple but in a city that does not cater for tourists at all, those kind of things you can get in a mess over very easily! This time it was just me and Rob, we were used to being in Asia now after nearly two months but the first thing that hit Rob about the Philippines was how 'crazy’ everything seemed, the roads, the driving, the road side wooden shack houses, the wooden shops with plastic banners for shop names (usually named after a family member with 'store' added on the end), the wacky, colourful, old and uniquely Filipino Jeepneys that are everywhere, the people begging at your car window when the car stops in traffic or trying to sell you nuts or necklaces, the lack of anything that caters for a tourist and gives you that welcome sigh of relief after a long day traveling and the juxtaposition of it all being all set against a backdrop of green mountains, coconut trees; so lush, so tropical and so bloody humid! So humid in fact that after an hour or so after getting to the house, Rob was wandering around the house, inside and out saying ‘I’ve never been so hot in my life’....this really was going to be a few weeks of eye openers for both of us
When we got to the house my cousin had brought some traditional Filipino breakfast foods for us, there were Puto which are sweet or savory steamed rice bread/cake which is cooked in banana leaf, Suman which is sticky rice which is cooked and wrapped in banana or coconut leaves and bitter guord which is a vegetable similar looking to a cucumber but with ridges and is cooked in the morning with scrambled egg and onion, like the name suggests it is bitter but not so much that it puts you off, in fact it is delicious and perfect for the morning. We then followed that with ripe mango, not the type of mango we get in the UK but very soft, ripe and yellow all over on the outside and the taste is magnificent, I really wish we could get them back home! After that and a good catch up with my cousin, we took a rest, we would be travelling 4 hours by road the next day to Marbel when my Auntie Pinky lives for a joint house blessing and Christmas party, my Uncles, Aunties and Cousins would also be travelling from Bagumbayan so it was going to be one hell of a party.
The next morning, me, Rob and my cousins Nonoy and Anjo were driven by a family friend Edwin across the mountains of Davao to Marbel, Edwin had suggested a beautiful spot to stop in the mountains for pictures and to give us a chance to see the beautiful green and tropical landscape
The next morning was Christmas eve and we travelled back to Davao taking a detour to the beautiful lake Cebu resort on the way, unfortunately we were unable to take a boat ride around the lakes as the drivers were on holiday so we took in the beautiful views and had some fresh fruit shakes and chatted away to my cousins about the Philippines and their way of life. In the Philippines it is tradition to celebrate Christmas around midnight Christmas eve and as I mentioned before celebrate means food! My cousins organised a delicious feast of lechon manok (roast chicken), pansit malabon, fresh vegetables, pomelo, pineapple and ube jam - this was the beginning of Rob's love affair with all things ube - the purple root vegetable which is used in sweet food and just tastes so good! We welcomed in Christmas in true Filipino style and had a great feast. After a sleep we woke on Christmas day and spent the day relaxing just like in the UK but without an Eastenders death or enough chocolate to make you ill!
On boxing day evening, we took a trip to peoples park in downtown Davao - this would be our first experience in a Jeepney which is a cheap and convenient public transport in the Philippines, I know that sounds weird to say we needed help to get on a 'bus' but we wouldn't have been able to do it without my cousins. You only know where they are going by reading it on the side and then they have already gone passed you, it's impossible to know how much to pay and you only know when to get off if you know the road and tap the roof of the jeepney to let them know you want off - we were so glad we went on one and we were so glad we weren't alone. Peoples park was full of people enjoying the holiday season, there was a free music concert with local bands, Kublai Millan sculptures everywhere - a local sculptor from Davao who has come under great acclaim for his works which show traditions of the Philippines, a dancing water fountain that dances to the music being played, a man made waterfall and to top it off a great atmosphere - times like that is when you're thankful for the humid nights, when you can actually go out and enjoy them. After the park we went for a drink, I was determined to let Rob try durian but hadn't been able to find any yet so jumped at the chance for a durian shake when I saw one, I went first and was hit by the smell first as usual, I can only decribe it as a mix of onion and gas...it is know in the Philippines as the king of fruits and to 'smell like hell and taste like heaven'
The next day, me and Rob were driven to Eden nature park up in Mount Apo Davao - we had booked to stay over here for one night in a wooden cottage in the mountains to enjoy the nature of Davao. We spent the day fishing for our own lunch of tilapia which is then grilled for you and served up for your lunch - simply delicious. We then visited the deer park, the prayer garden where there was a wedding taking place in the peaceful and secluded setting of the plants and mountains, the flower garden and organic vegetable hydroponic tents all set within stony paths around the forest taking you up and down different parts of the mountain, it was a great day for pictures, especially as I have become really obsessed with taking pictures of plants since we started this whole trip, nature really is so expertly unbeatable for the beauty it creates. We had a wonderful stay at Eden and would recommend a visit there for anyone who visits the Philippines, it makes it all the better when you go to the supermarket in Davao and can buy the products that they have grown, it's always nice when you know that care has gone into what you're about to eat
We were fast approaching New Year now but before hand we wanted to fit in a bit of souvenir shopping to me and Rob took a taxi to the local mall SM, the taxi driver was also names Robert so we struck up a conversation with him, which started with him saying 'Robert DeNiro' and us all laughing and then us telling him we're from England and him asking 'do you speak English in England' - all of this was followed by a conversation with a girl at a courier company in the mall asking us where abouts in America England is - so much for that great empire we boast about having in the past, half the world doesn't even know we exist, either that or they rarely get two pale Brits wandering about the place
New Years Eve we took a trip with my cousins, Steph, Anjo, Nonoy, Joanna and Mike, my Uncle Ben and Aunt Mildred and the helper Rachel to Paradise Beach on Samal island. We were instructed to be up to go to the beach at 6am (I know!) so we were ready 6 on the dot an ventured out to the wharf to take the 5 minute boat ride to Samal. I had been here before and remembered how nice it was so was looking forward to a relaxing day. Unlike the beaches of the UK, the Filipino pastime of eating has to be catered for so our first task was to find our big wooden table and have the picnic breakfast that was brought with us, it really is a great idea providing these big picnic benches where you can bring your own food, shame we don't have that on the beach in the UK. The water was warm and clear so we spent the day swimming, eating, playing beach ping-pong and relaxing, I loved watching my cousins enjoy the beach and taking some secret snaps. When I had been here last with my Mum and Sister we had bought from Paradise Beach an inflatable float shaped like a big crab - imaginatively we had called it 'Mr Crab' - well to my surprise Mr Crab was still alive and was brought back home to the beach, maybe that's why he chose that time to puncture - now he was back where he came from - poor Mr Crab! It had been a perfect day in the sun and another example of the beauty that Davao has to offer, we made our way back home with sand on our feet and the healthy glow of a bit of sun....shame that my glow was to turn into full blown lobster burnt back later.....but at the time we all felt happy and healthy
When we got home, after an hour of quiet, the house was once again a hive of activity preparing for the countdown to 2011, the karaoke came out early and we sang away (me and Rob are now an expert at dueting to Summer Nights), a wonderful feast was prepared of deep fried crablets, grilled tilapia, pansit malbon, lachon manock, rice, chicken curry and salads - we all tucked in and ate until we were full (I now have an excuse for eating so much - it's in the genes) and then got straight back on to the karaoke. What we really loved about those kind of nights was there always seemed to be something going on in every part of the house, inside and out, not a dull corner anywhere. When we were getting closer to midnight we switched the TV outside to the countdown to New Year, my cousins prepared any means to make a racket; coins in pockets, pans and wooden spoons, coins in boxes. We waited huddled around the TV for the countdown and counted 10, 9, 8, 7, ......'erm we still have one minute to go' someone said.....after the laughter we decided that was just a 'practice'....then there is was 10, 9, 8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 HAPPY NEW YEAR and then we made lots of noise, jumped about and all hugged for the new year. Rob even managed to get us all to start chanting 'ube', 'ube', 'ube'.....and we celebrated some more with ube cake, ube ice cream and mango float (you can see who had most influence on the dessert choices)
We left the Davao early on the 2nd on January, I always prefer saying goodbye early in the morning because you can use the fact it's early as an excuse not to have a lot to say but 'goodbye' and 'take care'....I'm never good at goodbye's. Nonoy and Anjo came with us to the airport and it was hardest to say goodbye to them as they had been our guardian angels on our visit but lots and lots of hugs later we were back to sitting in a departure lounge waiting to go somewhere new...or in this case back to Singapore.
This Christmas and New Year will stay in our hearts forever, already it is just a memory but we are thankful that we even have that.....we are thankful for everything.