“Be careful..” says a crew member as I edge along the gang plank; clutching the bamboo pole he has balanced on the step of the stone jetty. “..with my heart!” he completes his sentence with a beaming smile. I’ll bet he says that to all the girls.
On Olango Island tricycles and motorbikes share the road with goats and dogs. We are on bicycles, on a Bugoy Bikers tour, breezing past small children who are exploring the remains of the day. Everyone waves and shouts hello, from the teen holding a cockerel by the neck to the mother frying food for the family stall while giving her youngest a piggy back. People have to work hard to earn a living in these rural island villages, but still they have time to welcome you to their world. The defining characteristic of a Filipino has to be their smile, as reliable as the sun.
Visiting The Philippines is as much about connecting with the people as it is about relaxing on a beach. There is no language barrier; English is widely spoken which makes it easy to chat and discover the culture. Filipinos are clannish; families can be a dozen strong, and you’ll be embraced if you are travelling with kids. Moving about is pretty easy too; signage is in English and there’s a mind boggling array of cheap transport options. Tricycle motorbikes can hold as many as ten people. Mind you, they all look like they might fall off.
Sport and relaxation
Triathlons are popular and Cebu was the host of Asia’s Iron Man 2014 and the younger and fitter go hiking on trails around Osmena Peak says local biking enthusiast Janus Andrino. We also came across a few basketball games as we passed through villages. Cock fighting is a more common way to chill out and many villages have their own pit. Music is a staple of Filipino life. Restaurants hire local bands and don’t be surprised if your guide or fellow diners get up to sing. You can visit the Alegre guitar factory on Mactan Island and watch the instruments being constructed while sales staff play those in the shop. But be warned; they’re good at their job. I am now learning the ukulele.
The Bohol town of Loboc is world famous for its music. “If they aren’t born with a good voice then at least they can play an instrument,” says guide Grace Tachado about the town’s music culture. You can arrange to watch a rehearsal of the award winning children’s choir or you can watch some of the 500 strong brass group rehearse; we saw 130 kids practicing for the Sandugo Festival. Joining in with the music in The Philippines is expected, but if you are shy you can get yourself down to a videoke bar to practice. They are everywhere. And you never know; your fellow travellers may start to see you in a wholly different light.
For every flight and hotel trip that you book to the Philippines for 7 nights or more from now until the 31st of December, Expedia will donate £100 to Habitat for Humanity to help rebuild homes, schools and livelihoods.
Find out more about the work of Habitat for Humanity in the Philippines.