Philippines: Prelude

Big Lagoon near El Nido, Palawan

Over the next few weeks, Himself will be posting photos and stories from an epic trip he’s taking to Fülöp-szigetek. It won’t be quite the same as being there, but being there virtually is better than not being there at all.

Pagbilao Chico Island, near Lucena City, Quezon Province, Philippines. 1987
An old digitised slide from when we lived in the Philippines – circa 1987

I lived with my family in the Philippines for six years, a long time ago, from 1985-91. I have occasionally thought and dreamed about going back for a visit, to see some of the places I missed, such as the rice terraces at Banaue and the achingly beautiful area of small islands, isolated beaches, limestone cliffs and jungle at the North end of Palawan, as well as revisiting some of the places we lived. So when my eldest daughter who partially grew up there rang me one day and asked if I would be interested in joining her on a trip to the Philippines, it didn’t take too much persuading to say yes.

We have been making plans now for over a month. For me, planning a trip is almost as enjoyable as going, especially these days with websites like Google Maps, online booking sites where you can see a lot about places to stay, Rome2Rio for transportation connections almost anywhere you can think of, and others. Even if I don’t ultimately get to go, I get a lot of pleasure out of planning and dreaming about the trip.

So far I have gotten flights to Manila, an onward flight on the same day to Busuanga and a couple of nights stay in a guesthouse on the waterfront in Coron Old Town. From there I plan to take a ferry to El Nido, and then stay in a nice-looking beachfront house in Corong Corong for almost two weeks. The rest of the time is still unplanned. I like to leave things a bit open to allow for surprises. And I have an added bonus of a long layover in Taipei, Taiwan, on the way home, long enough to get out of the airport and see a bit of that city.

As for visiting places where we used to live and work, I know that most have changed beyond recognition over the years. I used to drive up a rocky gravel mountain road in Mindanao, taking some of Mother Teresa’s nuns to remote villages for pop-up medical clinics. It’s now a major national highway. We once enjoyed a holiday on an island in a beautiful house owned by the then-Philippine Ambassador to the USSR. It had a white sand beach isolated by limestone cliffs that we had all to ourselves, except for a family of fishermen who brought us groceries and cooked and barbecued for us. That beach is now a small but popular resort.

I’m really looking forward to this trip, now only about a week away. Warm weather, beaches and boats, exploring hidden bays and islands, and eating fresh seafood are all among my favourite things. And I really have gotten a lot of pleasure out of planning already.

Here is a list of some of my favourite sites for planning trips. We do NOT get any income or affiliate marketing fees from any of these. They are only listed for convenience:

Google Flights – Good for preliminary checks to find flight deals. I almost always end up going to the airline’s site to purchase tickets. It seems safer than buying from aggregator sites

Momondo is another site for checking for flight deals. Especially good if your time is flexible because you can easily compare prices on different dates.

Rome2Rio How to get from A to B. All forms of transport, ferries, buses, trains and planes. Most of the world.

The Man in Seat 61: I love train travel, and this site lists train travel everywhere, along with reviews.

Google Maps: When choosing where to stay, I always refer to Google Maps to see where the accommodation is located, and to find out how to get public transport or walking directions from airports and train stations, nearby restaurants and sites. In many cases, you can also use Street View to have a look at the place and its surroundings.
There are too many ways to look for accommodation to list here. A lot depends on your travel style, budget and other personal factors. The ones I use the most are VRBO, Airbnb, and
The same goes for finding new destinations, places to go, things to see and do, where to eat, nightlife, etc. Dozens if not hundreds of travel guide websites and travel bloggers to choose from. Not that I am biased, but one of my favourite travel sites is right here on Any Excuse to Travel.
I will add more posts about our adventures in the Philippines, so do check back.
Banaue Rice Terraces, N. Luzon, Philippines
Banaue rice terraces (N. Luzon, Philippines)taken from the observation point at beginning of the road to Bontoc. Unfortunately, due to a declining interest in the traditional Ifugao rice-growing culture, this photo shows clear evidence of erosion of the terraces.


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