First – “why the heck did we go to the Philippines?” I know your thinking it 🙂 Let me explain for those who are not familiar with the beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, sometimes known as “Mormons.” Many of the men of our faith leave their families and schooling for two years when they are 19 years old to serve as Missionaries. They are assigned to an area from our Church Headquarters and don’t choose where they serve. John was called to the Cebu, Philippines mission in 1999 and lived and taught the people there until 2001. It was life changing for him and he has always wanted to go back and visit his Filipino friends. The cost of airplane tickets is crazy for a young family like ours, and were it not for the fact that he won snowmobiles back in December we would never have been able to afford it. So here we go!
On April 5th John and I left two sick boys with my Dad, and one getting sick boy with my little brother and flew out of LAX to Hong Kong. Not only were our boys sick – I was too! It was not the best traveling conditions! But no worries the trip got better and my Dad was a great nurse.
From Hong Kong we flew right to Cebu Island. Here was my first view of the Islands. There are over 7000 of them! All of the Islands we went too were completely surrounded by coral and reefs.
Since I was sick, my poor ears were plugged up and hurting so bad coming in. I don’t think I could hear for a couple of days! After we cleared customs we hopped in a taxi over to the V-hire. John got to test his Visayan out for the first time. I thought he spoke Cebuano, which he does, but everyone there calls it Visayan. It is a dialect spoke in the Central Visayas Area of the Philippines which is basically 2 1/2 major islands and a few tiny ones.
The V-hire is where you rent a seat in a type of mini-van. Because we had so much stuff and wanted to be comfortable we paid for a third seat. They cram people into every type of transportation beyond what it would naturally hold! They also wait until every seat is full so you don’t leave until there are enough people to make the trip.
The road over to Toledo was through the mountains. As we flew in I took a picture of how the roads wind through the mountains. I have a stomach of steel and never get carsick but I was sick A LOT on these roads. They are crazy drivers! They just wind in and out on the wrong side of the road. CrAzY!!!!
We arrived in Toledo and grabbed a trike (a bike with a big sidecar attached)
On my first motorcycle trike ride I couldn’t believe that he was blasting Air Supply so I took a little video. It gives you a look at what the city looks like.
We didn’t know where we were going to be staying so we just asked for a Hotel and he took us to the Travelers Inn. We paid $20 for our room. Not bad!
We had to push the beds together, not that it mattered…John ended up on my bed. He is a cuddler at night! It was nice to have AC! It was HOT. I knew it would be hot but I didn’t know I could feel so hot! We were there in their summer months so it was the hottest it could have been! We lucked out for the first few days with a little drizzling and some clouds which really helped!
Typical bathroom. The shower is open to the whole bathroom. This hotel actually had a shower curtain which was nice since the rest of the time we just sprayed the whole bathroom. I actually think I like this concept. The floor and toilet get cleaned off during your shower! I might redo the boys bathroom with this design to cut down on my cleaning time 🙂 All of the bathrooms had a bucket in there too – but I stuck to my cold showers.
We dropped our stuff off and took off to find people. John didn’t recognize anything. I can see why. Most of the homes and buildings are not super permanent. He had a trike driver take us to an area he use to know some people in and then we just started asking if anyone knew any “Mormons.” They told us there was a Mormon named Ramile down the dirt road we were on. Its so beautiful!
It was amazing that the first person we found was someone John had starting teaching on his mission but then John was transfered to another area. John never knew that Ramile had joined the Church and had served as a missionary himself! It was fun to see them reunited. We woke poor Ramile up and for a few mintues he thought he was dreaming!
It was awesome that we found him because he took us around to a lot of the people that John knew.
|Ramile is in the pink shirt|
Its the most delicious rotisserie chicken. They stuff the middle with banana leaves and season it up. We ate it with rice and calamansi (little lime looking fruit that actually taste more like an orange). It was so good! I loved this sign we saw later:
The bottom of the sign says, “once tasted, forever wanted.” Very true! Then we were out! We were so tired!
The next morning we woke up early, as in 4:30ish. We did that the whole trip. Most nights we were in bed around 7:30 and up by 5:00. They have so many roosters that it would have been hard to sleep in! Seriously in the morning there are hundreds of roosters crowing all together. We ate our leftover chicken and rice for breakfast. It was Sunday so we headed out to go to church.
We were pretty early so we did a lot of walking around. John was excited when he saw these:
At first he thought they were banigs – a picnic mat. When he asked them if they were they told him no, these were walls. Sure enough when I started looking around a lot of homes were made of these.
We got to church and found an empty lot. They had built a new chapel since John was there.
|The old church site.|
Here is the new church! It was SO nice!
We were still early so we hopped in a trike to go find another family he had known while in Toledo. John rode on the back of the motorcycle of the trike.
Such a great strong family!
The girl on the very left in the gray dress was staying with this family. John had been trying to track her and her Mom down and he knew the Mom was in Kuwait He didn’t know her daughter was in Toledo. He was so shocked and so happy to see her. He baptized her and her Mom when she was 8. She is done with college now, the Young Womens President, and submitting her mission papers!
|John and Ramile.|
We had all of our stuff loaded up and were heading down to Moal Boal, a resort town on the coast south of where we were. In order to get there we had to take a bus back over the mountains to Naga and then take another bus to Moal Boal. Well, they pack people into the buses – I mean PACK! They had 5 people across the front seat. Then they filled in the aisle seats with boxes to make more seating. I was put in the front and center of the second row. There were 7 of us in my “row” which was made for 4.
The picture just doesn’t do it justice. I was right in the middle looking straight out the windshield without a real seat or seat belt while the bus driver drove 50+ miles an hour through curvy mountains while playing chicken with other vehicles. I didn’t have anything to hold onto or anywhere to actually put my feet. I was scrunched up just trying not to fall over 🙂 It was an experience!
Some of the beautiful country on the way down. There are coconut and banana trees everywhere! We also saw lots of jack fruit and mango trees but they were not in season – bummer!
We stopped in Moal Boal and bought some produce from the mercado before heading to the resorts on the coast. Luckily we were still able to still get mango’s and they were SO good!
|Our hotel – Tipolo Resort|
|Our view. The washed out part is the water.|
|Looking out over our beach.|
This was at low tide. That’s part of the coral reef you see. When the tide went out it created a bunch of tide pools.
John was obsessed with finding cool shells. Most of them still had crabs in them though. We would bring shells in at night and put them in the corner. We knew the ones that had moved in the night still had occupants so we would go throw them back out to sea the next day.
At first we were kind of disillusioned with Moal Boal. There were a lot of foreigners and we felt kind of protective of the locals that in many ways are used and treated poorly by foreigners. But we warmed up to it. It helped so much that John could speak their language. Motorcycles were our main mode of transportation here. In order to get back into town you had to ride in on a trike or a motorcycle. The motorcycles were cheaper so I would hop on behind the driver and then John would hop on behind me. Motorcycles are a family car over there. Its not uncommon to see 5 or 6 people on one, including tiny babies and toddlers.
Once again we went to bed at 7:00! We were still really beat and I was just starting to get over being sick.