A week in The Philippines

We barely scratched the surface of what The Philippines has to offer; we had 7 full days there (23 October – 30 October), and we were working for 5 of them. We packed as much in as we could, had an incredible experience, and now we know for sure we have to go back. Back for… the seemingly untouched beaches and crystal clear water, for the people we met, and the simple things of daily life that are just so different from our norm here in the UK/Canada. We particularly loved El Nido, Palawan.

Although – what’s normal anymore? I’m writing this in a COVID-19 quarantine daydream… reminiscing on the days we could travel half way across the world for a fresh experience/perspective, and escape from the daily grind.  

The Philippines was destination 1 of 3 of what we called our “Honeymoon Tour”. We already had plans to be in Vietnam on 31 October and Laos following that. With work bringing us to Manila the week prior, it just made it more challenging to pack… work laptop, business attire, beachwear? To add to the complexity, we also had the Amsterdam Marathon we were training for. The race was on Sunday 20 October only one day before we’d have to fly out… so we had a mish-mash of commitments to pack for when we left London.


Traveling to Manila from Amsterdam, is not a small trip. Total travel time is 17hrs and you effectively lose a day from the timezone’s as well. We left Monday morning and we got to our hotel Tuesday night.

When we got to Manila we weren’t sure what to expect – and from what we did hear about Manila, we had low expectations. It is a highly populous city with a ridiculous amount of cars on the road. There is never a time in the day when there is no traffic. Infrastructure in the Philippines in general is lacking and that is really heightened in Manila. In London we all talk about the weather…. in Manila it’s the traffic. It comes up at the beginning of almost every conversation.

We worked Weds-Fri in Manila – Dan at the Manila satellite office, and me at my client’s office. Getting anywhere after work seemed impossible because of the traffic and with the amount of work we had on, we didn’t really end up exploring the city much. On Friday night we went out with some of Dan’s Filipino colleagues who are based in Manila full-time. No joke – it took 2hrs to get a Grab Cab accepted (uber equivalent) and then 1.5hrs to drive 7km into the city to meet up with them. Totally worth it though – the team Dan works with are hilarious and so much fun. I had THE WORST hangover the next day… and I was in VERY poor form for check-out and catching our 8am flight to Palawan for the weekend. Very poor form…

Sabang, Palawan

We flew into Puerto Princesa on Saturday morning – it’s about an hour flight. And had a couple hour drive to Sabang from there. The roads in Palawan are wild – it’s a stretch to call them roads. Outside of the cities there are parts of the road that turn into wide dirt paths where you have to drive around massive pot holes. The hangover I was sporting at the time did not appreciate it haha

But we got to Sabang and spent the day napping on a gorgeous beach. In the evening we treated ourselves to a couples massage, which was both amazing and hilarious. At one point I looked up and saw this tiny Filipino women on all fours on Dan’s back and legs haha His facial expression looking back at me was a combination of ‘WTF? But don’t stop’.

The next day we went to explore the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River – a UNESECO protected natural wonder. It’s an 80km underground river and it’s a must see. Really cool.

With limited time in Palawan, we hired a private driver to get us from Sabang to El Nido. It’s a 6hr drive with a private hire vs 10hrs for a shared service.

EL NIDO, Palawan

We arrived at around 7pm in El Nido and the sun was just starting to set. We got dropped off at what looked like a slum alley way – a couple of goats about and a few cats. Someone watching the tele in their living-room with the door wide open and a few taxi drivers killing time in their scooters chatting. A man comes up to us, grabs our luggage, and waves to follow him… uh, ok…

He walks down the alley way, makes a right down another alley way where you can see the water in the distance. He’s still 20m ahead of us and keeps walking into the water with our luggage. He waves us in and we see him wade towards a boat. And with all the faith in the world we just get on it. Our hotel was on an island so this makes sense… Very few words spoken and we get moving. We were floored by how beautiful it was.

And then we arrived at our hotel, and we were floored again. Thinking to ourselves – we nailed it.

This was our highlight. We wouldn’t have skipped Sabang, but at the same time we wish we had more time in El Nido.

Every morning we woke up to breakfast on our balcony. We’d snorkel for hours on end. And every evening the hotel did up a special private dinner on the beach. It was paradise.

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