Island hopping in the Philippines

Updated: Jan 16, 2018

Pangloa, Bohol, Malapascua. If you've never heard these names before, get your snorkel mask and your camera and book that flight to The Philippines! Beautiful diving spots and turqoise waters is not all the 7.000 islands have to offer though, traveling with kids to the Philippines will take you on a cultural journey and probably not without a couple of insights and bruises that will make them remember the trip! Don't be put off though - here is Chris's story on the Phillippines!

Inspiration by Christopher Juul Nyegaard - Written by Mathilde Moyell Juul


"Where ever I lay my hat, that's my home". I guess for someone who is Danish, born and bread in Singapore, who has travelled on 17 planes and visited 10 countries at the age of 18 months, I should be the expert. But for me, Philippines and Philippinos will always have a special place in my heart. Not because my brother is called Philip, and not because they have a lot of GREAT dried mango there, but simply because my nanny and best friend, Emily, is from there. Because of her, Philippines seemed familiar even before going - or at least the faces. However, I nearly didn't make it...

Before revealing why, just one thing. You are asking a baby for travel advice, which means you will of course get it from...a baby's - correction - toddler's, perspective. We're generally quite a happy and content sort, but also quite honest. You'll therefore get both the Highlights and the Bummers in my story below.


Bummer#1 - Expired passport

Not a great start. I realised why, when observing the many lines and very wide eyes in my parent's faces the day before departure. I didn't really get it at first, but when my mum checked in online on the morning of Christmas eve, it became obvious by the sound of her screech! She had realised that my passport was 2 days under being '6 months from expiry', not good, even although I think we can agree, that unless I've had lessons from Boss Baby (agree, similar look) I'm hardly going to harm anyone or be a threat to security on a plane.

However, having a passport under 6 months from expiring is vital in some countries, Philippines being one of them. So, a couple of calls, a very beneficial Christmas service at the Danish Church (Danish ambassador incidentally there) and a visit to the closed embassy (with extremely nice ambassador there, not incidentally) 3 hours before I flight on Christmas Day, my passport was extended.


SEE INSTAGRAM and click STORIES HIGHLIGHTS to see more from this journey.


HIGHLIGHT#1 - RenewAL + bassinet

As you can hear, this holiday almost didn't happen. But thanks to Dorthe Ambassador, it did. And thank God for that, because my mum had booked very good front seats with a bassinet, that I think with a bit of play-doh skills, her and dad managed to squeeze my little legs and arms into, as I got tired.

Almost a first class start to a holiday...but one that quite quickly got slightly downgraded...


Bummer#2 - missing the boat

Having good seats doesn't speed up the plane. And the plane was late, 45 min. exactly, minutes that would affect the rest of our trip that day quite a deal. We ran (well some), first in line for luggage, first in line for taxi and 5:45pm, we were relieved to see our boat at port 4. But, we're in the Philippines, and just because you have an online ticket, even on paper, its's necessary go to Port 1 to check in, have your luggage scanned and .get a shuttle back to the boat. A port where all taxis were completely stuck and half the Philippines were getting boats to see their relatives for Christmas. The 5 of us ran out of the taxi, into the street with all our gear, pushed our way through the massive crowds, but at Cat Ferries we were greeted with: "your ferry has just left".

Check out video with tasters from the trip!


Christmas Day, no ferries until 10pm and not a restaurant or babyfood in sight. Only a mechanical Santa and a his rain deers who reminded us of what day it was and that mummy's crackers and smoothie pouches would be our Christmas Day dinner. This was also when Philip and Sienna realised we didn't have the right adapters for the plugs used in Philippines and the two battery drained ipads were struggling, - this meant, that so were my brother and sister. But we managed. Played with Santa, a couple of other kids, went for a zillion walks around the now half-empty ferry terminal and waited...

HIGHLIGHT#2 - Missing the boat

...and what for you might ask? Well, there was a night ferry. At 10pm that did take 3 times as long as the 6pm one that we missed. But, it had....BUNK BEDS! Philip, Sienna and myself so excited, we were going to sleep on this ferry! And not alone of course, probably the only ones with blonde hair, but like us, other kids got out their toys and daddy's followed the sports on the TV. I finally slept at midnight I think, and then, at 3am the boat suddenly stopped. People kept sleeping, but we were actually at port, at Panglao, and thankfully, our hotel had sent a man to pick up us, in the dark and middle of the night.

SEE INSTAGRAM and click STORIES HIGHLIGHTS to see more from this journey.


No bed for me, no made-up beds for Philip and Sienna, but at 4am, all was taken care off and we could stretch our legs, enjoy the quiet sound of waves and relax after a long day.

..And you know what? It had been fun, an adventure, running through crowds, hanging out with Santa, sleeping on a bunkbeds on a ferry... we wouldn't have changed it for anything. I think my mum and dad were relieved when we woke up to this view though.

Admittedly, we were also pretty excited when we saw the beach, let alone the breakfast!


Bummer#3- daddy lost at sea

We love d the Amorita Resort in Panglao, and I'll tell you more about this in a minute.

But first, another shocker at sea for us - or for my dad more like. Whale Sharks is apparently the big thing, my mum and dad both really wanted to see them and swim with them, and with a 2 hours boatride from Panglao, apparently you can. My dad got off early and off he went. As you probably saw in the video, he did actually see them, in fact, so close that the tale of the whale shark hit the underwater camera! So that was of course a "highlight", not a "bummer". The bummer happened after, when the motor on the diving boat broke down, and it wouldn't go anywhere, for 3 hours! They were in new territory in Philippines and not allowed to leave the boat and get another to sail the group home. So many negotiations later, some that entailed the possibility of staying the night there! - they were finally allowed back. We all got a bit worried, as of course you can get very cold in a wetsuit out on the sea for so many hours!

Highlight#3- panglao,pool&chocolate

But, thankfully he came back for dinner and we could tell him about all the fun we'd had playing at the swings, the beach and the two pools. I loooved being in the pools, they were very toddler friendly and the staff gave us mango popsicles every day!

We'd mostly stay at the pool by the restaurant and in the afternoon hung out by the other one on the cliff, where you can drinks, watch the sunset and go down to the beach.

Amorita is on the hill, so you walk down about a 15 steps to Alona beach. Great water, lovely sand and Sienna said - also lots of star fish and Nemo's if you snorkle from the beach, 10 metres out!

So now you're probably excitedly waiting for the chocolate part...

Well, sorry to tease, but it's not real chocolate - it's Chocolate Hills! And we saw these, by doing a short day-trip around Bohol with a driver from the hotel. If you get the bridge over from Panglao to Bohol and drive for an hour, you will get to see this:

Not so chocolate? Well, they should have been all brown in the dry season, but they looked pretty green to me! Something else on our journey was slightly more chocolate in colour though, very cute, but not edible either: The Tarsier Monkey! Seriously, you have never in your life seen a monkey this small - supposedly it's the smallest in the world! And they have very big eyes, when they're open that is, because most of the time, they sleep like koala bears in the trees.

On our trip around Bohol and Panglao, we also drove through rice paddies and a crazy manmade forest with TAAAL trees!

The great finale was lunch at this organic farm place, called Bohol Bee Farm - my mum was clicking away with her camera, as she runs a website called www.orgayana.com (a guide to green lifestyle), so she was in heaven with all the food being organic and all these 'sustainable' initiatives at the farm. I didn't eat flowers like she did, but I loved playing with their cat!

SEE INSTAGRAM and click STORIES HIGHLIGHTS to see more from this journey.


My highlight on this trip were the kids in Christmas clothes, singing at the site of the Chocolate Hills - I loved looking at them, just as I did so many other places we've been here, where they play music.. They love music in the Philippines, especially around Christmas, and I do too! (See video to see this)


Bummer#4- Late & crazy ride

We loved our 5 nights in Panglao, but were ready for new adventures, and yet again what a ride! This time we made our boat, with aircon so effective, I nearly got pneumonia there, but at our return to the infamous, now less crowded Cebu port, we were in for another wait. Our driver had driven all the way from Malapascua to Cebu town that morning and was an hour late to pick us up. Oblivious to the long ride ahead we grabbed some lunch, which turned out to bee a good idea for us (and driver) - even though the location this time wasn't exactly my mum's favourite. I loved it, burger, fries, and can you believe it, they gave me a crown!

5 hours under way - more in the wrong side of the road than the right. Drivers in Philippines like taking over at any opportunity and baby chairs are not really the thing. Of course I loved walking around in the minibus, sleeping on laps with no seatbelt and getting front views whenever I screamed loud enough, but my mum and dad looked a bit tired and worried at times.

SEE INSTAGRAM and click STORIES HIGHLIGHTS to see more from this journey.

And this didn't get better when we finally arrived to the dock in the dark at 6pm. Walking into a very small fishing boat that took us to a slightly bigger fishing boat, we ventured into the night and the very big waves to get across to Malapascua island.


A trip that took twice as long as normal and got my dad feeling a bit more stiff than normal, when I rested my head on his shoulder under a raincover. I fell a sleep, a long day on the road and again, a relief to my parents when we arrived at our next destination.


Highlight#5 - pizza, pasta & pancakes

The fun thing about arriving in the dark, is that you don't know how you live and where, until you wake up. The last thing I remembered was waves at sea - the next thing I knew, I was on a mattress on the floor with all my family in the room. And when my mum drew the curtains, her reaction was: "WAUW".

We were on this hillside in a hut at The Tepanee overlooking a bay with turquoise waters and beautiful trees. I loved it! Mostly the fact that I was with my entire family all the time in one room and practising my climbing and descent skills on the many steps.

However, Tepanee is not made for babies or people in wheelchairs. Everything is very beautifully laid out with cobbled pathways, but it's up and down and up, and you won't get a children's cot or baby chairs at the restaurants.

I didn't care though, because in the restaurant they just doubled up the chair (nearly like an adult!) and to me, Philip and Sienna, what counted, was the fact that Tepanee and their restaurant Amihan are both owned by Italians. You know what that means?? Yes. Pasta, pizza and well...pancakes! My favourite every morning, when we sat on the beach and I also made sure to taste Sienna's yoghurt, daddy's eggs, Philip's smoothie and mummy's coffee.

Bummer#5- mummy lost at sea

Now, we nearly lost our daddy on the sea in Panglao, this time it was Malapascua playing a trick on mum. The island and the area is renowned for it's diving and snorkelling, so mum swam 500 metres out to the nearest island to get closer to the coral reef and the Nemos. With her snorkel and fins she did get there, but instead of heading back after, she ventured to these mini-islands 20 metres from the main one. Distracted by some pink jellyfish, she looked up and realised the current had moved her, quickly, away from the islands. As she attempted to swim back, she realised she wasn't getting anywhere. My mum told us she got really scared, she was fighting to swim back to the big island, where a boat was anchored, but that she couldn't get close. She then calmed herself down, took out the snorkel and laid on her back and did back strokes. She moved little by little and fought her way back to the small boat that hosted a couple who were touring and offered to bring her back. We were happy to see her, she had been gone a little too long.

Later on my mum spoke to the owner of Tepanee, who could tell her, that this current is always like this at that location - and if you let it take you, it actually brings you back to the island. But my mum didn't know this, all she could see was a very wide ocean with very big powers.

That's why I don't snorkle, just too dangerous ;-)


Highlight#6 - Wrecks, Nemo & Crabs

Philip and Sienna did though, one day we hired a boat for 3 hours and they jumped in while I was happily sleeping in a towel. They both saw a wreck - a ship on the bottom! (see video!)

And loads of fish, of course Nemo again, which I was very jealous off - but they told me I'd be a little disapointed, as it's not even as big as the fin on my Nemo teddy! My dad also went diving again for sharks - this time a rare shark and known in this area - the thresher shark. He got up at 4:30 and was back at 8am, but all he got was a very cold boat in the rain, no sharks and as we were leaving the next day, no second chance. It rained for about 36 hours actually, but I won't write that in as a "bummer" as the rain were the leftovers from the Mindanao Typhoon, that we'd managed to escape - just south of us at Panglao. Caught in that, would have been quite a lot more than a bummer, so we were lucky - because Christmas might be dry season in Philippines, but also Typhoon season...

The rain was just drizzly anyway and didn't affect us much for our crab hunting. Philip, Sienna (and me part-time) spent hours searching for shells with crabs, making homes for them, giving them names, logging their whereabouts and getting other kids involved too. I lost my bucket quite often, but I loved looking at all the crabs they brought in, and it kept us entertained for hours.

Bummer#6- mummy going blind?

I won't spend long on this one, my mum wouldn't want me to, but qualify's as a "bummer". The day before we were leaving, my mum woke up and couldn't see out of her eye! She said something about a contact lens being stuck and dad and her spent hours trying to light up her eye and get it out (all while I was rummaging the Oreo's in the fridge without them seeing it). It was painful she said, and apparently not a stuck lens, but infection - swimming with lenses is not the thing to do so it seems - she's still wearing glasses!

Highlight#6 - Family time 24/7

Guess what. Mum didn't go blind, both her and dad made it back from the sea, I survived hours on end with no chair or seatbelt in crazy traffic and at sea, and we all made it to our destinations, eventually. And through these bust up's, we saw Philippino life go by. When we drove through Cebu island for hours and walked through a village in Malapascua,

I saw all the shophouses, the packed and colourful "jeepney" buses, the kids playing with one coin as their toy on the streets (and laughing) and miles and miles of greenery, trees and rice paddies.


Philippines was probably a little too exciting because we didn't plan it well enough (allow more time!) or were unlucky - but I loved it there. Everyone was so nice to me all the time, just like my nanny Emily, and not only did I see her country and her people, but I spent time with dad, mum, Philip and Sienna 24/7. That is my perfect holiday!

Happy New Year!


TRANSPORT:

Flight return Singapore-Cebu, 3 hrs.

Cebu Airport -Cebu Pier: taxi, 30min-1 hr.

Cebu Pier -Bohol Pier, boat, 2 Hrs. (slow-ferry, 5 hrs.),

Taxi Bohol Pier - Alona Beach, Panglao, 45 min.

Cebu Pier-Maya Pier, mini-bus, 3-4 hours.

Maya to Malapascua, boat, 30min-1 hr.

REASON: Our nanny is from The Philippines and we've always wanted to see her country as well as the beautiful diving spots and beaches.

ITINEARY: Dec. 2017/Jan. 2018 - 5 nights Panglao, 4 nights Malapascua

PRICERANGE: Panglao accomodation was more upmarket, Malapascua mid-range - many cheap options in Philippines.

STRETCH: 9 nights and 10 days

CHRIS: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐ MATHILDE: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


Hotels

Hotel Amorita, Panglao, Bohol: http://www.amoritaresort.com

Tepanee Beach Resort, Malapascua: http://www.tepanee.com




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