This past July, my family and I took a vacation to visit our homeland, the Philippines! It was our longest vacation to the Philippines yet, since we spent 27 days there. This blog post isn't really going to be dedicated towards family pictures, but towards showcasing the beauty of the Philippines and showing off places to visit. I highly recommend visiting the Philippines because Filipino culture provides warm hospitality to all, it's relatively cheap to visit compared to other places, and it is just beautiful. If you ever need a tour guide/translator while you're there, don't hesitate to let me know ;)
For my graduation present, I wanted to take a trip to the famous El Nido, Palawan, which is a popular tourist hotspot. It's funny that my family and I are from the Philippines, but we haven't been to the "picturesque" beaches that the Philippines is known for. We were there for a total of three nights and four days. Since it was monsoon season when we visited, the Philippine Coast Guard actually shut down the island tours until our last day there, so we were able to take a private tour before catching our flight at 4 pm!
Usually most tourists pay for a package tour (Tour A, B, C, etc.), but since we were trying to catch our flight, we hired a private boat that showed us tour A, which was mostly island hopping. The tour packages include lunch on the boat, but since ours was private, we had to provide our own food. All in all, we saved some money by doing the private tour, but also we were able to catch our flight since the public tours are basically a whole day event (from 9-5).
Our tour guide brought us to the Small and Big Lagoon and Shimizu Island. The regular tour A included more, but since we were on a time crunch, we decided to pass it. At the Small Lagoon, we were able to rent a kayak and explore by kayaking around the area. It was breathtaking.
After the Small Lagoon, we saw the Big Lagoon and that's where we had our lunch break! Most boats are too big to enter the Big Lagoon, so people usually kayak to see the rest of it, but since our boat was smaller, we were able to go inside!
Our final stop was Shimizu Island where we had a chance to go snorkeling!! I have never been snorkeling before, so I was pretty excited. Our tour guide showed us areas to go and I was able to look at some of the fishies and the pretty corral. Not gonna lie, I was seeing "Part of Your World" from The Little Mermaid the whole time. It was incredible seeing God's creations and I didn't even realize that my back got sunburned during that time.
My family and I were praying that we were able to go do the island tours before we left since the tours were shut down the entire time we were there, but God is so faithful and I'm so glad that we were able to go during our last day!! During our first three days, we went exploring at their market, bought lots of fish, visited their most popular beaches, and ate lots of food at the restaurants nearby!
On our first full day, we visited Las Cabanas beach and enjoyed some fresh coconuts that were priced at 200 pesos each (~$4), at the market they were about 100 pesos. It was such a relaxing day and we ate at this restaurant (whoops sorry I forgot the name), by the beach which was nice. We even met some people who were from Texas (small world) because they saw my dad and I wearing our Texas Longhorn and Aggie hats. Hahah.
The hotel we stayed at we booked while we were still in the U.S., which I highly recommend because they fill up pretty fast especially during summer. We stayed at a room that had four single beds lined up which was interesting, but the staff members were nice and there was complimentary breakfast every day!! There were so many foreigners and it was so cool hearing the different languages when we were eating breakfast. The view from our room was also breathtaking as there was a giant mountain right behind us.
We also had a chance to go to Nacpan Beach which involved a really bumpy and muddy tricycle drive. The ride was worth the wait though, as it was also beautiful. We just played in the waves the entire day since the tides were very strong.
Overall, El Nido lived up to the hype! I wish it wasn't monsoon season when we visited, but I'm still very thankful I had a chance to check this off my bucket list. I definitely recommend it to anyone, especially if you love beaches! I definitely will be returning and hopefully with some friends next time!
The rest of our Philippines trip involved visiting family and friends and a little bit of sightseeing around Luneta Park and Venice Grand Canal Mall. We spent a lot of time in my mom's hometown, a province, in Nueva Ecija.
Luneta Park, or Rizal Park, is a historical urban park in Manila, Philippines. It's free except certain areas if you want to visit. It's definitely a popular spot for couples and cats (aka my favorite). At night it's really pretty because they turn on the lights! My family and our friends went on a train ride around Luneta Park which was fun because you had a chance to see the whole area. I forgot how much it costs, but it was only a couple of dollars I think.
In Taguig City, we visited the Venice Grand Canal. It was soo pretty and we went right before closing so we missed the gondola ride ($15/person), but it was a nice place to walk around and pretend that we were in Italy! They were playing Phantom of the Opera and my sister sang along. We hoped that our next family vacation would be in Italy! The Venice Grand Canal was definitely a family friendly place to hangout and there are plenty of food and dessert areas. I want to visit again, but not during the nighttime!
So before I talk about the province, I want to talk about this really awesome food area (sorry I forgot the name again haha) that we went to on our last night in the Philippines. We went with some of our childhood family friends and it was so unique because of the way everything was setup. The lights were so pretty and there was a giant fountain in the middle and lots of outdoor seating area. There were different food truck options that had desserts to different types of foods! We literally ate so much that night and everything was so delicious and the halo halo was YUMMY.
My mom is from the province and my dad is from the city, but since we have a house in the province, we spent a lot of time there. We would go to our family's farm and pick mangoes, guavas, and bananas and see the different animals. It's a nice change of pace from the city in the Philippines, but also here in Texas since we live in the city.
It's definitely different staying in the province when we're in the Philippines because our house doesn't have wifi or even a TV, so it was a nice way to unplug and just really enjoy a simple life. My sister and I would help my mom clean the roof by removing birds' nests and every morning we would wake up at like 7-8 am and have breakfast together as a family. My parents would wake up extra early and buy pandesal (Filipino bread) and my sister and I would walk with our mom to the palenke (market) to buy food for the day. It's definitely different from my life in the U.S, but it is such an eye opening experience and it makes me wonder what my life would be like if we never moved to Texas. It's also really cool seeing the area where my mom grew up and went to school, and since it's a small province, people knew my family which made me feel really welcome.
One of my favorite parts of visiting the motherland is the food. The fast food portions are way smaller than in the U.S, which is something we got used to, but nevertheless, my family ate lots of Jollibee (a Filipino multinational fast food chain that serves amazing chicken) while we were there. There's one in Houston, btw if you're from the area or if you're visiting.
I always eat so much every time we visit the Philippines, but I really did a lot more this time around, but I never really took pictures of the food. My mom cooks Filipino food for us everyday, but there are some foods that we just don't eat unless there's a special occasion, so it's always nice to come home and eat everything! Eating out at restaurants in the Philippines is also a LOT cheaper. Our family of four would eat at a restaurant and we would spend maybe like $30-$40 vs. way more when eating out in Texas. *sigh*
The first photo below is at a buffet in Cabanatuan City called Yaki Mix where they had a Korean BBQ style area, but they also had lots of other types of food! They were doing a special on your birth month so I got to eat free if I brought three guests! The second photo is from a restaurant somewhere in Clark and the left dish is Sisig (Filipino dish made from parts of pig head and liver, usually seasoned with calamansi and chili peppers) and the right dish is chicken wings (b/c they're my favorite)!
My ultimate favorite Filipino dessert is Halo halo (pronounced ha-loh ha-loh not halo halo). Halo halo is a popular Filipino cold dessert that is layered with ice, sweetened beans, fruits, evaporated milk and ice cream! Every place I went to, I ordered Halo halo which started my quest on finding the ultimate halo halo ever. It's literally the best thing ever and we rarely eat it at home because it takes forever to make. The best one I tried was probably from the food truck we went to called Halo Halo Island.
Overall, I had an amazing time visiting the motherland. It's always great to see family and friends, but also great to look back to where my family is from & enjoy our culture. I am excited to visit again and I hope you enjoyed a glimpse of one of the most beautiful places in the world. I'm a proud Filipina-American, and visiting the Philippines this summer just continued to fan the flame for my love of my culture, our food, and all our people.
If you have any questions about my trip, feel free to email me or message me on here!