My wife Daisy and I moved to Manila from Perth in January 2017. The below image was taken one Friday afternoon, within a month of our arrival, and I immediately we knew our decision was a good one.
Fast forward to May 2021 and a lot has changed, but we are still thankful to live in the Philippines and blessed to have the many opportunities of domestic travel in our adopted home.
When times were simpler, Daisy and I would plan a long weekend away from Manila once a month. My memories of this time are fondly held for many reasons, pre-pandemic, pre-children, and freedom was relatively limitless. Affordable domestic carriers with lunch time flights departing for locations like El-Nido, Siargao and Boracay gave us the possibility to pack a back pack each, an early knock off on a Thursday/Friday, and providing we made it past the uncertainty and ambiguity of Terminal 4 departure lounge, we could have our feet in the water and a beer/G&T in hand by sunset of the same day.
Depending on our location our first day away would typically involve arranging a motorbike, a trip to the beach, massage and then hydrate after a day in the sun. The freedom of riding a motorbike without any rental agreement, exchange of details or time limits was refreshing, trusting and was only matched by the freedom of wind in the face driving down Nacapan Beach to find a secluded location.
Island hopping around El Nido, Coron, Siargao, Mactan, Bohol, Dumagetee, has left us with amazing memories of swimming through caves, turtles, clean water, high visibility, fish and in some cases temporary hearing loss from poorly sound proofed bunkers engines. The friendly bunker captains have always been accommodating and have operated with a smile. On occasion in El Nido we took a private boat which can be arranged at a little extra cost and gave complete autonomy and was a nice luxury.
We found food and drinks to be hit and miss on the islands and encountered varied levels of quality which added to the excitement of the destination. We found Siargao, home of a relatively large French expat community, to have a great selection of restaurants, cafes and bars. Even when we encountered a dish or two that wasn’t the best, the view of a sunset over the water with a cold drink, only an hour or two away from Manila, was a memorable experience.
Reflecting on our 4.5 years in Manila we are so grateful to have been able to travel to and experience the beauty of the islands to our South. Whether our intent was to surf, island hop, relax, diving, food and drink we were always able to find a location which provided us lasting and enjoyable experience. While there are many expats in Manila who have greater travel experience, over a much longer term than us, I would be very happy to provide more details on our experiences to anyone interested.
Finally, Daisy and I have visited Boracay a number of times upon re-opening. In November 2020, in the first few weeks of reopening, we got to see Boracay in all its glory. After some years of closure for various reasons we experienced Boracay with no tourists, no pollution, pristine beaches and unmatched beauty.
Mick is a Civil Engineer and the COO of Prime BMD in The Philippines. He’s a Brisbane boy originally and has lived in the Philippines with his wife and son for over 4 years.