I spend a lot of time at site trying to convince people I am not a tourist. Inde ako tourista! Gaistar ako diri! (I’m not a tourist! I live here!)
Welp. I finally got to be a tourist, and it was pretty great. Everybody, come tour the Philippines! Last week, I traveled to Panglao, Bohol by way of Cebu City, Cebu to meet to with 50 or so other Peace Corps Volunteers, then traveled back by way way of Moalboal, Cebu, with a smaller group. Warning: this post isn’t going to focus on the hard work and sacrifice involved in volunteerism. It was just a fun trip and demonstrates why sometimes the Peace Corps gets referred to as the Posh Corps.
There’s no way of saying this that doesn’t sound cheesy. But, everything at site seems different now. I’ve really gotten to experience life in the Philippines in a whole new way, and, through talking with other volunteers who shared my vacation with me, learned a lot about how incredibly diverse this country is.
I was a little worried about returning to work after a whole week vacation with other volunteers. Maybe I’d feel lonely or bored. Instead, I feel recharged, excited and ready to take on the coming year.
Now, for some pictures.
On New Year’s Eve, I woke up early in the morning with 14 or so dive-ready volunteers. Although many Coastal Resource Management Volunteers get opportunities to dive at site, I’ll likely have a few myself come dry season, it’s unlikely they could be anything like this. We did two dives as a group, and it was breathtaking. Both were drift dives along a reef wall. We saw all kinds of sea life characteristic of the diversity the coral triangle is known for. Highlight: a massive cuttlefish. I do not have a scuba-safe camera, but I’m very excited to see pictures from others.
Through the hostel where many of us stayed, we booked a day tour of Bohol. This included a trip out to the Chocolate hills, an incredible lunch cruise, a trip to a butterfly sanctuary, a tarsier sanctuary, and a quick stop to check out some pythons. I usually wouldn’t sign up for a tour like this, but it was absolutely worth it.
The tarsier sanctuary was small and home to just 6 adults. These little guys are very sensitive, nocturnal, and endangered. They are so sensitive that it can make you feel pretty bad stomping through their homes while they’re sleeping. But, we were told this was one of the more ethical ways to visit the cute little creatures.
Bohol was filled with lots of great signage.
On the third, I left Bohol by ferry and then took a bus out to Moalboal, Cebu. It was a tough trip and there were a few difficulties that lead to not be able to make it out to the Kawasan Falls (here’s a blog post from someone who did make it– it looks incredible). However, the snorkeling just off shore made it all worth it. Moalboal is known for the sardines that school extremely close to shore.
The pictures do it no justice. Also, I saw maybe 4 sea turtles, a sea snake, pipefish, clownfish, and some freedivers disappearing down a coral wall.
After dark, we returned to back to water to see it lit up with luminescent plankton underneath a perfectly clear night sky. Again, cheezing it up, but it doesn’t really get more magical.
The next morning, I headed out of Moalboal on my own to meet my sitemate (her site is one municipality over) at the airport. And the trip was over.
In my disorganization, I’ve left a lot out. I also went bowling and saw Rogue One in 3D-IMAX, did a firefly night kayak tour, ate amazing foods, and rang in the New Year with beach fireworks. I feel absolutely grateful for this experience, and that I was able to spend it with so many incredible, ridiculous people.
Now back to work. I have a few projects up in the air that I’d like to get rolling before I head out to Manila for my Initial Service Training at the end of the month. Tourist no more. For now.