Cebu

Slightly hungover, we hopped over to the island of Cebu. Though our weary heads did nothing to deter us from exploring, so headed for the Basilica Minore del Santo Nino, a huge cathedral in the city. Inside lived a bust called Ecce Homo, apparently ‘miraculously’ discovered in 1572. It also housed the El Nino statue, a very famous religious ornament for the island, as discovered in 1565 by the Spanish. There were many pictures depicting the arrival of the Spanish to the Philippines, and were portrayed as though they were doing the natives a favour by being there. Though, one picture does confess that they were “met with some resistance”, which depicted a Spaniard on top of a hill, looking down at the burning houses and corpses of a Filipino tribal village. Nice.

Afterwards, we popped over to fort San Pedro, the smallest, yet oldest fort in the Philippines, finished in 1738.

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We journeyed to Oslob, and at the bus terminal, were blessed by the presence of the legend known as Richard Gay! There he was, sleep deprived by approximately 400 hours, yet still managing to wear a glorious smile on his little face. He was in for a treat though, as by coming all this way, we were about to tick a pretty incredible life box.

Weighing in at around 34 tons, whale sharks are the biggest fish on the planet, and we were fortunate enough to have a chance to swim with them. You had to keep your distance though, which wasn’t always easy considering their sheer size. They were intimidatingly magnificent, and for their size, so incredibly elegant. I would recommend this to everyone.

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The dog in the hostel

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The whale sharks awaited us

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The whale shark rules

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To continue our adrenalin fuelled morning, we checked out Anoguid waterfall. This experience was hit and miss. The waterfall was beautiful, but tour guides were obligatory. One of the best things about waterfalls is discovering its hidden gems yourself. Ednora decided to go for a solo wander and the guides freaked out that she had disappeared. I had never seen such nervousness around a waterfall. I would have understood if assisted waterfall tour guides were a nationwide rule, but it appeared it was only here that a company were taking advantage of a natural beauty. At one point they were even telling us where to put our feet when walking, as though we had never walked before – micromanagement at its finest. As we paid the money to get in, we were reassured that the fish feet massage was complimentary, as though they had struck a deal with the fish, who were willing to throw in a few extra working hours to eat feet. Later that day we headed to Maol Baol.

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Pathetic

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Maol Baol was a sleepy town with a quaint beach. For our first full day, we went snorkelling just off the shore, and at only 50 yards out, you were swimming above thousands of sardines, swaying in the sea, making silvery shapes at your feet. It was beautiful to watch. But then something happened. As I relaxed, hypnotised by the seabed of fish, all dancing in perfect synchrony, the flow broke apart and something was gliding through the middle, a sea turtle! I screeched through my snorkel at Richard, who had no idea what I was saying. I pulled out the implement from my orifice, told him, he freaked out, and then we went hunting for it. We called Ednora into the sea to check it out too, but that was an error. It was an error because we only had two goggles, so I basically sacrificed mine and couldn’t see anything. You’re welcome. Nevertheless, at one point I managed to swim so close to the huge beast, I could have touched it if I wanted – what a box ticker.

We all hopped onto a bunch of motorbikes and were taken to a huge adventure waterfall place with swing ropes and high jumps, named Kawasan Falls. The highest jump we conquered was 60 foot, which hit me so hard, it actually involuntarily forced my eyelids open. It fricking hurt. I think it was James who said that when he landed, he felt as though he had had a lead pipe enter his anus at an astronomical force. It was an adrenaline-fuelled day where we hung out with cool people and did something that scared us about every 10 minutes. To shake off the adrenaline we headed to the nearby hot springs – a relaxing spot in the wilderness with three different temperatures. A little further into the woodland was a huge network of waterfalls made for climbing on and jumping into (and without any tour guides this time!). We witnessed two amazing things at this waterfall. The first was a rainbow at the foot of a small fall, which we swam into; were officially in a rainbow! The second was watching a spider spin its web, a fascinating thing to witness.

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S Club 7 – The Reunion

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The trail of the hot springs

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The waterfall with the rainbow

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= Peter Andre

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Later that night we bought five litres of booze, a bottle of 80% proof rum, and a big bottle of coke all for £8. We played drinking games with our new friends, Nancy and Lewis, regularly harking back to our day of jumping from high places, and sitting in hot water.

For our final day in the Philippines we decided to go island hopping. Unfortunately, the island hopping was with a couple of pirates who were both taking us for a ride, and also taking us for a ride. For a start, they only had two snorkels for eight people. Also, one of the spots we snorkelled at was teeming with jellyfish, too small to dodge. Though a big one managed to get Mark on the arm, and when he got out, it looked as though he had been whipped by the whip owned by Indiana Jones, which was not fun. The positive from that day though was when we were taken to the sea turtle hotspot, so were lucky enough to see several of them doing their thing. Incredible amphibians. That evening, we headed back to Cebu for our surprise location.

The Philippines was stunning. When out at sea, everywhere you looked could have been a postcard picture. We felt as though we were taken advantage of a few times, similar to our Indonesia experience, but nevertheless, did some things we had not yet achieved on our travels, namely swimming with whale sharks, and witnessing my brother laying a brick on a beautiful beach.