The Philippines was the top item on my bucket list for over a year. Deciding which island to visit out of 7,000+ was a task within itself, but I trusted my instinct and went with Cebu instead of Manila, Boracay or Palawan. Thanks to social media, I did not have to plan much. I even found our Airbnb on Instagram! If used properly, social networks are the best resource when traveling abroad.
We arrived to Cebu City around 4am. The 3 hour ride to Oslob was unlike anything I've ever experienced. There is only one 2-lane road with no lights or stop signs that goes around the perimeter of the island. It amazes me that fatal accidents don't occur daily as wild as they drive. I was convinced our driver was playing chicken to pass the time. Also, seeing 2-4 people riding on one scooter is a sight I'll never forget.
We had dinner in town, then went down to a bar for drinks at the resort next door. We ended up meeting a nice gentleman named Joey from Ireland. Joey shared his life story with us and we later discovered he owned property on 3 continents. We talked for an hour or so about international travel, global politics and entrepreneurship. I left the conversation inspired and eager to apply the new knowledge I'd obtained. You truly can learn something from every person you encounter.
On our way back to the villa, we passed some young guys on the beach singing. We sang along with them, then discussed their experiences dealing with Americans. They worked for a Tracfone call center and complained that Americans speak to them poorly. It was heartbreaking to hear how mean spirited and arrogant we can be. Language barriers are no excuse to treat anyone with little respect. We connected with everyone we met that night on Facebook and still keep in touch with them to this day.
As we headed in to call it a night, I looked up witnessed the most beautiful sight. Every star in universe appeared to be shining on us. They literally stopped me in my tracks. As I gazed in to the sky in pure shock, I felt a sense of gratitude. We take so many things for granted in life, but how beautiful is it to be able to step back and really see God's work. I am thankful for that moment and the awareness to be able to appreciate it.
The next day we got up early to watch the sunrise. You have to take about 250 stairs to get to the beach, so we opted for the balcony instead. After getting the shots I wanted, I sat down to take it all in. I struggle being completely present, but I always make an effort to surrender to the "now".
Our host Vilma arranged for a boat to take us to Sumilon Island. We could see it from the villa, so I expected it to only take 5 minutes to get there. To my surprise, it took about half an hour. We were overwhelmed with the beauty of the sandbar. Life felt surreal in that moment. The Philippines has countless sandbars and I'm thankful we got to experience life in the middle of absolutely nowhere. As soon as we took our first step, we were both blown away by the picturesque scenery.
After spending a few hours on the beach, we went inland to cool off and have lunch at the resort and explore the island. For just $25 USD we got to enjoy all the amenities at Sumilon Blue Island Resort, which included snorkeling, canoeing and a trek through the trails. That night, we enjoyed traditional Filipino BBQ in Oslob proper with our Airbnb host's son, girlfriend and friend.
The following morning, we woke up early to head to avoid the crowds in Oslob. Everyday, people come from near and far to swim with the whale sharks. Having the opportunity to swim with these gentle giants was one of the primary reason I chose Cebu over the other islands in the Philippines. I was scared at first, but they truly are harmless.
After swimming with whale sharks we headed to Algiers to canyoneer through the jungle. Kandace had NO idea what we were doing and almost freaked out, but once she took the first jump she was okay. We both agreed that it was the most fun activity we had ever done together.
On our last day we went back to Oslob to swim with the whale sharks and also spend the afternoon at Sumilon Island before heading to the airport. This trip meant more to me than words can express. I hope that everyone gets to experience checking the top item on their bucket list.