This is the last in our blog series for the Philippines. To read from the start of our Philippines travel journal, please click here
After two long days of buses and boats that took us across four islands and feautured one of the sketchiest places we’ve ever stayed (think ‘Trainspotting’, graffiti on the walls, doors that won’t lock, flooded bathrooms…), we finally arrived onto tourist favourite, beautiful Borocay.
On our last leg – a fast ferry across to Borocay itself – I was already beside myself with excitement at the prospect of seeing some of my best mates after nearly a year of separation. When the boat came into port, and we hopped on a collective taxi to our hotel, I was pretty much overflowing with apprehension. Then we finally got to our place, and there they were – Jack, Harri and Lil! Argh! It was so good to see them, I can’t even really describe.
We sorted out our rooms, bought some giant beers, and sat outside in the hot humid evening, talking each other’s faces off, catching up, laughing hard, and being serenaded by random groups of kids who were doing the rounds with Christmas Carols!
After too many beers (proven by the fact I stacked it on a pavement and grazed my knees up!) we headed out to dinner, and me and Sam took our buddies to a rather grim restaurant that we’d – by this point – become accustomed to, and we snaffled down noodle soups and small plates of barbecued meats. The night ended, as all first nights do, with us going too hard on the beers, followed by an impassioned debate about the London housing property crisis, and a 4am bed-time!
The next day we hobbled out of bed and took the short walk down some back streets to jaw-droppingly beautiful White Beach. This is the postcard-perfect beach you see in your mind when you think of The Philippines – all sugary soft blinding white sand, and sea so clear and turquoise it just melts from the sand into its deep blue nothingness. We spent a delirious and relaxing day on the sand, sheltering under some trees in what would become ‘our spot’ in front of a private villa – a spot also used by local Filipinos as it was the main spot of shade on the beach! In your FACE, fancy villa people!
We also went for many dips in the sea, lolling about, ‘hanging out with the buoys’, and enjoying the pristine views. Pre-NYE, the beach wasn’t actually too crowded, despite people’s warnings to us about how developed and mad Borocay was, and the wide beach did a pretty good job of swallowing up the growing crowds.
We managed to find a really nice local food place – which would later be known as Jacob’s, after we shared a fun night drinking with one of the restaurant guys on NYE – which served really cheap small plates of barbecue meat, squid, spring rolls, satay and curries with rice, coming to about a pound per person… this became me and Sam’s favourite food option in the day times!
We had dinner at a barbeque place that played hilariously loud banging house music, and we dined on delicious spicy coconut squid, assorted meats and fried rice. Despite a couple of uber strong Red Horse beers with dinner, we decided to strategically call it a night in prep for NYE!
Daytime on NYE was a relaxed affair, reserving our energy for the night ahead – mooching on White Beach and switching over the Bulabog Beach – the windy side of the island – to watch kite surfers in action.
That evening, we got dolled up in our party gear, downed some beers and headed out for a slap-up meal of BBQ meat/fish and delicious sides, containing ACTUAL FRESH VEGETABLES (rare in Phillies!) and tasty rice, then we made our pre-mix bottles of rum and coke and hit the beach, where things slowly unravelled in the most drunken of fashions!
It started with photos with local families, rum swilling, kidnapping Jacob from the restaurant to accompany us in our festivities, and some really spectacular fireworks at midnight, lighting up the whole coastline, with a backdrop of loud music playing out of the bars. It was fun, high energy and beautiful, a great memory shared with great friends.
Then… well, I’m not really sure. None of us really are! We know we were drunk enough to be peeing in the sea part-naked, then some of us got more naked and went for a swim… I left pretty early, Harri was left looking after important stuff like y’know, wallets, for the others then also came home… then the others came back piecemeal between 4am and 7am, with little memory of what happened! I guess that makes a NYE success?! The next day we were a pretty pathetic sight and managed little more than a hangover McDonalds, handling a growing sense of remorse, and more delirious swims in the sea/sunbathing. This would be our one and only alcohol-free-day of Borocay (well, if you don’t count the early hours that is!)
The second day of the new year, we were feeling back in our spritely spirits and set about creating a chicken feast we’d coined as ‘chicken hands’ but – to our dismay – the rotisserie chicken places seemed to be all closed. Why?! A secret plot to thwart our plans!? So, instead, as you do, we bought a load of burgers, crisps and beer, and thoroughly got back on the (Red) Horse, ending in yet another late night.
The penultimate night we succeeded with our ‘chicken hands’ plan and made an utterly delicious chicken noodle soup with tons of veggies, on the little hob adjacent to our rooms. It was really fun cooking as a group, plus… veggies!
On our last day, the guys went on a fun snorkelling tour around the island whilst me and Sam had some couple time (read: time to stuff our faces in some gross cheap food places that we now deem acceptable), and in the evening we bade a fond farewell to Borocay in the only way we knew how: rum on the beach, followed by karaoke.
We’d told the guys about our fun japes in Siquijor doing karaoke in a local karaoke bar, and we really wanted to try as a group. So we took a rum-fuelled stroll down the beach to Zone 3, which is more of a local kinda part of the island, and found a cheap eats place, where the restaurant lady tipped us off about a local underground karaoke bar, and arranged us a trike to get there.
The bar was hilarious. A small room under a restaurant, with about 2 or 3 patrons at any time – unanimously, older guys – swilling beer, half asleep/half awake, and some eager staff passing out slips of paper for the kareoake-keen. We got involved with some ice cold buckets of Red Horse and once full of dutch courage, started putting our requests out for karaoke. After this point, it was solely us doing the karaoke, switching between ourselves with no breaks, as the beer kept flowing and the tracks kept coming!
As a proper novelty for the locals, we were received warmly (- it’s customary to be a good audience in the Philippines, and there was actually a sign saying any trouble makers would be fined! It’s thought hugely disrespectful to cat-call / be mean to anyone singing.) Sam opened with Wannabe, I took over with Gloria Gaynor, Harri belted out some Amy Winehouse, Lil mastered some soul classics and Jack chose Piano Man, then we went round again (and again!)
The audience (of two or three men, plus eager staff) lapped it up, and we got some good cheers and clapping, not to mention filming on mobile phones! It was a super fun night, and we were all pretty wrecked, sweaty and exhausted by the time we took a fun, fast trike ride home.
So, all in all, a great week of endless laughs with good mates, interactions with some nice locals, sun, sea and sand… and probably way too much rum. Next, we travelled to a nearby airport where we flew (FAR too hungover) to our next destination … Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam!