Travelers: Irishman Brendan Hogan, a geography teacher at Beijing Youth World Academy (BWYA), and his girlfriend Sandra Yuen from Hong Kong.
Destination: Malapascua, Philippines
Dates: September 28 to October 6, 2013
Travel plans: The couple traveled from Beijing to Manila and took a domestic flight to the island province of Cebu, both with Philippine Airlines. They stayed in Cebu for one night before catching a four-hour bus to the ferry, which took 45 minutes to reach Malapascua. When on the island, they stayed at Tepanee and Hippocampus beach resorts, booked through www.booking.com.
Cost: Approximately RMB 10,000 each. Flights RMB 3,000; hotel accommodations RMB 3,000; food RMB 2,000; one day of scuba diving RMB 1,000; gifts and other spending RMB 1,000.
The laid-back lifestyle and pace of island life in the Philippines are what attract many tourists to the country. It has been a regular holiday destination of mine, so after two enjoyable and adventurous trips in January 2011 and January 2013, I found myself back again last October.
This time, we traveled to Malapascua, a small island of only 4,000 inhabitants, which is a 45-minute boat ride north of the province of Cebu. The main reason for visiting this remote beach destination was to relax and scuba dive, as it is one of the only places in the world to see thresher sharks. The creatures are not dangerous. They go to the same location in the island’s waters each day at 5am, so you can dive with them. There are also a number of other sites around the island with corals and tropical fish.
The sunsets were amazing and the pace of life on the island was slow – perfect for unwinding and relaxing. There are also plenty of places to hike and, during one such trip to a lighthouse, my girlfriend and I became lost. A wonderful group of schoolchildren from nearby Logon Elementary School came to our rescue. They guided us to the lighthouse and in exchange for their kindness I treated them all to a bottle of Coke and a snack.
The most heartwarming moment was when they selflessly shared their drinks and snacks with other children from the village. My little guides wore old, torn clothes and some did not even have a pair of flip-flops; yet they were generous enough to share what they had with their friends.
When typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines just over a month later, my thoughts turned immediately to those children and how their lives must have been impacted. I contacted the owner of the guesthouse we had stayed at and learned that 90 percent of buildings on the island had been destroyed, including the school which had its roof torn off. This inspired me to share my experience with the students of Beijing World Youth Academy (BWYA), where I work as a middle school geography teacher, and we collaborated on a project to help the Philippines.
The response was overwhelming. Our Grade 9 students held bake and crafts sales. The primary school also held a sale to contribute to the fundraising effort and a number of other school-wide initiatives contributed to the cause. The money raised was sent directly to a support the team repairing the school roof, providing the island’s students and teachers with materials to continue their education.
While the islanders are still rebuilding their homes and businesses, their children can now focus on education and getting back to some sort of normality. This is thanks, in a small way, to the hard work and caring hearts of the staff and students at BWYA.
As well as scuba diving there are plenty of other activities including island-hopping, snorkel trips, hiking, and sailing. It is suitable for kids, but maybe not for a week. To enjoy the holiday, both you and your kids will need to have a sense of adventure and be prepared to relax a lot.
The weather is tropical with the rainy season between May and October, and the dry season between November and April.
There is no ATM on the island, so bring cash. There are places to exchange currency and most of the bigger resorts accept UnionPay cards, but you should check in advance.
Photos courtesy of Brendan Hogan
This article originally appeared on p36-37 of the beijingkids March 2014 issue.
Check out the PDF version online at Issuu.com