The Philippines turned out to be one of our favourite countries of our trip and reminded us a lot of Latin America. The Spanish influence was definitely still present and because it’s a catholic country there were Christmas decorations everywhere, which made it feel homely.
After qualifying as PADI open water scuba divers, we moved onto Oslob where you can snorkel with whale sharks, which are the world’s largest fish. They were absolutely huge when we were snorkelling with them in the sea, and despite not being allowed to touch them it was impossible not to accidentally kick one due to their sheer size!
After Oslob we headed to Dauin on Negros Oriental where Alex was struck by Dumaguete Belly. He was too ill to dive but we’d already paid so I had to go without him. I was super nervous to dive without my buddy but the Divemaster at Bongo Bongo was amazing and helped me to feel at ease underwater. This was my first muck dive, where you look for hidden sea creatures in the sand – a completely different experience to swimming around a coral wall. It was an interesting experience but nowhere near as satisfying as a reef dive in my opinion – the creatures weren’t as pretty and my amateur buoyancy meant I kept kicking up sand!
From there we headed to remote Apo Island, where we planned to stay for 2 nights. Due to its remote location and small size, there’s no running water on Apo and electricity is limited to a few hours each day. It was a real ‘back to basics’ experience and made me realise how lucky I have been all my life to have all my basic needs met. ‘Showering’ involved using a Mandy – which is basically a large basin of cold water which sits for days, and then you use a bucket to pour the water over ya and wash. My stay on Apo really made me count my blessings and realise just how how privileged we are back home. I really appreciated a warm shower when we left Apo!
The weather in the Philippines is quite dramatic, and unfortunately Typhoon Samuel was approaching during our stay. It hit the nearby islands and so no boats were running out of Apo on the day we were supposed to leave. This meant staying another day and as luck would have it, Alex came down with really bad ear ache that afternoon.
We’d done two amazing dives the day before, one where we saw volcanic bubbles coming out of the sand at the bottom of the ocean, and another around the most beautiful coral I’ve ever seen. He’d had difficulty equalising his ears whilst diving and we think this must have been one of the first signs of an infection.
During the night he was in severe pain and I was quite worried his eardrum had either burst or was bursting. There was no doctor on the whole island and the nearest one was a 35 minute boat ride followed by a 40 minute tricycle ride away. We weren’t sure if the boats would be running the following morning due to the Typhoon, so I was really worried how we’d get him help. Fortunately the typhoon had passed by morning and we were able to get him to the hospital. The doctor said it was one of the worst ear infections he’d seen in a long time, and he was given antibiotics and ibuprofen. I also gave him some of my codeine which put him in the infamous ‘codeine coma’ that most of us have the first time we take codeine. You know the one!
Alex was poorly with his ear infection for almost a week and to be honest I also started suffering with my mental health at the same time. It made things really difficult and it actually happened to coincide with the time of my breakdown last year. I think it was just a setback as I’m feeling much better again now, but it was really scary at the time as I stared to dramatise everything and worry I was going back to where I was before.
I got lots of support from my friends to help me realise it was just a setback, which is a completely normal part of recovery (thank you besties). I wanted to share this because I think we all assume that once someone’s ‘better’ they’ll always be fine, but this isn’t the case and it’s important to always be there for each other and check how we’re doing. I found it hard to admit I was feeling down again because I was embarrassed and I felt ashamed and guilty, but again these emotions are all down to anxiety and depression and they aren’t telling the truth!
Because I was feeling down I took a step back from my blog and that’s why I haven’t posted in a little while. I’ve also been getting annoyed with the ‘travel blogging world’ as I’ve been noticing bloggers on Instagram with over 20,000 followers, who I’d previously respected and looked up to, are actually using bots to comment and like on photos and gain followers, which I very strongly disagree with. I’ve been working hard on my blog and it’s upsetting that some people have got their ‘success’ from being fake and using programmes to gain followers. I’m trying to reframe my thinking and realise that their followers probably aren’t real anyway and that people will see through their fakeness one day!
During our stay in the Philippines, we also celebrated Alex’s 25th birthday in Bohol with 2 cakes, a fancy hotel and a river cruise to see fireflies.
We also went to the famous Chocolate Hills – a series of mounds that turn from green to brown during dry season and look like huge piles of chocolate. Afterwards we visited the Tarsier Sanctuary, which seeks to conserve these beautiful tiny animals which actually only live here in Bohol. They were really cute and tiny!
We’re now in Sri Lanka, working our way down the South Coast before heading inland to the national parks, Ella and Kandy.
I’m going to be on BBC Nottingham again tonight around 8pm for my second feature, talking all about what I’ve been up to in the last month. I’ll share the link tomorrow so you can listen, but if you’re free this evening be sure to tune in to Summaya’s show to listen live!