We had ten days in the Philippines, myself and Nev had made an agreement that after he’d seen his wonder of the Banaue rice terraces, I could plan the rest of our time in the Philippines. I decided upon trying to find a remote island paradise for a few days then maybe check out the famous ‘Chocolate Hills’. Our lonely planet, which was a few years old, described an island of the Northern tip of Cebu, Malapascua, as ‘having long white unspoilt beaches, great food and a low–key approach to tourism ‘, in other words my dream island paradise. There were warning signs though, it seems that the unspoilt paradise could have changed in the few years since our copy of the lonely planet was written. New roads and major developments were in the pipeline but still to be approved by local government. The photos of the guesthouse I chose and subsequently booked did not show any signs of the change with the resort seeming to have a private beach, it looked amazing.
When we arrived in Cebu, we were initially going to get a bus to Maya, where you catch the boat to Malapascua. I was a bit nervous about making the last boat so we haggled with the taxi driver until we got a decent price and then he drove us straight to Maya. We had to wait until they had enough people to fill a boat before they would do the crossing, which gave us enough time to grab a quick bite to eat.
When we arrived on the island my heart sank, the local government had given the go ahead and the resorts had spread like wild fire. There wasn’t a spare inch of beach without a hotel or beach hut on it. I was incredibly disappointed. I still had hope though of finding a remote spot with a private beach. Our booking for the idyllic looking resort, White Sands, was for the next day, as they were fully booked for our arrival. We eventually found somewhere within our budget then I went to check out White Sands. Their private beach was no longer private, and had in fact been turned into a building sight, with the noise of hammering and drilling destroying the peaceful beach atmosphere.
I was saddened, after all our travelling we’d managed to find the Philippines equivalent of a half finished Benidorm. I was so aggrieved that I suggested to Nev that we should only stay the one night then move onto somewhere else. But after ten consecutive nights spending in different places, he point blank refused, which was fairly understandable.
After the first night of disappointment I started to regain a bit of enthusiasm. The beach was nice, and the food on the island was rather good too. We checked out of our accommodation to move onto White Sands to find out they’d double booked us. We eventually found accommodation which was attached to a diving resort. Over lunch we talked about the possibility of moving onto the chocolate hills the next day. In reality it was just way too much travelling, and we really were in dire need of a break. I decided at this point that I might as well make some good come out of our bad situation and do my PADI open water scuba diving course. I was planning on doing it in Thailand, but if I could do it in Malapascua it meant that I could go straight in the water when I arrived in the North Gulf without any further training.
I spoke with the diving instructors, they told me it was possible, I could start the next day and do a three day course, but it would be intense. They weren’t wrong. They gave me the text book I was to read just to have a flick over and help make up my mind. We didn’t have A/C in our accommodation and it was roasting, too hot for me to sleep. I was planning to get up early and read the first chapter and watch the video during breakfast. But at 9 o’clock a night club just behind our hut started banging out cheesy dance tunes until it closed at 2am. There was no way I was getting to sleep so I ended up reading the first chapter, it wasn’t easy to concentrate what with the noise coupled with the fact that I’d had a fair few beers beforehand.
The next few days of the course were amongst the most stressful and tiring of my life. We had moved out of our noisy beach hut into a small hotel room but again with no A/C. I had major struggle sleeping getting around 4 hours a night. I’d then be up early every day to do diving exercises, get a short break for lunch, go for some dives, which I did really enjoy, have dinner and then do homework until about 9 or 10pm. It certainly wasn’t a relaxing beach holiday, but it was worth it to get my diving qualification. Nev was happy too, he had time to relax, read, and catch up with writing.
My instructor Valerie, a French Canadian, was excellent though. She was bouncing with enthusiasm and a great instructor. She was also good fun and was staying at the same resort along with her boyfriend, who was another instructor. This gave the dive shop an intimate family atmosphere. We would chat to them over lunch and dinner and they were good crack. Because of this I have fond memories of Malapascua, even though the course was stressful and the island didn’t live up to my expectations.
We left Malapascua for Cebu city where we were to catch our flight to Manila, then finally Bangkok. Our flight departed on time with no hick ups along the way until we got to Bangkok Airport.