So I was supposed to go on a “backpacking” experience that would include Bohol, Malapascua, and Bantayan Islands but I only ended up in 2 destinations - Bohol and Cebu City. If you do think about it, it's just Bohol. Bantayan and Malapascua I had to forgo since I found out that I couldn’t do “backpacking”. Well I could, but I found out that I'm not a lone traveler. I like having company and someone to talk with. Talk about “backpacking” and checking into a hotel at the end of the day. I was sooo tired. I did lug around a very BIG and heavy backpack (lent to me by Manzay. Tenk you! Tenk you!). And I also went alone and made an acquaintance out of a stranger in the process. So give me some credit! :P
The “backpacking” experience is not for the faint of heart and it’s definitely not for everyone. There is so much lacking when it comes to accommodation, facilities, transportation, and guides for backpackers. This was the first time I have ever backpacked in the Philippines and alone to boot. Below are my observations and tips below:
- First off, "backpacking" as a way to travel has just recently caught up in the Philippines. Despite this, there still aren’t a lot of local backpackers out there. Usually, those who are indeed backpacking are out in groups. Those who are doing it alone are but a few and most of them cannot be located online. Filipina lone backpackers, on the other hand, are really hard to find. That is if there are any. So those who are doing the same thing out there, give me holler so that you and I don't have to go by ourselves!
- If you're backpacking and female, don't forget to bring the following even if you think you don't need them: tissue, sanitary pads (just in case), pain reliever, mosquito repellant lotion, and water.
- I found it very difficult to leave my personal belongings since I had no one to leave them with. When I was on the boat from Cagayan de Oro to Cebu, I asked the information desk whether they had any lockers for me to leave my belongings with and they didn’t have any! To their credit, they did offer to look after my stuff for me. Well, the valuable ones anyway. Since I brought my just-bought shiny, new DSLR with me, I was worrying most of the time about it. Good thing I brought a padlock with me and just placed the cam inside my big backpack, padlocked the zippers together, and hope against hope that no one would touch it. So I had to content myself with leaving my stuff on my bunk when I had to go to the restroom either to take a piss or take a bath or what-not.
- Third, there aren’t a lot of accommodations geared for the “budget” traveler. Since “backpacking” is supposedly budget travel, then finding budget accommodations isn’t really that easy. Most of the resorts are for the affluent. Maybe because it is usually the affluent who could afford to go on these trips and therefore also demand the best accommodation and service there is.
- Fourth, Philippine tourism isn’t for “backpackers”! Left and right, the locals will try to rip-off the foreigners with their exorbitant fees. Even with their fellow locals, they’d try to do that. Don’t let them. Research beforehand how much a service would cost. Ask the locals (those who are not in the business) to get an estimate. And you know who’s the biggest cheat here? The local government unit! They also try to pocket as much as they could from tourism without doing anything! No wonder I kept complaining of the prices I had to pay for these services! And maybe I shouldn't have blamed those who are just trying to make a living.
- If you're a Filipina and traveling by yourself, prepare for the inevitable look of surprise on the Filipino men’s faces when they do find out about this. They will turn into Alpha males and try to help you with anything you need. Of course this does definitely has its advantages.;)
- Practice lugging a 10 kilogram (or heavier) backpack. If it puts a major strain on your upper back and shoulders, forgo a backpack completely and just bring a stroller. :D I had to lug it around and believe me, I had to have a massage after the trip because I think I dislocated something. If you could, try to minimize the number of things you're bringing with you. I just brought with me a several change of clothes but what made the bag heavy was my snorkeling gear, camera, and pasalubong!
- Be open to meeting new people and to new experiences. This is what the journey is all about, and this is the reason that you're doing this.
And as proof that I did went backpacking and made an acquaintance out of a stranger:
Coming right up:
Bohol Country Side Tour