Saturday, May 19, 2012

Fiesta Time - Mabini, Bohol, Philippines

It’s happened again. One of those life moments that doesn’t happen too often.

I know Mary and family won’t mind me writing this with honesty, because it truly has been one of those occasions where you see life from a different perspective.

We’ve been in Philippines a few times now as a family, but tending to frequent the hotel-scene in Tagbilaran, Panglau and the like. This was the first time to stay with our extended family at their home at Mabini.

But the order went like this - Tagbilaran City 4 nights, Mabini 2 nights, Anda 2 nights, Mabini 2 nights and finished off with Cebu 2 nights. Flying to Cebu on Tiger was a joy, no Manilla needs now, a short taxi ride to the port and a 2.5 hour ferry ride to Bohol and Tagbilaran City.

Bohol - The Island of Smiles. I wonder why that is? With sunsets like this on the 1st day, I think we can guess why. Holy crap is that beautiful or what!

So off we go to the lovely Bohol Tropics Hotel. The kids all came to stay too and we had great fun in the pool one day.

Mary and Chai Chai though decided not to do much in the pool. Much more interested in "Facebook Facebook ........." poses. Nice girls, he he!

Even managed to get a photo of "Facebook, Facebook ......" in action - a beauty ha ha!

So first lunch of the trip we all went to one of my absolute favourite restaurants in Tagbilaran City, Bohol, Payag’s. Check this out, or maybe better Chicken this out!

They specialize in BBQ chicken. It is awesome. Mary used to go here when she was a boarder at the University in Tagbilaran.

We actually got Amy a pork chop. Sounds pretty plain yes. But all cooked on this open BBQ, making it so smoky flavaoursome – it is to die for food. Very basic menu, with a limited choice, but who cares - these are the specials. Yes those prices are correct.

Cute little display cabinets full of anything to do with chicken. Chicken statues, plates with chickens on them, chicken paintings, everything and anything to do with chickens. So no wonder the chicken is the flying off the menu (excuse the pun - ha ha).

I asked if I could go to the kitchen and take a photograph of the BBQ - no they said. So can one of you take a photo for me then was my reply and this is what I got back. Hmm not desperately exciting snap is it, but any way it is what it is. Here is our chicken on the BBQ.

Here it is now plated up. It's so so delicious. Smoky BBQ flavors, and so so moist still. It is gorgeous people!

Dueling skewers?

Absolutely nothing at all to do with chicken or Payag's, but took this absolute beauty of a photo of Jhea. How gorgeous is she.

One of our nights out in Tagbilaran was to the hawker BBQ area, a huge, long, series of hawkers all with BBQ going on, which runs along the jetty to the ferry terminal. We walked down, all us as usual with the kids and grabbed a table near the front of the tented area.

Near the front as there was also a, sponsored by the Mayor & San Miguel, live music concert.

What a top night.

Food was fantastic.

And believe it or not, all cooked by one bloke on the smallest of BBQ's. Check him out. The man is a legend to churn out such excellent food in vast quantities when this was his kitchen.

Music was excellent.

Kids were perfect, all so good and such fun to have with us.

The girls all danced and laughed.


Oh dear me Amy boo, looks like The Joker.

Cold beers in the fridge, including Ollie in this shot (yes it was a tad warm this night).

Just a great experience, for the princely sum “all up” of 20 Sing Dollars, for us all to eat and drink and be entertained all night. It doesn’t get much better. Happy families, you can tell we're enjoying this.

Oooh look at the caress on the shoulder, ha ha - future Mr & Mrs???? Bless you Jhea.

Then back to Bohol Tropics Hotel for a sleep-over.  Ha Ha! We had eight of us in one hotel room.

Chai Chai/Jhai Jhai/Jhea/JimBoy in one room,

Me/Mary/Ollie/Amy in the other. I love this before and after shot. Look at Amy and Ollie all nicely tucked up in bed before they slept.

Then look below at them first thing in the morning. I love Amy’s Horsey-Ride stuck between her legs, bless her!

Next day after we had all had our breakfast we messed about at the playground in the hotel. Some lovely family shots coming. "Sister's are doing it ......................"

One of our other day trips from Tagbilaran was to the other side of the sea inlet to The Plaza Hotel on the mountain side. We all went, Mary, me, the kids, Chai Chai and Rhai Rhai. Chai Chai had never actually been before so had never seen Tagbilarn from this height.

Look at this view. Here's a right and left from the hotel vantage point.

I think next year we might stay one or two nights here as well as Bohol Tropics. Breathtaking scenery of Bohol’s capital city and surrounding countryside.

Just an amazingly beautiful view, what a country this is! 

One day we were doing  little shopping, I think getting the girl's outfits for the birthday party. I spotted this. So not only does Ollie have his own feature film out there, it also seems he now his own line of shoes, ha ha!

Mabini is a coastal town on the Eastern part of Bohol, about 104Kms away from the capital city of Tagbilaran. Because of the abundance of fresh fish, mud crabs, shrimps and lobsters and its strategic location on the coast it soon became a rapidly increasing population – which eventually drove the creation of the Municipality Mabini.

It’s new as well, literally formed as a town officially on July 23rd 1904, and is bounded by

And this was our first time celebrating Fiesta time Philippines style. Fiesta literally means “feast day”, and for Mabini that is the Feast Day of Saint Monica, that takes place every year on 4th May. Most Saints will have a specially designated feast day referred to as The Saint’s Feast Day. These feast days first arose from the very early Christian custom of the annual commemoration of martyrs on the dates of their deaths at the same time celebrating their birth in to heaven.

Many local diginitaries are in attendance from the Governor, Congressman, Municipal Mayor, Parish Priest – you name it. It actually runs for a number of days, in this case from 25th April to 4th May, with the focus being on 3/4th.  

Food galore, drinking of local beer (San Miguel), local rum (Tanduay) and local brewed alcohol from a non-fruit bearing coconut called Tuba, merriment indeed with dancing competitions, Miss Mabini, live bands, discos, acrobatics you name it.

But I did steal one thing from the local Congressman’s address which hits home; “Though in every fiesta, food is abundant and smiles and laughter are seen everywhere, ley us not forget our neighbours whose food are less, and the smiles are rare. The continue to fight this seemingly endless battle against poverty.”

It really does make you sit, look, absorb and think – how lucky you are when you compare. We were asked by family if they could come back to Singapore with us as our helper, as if this is some wonderful experience to behold. But that income means so so much to family back home when wired over, and you can see that in action when you live here with them.

Oliver and Amy had such fun here with their extended Filipino family. Here's the girls all cuddled up, laying on my leg, playing on the iPAD together.

We go to Cambodia year in year out and build houses on stilts with The Tabitha Foundation to make the farm villagers lives more sustainable during flood seasons and the like, we stay in hotels and drink and party the night after a hard days work, we’re there for 4 days, we hand hand sewn silk blankets over once we have finished the job in hand and the families move in and we all feel so very proud of ourselves seeing the smiling faces.

I am not knocking that at all as it truly is an amazing thing we do for the people of Cambodia. But if you truly want to experience the difference we are making to these families, perhaps one year we should ditch the hotels and stay with the families in their homes, in their villages – then you will really really “get it”- we really have no idea what life was like, to know what life could be like.

The only way I can describe it is potentially what my Nan’s childhood was like (minus the motorbikes) as she has described to me, living simply, from the land with an immense sense of community like I have never really seen. Doors are not locked, life is simple but rich, friends are neighbours and neighbours are friends. The “pop-in ad-hoc” is the norm with everyone and anyone coming to visit.

Our beautiful friend Marisol and her son popped round for food, drink and a chat.

Literally the house is open and people from the local town/province just walk in, and in fact come from surrounding provinces and towns too. A beautiful sign of respect to the elders is to take their hand and touch your forehead and then you sit, you eat, you talk, you laugh, you reminisce and oh yeah you drink too.

I was so so lovely to spend time with the kids. I fell in love with Jhea big time. Look at how she has grown in to such a beautiful girl. 

Here's a lovely shot of Mary's Mum and her old school mates. One now lives in Las Vegas and another in San Francisco. Lovely ladies that could and did sit and chat to all day.

We met just amazing people, and because of language issues and lack of understanding each other I ended up making names for them to remind me who's who - sort of "Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels" - "Monkey Man", because he was very good at climbing trees for coconuts, "The Butcher", the one doing the pig killing.

Spent a lot of time, just chilling. Very relaxed after this holiday. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh.

I loved the "split" of people.

The ladies cooking, chatting and laughing.

The elder men, grouped talking in low tones and drinking the local coconut oil fermented drink of Tuba. This stuff is amazing, we had this mixed with CocaCola as you'll see in the plastic bottle. Actually looks like something from an un-flushed toilet. Tastes good though. And man quite strong when washed down with some Tanduay and San Migs. You sit and relax and drink this stuff, and when you stand it's like you're brain has forgotten how to walk, BAM. OK left right left right, that's it Brian you can do it!

The younger guys, a little noisier drinking Tanduay Dark Rum and talking of cock-fights - big events at Fiesta time with "Derbys" happening between nearby towns. Here's me with The Butcher and Mary's brother Marvin.

No what I loved was that I was part of it, invited to it all, embraced by them all. I had a ball. My kids had a ball. I can't thank Mary enough and Mary's Mum/Dad and family for allowing us to "take over" their house. 

One day we took a “walk” to the top of the mountain in Mabini. This was a great idea of Mary’s to get us out and about and see some of the beautiful surrounding countryside. We’ll go late afternoon when not so hot says Mary. So in 40 degree heat (not so hot????) we embarked on the epic journey.
Through the town, through the market – look at this amazing shot of a local farmer sat in the market selling tobacco leaves and rolling them to small cigarillos.

Up the road to the mountain base – here we all are, still looking decidedly fresh.

Then up to the top, what a climb that was. Sweating like pigs, best keep well away from "The Butcher", we rested and soaked in the views. How beautiful is this, the Mabini Province of Bohol.

I can hear cries of "Facebook, Facebook ....................."

The squared off water is fish ponds, where the fisherman go out and fish for things like Milk Fish, then transfer them to these ponds to keep them fresh for market.

Can you also spot the “V” shaped things in the water? Fish traps, that will lure the fish in at the wide end to an awaiting net at the pointy end. Clever.

Our last night in Mabini, was also disco night on the local basketball court. It was such fun, lot's of rather drunken people stumbling about and calling it dancing - including yours truly of course - this very same day I was handed a beer at 9am by some of Mary's friends as we walked up the High Street. Yep 9am, so as you can imagine by 9pm you're already well on the way.

Check out these two cool chicks on the way to boogie!

Then off to Tagbilaran early doors. An extremely sad farewell. Tears and hugs, poor Jimboy could not even lift his head from his pillow to say goodbye. Poor guys. We'll be back soon.

From Tagbilaran another ferry ride to Cebu and back to the Imperial Hotel, Cebu. Great fun as this is the one with the water slide park thing. 

Having fun with the kids in the pool, I like this photo.

A monkey and Amy, hold on is that Amy and a monkey? They kind of look the same, same expression and definitely the same lipstick ha ha!

The view at night from the hotel room, full moon today, how stunning is that.

We went for a lovely meal tonight. I had the most amazing lobster .......................NOT! Long story, I'll tell another time ha ha. This will make Ollie laugh though! We still had a beautiful meal, right on the sea in the open air. Just so tranquil, absolutely beautiful.

Pondering .... "Only one day left and then back to work, shit!"

I look depressed don't I!

They even put on fireworks for us. Oh my, what a lovely night.

"Facebook, Facebook" in "Cebu Cebu", ha ha ha ha!!!

How could you not take a deep breath and sigh when looking at the green countryside or the topaz open sea of the Philipines. 

How could you not take a deep breath and sigh with the kindness and hospitality shown to us this holiday, but the wonderful people of Bohol, and specifically Mary's family.

How could you not take a deep breath and sigh with the experiences that the kids and I have had this vacation.

Thank you to everyone that "touched" us this holiday, a never to be forgotten experience.

Love you Philippines. Keep smiling Bohol, we'll see you again soon.

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