Revisiting The Philippines 2019

I’ve been awake since 4 am and done lots of things that probably annoyed my boyfriend like washing my clothes, boiling eggs and general fumbling about because I haven’t been able to sleep. I wish I slept in later but jet lag and technically time travelling has messed up my body clock. Nonetheless, I am happy to be back home (well..hold that thought till the holiday blues really kick in later on this week).

Overall my trip to The Philippines was amazing. I was lucky enough to revisit some amazing places and wonderful locations only after a year of previously visiting. The first visit was pivotal to my development and ultimately cementing what I wanted to do- ie Mama Z and doing Filipino food. This trip however was about getting more ideas, revisiting some friends along the way and even eating the same foods/dishes that got me inspired in the first place. I wanted to see if I got that same feeling I did the first time.

Off the back of my hard work last year and I still can’t really believe it’s happened- I got to go on this trip with my flights paid for from doing my first corporate gig. Dreams really do come true! never in a million years did I think this would happen- but it did! If I can do it, then so can anyone. I’m really not bothered about money its just about the experiences in life! I’m glad I got given the chance to make more memories.

Travelling the Philippines is great but also hard. For anyone wanting to go my biggest advice is don’t try and cram everything in one go- public transport is just so unreliable sometimes and things are always often delayed- especially flights. There’s nothing you can do either- this is just how things work out there! it’s also the beauty and madness of The Philippines. We had to endure 3 days of Typhoon weather and I nearly cried due to being exhausted and tired of travelling around because it is testing, but those 3 days didn’t even matter for the rest of the trip. It takes a whole day sometimes 2 to get from A to B so for anyone wanting to visit- just think carefully before actually sorting your itinerary! You’ll be exhausted before you even get there.

We started off in Port Barton, Palawan, a beach town 3 hours away from Puerto Princessa and one of my fav places I visited on my previous visit. I was lucky enough to meet Rica whose parents manage a camping spot on an Island themselves and we had 3 magical days there. It was my first time on a long board and no I couldn’t stand up it was really hard but on your knees you can move across the sea easily, jumping in and out of the water to look at the coral beneath you. Ricas mum Thelma cooked the best food. One of my favourite dishes was the Kinilaw (Filipino fish Ceviche) with freshly caught fish off the island. Spicy, coconutty and sweet sometimes with added fresh Filipino Mango ( the best mangoes ever). We did an island tour that I had done already and was even better this time round! the coral reef we went to was amazing. I literally followed fish around for hours in this underwater/alternative/ alien landscape and just admired all the beautiful fishes and colours. How can we allow ourselves to ruin our oceans when such beauty exists! some of the corals were so gorgeous- It made me sad to see some corals going white and dying.

After our camping stay, we went back to Port Barton and stayed another 3 days.

We had delicious Ice candy (ice pops made with different flavours) and our favourite being Buko-Pandan! Think of creamy coconut and Pandan ice cream for a measly 5 pesos. We went back to the same stall everyday and got one as our afternoon treat from the market! they were that good. I also made friends with a lady who did the best BBQ meats on sticks, her Pork Inasal was particularly good. Lulu fell in love with Banana Q (BBQ Banana on a stick covered in brown sugar and butter). Lulu loved these so much and tried them all over- non of them compared to the one here.

I loved being in Port Barton and speaking tagalog. It really wowed some people because they didn’t think I was even remotely Filipino as the majority think I am just white. It felt really good speaking in Tagalog and it gave me such a sense of belonging. So weird but not at the same time- it really felt like home. Our 3 days came to an end and we made our way back to Puerto Princessa to catch our flight to Cebu, the start of our Visayas trip. Note- there are over 150 dialects in The Philippines and over 7000 islands, I could not understand a word of Visayas (the language spoken in Cebu and that part of the Philippines) when I got there.

After our delayed flight, we then took a bus to get to the very North of Cebu- Maya. We initially got to Maya to head to Malapascua Island but unfortunately couldn’t get on the boat due to such severe weather conditions. We made the decision to go to Bohol and I revisited the Chocolate Hills, the Tarsier sanctuary and took in the beautiful nature of Loboc. I was on the hunt for some fruits so we stopped off at local markets en route back from the sights and I tried this amazing Banana donut on a stick that I definitely have to re create! it was so soft in the middle and had a wonderful golden colour! it was the perfect pick me up in the afternoon when I needed a bit of sugar. We also had lunch at a local eatery in Loboc. These eateries are crucial in all parts of the Philippines- especially in areas that aren’t built up. Home cooked and classic dishes such as a Adobo, Menudo and fried fish were on the menu. I had Pork Adobo and some local veggies, washed down with a cold San Miguel. Did you know that San Miguel orginated in the Philippines? don’t get confused with what you drink in Spain or other countries- it doesn’t taste the same at all and is brewed completely differently.

Bountiful landscapes of green paddy fields, banana trees and gorgeous colourful houses fill Loboc. We met the greatest group of young guys who all lived locally and I cooked a Kamayan feast for all of us on our last night. We drank Coconut Wine, shared stories and played games, it really cheered us up and made us forget about the stressful journey we had to get there. My Kamayan feast consisted of Grilled Bangus (milk fish) stuffed with Kalamansi (Filipino limes) tomatoes and garlic, Adobong Baboy ( Pork Adobo) and stir fried local vegetables. Obviously we had lots of rice and ate off Banana leaves that the boys got from literally outside the hostel. I wish I had a banana tree outside my house! just always seem a joke when I have to actually buy and pay for the leaves in Manchester for my events haha. It was such a lovely evening and a great way to end our stay there with them all- they really cheered us up! so lovely and hospitable. I will definitely be back to visit them all. We left the next day and went onto Panglao to meet up with Kathleen for the last few weeks of our trip.

Panglao has a lovely beach and we stayed there for 4 days. It is still in Bohol but on the other side from Loboc where we had seen the Chocolate Hills etc. The markets and surrounding areas are so rife and full of fruit here- I managed to get my hands on some delicious Mangoustine my favourite fruit ever and they were so big out in Panglao! The inside of the fruit has segments and has a white flesh. It’s almost sour and also sweet- totally addictive and a must try if you ever see any anywhere! they are absolutely delicious. It was also Lulus birthday whilst we were in Panglao and we managed to see some gorgeous dolphins on an excursion to Balicasag Island, alongside seeing turtles in the deep ocean, one of them had coral and rocks on its shell. I have never seen that before- it was amazing. After our time in Panglao, we went to Moalboal, a little beach town in Cebu.

Moalboal is a diving spot for many but also a little town we all enjoyed. Venz Kitchen is where I got the inspiration for my Aubergine Sisisg and having eaten about 3 now- I can officially say it gave me those same feels that I got all those other times! it was so bloody good. Lulu and I shared a sisig and also this Pork salad with the tastiest tangiest soy and lime dressing! no frills, just simple and delicious cooking. The owner of this lady is absolutely bad ass and was so lovely when I met her a year ago. Sadly she wasn’t there when we ate there but it was great to see the place so busy and smashing it! Coming back from this dinner we found a stall that made fresh Leche Flan (Filipino custard flan) a firm favourite that my Mum sometimes made when I was growing up and such a perfect dessert for anyone who likes custard based things! we enjoyed it when we got back to our hostel that night.

I saw so many turtles and beautiful coral just snorkelling off Pangasama Beach whilst in Moalboal. The huge Sardines are also so magical and also quite scary to see- the sheer numbers of them make the sea so dark! but so amazing to see one sardine move and the whole pack follow! that kind of underwater sea stuff always amazes me. It was even better seeing this all the 2nd time and enjoying it even more! We also saw one amazing sunset whilst we were there- the sky was lit up so pink and the water was so mesmerizing and also hypnotic.

After 3 wonderful days in Moalboal ,we traveled to Maya (where we initially wanted to go before but couldn’t) to get to Malapascua Island. We got there late after our bus took longer than anticipated from Moalboal, then to Cebu and then to Maya.We managed to haggle a private boat and shared a boat in the evening ( I have never got on a boat in the dark) with some other travelers. It was scary but then we saw the bio luminescent plankton whilst the boat was going through the sea at night! I saw this last year at the camping site and tried to show everyone at the camp in Palawan (where we were there at the start of our trip) but you need no moonlight in order to see it properly. After 45 minutes we arrived on the island and we stayed there 3 days, right on the beach front thanks to a local guy called JR helped us.

Our little room was facing Bounty Beach and we spent our time relaxing and enjoying the island. One of my favourite places to eat on the island was at a Veggie place that is also a hostel called Villa Sandra. I had a delicious Monggo Curry (Mungbean curry) and we all shared a Mango Float Dessert ( cold Filipino Mango and cream layered cake). The live music was also great and a year on the place looked even busier and just a bit more put together than when I last came! it was also great to see this place doing so well. We also had a kamayan on the beach whilst in Malapascua, on the North side of Malapascua with JR and his cousin Ricard. We ate fresh Squid, Grilled Squid, Grilled Veggies and a looooot of rum. We ended up at a random Filipino disco and also doing kareoke ( Filipinos love Kareoke EVERYWHERE) and did Robbie Williams and Pink justice …..HA! Let’s just say that night was a write off for me the next day as we got the boat to Bantayan Island. Being hungover AF and sea sick is not a good combination at all, especially when you are feeling so queezy and delicate anyways. That day was hard not going to lie- I hadn’t felt that bad in a looooooong time.

Bantayan Island is another island about 2 hours away from Malapascua. I had never gone before but had been recommended to me a few times from various people. Including a man from Bristol that I sat next to on the plane. I am so glad we went because it was absolutely gorgeous! really not built up at all but the best white sand, the clearest water you will ever see and the friendliest people ever. We managed to get a great little flat for our 3 days there and the food options are rife on the island. I cooked on our last night there as Lulu wasn’t feeling well and we decided to stay in. Kathleen and I ventured to a local market there earlier that day and I bought lots of veggies, some fresh fish (similar to red snapper) from the fish market and pulses to create Fish Sinigang with Monggo (Sinigang is a tamarind broth with veggies such as Okra, Tomatoes and onions in to make this really sour but savoury broth. I added the Monggo beans for extra texture and also goodness as Lulu wasn’t well).

After our 3 days there we headed back to Cebu where we parted ways with Kathleen and we made our way back to Manila before heading back home to reality.

Whilst I was away some stressful stuff which was totally out of my hands happened. You don’t want to think about work when you are away- but there is nothing more annoying than feeling like starting again when you had a plan sorted for when you came back. I am referring to my residency in Chorlton which sadly I am no longer doing. I wont go into too much detail but I announced this news after being unsure about doing so because I care about people knowing my next steps. Sadly, some things are too good to be true! Instead of worrying about it- I just went with my gut instinct and decided this opportunity wasn’t for me and my business. A decision that wasn’t made lightly nor easily. I see this as a lucky escape really before it ultimately could of affected me and my business later on down the line. So - you may be asking- have you got anything else lined up? the answer is YES but no residency so if you know of anything- please get in touch! I have a few pop ups coming soon so keep your eyes peeled for future announcements.

If you have any questions about The Philippines then feel free to ask me anytime! It really is a beautiful country and I feel so proud to be from there.

Zosima Fulwell