For the second part of our Philippines journey, we escaped city life to find solace at Nick’s aunt’s nipa hut on the beach. We traveled three hours in a little van along a continuous stretch of coastline to Santander, the southernmost tip of Cebu island. My knuckles were nearly white from gripping my seat through the tumultuous drive, during which we shared the road with animals, pedestrians, and various open “vehicles” with no regard for traffic rules. The scenery beyond my window definitely helped, though.
Carefree children playing outside their homes:
After getting dropped off at our destination, we hiked briefly through a jungle of sorts before reaching signs of inhabitants, as indicated by tethered cows, goats, pigs, and other livestock. Here I am in my travel OOTD – Nick’s tee (had to conserve my one and only outfit on the trip) and my sexy JanSport knapsack from middle school (conveniently left behind in China back then, now suddenly useful):
Upon arriving at the nipa hut, the simple beauty of it all took my breath away. This picture captures the essence of our stay…the basic structure of the home, the wooden boats lounging on the shore, the forlorn stray dog, and the proximity to the serene ocean. The only things missing are the pesky chickens.
The original base of the hut got washed away a decade ago, and was replaced with cement:
One of my first naive questions was how stuff doesn’t get stolen from the home with roll-up walls. Nick’s aunt gave a little chuckle and responded “There’s nothing to steal…”
Activities during day-to-day hut life included snorkeling (but there sure were a lot of sea urchins) and rowing in a “banca” boat. It was my first time snorkeling and I was easily fascinated by all the starfish down under. Unfortunately, I panicked each time a little water got inhaled/leaked in and thrashed uncontrollably at the urchins.
We did quite a bit of laundry due to our light packing. Below left: Washing clothes by the water tap, keenly keeping a side eye out for the aggressive chickens who walked around like they owned the place. Although they roamed freely, they each had a little leg tag marking the family whom they belonged to. Below right: The “dining” gazebo doubled as a clothes line.
As much as I’d like to say I transitioned to this way of life seamlessly, one of the biggest surprises to me were cold showers. The first night, I stood in the bathroom for a good ten minutes twisting the water knobs in every combo possible before asking for help – and being met with amused smiles.
I loved tagging along with Nick’s aunt to buy meals. The muddy coolers by the side of the road served as storefronts for fishing families. Salted and then grilled, these were satisfying with rice.
The neighboring homes:
The volume of stray dogs in the Philippines broke my heart. It’s not something we see often where we live, but it was prevalent at every turn during this trip.
Are you my mommy? …no…
Are you my mommy?
As one would expect, this water-surrounded area was largely a fishing village. We observed numerous small boats going out at dawn, manned by bronzed fishermen with nets swung over their shoulders. Nick and I stood out like ghosts in comparison ; )
Fishermen pulled up outside our hut with the morning’s catch. One came and handed a friendly offering through our open walls:
The incredibly vibrant colors, a theme throughout this trip:
Living in the States, I love my share of processed and fast food. It felt different being so close to our meals. Seeing Juanita (the household helper) harvest plants and grab a squawker from the yard, then being served chicken and veggie stew a few hours later, was strangely startling to me.
Juanita preparing dinner (gift from the fishermen, also present):
The main road was more lively and lined with storefronts and vendors. I was so pleased to find one of my biggest guilty pleasures, fried chicken, to be plentiful throughout the Philippines. Locals would scoot up to this stand in mopeds and exchange coins for a tasty snack. I couldn’t help but indulge as well! The chopped up crispy-skinned pork was also delicious.
Cooling off by the main road with Coke in refillable bottles.
Nick has told me of so many fond memories from his aunt’s hut, such as napping lazily on the open porch, dodging sea urchins in the ocean, and eagerly waiting for the beach side vendors selling mangoes and sweet sticky rice. It felt wonderful for me to experience some of these things from his childhood. I have to thank his family for an incredible, authentic experience which I could not have had as a mere tourist.
Thank you for reading and for letting me share my travels with you!