For this Christmas we decided we needed to get out of town for a while and relax into the New Year.
So we went to the Philippines.
The first two days we spent with my wife’s family, mostly chilling out, watching the kids play and checking out a couple of places, like the Mall of Asia.
And that was Christmas. Quite honestly pretty much the way I like it, with very little Christmas spirit.

The following week though was destined to be different, because we left the family behind to go where non of us had ever gone before, to Boracay Island.
We arrived in the afternoon, which pretty much left us with time for dinner and a little exploration before starting to wind down for the night. That was pretty cool though, as I could manage to get a little time away from the family and have a beer with a couple of friends from the TakeOut Comedy Club Hong Kong who happened to be on the island at the same time.

The next day was beach day. And of course I used the opportunity to severely burn my back. But at least it was for a good cause: me diving with some fish. I just like the peace and quiet a few meters below the ocean’s surface.
Of course burning my back came with the usual pleasures, discomfort when lying down, not being able to get a massage and exquisite pain when trying to carry my son on my shoulders.
After spending a good part of the day on the beach and in the water, trying to get burned to a crisp, we took up the offer of one of those boating guys for a ride on the banana boat and some parasailing. As the day started to fade into the evening we then scheduled the other activities, helmet diving, snorkeling and the island hopping tour for the following morning.

Now the problem with these activities was that both helmet diving and snorkeling don’t have much to offer to somebody who used to go scuba diving in his teens.
Snorkeling, compared to simply floating on the surface without anything other than goggles, only saves me the occasional turn of the head to catch some air. Once you go below the surface that advantage is gone. But then again I guess you’re not supposed to do that when joining this activity.
Helmet diving takes you about 5 meters below the ocean’s surface, which is quite nice as you’re surrounded by fish and not just looking down on them. The problem I have with helmet diving is that it keeps you far too occupied trying to keep your balance and not bumping into all those things you can’t see, like the guy behind you. You’re supposed to stay upright, because otherwise your helmet might flood, which can be quite dangerous, as humans usually prefer inhaling air instead of salt water. But of course down there are currents which actively attempt to push you over or into the aforementioned guy behind you.
Despite the ocean trying to wash me away and the rather stale tasting air I managed to surface head first, not floating with my face down.
And the pictures the divers took are quite nice, so there was something positive about the whole experience.

Still, I have to say I prefer going down there either with proper gear or none. I actually did the latter, armed with my speedos and my goggles, in order to pose for a picture with those of our group who put on their helmets first, but then discovered that after making it to the bottom of that part of the ocean I didn’t have much air left to hang out. And none of the divers was close enough to snatch an octopus for some new air.
Was still fun though, actually more than standing down there with that helmet.

This was supposed to be followed by snorkeling and the island hopping tour, which I actually wasn’t interested in at all, but our activities were cut short by the onset of rain.

As I had followed the suggestions of the others for the past two days I then suggested that on the next day we should split up. I would go by myself and do what I want, and they could do whatever they want.
So we did that, and it was great.
I’m an only child, so sometimes I need time where I don’t need to care about others. Also I usually just go from A to B without much delay.
I truly believe that my punishment in hell will be a never ending shopping arcade where I am doomed to window shop for all eternity.

After getting up and ready I said my farewells to my family and took off to the beach on the other side of the island to hang out with the guys from the comedy club and watch some kite boarding.
We talked a bit about the possibility of setting up a show in one of the bars at the beach the following day, had a few drinks and then left for lunch.
Afterwards we parted ways and I was left with about 5 hours of me-time to explore the island.

The way I explore usually is completely random until I see something interesting.
So I walked down the beach for quite some time and then, lacking interest to further explore in that direction turned around and went back.
At the northern end of the island was a mountain and I wanted have a look at that.

Coming closer I noticed a large rock sticking out of the water. Also, even further along the way there was another, smaller rock, pretty much right where I wanted to go anyway.
Knowing that a structure like this usually attracts fish I got quite excited, especially as both rocks were close to the beach.
Coming closer I noticed that the large rock was conveniently equipped with ladders and surrounded by people.
Knowing that people, especially many of them, usually are not so attractive to fish I just went on.

While walking towards the mountain I already pictured myself insanely climbing the rocks to get to where I wanted and thought about ways to reasonably explain cuts and bruises to my wife, but once I was there I found there was a convenient path around that big chunk of nature.

On the other side of the mountain was a small beach, and excitingly few people.
I met a British guy and his daughter, along with the local family they stayed with, after getting to Boracay apparently was quite troublesome due to his bank messing up, and we talked for quite a while.
He also confirmed my suspicion that at the rock, which was just about 10 meters from the beach, indeed there was quite a bit of life.
So a while later we went for a swim, swam around the rock, which, by the way, I suspect to be of volcanic origin, due to his porous structure, and had a look around.

Having done all my scuba diving in Germany and Holland the most exciting stuff I had seen thus far was a pretty big fish, a couple of lobsters and female divers. Here on the other hand I was surrounded by lots of small and colorful fish and corals were growing just 2 meters below the surface. As there was a small plateau right behind the repeatedly mentioned rock I could even enjoy the comfort of being able to stand on my toes.
Careful as I am I checked a few holes in and between the rocks that formed the plateau in order to avoid disturbing any moray eels, as these are known for their bad temper.
I found none and kept exploring a bit further, going about 3 meters deep, but quickly found that most of the action was at the rock.

After we left I also decided it was time to head back for a little more time for myself, which I spent sitting atop some other rocks right at the water watching the sunset, and ultimately to meet the family for dinner.

For the next day I suggested we’d go to that little beach I had discovered earlier that day, and presented the following reasons for doing so:

  • We could all just walk up the beach going there. Being on vacation doesn’t mean you need to avoid any form of exercise. And having a walk down the beach is both nice and a good, little workout.
  • I was told that one of the houses you can see from there belongs to that famous Filipino boxer, and my wife and her friend wanted to see that anyway.
  • I wanted to get some more time to check out the fish around that rock, and also give my family the opportunity to do so.
  • Nearby I had seen an entrance to a cave. I wanted to check out if it was safe to enter, but didn’t really want to do that without anybody nearby to rescue my shattered body in case the waves smash me into the side of the mountain.
  • There’s hardly anybody there, so we’d have that little strip of beach more or less for ourselves.

So, long story short, we went there. I checked out the entrance of the cave, but it was just a small hollow, probably dug into the mountain by the waves. Nothing interesting or worth risking cracking my skull.
As the afternoon faded into the evening we left, as I wanted to prepare for the show we had set up for the night. I went back to the hotel to change my cloths and prepare my set while the family did other things. Probably window shopping.

The show, admittedly, wasn’t great, but also far from a disaster. For a show that had less than 24 hours of preparation time it wasn’t bad at all, and it could have been pretty good if there had been a little advertising over the course of the day, like flyers for example.
Anyway, it got us some stage time, which is always good, and free drinks and dinner, which was quite awesome.

Our final day, New Year’s Eve, was again spent largely by relaxing at the beach. In the evening we went to some restaurant at the beach front, celebrated the new year and left soon afterwards as we had to get up pretty early to check out from the hotel and get back on the boat and the little bus headed for the airport.

The trip back then went without major complications. We bridged the lengthy stop-over in Manila by having lunch at the Mall of Asia, and luckily enough there’s a smoking area inside the airport, unlike what those silly Brits are doing in Heathrow now…

Well, that then was Christmas and New Year in the Philippines. Quite nice, very relaxing, not too much Christmas spirit and an awesome sunburn that kept me peeling off skin for weeks.

Thank you!
Dennis Wronka

And yes, it did take me 2 months to finish this post.