Visiting Boracay, Philippines – Part 1

Ahh Boracay. Normally on our vacations, Nicole and I put together a giant Google Doc with all kinds of info on weather, exchange rates, places to go, things to do. However, when it came down to planning for this trip, I was busy with Flatiron School prework so Nicole did all the planning. It was fun for me to visit Boracay going in blind. Honestly, I couldn’t even find Boracay on a map until halfway through our trip, but enough about me, let’s dive right into the trip.

Getting to Boracay

For Nicole and I, our last day of work was Wednesday and we left Korea on Thursday. By the time Thursday rolled around we’d already shipped a few boxes to the states and packed our things. We had coffee and shaved ice near the bus station then took an afternoon bus to Busan and a flight out that night.

Shaved ice in Korea
팥빙수, shaved ice

Our plane was delayed an hour at the airport so we arrived around midnight, local time, instead of 11. It was weird flying into Kalibo at night. There were almost no lights. It looked almost uninhabited from the air. There was a patch of dirt and grass before the runway started and for a minute I thought the airport didn’t have a runway, and we’d be landing on a dirt road. That was not the case. However, the airport was only slightly larger than what you would expect from an airport with a dirt runway. There was one building, half was departures, the other half arrivals and no real security. We walked from the plane into the terminal, past several luggage carts from other flights. Once we got our bags, we had to pay a fee to enter the Philippines. Outside the airport a van from our guesthouse was waiting to take us to our guesthouse for the night.

Airplane Dinner
Airplane Dinner

To visit Boracay you have to either fly into Katiclan or Kalibo airport. Katiclan is right next to the ferry port to Boracay so it’s geographically very convenient. However, the runway is too short for most aircraft so you can only get there from Manila or other regional flights. There’s also a very strict weight limit on baggage. Since Nicole and I were moving after this vacation, there was no way we were going to be traveling light. Kalibo it was. From Kalibo you can take a bus, van, or taxi to the Katiclan jetty port. They’re listed by price and time to destination with bus being cheapest and slowest and taxi being most expensive and fastest.

RB Lodge Kalibo

Since we got in so late, we stayed the night at RB Lodge Kalibo. It’s a guesthouse that seems to exist for the sole purpose of providing lodging for late night airport arrivals. The accomodations were nice. Our room had an A/C wall unit and there was wifi. Bizarrely, our room had two twin beds.

In the morning we had breakfast downstairs. I love Philipino breakfast. It consists of some type of cured marinated meet, a fried egg, and white rice. I had that every day for our entire time in the Philippines and sitting in New York writing this now, I miss it dearly and remember it fondly.

Philipino breakfast
Breakfast

After breakfast we took a trike to the airport. The main form of transportation in Kalibo and Boracay, and I suspect most of rural Phillipines is a trike, a small cc motorcycle (dirtbike?) welded to a little sidecar with a roof and room for up to 7 people. Nicole and I squeezed in to one, but we passed several trikes that appeared to be hosting family reunions inside. Some people even rode on the back of the motorcycle with the driver while their entire friend group and closest family members rode in the sidecar part.

Kalibo Airport Again

At the airport I had 500 pesos, about $10. The ride was 100 pesos, about $2 and no one had change. I finally found a woman selling chips who was able to give me some change. I bought a bag of conceited sour cream & onion potato chips that promised to revolutionize the world of snacking forever. Despite the bold claim, I think the chips delivered on their promise. They tasted like a more flavorful Baked Lays.

Fancy Chips
Pompous Chips

Finally, change in hand, I paid our trike cabbie. Nicole and I tried to find a van or bus to take us to Boracay, but they were waiting for more people to arrive at the airport. We had the option to either wait for a flight to land, possibly in an hour or two, or take a taxi straight there. We were excited and the difference between a taxi or bus was only about $2, so we opted for the cab and headed out posthaste. The ride took us through rice paddies, forested mountains, past Catholic churches and schools. The weather was rainy but not terribly so.

Riding to Katiclan Ferryport

We got to the ferry port and boarded a tiny wooden boat with outriggers on either side. A porter helped to latch our bags to the roof of the boat. The trip from the ferry port to Boracay is no more than a 15 minute journey. On a speedboat it’s even shorter than that.

This was the boat we took home, but for comparison, we took a similar boat to the island.
This was the boat we took home, but for comparison, we took a similar boat to the island.

The Stations of Boracay

When we arrived at the port a golf cart was waiting to take us to our hotel. Boracay is split amongst three “stations”, or sections of the beach: Station 1, Station 2, and Station 3. Station 1 is quiet. It’s where a lot of the more expensive resorts are. Station 2 is right in the middle. There are plenty of bars and shops and activities on the beach. Station 3 is quiet, a bit older and tends to have more budget accomadations. All three are a short walk from one to another along a beautiful white sand beach.

Map of Boracay
Map of Boracay

Welcome to Agos

We stayed at a place called Agos Boracay. It was across the main road and up a set of stairs from Station 2. Because we were going in the low season, July to November, the hotel was practically empty and so our room was upgraded free of charge. We dropped our bags off and ventured down to the beach to explore. Station 2 has a big outdoor mall/shopping area called D’Mall, pronounced Deemall, not Duhmall as Nicole thought. We got some barbecue chicken and drinks on the water and sat by the beach.

Barbecue chicken on the beach
Barbecue chicken on the beach

That night we did a pubcrawl and met a ton of people from all over the world. I chatted about Disney theme parks with some guys from Saudi Arabia, met a former marine and his girlfriend who’s the number 1 pole dancer in Thailand, and a number of Germans on holiday.

Thoughts

Overall, not a bad first night and day. We got the lay of the land, saw two cities in the Philippines and met a bunch of characters.

 

A Day in the Life: Gwangyang English Town

Last year I wrote a blog post about my life working, teaching, and living in Gwangju, South Korea. I taught in a Hagwon, an after school English academy. My hours were 1-10 and I taught small classes of very gifted students. If you’re interested in more information, I encourage you to read “A Day in the Life”. This year, I thought I would share a day in my new town of Gwangyang.

The Morning Routine

BreakfastNicole and I get up around 7 or 7:30 and prepare for the day. We leave a little after 8 and walk to our elementary school. The trip only takes about 10 minutes. It’s an easy walk. We’ll usually arrive at quarter to nine and start preparing for the day.

Nicole and I share a small office on the first floor with our 3 Korean coworkers.  We each have a cubicle and a computer. It’s no different than an office in the US. There’s an electric kettle we can use to boil water for tea or instant coffee, a laminator, 3 printers, a coffee maker, a table and couch and a giant paper shredder labelled “Spy Killer”. After our coffee and/or tea, Nicole and I are tasked with turning on all the lights on our floor and opening every window on our floor. We’ve gotten pretty good at it. Nicole and I can blow through this in about 5 minutes. [divider_flat]

English Town

I should mention, Nicole and I don’t work specifically for the elementary school. Technically Nicole and I, and our 3 other coworkers, work for the Gwangyang Foreign Language Experience Center, also known as, Gwangyang English Town. English Town is a field trip center where students from all over Gwangyang County come to practice English in a hands-on Environment. The field trip center is divided into 5 different sections. These sections vary by semester but currently they are: airport, supermarket, broadcasting, bank, and sports. Students from 3 and 4th grade come one day out of the semester in Fall and in Spring, 5th and 6th graders come. Each day we see about 60 kids split 5 ways so classes are about 12 students apiece. All in all, Nicole and I end up seeing every 3-6th grader from our county over the course of the year.

We Run This English Town

After coffee and window opening, Nicole and I start English town. I help the Korean teachers seat the students in the auditorium then we give a short welcome presentation. We go over the different corners and introduce some vocabulary that the students might need for the day.

After the presentation, the students are divided into 5 groups. The groups cycle around English Town visiting the different corners and doing different activities. In the airport corner, students role play as passengers and security guards. In the supermarket, the students must find all of the ingredients on their shopping list. In the bank, students practice opening an account as a teller and as a customer. In the broadcast area, students report on the weather as an anchor and as a reporter.

The five groups visit each corner for 20 minutes an practice the role play a few times as well as some key vocabulary and maybe one or two games. It’s a lot of fun and the students get to use English in real world situations. Between each class students have 10 minutes of break time to get some water, talk with friends, or use the bathroom. At noon, the students gather in the auditorium for a game of Jeopardy. Each of the five groups takes turns answering questions from a Jeopardy powerpoint. At the end of the game, the group with the most points gets small chocolate biscuit.

The Jeopardy Game at the end of the Day
The Jeopardy Game at the end of the Day

The Weekly Haps

English Town is everyday except for Wednesday. On Wednesdays we teach first and second grade students at the elementary school connected to English town. We teach 4 classes; two first grade and two second grade, 40 minutes each. We swap classes so I’ll teach one class with my Korean coteacher then switch to Nicole’s class. At the same time, Nicole and her coteacher will teach a class then swap and teach the class I just taught. Sometimes these classes are cancelled if we have a lot of students and need to schedule a Wednesday English Town or if there is a school function like a performance or an exam.

Afternoon Delight

Whether we have English Town or first and second grade classes, they all finish around 12:30pm. This gives us time to plan for first and second grade classes, plan winter or summer camps, or just catch up on reading. It’s a nice schedule and it’s allowed me time to work on personal projects such as this blog, learning HTML/CSS (more to come soon), and planning awesome vacations (also coming soon).

Closing Time

At around 5pm we go home each day. If it’s Monday, Wednesday, or Friday I go to the gym with my friend Brendan and work out for about an hour. If it’s any other day I go home with Nicole and work on my blog or try to teach myself something new before we make dinner and settle in for the evening.

Life in Gwangyang

Teaching in Gwangyang this year is a very different experience. However, I much prefer it. My classes are shorter. I get to teach a wide variety of students. Each day and each class is different because my students are different. I also have a lot more vacation time, fewer classes, higher pay, and a larger apartment.

Korean Apartments and Electronic Locks

For the past two years I have lived without keys. How? Living in Korea, I have no car. Boom! No car key. Every apartment I’ve ever lived in, in Korea, has had an electronic keypad lock. They’re really convenient and safe. Need a friend to stop by and water your plant? You don’t need to make a second key, just give them the code. Worried that someone knows your key code that shouldn’t? Just change your key code.