Mountains, bugs, waterfalls, food, living and a Filipina – How I ended up in Pandan, Antique, Philippines

I am by no means a rich person. Quite the opposite, I come from a relatively poor background. Growing up, I made a lot of bad choices which led me to accrue debts and little in the way of a career or creature comforts. However, I, after many years of uncertainties and hardships managed to drag myself out of that perpetual cycle of poverty. Now, I am still not rich, not even ‘well off’. I am very much still within the poorer social class. However, I did work hard and strived to create for myself an environment in which I could start all over again from scratch.

For as long as I can remember I always wanted to go to Asia, I did not have a preference as to where specifically, but I knew that I wanted to be there; for me, it was like an addiction, a craving I just needed to satisfy otherwise I felt that I would die without having done anything meaningful in my life. I am aware that sounds quite bleak but as I am sure you will learn should you choose to stick with me on this journey, that is one of the few things that kept me going forward.

So, rolling into 2017, my bad choices in life were all but rectified, the mistakes of the past not quite eliminated but certainly useful in the learning process of what to do correctly. It was during the 2016/17 christmas and new year period that I truly felt empty and I knew that if I did nothing, I would have nothing. So I started researching, started making that bucket list that everyone talks about, putting my life into perspective. Here is just a few things that I started with: 1- Clear remaining debts, 2- Spend more time outdoors, 3- research trips to asia, 4- get off the beaten track, do not just be a tourist, you do not need fancy hotels or resorts (those are western ideologies), 5- get involved with local people, find the people that know where those hidden gems are on a budget.

Now, this list is but a fraction of the list I created. I wrote so many things down, no matter how small or big…I knew that running on the spot forever might make me fit and healthy but really pushing myself would be what gave me purpose and direction. That is exactly what I did. I pushed more and more and viola the opportunity finally presented itself. It did not just roll up saying here is your reward for your hard work. It was still going to be risky but after all those years of bad choices, I was now able to decide whether this risk was one worth taking that would not create a downward spiral in both my psychological state or physical well being.

I am going to share with you something that nobody knows. This, this is my confession and I have consciously chosen to wait until this point in my writing and life to confess how I went about making my plans for a trip that I took to the Philippines during the month of April 2017.

It was early in February when everything fell into place, by that I mean my list, my rational, and my spirit. I had found my drive again, my old sense of self. So, how I began, I frequented various travel websites, bloggers and vloggers but they were westerners and they appeared to have more money than I did. So, I decided to find an alternative way of researching. I went onto Facebook, and started looking through various local groups within the Asian continent. When I say groups, I mean, dating groups, or as many of them highlight: ‘making friends, dating and finding love with foreigners’. I done this because I believed that this would likely produce a far quicker response and a much more genuine result than simply relying on western intelligence. I simply put in to the group chats that I was looking to visit somewhere in Asia and would like everyone to recommend where I should go. Now, I knew that for those that liked me (found me attractive) they would likely tell me to visit them. However, as I had already considered that as a response I had my counter question. Why should I visit you in particular as opposed to the many others that have said the same thing, I wish to travel and so if you can tell me what is significant or special about your location and your country then I will consider it. I had a number of responses, primarily in the Philippines. By this point I had been following the chat and chose to do some of my own research into various locations within the Philippines based on what was currently going on within the chat. Cebu, a tropical coastal city, westernised by its popularity with divers and thrill seekers. Manila, a large and split city, the capital of the Philippines, with a large modern business community and westernised area, very popular with westerners, especially those going on the pornography induced sex trips. However, neither of those were what I was looking for. This was not because I did not find them appealing but for me, I wanted to be with locals, people who I could relate to in terms of class and personality as far away from the western cultural influences as I could get.

The groups I had joined really paid off. I found Metos, a quiet and simple girl who gathered a large amount of attention from prospective western males hoping to ‘have’ her. Now, when I say that, I really mean, they are dirty old men trying to buy a young attractive Filipina girl who will do all their cleaning, cooking and attend to their more perverse desires.

However, after taking time to talk with Metos, learning more about her and where she came from I decided to do some research into the province in which she was telling me about. Antique, is a province of outstanding natural beauty. It has mountains which make even the most experienced hiker salivate, naturally growing vegetation and is a rather cheap province within the Philippines. Not to mention the bustling coastline, the locals coming out to see the fishermen or buy some of their fresh catch for dinner. Each of the communities within the province really do work together to create a better environment for themselves with little or no outside help. The more I researched the more I thought this could be the place, I gave Metos my criteria: Mountains, Waterfalls, no western influence, local food and even more local people. I could never thank her enough for actively going and taking pictures for me. Showing me the landscape and different waterfall regions. The longer we talked the more inspired I became, this place was ticking everything off the list that I wanted and I had just got myself a local guide. Although, I later found out that it was in fact her cousin and friends who would become my guides.

So, I set about arranging flights, looking for that cheap deal, that bargain, anything would do, I was determined. Singapore airlines gave me a good deal and without hesitation, I pressed the submit button at the checkout for fear it would allude me. I was now flying to the Philippines. The flight was around 18 hours in total but I had a long layover in Changi airport, Singapore. Though I am not complaining, it is a beautiful airport and I had never been so I explored every aspect of it, including every available toilet area (do not ask, I did not sleep and it was a long wait).

I arrived at Kalibo international airport after leaving London Heathrow airport two days prior.

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