The road took us along the coastline of southern Bohol, a little island in the Philippines well known for its surreal chocolate hills, the rare Tarsier monkeys, superb diving and white sand beaches. We decided to stay with two local families in their homestay, as we wanted to have a better understanding of Filipino life and add a different touch to our holiday.
Homestay in Anda
Our first stop was the homestay family in Anda, a little town on the southeastern side of Bohol and a rough 2 hours from Tagbilaran, Bohols main city. While driving our eyes were soothed with the most colorful flowers that are plentiful along the roadside, a crystal clear blue sea and local life passing by. I was wondering how it would feel like to live a life on this island where the pace of life is so slow. We city dwellers feed on the rush and fast pace of life. It felt surreal to see everything so calm and almost in slow motion.
On arrival we were warmly welcomed by the whole family. Father Abundio, mother Carmela, their 4 children and their grandmother. The children immediately took our daughter on a tour through the house and the garden. They had a wonderful big garden with palm trees, flowers and animals. Children of the neighborhood would walk in and out. It reminded me of my own childhood, a time in which it was common that doors where open and people around were more welcoming.
Abundio works as a musician in a local band and is mainly out in the evening while Carmela takes care of the household. Their homestay is a few minutes ride from a lovely beach with powdery white sand. A short hike from their home brings you to a waterfall and a natural pool. The area is lovely to explore by scooter which makes you feel like a part of the local community. We really loved the village vibe, our stay and the delicious food Carmela cooked.
Homestay on Cabilao
The next homestay brought us to the other side of the island, a 2-hour drive from Anda. The little island of Cabilao is very laid back and well known for its magnificent diving.
Upon arrival we were welcomed by Cesaeria, her daughter Abigail, her cousin with her daughter Andrea and her parents. Their house was large for Filipino standards with a spacious kitchen, an even larger living room and three guest bedrooms. Chicken and a rooster roamed around freely. They also had some pigs, dogs and a turkey. Their home had a very happy vibe to it.
For breakfast, lunch and dinner we joined the family. Freshly caught fish, rice, vegetables from the market, and fruit as dessert were served. The delicious food and lovely conversations that we had still linger on in my thoughts.
In the next days we used the families’ motorbike (you have to know how to drive a bike with gears though) to explore the island. As the island is hardly paved and still undiscovered by tourists, it made us feel part of this island and its community. We left our daughter with the family one day so that we could explore the underwater world and we felt so comfortable in doing so. The underwater experience was truly magnificent with a variation of soft and hard corals in different colors, stone and scorpion fish and many different Nudy Branches. They have one dive center on the island Sea Explorers that can provide their service to experienced divers. Be aware that they don’t provide Open Water Dive courses.
What this homestay experience gave us
To blend in with the families as we did in Anda and Cabilao gave our holiday a richer experience. As we combined it with staying in a hotel as well, the balance was perfect. Staying only in hotels or resorts can be nice, but it leaves you in a bubble and with a question; will the experience leave a mark? The local experiences we had will definitely leave a mark on ours.