Or, “My trip to the Philippines.” For those of you who don’t get my angle, I’m referencing Vicky Cristina Barcelona. I mentioned earlier that, shortly after getting from the Phils, some friends told Erin and I that we reminded them of Vicky and Cristina, respectively (obviously). And yep, our friends were so, so right.

Anyway, you’re not reading this to hear about how similar to Scarlett Johansson I am. (Though I did just see He’s Just Not That Into You, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t sympathize with her character. Oh, and I liked the movie.) You’re probably reading because I came back from my Filipino vacation last week and have yet to post about it.

Well, I’ve uploaded the pictures and gone through them a million times. While it wasn’t the greatest place to vacation, I’m very glad I went there. It was a necessary trip on so many levels. And I got to eat chocolate cake.

Our first day was spent in Cebu City, which is, for the most part, similar to southern beach cities in America. Here are some shots from that day, including Fort San Pedro, Basilica del Santo Nino and various other sites we happened upon:

Shot looking out from the basilica

Shot looking out from the basilica

Garden inside the basilica

Garden inside the basilica

Basicila del Santo Nino

Basicila del Santo Nino

Puppies for sale!  In Korea, we call this "lunch."

Puppies for sale! In Korea, we call this "lunch."

Fort San Pedro

Fort San Pedro

Gardens inside the fort

Gardens inside the fort

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Cannon on top of the fort!  Yikes!

Cannon on top of the fort! Yikes!

Magellan's Cross...actually a huge letdown.  The actual cross is encased in this metal thing.  Weak!

Magellan's Cross...actually a huge letdown. The actual cross is encased in this metal thing. Weak!

Jeepneys lined up in traffic

Jeepneys lined up in traffic

Packed jeepney

Packed jeepney

The guy in front of us had a very, very dirty back

The guy in front of us had a very, very dirty back

The view from our first hotel

The view from our first hotel

On the cab ride from Cebu City to Mactan Island, where we spent most of the trip, I busted out the little pink camera and took video of what we were driving past. The first video clip gives you an idea of the poverty that exists in Cebu City (much different than the slums and shantytowns in Mactan). The second video clip is our cabbie locking the door (cue me: “Did he just lock the door?”) when he realized I was filming, and then explaining how dangerous it is to display expensive things.

Mactan was much different than Cebu. Though the drive from our hotel to the beach resort was only about 20 minutes, the things we drove past seemed worlds apart. We passed huge buildings, mansions that would dwarf houses in the States. Small sheds, barely standing, crowded with people just trying to escape to shade, were literally lying in the shadows of these megahouses. It was hard to stomach, to say the least.

Then, after 20 minutes of listening to Christian rock or Selena or whatever else the cab driver had going that trip, we’d arrive at the resort. Hadson Cove was where we spent most of our time, mostly because it was one of the few places where we didn’t get ripped off. We were lucky enough to get virtually cloudless days that weren’t miserably humid. Not to make you jealous or anything, but here’s what we got to enjoy for a few days:

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Laughing.  And yes, I appear to have a snorkel coming out of the top of my head.

Laughing. And yes, I appear to have a snorkel coming out of the top of my head.

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Completely unposed.  Erin stole my camera while I was hanging out on the rock.

Completely unposed. Erin stole my camera while I was hanging out on the rock.

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On our final day, we hit up a different part of the island to see Magellan’s Marker and Lapu-lapu Monument. I could Google the importance of those things, but it’s late and to be frank, I’m exhausted.

Magellan's Marker

Magellan's Marker

Lapu-lapu Monument

Lapu-lapu Monument

We also ran into a group of kids on a field trip. And for whatever reason, they wanted to have their picture taken with these half-lobster, half-human aliens that had descended upon their island.

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And of course, a blog about this vacation wouldn’t be complete without documentation of the horrific sunburn I was obsessed with telling people about/showing people for a solid week.

Simon says take a picture of your sunburned foot.

Simon says take a picture of your sunburned foot.

Simon says take a picture of your sunburned hand.  And yes, Simon knows that it doesn't look as bad as it was/felt.

Simon says take a picture of your sunburned hand. And yes, Simon knows that it doesn't look as bad as it was/felt.

Simon says take a picture of your incredible sunburned hip (which is, by the way, currently peeling like crazy)

Simon says take a picture of your incredibly sunburned hip (which is, by the way, currently peeling like crazy).

Simon says that Melissa is a lobster who sucks at putting on sunblock.

Simon says that Melissa is a lobster who sucks at putting on sunblock.

On our last day at the beach, perhaps delusional from prolonged sun exposure, I convinced Erin to take a tuk tuk from the resort back to our hotel. Tuk tuks come in many different forms around the world. Ours happened to be a doorless carriage attached to a motorcycle. Seeing as how a regular taxi ride from the beach to the hotel took about 20 minutes going twice as fast as the tuk tuk, I couldn’t believe the rickety old motorcycle made it all the way back with two Westerners inside. The tuk tuk took (haha, that’s funny!) a different route to get back to the hotel, one that avoided the main roads, which tuk tuks and bicycles aren’t allowed to go on. The back roads took us through the slummiest of the slums. The plywood shantytowns that we zoomed past in our air-conditioned cab all week were now mere feet away, with nothing but the thick, moist air separating us. Dust caked onto us as we drove and the sunlight hit our burns in all the wrong places, but I knew how lucky we were. For us, this was a quick trip, a stamp in the passport, a chance to eat as much non-Korean food as possible. For the residents of Cebu and Mactan, this is eternity. One one hand, they seem not to know the luxuries that they’re missing. Cell phones, laptops, iPods are all part of another world to most of the people we encountered., despite the Apple store and countless European boutiques that even I couldn’t afford existing just a few miles away in Cebu City. Yet–and Erin agreed–Filipinos, in general, seem quite happy. All of the people we spoke to were content where they were, with little desire to leave Cebu.

But on the other hand, if these people didn’t know what they were missing, then why is everyone trying to rip visitors off? From the woman at the Internet cafe to the taxi drivers to the restaurant manager, I swear, the list goes on and on. All week, we noticed young Filipino women, girls younger than me, seek out old, wealthy, foreign men. As Joseph, our cab driver from the first day in Mactan (who screwed us out of about 800 pesos) put it, these girls are with the men for the money, obviously. It’s heartbreaking that Mactan Island is, as islands tend to be, surrounded by water, yet children don’t play in the ocean. They play on the sides of busy roads or chase foreigners down, begging for money. The beachfront properties are mostly owned by hotels too expensive for the average Filipino to afford, and that hardly seems fair.

I left the Philippines with a lot to think about. Like I said earlier, I’m glad that I went, not only because I needed the vacation after a stressful month at work, but because I got to see something I’m not accustomed to. I know that poverty, worse poverty than what I saw in Cebu, exists all over the world. It’s something that’s easy to brush aside when you’re sitting on silk sheets, typing away on a Macbook and have your iPod on shuffle mode. It’s significantly more difficult to ignore when it’s surrounding you on a busy road while you’re stuck in tuk tuk in the middle of third-world gridlock.

On that last day, as we were stuck in traffic (the result of road work and a one-way street), a teenage boy walked past me. He was wearing a baggy black t-shirt with a picture of Tupac Shakur on it. The writing under the picture said, “Keep Ya Head Up.” It was a gentle reminder to me that day, and again right now, that even in the darkest and saddest of situations, you do have to chin up. I don’t know that I’ll ever go back to Cebu, but this trip will not ever be forgotten.

**If you want to see all of the pictures that I didn’t post here, you can check out Facebook here and here.

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