We thought we would spend our last week in the Philippines getting scuba certified. It sounded like a fantastic way to end our time in the country and it’s something we’ve really wanted to do.
Someone we met told us that if we did get certified, we should definitely get our Advanced Open Water certification. That way we wouldn’t always need a guide and would be able to dive just the two of us.
So we picked a place in Subic Bay that offered Advanced certification for just over $300. But what we had failed to communicate was that we had no previous certification, and what the employees failed to communicate was that we would need to first complete the Open Water certification, (an additional $400) as well as rent our own gear (another additional $400). So while we loved the idea of it, it wasn’t really the ideal time for us to pursue such a large financial endeavor.
This meant that we had a free week, and no real plans.
We tossed around the idea of flying to another island, but we would have to come back to catch our flight from Manila to Thailand. So it felt like a bit of a time crunch and a lot of extra hassle. We finally decided to just follow the coastline north a way, to a place called Crystal Beach.
Actually, we passed Crystal beach all together, and went just above it. We got off the bus in the town of San Felipe, and started walking. The only hostel’s in town all seemed to be on the same street- and not a single one of them had contact info listed online. So we just started towards the spot on the map. It was incredibly hot that day and toting our backpacks was not helping us out much, but just before we gave up and hailed a tricey, a car pulled over in front of us. When we came up next to it the driver asked us if we were going to Liwliwa.
I misunderstood and assumed she was asking about a hotel called Liwliwa (I thought I remembered seeing one online), so I said yes. She offered us a ride and we gladly hopped in. A few conversational questions later and she was telling us that she actually had a guest house available for the weekend, if we’d like to check it out.
We ended up deciding to stay in said guest house. It was a cute little hut on stilts, one of only 5 structures standing on her plot of land. In additional to our hut and cement toilet/shower, Sarah had her own hut and toilet/shower building. The 5th was her outdoor kitchen which was where she operates her small cafe on the weekends. She also explained to us that Liwliwa was the name for the small community we had found ourselves in, and that the reason we couldn’t find contact info for any of the lodging was intentional. The surfing spot has become a popular destination for local tourists, especially those who live around the Manila area. Many of the people who run the hostels/homestays decided that the crowd they were attracting from online reservations were too much hassle. “Giving them a headache” more specifically… so it is just a show up and see kind of thing. The weekend is the popular time and during the week its relatively quiet, usually only the people who live there are around.
We settled our things into the hut and asked Sarah to show us the beach, which was about a 5 minute walk down a sandy alley, past loads more huts and lots of surfboards.
The next 5 days included many trips down the sandy alley, fruit smoothies at the little local cantina, food from the delicious kitchen Sarah ran at her place, and lots and lots of swimming. We even tried our luck at surfing- a first for me. Every night we walked back to the beach and watch the sunset over the water. It was a peaceful way to end a chill day. Which is pretty much what all of our days were in Liwliwa.
Sarah and her business partners (who came up only on the weekends to help out) were really fun to be around as well. We spent a few late evenings talking to them in the kitchen. They told us the history of the area and how much it has progressed over the last 7 years that they’ve been coming to surf there. They were fantastic hosts and even better cooks.
They told us we were the “first tall people” to stay in their guest house, and asked us how we found it. We thought that was pretty funny.
The people in San Filipe and Liwliwa were especially friendly to us, always waving and smiling when we would walk by. A few little girls told me I was beautiful, and giggled when I told them they were too. We loved the atmosphere there and felt lucky to end up there.
We took a bus back to Olongapo, to catch a bus back to Manila, to stay for a few hours with a friendly Couchsurfer before catching an early (4am!) plane to Thailand!
Salamat po to the Philippines for the adventure. We didn’t know what to expect and it was better than we could have asked for.