For the two people I found out who actually ready my last blog, will know that a lot has changed since I last did blogs. I spent literally 10 years without a single post, so what was left were a lot of closed chapters, and, most certainly the beginning of many new ones. I said that in 2022, I’d be stepping out of my comfort zone, they’d be risks, things would be different and I think it’s fair to say, that’s already been achieved, and, we’re barely ending March.
I do feel like my previous relationship became a reason I became a lot more censored, a lot less expressive and changed me in ways that weren’t always in the area of positivity, but, that’s gone now, a new is born and erm… yeah, quite the adventure ended today last week in a pretty warm place!
For context on that, I’m one of those who gets hot at 10 celsius, I’m a fussy eater, lover of the status quo, though not the band, and, most definitely not someone who’s normally making too much fuss … so, I give you the Philippines … wait what??!
Today marks exactly a week since I returned from the Philippines, and I think it’s fair to say, it was not only the most memorable week of my entire life, so far, but, also, the most significant step to what is now, hopefully, a very exciting future.
The beginning has truly begun!
As I mentioned in my last blog, I said that it was early days but I had someone new who was entering my life and I was very excited about where things could go. Now, I must confess, I wasn’t entirely truthful about that, because the early days were “more many months”, at that point, and, the beginning, was more or less already established, but, their was one big huge step I needed to take to confirm everything was in motion, and, that was a visit to the Philippines, specifically the city of Cebu.
After a shock announcement to my family, which was a couple days before the already booked flight and hotel was set … to which they were very happy about, we were set to go. It’s worth mentioning that, was it not for ineffective dumb removal of our civil liberties for no reason due to a bit of Flu, I’d of probably be doing this trip at least last year, but we are where we are.
To save me from some initial stresses of the trip, my Dad agreed to give me a lift directly to the Manchester Airport I needed to go to, a journey which I would later find out wasn’t as simple for me, but that’s nearer the end. I was soooo lost in an Airport and was pretty much guessing the entire way.
I figured out I was naturally meant to look for the company I was flying with, went there and spoke cluelessly to a woman there who, bless her, helped me out greatly. Got checked in, registered the Philippine Health Pass, presented my negative test and vaccination record, my main luggage was put through then … was clueless again, what now? This bit wasn’t as obvious.
Eventually I was guided to the Departure side of the Airport and my Hand luggage and me had to get some X-ray excitement and, let me just say, dammnn you iPad Pro!!! Bearing in mind, I was terrified of being remotely late (though the flight in the end ended up being itself 1 hour late) my hand luggage DIDN’T go through and I needed to wait for the very slow process of people looking through it. Yyyep, for some reason, I don’t know what this thing is made off, but EVERY TIME my iPad went through, it triggered something which is odd but, once I’d figured out it was the iPad, I was clear to put it on a separate Tray, to avoid the trouble, -sigh-. Now, all we needed to do was wait for when we could board, phew.
And where I was, I was heading to the Philippines to begin the first huge adventure with the latest additional in my life, Hannah. But, not just Hannah, a group of Hannah’s friends, who I’d, consequently, got to know over the last year, or so, and who would also be there for what would be a very memorable trip indeed. So, when I arrived it would be me, Hannah, Chona, Ivy and Meg.
Of course, this is me, so the arrival wasn’t smooth either. I arrived in the Philippines, after the stress of dashing around Qatar due to my late flight, and I was, again, clueless. I figured out the obvious, ”Arrivals”, queued up, all my Documents were perfectly fine, then I was like… well, where now? Put it this way, no word of a lie, I was shouted at by 6 staff, not in English by the way, telling me not to leave yet as I’d to do two pretty important things, register my arrival, I mean sure, but a pretty big one, pick up my luggage! … I was pretty embarrassed, but no one knew who I was so meh.
GOT my luggage, thankfully it stood out amongst the rest, and was ready to leave in to the HEAAATTT and prepare the very nervous …hi’s to come.
I’d booked a hotel very close to Cebu City’s port area, this was actually the view from outside the window, was very happy when I was able to finally check in after the rigmarole.
The thing about flying, which is annoying to me, isn’t the flying itself, as, that’s fairly straight forward, in fact, it feels like you’re on a Train most of the time. The thing that annoys me is the over the top dumb process you’ve to go through. To add to that annoyance, we have the stupidity that is Covid regulations to put up with, so we needed to get EVERYTHING booked … but also temper your excitement in case a PCR test, done within 48 hours before departure, which has to be fit-to-fly so you better get your money out, turns out positive or negative. Thankfully, after feeling like my nose had been drilled off, it was negative (like every Covid test in the history of time) and we were good to go.
After a few hours of criticism of being a bit under prepared by my family, I mean sure I had zero shorts and most my T-shirts were joke T-shirts or RKUK Media branded, I got some donations, but, I honestly didn’t care as I could surely buy what I need there and it turns out the only preparation I wasn’t prepared for was a British one … the weather. My burns are still recovering haha, but it’s all good.
From Pounds to Peso
One of the huge adjustments when visiting another Country is of course figuring out international currency. I was able to get quite a lot of Philippine Peso to start me off for the journey, and, it’s actually not too difficult to top it up once over there. One thing that became apparent, after a while, this is after the typical tourist part of going how much is this, ohh it’s that much, oohh here you go. Once I’d actually taken, not much time, out of my hands, to work out the conversion, it became very apparent that the Philippines was a very affordable place! This became more noticeable when order things of equivalence, such as say a 2L bottle of Pepsi, or some Fries at McDonalds. Granted, I understand that the same can not be said of residents of the Philippines perhaps visiting the UK and experiencing OUR prices. Speaking of Pepsi though, and ALL drinks over there, not having the UK sugar tax, I swear, you don’t realise just how ruined drinks have become until you experience what they’re SUPPOSED to taste like ohhhhh. I can actually drink Coca Cola over there, in the UK it’s full of sweeteners which give me a serious headache. Sigh, if only Lucozade wasn’t a UK only product before it was completely ruined.
Speaking of traditional grub, I was actually pleasantly surprised at just how many things from the UK I had access to over there. I mentioned McDonalds, but literally EVERY fast-food chain you can think of is over there and even some additions such as Philippines own Jollibee was very helpful when it came to a decent sea-side like Hotdog with frankfurters.
Arrivals and the “hello… kamusta ka?”
After a total of 22 hours under some regard of Airline shenanigans, many of which included hour late flights, as mentioned before, dashing from one side to another Airport in Qatar, to the eventual arrival in Cebu, just after 5PM local time, plus give or take some hours of immigration, we were finally here!
Prior to arrival, as mentioned earlier, I had arranged to meet up with what would be 5 of us, made up of Hannah, 3 of her friends, me, and I guess eventually a Driver. Once checked in to the Radisson BLU Hotel in Cebu, which apparently is 5 stars over there, though to me it was similar to Hilton hotels … so a Premier Inn with the odd chandelier and marble floor to look more posh than it actually is! Though, at least this one had an inclusive Pool. One thing that actually really impressed me was this was the first Hotel I’ve ever been in with surprisingly good WiFi, which was not only free throughout your stay, no per hour charges like UK hotels, but also Superfast (around 80mbs down) throughout! Though, I didn’t take advantage of much else the Hotel offered, except maybe the free breakfast which included a very small quantity of Cereal. Having WiFi like that was very useful to keep up with the world, catch some Philippine Pokemon in Pokemon GO, though my pretty cheap roaming plan with VOXI worked pretty well, too, and the Networks over there, at least for me, worked pretty well actually, I even got 5G at one point.
The initial arrival day consisted mostly of checking in, the nervous shy hi’s to everyone, and my first experience of something I was certainly going to get used to, sitting on a table in a restaurant and going “don’t like that… don’t like that… do they do Fries?” hahaha, but you know what, we managed and consequently over time found many ways I could eat and consume.
On the road to … places of interest
For the first half of the holiday it was clearly tourism central, we visited some very photogenic places, all were absolutely boiling. We went to Sirao, Temple of Leah, Busay, Daan-Lungsod beach, a water park in Mandaue City, more scenic sights at Valladolid … quite a few places really, plus obviously exploring Cebu itself.
Then, probably my biggest mistake, going in to the ocean unprepared which resulted in the loss of my skin, pretty much. The first few days were spent with us all as a group, me, Hannah, Chona, Ivy and Meg all spent a lot of times together and I’ve many many photos, none of which are going here, but plenty of memories.
One thing that really illustrated the heat in the Philippines however, was my first real true experience of dehydration. I was literally heading back in the van, after quite a long walk, I was losing my breathes, I was losing my strength, and all I remember after that was consuming 1 entire litre of water in about 20 seconds, quite scary. So, it’s fair to say when the daily average is 31 celsius, keep up the water.
One thing that was clear the second I even arrived, was not only the huge change in culture, but also that you will see the slums, you will see people truly making ends meet, but, you will also see surrounding you, a very beautiful Country. I’m not personally someone who really cares about the Tourism aspect of any Country really, but it’s hard not to be taken in to what makes this Country what it is.
Outside of all that, is honestly a fairly traditional in-land, you’ve got your shopping centres such as SM which contains pretty much everything you could need and more compared to say White Rose or Meadowhall, I’d argue actually better, everything is refreshingly generic in that regard. But, of course, once you step out, you’re left with that, sandy beaches, REAL palm trees, I mean woah, and a lot of ways you can just be taken in and relax.
But, it’s worth mentioning that was not why I was here. I was here to begin the future of my life with Hannah, but, I’m sure many people will be wondering who the heck Hannah even is, I’ll get to that, but, for now, just know that I was very happy and even more, especially so with the second half of the holiday, where it was finally able to become just me and Hannah.
The end of distraction and the beginning of it all
It’s worth mentioning that everyone I met in the Philippines, including the 3 that joined us at the start, Hannah’s family, 2 other friends of Hannah’s who I finally got to catch up with and so many more, remain very important to me, but, just like the Philippine sights, were admittedly a beginning distraction to the true reason I was there, Hannah. It’s a shame how this being brought up created some, less than pleasant, reaction from some, but it was necessary and the last half of the week was purely me, Hannah, and, what we wanted to do at that time.
Spending time with a group of friends is great, I will admit, though when they speak Taglog, it can be a bit troubling, and it did create some aspects of ”three’s a crowd” mentality, so having some alone time with me and Hannah was incredible at just seeing the striking difference in how relaxed I felt, and how right things begun to feel almost instantly. 20 minutes alone, I was happier than days prior which I think was honestly the most revealing aspect of the entire journey.
Meeting the family 😬
In any relationship there’s those striking moments that you always have to prepare for, those nervous moments where you… basically shit yourself, the first one that comes up, of course, is meeting the family. By that point, you’ve already established how you feel about the one you care about and love, but, at the same time, if the family don’t like you, it kind of puts a spanner in the works, as we say in good ol’ Blighty.
Walking nervously through the passages, entering a door that was, almost not opening correctly just to say ”turn away now Ben, we already hate you”, we finally entered in to a very populated living space, where the interrogation began … ho ho hah haaahh … not really, but you know how it is. Thankfully, it went a lot better than I could of imagined, it seems they liked me, and they accept me for who I am, which was a HUGE weight off my shoulders.
We, consequentially, then spent an entire day with a great bulk of the family, but, once again, it went surprisingly well. Sure, I have I a lot to adjust to, hell yeah, was I the most noticeable out-of-place person in the world, you bet, but, I can honestly say, I felt accepted, which is the most important thing ever.
Who is Hannah?
Bit nosy aren’t we. To get to Hannah, I need to go through probably the last near 10 years of my life, with the odd few things left out because I don’t want to be disrespectful to anyone here.
The fact is in the last perhaps 4 to realistically probably 5 years, hard to tell the years with the madness that was lockdown (that must NEVER be allowed to happen again), things were not feeling right in my previous relationship, many things were attempted to change this, but, the real turning point, was when this was brought up, confronted the issues, nothing changed. The call wasn’t answered, so to speak, so I knew what I needed to do, at that point, and that led me away.
During this time, however, Hannah showed up in to my life. We became friends, we got on really well, but something became apparent pretty early on, I was already starting to feel things for her, something which couldn’t be ignored. Especially, when those feelings were so much different than I was experiencing previously. So, as me and my previous relationship fell further apart, we became closer, then, when it ended at the back side of last year (which amazingly no one noticed), it was obvious where I needed to go. The focus was clear and straight ahead towards Hannah. I’ve actually known Hannah for nearly 2 years, few ups and downs in that time, but really that’s just the process of getting to know the real you and the real her.
Obviously, they remained many things in question, many risks were going to be taken to make this work, not only by basically closing down an almost 10 years of a relationship, though, in many ways that was doing it all by itself, but, when something feels right, it makes you look at yourself in the mirror, and, you just have to say to yourself, let’s just go for it.
Now, I’ve always been that kind of guy, like most from the UK, think it’s in our genes, that instead of taking risks, we just sits there going “oooo I dunno”, but, this time, I thought, look, I’m turning 30 soon (am now) and I refuse to not be happy where I am, and, most certainly, I refuse to let this slide, so I found some backbone and just went there. To simplify everything down to one sentence, based on the week I spent in Cebu, I now know for sure, what I’ve done was 100% the right decision.
I plan on visiting the Philippines again very soon, I also plan on giving Hannah the full UK tour … though, might be slightly less impressive showing off Brid and Skeggy, to the beaches in the Philippines, but hey we’ve British charm dammit! Maybe avoid places nearby like Dewsbury though hahaa
The journey back
Whilst going there wasn’t exactly smooth, with the first flight been 1 hour and 20 minutes late, so my connection in Qatar was … less than relaxing. The same wasn’t exactly smooth sailing back either, though for oddly hilarious reason, which I’ll get to.
The last day was pretty sad as it was full of goodbyes and I honestly miss so much, not the smoothest of goodbyes as the Airport over there has Staff likes of which you’d expect in Kim Jong-Un’s arsenal, but we headed back and I got a little surprise from my Airline shortly before departure, a little offer. I was offered a very affordable upgrade to Business Class in the first, and by far, longest flight, heading back, so I DEFINITELY took that. I was a typical British snob, had all the stickers on my luggage, tested out the Wine, which was awful so went back to Pepsi on the plane, though there was something rather incredible about being summoned at the Airport, down a private escalator in to your own booth for the Flight which was pretty something.
When we arrived at the stop, we were escorted off the plane first, taken in to our own carriage where we, and our luggage were delivered to us, truly OTT, but love it. Granted, the second flight was back to the ol’ regular, but still kept the Business class sticker on, I mean, it would be wrong to not!
I’m actually really glad I did as their was a pretty daunting moment at the end of the trip, arrived in the UK, fairly timely actually … but, there was a problem … my luggage was nowhere to be found. After many many gritting teeth, mine so happened to be THE LAST to come through, and was wrapped around it a nice BUSINESS CLASS sticker, which was helpful.
I got lost… in the UK
Had a sweet reminiscent conversation about the whole trip with Hannah, as I then basically got lost about 5 times IN MANCHESTER … YEP, this British guy has travelled internationally for the first time in his life, stopped off in Qatar, spent time in the Philippines and the first time he got lost was actually in the UK!
It’s worth mentioning that it was 5AM when we landed in the UK, a lot longer to be ready thanks to the luggage, and this was a Sunday, so services were a bit more limited, but once I got told BY NO ONE, that the Train to honestly anywhere weren’t running and their was a substitute bus, which by the way didn’t say on it where it was going so thankfully the Driver came out, noticed I was looking lost, told me where he was going so I was thankfully able to get the bus … phew for that. I was then in Manchester Piccadilly and had… a lot of time to kill.
Got some lovely freshly baked Coissants and what was an incredibly disappointing Pepsi … that sugar tax though, but it soon became apparent something wasn’t right. I knew it was Platform 1 I needed to be on, but that became London Heathrow … hmm. 20 minutes left till the Train and something is VERY wrong. Eventually I realised I was LOST AGAIN, I needed to be in Manchester Victoria, which THANKFULLY was close, so was able to get a very rushed Taxi over there, and waiting in Platform 1 was the Train I ACTUALLY wanted to catch!
By this point it was waking hours for the normals, and was able to get a lift home again from my Dad when we entered nearby City. So, yeah, I got lost in Manchester, on a trip to the Philippines … only me.
It’s pretty sad to think that today marks exactly a week since returning from the Philippines. I was honestly, to be truthful, expecting to hate the place, but I didn’t, I honestly really really loved it.
What’s next, well I’m definitely going back, the future with Hannah is very bright, I will terrify her with the sights and sounds of meeting my friends and my equally mad family at some point, then let the future hold what it does.
One thing that was lacking in my previous relationship was honestly progress, it never moved, whereas in this one, there’s many possibilities to where the future could take us, which is both daunting and incredibly exciting. But, you know what, I’m totally ready for it, and I certainly don’t think this year has finished in it’s surprises and turning points yet to come. I mean, you can tell I’m a different person I’m CHOOSING to do over-time, I mean what’s wrong with me hahaha.
But, seriously, watch this space.
I’m sure, like always, there’s things I’ve missed out, in some cases I still prefer to keep some things to myself. But, that’s about as much as I wish to cover from what was I know, just the start, of many adventures to come.
Anything else of note
It’s fair to say that adjusting back to the UK, with the 8 hour gap between us and the Philippines, though that’s now 7 hours with the change of the clocks now, has been eventful, not really been alive that much since returning. After not believing I’d even gone, my friends now do, probably due to my evidential tan.
Did find out, that unfortunately a death occurred in someone I knew, which certainly put a damper on the week, I won’t get in to who they were, but certainly generated some gloomy times.
Outside of that, the norm sure feels like that now, normal. As I mentioned, I plan on going back really soon to the Philippines, but for now it’s back to the joys of work (woo) and everything that UK life brings.