I read in the Lonely Planet guide to The Philippines that Filipinos are shockingly friendly. This was proved entirely true during our stay with the Bartilet Family – Philip, Angel, and their five sons – in Bulusan.
We spent mornings and early afternoons contributing to community projects: ground improvements at the lake, planting trees to help with reforestation, painting walls in the public market, and paving the parking lot outside the beach. On our time off we took advantage of beautiful Bulusan. We hopped onto tricycles (the Filipino version of tuk-tuks), always testing how many of us we could fit onto one vehicle with a few of us sitting in the side carriage and others sitting on the back of the motorcycle seat with the driver, in search of new exotic spots. We swam in waterfalls, kayaked in the lake, relaxed in the hot springs, and jumped over waves at the beach.
I also read in the Lonely Planet that The Philippines have the best mangoes. After just one bite of a juicy mango we all knew this to be true as well. During our stay we collectively made more than a dozen trips to the market where we carefully chose the perfect mango to bring home for a snack. We visited the market primarily for mangos, but we also took trip with Angel and her mom to assist with grocery shopping. They challenged us to speak only in Tagalog which we successfully did, saying “Bibili po ako nang” (I want to buy) and asking “Magkano po eto” (how much). After shopping we’d help cooking dinner. Our favorite dish that we made was pork spring rolls. This entailed plenty of preparation as we perfected our rolling technique one afternoon.
After dinner, Philip and Angel broke out the karaoke — and the beer. Each night we sang the night away; Lucy and I took on Justin Bieber, the boys took on “the classics” and Mikaela went for a challenge: Beyoncé. For Angel’s mom’s birthday karaoke went to a new level. Full from spring rolls and the treats Philip brought from the city to celebrate (cake, ice cream, and french fries) we all collaborated to sing dance hits. We passed the microphone around and took turns belting out the lyrics to songs such as “Dancing Queen” and “Valerie” while we danced the night away.
On our final day in Bulusan we added to our tricycle load to bring the two youngest Bartilet boys, Matthew and Junior, with us to the beach. Florence brought a blow-up ball, Lucy brought her goggles, and I brought lots of mangoes: the perfect combination for a fun beach day. Together we splashed in the waves, turned Lucy into a sand mermaid, snacked on our favorite tropical fruit, and searched for shells on the shore.
We are incredibly grateful for the immense hospitality shown to us by the Bartilet family and the entire town of Bulusan. Their warm welcome to The Philippines leaves us excited to see what the next 3 weeks have in store!