I can still vividly remember the first time I stepped foot in the Philippines. It was all thanks to HalalTrip that I got such a great opportunity to explore and learn more about my neighbouring country. I am really honoured to be able to share this experience with 2 other influencers from Malaysia and Indonesia. Initially it was pretty awkward when I first got to know them. But as time went by, we became friends. We broke the ice after our lunch at Dusit Thani hotel in Manila.
The first day on our intinerary was to check-in as we reached Manila early in the morning. After resting for about 2 hours, we went down for breakfast. Later in the afternoon - after a filling lunch - the hotel manager took us for a small tour around the kitchen area as Dusit Thani offers a Halal certified section. We were able to interact with the GM as well as the Chef who explained to us in detail that all Halal food that they handle, right up to their servings, were all done separately in an enclosed Halal kitchen.
Right after that, we went to Intramuros (Spanish for "within the walls"). It is the oldest district and historic core of Manila, Philippines - also known as the Walled City. The tour guide explained to us about the history of the walls. It was such an amazing experience to learn the story of those walls. We also had the opportunity to learn of the existence of an honourable man Jose Rizal who was executed by the Spanish colonial government for the crime of rebellion after an anti-colonial revolution inspired in part by his writings, broke out. He is widely considered one of the greatest heroes of the Philippines, and is implied by Philippine law to be one of the national heroes.
Oh I got to share this with all of you. After the Intramuros we went to a souvenir shop - Mananzan Handicraft. I was looking around for something to get for my mom. And a table cloth set caught my eye. Without calculating or knowing the currency well, I just took it and made payment at the counter. After which, I realised that I had bought a tablecloth set that cost SGD 200. That was only after 30% - original price was SGD 266, equivalent to 8000 pesos. It was kind of expensive but it was handcrafted by the Filipinos and made of banana leaves. But in the end, it was worth the money as I don't think you can find such detailed handcrafted, banana leaf tablecloth set anywhere in Singapore.
Right after souvenir hunting, we went to the Golden Mosque to perform our Asar prayer. The mosque is also known as the biggest mosque in Manila, surrounded by the minority Muslim community in the area. It was such an eye-opening experience to go there and get to know how Muslims live there. After touring around we went back to our hotel to freshen up before our dinner. We went to SM also known as ShoeMart Department store founded by Henry Sy, a Filipino Chinese who worked as a shoe shiner during his younger days. He worked with all his might and perserverance until he managed to be one of the listed billionaires in the world. The mall was located right beside our hotel and it was so convenient.
After that we had our dinner buffet at Shangri-La hotel which also served us Halal food. It was a pleasure to be able to go to Philippines where most citizens are Christian but where Halal food was easily available. After all that touring, we finally got back to the hotel for the night.
Our second day on the itinerary started with a nice breakfast at the Dusit Thani. Upon finishing our great food, we proceeded to Ayala Museum in Makati, Metro Manila Philippines. It is located in Ayala Center adjacent to Greenbelt Mall and is run privately by the Ayala Foundation. The museum has been committed to showcasing overseas collections and situating contemporary Philippine art in the global arena in a two-way higway of mutual cooperation and exchange with local and international associates. After that we had lunch at Manila hotel. It was such a posh place filled with history. We were served a few dishes which were so savoury - such as beef rendang served with pita bread. Most food was Indian cuisine. After we were done with the food, we then proceeded to Ninoy Aquino International airport for our flight to Tagbilaran Airport to Bohol. The flight from Manila to Bohol took about almost 2 hours.
When we reached there, we thought everything would go as planned. But sadly, our HalalTrip members' luggage were left at Manila. They told us it was because we were amongst the last passengers to check-in our luggages. But it was kind of strange how all the other influencers plus their partners got their luggage, except for the two HalalTrip members. It was sad that they could only receive their luggage the following day cause there were only a few flights to Bohol from Manila and our flight was the last one to Bohol.
Travelling from the airport to Beach Club took us about only 15-20 minutes. The traffic there was kind of better than Manila. Manila traffic was crazy! When we reached Beach Club, we were sooooo excited to finally see the BEACH! Who doesn't love the beach? It was really calming and relaxing to be there. When we reached there, we had our own time for the whole day until late night for our dinner. The room really was big to be shared by 2 people. Our scenery was amazing. I was really happy that we touched there at the Beach Club.
What I heard from our tour guide was that Bohol is a mini-Boracay. So if you think that Boracay is overrated, you should come to Bohol and stay at their Bohol Beach Club. I would give it 5 stars for their service. When we were having our dinner at the restaurant at the Beach Club, we were serenaded by the staff there with live singing whilst we enjoyed our food. Bohol Beach Club is Halal certified and also has a Halal section, so we didn't need to worry anything about it. We got to know that they also use different cutleries and plates for the Halal section. We had Indian cuisine as well, but with a mixture of Asian Cuisine like Fried Noodles, Fish Salsa, etc. We had fresh fruit cuts from them for our dessert but we wanted their mangoes! So glad that they accommodated our needs and wants. You can find sweet mangoes during summer. That is the best time to get the sweetest mangoes. So if you want sweet mangoes, you should come to Philippines during summer time!
We had our breakfast at Bohol Beach Club, I must say that I love their garlic fried rice! It is to die for! No kiding. There wasn't much choice for breakfast but I was glad that there was an actual Halal section that catered for us.
We headed down to see Bohol's cutest primate ever - the Tarsiers. There were only a few of them that we saw. They have huge eyes and small body. The adult size of a Tarsier is so small that you can fit them perfectly into your palm. We were informed that babies of Tarsiers are as small as your thumb. How cute! They are also known as the smallest primate in the world. They can turn their head 180 degrees to the left and right, similar to owls. Another similarity to owls is that they are only active at night. You should visit the Tarsiers Foundation if you visit Bohol. You'll be happy and you won't be able to stop squealing when you see the cute tarsiers!
Afterwards we went to Chocolate Hills where we had to climb 214 steps up the hill just to get a the paranomic view of Bohol. But it was all worth it! The place is called Chocolate Hills because during summer the grass on the hills turn brown, to give it the appearance of chocolates. So that was how they got the name. There are over hundreds of hills around Bohol. We went to Chocolate Hill Adventure Park - also known as CHAP - for the activities there. We took the bike zip which was one of the best experiences ever! The bike zip is 150 feet high and it was about a 7-10 minute ride to the other end and back to the start. It was really really fun! There were many other activities there such as butterfly viewing, fish feeding, sumo wrestling, bike zipping and also air surfing. How cool. And the activities there are 100% safe!
We had our seafood lunch at Loboc River, where you can have your lunch on the boat while it goes around the river. Such a romantic atmosphere. Haha! We had a great lunch with live entertainment on the boat. It was really nice to see such river - I can't find something like it anywhere in Singapore. After that we headed back to our hotel. We were all tired from climbing hundreds of steps. We had our dinner at South Palm Resort which was just next to our Beach Club. South Palm Resort is Halal Certified and has a Halal section as well. We had a super full filling dinner where we had lamb shank, peri-peri chicken and some other Indian dishes. We loved their chicken that we asked for more!
I couldn't get up for breakfast so we just headed down to meet the others at the lobby on the dot of the time for us to gather. We could not be late as we were taking a fast ferry to Cebu. The ferry ride took about 2 hours to Cebu. Had our lunch straight away right after we reached Cebu at Persian Kebab Tandoori at Park Mall. Persian Kebab is Halal Certified for sure. Had Asian cuisine finally! Had nasi ayam goreng like finally.. We went to visit the Mosque at Cebu. The mosque there I can say is better taken care of. I was so glad to see Muslim Filipinos. Because we all know that most Filipinos were Christians. So when you see your own brothers and sisters from another country, of course you would be happy. The traffic here in Cebu was similar to Manila. Busy traffic with lots of cars around.
We went to ProFood Factory where we learnt about the popular Dried Mangoes!! The brand "Cebu Dried Mango" was so popular that it went all the way to Hawaii, Japan, USA and many more countries! Can you imagine! We saw how they processed the dried mangoes from the first step where mangoes were kept, until the end where they were distributed out as the finished goods. It takes about 5-7 days to complete the whole process from A-Z. Couldn't resist myself and I shopped a lot at their giftshop there where all you could see was, MANGOESSS~! But! ProFood does not only make dried mangoes, they also make other dried fruits such as dried pineapple, dried guava, dried coconuts and etc. They also don't do only dried foods - they also make puree, jam and many more.
Finally, after a long day. We checked-in to the most beautiful resort ever. Crimson Resorts & Spa. I couldn't take my eyes off the Villa that we stayed in. I thought that we would stay in normal room. But I was so glad that they didn't disappoint us! We stayed in the Private Pool Villa! You have to stay there and you know how happy and wonderful it is to have such a room. After we checked in, we had our splendid dinner at the resort while we enjoyed the sunset. Crimson is Halal Certified and has a Halal Section. It is CrescentRated 5. I love their service and everything there.
After the filling dinner. I soaked myself in the pool for hours and in the bathtub too. There was a TV in the toilet, HOW COOL? Slept quite late that night cause that was the last night for the whole trip and I just loved the place that I wished we could stay there for a longer period of time.
Had a wonderful spread of breakfast at the Tempo Restaurant. Gosh, I didn't know where to start cause there was so much food that you could eat early in the morning! We had a tour around the resort to see the different types of rooms. I was so happy that they were able to give this opportunity to us to see the resort and their spa. It was sad that we only stayed there for a night and didn't have the time to go to the spa. I left my heart at Crimson Hotel and I HAVE to go back to claim it back and enjoy a few more days there!
Had a 5 course lunch that I already got full when they served only the 3rd course. I couldn't eat anymore that I only had a few bite of my Tenderlion. Apart from that, we were rushing for the time as well because our flight back to Manila was at 2:00 pm and we only started our meal course at 11:45 am. We had to be at the airport latest by 1:00 pm. Luckily we were able to reach it on time. But guess what? The flight got delayed for TWO hours. With the two hours, we could have had our lunch slowly and finished everything up! But it was okay. We flew back to Manila at 4:55 pm and we didn't have the time to go back to Mariott Hotel for our dinner. But Alhamdulillah, thank you Mariott for packing our dinner and sending it to us at the airport. We had our dinner at Manila airport. Mariott Hotel is also Halal Certified and had a Halal section with CrescentRated 5!
Alhamdulillah, we safely landed in Singapore at about 1:30 am as our flight got delayed at Manila back to Singapore as well. I couldn't thank HalalTrip more for this given opportunity. I was so glad to be a part of this trip and to actually go to the country that I had been wanting to go. May Allah bless you. Thank you.