Our long lost relatives live on the beautiful island of Siquijor, and we have been spending Christmas with them every year since 2012. So this year was no different. Again we stayed at our “home away from home”, Coco Grove Beach Resort. We love the staff there who know us by name. (Having a staff member be Blake’s nanny while we are there really means everyone knows Blake and we are just his family) And word has spread throughout the International School of Manila about Coco Grove Beach Resort, so our kids saw their friends and teachers at the resort. Our agenda is more or less the same thing every year with what we do around the island. This year was a little different in that we are now scuba certified, so we had a day trip to Apo island where we ate lunch, did some snorkeling with turtles, and had two dives around the island (Apo is one of the top dive sites in the country).
Our flight was delayed leaving Manila so we didn’t get to see our welcome sign until the next day. Being at Coco Grove really does feel like we are coming home.
My grandfather is from the Philippines. He left the islands when he was in his 20’s and left behind a wife and two sons (read the full backstory here). My father and his immediate siblings (except for the youngest) had never visited the Philippines before. But since I moved here in 2012, we have been able to convince my parents to visit us here twice. This past May my dad’s sister came out to visit us as well and she got to see where her father came from. It was a really special experience for us to be able to show our family (parents, aunt, cousin, sister, brother) the island that grandpa came from (Siquijor) and introduce them to our long lost relatives.
On the day of our departure to Siquijor, Matt picked up my parents and brother from their international arrival, while I took those who had already arrived to a different airport terminal. We finally got to see the whole gang and relaxed at Cinnabon before our domestic flight.
Kalani got to hang out with her aunt Kalani, whom she is named after for a week.
Welcome to Coco Grove in Siquijor. It has become our “other home” in the Philippines!
We showed our family where and how our cousins live in Siquijor.
I have an aunt that is only nine years older than me. She took great fun in making me scream/cry as a child, but now we have grown to be the best of friends. We lived with her family for six months while we had our home built in Texas in 2007. And when we moved to the Philippines over two years ago, we really wanted them to come visit us. Finally they were able to come out to visit us for two weeks at the end of January. We packed in a lot of fun things and made some wonderful memories during their visit to the Philippines.
My uncle had to go to Taiwan for work for a couple of days, so my aunt and I did some girls things. Like take a sugar cookie decorating class with some of my friends.
We showed our aunt how we watch movies at home…by having a therapist massage your feet, back, arms, head, neck, etc.
I took them to Tagaytay so they could see the countryside. Here we are with Taal Volcano in the background.
And we enjoyed sometime at Nurture Spa which was so relaxing.
We made them work out with us at Focus Athletics. We had to burn off some calories before we hit the buffets and restaurants.
Our uncles enjoys seafood, so we took him to a Dampa seafood place where we chose different seafood to buy and then took our purchases to the restaurant and told them how to cook them. It was all delicious.
Magnum Cafe is always a favorite since you get to make your own magnum bar.
We took a plane and then a boat ride on the Coco Princess to get to Siquijor island.
We stayed 2 nights at Coco Grove on Siquijor. We were so happy to be able to show them the island that my grandfather came from and the beauty that island holds.
We were able to enjoy dancers while we ate outside one evening at Coco Grove.
We had so much fun being all together again.
Here is a great video that our close friends who also came to Siquijor with us created of our time there.
We were lucky enough to convince my brother to come back to the Philippines for Christmas and New Years. It was wonderful to have him around again and he remains Mason’s favorite uncle. And he went back to Siquijor with us for Christmas and got to experience Coco Grove Resort. It was great to see family again, but our time in Siquijor was extended 3 extra days since a typhoon came through and we couldn’t leave the island! Ironically, this happened to us 2 years ago when we visited the same place with the same brother. The island just loves him too much to let him leave! However since we got stuck in Siquijor for 3 extra days, we missed our flight and reservations to Singapore for New Years. (but we were able to reschedule that trip for February)
We made hygiene kits at church and then Matt and Robbie delivered them to the city jail with other members from our church.
We went to the province to celebrate our cousin’s 1st birthday party and all of these guys wanted a photo with Matt and Robbie before we left.
Mason with the 1 year old birthday girl.
Annual Light Show at Ayala Triangle
Life-size gingerbread house at the Peninsula Hotel
Manila Airport was a mess on Christmas Eve. Luckily we found a place to wait to board the plane on the floor in front of a TV
We were able to ride on the Coco Princess from Dumeguete to Siquijor. It is Coco Grove’s private boat that goes straight to the resort.
We enjoyed our time at Salagdoong with cousins
Mason got dropped off the platform at Salagdoong. Later he ran and jumped off on his own while other adults were too nervous to do the same.
Because it rained the day before, Cambugahay Falls wasn’t as clear as it normally is. But still beautiful and we enjoyed our time there.
We explored more of Siquijor and found another waterfall after walking through the “jungle”
While hanging out with family, the kids played in this “tree house” that was built for our 5 year old cousin.
The children who live near our cousins welcome our children to play with them whenever we arrive.
The boys always seem to go to a cock-fight in Siquijor
We got to listen to Island Melody Band on Christmas Eve. Due to the rain they had to move the show indoors.
We arranged to have our family come to Coco Grove to have dinner with us. This is the first group of people to arrive to the resort.
We tried to see how many cousins could fit on the circular bed at the Penthouse.
In 2013 we missed the yearly festivals where our family in the Philippines live by a week. So, Matt really wanted to be sure to attend in 2014. However, I was about 35 weeks pregnant didn’t want to risk having a baby in the province. So Matt started contacting our brothers to see if anyone would be willing to come out to visit us and then go to Siquijor for the celebrations. One thing led to another and in the end we had 3 of my brothers and a sister-in-law coming out to see us! The boys stayed for 1 week since they had to return to school and work. My sister-in-law stayed for 11 days and we were able to have some girl pampering time together.
They arrived early Sunday morning and were jet-lagged the whole week they were with us. But, luckily they can sleep anywhere, like at the movie theater, restaurant & lounge
A morning of shopping at Greenhills where we bought knock-off purses and other souvenirs. And of course they got to see “lady-boys”
We had a nice dinner at The Peninsula and then went to the lounge to watch/listen to a live band
These guys flew to Dumaguete from Manila, and then took the hour long ferry boat to get to Siquijor
Getting ready to take our cousin’s boat to Salagdoong Beach (on the way they snorkeled from the bamboo arms)
3-man jump from the platform at Salagdoong
My 17 year old brother about to jump off the platform in the tree at Cambugahay Falls
They enjoyed their time at Cambugahay Falls and made friends with the locals that were also spending the day there
They played some basketball with cousins
They enjoyed the decorations for the “Coconut festival”
And they danced the night away with cousins and new friends at the village disco
Photo of cousins at the disco
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is now on the island of Siquijor and they were able to attend worship service and classes before heading on the ferry and plane back to Manila
Our siblings enjoyed the pool and gym at our condo
After the boys left, my sister-in-law and I did some girl things…like attending a baby shower that the ladies from church threw for me
And I threw a “Pamper Me” Party at our condo and had some friends over and each person had their own massage therapist for an hour
My brother Robbie was also here, but had to stay in Manila with me since his online Master’s Program started that week. But the kids were happy to spend more time with him.
We love spoiling our family when they come to visit us. And they took full advantage to meet our extended relatives and see life in a 3rd world country
My 17 year old brother wrote this on a photo he took to let us know that he had a good time… now he just needs to learn how to spell Philippines, or at least use spell-check!