In July 2015 BADLADZ we were very happy to welcome INDI DIVERS to PUERTO GALERA. Indi divers are run by Pete Dawson. Born in Newcastle England, Pete has been based out of Perth Australia for the last eight years. His part time passion is to take groups of divers to many exotic locales four or five times a year. This was his first excursion to the Philippines and he swears he’ll be back!
The group consisted of 28 divers and 1 lovely girl who just wanted to sit on the beach & read 😉 They came together from many countries, England, Ireland, Australia, Canada, and arrived by private boat from Batangas walking right onto the beach in front of Badladz Beach Resort. It was a beautiful day with flat seas and bright sunshine. Everyone dumped their bags, literally, and headed to the pool for a few ice cold beers. Lots of fun and laughter was coming from the pool area as they all made new friends.
The next morning was time for some serious diving. We provided 4 dive boats each one with a private guide on board and off they went, each to their own dive site. Gavin, Morris, Christian and Ariel are all very experienced dive guides with knowledge bordering on that of Marine Biologists ! If there is a creature, critter or coral on the dive they will know what it is.
There are hundreds if not thousands of different critters to see here but some of the more “special” things the group got to see were Pygmy seahorse, flamboyant cuttlefish, ghost pipe fish, green turtles, Hawksbill turtles and many more. My personal favourite is the mimic octopus, this is one cool critter. Being able to change its shape to mimic other animals as a defense mechanism. The group were lucky enough to see them on 2 different dive sites. Puerto Galera is a top spot for a photographer with some amazing macro dives but if you are not so interested in taking a shot we have some exhilarating drift dives where you really feel like you are flying. I like to think of it as sky diving under water.
Everyone was very happy to find out that the Badladz staff would carry all of their equipment onto the boat, so all they had to do is relax, enjoy the day & the diving. Two dives in the morning then back to the dive shop for some welcome lunch then two more dives in the afternoon to finish off their first day of diving. The night however, was just beginning !
It was playtime at Badladz Beach Resort with dinner and some more ice cold beverages. Most of the guests just sat back, relaxed and chatted about the cool things they got to see that day. Some of the more adventurous souls headed out to Sabang for some night life. Sorry, but we cannot print those hilarious stories here !
Day after day was pretty much the same. Fun, Fun, Fun !
After a hearty buffet breakfast, everyone is ready for four or five more fun packed dives. Everyone is already settled in to the exciting routine by now and both guests and staff are just having a ball!
We gave the group the delightful option to have a day trip to Verde island. Home to more species of fish and coral than the Great Barrier Reef, this area has been found to be the Center of Marine Biodiversity in the WORLD with more different species per square meter than any other dive site In the world.
As you can imagine the diving was Awesome!
This is a 2 dive trip to some of the best diving in the Philippines and finishes off with a delicious BBQ lunch on a tropical island! What more could you want ?
Every single guest came back with a smile on their face saying we want more! Lucky for them they still had 3 more diving days left.
On the last night Badladz put on a BBQ to die for! With a Live Band on the Beach
and buffet style all you can eat, it was a fantastic night with all the guests and staff included having a great time.
It was hard to say goodbye to everyone. I know for me I have a lot of new friends and really hope to see them again.
In a 2005 study (Carpenter and Springer) the Verde Island Passage near Puerto Galera was discovered to be the world’s “center of the center of marine shore-fish biodiversity,” hosting the greatest number of shore-fish species.
A coral survey recorded 319 species and 74 genera of hard corals. At least half the Philippines’ fish species and many globally threatened species can be found here. Many studies in the Verde Passage continue to yield discoveries of species that are new to science. This further underscores the global biological importance of this area.
Verde Island Passage encompasses more than 17,000 hectares of critical habitats, including at least 3,000 hectares of no-take zones, over 14,000 hectares of fishery reserves and more than 300 hectares of mangrove forest conservation areas. These sites were chosen as a result of biological and social research and they represent the areas that have the most potential for delivering conservation benefits.
Enhanced eco-tourism income and other benefits are proving the value of marine biodiversity conservation.
Verde Island Diving is really unique and exciting. There are not many places in the world where you can enjoy fantastic scuba diving and also your surface interval when you can wander the beach and discover pieces of porcelain from Spanish Galleons shipwrecked centuries before.
Usually a surface interval is pretty uninspiring. Perhaps you get in a bit of snorkeling or you catch a few rays of sun, but on Verde Island you get to do something few people in the world have ever done or probably will ever do.
A Spanish galleon, the Nuestra Senora dela Vida, which sank in 1620, was discovered in the late seventies just off Verde Island on the southern side. It was heavily salvaged in the 70’s and 80’s and nothing remains of the wreck except for a few pieces of porcelain. The larger plates and terracotta jars are now long gone but you can still go “treasure hunting” for little pieces of porcelain on the beach or near the wreck. It’s a nice souvenir to go home with!
These treasures were all salvaged from the 18th Century Manila Galleon the ‘Nuestra Senora de la Vida’ on it’s voyage bound for Central America. History has documented the sinking of the ‘Nuestra Senora de la Vida,’ in 1620 as the result of a grave miscalculation by the ship’s pilot. The angry passengers, among whom were probably owners of the valuable cargo, hanged the hapless pilot as the ship was sinking.
Where is Verde Island Philippines?
Verde Island is only a 45 minute boat trip from Puerto Galera and a FANTASTIC day trip with warm water, 30m plus on average visibility and good fish and coral life. It all adds up to a world class destination!
The currents around the island are quite strong so this world class diving is really for more experienced divers.
Verde Island Diving
There are 3 standout dives on Verde Island Philippines.
1. The Pinnacle
A huge underwater reef that comes to the surface on the eastern side of Verde Island, the pinnacle is like a column that starts in about 60m of water and rises, narrowing as it gets to the surface.
You have to be aware, the currents are ferocious with some down current. The idea is to get as close to the pinnacle as possible and then descend to your agreed depth. The dive will then zig zag up the pinnacle exploring the fantastic corals and marine life that inhabit this underwater behemoth.
If you look out onto the blue you can be sometimes see schools of pelagics which is always a bonus. With the current running fast you cannot circumnavigate the pinnacle as you will just get washed away with the current.
This is a world class dive with brilliant visibility, if you diving in Puerto Galera make sure you request a day trip to Verde Island.
2. The Washing Machine
The first thing you must know about the Washing Machine is that there are two ways of diving this location. The first is in slack water and the other is during the ebb tide where the current turns the location into the Washing Machine.
The site is a number of small canyons and swim-throughs which do not get much deeper than 15m, the canyons are all interlocking. The current runs through these passages and canyons with the water rushing in all directions and then, due to the directions of the passages, the current runs into itself creating a washing machine effect. One second you are being pulled one direction the next the other, quite exhilarating and not for the inexperienced who would not enjoy this dive at all.
Make sure you wear a full wetsuit as you may get the odd scrape.
Diving during slack water, you can enjoy the diversity of the coral life and fish. There are some great sea whips and fans that thrive in the currents.
3. The Wall
The best known site at the island is The Wall which is a sheer drop of over 70m into the depths. The wall is covered in beautiful corals and gorgonian fans and the colours are superb. Marine life is prolific and there are big groups of batfish, emperors, and surgeons everywhere. The strong waters may well pull in larger pelagics such as tuna, white tip and black tip sharks. Manta and eagle rays are sometimes seen cruising past in the deeper blue.
The profusion of marine life, corals and the topography of the island can be very rewarding for photography.
There are also some great beaches, coves, and a museum which contains artifacts collected from Spanish and Chinese shipwrecks.
The reefs around Verde Island have a reputation for their great bio-diversity, and the dive sites are excellent for macro photographers.
Free-Diving at BADLADZ Resorts!
“When I’m diving it feels like I’m being accepted into the ocean. The fact we’re completely immersed in liquid; a single breath, the weightlessness, the absence of sounds, the dullness of the colours… everything is subtracted. It’s a completely different experience to life in the air element.”
-World record holder, William Trubridge
Who am I?
My name is Robbie, and from a young age I have had a passion for water, especially the ocean. My mother always jokes that I learned to swim before I could walk. From swimming and surfing to snorkeling, scuba diving, fishing, sailing and windsurfing, I’ve done it all. It’s a safe bet that I’ve spent more time in the water than any other place. When your love for the water is as strong as mine you always find yourself searching for the next experience on or below the waves.
In 09′, while competing in a spearfishing competition with friends in Florida, I met a group of world class free-divers and my life was changed forever.
They introduced me to my first instructor and it was full-throttle from there. Working my way up the rating system I competed in amateur events from Grand Caymen to Duhab, Egypt, and eventually became an internationally certified instructor. I honed my skills through thousands of dives and endless training… but something was missing.
Diving with competitive free-divers is a joy only appreciated by those that have taken part, but it was an activity I couldn’t share with my fishing pals, surfing buddies, or other aquatic enthusiasts. Over the years a plan was hatched; I would create a training program that allowed anyone to experience the joy of free-diving; a system that taught all the safety skills and techniques but focused on fun rather than competition.
In early 2015 I found the opportunity to make this a reality at the BADLADZ Adventure Resorts.
So, what is free-diving?
“To freedive is to return in some small way to a unity between ourselves and water. When you hold your breath and slip below the surface, you invoke a magical time of pure consciousness, safety and freedom, released from everyday worries and cares.”
– One Breath – A Reflection on Freediving by Emma Farrel, a lead freediving instructor in the UK.
Free-diving is, in one word, incredible. It offers everything that scuba diving does without the encumbrance of equipment or the limitations of decompression. Free-diving is just the refinement of an instinct that we all possess, the Mammalian Dive Reflex
That’s what makes it so amazing, we all innately have the skills required. When we learn how to breathe properly for diving our bodies do the rest for us.
There are no words to describe the feeling of slipping beneath the waves on a single breath of air, swimming along side a sea turtle, observing creatures without the disturbance of bubbles or cumbersome equipment, and returning to the surface minutes later. Once you try it you will be hooked for life!
Is it safe?
Yes! Free-diving is as safe as taking a bath as long as you follow the two golden rules; never dive without a fellow trained free-diver and never dive alone! Okay, so that’s one rule but once you’ve spent some time in the water with us you will understand why it is so important.
In reality free-diving is safer than scuba diving, which itself is an extremely safe activity. There is no chance of decompression sickness with recreational free-diving. In fact you have a higher chance of being killed by a coconut than getting hurt free-diving or scuba diving.
What to expect.
There are tons and tons of free-diving trainers and most will tell you that on the first day of their course you will hold your breathe twice as long as you ever have. Well, this is true for about 99% of people. Why? Because if you learn to breath properly your body will do the rest for you.
Honestly, for me your breath hold is a given and I’m not interested in selling you on gimmicks. I want you to have fun and be happy that you have unleashed a skill from within that you probably never even thought you had.
My training program is designed to be as relaxed and fun as possible; I’m no drill sergeant. I want you to leave BADLADZ with everything you need to be safe and above all else, have fun!
Let’s get started.
Are you ready to start? Take the next step and read about the courses offered at BADLADZ. I can’t wait to dive with you and help you to realize the potential that lies in wait within you!
Safer Than Sitting On The Beach!
Mindlessly and unfeeling, hurtling towards you at terminal velocity, then the sudden blinding pain, shock and blackness of death overtakes you. You were relaxed and totally unaware of the dangers surrounding you.
Yes, that’s right, you were reclined in the shade, cool ocean breeze on your face but a coconut has dropped on your head. Now you are just one of the 1 of the 1000’s of people attacked by coconuts every year and one of the 100 or so killed yearly by these monsters. Coconut palms grow to about 25 meters in height and a coconut weighs about two kilograms. That two-kilogram coconut falling 25 meters would have a velocity of 80 kilometers per hour on impact and a force of as much as 1,000 kilograms.
They kill more people worldwide than sharks do. Think about that when you are sipping on your Pina Colada. Look up, it’s a very real danger.
As a comparison an average of less than two Scuba Divers are killed by sharks in the entire world every year.
Honestly, you are safer in the water with us than sitting on the beach waiting till we return with stories of the wondrous things we have seen.
Scuba Diving is as close to visiting a foreign planet any of us will ever get and a much more pleasant experience. The water holds you in a womb like embrace with temperatures close to 30 degrees Celsius. Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus (SCUBA) has been perfected over the 70 years, since Jacques Cousteau pioneered it’s use during WWII, and equipment failure is almost unheard of.
Do not fear, nothing in the ocean wants to hurt you or eat you. We are not on their menu. The basic rule is TOUCH NOTHING and nothing will touch you. Normally the most aggressive character is Nemo as he valiantly defends his anemone host.
This tiny toothless villain playfully attacks divers who stray close to his home.
There are potential dangers but only if you make the first move. Stones that are really poisonous fish, pretty flowery fish that are deadly, and many things with big teeth but we are totally ignored if we follow mothers advice from childhood. “Just look, don’t touch”.
The Verde Island Passage, near Puerto Galera, has been found to be the center of Marine Bio-Diversity in the World with more species to be seen there than on the Great Barrier Reef. This is a GREAT place to learn to dive and bring your camera if you are already certified. LOTS to see
Everything from the tiniest, incredibly colorful nudibranch to giant gentle Whale Sharks can be seen in the Philippines. Clouds of brilliant tropical fish surround you, graceful Thresher sharks glide slowly past, as curious of you as you of them. Swim with a squadron turtles totally oblivious of your presence.
Come join us and we’ll safely introduce you to all the weird & wonderful ocean creatures. My second passion lay with the mystery of mans tragedies hidden in the depths. Treasure! Sunken vessels carrying precious cargos lost for millennia.
There are honestly THOUSANDS of these. At least 45 Spanish treasure Galleons loaded with loot from Central & South America. Hundreds, if not thousands of Chinese pottery vessels with cargos of Ming Dynasty porcelain. One of these was found in 15 meters of water in Puerto Galera less than a kilometer from BADLADZ.
Diving has many adventures. Now, this is an exhilarating thing to do. Find a spot with a fast moving current and fly along the bottom, controlling your altitude with your breathing, arms outstretched for lift and balance like a jet plane then tumble over a cliff face somersaulting to the bottom laughing like a child. Exhilarating is not enough to describe the freedom and joy of finally being able to fly like an eagle or hover weightless like a hummingbird.
Looking for something fun, safe, interesting, exhilarating and easy to do? Take a Dive Vacation in the Philippines!
Hundreds of thousands of new divers are certified every year from 8 to 80. If they can do it, YOU CAN TOO !
Here’s a question I get asked ALL the time on my YouTube Channel…
“Hello sir. For someone moving to Ph. Is it better to rent a house, buy a house or buy a lot and build a house in the Philippines? What are the pros and cons?
-Thank you, Po”
Here are my thoughts. Each option has it’s merits and only you can decide for yourself. In general, the cost of living in the Philippines is low, but your lifestyle will be very different on different budgets.
The following is based on the assumption that you want two basic necessities no matter how you choose to set yourself up in the Philippines…
As you read, keep in mind that these two ‘necessities’ are luxuries that most Filipino citizens can’t afford. They alone will multiply the the cost of living by 5 TIMES AT LEAST!
Western Style Living Accommodations
These will include…
- Air Conditioning
- Hot Water Shower
- Cable TV
- A Generator (‘insurance’)
- 2 Bathrooms
- At Least 2 Bedrooms.
Life Near An Expat Community
When deciding a place to live, location is by far the most important factor.
Make a list of the factors that are important to you…
- Social Clubs
- etc. etc.
Other Questions To Ask…
- Like to be close to people?
- Get annoyed by animal noises?
- Need a view?
- Like to be close to the beach?
- Have to be within walking distance of everything?
- Need parking space?
- Want room for pets?
- Need space between you and your neighbors?
- Have any more personal questions you should add to this list?
Remember, if you are Buying or Building YOU CANNOT CHANGE YOUR MIND! It is easy to buy or build, tough to sell!
Now that you know what you’re looking for (reasonable accommodations close to civilization) you can weigh your three housing options; buying, building, or renting.
1. Buying A House & Lot
This 3-Bed 3-Bath is yours for just P6,600,000.
This is great because…
- You can move in immediately
- You will know the exact cost
- Anyone selling a house will want to make their money back PLUS a profit so be prepared to pay more than the cost of building it yourself. A house that costs P6M to build will cost P8M to buy.
- It will (probably) not be exactly what you want.
- Ask yourself WHY these people are selling. Do not trust them to tell you why! If there is a problem, they will not tell you the truth…
- They have termites
- The water or electrical supplies are weak (this makes life difficult)
- The neighbors are bad or they have noisy animals
- Your phone or internet signal will be intermittent or too weak
- There may be issues like a Lease or Lien registered on the title, unpaid Taxes or maybe there is a Tax Declaration on the House meaning someone else owns it! As always, research the Title and Taxes.
2. Building On A Lot
This is great because…
- Construct based on low maintenance costs and safety.
- Design your perfect Floor Plan
- Dictate the Exterior Architecture
- Do your own Quality Control
- This is the Tropics… EVERYTHING rots or rusts except concrete and Typhoons are a very real occurrence.
- You MUST be on site to be sure of the Quality
- Finding a lot in the correct location might be difficult & expensive
- During construction you will need to rent
- Your neighbors are rude
- Someone else can build right beside you or in front of your view
- You need to check the deeded access or public right of way to your land
- The electric & water utilities are far from your lot
Do You Contract Or Build It Yourself?
- A good contract means SET COST, SET QUALITY & SET COMPLETION DATE
- The contractor deals with the crew
- You have minimal “On site” responsibilities
- Build It Yourself…
- Cheaper IF you do the following
- Are “On site” ALWAYS
- Purchase and pay for all materials
- Deal directly with the crew
- Plan EVERYTHING in advance
I only recommend building on your own if you have prior construction experience AND a good translator.
The first and most important thing you MUST do is find an HONEST contractor. Ask everyone who that has built a home who they used, especially people like resort owners as they usually do multiple projects over many years and will know who has the best record.
As always, research the Title and Taxes. There may be issues like a Lease or Lien registered on the title,
Want to try out the Filipino lifestyle for a few months? The BALDADZ apartments are an affordable option with the amenities you want!
This is great because…
- You get immediate occupancy
- It is probably easier to rent near your perfect location than to find a house or lot to purchase there
- If you do not like your neighbors, you can move!
- If the Philippines isn’t for you long-term, you can move!
- You are not concerned about taxes
- Someone else need to fix the broken stuff
- If it is furnished you don’t need to buy furniture
- If you need more or fewer bedrooms you can just move
- You will never ‘own’ your own house
- The internal and external architecture won’t be exactly what you want
- You will pay to rent a place for 20 years and realize you’ve given enough money to the landlord to buy the house!
- A house that costs P6M > P8M to build will rent for about P30k per month.
- That is approximately 20 years of paying rent and in the end… your landlord still owns the title.
- The property lease is in someone else’s name and you aren’t even paying rent to the owner! (research the Title to avoid this!)
4. Alternative Locations & Costs
If your tastes are simpler than this, you can live in a simple concrete house with…
- A Tin Roof
- A Small Lot
- One Bedroom
- One Bathroom
- VERY Close Neighbors
- AND NOT MUCH ELSE!
Just reduce all the numbers by the following percentages.
- Living near other expats…
- 50% of the amount to build or rent.
- Far from the expat community, still in civilization…
- 80% reduction in all costs.
- Living in a distant province…
- 95% cost reduction on all living expenses!
The farther you are from Foreigners, the cheaper it gets.
In the province you can realistically buy a lot and build a house on the beach for under P1M!
There’s many ways to live your dream in the Philippines, and you get to choose the best option for you.
This guest post is written by Nico Jannasch who is living with us at BADLADZ this summer.
He’s a location independent business owner on a mission to help 200 other people escape the 9-5. Connect with him on NicoJannasch.com.
About six months ago I watched at some of the videos on the BADLADZ YouTube Channel and decided that I had to head to the Philippines to check it out. Now I’m here, and I love it!
When I looked at the online weather reports for Puerto Galera during the summer all I saw was rain, rain, rain. Turns out that once again the weather channel was dead wrong.
I arrived at the BADLADZ resort at the tail end of June. Getting here from Manila took only four hours and even a foreigner like myself was able to figure it out.
The bus to Batangas from Manila was clearly marked and dropped me off right at the harbor. The boat that would take me to Puerto Galera was just a few steps away and very easy to find.
As the boat pulled into the Muelle pier and the BADLADZ Dive Resort came into view, I wondered if those weather forecasters had ever been to Puerto Galera in the summer. All I saw was sun, sun, sun!
I checked in to the resort and one of the lovely waitresses from the restaurant walked me to my room. Here’s the view from my door.
Yea, I was happy to call this place ‘home’.
I’ve been at BADLADZ for almost a week. The weather has been perfect; clear skies, cool temperature, and low humidity. I’ve been taking full advantage of the beautiful climate.
Today, I went sailing. The local yacht club rents sailboats for $10 per afternoon and I showed up in my swim trunks with snorkel equipment in hand.
All I can say is… wow.
From launch to return, the day was perfect. After spending an hour or so cruising the harbor I let the light breeze pull me to a secluded beach on the shore opposite the resort.
Pulling the boat into the sand, I ran back into the waves for some snorkeling.
Even though I wasn’t at an official dive site, the underwater view was breathtaking. Massive blue sea stars, moray eels, tropical fish, and purple tipped coral kept me company. I only wish I had an underwater camera!
Needless to say, my day below the surface got me reallyyyy excited to get my PADI certification.
I am so thrilled to be spending this time of year in Puerto Galera and so glad I didn’t listen to the reports of bad weather, typhoons, and rain.
Maybe I’ll see you here next summer?
Unfortunately we do need them. I can’t always walk everywhere although I do try !
When you arrive at the airport go to the DEPARTURES area. This means lots of taxis dropping people off and leaving empty. These drivers would love to get a passenger and are very negotiable.
Don’t Get Scammed!
Be careful about accepting “help” hailing a taxi driver. Unless it is from your hotel staff they will probably have some kind of a gimmick going on. They are not doing this out of some sense of hospitality. Just be aware that there will be something in it for them
Make sure they turn the meter on OR negotiate a Fare BEFORE you get in the taxi. This of course depends on how desperately you need the ride. Location, Traffic, Rain, Time Frame and the Supply of Taxis present are all factors to take into account.
Pick a good looking cab. They charge the same and the better, more trustworthy, drivers get the newer units. Everything, like Air Con, will also probably work
If they refuse to turn on the meter, as required by law, and you are not in desperate need of a cab that minute, DO NOT SLAM THE DOOR IN DISGUST. He does not care about the car, it’s not his. Walk away calmly LEAVING THE DOOR OPEN. An open door means he must get out and close it. Just a tiny bit of revenge but satisfying
Always know EXACTLY where your destination is…
- So you can give a convincing description, like cross streets.
- Because they might not know the location and will drive around aimlessly while frantically & covertly texting other drivers to ask directions.
- They could also take you “mistakenly” to the wrong address half way across town. If you mention cross streets this cannot happen.
Knowing the exact address also makes you seem more “local” or at least familiar with the terrain.
If possible get a business card or written directions from wherever you are staying so you can get back easily. Copy details from the internet so you can get where you are going easily. Get a local to write them down if possible. And, at the same time, ask the approximate cost in case you need to haggle.
If possible, DO NOT put your luggage in the trunk just in case the cab drives off when you get out. If you are traveling with a friend, one of you should stay in the taxi until everything is out.
ALWAYS carry LOTS of small bills so you have the exact change as they will claim not to have any and, at the very least, your trip will be delayed while they search for change.
Don’t Put Yourself In Danger!
If they are driving too fast or reckless, Don’t be shy, Tell them to slow down.
Texting or calling while driving can be dangerous, not just because of accidents but ALSO because they might be setting up a gimmick further down the road. This does not happen often but it does happen. Perhaps they have an accomplice suddenly jump in the taxi & rob you.
Sometimes they will pull over claiming a breakdown. Another taxi driver will be there by chance. Once you change vehicles you are in danger. It will be unlicensed and unregistered. You will be robbed and left on the roadside in some remote location. Any information you have from that taxi will be false so no police investigation will help. Tell them to stop calling or texting.
If they get in an accident, even a minor one, and there are other taxis nearby. Pay the fare IMMEDIATELY, and get the hell out of there. These things get messy, with police involved, and can be hugely time consuming.
Most countries have TOLL roads. Be prepared to pay the tolls unless you have negotiated otherwise. This expense is well worth it. These roads are less populated and much faster.
Help Spread Good Taxi Karma
If your driver turns on the meter immediately without being asked, takes you to your destination without making you fear for your life and does not beg or coerce for a tip… REWARD THEM!
We certainly want to positively reinforce & encourage this type of behavior.
The scariest part of the tense journey was waking up at 4:00am to find the middle watchman laying flat on his back & fast asleep…
I quickly started the port engine to charge the ship batteries and slipped the jet drive transmission into gear to ease the strain on the towline. I had woken up just in tine. Moments later I sensed something blacker than the ocean slide past the tow vessel on her port side.
I immediately moved the throttles full ahead and the wheel to starboard. Using the rescue boat to push the floating dock out of the path of the object, I could now see that the black mass was a huge rubber bumper, the kind used by large vessels when moored against a pier. It was wrapped in ropes, most likely moored there in the ocean as a fish trap.
It certainly would have made a mess of the tow had it made impact with the rescue boat or floating dock. The bumper slid down our port side close enough to snag the fishing line we had rigged off the stern, broke the line, and disappeared into the predawn darkness with our lure.
We were “tail-end Charlie” of an unlikely trio roped together on a voyage from Busuanga Palawan in the Philippines to Subic Bay. In the lead was the Isla, a party boat designed for drunken pleasure cruising within the protected confines of Subic Bay.
Behind her she towed a 25 meter floating dock system piled two sections high and lastly, three of us on a decommissioned ocean-going rescue boat named First Responder.
From the bow of Isla to the stern of First Responder was almost 100 meters of boats, ropes and floating dock system. Our task was to get this unhappy configuration thru the unpredictable South China Sea and treacherous Calavite Pass to its new home in Subic Bay.
It was all my fault. Shell Oil had stationed the Rescue Boat near their Malampaya oil platform project for 12 years in case one of the helicopters ditched or the platform itself caught fire.. They had just decommissioned it and put both the boat and its floating dock up for auction.
I told my buddy Brian about the deal, he bought her and I volunteered to ramrod the project of moving everything 300 kilometers from northern Palawan to Subic Bay, Luzon.
Hard work, adventure and a little bit of danger…just what I like.
After 4 days of hard work we had everything rigged to tow and set off into the darkness.
It was so dark when we started the tow at 8:30 pm that we could only just see the lights of Isla, 100 meters ahead. It was eerie too as we could sense, but not see, the rocky shoreline sliding by on both sides.
What followed was 2 days of wind and big waves and a couple of potential disasters. The floating dock got beat up pretty badly by the constant waves pounding it and we worried always about the inevitable fishing nets and traps in our path, especially in the dark.
However, despite the odds against us, 44 hours later we cruised successfully and happily into Subic Bay. After 6 days of sobriety, we shared a few cold beers.
A lot of people wonder which country is better… Thailand or the Philippines?
They want to know which country they should visit on their holiday. Some even consider moving here permanently. As someone with experience in both places I wanted to share my thoughts to help others decide for themselves.
Who am I?
My name is Cody and I have lived in Thailand for roughly 3 years. Now, I’ve lived in the Philippines for about 3 weeks. All of my time in Thailand was spent in Bangkok aside from 4 months in Chiang Mai, and my 3 weeks in the Philippines has been spent in sunny Puerto Galera at the BADLADZ Beach Resort.
I obviously have much more experience living in Thailand, but I’d still like to give my thoughts so far on the two countries and how they compare to one another.
So, let’s get started.
If the staff at BADLADZ is any indicator of how friendly and fun the Filipino people are (and so far they have been) this is a huge win for the Philippines. The staff at BADLADZ are about as fun and friendly as they could possibly be. It seems Filipino culture is much more open and playful than Thai culture.
Thai culture is very reserved once you get away from the Red Light districts. They are very polite and shy, which is nice, but not always a lot of fun. Filipinos seem to have a much more western influenced personality and sense of humor, so you find the girls at BADLADZ always playing around, cracking jokes, and in true Filipina style dancing and singing 23.5 hours out of the day. This is something you just don’t get in Thailand and it’s probably my favorite thing so far about living here in Puerto Galera.
Chalk this round up as a huge win for the Philippines. Thailand hit the canvas on this one. Definitely a 10-8 round.
This is another major difference. Depending on which source you read, the Philippines is either the 2nd or 3rd largest English speaking country in the world! They speak great English which makes it extremely easy to get around and ask important questions such as “What’s in this food?”, “How do I get there?” and “Are any other bars still open?”. When it comes to language, it really is the Philippines time to shine.
Inside of the tourist zones of Sukhumvit, Patong, Khao San Road, etc. in Thailand you will find the large majority of Thais speak reasonable English. However, you will still encounter lots of taxi drivers, food vendors and shop workers who do not speak English or don’t speak enough to understand what you are asking about.
Your hotel receptionist will probably speak just fine, but trying to explain how to get back to your hotel to your taxi driver late at night may be a problem.
Another big round for the Philippines. 10-9.
Here is where Thailand comes out swinging. Thai food is internationally renowned, and for good reason. It’s great. I love Thai food, especially Isaan food. Luckily I’ve found plenty of grilled chicken here in Puerto Galera as well.
So far I have enjoyed Filipino food, especially Adobo and Tapsilog, but I haven’t eaten enough of it to really put it to the test against Thai food, which I’ve eaten a thousand times. I’m sure there are tons of different Filipino dishes, especially regional dishes, that I’ve never even seen, so it’s a bit difficult to pass judgment here. I will say that Thai food is amazing and I can’t recommend it enough.
With that said, I’ve found the Western food here in Puerto Galera to be exponentially better than that in Bangkok, and way less expensive. I’ve always felt that Western food in Thailand was subpar. I don’t know exactly why that is, but it just isn’t very tasty and it’s expensive.
Here in Puerto Galera I ate at an Italian restaurant named Lucas and not only was it great, it was cheap! A whole pizza, and I’m talking a giant sized pizza, cost about 240 pesos. (about $6)
The same sized pizza in Bangkok would have been $15-25, and it wouldn’t have been half as good. A friend had carbonara for about the same price and it was excellent. Sean told me the food was good at this Italian restaurant, and he was right! It’s excellent.
Due to my limited experience with Filipino food I’m giving Thailand the round at 10-9, but the great Western food I’ve had here definitely made it tough to judge.
I can honestly say I’ve never felt threatened in either country. I’ve never had any type of confrontation or fight and I’ve never had anything to worry about in either place. I know the Philippines can be dangerous in certain areas, but here in Puerto Galera I feel perfectly safe, even when I’m riding on the back of a motorbike from Sabang to BADLADZ at 3AM after having a few too many Red Horses.
You’d think this would be an easy round for Thailand, but with the recent bombings in Bangkok, murders and rapes in Koh Tao, (probably Thailand’s closest equivalent to Puerto Galera) mysterious deaths, beatings, ladyboy muggings and stabbings in Pattaya, military coup and everything else going on… I’m not so sure it is an easy win for Thailand.
I’ve never felt threatened in either place and I’d say to anyone thinking of traveling to either country, “Don’t worry about it.”
Of course, use your head and trust your instincts, but there is a 99.99% chance you are going to be just fine. If you’re afraid to come to South East Asia consider wrapping yourself in bubble wrap the next time you get into your car!
I’m calling this round a draw. 10-10.
Visas and Ease of Staying
Both countries are extremely easy to come to for one month or less. You get a visa on arrival for 30 days and are free to explore. The major difference appear if you feel like staying for a couple of months or longer.
Thailand visa rules are constantly changing. It’s ridiculous. For a country where tourism accounts for roughly 10% of its GDP, you’d think they’d stop jerking us around so much.
If I want to stay in Thailand for 6 months I need to get a double entry tourist visa before arriving, or leave Thailand and go to a neighboring country to apply there. Once I get this visa I will be granted 60 days upon arrival. After that I have to go to immigration and pay 1,900 baht (plus about 300 baht round trip to get there and back), sit there for 2-6 hours, and get a 30 day stamp.
After that 30 days is up I have to do a Thailand visa run which costs about 2,000 baht, and means I have to sit on a bus for about 10 hours to get to the border and receive my stamp. Once I enter back into Thailand I get another 60 days and repeat the process. It’s a real pain in the a**!
In the Philippines time is on my side. Once my 30 days is up in Puerto Galera, all I have to do is go down to a little office in the center of town and get another 30 days. I do have to pay something, but it’s not expensive. I don’t even have to go to a large city like I would in Thailand and I don’t have to leave the country at all. I’m no expert on visa laws here but from what I understand I can repeat this process for 2-3 years without ever leaving the country.
BOOM! Another 10-9 for the Philippines, bordering on a 10-8 round. Thailand barely kept its glove off of the canvas.
I hate to sound like a complete Philippines fanboy after just 3 weeks, but Puerto Galera has been much cheaper than Thailand. Staying at BADLADZ provides great value, but even outside the resort the food is really cheap. The street food here is about the same price as the street food in Thailand, but the Western food here is much cheaper.
BADLADZ is also getting ready to have a dozen apartments available to rent right next to the resort, and they are much nicer and less expensive than anything comparable in any of the beach cities in Thailand.
Alcohol in the Philippines is ridiculously cheap. In Bangkok I can easily spend $100 on a night out. You’re looking at 100-280 baht ($3-$9) mixed drinks, depending on where you go, and nearly the same for beers. Here in Puerto Galera I spend 60-100 pesos ($1.50-$2.50) on a San Miguel Light in Sabang. You can even get a bottle of Ginebra, a local gin, for $2 at the grocery store, and from what I hear, just a dollar or so more at The Venue, the main nightclub here with a local band playing.
The price of Western food and alcohol in Puerto Galera has brought my budget down considerably compared to living in Thailand. 10-9 Philippines.
Let’s go to the judges’ score cards!
After living in Thailand for a long time I obviously like it, but I’m really enjoying my time here in Puerto Galera at BADLADZ. The fun staff, having the ocean at my doorstep, and the cheap cost of living (and beer!) have made it a great place for me.
So great in fact, that I’m moving to Manila after I leave Puerto Galera instead of returning to Bangkok. I’m not done exploring the Philippines and I really want to see how Manila compares to my old home.
For those of you looking for a quicker trip or holiday… I’d put Puerto Galera at the top of your list above any beach town that Thailand has to offer. I think it’s probably safer and DEFINITELY cheaper, there’s great food, cheap beer (did I mention that already?), pretty girls and no snow.
What else could you ask for?
The judges score it a Unanimous Decision victory for your new tourist destination champion of the woooooooooorld, The Philippines!
This is one of the most common businesses foreigners will jump into.
Not a bad idea actually, people have to eat and drink!
If you really want to do this, keep a few things in mind…
- You, or someone you REALLY trust, MUST be there always. This is one of the easiest businesses to steal from and believe me, people WILL STEAL FROM YOU! Once you have the systems so buttoned down that they cannot take money from you, they will steal from the tip jar, their co-workers, or your customers.
- Be prepared, staff are going to be an issue. Period. These are low-level positions with low pay and the turnover will be high. Many of us run employees on 5-month temporary contracts just so we have no legal labor obligations. Permanent employees require reporting commitments, withholding, submission of taxes, etc. Plus, you will need someone just to track all this.
- If it is a bar, be prepared to drink ALL DAY. There is always someone on 2-week vacation that will want to have a couple of drinks with the boss regardless of the time of day. They only have to do this on vacation but you have to do it every day.
Only two things make a restaurant or bar work: great location or great food/cold beer. Both would be best. I can show you side-by-side bars with one packed and one empty. So even if you have a great location, you’ll still have to beat your competition.
How do you legally open a venue without breaking Philippine laws?
- As a foreigner you can lease the premises/location in your own name legally. You control the location therefore you control the business.
- Put all the utilities like phone, water, electric, etc. in your name.
- When you purchase the equipment and furnishings for the bar, be sure to have the receipts clearly in your name.
- Get insurance on the contents and have that in your name as well. If things go really crazy and someone strips the place, you can always charge them with theft.
- If this is a serious bar/restaurant then you will probably have a Facebook page and website. Make sure you control these.
- Bank accounts can also be in your name. Have one ATM account for your trusted staff. As much as possible, try to run your accounts through online banking. This will allow you to track deposits and withdrawals. Payments for utilities can be set up with auto debit to be deducted automatically.
Also, set up a private account at the same bank in your name only so you can transfer funds online from the restaurant account to your private one, leaving only enough behind for operating expenses.
The business license, of course, must be in the name of a Filipino but that is the ONLY thing. Sometimes the “business owner” gets greedy and thinks they can take your business. You simply take the business license off the wall and hand it to them. That is all they own.
Here is where they get into trouble: they will have opened up under a sole proprietorship, which makes them personally liable for all federal and provincial tax obligations. They are also liable to the Department of Labor for all employee obligations. They will walk away with no job and big troubles!
To stay in business, you will need to find someone else, like an employee, to apply for a business permit and reopen the business under the new license. You do not even need to change the name of the business. Say, for example, you own “Joes Bar.” The new license says “Girlies Bar.” Simply write in small letters in the top corner of the existing sign, “Girlies Bar operating as:”
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