This weekend we went to Puerto Galera! It was absolutely amazing. We drove about two hours from IRRI to the Batangas Port. From there, we paid P500 for the ferry ride, P30 for terminal fees, and P50 for the environmental fees when we boarded (In total, about $12). All six of us IWU students split a hotel room for two nights at the Luca Cucina Italiana & Lodge for about P3880 (roughly $13 each). The hotel was right on our own private beach and it was connected to a restaurant, where food was included in the stay. We hiked up to a beautiful waterfall and swam in the freshwater at the bottom. Unfortunately, I forgot my hiking shoes back at IRRI and my flip flop broke on the way there. I had to borrow a pair from another intern, who was kind enough to share an extra pair. Not only did my flip flop break, but I cut my foot on the rocks while we were swimming and there was no first-aid kit available! I saw a fish in the water and got freaked out. It was not my proudest moment. Anyways, it all turned out okay though, since there was a first aid kit back at the hotel.
It was great that we were able to travel and experience more of the Philippines. We were lucky that IRRI has an organization called AFSTRI, the Association of Fellows, Scholars, Trainees and Residents of IRRI, which helped us organize the trip. They work to unite employees from IRRI by planning trips, workshops, and events for us to network and experience the surrounding culture for those of us who are not from the Philippines. We were able to drive with a European group from IRRI last minute, so we weren’t completely on our own. However, everything else was pretty independent. We booked our own hotel, figured out our transportation on the island, and did our own activities while we were there. It was such a great learning experience because we had to plan part of this trip while in a completely new place on our own, but we also had people around in case of an emergency.