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February 19, 2019




 Eco and I looking at the ocean on Popotan Island, Philippines



After two paid volunteering programs, we decided it was a good time to try out a free volunteering experience. First, we really wanted to experience in first person the differences between a paid program and a free one. Secondly, we could really use some free accommodation and food after so many travelling expenses – we are currently tracking our expenses and we’re slightly over the budget.


Want to know more about the Philippines? Check out our travel tips HERE


 Popotan Island is only reachable by Bangka boat - Philippines





We used the website Workaway.info, a platform that promotes volunteering opportunities, putting in contact the hosts and the volunteers for a small annual fee (USD42 for a signle person or USD54 for a couple/ two friends).


The sign up process is easy and finding a volunteering opportunity in the country of your choice is straightforward – select the country, read through the programs and contact the host/s for more information. If you like the program and the host likes / needs you, you can finally agree on arrival/departure dates and pick up point, plus accommodation and food conditions if needed.


Not sure how to make it happen? Have a look at our article on how to make it happen! 


 Mount Avangan Summit at sunset during our volunteering experience, Philippines 





After contacting a few potential projects, we got selected by two different hosts a couple of months before arriving into the Philippines. So we booked our first flight to Cebu Island where the first exciting program about marine conservation and diving would have taken place. Luckily (or unluckily?) for us, we found out the first host cancelled this program one month before our arrival through a Facebook page he created (the host never contacted us directly about this) – at this point, we decided to visit Cebu Island before heading to Coron town on Busuanga Island for our second program.

Culture matters - Learn more about the Philippines in our blog post HERE


After international flights, taxis, jeepneys, tricycles, ferries and more domestic flights we finally got to Coron Town on Busuanga Island on November 3rd. We waited patiently for two hours at the ferry terminal where we were supposed to be picked up by our host – no one showed up or replied to our messages. One hour later, we were already contacting other hosts in the area when magically our host Antonio texted us!


How to stay safe and healthy in the Philippines - Read more HERE


 Studying eco-bricks on Popotan Island during our volunteering experience, Philippines 





We love its flexibility – as you are working for your accommodation and food for free, this means that you can also feel free to get days off or ending your experience earlier or later, depending on your needs and on how your experience is going. You basically don’t feel obliged to anything other than to your agreement with the host (work in the morning or full day in exchange for a bed and three meals for example). When you pay for a program (with food and accommodation included), it’s more difficult to leave it earlier or take days off as you have already paid for everything in advance and you won’t probably get a cent back if you do not have a very good reason to leave (such as abuse from the host).




On the other side, as you do not pay for the volunteering opportunity, the agreement can sometimes be a little bit more blurry than stated on the website. For example, we were initially supposed to help with building eco-bricks for the island resort of our host on a beautiful secluded island close to Busuanga, however, when we got on the island, we soon realized nothing has been initiated yet in regards to eco-bricks so we agreed with the host to clear up patches of forest with a machete for future developments.


Feedbacks on past experiences from previous volunteers on WorkAway website can help you discern if, overall, the host is reliable and honors its part of the agreement (free food and accommodation in exchange for your work). However, you need to keep your mind open as what it’s stated on the host profile can not reflect completely what you will get or the duties you will be doing during your experience.









 Clearing some space for Popotan Island eco-resort, Philippines 





Our volunteering experience on Popototan Island has been great. We worked in the morning together with the paid locals in the construction of the eco resort and we could have the afternoon off if our work was not urgently needed. We could take a walk along the beach, swing in the hammocks reading a book and snorkeling in the protected bay.


Accommodation was in a nipa hut or a big tent with double bed and mosquito net. Shower consisted of buckets of cold water and no flush toilet – and no mirror as Antonio wanted everyone to feel free to be themselves and that was very liberating indeed.


Food was plenty throughout the day and we even learnt how to pick fresh coconuts directly from the palms. Sometimes we had to cook ourselves and we loved the opportunity to learn how to cook with local ingredients (such as banana flowers, guyabano, and coconut milk) from Tassio, a Filippino worker on the island.


Heading to Coron Town soon? Discover the top 5 sights HERE 


 Private Nipa Hut on Popotan Island during our volunteering experience, Philippines



The company was great – our host Antonio from Spain was always cheerful and even bought a projector to watch movies together in the evening. The local workers were coming and going every day from a village on the other side of the island and other volunteers joined us for few days. Plus, we could endlessly cuddle the family of dogs which became part of the crew when Antonio decided to adopt Pipi the mother.


 The volunteer gang, our host and some locals on Popotan Island, Philippines (Pipi is on the bottom right =) )





The other volunteering experience we had in the Philippines had been in another eco-resort close to Coron town, yet in the middle of the jungle in a valley surrounded by the gentle hills of Busuanga Island. The host Evan was a friend of Antonio, who also needed help with freeing up patches of forest for future construction. Soon enough we realized Evan was a little bit confused about what to do with his land, so we could be a better help in mapping his land and presenting him with some construction projects and ideas for walking & cultural tours in the area.


 Battling with our achievements (trekking and Bamboo Walk signage) at Mount Avangan Eco Resort, Coron Town (Philippines)



At Evan’s place we got to know better how local families live and got to eat what they eat – rice was the main staple, accompanied by a portion of meat or fish and some veggies. Sometimes portions were rather small, especially for non-locals as we are used to eat a richer and varied diet, we missed fruits and vegetables very much so we bought them at a local supermarket in town when possible to integrate the meals. Accommodation was in one of the nipa hut in the resort with flush toilet and warm shower and a swimming pool at our door – not a bad place after all!


Fancy a vegetarian or vegan meal in the Philippines? HERE are our favourite restaurants 


 Lunch for two during our volunteering experience, Philippines 



We always keep our door open for new projects and ideas – we’ve been already volunteering and travelling in Nepal, Philippines, Malaysia, Tanzania and Uganda and are currently travelling in South America - stay tuned for more!


As our motto says: we travel, we learn, we grow.





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