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Our Family's 12-Year Adventure in the Philippines: Exploring New Horizons

July, 2022

Memories of the Philippines, tides of change, preparing and repairing while on the move

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Our Family’s 12-Year Adventure in the Philippines: Exploring New Horizons

The Philippines has been our home for 12 years, a beautiful ocean that cradled our family’s most memorable times. We embraced our love of exploration and adventure, and in turn, shared our passion by organizing and guiding mountain expeditions, running island boat expeditions, and public speaking. We learned about different cultures, and traditions, and met wonderful people, many of whom remained our friends to this day. Our time in the Philippines taught us a lot about life. But when we lost our daughter Amihan, it was only then that we truly understood the meaning of love and life. Despite the pain and devastation, we decided not to give up and pushed beyond the challenges. Our 12 years in the Philippines were a mixture of everything – abundance, loss, joy, loneliness, pain, and blessing. Our family had an incredible time. But now, we feel the winds, tides, and currents changing directions, and it’s time to explore new horizons in the oceans beyond.

We found ourselves at Balabac Island, Palawan, the last outpost before Malaysia. Despite its developing tourism industry, Balabac still exudes an exotic charm. We anchored in a quiet, sheltered bay next to the main port of the island, where the entry is tricky due to reef formations on both sides. The bay had four nipa houses on the shore, and each family was related to the other. One man we met named Rahem approached us in his dinghy and greeted us with a happy “hello.” We thought we would encounter another “you-can’t-tie-on-my-mooring” confrontation, but instead, he offered to be our contact person during our stay in Balabac.

The next day, we went ashore and met Rahem’s family, his wife, and two children. He showed us the well where we could get fresh water from the woods, a minute’s walk through a dirt trail under coconut trees and weeds. My husband Todd and son Himalaya scooped water out of it using a dipper with a long rope, while I brought our laundry pile to wash. However, one lady approached me and made it clear that I should not wash my clothes near the well as the whole village gets their drinking water from it. I made sure to wash our clothes far from the well.

The next few days were spent repairing and preparing the boat, which is typical for us. We are always on the move and often in remote areas, so we always come prepared. We noticed that the prop of our dinghy had spun, and the dinghy wouldn’t accelerate despite the engine speeding up. As full-time cruisers, not having a dinghy engine is a significant problem. Todd and Himalaya were able to pull the prop off as the rubber had deteriorated. They drilled three holes around the base of the prop casing and pinned the casing and rubber to the barrel with machine screws. It’s a short-term fix until we find a new prop, but at least we can get to shore. Himalaya learned a valuable lesson in field repair and is turning out to be quite a sailor.

We also changed our engine oil after its first 500 hours, secured all solar panels, went through the wirings, and made some repairs. We repaired our in-the-field-made, plywood-fiber-dinghy and re-attached the upper stay between the main and the mizzen. We rearranged gears inside the boat, cleaned it, and kept ourselves busy preparing and repairing for the long miles ahead.

As we monitored the weather, we knew that our departure for Malaysia was soon. On a designated day, we went to town to buy some last-minute provisions. Amihan and I rode along with Rahem on his dinghy.

Once filled, he would bring them back to our boat. It was a bit of a process, but it was worth it to ensure we had enough fresh water for our journey ahead.

As we explored the town, we couldn’t help but feel a sense of bittersweetness. It was our last day in the Philippines, and while we were excited to continue our journey and explore new horizons, we couldn’t help but feel a sense of longing for the memories we had made over the past 12 years.

But as we returned to our boat, we were greeted by the warm smiles of Rahem and his family, who had prepared a feast for us. We sat down together and shared stories, laughter, and good food. It was a moment of connection, a reminder that no matter where we go, we will always find friends and family.

As we set sail for Malaysia, we couldn’t help but reflect on our time in the Philippines. We had experienced the highs and lows of life, the joys and sorrows of exploration, and the power of human connection. And while we were leaving behind the ocean that had cradled our family for so long, we were excited for the new horizons ahead.

The sea was calm, the wind was steady, and the sun was shining. We looked out to the endless expanse of blue, feeling a sense of freedom and possibility. Our journey was far from over, but we knew that we were ready for whatever lay ahead.

As we sailed into the horizon, we couldn’t help but think of our daughter Amihan, who had inspired us to embrace life’s adventures and explore the unknown. We knew that she was with us, guiding us on our journey and that wherever we went, she would always be a part of us.

Our time in the Philippines may have come to an end, but our memories and experiences will live on forever. We had learned the true meaning of love and life, and we knew that we were ready to face whatever challenges lay ahead. As we sailed into the unknown, we did so with hope, courage, and a sense of adventure. The world was waiting, and we were ready to explore it.

Keep Exploring
Janet Belarmino Forney



prop repair

Battery-operated tools rule



Himalaya engineering a solution



H and Skip repairing the dinghy at Balabac Island


Our Homemade-Plywood-Fiber- Dinghy


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Todd, Janet, Himalaya, and Amihan Star

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Dolphins are truly remarkable creatures. Their sleek bodies and impressive swimming skills enable them to reach astonishing speeds of over 18 miles an hour. Not only are they fast, but they are also known for their playful nature. It’s not uncommon to see dolphins leaping out of the water and frolicking in the wake of a passing boat, whether they do this for fun or to communicate is still up for debate. Regardless, these playful displays never fail to amaze us and leave us in awe of these intelligent and fascinating animals.

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