We stayed at Unk’s house homestay for 2 nights during our Philippines holiday. We wanted to spend a few days close to the beach in Panglao. There were quite a few resorts close to Alona beach, but either they were too expensive or the reviews were not encouraging. Unk’s house had lovely reviews and our experience with Airbnb so far had been fantastic; so we booked a family room with them. This was our first truly “homestay” experience, because earlier we had always booked the entire house on airbnb. Unk’s house is a huge homestay which can easily accomodate 15+ guests, so booking the entire house was not feasible 🙂
We shortlisted the house through airbnb and wrote to the owner James with a few queries. The response was quick and to-the-point. We finally made the booking through booking.com because the tariff was better on booking.com. They have rooms for all kinds of travellers – backpackers, couples, small and big families.
James was always accessible on mail for any queries we had about our stay or attractions/ activities in Panglao.
Unk’s house is around 8-10 mins to Alona beach by walk. It is a little off the main road & busy streets which is good because that makes the house quiet during the night. The road to the house is a paved path, nothing that makes it difficult to carry luggage inside (though you cannot take car till the gate). There are many restaurants and bike rentals within 5-10 mins walking distance. One of our main concerns was vegatarian food because Filippino food is mostly beef, pork and seafood. There were 2 pure vegetarian restaurants within 1 km of Unk’s house, not to mention many others who have some veg dishes in their menu:
Luna Rossa Italian Veggie: 200 mts
Shaka Bohol: 700 mts
We booked a family room which had a double bed, a bunk bed and attached bathroom. The room was very well furnished with AC, modern bathroom, TV, Wifi and other basic amenities. Breakfast was included in our room rate and bunk bed was hit with kiddo who spent much of his time reading on the top bunk 🙂 Unfortunately I had lost my phone before we reached Unk’s house and the photos from tablet are not of good quality.
Breakfast was included in our booking, but we did not get much time to explore it. We had to leave for Balicasag Island tour first morning so we had veg sandwitches packed for us. The 2nd day we checked out early and had toast for breakfast. Tea is available through the day on the house.
We really were hoping to have some local veg food at Unk’s house. The reviews for the homestay and even James in his correspondence had mentioned that the housekeeper Lorena is eager to cook for guests if we pay her. However, James and his wife Emma were travelling when we were at Unk’s house and we did not find Lorena enthusiastic about cooking. I am not sure if she did not know how to cook vegetarian or was unwilling on the day we asked.
General experience at Unk’s house:
We stayed only 2 day and did not really get to interact much, but we got a feeling that long term guests spend a good time at the house. The house has huts built outdoors for guests to sit and play games/chit-chat or just share a drink or two. Emma and James, who run the place have had the place for long. Emma is a local and James is from Australia. Emma’s family members and cousins stay there and are willing to share their knowledge of the place.
They also help organize tours and rent bikes. We rented a scooty through them for 1 day; and also got the Balicasag tour organized through them. Getting the tour organised through James was really helpful; because most of the reviews mentioned that the boatmen keep adding various charges during the tour. Our boatman also asked us to pay for the snorkel and entrance fee, but we were clear that we had clarified everything with James and there are no extras to be paid. Even when he sent the bill for us to pay at Unk’s house, he added something extra per person. It helped that we had clarified everything with James on email, because we showed the same and paid whatever we had agreed upon.
There were a few things which felt out of place from the reviews I had read and my correspondence with James:
The reviews all mentioned how the staff goes out of their way to help guests. We had booked Balicasag island tour with dolphin watching for the first morning we were at Unk’s house. The boatman was supposed to pick us up at 6am. For some reason, our alarm did not set off for the time we set, and we woke up at 5:45am. Even though we hurried, we got ready only by 6:30am. Since we needed veg food, sandwiches were packed for us and we were also carrying fruits / health bars etc to last through the day. We kept all the food in one bag. Somehow in a hurry to leave, we left the food bag on the dining table.
We realized that the bag was missing when we were on the Alona beach. We immediately called up Unk’s house. They mentioned on phone that we left the sandwiches and food there. I requested them to get the bag to the beach if they can. They had the bike which we rented the previous day; so it wasn’t that they could not. When we explained the situation to our boatman, he agreed to walk to the place where they will come with the bike. However, he came back after almost 20-25 mins and to our surprise, he had to walk till the Unk’s house to collect the bag. This definitely did not feel like “going out of the way” to help guests. They could have called us when they realized the bag was on the table (they knew we were vegetarians and had infact mentioned that most of the food on the island will be meat/fish). Atleast when we called them, they could have sent someone with the bike!! This delayed us a lot and we lost all chances of watching the dolphins in the wild 🙁
We did not want to take any chances with our alarm next morning when we had to check-out, so we asked the staff to wake us up at 6am. Though we got up on our own, no one came to wake us up.
On a whole, while Unk’s house is a good place if you are looking for a budget stay near the beach and like the homestay experience; It may be worthwhile to check with James and Emma if they are around during your stay. It looks like they are the ones who make the experience “awesome”. The incidents like above may not occur to everyone; but they do spoil the holiday experience if they do!!
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/unkshouse/ Email ID: firstname.lastname@example.org Address: Circumferential road, Tawala, Bohol, Philippines Phone: +63 977 236 1689