“Walk all the way to the end of the beach, then ask the people at the coconut stand for Mark and Camille’s house.”
Those are the instructions to find The Birdhouse — a new jungle glamping retreat in El Nido, a remote corner of Palawan island in the southwestern Philippines.
Inspired by the couple’s transformative trip around the world, the rustic-luxe tents offer a romantic refuge for honeymooners and adventure travelers.
A year-long honeymoon
The Villaflors’ love story started in 2009 when they met through a friend.
Two years later, Mark was down on one knee at the W Hong Kong, proposing to the tune of Train’s “Marry Me.”
The pair legally wed two months later.
“I moved from Singapore to Shanghai where Mark was working and we lived together for the first time,” says Camille Villaflor.
“That first year was hard. We were fighting all the time.”
A teacher at the time, Mark pitched his new wife a crazy idea: What if they took a year-long honeymoon?
“It sounded like the coolest thing ever, how can you say no?” she recalls. “But we were doing well with money and had proper jobs … We were just going to leave all of that to go on a sabbatical?”
Making it work
It started with a trial run. The couple spent 40 days backpacking through Cambodia and western China.
After the experience, the adventurous duo returned to Shanghai feeling refreshed.
“We knew then that travel was our common ground,” remembers Camille, who is originally from Manila.
“Instead of focusing on each other and our flaws, we were distracted by the amazing things we were seeing and we felt so grateful for the experiences.”
Convinced that a year-long honeymoon was totally doable, the couple began saving for the trip.
The couple took on several part-time jobs and worked weekends, investing 40-50% of their income each month towards the travel fund.
Mark estimated they could get by on about $100 a day, or $3,000 a month.
Once they had saved $30,000, the couple packed…