It is undeniably blazing hot these days, short of saying the entire Philippines is officially on summer’s grace (or wrath, whichever way you want to look at it). Most Filipinos like to travel during this season, using the “fine weather” as the perfect excuse to leave the metropolis and hop from one island to another. Some argue that our country, which is superbly hot (figuratively and literally) during this time of the year, is best explored during these days.
Of course, with the bounty of beauty that one finds in the Philippines, summer is never enough to see or experience the best that the country has to offer. For those of you who are trying to explore the Philippines for the first time but don’t know where to start or going around on a very limited time, this Philippine Daily Inquirer article by Jill Lejano might just help you plan your best summer ever.
The list has actually been around since 2010 and went viral online since, but I still find it relevant to this day. While it does not cover all the magnificent and smashing and fantabulous things that one can say about our country, I do believe that the list tries to represent all the kinds of adventure that one finds topnotch about our country.
So, here’s the list and how Juanderkid fared so far.
1. Go white water rafting in Cagayan de Oro. BUCKET LIST! It’s hard to imagine that while the rest of the country has heard of Cagayan de Oro’s exciting white water rafting scene, I have yet to see the city again after 23 long years. I had been to CDO as a kid since I have an Uncle who lives there and I still vividly remember how the trip went: the long bus rides from Bicol, the nauseating ferry rides, the salty smell of the port, etc. I was supposed to do a CDO-Camiguin vacation back in 2011 but backed out during the last minute. This list reminds me I should consider exploring CDO soon and try its famous white water rafting.
2. Visit Batanes. ALMOST! I planned to celebrate my birthday in Batanes in 2011 but because that year saw me on an emotional seesaw, I went out of the plane just when we were about to take off! Well, you can say I walked out on Batanes. The plane was originally to leave Manila at 6:00 am and we’ve already boarded the plane when it suddenly encountered an engine trouble. We had to be whisked out of it and we waited for seven hours before another plane was arranged for the flight. Between 6:00 am and 1:00 pm, I had a change of heart and decided to celebrate my birthday instead with friends and family back home. I will see you soon, Batanes. It’s still a date!
3. See Mt. Mayon up close. DONE! I boldly claim to be in love with Mayon, forever. My closest friends, especially the ones from Bicol know that I never get tire of staring at her beauty. While growing up in Bicol, I was fortunate to have my own room that had a small view of Mayon. Going home is always exciting because of this God’s gift to humanity.
I have yet to climb Mayon but I went on an ATV ride last year that took me to Mayon’s 2006 lava bed. Mayon used to be both a blessing and a curse to the people of Albay but her beauty today attracts more tourists to the region. In fact, the province of Albay holds a month-long celebration named Daragang Magayon Festival this April, named after the mythical character who became Mayon when she died.
4. Swim with the whale sharks in Donsol. DONE! If there’s one thing that I am most proud of about my hometown, it’s the whale sharks. I wear it like a badge: I’ve been swimming with the whale sharks of Donsol every year for fourteen years now (will be fifteen if I get to see one whale shark this season). Like what I have previously blogged, I always tell people that swimming with the whale sharks is one experience that is both liberating and humbling!
I am also fortunate that we have a replica of a whale shark in our home, almost like a sacred statue that deserves our adoration and respect. The whale sharks have put the sleepy fishing village of Donsol on the world map and for that, I am forever grateful to these gentle giants of the sea.
5. Climb Mt. Pulag and be awed by its sea of clouds. BUCKET LIST! I admit that I don’t see myself physically fit for the challenge although I have been toying with the idea of climbing Mt. Pulag ever since I’ve met this person in 2005 who spoke so fondly of their Mt. Pulag expeditions. Sometimes I regret that I haven’t really grabbed the chance to climb the mountain when I have been living in Baguio for the last seven years. I might as well jump on the opportunity soon since I have a feeling I will be out of this city for the next couple of years.
6. Dive, swim and explore Palawan’s underground river. DONE! Now, it is impossible to do this because you actually just go on a boat ride as you tour Palawan’s world-famous Underground River. But it is not one of the New Seven Wonders of the World for nothing! Exploring Palawan’s underground river means going against the large throng of people who line up just to see its beauty, but it is all worth it. I first went to see it in 2010. The river was muddy because of heavy raining. When I went back March last year, it was just perfect!
The tour guides are refreshing and funny and the sights inside the cave are highly impressive too. There’s a cathedral, a portrait of the Holy Family, a large cross, ad infinitum. I even thought I saw the Statue of Liberty and the Leaning Tower of Pisa! Kidding. But you get the picture.
Plan your trip accordingly as this destination has seen a surge of tourists these days following its inclusion in the New Seven Wonders of the World list.
7. Hike and let the view of Mt. Pinatubo crater take your breath away. DONE! A lot has already been said about how mesmerizing Mt. Pinatubo is and they are true. If you want an easy climb (not more than 20 minutes, I tell you) that rewards you with a breathtaking view, it has to be Mt. Pinatubo. Now, I am not claiming to be an expert in climbing mountains, but the view that greets you once up Pinatubo’s crater just transports you to an exciting place. There’s a 45-minute 4×4 ride that is just as thrilling as the trek to the top of the mountain and can include some additional time walking if the Skyway is not passable.
Mt. Pinatubo’s beauty is both astonishing and surreal. When I first met her in 2010, this was how she looked like – ravishing!
When I went back a year after that, she turned mysteriously sexy. The film Black Swan (starring Natalie Portman) was the rage in town, I easily associated her beauty to that of Portman. I think I like both facets of Pinatubo’s beauty.
8. Party in your bikini in Boracay. DONE! Now, I will not go into details but Boracay is indeed the most happening beach party scene in the Philippines! If you like having carefree fun until the wee hours of the morning or just when the sun is about to rise again, then Boracay is the perfect place for you. Of course, the kind of fun that happens here ranges from the ones that you just want to remember forever to the ones that you’d rather not talk about once you get sober.
Juanderkid is a self-proclaimed Boracay habitue who has been visiting the island every year since 2009. I found out that the best time to go to Boracay si during the months of October until December when the weather is not too hot and there is not too many people in the island! I celebrated my 27th birthday here in 2010.
My last trip to Boracay was last year when I suddenly wanted a quick beach fix that just offers convenience and comfort. I realized though (a previous experience back in 2006 already taught me this) that summer is not the best time for me to see the island. It was just teeming with people of different kinds and sizes! My friend and I decided to drop Station 1 where we usually stay (because aside from the crowd, the room rates were just crazy), and headed to Nami which has its own little beach, DIniwid.
9. Surf’s up! Choose your wave – La Union, Zambales or Real, Quezon. DONE! I tried surfing in La Union once and while I liked the experience, I cannot actually tell to this day if I’d do it again. I don’t know, maybe there’s something about surfing that is not just very appealing to me but I will take on the chance if someone invites me to go surfing soon.
The country has so many good surfing spots (so I’ve heard) and aside from the ones mentioned here, Catanduanes and Siargao also have those waves that make surfing extra fun and challenging.
10. Missed out on the pristine beauty of Boracay 15 years ago? Visit Malapascua, Cebu. WELL, I just have to contest this because I think Calaguas today is how Boracay looked like 15 or 20 years ago. I have not been to Malapascua yet, but I have talked with so many foreign travelers who find Malaspacua to be crowded these days as well. Besides, most people go to Malapascua to dive and not really for its beach.
So, as a form of slight objection to this, I would like to claim that Calaguas’s pristine beauty matches that glory of old Boracay. Those in the know are familiar with its stunning attributes: crystal-clear water that gently ripples into different gradients of deep, dense blue; palm trees dotting the hilly islets; and sand finer than Boracay’s – yes, it’s possible.
11. Dive and see the rich marine life of Anilao, Batangas. BUCKET LIST! Diving is one activity that I really want to pursue. Aside from my health condition that makes diving really risky, the steep price of diving in the country also prevents me from pursuing this passion full time. While I have conquered my fear of diving last year, I have yet to see the rich marine life of Anilao. There is no doubt Anilao is a favorite among budding and even professional divers, I would like to experience its fancy underwater scene as well.
12. Travel back in time? Go to Vigan. DONE! Vigan, no matter how overrated it has become to other people, is a charmer in Northern Philippines that should not be ignored. Calle Crisologo, for one, is an impressive “restoration” of an old Spanish village that allows you to walk back in time. It is history unfolding in front of your eyes. Sadly, our country seems to be not too keen on restoring historical artifacts or architectural mines, because we actually have a lot to offer in that department.
Anyway, almost all of my five trips to this town have an academic reason. I first encountered Vigan in 1999 when I was a freshman at the University of the Philippines Baguio. Our History 1 class went on a field trip around Ilocos and of all the stops that we made, Vigan captivated my attention the most. I made a promise to come back to Vigan again. I have been returning since, my last visit was in October last year when I took my photojournalism students around Ilocos for a class activity.
13. Let Bohol wow you with its many offerings – the Chocolate Hills, the tarsier, the Loboc River Cruise, old churches and the beach. DONE! If there’s one destination on this list that I want to come back to, it is Bohol! The province of Bohol is just so serene and bucolic, it’s perfect for that laid-back lifestyle that affords you to hit the mountains one minute and rush to the beach the next.
I went to Bohol in 2011. I was cash-strapped then but that did not stop me from enjoying all the fascinating sights that Bohol offers. I wish I had enough time then to explore Bohol because if I had my way, I would actually ditch all the arranged tour to see everything. I think Bohol is best experienced while on a DIY itinerary.
One of Bohol’s come-ons is its heavenly white sand beaches. It’s Virgin Island, which disappears when it is high tide, is jaw-dropping if you happen to have the place all to your self. Bohol Beach Club, on the other hand, has arguably the widest beach and finest sand in Panglao. Not to be missed in Bohol is its marine sanctuary which boasts of a rich marine life. No, you need not go diving to experience that bounty.
14. Go high! Drive to the Mountain Province of Sagada. Check out the caves, the hanging coffins and enjoy the laidback lifestyle. DONE! Who can resist Sagada’s allure? I certainly can’t. It is one destination that I keep on coming back to because life here just takes on a momentary break that lets you forget your worries. Plus, it does not hurt that the cold weather allows me to walk around town without sweating too much and feeling tired so easily.
I have been to Sagada seven times already and in each and every visit, I fall in love with the place. During my first visit in 2007 to celebrate my birthday with my friends from the academe, I made sure I experienced all the best Sagada has to offer.
It has been awhile since my last visit in 2010. It was actually just a short side trip after conducting a leadership training in Besao, a little community further up north of Sagada. I just had to have this from Yoghurt House.
To be continued…