Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Vote for Backpacking Pilipinas!

Hello Backpacking Pilipinas friends,

I have some very exciting news for you!

This blog, backpackingpilipinas.comis one of the finalists for the Skyscanner Philippines Travel Blog Awards. I'm super excited since it's my first time to be nominated for something like this, and quite an honor to be included in the list along with nine other awesome travel bloggers. 

You may actually help me win by voting for me. Yehey! 

Click this link to vote: Vote for

And here's something for you... Skyscanner Philippines is giving  free flight vouchers worth P18,000 weekly just by simply voting. Yep, yep!

Vote now and share this to your friends, too. :) Thank you so much!

Sending you good vibes,

Che Gurrobat

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Top 30 Favorite Spots in the Philippines: 24. Tawi-Tawi

Tawi-Tawi, the southernmost province of the Philippines, was a revelation to me.  

A remote province that is often portrayed negatively in media for violence and kidnapping, Tawi-Tawi isn't exactly the place most people would want to go for vacation. I had qualms going there and had seriously considered ditching the whole plan since the trip was scheduled a month after the infamous Zamboanga siege. But after doing careful research and contacting several people before actually going there, I was all the more convinced to give this place a chance. And I'm glad I did. Tawi-Tawi is the fulfillment of a dream, the final destination of my 80 Before 30 challenge.

Far from what we often see in the nightly news, at least in the capital town of Tawi-Tawi, I saw a market bustling with people trading their goods, a place with some breathtaking views and with unspoiled beaches that really wowed me, and I met some friendly people who introduced to us their unique culture, and extended much of their help for us to easily explore their town. 

One of my favorite Tawi- Tawi experiences was when we got to the summit of the imposing Bud Bongao. The trek wasn't exactly a walk in the park due to heavy downpour days before we arrived, but the view from there made the painful hike totally worth it. Considered a sacred Muslim burial site, locals there believe that if they make the sacrifice of hiking  this mystic mountain and saying their prayers, their wishes will be granted. If their wishes do come true, it's part of the tradition to go back and hike again as an expression of gratitude. I did utter a wish hoping it will come true, and hoping to see this place again in the future.

More of my stories about Tawi-Tawi soon. 

Bongao Peak 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Top 30 Favorite Spots in the Philippines: 23. The Waterfalls in Iligan City

One of the things I like best about backpacking Pilipinas is the chance to fulfill some of my childhood wishes. I remember in grade school, I've always wanted to visit Banaue Rice Terraces, San Juanico Bridge,  Fort Santiago, Zamboanga, Magellan's Cross in Cebu, tarsiers in Bohol, and to see the  stunning Maria Cristina Falls. I had the chance to see all these wonderful sites while completing my 80 Before 30 challenge, and in each place I visited, I learned a bit more. 

I knew that Maria Cristina Falls is located in Iligan City, Lanao del Norte, but I didn't know (until my visit there) that this city is also home to about 22 other waterfalls. Known as the City of Majestic Waterfalls because of the many waterfalls located within its area, Iligan is drawing in many tourists  because of these stunning cascades. Other famous waterfalls in the city are: Tinago Falls, Limunsudan Falls, Mimbalut Falls, Abaga Falls, and Dodiongan Falls.

I have been to only two waterfalls in Iligan -- Maria Cristina and Tinago, and I hope to see the rest in the future.

Full blog about Iligan City will be posted here soon.  

Tinago Falls

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Top 30 Favorite Spots in the Philippines: 22. Manila

Noisy, crowded, and with a tiny respectable breathing space, I find something oddly cathartic living in this city with million other people. This place throbs with human spirit -- in the busy metroway, roads, and even along the narrowest alleys, people thrives with grit for survival. In a place where more than half of the population lives below poverty level, there is very little room to be meek and still. It is a must to move and do something to eke out a living; to be courageous to live well for another day. And this constant human movement and energy around me makes me long for and appreciate silence and solitude a little bit more. 

But more than the many stories of poverty and survival, Manila is a great place to explore (even on foot). As the capital city and one of the oldest cities in the country, Manila is home to many historical landmarks (Malacanang Palace, Fort Santiago, Intramuros), churches (San Agustin Church, Manila Cathedral, San Sebastain Church, Malate Church, Binondo Church,  Quiapo Church), museums (National Museum, Museo Pambata) and parks (Rizal Park, Paco Park). And one of my favorite things to do in Manila is to sit by the bay waiting for the unobstructed and stunning sunset at Manila Bay while eating kwek kwek or a cup of taho. 

Oh yes, there's a lot to see and do in Manila. Check it here.  

The Manila Metropolitan Theater

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Top 30 Favorite Spots in the Philippines: 21. Ilocos Norte

Bangui windmills, Kapurpurawan Rock Formation, Paoay Church or Church of Saint Augustine (A UNESCO World Heritage Site), Pagudpud beaches, Patapat Viaduct, St. William Cathedral (a National Cultural Treasure), the Sinking Bell Tower, La Paz Sand Dunes, Malacanang of the North, Paoay Lake, Cape Bojeador, Kaibigan Falls, and Museo Ilocos Norte.  These are some of the famous attractions around Ilocos Norte.

Many tourists who are up for a complete vacation have this province included in their list of places to visit. Ilocos Norte has it all -- history, churches, food, sea, sights, heritage, landmarks, waterfalls. And these are some of the reasons why I keep coming back to this province. There seems to be always something to look forward to in every trip up there. I'm thinking of surfing the waves of Pugudpud as a new reason to visit Ilocos Norte again, and, ummm, the really cool afternoon sea breeze while enjoying the panoramic view from Cape Bojeador.

For travel guide to Ilocos Norte, click here.

Kapurpurawan Rock Formation

Monday, January 6, 2014

2013 In Review: My Best Travel Year

Before moving forward to the new year, allow me to look back at and honor all the amazing travels I had for 2013.

What a year that was: 

1 year. 12 months. 28 cities. 54 provinces.  

Two biggest accomplishments:

1. Completing the 80 Before 30 Challenge 
2. BookSail (Book drive for the children in Palumbanes Island)

Massive thank you to everyone who joined me in this incredible journey around the Philippines. Special thank you to Anchi for braving the odds traveling with me in Mindanao. I wouldn't have made it all without you. Thank you!


Highlights of 2013


 Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Nueva Vizcaya, Isabela (Ilagan City, Santiago City), Quirino, Cagayan (Tuguegarao City), Apayao, Ilocos Norte (Laoag City), Ilocos Sur (Vigan City), Abra, La Union, Pangasinan, Tarlac (Tarlac City), Pampanga

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Top 30 Favorite Spots in the Philippines: 20. Dapitan City

It only took a day for me to fall in love with this dreamy and historic city in Zamboanga del Norte. Also called the Shrine City of the Philippines, Dapitan needs no further introduction to many of us since it has been prominently referenced to in our history classes as the place where our National Hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, took his four years of productive exile during the Spanish period. 

After retracing his steps and learning how he had wonderfully spent his exile years there, I have come to fully appreciate the works of our national hero. Dapitan echoes a lot of memories about him and the dose of historic nostalgia blended with a pocketful of beautiful spots made my stay in this city unforgettable.

Some places not to be missed when in Dapitan are: Rizal's House, Dakak Park and Beach Resort, Dapitan Bay, St. James Church, city plaza, Punto Del Desembarco de Rizal, Relief Map of Mindanao, Goria de Dapitan, Dampa Restaurant, Aliguay Island, Dapitan City Hall.

My full blog about Dapitan will be posted here soon. :)

House of Dr. Jose Rizal In Dapitan

Top 30 Favorite Spots in the Philippines: 19.Anawangin and Nagsasa Coves

The summer breeze is blowing somewhere near and the summer sunshine is already making its presence felt.  For many of us, the beach season comes right after the mad holiday season, and some of us are itching to feel the sand on our feet and the salt on our skin. 

If you're looking for perfect family and barkada getaways near Manila, Anawangin and Nagsasa Coves in Zambales are awesome picks. With its white sand beach, a scenic river and mountain view,  crystal clear waters, and great setting for sunrise and sunset, these two famous coves simply took my breath away when we first met. Dirt cheap budget, perfect place to commune with nature, and a company of great friends, these are some of my camping experiences which stuck with me for a long time. I still consider these trips my favorite weekends while traveling the Philippines. 

With the fame it has been enjoying for the past years, it's no surprise that these two coves are heavily packed with visitors during summer. I appeal to those planning a trip there to not leave any trash, especially in the beach area. Bring a trash bag and dispose it properly. Better yet, take it home with you.

More of my stories about Anawangin here and Nagsasa here

At Nagsasa Cove

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Top 30 Favorite Spots in the Philippines: 18. Sagada

Sagada is on my list of must-revisit places after my 80 Before 30 challenge. It's one of those places that has a great recall and repeat value not only because I've had an incredible time when I went there in 2009, but because I feel there's still a lot that I need to see and do there.  And of course... still a lot of food I must try and go back for.

What do I recall most about Sagada... the extreme (and life-threatening) spelunking experience from Lumiang Cave (with the hanging coffins) to Sumaguing Cave, the crisp and cold temperature while witnessing the sunrise at Kiltepan Tower and sunset at Lake Danum, the delightful mountain foods, the raging and massive Bomod-ok Falls, the strenuous but fulfilling hike along Banga-an rice fields, and the friends I've met during the trip (who I still travel with until now). Ahhh, memories of Sagada make me want to go back there very soon, hopefully this year. :)

More of my adventures in Sagada here...

While waiting for sunset at Lake Danum

Top 30 Favorite Spots in the Philippines: 17.Panglao Island

Among the many spots I love in Bohol is this amazing island that's home to some of the best beaches in the country -- Panglao Island. Located southwest of the island of Bohol and east of Cebu, and about 1 hour land drive from Tagbilaran City, Panglao is a favorite travel destination for those gunning for a beach retreat after a day touring the countryside of Bohol. Although the beaches get crowded during peak season, you may still find some peace and quiet in most time of the year in this island. With its white sand beaches, beautiful sunset, clear blue sea, and gentle people, Panglao is definitely a must-visit.

While in Panglao, you may want to rent a motorcycle and tour the island. Some spots worth seeing are: Bohol Bee Farm (they sell organic products and would even teach you a bit about farming), Dauis Church (home to a miraculous spring that's believed to have healing powers. As of today, Dauis Church may be under repair due to the damage brought by the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that struck the island last October 15, 2013), Hinagdanan Cave (I liked the clear, cold, and large lagoon inside), Panglao Watch Tower ( a Spanish-era structure that's still standing today a few meters from Panglao Church and near the shore) and the Shell Museum (an extensive collection of sea shells from Bohol and other parts of the country.) Another must-try is diving in the underwater garden of the nearby island, Balicasag.

For more details, check out my posts about Panglao Island here.

Sunset at Bohol Beach Club, Panglao Island

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