Friday, February 21, 2014

80Before30 Recap:30 Favorite Spots in the Philippines

The best part with traveling the Philippines is that it offers unlimited adventures-- not to mention that it's dirt-cheap going around here. A country with 7,107 islands will surely never run short of fun and adventures. With our vast coastline offering numerous white sand beaches, magnificent mountain ranges, diverse culture, and delightful dishes, we offer endless fun to everyone.

Here are some reasons why it's more fun in the Philippines.


It’s no secret that our country is home to some of the best beaches in the world. Allow me to rave about the fine sandy beaches of Panglao Island, Calaguas Island and Boracay Island, the remoteness of Caramoan, Cagbalete Island, Palaui Island and Malcapuya Island, the rawness of Palumbanes Island, the vast shoreline of Pagudpud, the  clear blue waters of White Island in Camiguin and the beauty of Anawangin and Nagsasa Coves.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Top 30 Favorite Spots in the Philippines: 30. El Nido

And we're down to the last spot... finally. :) 

So last night I thought it would be fun to ask my Facebook friends to help me find the perfect place that deserves to be on this Top 30 Favorite Spots list. I got a few interesting answers, but one stood out and seemed to have won the hearts of many. My sister, Cha, even noted that this place deserves a higher spot on the list. Hands down, the readers' choice is El Nido. 

Fact is I haven't been to El Nido, yet. It's that one destination I've been meaning to go for a long time, but had to be put off for a while because I had to finish my 80Before30 challenge. I've been to Palawan's Coron and Puerto Princesa, but I guess I'm reserving El Nido for a special trip this year. This coming September, I'm finally booked for El Nido  (many thanks, Anchi!). 

So what's in El Nido, anyway? I've seen very tantalizing photos and heard great stories about its dramatic towering cliffs, enchanting lagoons, gorgeous sunsets, secret coves, pristine beaches, caves, waterfalls and mangrove forests. All amazing! Many travel magazines and blogs hailed it as one of the best travel destinations in the world. 

All these raves and accolades elevated my El Nido expectations to a level much like what I had before with Batanes, but I have to wait a bit more. Hopefully, September comes a little sooner. 

Sand, sea, and limestone cliffs  (Photo courtesy: Cha Gurrobat)

Monday, February 17, 2014

Top 30 Favorite Spots in the Philippines: 29. Baguio

Much has changed in Baguio since my first visit decades ago. Back then, only street vendors and local businessmen compete among each other. Now, the retail giant SM has already invaded the city, making the competition tougher for the locals. Back then, ukay-ukay has not been introduced yet, now, it covers a significant space along the busy stretch of Session Road. Back then, a trip to Baguio is never complete without a photo-op with the Igorot tribesmen clad in their local costumes at Botanical Garden. Now, not so many people do that. Over the years, this vibrant city known as the Summer Capital of the Philippines, has caught up with the demands of the modern times. It is the face of an ever-changing metropolis. 

Although some has changed in Baguio since the first time I visited it, I still consider it one of my favorite destinations. I may have been to other beautiful places in the country, but there’s no denying that taking a trip to this city once in a while offers a lull from my daily urban grind. Those fog-kissed pine trees and the morning mist on the windows of Victory Liner bus as it ascends through the long and winding road to Baguio still brings a warm fuzzy feeling to my heart. 

The topography, the people and even the climate may have changed a bit, but some things will never change in Baguio. It's still the best place to go sight-seeing, food trip, museum-hopping, shopping, and trying out new adventures. 

Check out my blog on the must-do activities in Baguio. 

A Baguio trip favorite must-do -- boating at Burnham Park

Top 30 Favorite Spots in the Philippines: 28. Cebu

Cebu has a perfect slice of everything that keeps tourists drawn in. From historical sites, heritage churches, museums, delicious food, world-class beaches, dive spots, waterfalls and mountains... it delivers. Who wouldn't fall for this amazing province? 

Although Cebu is highly urbanized already, a lot of its old charms are still preserved. Much like Manila, but not quite so. When I visited it in 2010, the first thing that struck me was its certain semblance to Luzon counterpart. And like Manila, it gives an impression that it is just a place with the accumulation of buildings and people. But at the end of our day tour, I realized that Cebu is not called Queen City of the South for nothing. It offers a lot more.

To jump-start your Cebu adventure, explore the oldest city in the Philippines, Cebu City. It is home to some notable spots that are worth visiting like the Basilica Minore del Sto Nino, Magellan’s Cross, Taoist Temple, Fort San Pedro, and Lapu-lapu Shrine (Lapu-Lapu City).

Cebu is also known for its immaculate and pristine beaches that many travelers rave about. The beaches at Malapascua and Batayan rank high among the best in the country. For adventurers, head straight to Kawasan Falls in Badian or try scaling the scenic OsmeƱa Peak at Dalaguete. 

Cebu has a lot for you. More of my Cebu story here.

The wooden cross, also known as Magellan's Cross, symbolizes the spread of Catholicism in the Philippines 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Top 30 Favorite Spots in the Philippines: 27. Siargao Island, Surigao del Norte

Solo traveling to Siargao and surfing near the Cloud 9 will always be two of my favorite moments in 80 Before 30. That afternoon, as I was gazing at the surf actions happening close to the iconic wooden boardwalk, I felt daunted by the idea of surfing that I almost decided to put it off and just bask in the afternoon breeze and sunset. After a while, I decided that a trip to Siargao without surfing is like a trip to Boracay without swimming. So a few minutes later, I was out in the sea, riding the waves. 

As the Surfing Capital of the Philippines, many people travel to Siargao to surf. But I learned that there's more to this tiny island than just to try its 9-shaped waves. It also boasts of some of the most beautiful islands in the country. Off its coast, you may rent a boat and have a day trip to the picture-perfect Naked Island, Daku Island and Guyam Island.

Close to Siargao, another must-see destination is the town of Socorro, home to Bucas Grande Islands which is also known as Sohoton Cave National Park. Enjoy the natural wonders of that place which include the Sohoton Cave, the Blue Lagoon, and the Tojoman Lagoon, a unique sanctuary where you can see and play with millions of non-sting jellyfishes

Wonderful sights, adrenaline-pumping waves and a peaceful environment, Siargao and Surigao del Norte are definitely some places you should consider visiting soon. 

The iconic wooden boardwalk leading surfers to the break

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

From the Philippines to the World:Thank You, Salamat!

On November 8, 2013, an exceptionally catastrophic typhoon ravaged the southern part of the Philippines. Known internationally as Haiyan and locally as Yolanda, this super typhoon was extraordinarily powerful that it's considered the deadliest typhoon ever recorded in history, leaving in its wake an estimated death toll of 8,000 people, hundreds of thousands of families displaced, and a widespread devastation to agriculture and infrastructures.

Days after Yolanda left the country, we were all glued to the news casts shocked as heart-wrenching tales of loss and survival started to figure in the tube. The once verdant Visayas mountains were reduced to brown denuded lands-- everything flattened, misery spelled in so many levels. 

In the rubles of pain and grief rose the indomitable courage to survive and the selfless spirit to help. Days after Yolanda, relief aids started to arrive in the disaster zones, soup kitchens were set up at Villamor Airbase to provide temporary relief to the victims fleeing the affected areas, fund-raising campaigns were initiated left and right, and people from all walks of life went out of their way to help (cash and in-kind donations, and some offered prayers). 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Top 30 Favorite Spots in the Philippines: 26. Camiguin

Completing my 80Before30 Challenge tore down a lot of  my personal biases against traveling in Mindanao -- the threats and dangers of exploring the southern region specially for a solo backpacking woman. But while there are indeed some volatile areas that are better left off from the tourist trail, a vast area in Mindanao is generally peaceful and safe to explore.

A fine example of this is the tourist-magnet island province of Camiguin, located in the northern part of Mindanao. Often called the "Island Born of Fire" because much of it was formed through earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, and  considered the second-smallest province in the country, Camiguin will surely hit the sugar spot of those travelers gunning for natural wonders. Must-visit destinations in Camiguin are: White Island ( a sandbar with super clear water and fine sand), Mantigue Island ( a divers' paradise), Ardent Hot Spring (waters coming from Mt. Hibok-Hibok), Katibawasan Falls (cold and gentle cascade) and Tuawasan Falls.

Another interesting spot in Camiguin is the Sunken Cemetery which is marked by a huge cross. This cross serves as the island's reminder today, a ruin when the old town of Catarman was pushed down below sea level following the eruption of Mt. Vulcan in the 1800s.

There's indeed a lot to like about Camiguin. For me the one that really stood out when I visited it back in 2011 was when we saw a pod of dolphins freely wading through the waters of Camiguin, which is often said to be a frequent sight in the island. I still consider it as one of my favorite moments while traveling around the Philippines, and the one that consistently tickles my itchy feet to come again to Camiguin.

My short blog about my quick Camiguin trip here.

Mt. Hibok-Hibok seen from White Island

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Top 30 Favorite Spots in the Philippines: 25. Sorsogon

There are a lot of reasons why you should choose Sorsogon as your next travel destination -- the gentle whale sharks of Donsol, the surfing spots in Gubat, boating at Bulusan Lake, a trek to Mt. Bulusan, the centuries-old churches in Barcelona and Gubat, and the beaches off the coasts of Bacon, Sta. Magdalena and Matnog.

Of the many times I've been to Sorsogon, probably my most favorite was when I visited a beautiful unspoiled beach in a small island located at Matnog, the southernmost municipality of Luzon. I've heard a lot about it from my friends so I reckoned it must be worth checking out, and I'm glad I made it there. The beach is named Subic, well... not to be confused with the Subic in Zambales. 

This one appeals to me most because it is achingly remote and serene, a perfect getaway from the madness of Manila. It took us 15 hours to get to Matnog and another 45 minutes to finally get to Calintaan Island, where Subic Beach is located. But the butt-numbing bus ride and the rowdy boat ride were the pains worth-taking. We enjoyed our stay there (my second favorite in Bicol) and basked in its glorious clear blue waters and powdery pink sand. 

More of my stories about Sorsogon here

The pristine Subic Beach

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