New Year Travel Round Up: 12 Philippine destinations to include in your 2018 Travel Bucket List
Is “travel more” one of your New Year’s resolutions? Or do you simply just want to see more of the beauty that is the Philippines? Whichever category you may fall under, we’ve made a list of some of the country’s most beautiful spots for a year-long dose of wanderlust.
Sta. Ana, Cagayan
On the north-easternmost tip of mainland Luzon lies the town of Sta. Ana, Cagayan. This quaint municipality opens up to the Pacific Ocean, playing host to pristine coves and white sand beaches, plus an array of stunning natural landscapes. Exploring the town’s treasures may require a butt-numbing land travel and a vomit-inducing voyage across temperamental waters, but you’ll find that all these are worth it once you get there. Palaui Island, Anguib Beach, and Punta Verde are some of the town’s offerings. These stunning seascapes, complete with dramatic escarpments, make for a veritable postcard image.
An embodiment of the phrase “a beautiful disaster,” Mount Pinatubo is a reminder that chaos can result into something beautiful. The 1991 eruption may have been devastating and is still considered as one of the deadliest natural disasters in Philippine history, but it lead to the creation of the magnificent crater lake. If you haven’t been to this place, it’s never too late to hop on a bus to Capas, Tarlac, go on a 4×4 ride across Crow Valley, and trek up Pinatubo to get a glimpse of the sometimes-emerald-sometimes-sapphire crater lake. Even the most jaded traveler could not resist the natural beauty of Mount Pinatubo.
Bataan Techno Park
The historical peninsula of Bataan is one of the most diverse places in the Philippines, and the Bataan Techno Park only strengthens this claim. Once the site of the United Nations Philippine Refugee Processing Center after the Vietnam War, the 365-hectare property in the town of Morong is now home to not only knowledge-based industries, but also to a hub of southeast Asian culture. Here, traces of Vietnamese, Thai, and Cambodian traditions can be found. There are temples similar to Angkor Wat scattered across the area. There’s also a museum, featuring the actual fishing vessel that carried Vietnamese refugees, along with photos and items from the time the place served as a refugee center.
Tawi-Tawi in Mindanao gets a bad rep (like many places in the island region), but if you make the necessary preparations and coordinate with the authorities, you’d get to see the Philippines’ longest sandbar: Panampangan Island. It measures about three kilometers and is surrounded by the clearest, bluest water you’ll ever see. White, chalky sands make up its shores, while a village of stilt houses visible in the distance ornates the backdrop. A Philippine Marine detachment guards the island and there are about five families of the indigenous Badjau that live there. The island has been utfitted with cottages, and electricity from a diesel-powered generator can last until 11 p.m. To visit the island, get in touch with the ARMM Tourism or contact iTourist Travel Lane – a trusted tour operator in the area – on Facebook.
It’s hard to pick just one destination in Catanduanes, so we decided to include the entire island province. This laidback island in the Bicol region holds some of the country’s most breathtaking natural landscapes. A couple of these are the mystical Hardin Falls in the town of Viga, and the marvelous Tuwad-tuwadan Lagoon in Pandan. You can also find in the town of Bato what is perhaps the cleanest beach in the entire Philippines: Sakahon Beach, where dawn is just incredible. Of course, there’s the spectacle that is Binurong Point in Baras, boasting vast grasslands atop a cliff facing the ocean. We recommend renting a motorbike, getting an EZ Map from the tourism office, and exploring the island on your own for an unforgettable experience.
Just like Catanduanes, Northern Samar simply has far too many beautiful spots for a listicle, so just go and explore the entire province. If you’re the off-the-beaten-path kind of traveler, the towns of Lapinig, Silvino Lobos, and San Isidro are highly recommended. In San Isidro, you’ll have your share of wonderful waterfalls. In Silvino Lobos – a landlocked town – you’d get to trek through a canopied watercourse all the way to the extraordinary Hilulugayan Falls. The unassuming town of Lapinig, meanwhile, plays host to the island bird sanctuary called Canawayon, and a length of pristine cream-sand beach called Putong.
Another entry from Mindanao is the magnificent Asik-Asik Falls of North Cotabato. This unique cascade is essentially a curtain of water over a verdant mountain slab. Tucked in a parcel of forest in the village of Upper Dado in the town of Alamada, the falls can be accessed through an easy 15-minute trek down a stone staircase. Aside from bathing in the alkaline waters of the falls, camping is also possible. Pitch a tent or hang a hammock between the tall hardwoods around the cascade and spend a peaceful night in the wild.
Spice up your travels this 2018 with a different kind of adventure. Visit the Art Capital of the Philippines and behold a town immersed in creativity. While Angono’s neighbors have hiking trails for streets, its main thoroughfares double as art galleries. Blanco Family Museum, Nemiranda Art Gallery, Carlos “Botong” Francisco Second Gallery, and the Tiamson Art Gallery are some of the artistic hotspots in town. The food scene here, too, is dipped with creativity: from the exotic offerings of Balaw-Balaw Restaurant to the Higantes Frappe – the largest frappe in Rizal – of Lava Mocha Café. There’s also the Angono-Binangonan Petroglyphs – the oldest artwork in the Philippines. Oh, and the sunset over at the Lakeside Park could give Manila Bay’s a run for its money.
Tanay, Rizal has no shortage of hiking destinations. And for those who might be intimated by the thought of climbing up a mountain, but want to witness the fabled sea of clouds, Treasure Mountain is the place to be. This vast property overlooks the hilly terrain of the town, accented with limestone precipices, and coupled with the usual sight of a vaporous blanket snaking across the folds. Many mountaineers go far and wide for such a scene – but at Treasure Mountain, you can get this view without much effort. “Effortless” sea of clouds, we like to call it.
Another distinct cascade found in Mindanao, this time in the decadent city of Zamboanga, is Merloquet Falls. Located in the village of Sibulao, the falls is a two-tiered cascading curtain, with a rock platform in the middle. Getting to Merloquet is easy, as there is now an access road and a cemented walkway. Surrounding it is a bit of land that used to be a picnic area. As of writing, the local government has cleared it to prevent trash from getting into the waterways. Huts are being reconstructed further up. Entrance fee is just PhP5 per person!
On the other side of the Cebu Strait lies the island of Sumilon. Surrounded by waters rich with life, Sumilon’s beige shores are frequented by harmless baby blacktip sharks. The area is also a popular snorkeling site. There is an exclusive beach resort on the island – Bluewater Sumilon – which has developed the area in a way that does not diminish its natural charm. The resort has established trails both for trekking and biking. The trekking trails lead to the perfect spots to watch either the sunrise or the sunset.
The Philippines’ last true frontier, Batanes is a dream for most travelers. And it’s easy to see why. The province is basically a time capsule. No major commercial establishments. Vehicles are sparse. Mobile reception is virtually nonexistent. But the whole province is a living, breathing postcard. Everywhere you look is picturesque. The wide meadows and rolling hills would simply take your breath away. If you really want to get away from the hustle and bustle of modern life, Batanes is the place to be. The air here is as fresh as can be. And the people, the native Ivatan, is as genuine and as kind as they get.
By CELINE REYES
Photos by DENNIS MURILLO and CELINE REYES