Have you ever watched a video game cutscene and think, damn, I would love to visit that place? As a fan of role-playing games, sometimes I just want to get sucked into a game to explore the fantastic “out of these world” landscapes that heroes get to visit on their travels. Thankfully, there are a few places here in the Philippines that could just be the live action equivalent of the CGI scenes. Here are my top five picks of travel experiences that reminded me of certain video games:
1) El Nido, Palawan = Besaid Island, Final Fantasy X
With it’s crystal clear waters, limestone cliffs and numerous islands, the seascape of El Nido could easily be the setting where Tidus washes ashore at the start of Final Fantasy X. The Isle of Besaid, a small island at the southernmost point of the world Spira, features a large beach and seaport, a small village surrounded by forests and waterfalls, and a temple.
On the other hand, El Nido is a first class municipality and managed resource protected area in the province of Palawan, roughly 238 kilometres northeast of the capital Puerto Princesa. Having one of the most diverse ecosystems in the country, El Nido is protected for its unique flora and fauna, and pristine geologic formations. El Nido is notable for its spectacular limestone cliffs, expansive white sand beaches, tiny paradise-like islets, various types of forests, and major marine habitats. If you get to climb the cliffs, the view from the top is simply amazing just like in the game (well, minus the machina of course).
2) San Lorenzo Ruiz, Camarines Norte = Forest Maze, Legend of Legaia
You know the type of forest level in games where you just seem to walk and walk and never reach anywhere? Eventually, all the trees start to look alike and you just seem to be going around in circles. Vast forest levels are a staple of RPGs especially those set in basic worlds like Legend of Legaia. Once you’ve fully explored that level, you’ll have amassed important items from treasure chests and gained a few levels from the countless random battles so you can be strong enough to beat the next evil boss.
Unfortunately, in real life, this kind of “forest maze” experience can be pretty exhausting. I got to experience this earlier this year during a hike to Nacali Waterfalls from San Lorenzo Ruiz, a fifth class municipality in Camarines Norte. The trek, which was supposed to be roughly 1.5 hours (one way) took us 7 hours to complete. The whole experience seemed to be a labyrinth of forest, trees and muddy paths. Plus, lots and lots of mist. Even our guide got lost several times. Did I mention it was raining the whole time? Still, it was an interesting experience. Though you don’t really enjoy it while it’s happening, it’s when you look back that you realize how cool it is to get lost in the middle of nowhere. (More about this in a separate post)
3) The UnConvention Center, Davao = Psychonauts
The eccentric hotel in Davao known as the UnConvention Center reminds me a lot of the game Psychonauts, a platform game based on the exploits of Raz, a young boy gifted with psychic abilities who runs away from the circus to try to sneak into a summer camp for the gifted. The game is set in visually fantastic stages, which represent the strange minds of different characters that Raz enters as a Psychonaut-in-training/”Psycadet” in order to help them overcome their fears or memories of their past, so as to gain their help and progress in the game.
Stepping into the UnConvention Center (also known as Ponce Suites) in Davao City is really like stepping into the mind of the artist/proprietor Kublai Milan. Every wall, ceiling and hallway is infused with various forms of art – from photographs, mixed media pieces, and sculptures. Huge effigies of ants crawl under the stairs and every available space in the hallway is covered in pieces of art, ranging from a collage of sunset photos to bizarre installation pieces made of doll’s heads and wooden twigs. The loft area, which houses the artists’ studio, is decorated in an assortment of old bottles, shoes, and paint cans. The hotel itself feels like a living, breathing organism instead of just a building.
4) Barangay Mariki, Zamboanga = Arni Village, Chrono Cross
In the game Chrono Cross, the starting point is Arni Village, a small, peaceful fishing town off the coast of the main island of El Nido (coincidence?), the hometown of protagonist Serge. In the game, the settlement was constructed to allow easy access to the sea; its inhabitants subsisted on the fishing industry. It’s close to a stretch of scenic and beautiful beaches. The main gateway to the sea was a pier constructed at the far end of the village, and some dwellings were constructed over water, allowing quick access to boats.
Likewise, Barangay Mariki (Rio Hondo) in Zamboanga is a sleepy, fishing town where the whole village is constructed on stilts over the water. The houses are connected by makeshift wooden walkways. You can see metal signposts with block names on “street” corners, much like any other village. Most of the families living in the coastal barangay own fishing boats and rely on the sea for their livelihood. During one lazy afternoon, we caught the kids of the village playing with kites and playing on the docks.
5) Kapurpurawan Rocks, Ilocos Norte = some alien world
Though I can’t pinpoint specific video games that look exactly like it, in general, the surreal landscape of Kapurpurawan Rocks in the town of Burgos (the most northwest corner) of Ilocos Norte in Luzon, really looks out of this world. With the waves crashing on the coast, rocky terrain, and jutting white rock formation that resembles some huge ark frozen in stone, Kapurpurawan could easily be the backdrop of a sci-fi, alien or or fantasy world.
The natural white sandstone formation carved by sea and wind is really something else. The chalky surface of the rocks is surprisingly white, while lines on the curved stone resemble hardened lava. A futuristic spaceship or extra planets in the distance wouldn’t look out of place there. It’s just one of those spots that makes you want to forget your journey for the meantime and just sit back and enjoy the impressive view.
Video game screenshots from: FinalFantasy.wikia.com, LegendofLegaia.net, Chrono.wikia.com, tech.icrontic.com, gamesabout.net, 2d-x.com.