Samar (formerly named Western Samar), is one of the three provinces of Samar Island in Eastern Visayas in the Philippines. Home to a network of amazing caves hidden beneath the region’s lush jungles, including the biggest cave system in the country, Samar is a rugged destination where adventure seekers can experience something out of the ordinary. Though most of Samar Island remains off-the-radar for local tourists, many international spelunkers have been drawn here since it’s been dubbed the “Caving Capital of the Philippines.”
For riders, cyclists and road trippers clocking in the miles, meals on the road often just consist of quick stops at fast food joints or meet-ups at gas station convenience stores before heading out. Most riders would be satisfied with cup noodles or hot coffee to warm up along the way. A few years ago, this was pretty much all there was along the Marilaque route (also known as Marikina-Infanta or Marcos Highway), the scenic twisting road traversing Marikina, Rizal, Laguna all the way to Infanta, Quezon.
During weekend rides, I’ve noticed a lot of new places to eat and a lot of other establishments being built along the route. Below is a growing list of old favorites and new places where you can grab a bite to eat and enjoy the view along Marilaque. Manila East Road (specially in towns overlooking Laguna de Bay) also has a lot of interesting dining places that makes it great for road trips.
Combining Visita Iglesia, the Holy Week tradition of visiting seven churches, and the sport of biking is a unique way to mix faith and fitness. While most tourists would prefer to visit churches by motorized transport, there’s something about pedaling your way around under the heat of the sun that makes visiting churches feel like an actual sacrifice or penance rather than just sightseeing by car.
For travelers, backpackers and province-based tourists, Manila is often just thought of as a stopover between flights on the way to another destination. The big city can be overwhelming with the heavy traffic and crowded streets. At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be much to do except eat out, go shopping in the malls, visit museums or churches. There’s also the gritty and chaotic areas of Quiapo and Divisoria, which have become synonymous with Manila.
I often take the tourist sights in Manila for granted because this is where I live and work. But if I were a first-time tourist in the Philippines, or if I had to take around foreign tourists, balikbayans, expats or province-based friends, what would I do and where would I go? Here are some suggestions of unique and fun activities you can do while in Manila.
Nowadays, I’m realizing that having an action camera is a must for a lot of the activities I like to do. For the past years, I’ve been hauling a heavy-ass SLR during mountain biking, motorcycling and island-hopping trips. Ninety percent of the time, I end up just using my Smartphone, because it’s just such a hassle to take out the big camera from a bag when both your hands are occupied driving or if you’re in a water-based environment. I was really hoping to experiment more with video features for the blog this year. As luck would have it, Supremo Philippines sent me their latest action camera to test out.
Biking is one of the the best ways to get around in small towns. You get to explore at your own pace, soak in the scenery, and burn a few calories while sightseeing. During our week-long tour with the Tourism Authority of Thailand, I was itching to have any excuse to get on a bike. I always tend to overeat when I travel and by the third day of buffet breakfasts and lunch feasts featuring amazing Thai dishes, I felt like I needed some sort of workout.
Summer is here and many families and barkadas are looking for resorts for their out-of-town swimming trips and excursions. One of the places I can recommend relatively near the metro is Momarco Resort in Tanay, Rizal. Only 1.5 hours away from Quezon City, Momarco Resort has a large, clean and well-maintained swimming pool and an artificial lagoon with a waterfall.
Baler, the capital town of Aurora Province, is a haven for surfers. This laid-back coastal town in the North is known primarily for its killer waves. Numerous surf shops are situated along Sabang beach catering to novice and the seasoned surfers. Baler also has a rich history, being the backdrop of the infamous Siege of Baler, a battle of the Philippine Revolution and concurrently the Spanish–American War and the Philippine–American War.
Lakbay2Love is a Filipino “coming of age” film set against a backdrop of the biking culture and environmental protection. Starring Solenn Heussaff and Dennis Trillo, this movie promises to take you on a ride that will make you fall in love. Dennis plays a forester and biker named JR while Solenn takes on the role of Lianne, a videographer tasked to do a feature about climate change. Kit Thompson plays Macky, Lianne’s ex-boyfriend and JR’s biking buddy.
While the movie will be shown in cinemas starting February 3, I got invited to watch a special screening on January 13. I don’t want to post any major story spoilers, but I can say that this is the first movie in the country that tackles the biking culture in the Philippines. It features unique travel and biking destinations and excellent cinematography.
The town of Tanay in Rizal province is one of my favorite destinations near the metro for motorcycling road trips. Its proximity to Manila, refreshing mountain scenery, cooler climate and generally uncrowded destinations makes it a good alternative to Tagaytay on any given weekend. Parts of Tanay pass through portions of the Sierra Madre mountain range, making it a great motorcycling and biking destination.
For weekend warriors and families, Tanay has lots to offer in terms of natural attractions. The resorts and leisure camps in the area also make it a popular destination for team-building activities as well.