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.”
One of the things that I look out for when I travel around the Philippines are items made from native weaves or indigenous textiles. Underneath the motifs and patterns are beautiful stories of culture and heritage from different tribes and the skillful artists who weave them.
Quirino is one of those provinces in Luzon that’s still off the tourist radar. Formerly part of Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino became a separate province in 1966. While most provinces in the Philippines are known for something concrete, Quirino’s identity has yet to be formed. It was this air of mystery for an “off-the-beaten path” destination that made me more eager to visit the province.
One of the most memorable trips I took this year was to Tawi-Tawi. This island province located in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is the southernmost province of the Philippines. Often misunderstood by the outside world and the rest of the Philippines, Tawi-Tawi is not your typical tourist destination. The concerns about the peace and order situation in the surrounding areas have kept the place relatively off the tourist radar. I know only a handful of travelers who have ventured to this part of the country for a vacation. That’s probably the main reason why I wanted to go there in the first place. Thanks to a trip to Zamboanga City earlier this year, I got to tick Tawi-Tawi off my bucket list.
Isla Culion is probably not your typical vacationer’s destination. Locals say that most people have either never heard of Culion, or know it only for once being the world’s largest leper colony. In fact, the island was isolated for over a century. The Culion leper colony was established in 1906, and patients from different parts of the Philippines and hospital staff were brought to Culion. But in 2006, the island was declared leprosy-free by the World Health Organization.
Thanks to Kawil Tours, I was able to see firsthand how the island’s isolation has resulted in unspoiled attractions. Culion now offers a combination of otherworldly underwater seascapes, historic allure, and a genuine community spirit and hospitality that is increasingly becoming hard to find. The place offers a feeling of remoteness and isolation, where you can reflect and recharge from the urban grind, making it a popular venue for retreats. For those who hate beach party scenes and want a more meaningful destination, this may just be the best place to visit. Continue reading
Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon as it was known before the Vietnam War, really enjoys a rich motorcycle culture. No one has visited the place without being amazed at the sheer number of motorcycles there. If you’re riding a taxi or bus, there’s an army of scooters surrounding your vehicle. If you’re exploring on foot, they’re right there zipping past you as you attempt to cross the street. Every establishment you visit, you will probably find a row of motorcycles parked right outside.
To truly appreciate the motorcycle culture, it’s best to go around the city on one. Most tourists get a taste of this by riding a xe om or motorcycle taxi. But it’s really WAY better if you rent one for the day and navigate the streets yourself. Continue reading
Originally posted 7/28/12; post updated 7/22/2013 (added Pacman Slippers)
Contrary to popular opinion, geeks don’t spend ALL their time just vegging out in front of the television or computer. For some of us, real-life adventures are preferable to virtual ones. But when we do travel, we like to channel our geek pride by using clothes and gear that show off our unique interests. Here are a few cool finds that I use for travel and where you can find them here in the Philippines.
These collectible PAC-MAN flip-flops from Havaianas really bring back some great memories. Anyone born in the 80s will have spent time playing this hit video game arcade classic and will love the retro chic look of the slippers. They come in two designs – navy blue with a yellow logo and a maze from the game and black with a green logo decorated with Pac-Man, pac-dots and the ghost enemies (Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde). Plus, the slippers glow in the dark! How cool is that? Thank you so much to Havaianas for coming up with this design and to All-Flip Flops store in SM Naga for letting me have this! I will be eternally grateful.
Updated February 2016
In the latest edition of video game Tomb Raider, Lara Croft can choose to deviate from the main quest and search for relics and GPS caches hidden off the beaten path. In Arkham Asylum, Batman can opt to track down the Riddler’s trophies while trying to foil the Joker’s plot.
Many video games, especially the role-playing/adventure types, usually have sidequests where the goal is to collect certain items. Usually these items are not really essential to finishing the overall game. Most of the time it’s just for bragging rights. Among the memorable collectible items in games I have played are those rare cards from the Triple Triad card mini-game in Final Fantasy VIII, the insanely hard to complete 100 stray beads from the game Okami, and memories and bottles in Alice: The Madness Returns.
The latest game I played, The Last of Us, had me searching for Firefly pendants, training manuals and comic books while trying to fight off the infected and survive in a brutal post-apocalyptic world. Continue reading
Pink sand beaches are quite rare. There are a only a few of them around the world, the most famous of which can be found in Bahamas & Bermuda. Thankfully, we don’t have to travel abroad to set foot on one. The Greater Santa Cruz Island in Zamboanga City, in the southern region of the Philippines, is famed for having pink coralline sand.
This small inhabited island located in the Basilan Strait is just 4 km south of the downtown area of Zamboanga City. It can be reached within 20 minutes by motorized boats. In recent years, the beach has gained popularity as a tourist attraction in the city. I’m really glad to have visited this bucket-list worthy beach prior to my trip to Tawi-Tawi. Continue reading