The more I travel, the more my bucket list grows. I tick off one place only to add two more. There’s just so much to see in the world, and so little time. But before I explore outside the country, I want to see as much of the Philippines as possible.
I just got back from a six-day-five-night cruise aboard Star Cruises SuperStar Virgo, the first cruise ship to homeport in Manila. Compared to my usual DIY backpacking trips, this was an amazing hassle-free vacation that I got to enjoy with my mom and nephew. Going on a luxury cruise is something I’d never thought I’d get to do. It’s a unique type of travel experience worth saving up for and ticking off your bucketlist!
Mention Pagadian and one thing comes to mind: the iconic inclined tricycle. Tricycles, three-wheeled public form of transportation, can be found all around the Philippines, but the ones here are pretty unique. Designed to adapt to the city’s hilly terrain, Pagadian’s tricycle is inclined at about 25-40° angle. Sure, it’s a unique photo op, but apart from riding the tricycle, little else comes to mind when you mention Pagadian. What else can you do there?
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.
When it comes to weekend destinations, Laguna is one of the most accessible provinces near Metro Manila. Most people driving cars usually approach the province from SLEX on the way to urbanized cities like Santa Rosa, Los Banos and Calamba. But from the Manila East Road, you can avoid traffic and traverse easily through the more laid-back towns on the Eastern side of the province.
These days, a lot of city folk want a taste of the laid-back provincial life. When life gets too hectic in the metro, just heading somewhere you can float on a bamboo raft, enjoy simple home-cooked meals and see stunning natural sights can be just what you need to re-energize for the work week ahead. One of the fastest-rising destinations to offer this kind of experience near Manila is Minalungao National Park in Nueva Ecija.
After days of rain and gloomy weather that hampered our activities in the mainland, the sky finally cleared on the last day of our trip. Just in time too, since our destination for the day was the beautiful island of Palaui, just off the coast of Sta. Ana in Cagayan.
The first time I set foot in Palaui was back in 2011. I remember the roller-coaster like waves that propelled our boats towards the island where the ruins of an abandoned lighthouse sat atop a hill. There were a few rumors from locals that the hit reality show Survivor was going to be filmed there. Fast forward six years later, when I found myself one again with the tempestuous waves heading towards the island. Continue reading
When you think of tourist destinations in the Philippines, Abra is not often at the top of most traveler’s bucketlists. In fact, it remains one of the least visited provinces in the country. For outsiders, there’s still an air of mystery surrounding the place. Like a lot of provinces in Mindanao, Abra has a reputation for being “unsafe” mostly because of political wars and election-related violence in the past.
I admit, I didn’t know what to expect before my trip to Biliran. This island province in Eastern Visayas wasn’t even on my radar of places to visit. Formerly a sub-province of Leyte, Biliran is one of the country’s newest provinces, having only become independent in 1992. Biliran is also apparently the fourth smallest province in the Philippines, after Batanes, Camiguin and Siquijor, and it has the same laid-back vibe. It’s compact enough to explore by motorcycle and you get coastal roads with amazing views.
Biilran’s smaller islands have beautiful beaches and sandbars. Inland, there are natural attractions like waterfalls and mountains to hike. Locals are friendly and accommodations are generally affordable for backpackers. After canyoneering, island-hopping and motorcycling around Biliran for 3 days, I left really fulfilled with the raw beauty and general uncommercialized feel of the province. If you’re interested in visiting Biliran, here are some basics to help you plan your trip
The province of Pangasinan has a lot to offer. Located on the western area of the island of Luzon along the Lingayen Gulf and South China Sea, it’s best known as being the home of the Hundred Islands National Park. But that’s not all it has. As the biggest province of the Ilocos Region in terms of land area, Pangasinan has lots of natural attractions that will appeal adventure-seekers looking for a getaway relatively near Manila. Here are 10 exciting activities you can do here.
Cover of North Bound Magazine Issue 15. Photo by Martin San Diego.