Growing up in the province, my childhood friends and I used to enjoy camping sleepovers. On hot summer nights, we’d haul out banigs, folding beds and foam mattresses on the grass and “camp out” in our garden under a makeshift tent sewn together from my old protest streamers. We’d spend the night playing card games and board games like Monopoly, Cluedo and Pictionary and roast marshmallows and hotdogs in a mini-bonfire. Back then, we really felt like we were roughing it out. But there was always the security of parents just inside the house (providing us with real food), a decent bathroom and the option to move indoors if it rained.
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.
Laiya in San Juan, Batangas is probably one of the most popular weekend beach destinations near the metro. I’ve been here several times before usually for day trips with friends and family. It may not have the best beach and coastline, but it’s a pretty memorable place for me since this is where Art and I got married. We actually had a Survivor / Amazing Race-themed beach wedding in Palm Beach Resorts.
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.
Rizal is an adventurer’s playground often frequented by mountain bikers and motorcycle riders. The Sierra Madre mountain range east of Manila offers numerous off-road trails where you can ride through forests, beside river trails, or visit scenic spots with overlooking views. I’ve written a lot about places to visit in Rizal since it’s my favorite weekend destination near the metro. It’s hard to believe that some of these places exist so near Manila.
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.
For riders, travel is usually more about the journey than the destination. Sometimes it doesn’t matter where you go. Just hitting the open road, soaking in the beautiful scenery as you drive off into the sunset is an epic adventure in itself.
Whenever I travel to a different province, I try to rent a motorcycle. Usually, it’s just whatever run-down model I can get my hands on. I’ve ridden solo in many beautiful island destinations like Batanes, Bohol, Siargao, Siquijor and Cebu. On my own faithful Yamaha Mio Fino, the farthest I’ve driven is from Manila to Bicol.
But it’s not everyday that you get to ride on the expressway up to Baguio on a Harley Davidson. Oh yeah, baby! Achievement unlocked! Seriously, just sitting on this bike gives you instant 1000+ Astig Points.
There’s something I really like about lakes. Though they’re not as popular as beaches and waterfalls, lakes often have this quiet understated charm about them. The Philippines is home to many natural lakes which are closely related to volcanic and tectonic activity as well as artificial lakes or reservoirs that have resulted from the damming of rivers for hydroelectric activity. Aside from their recreational and aesthetic qualities, many lakes are important habitats for marine life and food sources. Other lakes play a part in water-supply, hydro-electric power or flood control. As the saying goes, “still waters run deep.”
Though some lakes are not really suitable for swimming, these serene bodies of water are ideal for for low-impact activities like fishing, boating, rafting, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding. Here are just a few of the scenic lakes and reservoirs in the Philippines that I’ve personally visited (arranged by distance/accessibility from Manila). Continue reading →