6 Spellbinding Travel Destinations in the Philippines

on Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Here are six jaw-dropping adventure spots in the Philippines.

                1. Bohol

Bohol is known for glistening white sand beach resorts, extensive coral reefs, world class diving spots, the Chocolate Hills (near symmetrical mounds of limestone formations that look like Hershey's Kisses), and the iconic tarsier (the oldest species of extant primate in the world). However, this large Philippine Island has lately been a recurring item in the global tourism grapevine for yet another attraction: the Danao Adventure Park. Managed by the local government with the aid of private advocacy groups, the adventure park has become the ultimate hub for eco-adventure activities. The park offers more than a dozen extraordinarily thrilling activities that leverage the nature park's rugged and profoundly varied topography. Accommodating travelers of any stripe--from calm and composed bird watchers to extreme adventurers, Danao Adventure Park showcases the scenic Wahig River, a forested mountain range, a native cultural community, self-sustained organic farms, and cave complexes that provide hours of spelunking excitement. Popular activities include kayaking, wall climbing, trekking, camping, cave explorations, village tours, educational tours, and extreme in-the-park-only challenges such as the Ziplet, Skyride, Plunge, Suislide, Cliff Rappel, and Root Climb.

                2. Davao

Very few places offer travelers the same level of profound thrills as the unique city of Davao. Dubbed the Eco-Adventure capital of the Philippines, Davao City is home to the country's highest mountain peak and to the noble and extremely rare Philippine Eagle. Davao is thoroughly cosmopolitan, being the country's third largest city and a regional economic player in Southeast Asia. Even then, only 7% of the city's total land area is urbanized, with around 50% classified as forests or timberland and 40% appropriated by the state-of-the-art agriculture that has catapulted the city among the world's top producers and exporters of fruits and flowers. Considered the cleanest, greenest and safest city in the Philippines, Davao offers some of the most unique and memorable travel experiences anywhere in the world. From mountaineers to beach bums, from extreme sports enthusiasts to cultural historians, and from artists to ecologists, tourists of every stripe flock to the city to experience its gripping cultural and natural wonders. Dotting its coasts are top-rated beaches and uninhabited islands while exotic plants and animal species dwell within the spellbinding topography of its interior.

                3. Donsol

Donsol pulls and beguiles. For travelers who demand nothing but authentic and transformative experiences, the idyllic coastal town of Donsol in central Philippines provides a one-of-a-kind setting for unforgettable encounters. By itself, the town already possesses the attractions that make other destinations elsewhere a hit among global tourists: fascinating local culture, gorgeous beaches of fine sand, lush forests and stunningly rugged coastlines. At least for most travelers, these attractions are enough reasons to pack their luggage, book accommodations, and hit the trail. But Donsol offers a lot more. If nature had a soul, then Donsol provides a rare window from which to see it in perfect clarity. Something in the town attracts two sensitive indicator species that are disappearing in much of their former ranges. There are only a few thousand whale sharks left in the world and most congregate and frolic in the waters of Donsol. Meantime, as human development encroaches on natural habitats, fireflies are also becoming a rare sight and very few young people even remember seeing them. Fortunately, they are in jaw-dropping numbers along the course of the Donsol River. In Donsol, just a few hours after daybreak, people can literally swim at arm's length with the gentle but colossal whale sharks. After the sun sets, on the other hand, when only the night sky offers some glimmer of light, thousands of fireflies synchronize their biolumiscent abilities to add a spectacular surreal gleam to the riverscape.

                4. Coron

Combine seven lakes, coral reefs, mangroves, white sand beaches, a native islander culture, and more than a dozen islands to explore and you'll get the phenomenal Coron experience. Isolated from urban centers by the windswept sea, Coron Island is one of the finest eco-adventure destinations in the world. The extensive reefs surrounding the island play host to highly acclaimed diving spots while sections of its coasts are protected by mangrove forests that also provide a secure habitat for different species of birds, reptiles, mammals and marine life. Sustainably managed by the peace-loving Tagbanuas--the native tribe that has ancestral dominion over the island--Coron Island is off limits to visitors at night while daytime excursions are carefully regulated. Fishing and tourism are the two industries that keep the island thriving and its precious natural resources conserved. Trekking, island hopping, scuba diving, swimming, and interacting with the natives are just some of the memorable activities that provide priceless thrills when done in Coron.

                5. Cordillera Highlands

The imposing Cordillera Mountain Range courses through much of the north central part of Luzon and is the prominent terrain for the autonomous region that takes after its name. The area showcases the profoundly inspiring natural and cultural voices of the Philippine highlands. Given the region's rugged beauty and the fascinating highland tribes that lend it an extraordinary character, tourism ranks high among the top sectors that provide the stimulus for the regional economy. Waterfalls, mountain forests, millennia-old rice terraces, folk art, burial caves, and nature trails are the irresistible attractions that draw local and foreign tourists to the Cordilleras. Diverse and colorful, the region's richness permeates the traditional summer capital of Baguio City, the ecologically fascinating Mount Data National Park, the moving aura of Sagada, and the magnificent expressions of folk art in Bontoc and Batad. But perhaps the most well-known landmark in the area is the sprawling Banaue Rice Terraces, an engineering and agricultural marvel that has been carved by hand from the slopes of the mighty Cordillera Mountain Range several thousands of years ago. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the rice terraces continue to nourish the unique tribal cultures that inhabit the region. Memorable Baguio hikes, challenging bike trails, waterfall and cave explorations, nature trekking, bird watching, white water rafting, rappelling, cultural/historical immersions, and meaningful village interactions await travelers who are looking for unforgettable and extraordinary experiences in this one-of-a-kind location.

                6. Palawan

Unforgettable. Beguiling. Palawan. Three interchangeable words as far as natural splendor is concerned. Voted by Conde Nast as the destination with the best beaches in Asia, Palawan offers more than pristine sands and one of the richest reef ecosystems in the world. Isolated from the Philippine's major urban centers, Palawan retains much of its old-growth rainforests that shelter a surprising number of exotic and endemic species. Extensive mangrove areas hedge its coasts while lush canopies lend a rich verdant accent to its rugged interior, attracting a wide variety of plants and animals that call Palawan their home. Across its beaches are magnificent limestone islands that jut out of the surf to play a breathtaking symphony with the sea, while farther across are marine sanctuaries that international teams of experts consider unparalleled in terms of species density. Hosting the primary airport of the island province, Puerto Princesa is the gateway to the Palawan experience and the hub for numerous initiatives on nature conservation and biodiversity protection.

It is also just a few kilometers from the world-renowned Underground River, a ribbon of crystal clear water that flows through spectacular limestone formations over an area that fully encapsulates a mountain-to-sea transition. Because of its unique richness, the Puerto Princesa Underground River was declared a UNESCO Heritage Site and was just recently included in the Seven Natural Wonders of the World Project. There are countless ways of experiencing Palawan. Aside from taking a breathtaking journey across the Underground River, travelers can explore the exotic string of islands that provide a profound natural contrast to the placid contours of the sea. Travelers have the option to go midpoint between sea and sky by para-sailing or reacquaint themselves with the element of water by exploring the destination's unmatched snorkeling sites. Scuba-diving is also a popular attraction, especially to those who wish to interact with the stunningly colorful denizens of the coral reef. Simply put, Palawan is the epitome of a tropical paradise and is unmatched by any place in the world for its ruggedly beautiful terrain, breathtaking seascapes, world class diving sites, exotic wildlife, nature trails, extensive sanctuaries, and fascinating native cultures. Nature trekking, swimming, snorkeling, island hoping, local dishes & delicacies, scuba diving, bird watching, parasailing, tattooing, ecological research, bar hopping and photography are just some of the experiences that become strangely distinctive when done in Palawan.                                                                                   

5 Board Sailing Destinations in the Philippines


The Philippines being a tropical country makes its winds and ocean breeze perfect for sailing. The country's many beaches are always swarming with surfers and board sailors daily to fully enjoy the sport they like.

                There are many board sailing destinations in the Philippines and here are the best five of them:

                1. Caliraya - located in Laguna and the closest board sailing destination fro Manila. Caliraya is considered to be one of the finest sailing spot in the Philippines. It is a man-made lake built in the 1930's by American engineers to supply a hydroelectric power plant in Laguna. The wind blows here are steadily between 12 to 30 knots just ideal for the right speed while sailing, making one's sailing easier and more comfortable.

2. Boracay - very famous not only for its vast beauty but also for its attractive tropical island offers all sailors a smooth and steady sailing at all times. The Boracay beach is provided with the northeast monsoon winds are perfect for beginners. Meanwhile at the Tabon Strait in Boracay, the winds are superb and pretty strong, which are recommended for skilled sailors only.

                3. Anilao - a popular coastline destination for sailing. Located in southern Luzon, near Batangas. The area's flat water waves are the ones making it famous among the sailors. It has been their favorite sailing destination in the Philippines.

                4. Subic Bay - located in central Luzon Philippines and has always been visited by board sailors for many years. Subic is known by tourists especially the Americans, for this is where the American soldiers are based. Lots of Americans now live here and had settled down with Filipinas. Everyday, one can find many sailing teams in the bay sailing wonderfully along the steady waters.

                5. Pagudpud - located in the northern part of Luzon, in Laoag. It can be reached in roughly ten hours via car ride. Pagudpud is surrounded with the attractive gold sand beaches that are really breathtaking. The place has been famous for high-performance sail boarding activities and also surfing. Tourists that come to visit here are always delighted with the beauty and perfect winds of Pagudpud.

Here are just five of the many sail boarding destination sites in the Philippines and is recommended for board sailing aficionados looking for a truly exciting and fun sails. One can always enjoy exploring the other sail boarding destinations that are found all over the beautiful country of the Philippines. 

Batanes, the Secret Places in the Philippines


The raging sea beats the island of Batanes' as if to say I am King.

The waves violently slap the rocks with enviable freedom. Its stammering power heeds no remorse.

The island however doesn't back down, doesn't fold-up or disintegrates. It takes a proud beating with a 'Hah', I am Batanes.

Batanes should indeed be proud of its coffers. It offers an amazing landscape that is as complex as a Roger Dean art work. The twisting spiraling mountains roll for miles and miles carpeted with green pastures. Atop its numerous cliffs one can get a front seat view of the feisty merging waters of the China Sea with the Pacific Ocean.

There is also something incredibly charming about the island's unique stone houses. Around 3 meters thick, these rock abodes crafted by the ancestors have stood against torturous rain and bullying winds. The roofs are made of cogon providing water proof shade. From afar the houses create an amazing texture of color and form that is bucolic and unlike anything that I've ever been in the provinces I've visited.

In spite the amazing scenery the island's greatest strength is its people - the Ivatans. Storm warriors by birth they still pose a gentle demeanor, friendly disposition and an unbelievable sense of trustworthiness. Crime is said to be non-existent in Batanes and people find no need to lock their doors. There is even a sign posted in the city treasury that reads "LOST AND FOUND - MONEY. Please claim inside".

As most travel junkies know Batanes is the northernmost province of the Philippines and its smallest island both in terms of land area and population. Among its ten petite islands only three are inhabited - Batan, Itbayat and Sabtang. Sandwiched by Babuyan Island and Taiwan, the province is closer to Taipei than Manila. In fact an urban legend states that on a clear day one can see Taiwan and hear Chinese roosters crow.

Growth in Batanes' tourism has been spurred by airlines such as Asian Spirit that conveniently jets weekly flights (for a P10,000 round trip ticket price). Surprisingly posh, the main airport is located in Basco, the province's capital (found in Batan island). Albeit the flight being a bit choppy, I land safely in Batanes and seek my adventure.

                DAY 1 - Going around Basco

A refreshing contrast to other city centers, Basco has neither a mall nor a Starbucks coffee shop - yet. The pseudo-commercial center is a small lane filled with tiny groceries, supplies stores and ukay-ukay shops. Zero tricycles explain the quiet streets and only a couple of jeeps and automobiles exist here.

                2:00 pm
Shanedel's, a family managed inn is a great place to bunk. The place has a killer view of the Batan Bay and is right beside the busy Basco port. An old lighthouse perched on a hill can also be seen. Languid cows graze the pasture. The bovines stood so still I almost doubted they were real.

                5:10 pm
Conveniently, the lighthouse is just a 20 minute walk from my place. The sky was turning crimson as the sun prepared to rest when the moon decided to drop by. I can't tell you how amazing it is to see the sun set and the moon reveal itself simultaneously.

                8:45 pm
Fried flying fish, was my first Batanes dinner. The meat was okay. Nothing fantastic.

                DAY 2 Exploring Batan Island

Batan, is Batanes' second largest island that serve as the center of commerce and houses the seat of the provincial government. Travelers can arrange tour rides that will explore Batan's municipalities which include Basco, Ivana, Uyugan and Mahatao.

                10 am
The 'jeepney topload' is the best seat to take when viewing Batan's landscape. The ride snakes through the island's rolling terrain. Above me are spectacular mountain formations that resemble stoic hunched-back giants. The white sand beach below me boasts pristine waters that splash against massive rocks.

Occasionally the driver parks his vehicle and allows my group to go down to absorb the scenery. There is nothing more lovely than sitting at edge of a cliff to stare at the horizon. No skyscraper, no boats, not a single living person litter my view, just clear blue skies. I pretend this really is the edge of the world.

                12:30 pm - Honesty Store in the town of Ivana
Lunch takes place in an unmanned small canteen stocked with goodies (mami, chips, sodas, biscuits). Owners put their faith in customers' honesty...hence the store moniker.

                2:10 pm - Marlboro Country
After a belly filling lunch I head Payaman town dubbed as Marlboro Country. The tour guide boasts 'Makikita mo parang wala ka sa Pilipinas'. The town does have a different feel to it. The pasture, from a far, is a mixture of deep green and brown hues. The guide explained the brown color is actually thin bamboo wood that cordons an Ivantan family's land from his neighbor. This village is Batanes' version of Tagaytay Highlands but instead of golf courses it is actually cattle pasture. Fantastic!

                DAY 3- Sabtang Island

Sabtang is considered one of the 12 best destinations by the Department of Tourism in 1994. Compared to Batan, the island is less affluent but is more charming (in my opinion). Batan's modern influences has converted its precious stone houses to concrete walls and thatched roofs. Meanwhile Sabtang still has their cobble stoned streets and stone houses intact. Albeit the Sabtang is also beginning to deteriorate as people there are starting to modernize their houses. The danger of spoilage of Batanes is an issue the government must pay attention but that's another article altogether.

Sabtang's landscape is also more breathtaking than Batan's. Steep mountains, deep cannons and a seemingly endless strip of white beach is amazing. Sheer limestone cliffs that plunge into cerulean waters below make it so surreal. I was able to swim in Batanes waters!

P.S. Oh and by the way I saw an independent movie production shooting a scene in the island (these guys did the indie film called Donsol). I heard Angel Aquino was the star. Interesting...

                8 pm - Dinner Time
A birthday party thrown by a fellow adventure seeker spiced up the night. A belly popping feast includes fresh tuna sashimi, lobsters and lechon. We washed it down with a Pinoy ubiquitous drink - Tanduay. Yum.

Other memorable dishes I had in Batanes were fresh blue marlin tuna steak, green pepper filled lapu-lapu fillet, beef steak (lemme tell you they have lots of cows here), cuttle fish and pizza. Yes pizza...there is a pizza maker in Basco named Ivan, my favorite flavors are pepperoni, garlic and cheese and anchovies pizza. You have to order in advance to be able to enjoy its yumminess.

                DAY 4 - Going Home

Flights from Batanes to Manila always take off at around 10 am. There was a certain melancholic feeling that washed over me as I left the quaint island. Probably because I'll be going back to the circus I call my life. I guess one thing I have in common with Batanes is that just like its islands I always try to win over life's metaphoric raging waves.

                THE CHECKLIST

                Batanes will definitely see me again. There are also so many stuff I wasn't able to do.

                Here is my list:

                1. Fly to Itbaya which is Batanes third inhabited island. I was supposed to go but unfortunately the only light aircraft that flies to the island was broken. For those who wish to go to Batanes I suggest you go explore Itbaya first before doing the other island as it is much harder to access.

                2. Climb Mount Iraya

                3. Visit Mavudis island which is the northernmost island of Batanes. Coconut crabs litter the rich marine life filled island.

                4. Explore Nakabuwang Cave in Sabtang and the Chawa cave which is said to be enchanted. It has a natural salt bed and a mouth that opens to South China Sea.

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