Travel on a Shoestring: The Philippines and Beyond


We love travel and adventure. We also like to keep our expenses down (who doesn’t anyway) so we often travel on a shoestring. But while budget travel, especially in the Philippines, has been and will always be popular, adventure travel involving exploration of remote, exotic and even possibly dangerous destinations is rapidly becoming popular as well. The Philippines and the rest of Asia are not wanting in terms of adventure travel destinations – as we have discovered in our trips to these places.

Not all of the tourist attractions featured here are recommendable for budget travel. However, there are some places worth the visit even if one has to shell out a little more cash. We got to visit the non-Philippine destinations here if only for the nature of our previous work but we thought we’d share our adventures in these places as well. So join us as we feature different tourist attractions in the Philippines and beyond, travel culinary adventures, some travel tips and various reflections on our encounters with nature and different cultures.

Guimaras: Mangoes and Alubihod Beach


Alubihod Beach and Alobijod Cove resort, Nueva Valencia, Guimaras

Mention Guimaras to any Filipino and the first thing that comes to his or her mind is: MANGOES! But while this island province may be famous for its sweet fruit, it also boasts several unspoiled white sand beaches, beautiful islets and marine sanctuaries. On a recent trip to Iloilo for a working conference we decided to set aside 2 days and 1 night for a side trip to Guimaras. In little more than an hour after arriving at the wharf in downtown Iloilo City, we were already resting inside a room at a beach resort in Nueva Valenca town, Guimaras. It was that near. No wonder this island is such a popular side trip for visitors in Iloilo City.

Persian Dining... In Manila


chelo kebab (beef) at Habibs Persian Cuisine

Persian or Iranian food has been around for some time now in the Philippines. Back during our college days we've had a considerable number of Iranian schoolmates. Many dining places have consequently surfaced that cater to Iranians in the country and pretty soon locals themselves were patronizing such restaurants. Some of these restaurants have modified their fare to suit Filipino taste but many others have stayed true to their roots.

Nagcarlan: Waterfalls, Cemeteries and Cold Springs


Bunga Falls and Underground Cemetery, Nagcarlan, Laguna

We've been here a few times before but it wasn't until our latest visit that we realized why this Laguna town had become a tourist destination. Besides a few attractions such as Bunga Falls and the Underground Cemetery the town has a relatively cool climate and is surrounded with plenty of lush greenery. It's an upland town located at the foot of and even including sizable portions of Mt. San Cristobal and Mt. Banahaw, both peaks providing a beautiful backdrop for the town.

Liliw: The Tsinelas Capital, A Red Church and Some Good Eats


the St. John the Baptist Church and shoes on display at a store in Liliw

In our younger years we've always associated the town of Liliw in Laguna with its cold springs called batis in the Tagalog dialect. It's the town in the region that you visit if you want a cool dip in a mountain spring during the hot summer months. In recent years however, Liliw's claim to fame has shifted. While the cool mountain springs are still there, Liliw is now widely regarded as the "tsinelas capital" of the country for its footwear-making industry. And the town has many more to offer to the unsuspecting traveler as we would discover in our visits to this place.

Sorsogon: A Wealth of Unspoiled Wonders


Subic Beach at Calintaan Island, Matnog, Sorsogon

Just like many of the destinations we've visited in recent years, the province of Sorsogon is not high on the bucket list of many travelers. Except for the now world-famous destination of Donsol and its whale sharks, Sorsogon contains a wealth of relatively unknown destinations waiting to be discovered. Its relative remoteness – lying at the southeastern end of the Bicol peninsula, and the whole island of Luzon for that matter – might have kept Sorsogon's beauty from prying eyes.

Mayon Volcano – At Long Last


view of Mayon Volcano in Cagsawa, Daraga Albay with ripened rice stalks in the foreground

As our plane was swooping in to land at Legazpi's airport we were straining our necks, trying to catch a good view of the volcano we had been seeing for decades on postcards, on travel books and even on grade school social science text books. Alas a band of clouds hid most of the upper half of Mayon – a sight that would not change as we walked away from our parked plane towards the airport terminal. It would remain that way even as we left Legazpi City that same day for the port town of Matnog, Sorsogon and its beaches.

Cool Escape to Bulusan Lake


Bulusan Lake, Sorsogon

The morning sun was playfully darting in and out of the gray cumulus clouds as we made our way on a trike up the paved highway. Upon reaching a narrow bend we made a right turn into the park's entrance. We had barely started up the two kilometers of concrete pathway leading to the park when the foliage began to get thicker. It was the edge of a rainforest, its verdant canopies shielding us from the morning sun's glistening rays. After baking in the April sun the previous day at the beaches of Matnog, this was a refreshingly radical departure.

Subic Beach: Sorsogon’s Pink Sand Wonder


the larger of the Subic Beaches, Matnog, Sorsogon

Matnog, the southernmost municipality of Luzon Island, was once described as a place where "you get a boat to go somewhere else." While it's true that this town is the jump-off point for ferries headed to Northern Samar and the rest of the Eastern Visayas, people are finding out that there is so much more to Matnog than just the gateway port it has always been. Case in point: the pink sand islands of Tikling and Calintaan and the Juag Lagoon marine sanctuary.

Siquijor: Magical Island of Fire


Salagdoong Beach, Maria, Siquijor
The Spanish called it “Isla del Fuego” (Island of Fire) for the glow caused by numerous fireflies at night. In more recent times Siquijor has become popular among locals for folk healing. More notoriously, stories about witchcraft and sorcery have added to its mystique. Some well-meaning people warned us about travel to the island but that only added to our curiosity about the place. The fact that Siquijor remains off the beaten path for the majority of local travelers further stoked our determination to visit.
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