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.
(Laguna) Nang ito ay marating ko
(Laguna) Para bang ako ay nagbago
(Laguna) Kakaibang damdamin
Sampaguita (written by Gary Perez)
It's not surprising that Pinoy rock queen Sampaguita would croon over this province. With its picturesque waterfalls, hot and cold springs, attractive churches and scenic lakes, Laguna is an indubitable plethora of natural, cultural and historical gems. And with its proximity to Metro Manila, the province is a no-brainer whenever we want a quick and easy getaway from the confines of our concrete jungle.
Eons ago, Hinulugang Taktak in Antipolo, Rizal was the one waterfall we knew that was closest to the Manila metropolis. As kids we would always look forward to our visit to the Antipolo cathedral, the cashew stores and to Hinulugang Taktak, spurned on to swim in its waters by the famous local song about those falls. In the years that followed unfortunately, Hinulugang Taktak has been transformed into something closer to a cesspool, its waters polluted and filled with thrash; not so surprising since the falls are fed by a stream that runs through a densely populated municipality. (Recently however, the local government has initiated a rehabilitation of the place.) Our fascination with waterfalls in Rizal province would have ended there until we discovered Palo Alto Falls in Baras and another one in Tanay that we've heard about long before but never got to visit until very recently: Daranak Falls.
Our car was waved down by a little girl holding a handheld radio on the side of the road. Puzzled and amused we surmised that she must be the one controlling traffic on this end of the road going up the hill towards our destination. We've heard that the people here have a system in place to ensure that only one car will be on the road at any given time. Fine. But a little girl?
We've always made it a point to go on a vacation trip in December. However, the weather has grown so unpredictable lately that booking flights to distant destinations at this time of the year is a risky proposition. And typhoons that come during the month of December are among the strongest on record. That's what attracted us to Baler a quaint, remote town in the province of Aurora. Accessible by land from Metro Manila, we do not have to go through the risk of getting a flight cancelled. Baler has always been known as a surfing destination and we're not really into surfing. However, this town and its surrounding municipalities have so much more to offer besides riding the waves of the wild Pacific blue.
It might be just a 2- to 2.5-hour drive from home but the city of San Pablo, Laguna has not figured prominently on our travel radar until fairly recently. Despite passing by this city on the way to destinations in Quezon and the Bicol provinces over the years, it was just last year when we really stopped to spend time here. Our main reason? San Pablo's Seven Lakes.
In times past we've always associated Leyte with the World War 2 landing site of Gen. Douglas MacArthur. And perhaps the San Juanico Bridge which is still the longest bridge spanning a body of sea water in the Philippines. Besides those there was nothing about the island that we could associate with tourism, particularly attractive natural destinations. Fast forward several years later and we realized how much we have overlooked this province's beauty.
With a total land area of 2,444 square kilometers it is the largest city in the Philippines in terms of land area. To foreign visitors who know little about this place, its location in Mindanao instantly conjures up a red flag. But, according to the data released by the survey site Numbeo.com, Davao City is the fourth safest city in the world with a safety index of 82.06 or a crime index of 17.94. Having visited Davao several times (Nina worked there for one year before we got married) it's probably the Philippine city closest to our hearts. There are a variety of reasons why.
Just one hour away by ferry from the Davao metropolis is a tiny paradise of fine, white-sand beaches, palm-lined shores, pristine coves and dive sites containing vast coral gardens. We had originally planned on visiting Surigao del Sur after attending a conference in Davao City but with time in short supply we opted for a nearer destination instead. The main island of Samal in the Davao Gulf loomed as our first choice but eventually we cast our eyes on a more rustic and laidback setting: Talicud Island.
Whale shark watching was far from our minds when we started planning for a family outing to Dumaguete and Negros Oriental with Leo's mom, sisters and nephew. We had originally planned to go to the Twin Lakes of Balinsasayao and Danao in Sibulan and possibly the Pulang Bato Falls in Valencia in addition to the dolphin-watching tour at the Tañon Strait off Bais and the Manjuyod Sandbar. But while doing our research we realized that Oslob, Cebu is just a short ferry and bus ride away from Sibulan port in Negros Oriental. That place has been getting a lot of attention lately because of its whale shark or butanding encounters.