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.

Real, Quezon: Gateway to the Pacific

Balagbag Falls, Real, Quezon

This coastal town offers the shortest route to the Pacific Ocean from Metro Manila. It may not have white sand beaches but it offers a whole lot of other attractions – pristine waterfalls, lush forests, fast-moving rivers for white water rafting, a coastline of rugged beauty and the raging swells of the Pacific for surfing. And the food! There might not be any fancy restaurant in town but a bountiful and diverse supply of freshly caught sea food makes a trip to Real, Quezon something to look forward to.

Gumasa Beach on a Cloudy Day

coral rocks in front of Rosal Beach Resort, Gumasa Beach

The van was packed to the max when we started our trip from General Santos City. We ended up paying for an additional seat just to accommodate our backpacks. After riding in much the same fashion on a previous trip to Lake Sebu, we had begun to wonder if this trip was worth the hassle. Speeding down the almost empty highway to Glan in the province of Saranggani, however, we began to catch glimpses of picturesque Saranggani Bay. It was a cloudy day but the view unfolding before our eyes was enough to sooth our nerves and assure us that this trip would be worthwhile after all.

Lake Sebu’s Waterfalls

Hikong Bente Falls, Lake Sebu

We've seen photos of this waterfall countless times before but when we finally saw it in real life it was far more majestic. The towering falls was like a scenic magnet, beckoning and pulling you to get ever closer with each step you take. And as you get closer you begin to feel the cold spray of its pounding waters in the gentle breeze. This is Hikong Bente, a T'boli phrase translated "immeasurable." They couldn't have picked a more suitable epithet.

Lake Sebu: Beauty with Altitude

early morning scene at Lake Sebu

Feeling rested and energized on a cold December morning, we began the day waiting for our breakfast order at one of the huts along the lake shore. The morning sun was already up, its golden rays reflecting off the tranquil waters of the lake and revealing the magenta blossoms of lotus plants now fully awake in the morning light. Here and there white herons would glide over the waters and come to rest on the bamboo poles stretched out to mark the fish pens. A dugout canoe slowly glided along the placid waters, its skilled helmsman guiding the craft around patches of lotus plants. We could not have asked for a more ideal morning.

Baguio: Old Charm, New Delights

the Baguio City Cathedral

In our younger years Baguio City was the prime tourist destination for us with its pine forests and colorful flowers, charming green and white wooden structures, cool mountain air and relaxed pace. However, despite the disastrous 1990 earthquake, Baguio's urban development has speeded up in later years and when we lived and worked there briefly from 1998 to 2004 it was not the laid back mountain retreat we had known it to be. Go to Sagada was the advice we would hear from people who miss the Baguio of old (and visit Sagada we ultimately did).

Palo Alto: Waterfalls at Our Backdoor

mini cascades on the stream inside Palo Alto Leisure and Residential Estates, Baras

There's never a shortage of natural attractions that one can chill in within two to three hours from the Manila metropolis. Laguna with its waterfalls at Kalayaan, Los Baños, Nagcarlan and Majayjay (not to mention Pagsanjan and Siniloan) has always been on our travel radar for some time now. But just recently we realized we didn't even have to travel that far. There are waterfalls in Baras and Tanay, both in Rizal province, which are located even closer to Metro Manila.

Island Hopping, Guimaras

islets near SEAFDEC's Igang Marine Station in Guimaras

We had barely left the creamy white sand beach of Alubihod when we noticed that something was not quite right with our rented motorized outrigger. It was a fine Monday morning when we left Raymen's Beach Resort for our island-hopping trip, the sun was up and the waters of the Panay Gulf unusually calm during this time of the year. And yet our boat, even while equipped with a new engine, was plodding along at the majestic pace of 5 kilometers per hour. Worried, we asked our two boatmen if there was any problem. They replied that this was usually the case with the new engines but assured us that all was well.

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.

Dining Comfort at Maginhawa Street (Updated)

coffee crusted beef belly at Pino Resto Bar

It was virtually unknown as a food destination way back during my college days but in the past several years Maginhawa Street in Sikatuna Village, Quezon City has gained a reputation as a foodie's haven. We first tried a few restaurants here four years ago when it was beginning to carve a name for itself. Today the place has exploded as a dining destination with restaurants branching out into nearby streets as dining places jostle for space at the original Maginhawa Street.

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