The Philippines is a country that has a rich and colorful mix of culture and traditions. From the Ivatan up north down to the Muslims in the south, we are treated to a variety of interesting beliefs and practices that give us the different facets of being a Filipino. We get to see our common practices and understand the uniqueness of the place and its people.
Every corner of the Philippines showcases its rich culture, tradition, and heritage.
Sa virtual byahe natin this week, let me share with you 7 Philippine destinations that I have visited and experienced their unique culture. These places stand out, not only for the beauty of the place, but for the amazing community vibe and tradition that complete the travel experience. These are destinations where the community and their interaction leave a lasting impression to their visitors.
Humility is one community trait that will leave a huge impression on you when you leave Batanes. The simple living and the sense of community of the Ivatan people complements the sheer natural beauty of the place. The province is a complete package for its natural beauty and the strong cultural connection among its locals.
Batanes is the northernmost province of the country and is always in the Philippine bucket list of both local and foreign travelers. It’s beautiful rolling hills, lighthouses, and rugged coastlines are like scenes from movies. The rustic views of the province complement the laidback vibe of the community. Time stops here in Batanes. Guests find themselves experiencing how mutual respect and understanding make a better community. The value of honesty is valued here that this is where you will find the famous Honesty Store that has already become an attraction in itself. Imagine that we have become totally amazed with the value of honestly that it has become an attraction!
The meek Ivatan culture is very much alive in the province. It was like I was transported back in time with their stone houses and the simple lives of the locals. Batanes was able to keep its culture and traditions safe from outside influence that it remains alive and vibrant in the communities.
Read about my Batanes travel here: #GOT81: Dios Mamajes, Batanes (Part 1)
#GOT81: Dios Mamajes, Batanes (Part 2)
#GOT81: Dios Mamajes, Batanes (Part 3)
#GOT81Batanes Pahabol: Pitong Must Do sa Basco
Just right across Batanes via the Luzon Strait is another island that has captured my heart because of its close-knit community - Babuyan Claro. A trip to the island is not for the faint hearted as it entails a grueling 8-hour boat ride through rough waters from Sta. Ana in Cagayan. The island has managed to keep its distance from outside influences but has retained the strong community spirit among its locals.
Babuyan Claro is not as spectacular as its neighboring islands in terms of its attractions. Its main attraction is the Smith Volcano that towers over the whole island. The bolcano also serves as the boatman’s guide when traveling to the island. It does not have the usual sandy beaches that most travelers enjoy. It is rugged, untouched, and works on its own charm.
One thing that stood out for me during our trip to Babuyan Claro was their humility, sense of community, and their warm hospitality. We were treated like a family from the time that we arrived until we left the island. They had an amazing practice that the whole village walks with their guests to the beachfront to bade them a safe journey back to the mainland. If I were to be marooned on an island, I’d prefer to be marooned with the locals of Babuyan Claro.
Read about my Babuyan Claro travel experience here: #JournalsOfTheTravelingDaDa: Roughing Out Loud, Babuyan
Long before the hit movie made Sagada a popular destination among mainstream travelers, this mountain destination has been making its rounds among off-beat travelers. It was a place where you can find solace and comfort in the arms of nature and its community. It was THE place to go to for those who want to do some soul searching.
It is very easy to fall in love with Sagada. The breathtaking views of nature, the rich culture and traditions that one gets immersed in, and the local community vibe make Sagada a worthy travel spot. It does not conform with its guests but it is the other way around. Each attraction has a story to tell and demands utter respect, from its visitors, to these stories and traditions. One needs to be respectful of their way of life to get the full Sagada experience.
One thing that I love with Sagada is that it did not bend its knees to its renewed popularity. The locals maintained their daily churn without having to adjust too much to the influx of tourists. It was able to preserve its old charm
that Sagada was known for - a small town where you can enjoy a day or two of finding your inner peace.
Read about my Sagada travel experience here: #GOT81MountainProvince: Sagada In Its True Form
The old houses of Taal speak of its colorful history and rich traditions. It is a town where you walk through its streets and be transported back to the time when the rich and the landed Batanguenos lived in their beautiful “bahay-na-bato”. The whole town is a beauty as the past is perfectly merged with its present.
Exploring the town of Taal is like being transported back in time. It gives you a glimpse of the lavish lifestyle of the rich and their interesting, sometimes peculiar, daily routine. The Spanish influence is very much alive with how these houses were designed inside and out. Yes, you can explore the interior of some of these old houses, even spend a night, that they have kept pretty much close to its original design. Interestingly, some of these houses were the homes of prominent Filipino revolutionaries who raged war against Spain.
Unlike Vigan, Taal’s heritage houses are not confined in one area. Almost every corner of the town has a house that has a history to share. You walk around and you get that old town vibe. The town has successfully managed to bring together the old and the new while retaining the glory of its colorful past.
Read about my Taal town travel experience here: Walking The Streets of Taal (The 11th of My 15 in 2015)
You might be wondering why a city like Cebu is included on this list. Well, I have said it before that I love this city for having that unique mix of urban and rural vibe. It has never changed through the years despite the development that the city has gone through. Cebu City has managed to keep its rich history and tradition in small pockets within its urban maze.
If there was one thing that makes this city stand out, it is their unwavering faith to the Santo Nino. It goes beyond their annual January celebration of the Sinulog. I have always looked forward to visiting the Basilica Minore del Santo Nino de Cebu just to feel the tremendous faith of the Cebuanos. The way they profess their faith is simply admirable.
While in Cebu, take the time to explore the city’s historical sites to understand how faith and Christianity molded the city to what it is now. Breathe in the mix of city and rural vibe. It is very different and charming that it would make you fall in love with Cebu. It is the only city in the country that has this unique feel. It is hard to explain because Cebu City makes you feel it.
Read about my Cebu City travel experience here: Explore Cebu City (The 2nd Part of Our Cebu Instaviaje)
Mystic and enchanting are two words that I would use to describe the island province of Siquijor. It is an unassuming destination that blends its natural beauty and “interesting” anecdotes. For those who are not familiar, this island is known for its mysterious stories and practices often associated with witchcraft and black magic.
Siquijor is a charmer and there’s no magic involved in the process. Its natural beauty and historical sites will make you fall in love with the island. You get treated to a relaxing fish spa under a century-old Balete tree and you get a natural high by jumping off a swing into the base of one of the cascades of Cambugahay Falls. You get to be amazed by its century-old churches and a bit creeped out by the image of Mother Mary holding a skull. And then, there is the story about the island’s “mambabarang”, people who practice black magic. They are believed to be non-traditional healers and they can mix up a potion that can have one fall madly in love with you. They say that you usually find them living in the mountains.
Siquijor is the other side of Cebu. This is where you can have a close encounter with a person whose faith go beyond the usual religious practices. Most of us would find it weird but it is another facet to our being Filipino as these practices go beyond the Spanish-period. You visit Siquijor with an open-mind because that is the only way that you will get to enjoy the ride.
Read about my Siquijor travel experience here: De-mystifying Siquijor
Lake S’bu, South Cotabato
The serene atmosphere of Lake S’bu make it an ideal destination where you could disconnect from one’s busy city life to reconnect with nature and oneself. The laidback vibe gives you that sense of time stopping to allow you to breathe in and enjoy the moment. It allows you see the beauty in the small things - from the blooming of its pink lotus to feeling the cold waters of their amazing waterfalls running over your feet.
But beyond the beauty of nature is their amazing and colorful culture and tradition. In the T’boli’s ancestral domain, everything revolves around the strong connection between man and nature. Everything done is seen with respect to maintaining the harmony among locals and the world that they live in. There is a story behind everything that they do and the things they create.
The T’boli dream weavers are fascinating to watch as they create their masterpieces. These indigenous art forms are not just clothes but are fabrics that tell their story. Each design is “given” to the visionary through a dream. Materials are delicately prepared that could take weeks or months of preparation before the weavers could start working on translating the dream into these unique fabrics. Again, these dreams speak of the strong connection of man and nature that Lake S’bu allows you to indulge in.
Read about my Lake S’bu travel experience here: #Mindanao1: Lake Bloomers of S'bu
POST TRAVEL NOTES
The Philippines is a country with diverse cultures and traditions. It is not surprising because of the different geographical groups that has its own brand, identity, and way of life. These practices are often influenced by their location, community, beliefs, and outside influences. There are similarities, differences, and, at some point, a fusing of these practices. These 7 destinations stand out to me not only for their amazing attractions but more for their colorful and rich culture. It makes you see beyond the sights. It gives you the opportunity to focus on what’s within and the stories passed on for centuries.
Traveling around the country will give you a glimpse of our amazing diversity. Our traditions, culture, and dialect may vary from region to region but it is in our similarities and difference that we find the beauty of being a Filipino. Every province provides us with a different facet that make us understand how our being Filipino make us a unique race. Explore Pinas and stand proud!
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.