As I am writing this down, my family and I are sitting out the torrential rains and strong winds of typhoon Usman as it traverses the Visayas area. We are in Caramoan for our much anticipated yearender trip until a hurried wake-up call from one resort staff this morning. We woke up to a flooded room and we had to sweep on every single stuff that we had, both wet and dry, to move to a higher area of the resort in about 30 mins. I wil be blogging about it soon and how it pulled-off to be a yearend surprise.
2018 was another great year of going around the Philippines. I was more organized with the scheduling of my trips this year with "big" trips happening every quarter and the shorter ones filling the in betweens. I have explored the popular ones and those that are considered off-beat, focusing more on places that I have yet to explore. I am learning to turn down the usual trips in lieu of being able to explore new spots in the country.
When I started the year, I aimed to continue exploring provinces of the country that I have yet to cover with my #GOT81 goal. I identified one province from Luzon, one from Visayas, and one from Mindanao to explore. I had Catanduanes and joining the Pahiyas Festival in my 2018 bucket list, as well.
In retrospect, I was able to accomplish 3 out of the 7 items on my travel bucket list for 2018. Batanes was impressive but it was Catanduanes that made a mark on me. Antique was really awesome because I loved the solo backpacking scene which I have not done for a long time. Although I missed out on Pagadian this year, my Siargao, Mati, and Samal Island trips (Mati and Samal blogs are still on the works) were so awesome that Mindanao is my priority for my travel bucket list for 2019.
For my year ender, I wil be sharing with you my top local destinations for 2018.
Siargao Island is my top destination for this year. The place charming and endearing that Siargao grows in you slowly. I love the unique mix of its rustic atmosphere and vibrant island party feel. You get immersed with its natural beauty and get the rush with its activities while getting your fill of gastronomic delights from a wide selection of restaurants.
Siargao grows in you. Its vibe intoxicates you that you fall in love with it, more and more each day. Going around Siargao reminds you of your summer vacations in your parents' hometown where you just watch the day pass by going around town and observe the community's afternoon runs. You smiled at everyone you meet and the favor is returned. Every now and then, someone will make a short conversation with you and you really don't mind it. You feel that you are part of the community, not just a mere visitor.
This was Siargao to me. It goes beyond getting amazed by its natural beauty or its adrenaline-pumping activities. It makes you feel that you are part of the community.
You can read on my full Siargao blog here:
#GOTOffBeat: Caramoan, Camarines Sur
Our yearender trip to Caramoan is my off-beat destination for the year because of two things - Caramoan remains to be an off-beat tourist spot despite its popularity and it also got us off beat from the usual course of travel because of what we went through.
It is amazing that despite the popularity of Caramoan, locally and internationally, it has remained an off beat spot. I was pleasantly surprised with the absence of the usual restaurants and hotels present in the "more" popular destinations. Local small businesses thrive and you can still manage to get cheaper priced goods and services. It managed to remain rustic and off-beat probably because of getting there is not a joke.
But what made our Caramoan experience unique was the experience. We signed up with a tour group that came in at a time that storm Usman was about to hit Samar that also affected in the area. Despite the weather bulletins, we managed to get to Caramoan safely on schedule and with minor changes in the itinerary. The next day we woke up to a flooded room, we had to be moved to a higher area of the resort, and we had to sit it out the rest of our second day.
By the third day, we were told that we were stranded as there were 18 landslides that needed to be cleared out along our route. It was on the same day that we realized how much damage Usman lashed out on Caramoan and its surrounding areas.
It was a different and difficult experience but we took it in stride. We even managed to squeeze in a quick tour of the area before finding our way back to Manila. We learned a thing or two which I am excited to share with you on my future blog entry about this trip.
And no worries, we will be back.
(Kudos to Kuya Joseph of Gayon Travel and Tours and the staff of Rex Garden Tourist Inn for taking care of us during the ordeal. It was not the most ideal yearend family vacation but you made the whole experience bearable, comfortable, and fun. Maraming salamat po!)
I consider my Antique trip a "lucky trip". It was initially cancelled because of personal reasons and, with sheer luck, I was able to rebook it a month later because of an airline consideration due to, again, a weather disturbance. It was also my first solo backpacking trip after a long time.
Antique was a laidback charmer. It was very rustic and peaceful. It was a perfect place to unwind and detach from the world. This was a place that gives you that sense of adventure and rewards you with real quality time for self. I like the mix where a little hiking and water adventure makes you see the beauty that lies within its province and then enjoy a soothing kawa bath or morning meditation in the midst of nature. It allows you to see, experience, and be one with nature.
In its very essence, Antique is ideal for solo travelers. The serene atmosphere that it offers is ideal for those who are soul searching or for those who just simply want to detach from the world and re-charge. There are nature activities to try out and historical sites to explore to keep you amused. And you can end your day reading a good book or just simply drowning out in music while having a hot cup of coffee.
Read more about my Antique trip here:
#GOTDiscovered: Isla Maria, Cavinti, Laguna
And of course, our 2018 will not be complete without my discovery for this year - Isla Maria in Cavinti, Laguna!
Imagine having a whole island for yourself as a vacation spot. It was one of the coolest way to spend a Christmas day-out and it is just 4 hours away from Manila. Isla Maria is a small island in Lake Lumot ideal for a weekend family trip or a company teambuilding activity. You really get value for your money that includes a short island-hopping tour of Lake Lumot, unlimited use of the kayak, and you can even go try your hand on fishing.
This is another upcoming blog that I will be sharing with you soon and I just needed to share my unique destination find for 2018. You can check out their Isla Maria's Facebook page here.
As 2018 ushers in 2019, my project #GOT81 is still in effect and I am taking on the theme of #Mindanao1 this year. My trips to Siargao, Mati, and Samal Island made me realize that I still have a lot to explore and discover in Mindanao. So for this year, Mindanao will be my priority hence the number "1". I think it is also high time that I get to show that Mindanao is a safe destination to travel coming from someone who was born in Cagayan de Oro.
So what's on my travel bucketlist this 2019?
This landlocked destination missed out on me in 2018 and word is out that it is one off-beat destination that defines locked and loaded. This is one destination that has haunted me since the time that I read about it and I am rearing to explore it.
2. Balangiga Bells
It's back and I have got to hear it. After concerted efforts, the bells of Balangiga is back in its home. This is one historical and cultural treasure that I have got to see and hear as it is a mute witness to the horrors of the American occupation.
Gear up for another backpack adventure through Mindanao this March. I am excited to explore the wonders and the colorful heritage at the heart of Mindanao. This is going to be one of my biggest trip, if not the biggest, for the year.
Again, Pagadian also missed out on me in 2018 because of a family emergency. So I am re-planning the long overdue trip and this time crossing through three other cities in the area.
5. Dinagat Island
Off-beat destinations continue to charm me and Dinagat Island fits the pack. After watching it on "Byahe ni Drew" and seeing it from above (on my way to Siargao), Dinagat Island has caught my eye. And there is only way to quench my curiousity - checking out its spot.
6. Masskara Festival
This is another festival that I have been wanting to experience. Having seen its winning group perform during the Dinagyang week, I think the festival is one celebration where I can join in the fun and the dancing. And hopefully, I will be able to do it this year.
7. Swim with the Whale Sharks in Donsol
The best way to swim with the whale sharks is to swim with them in their natural habitat without disturbing its usual course. It would be a great experience to observe these gentle creatures in the wild.
I still have a couple of blogs that I am still working on as of this writing. I hope to share them with you in the coming weeks. As we work on heading back to Manila just in time for the New Year (as we are now aboard a boat to Sabang Port), I hope you enjoyed your travels this 2018 and I hope you also enjoyed mine, as well.
And with 2019 rushing in, gear up for another exciting year of exciting adventures and misadventures. Cheers to the new year!
PS. We arrived home safely 15 minutes before 2019 ushered in.
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.