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!
Art spaces are interesting destinations that you can explore to appreciate creativity and allow your own to flow. These spaces give you the opportunity to peek into the minds of Filipino artists - how they see their time in their own unique style. Like they say, art imitates life.
Filipinos are known for our artistry so it is not a surprise to find art spaces in most parts of our country. This can come in different forms, from art galleries to local art stores, that showcase the artworks of local talents. We are still going in and around the metro this week to discover interesting art spaces that will spark your own creativity.
Art In Island, Cubao, Quezon City
Tucked in the glitz and glamour of Araneta Center is an interactive art space that puts everyone into a creative vibe. Art In Island has about 200 pieces of 3D art masterpieces that you get to enjoy posing in. Yes, the gallery encourages you to be part of the art as you click your cameras into action.
This art space stands out from my selection because of its interactive nature. The effectiveness of the artworks come from a combination of the pieces and how the guests play around with it. This is a place where creativity in both art and drama are combined to get the best effect. In this art space, your cameras are your weapons for your creative output.
Art In Island is not a place where you come in and appreciate Filipino artworks. The museum is a space that celebrates Filipino creativity as a viewer and how you interact with the pieces. It was meant to tap into our love for mobile photography and social media. It is one spot where adults and kids can be both kids at the same time.
You can check out my travel blog on Art Island here: Journals of the Traveling DaDa: Playing Around With Art
Getting there: You can take the MRT or LRT and go down at the Cubao/Gateway Station. You can walk going to Cubao Expo. Art InIsland is behind Cubao Expo and there is a side street that connects the two.
Pinto Art Museum, Antipolo City
From Quezon City, let us head off to the slightly cooler weather of Antipolo to explore one of the first art spaces that made it big among travelers and socmed users - the Pinto Art Museum. This quaint art space remains to be a popular destination for its wide collection of contemporary art pieces, its serene and peaceful vibe, and its “photogenic” spaces that is perfect for your instagram posts. This art space is a perfect spot to explore and enjoy on a lazy afternoon weekend.
The Pinto Art Museum is a repository of art collections by a doctor who is passionate with the artworks. What started out as a hobby in the late 60’s, he was able to amass a collection that was able to, literally, fill out a house to the brim. The arthouse explodes with creativity as soon as you walk in with its manicured lawns and well-curated galleries, matched by its serene atmosphere. Every corner is photogenic that you would get your creativity flowing for that IG-perfect shot.
Interestingly, social media has contributed much to the popularity of Pinto Art Museum eapecially among the younger generation. The aesthetics and its collections have caught the creative eye of socmed users. The art space allows them to be creative in their own way.
You can check out my travel blog on Antipolo here: #ByahengFX: The Suburban Haven of Antipolo
Getting there: You can take a van from Cubao, Galleria, or Starmall for Antipolo. You can go down at the Ynares Center where you can take a trike to Pinto Art Museum.
Art Sector, Binangonan, Rizal
Art Sector is the latest art space that is making its rounds among local travelers and social media users. The gallery and cafe, conveniently located along the hillside of Binagonan in Rizal, is one of the best places to catch the sunset. It has a great panoramic view of Manila and its surrounding areas and this is one of the reasons why people flock to the place.
Art Sector is the another art space by the man behind the success of the Pinto Art Museum. It is not surprising to find aesthetic similarities between the two galleries. The only difference is that Pinto Art Museum is more of an art gallery while Art Sector is more of a cafe/event space. Nevertheless, this art space can give you quite a fill of artistry.
The multi-level art space is an attraction in itself. The structure was built to adapt to the rocky features of the Binangonan’s hillside. Most of the contemporary artworks on display at Art Sector adorn its walls since its open spaces serve as lounging and dining areas of its guests. One is treated with the different creative outputs of local artists from astronaut renditions as soon as you enter the place to a medusa-like art piece in one of its nooks.
The gallery/cafe has a lot of viewing decks. It’s rooftop offers a 360-degree view of Manila and Rizal. It has its own cafe that offers refreshments and snacks when you finally decide to slow down as you prepare to watch the beauty of the Manila sunset. With its artistry-on-display, the amazing views, and its “instagrammability”, it is not surprising that Art Sector is creating a buzz.
Getting there: One can take a van to Binagonan/Angono from Cubao, Galleria, or Starmall Edsa Crossing. Ask the driver to drop you off at the Scrapyard Cafe along Manila East Road. You can hire a habal-habal at the 711 store across the Scrapyard Cafe to bring you to Art Sector.
Museo Orlina, Tagaytay City
There seems to be a connection with cooler weather and creativity. From the hills of Rizal, we now proceed to Tagaytay City to enjoy its cool weather and the art pieces at Museo Orlina.
The museum features glass art pieces of Ramon Orlina.
Museo Orlina is an art space that features the pieces made by Ramon Orlina, the artist that pioneered glass sculptures in the country. The works on display showcase the artist’s play and command on glass and how he molds it into elegant art pieces combined with other element like light and metal. His works put glass in a creative light as a means of expression beyond the usual way that we use glass.
Museo Orlina has a few installations that will catch your attention. The old cars as a canvass for self-expression stand out among these art pieces. The gallery also offers an amazing view of Taal Volcano giving you a different Tagaytay experience.
Getting there: You can take a bus from PITX to Tagaytay and asked to be dropped off the Tagaytay Rotonda where you can take a jeep headed to the Tagaytay Picnic Grove. Ask to be dropped of the Tagaytay-Sta. Rosa Junction. Alternatively, you can take a Nasugbu-bound near the MRT Taft Station. The driver can drop you off at the Tagaytay-Sta. Rosa Junction. From the junction, the art space is a few minutes walk through the access road beside Lapid’s Chicharon.
Puzzle Mansion, Tagaytay City
Another unique attraction that you can visit in Tagaytay City is the Puzzle Mansion. It is not the usual art spot where you get to see original pieces by local artists but it is a space where creativity and a great deal of patience merge. The mansion is home of around 1500 puzzles carefully assembled by Georgina Gil-Lacuna, a feat that has earned her the Guinness World Book of Records for having the most number of jigsaw puzzle collection.
The family rest house was converted in 2011 to become the repository of the puzzle collections. It is a art space where you can browse through hundreds of puzzles in 2D, 3D, and 4D in different forms and sizes. You will be impressed with puzzle replicas of artworks of Van Gogh, Michaelangelo, Da Vinci, Monet, and Picasso that was carefully assembled by the collector.
Again, the Puzzle Mansion is not your typical art space. The re-creation of these art pieces in a meticulous way is an art in itself. It is a great place to explore that brings creativity to a different level.
Getting there: You can take a bus or van headed for Nasugbu. Ask the driver to drop you off at the Tagaytay-Mendez junction where you can take a trike to Puzzle Mansion.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
Art is a vibrant element of Filipino society. It allows us to express our thoughts and ideas in different forms - through our own artworks or our interaction with art. It is interesting how much character we can churn out given our weapon of choice for our creative outputs. It can be the drama that we put in on the photos with these artworks or the patience to re-create another. Creativity, no doubt, has a strong hold in the Filipino psyche.
As most of our movement remain limited, there are a lot of “travel opportunities” that we can do at this time. Take the time to walk or bike around and explore your hometown. Share your unique and interesting finds that kind of surprised you that you have in your place. Who knows... you might be able to discover the next art space that will soon be making its rounds on social media.
Filipinos are a creative bunch. We have made a mark in the world with our innate creativity whether in visual arts, theater, movement, movies, and music. Our artistry naturally flows through and flood all of our five senses. So, it is not surprising that we can appreciate art and we can imitate life through arts.
For this week’s travel log, we will be going in and around Metro Manila to explore some of its visual art spaces. This covers popular spots frequently visited by social media users to humble artist’s homes turned into art galleries. This is the time where we get to relax, appreciate Filipino creativity, and learn to let loose our own creativity.
National Art Gallery, Ermita, Manila
The National Art Gallery is one of the four museums in the National Museum corridor in Manila. The building, where the gallery is located, is a historical landmark that witnessed the inauguration of President Quezon and the destruction of Manila during the country’s liberation from the Japanese forces. Originally designed as a public library, the re-constructed building housed the legislative branch of the government until 1996 but it was only in 2003 that the building was transformed to the country’s National Art Gallery.
The National Gallery is a repository of visual art works from renowned Filipino artists from the 17th to the 21st century. The collections include religious wooden sculptures from the 17the century, famous art pieces of Luna, Hidalgo, Tampinco, Francisco, Amorsolo, Tolentino, and other Filipino greats, and a gallery honoring Dr. Jose Rizal. It is the home of Juan Luna’s “Spolarium”, the largest painting in the country, that earned a gold medal in the Exposición Nacional de Bellas Artes in 1884.
The art space gives it visitors a 360-degree view of how Filipino artistry evolved through the centuries. It gave us a preview of how life was back then and the artist’s perspective at the time that it was commissioned. These artworks brought to life our colorful history and Filipino creativity.
Getting there: The National Art Gallery is along Padre Burgos Drive in Ermita, Manila. You can take the LRT Line 1 and go down at UN Avenue Station. The museum is a 10-minute walk from the station.
Angel Cacnio Gallery, Don Bautista Boulevard, Malabon
“Explore Manila” was a project that I started 5 years ago that aimed to explore the cities and lone municipality of Metro Manila. Little did I know that it paved the way for me to meet and be personally toured in his humble home/gallery by a great Filipino artist from Malabon, Angel Cacnio. The “surprise visit” turned out to be an hour of warm hospitality and shared stories by the artists as he gladly showed us the artworks made by him and his family.
A graduate of the UP College of Fine Arts, Angel Cacnio is the multi-awarded artists whose Php20 and Php100 bill designs were once in circulation. The artworks on display is a collection of his paintings, the artworks of his children, and the personal art collection of his wife, Amelia Cacnio, from other Malabon artists. His works have been widely recognized that he proudly showed us the recognitions and citations given to him by different organizations including the Gintong Parangal ng Malabon (1981) and the Gintong Ama for Arts and Culture (1996).
A visit to the Angel Cacnio Gallery needs to be coordinated with the Malabon City Tourism Office. We were lucky that he gladly entertained us when we visited his gallery unannounced. Again, his warm hospitality and humility made the visit to his gallery a memorable one for us.
You can also read my Malabon travel blog here: Explore Malabon!
Getting there: You can coordinate with the tourism office of Malabon City as visits are by appointment. The city has tricycle city tours that include the Angel Cacnio Gallery in the itinerary.
Gateway Gallery, Cubao, Quezon City
Located at the 5th level of the Gateway Mall in Araneta Center, the Gateway Gallery is an art museum that proudly outlines the rich history of the Philippines. It was a project that was launched in 2015 that fuses creativity and history.
The “Sining Saysay: Philippine History in Art” is a joint project of Araneta Center and the University of the Philippines. The exhibit has 30 artworks on display that depicts the different periods of Philippine history, from its pre-historic beginnings to the present-day Philippines. The artworks provide a visual representation of our colorful past that could easily connect with the younger generation of Filipinos. It provides visual marks of important milestones as a country and features past Philippine Presidents and their important contributions to nation-building.
The gallery is a good break from the usual humdrum of mall visits. It is a good opportunity to introduce kids and teens to visual arts while learning a thing or two about our country’s history. It is hitting two-birds with one stone - exploring one’s creativity and learning to be proud of our Filipino heritage.
You can read on my Quezon City travel blog here: Explore Quezon City!
Getting there: You can take the MRT or LRT and go down at Cubao/Araneta Station where you walk to the Gateway Mall. The Gateway Gallery is at the 5th Level of the mall.
Vargas Museum, UP Diliman, Quezon City
Located inside the serene campus of UP Diliman, the Vargas Museum is an unassuming art space in Quezon City. I guess it is safe to say that the whole UP Diliman Campus is an unassuming art space to start with. The museum stands in honor of the esteemed Jorge B. Vargas who entrusted the university his personal collections and memorabilia that are now on display at the museum.
The Vargas Museum is the repository of the Vargas’ collection of stamps, coins, artworks, and personal effects. Apart from these personal collections, the museum is also popular for its own collection of art pieces from Filpino greats like Juan Luna and Fernando Amorsolo. The art space also features the works of Filipino artists with their own kind of creativity.
The charm of Vargas Museum goes beyond its walls. The serene vibe of UP Diliman make the experience conducive to learning and creativity. It is a great place to visit if you are looking for a relaxed afternoon where you just want some peace and quiet.
Getting there: You can take a bus for Fairview and ask to be dropped off at Philcoa where you can take a UP-Philcoa jeep. Please ask the driver to drop you off at the Vargas Museum.
Yuchengco Museum, RCBC Plaza, Makati City
The Yuchengco Museum is one art space that you should not miss out when you find yourself in Makati. The museum is a repository, an art gallery, and a dedicated space that honors Jose Rizal. It is the repository of the family’s heirloom and the personal effects of the esteemed Ambassador Yuchengco from his years of government service. The museum also has an extensive collection of memorabilia that gives us a glimpse of Jose Rizal’s life. A gallery is solely dedicated to the great Filipino hero.
Not to be missed out are the visual artworks on display that includes paintings, sculptures, and architectural photographs. The museum has a wide collection of Amorsolo paintings, depicting rural life, in its main gallery. The second level gallery features artworks from prominent artists with a more modern approach in visual artists. A separate gallery was set for photographs of prominent architectural structures in the country designed by prominent architects of the country. One of its main attractions is its floating zen piece that had me appreciating it in awe.
The Yuchengco Museum is an interesting art space to explore. It does not overwhelm you but allows you to enjoy the space at your own pace. It gives you a good 60-minute walkthrough where you get to indulge yourself with a balance of history and creativity.
Read about my Makati City travel blog here: Explore Makati!
Getting there: You can take a bus headed for Gil Puyat via Ayala and ask the driver to drop you off near the RCBC Plaza. You can also take the MRT and go down at Ayala Station where you can take a jeep with the signboard “Washington”. You can ask the driver to drop you off at the RCBC Plaza.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
Filipinos have a cool knack towards creative outputs. It is not surprising to find Filipino artistry on display in almost every corner of the country - from jeepney designs to wall murals or graffiti to our neighborhood karaoke joints. We are not afraid to express our creativity in whatever way that we can.
It does not come as a surprise, as well, that Filipino talent will always find its way to different art spaces. These galleries, whether home grown or institutionalized, provide us with a glimpse of an artist’s mind and how he sees society and the world. It fuses artistry and history to create a heritage that is uniquely Filipino. Again, take the time to explore these art spaces and appreciate these artworks that will make you a proud Pinoy!
Travelers and riders would all agree that this municipality, east of Manila, is a spot-on destination for people who love the outdoors. Whether you are out in search for a quick day trip spot or you are out looking for a weekend escape, one can never go wrong with its wide selection of choices to explore and enjoy. This week we are traveling east for my #ByahengFX series to rough it out in Tanay, Rizal.
Founded in 1606, Monte de Tan-ay is now a first class municipality that has fast become an eco-tourism destination. Its proximity to Manila and its amazing natural attractions make it an easy and accessible choice for a quick breather away from the stress of the metro. The rugged terrains of the Sierra Madre give travelers different adventure options that allow one to commune with nature while the provincial vibe of the town slows down the pace to a relaxing rhythm.
Daraitan and Tinipak River
If you want to rough it out with nature in Tanay, Daraitan is the first spot to check out. Nestled along the Sierra Madre mountain ranges, this rustic destination gives you that relaxing provincial vibe and an amazing nature escape. The great thing about it is that it is only an hour or two away from the metro.
I remember my first time in Daraitan was a day trip to discover and explore the famous limestone formations of Tinipak River. It is about an hour of easy hike from the town along the banks of the river. The white rock formations were an amazing sight to see and the quick dip in the cold waters of Tinipak River was our reward for our hike. Of course, one should not miss out on exploring Tinipak Cave and enjoy the fresh mountain water making its way to the surface. You can read about the experience by clicking on this link: Tinipak River.
Tucked comfortably along the side of Mount Daraitan, Kuta Bungliw is a camping resort that offers an amazing overlooking view of Daraitan. The resort gives you an honest-to-goodness camping experience that allows you to commune with nature, relax and enjoy the peaceful ambiance, and disconnect with the metro’s buzz. This is a great weekend spot where you can enjoy hours and hours of uninterrupted serenity while reading a book and sipping coffee. Click on this link to read on my full adventure: Kuta Bungliw.
This rugged part of Tanay is a great place to disconnect with our busy city life and connect with nature. It offers a lot of physically challenging activities that leaves you a bit tired but totally re-charged in mind, body, and spirit. Daraitan gives you that breathing space in the midst of its amazing natural beauty.
Getting there: You can take a jeep bound for Sampaloc, Tanay at Cogeo Market. The scenic trip takes around an hour. You can take a tricycle from Sampaloc to Daraitan.
The Regina Rosarii Institute for Contemplation in Asia is a sprawling pilgrimage site in Sampaloc, Tanay. It is popular for its 71-foot image of the Our Lady of the Holy Rosary that sits atop a hill that overlooks its 13-hectare compound. It is a popular pilgrimage site of faithful Catholics during the Holy Week celebration in the Philippines.
We managed to make a quick stop at Regina RICA and one could really feel its air of solemnity when you go walk around the place. We climbed up the 308 steps to the shrine where a small chapel is located where you can offer prayers and candles. The shrine also offers an amazing view of the Sierra Madre and the areas surrounding the shrine. The faithful can also walk thru its Way of the Cross culminating with a short prayer inside it chapel.
Getting there: From Daraitan, you can take a tricycle to Regina RICA.
Daranak Falls is another popular destination in Tanay. Nestled at the foot of the mountains of the municipality, one will be charmed by the beauty and breadth of its 14-meter high cascade. The cold waters drop into a deep jade-colored basin where one can take a dip and enjoy the fresh spring waters. The surrounding lush green vegetation completes the rustic vibe of the waterfalls.
Daranak Falls is a popular summer escape among local residents in Rizal. The cold waters of the falls provide a quick relief from the heat especially during the summer. But despite the crowd, one can easily find his or ber own spot where you can enjoy the unadulterated sights and sounds of Daranak Falls.
A short trail hike from Daranak Falls will bring you to the smaller and equally beautiful Batlag Falls. Unlike the first waterfall, Batlag has two cascades that stand adjacent to each other. The waterfall is located in a forest clearing surrounded by a more dense vegetation giving it a more mystical vibe.
Batlag Falls exude a different personality. Exploring its grounds is like walking around the set of a fairytale movie where you are in a middle of thick forest. The waters of the falls run down in smaller cascades creating small puddles along its path. The sun’s rays break into the forest cover giving it an eerily beautiful ambiance. Batlag Falls get a fewer number of visitors, probably because it charges a separate and higher entrance fee compared to Daranak Falls, but the lesser crowd allows its guests to fully enjoy communing with nature.
Local folklore shares that Calinawan Cave got its name because it is the place where the Americans and Japanese settled their differences or in local Filipino phrase “nagkaroon ng linaw”. The story outlines the significant role played by the cave in local and Philippine history. The cave, including the adjacent Rawang Pass, was the stronghold of Filipino revolutionaries in the fight for our freedom. It also served as a sanctuary for local residents and guerilla fighters during the Japanese occupation.
Beyond its historical value, Calinawan Cave is nature’s handiwork. The rock formations, stalagmites, and stalactites found inside its chambers are nature’s gifts to admire. Its beauty has attracted local tourists that even local tv and production units have used the cave as location sets for their shows. Unfortunately, some of these productions have left some permanent damage on some parts of its chambers.
The cave system of Calinawan remains unexplored. Locals claim that the cave complex reaches up to Pililia and Baras but this still remains to be verified. One thing is true though, Calinawan Cave is a melting pot of nature’s beauty and Philippines’ colorful history.
Getting there: From Regina RICA, you can take a tricycle to the jeepney stop for Tanay Bayan. You take the jeep bound for Tanay and ask the driver to drop you off at the junction of Daranak Falls Road. You can hire a tricycle from here to bring you to Daranak Falls and Calinawan Cave.
Simbahan ng Tanay
Declared as a National Cultural Treasure in 2001, the Saint Ildefonsus of Toledo Parish Church, or Tanay Church, is the 2nd oldest church in the province of Rizal. The present structure was completed in 1783 after the first stone church was destroyed by natural calamities. The church now stands as a testament of Tanay’s faith and colorful history.
The church’s three-tiered retablo is the main highlight of its interior. An image of St. Ildefonso stands as the main centerpiece of the main retablo. Two smaller retablos flank the altar. The walls of the church are adorned by 14 carvings that depict scenes from the Stations of the Cross. These carvings ate unique as local artists of Tanay infused local and native cultures in making these artworks. The Station of the Cross is considered to be one the beautiful pieces in Asia.
The Tanay Church is also the home of a bone relic of St. Ildefonso. The relic was given to the church when it celebrated its 400 years as a church in 2006. The piece of St. Ildefonso’s spine is considered to be huge blessing for Tanay’s Catholic community.
Getting there: From the junction of Daranak Falls Road, you can take a jeep bound for Tanay Bayan. At the jeepney stop, you can take a tricycle to the church.
Built in the 1960s, the Tanay Lighthouse serves as a guiding beacon to local fisherman who sail along Laguna de Bay. The lighthouse, that sits along the banks of the lake, provide a panoramic view of the lake and its surrounding areas. It is a favorite afternoon spot by locals to unwind after a full day of work.
The best time to visit the Tanay Parola is during the late afternoon as it provides an awesome view of the setting sun. You would enjoy watching the sky turn into different color hues as the sun slowly disappears behind the mountain ranges on the other side of the lake. You also get to see locals wrap up their daily grind as some of them would be heading back home, aboard their boats, in some other part of Laguna de Bay. This is a perfect spot to wrap up a weekend adventure in Tanay, Rizal.
Getting there: You can hail a tricycle and you can ask the driver to bring you to the Tanay Parola.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
I have witnessed how Tanay, through the years, have emerged as a prime eco-tourism destination from a sleepy old town in Rizal. It was once an off-beat spot that attracted only mountaineers and the adventurous. It slowly evolved into a tourism buzz word that always had something new and different to offer to any kind of traveler. Be it a day hike, an overnight camping experience, a biking destination, or even cloud spotting; the municipality opened its doors to those wanting an easy escape from the humdrum of the city life. Just an hour or two away from the city, Tanay gave us a sanctuary to run to when we need to get refreshed and re-energized.
As an advocate of local travel in an age of social media, I believe that it only takes one photograph to put one destination in the spotlight. I have witnessed these countless times where off-beat travelers share an off-beat experience and then, in a span of a year or two, the destination becomes the “thing” among local travel enthusiasts. The Philippines still has a lot of destinations for us to unravel and to share to the world. I hope that after the COVID19 crisis, another destination will be “unraveled” to become the beacon of hope for our country’s tourism front.
Getting there: You can take an FX van to Tanay at Starmalls Crossings in Mandaluyong. The trip is about an hour to three hours depending on the traffic. From the Tanay Town Proper, you can hire a tricycle to tour you around.
The COVID19 health crisis cancelled summer here in the Philippines. Except for those living by the beach or the mountains, all of us had to endure the summer heat inside our homes. I personally had to make-do with setting up my hammock by our porch just to get a semblance of a summer vibe while on quarantine. Social media was abuzz with throwback pictures and with hopeful rants of wanting to hit the beach. And just like that summer was over.
As the rains are now slowly giving us the cooler weather and the quarantine slowly easing out, I am pretty sure that a lot of us are now starting to look into a “quarantine relief”. Most of us are probably checking out where we can go for a safe break after we are allowed to do leisure trips. The good thing about the Philippines is that we have destinations that can cover any season. Simplehan na lang natin... let me share with you seven Philippine destinations on my list that is worth exploring, rain or shine.
Imagine yourself walking along a cobblestone street and surrounded by Spanish-period houses, under a light drizzle. Dramatic, right? That is exactly the vibe that Calle Crisologo in Vigan can offer to its guests.
Vigan is an icon-city in the Ilocos region. It is a popular destination known for its well-preserved century-old “bahay-na-bato” that falls under the UNESCO Heritage Site. Guests would definitely enjoy walking down history as they explore these old houses in this once affluent district. But its rich history is not just confined in Calle Crisologo. You will find pockets of historical, as well as interesting spots, when you explore the city and its surrounding areas.
The city is also a popular destination for food lovers. One can enjoy the rich taste of Ilocos empanada and miki noodles just right beside the Vigan Church. Of course, you should not forget to bring home with you some Vigan longganiza, bagnet, and bibingka.
Read about my Vigan trip by clicking here: Vigan City
Baguio City is an all-season favorite of travelers. With an elevation of 1470 meters above sea level, the City of Pines boasts of a cool weather and rustic natural beauty. People visit the city to escape the sizzling heat during summer and head up there to enjoy the cold mornings during the Christmas season. But the city takes on a different personality during the rainy season where you get to enjoy a warm cup of coffee while watching the drizzle and the fog envelope the city.
History and creativity blends perfectly well in Baguio. Apart from the popular tourist spots in the city, it has a lot of pocket destinations that showcase either its rich history or its local artistry. Session road transforms itself every Sunday as a venue for creativity for its local artists and those who try to be one. Cafes and restaurants also double up as art spaces where you can enjoy a nice meal and getting a fill of local art pieces.
Baguio still has a long way to go in its efforts of reviving its former glory as urban development had taken over much of the city. Although it may not have that pine tree scent smell that I have associated the city with during my formative years, it has maintained its old charm and has become a hub for local artists and their work. It has gone beyond its usual tourism sights and sounds but has evolved to offer something new in its old charming ways.
Read about my Baguio trip by clicking here: Baguio City
If you are looking for a quick beach break, Zambales is one destination that you should check out. The long coastal stretch on the western side of the Philippines have a lot of beach spots to offer to any kind of traveler. From gray sand to cream colored sand, from beach coves to sand bars, the province has got one for you to enjoy.
Zambales’ beach spot destinations have different personalities to explore and enjoy. Silanguin Cove in San Antonio is serene and peaceful. You can enjoy the wind whistling while cooling off with the gentle waves of its waters. Liwliwa is very rustic and homey where surfers and off-beat travelers converge. Here everyone is a friend. Crystal Beach, on the other side, is the sassy and upbeat spot. It appeals more to the younger crowd because of its IG-worthy spots and charming appeal. Potipot Island on the northern part of the province is a crowd favorite for its cream-colored sandy shores. You get to enjoy its island vibe.
Zambales is definitely a good choice for a quick break. You get to enjoy the sun, sand, and sea depending on your weekend mood. And even with a little rain, you can always snuggle up to enjoy a cool and wet weather by the beach.
Click on the destination to read up on my travel: Silanguin Cove, Liwliwa, Potipot Island, Crystal Beach
The cold weather has a unique appeal among Filipinos. So it is not a surprise that Tagaytay City in Cavite is an easy favorite among metro residents for a day or weekend trip. Its cooler temperature, amazing views of Taal Volcano, and its gastronomical spots make it an appealing destination whether its sunny or rainy.
Tagaytay City has a lot to offer. Its main tourist draw is its amazing views of the world’s smallest volcano from the ridge where the city stands. Different view decks in the city offer a different look of Taal. Its cool weather and laidback vibe give the city a serene atmosphere that religious destinations are part and parcel of every Tagaytay trip. And of course, getting your tummy filled in the city is a definite must. The city can give you a nice meal with an amazing view to keep all yours senses satisfied.
The city is a perfect spot to cool off during the summer and to sip a warm bulalo soup during the rainy season. Its close proximity to the metro, its attractions, and appetizing menu offers make it a favorite spot for Metro Manila residents. Tagaytay’s charm pulls off as an all-year rounder destination.
Read about my Tagaytay trip by clicking here: Tagaytay City
San Pablo City
Just two hours away from Manila, this quaint little city offers an interesting provincial vibe and a unique encounter with nature. San Pablo City is popular for its seven lakes that you can actually trek and/or explore in a day. What is great about the experience is that you get to enjoy these spots for free.
The seven lakes of San Pablo are believed to be craters of ancient volcanos. These lakes have been a source of livelihood for locals and have been an attraction for tourists. Sampaloc Lake, the biggest, is the most accessible and is located just right behind the city hall. Pandin Lake is the most developed in terms of tourism efforts. The locals have already organized themselves to offer scenic raft rides on its still waters while enjoying a sumptuous meal. Interestingly, the ladies of the community are the ones who navigate the raft along Pandin Lake.
Another attraction worth checking out in San Pablo is the infamous Villa Escudero. The 415-hectare coconut plantation was developed into a farm resort that showcases the beauty of Filipino culture. A museum, a heritage house, and a Filipino cultural show are the main attractions of the farm resort. But its biggest draw is the experience of having to eat lunch the Filipino way beside their dam with your feet submerged in water. It is definitely an unforgettable experience.
Read about my San Pablo trip by clicking here: 7 Lakes of San Pablo City, Villa Escudero
Cebu City is dubbed as the Queen City of the South. It is a great city to get lost in as you will get to see its rich history delicately intertwined to its urban setting. From Magellan’s Cross to its heritage sites and museums, the city keeps its colorful history alive for everyone to see and enjoy. The devotion of the Cebuanos to the Sto. Nino is very evident when you visit the Basilica Minore del Santo Nino de Cebu. The revered image is the centerpiece of the annual Sinulog celebrations every January.
Cebu City is not just about history and religious icons. It also has attractions that give the city a more urban feel. Cebu Tops offer a panoramic view of the metro and evenings are the best times to visit. Temple of Leah is a great spot to be creative with your pictures. And if you want a quick beach respite, Mactan has a number of hotels and resorts that you can choose from. Of course, a Cebu trip is not complete without getting a fill of their delicious lechon, a personal favorite.
I love Cebu City for its perfectly blended urban and rural vibe. It is a great destination to explore that knows no weather. The city allows you to re-live its history, appreciate its beauty, explore your creativity, and indulge in its gastronomic delights. Writing this down is making me want to visit Cebu soon.
Read about my Cebu trips by clicking here: Cebu City, Cebu Sinulog
Cagayan de Oro
Further down south is another favorite all-year-round destination, Cagayan de Oro - my hometown. The city serves as the gateway to Northern Mindanao and has its own history to share, its own brand of eco-tourism, and its own old town vibe.
Exploring the city center gives you a glimpse of its rich history. In the midst of its urban development, you will actually enjoy pockets of history tucked in some corners of the city. The old water tower of the city, near the St. Agustine Metropolitan Cathedral, was re-designed to house the city museum that showcases how the Cagayan de Oro was founded and developed to what it is now. Of course, the mighty Cagayan de Oro River played a huge role in the city’s history. You can try to take on the challenge of conquering its waters by shooting its rapids that has become its main tourism draw.
Cagayan de Oro has evolved from a rustic town to a bustling metro through the years. The city has now more to offer to its guests with a water theme park and huge malls to add to its eco-tourism attractions. It is one destination that you can enjoy whether you want to explore the city under sun or getting refreshed by the rain while making a run on a rubber raft.
Read about my Cagayan de Oro trip by clicking here: Historical Cagayan de Oro, Downtown CDO, CDO Whitewater Rafting
POST TRAVEL NOTES
The great thing about living in the Philippines is that exploring the many amazing destinations in the country is an all-year round activity. Although there are a number of destinations that are best visited on certain months (ahem... Batanes!), most of our spots are all-weather friendly. We get a balance of both the sun and the rain even when its monsoon season. There is always an activity that we can do or a place that we can explore whether its sunny or its raining outside.
As we slowly adjust to the new normal, I will keep on repeating the call for Filipinos to go local even with their travels. We have a lot of amazing tourist spots that you can explore and give you an amazing Pinoy experience. Our tourism is not just about white sand beaches or beautiful island spots. We have rustic destinations that give our country a different vibe. There will always be one Philippine destination that will fit your personality. And all you got to do is to find it.
Just an hour or less (depending on the traffic), this city had always served as a quick escape for Metro Manila residents. I remember that my first encounter with this city was way back in college where I was amazed by the beauty of the city lights from one of the restaurants viewing decks along its mountainside. From then on, Antipolo was a place where we can sit back, have an ice-cold beer or beers, and share stories with friends while enjoying the city view from the top.
Antipolo City has changed its landscape over the years. Its growth, spurred by its proximity to Metro Manila, paved the way for it to become a preferred residential area for some of the metro’s workforce. Its cooler climate and provincial vibe make it an ideal location to go home to.
History and nature have been very kind to this city. After it was founded in 1578 by Franciscan missionaries, it has played its part in Philippine history, mostly focused on the growth of the Christian faith in the region and in the country. The town started gaining devotees during the 19th century where the faithful followers of the Virgin of Antipolo would trek up the hills as proof of their devotion and faith. This religious activity remains alive today with the monicker “Alay Lakad” done during the Holy Week and April 30.
Tucked within the highlands of Antipolo, the Nuestra Senyora de la Annunciata Parish Church or, more popularly known as, Boso-Boso Church is one of the oldest churches in the province of Rizal. The Spanish-period church was first built by the Franciscans in 1669 to Christianize the Dumagat tribes in the area. The church sustained damage during an earthquake in 1880 and was left in its ruined state. It was only in the mid 80’s that the church got the needed attention and was fully restored in 1995.
The nine-year restoration preserved what was left from its original facade and re-constructed the structure as close to its original form. The simple design of the church blends perfectly well with the rural vibe of Boso-Boso. I found it to eerily beautiful as the church is surrounded by lush vegetations. The feel was like I was in a set of a horror movie or a historical narrative. It was perfect.
Unlike the usual Spanish period churches, the architecture of Boso-Boso Church is void of any fancy. It was built like a sanctuary - simple and sturdy. It had a similar look with that of Baler Church. Both churches founded under Franciscan leadership so you get to immediately notice the similarity of its architecture.
Hinulugang Taktak National Park
Hinulugang Taktak is probably the most famous waterfall on this side of Rizal. Immortalized in a local folk song, the waterfalls serves as Antipolo’s iconic attraction. The song invites its listeners to head up to Antipolo and take a dip to the cool waters of the infamous Hinulugang Taktak.
The waters of the falls cascade beautifully on a rock surface from a height of 22 meters and exits towards Laguna de Bay. It sits on a protected landscape and has been on rehabilitation since 1991. The park underwent refurbishment that included tourist facilities to complement its natural landscape. Interestingly, it is one of the most popular national parks in the country and has generated the third largest income as a national park.
Taking a dip in the waters of Hinulugang Taktak nowadays is not a good idea because of pollution. But its natural beauty is definitely one that you cannot set aside. I hope that, with its ongoing rehabilitation, there will come a time when the future generation can hum while enjoying the waters of Hinulugang Taktak.
National Shrine to Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage
At the heart of the Catholic faith in the city is the National Shrine to Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage or, more popularly known as the Antipolo Cathedral. The church attracts millions of pilgrims each year who pay homage to the Nuestra Senyora de la Paz y Buen Viaje - a wooden Marian image from Mexico.
The church stands beautifully overlooking the main business area of the city. It dominates the Antipolo skyline with its grand modern architecture highlighted by images of four saints guarding the three doors of the cathedral. The interior is as grand as its exterior. The main cavity of the church stands under the dome and its main highlight is its beautiful altar with image of the Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage as its centerpiece.
The Antipolo Cathedral is known to gather millions of devotees every year. The annual “Pagdalaw ng Ina sa Anak” every April draws devotees to walk from Quiapo Church to the Antipolo Cathedral. The same kind of devotion is displayed by its devotees during the Holy Week celebration.
Pinto Art Museum
A doctor’s hobby of collecting artworks that started in the 1969s, paved the way for the opening of the Pinto Art Museum in Antipolo. The museum, tucked in one of the villages in the city, has a wide collection of art pieces prominently displayed in its different galleries. It is a must-see spot for art enthusiasts.
The museum in itself is picturesque with its architecture, its landscaping, and its well-manicured lawns. The serene atmosphere, the galleries, and how the museum was designed make the whole experience memorable. Time slows down to make you appreciate the collections.
The museum is also a great place to let your creativity flow. You can play around with your camera to capture the beauty of every corner of the art haven. It allows you to let your creativity run free in a creative environment. Oh... and did I mention that it is also a great spot to enjoy the sunset?
Luljetta’s Hanging Gardens at Loreland Resort
The cool weather, rural vibe, and amazing metro views of Antipolo gave the city a relaxing ambiance. It was not a surprise that a number of resorts and hotels have made its home in the city. The city in itself offers a good weekend escape for metro residents without having to travel for hours.
One of the popular day or weekend spot that you can check out is the Luljetta’s Hanging Gardens located within the compound of Loreland Resort. It gained popularity for its scenic views and the relaxing ambiance of its spa. However, prior booking is needed if you want to enjoy its facilities and services. You need to book early as they get a lotvof inquiries and bookings during the weekends.
Loreland Farm Resort offer day trips and overnight accommodations. They have a lot of swimming pools with different themes where you and your family or your peers can take a dip while enjoying the view and the cooler weather of Antipolo. The resort also offers amenities for team-building activities or company outings.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
Antipolo City has become popular among metro residents as a great place to live in, a destination for a quick weekend break, or a drinking spot where one can sit back and chill. It is a city that gets to enjoy the best of both worlds - the metropolitan vibe of Manila and the laidback ambiance of Rizal. Behind its urban development, the city managed to keep its rich history and natural beauty intact. It has kept its tapestry and artistry alive despite of the changes around and within the city. It is a city that played its part in Philippine history that even Dr. Jose Rizal mentioned Antipolo in his writings. It is a city that is worth exploring even for just a day or two. Let me remind those who are rearing to go out and explore
that Antipolo City is just an FX ride away.
It is interesting to explore the suburbs around Metro Manila. The shared history speaks a lot on how these areas developed in line with the metro’s urban growth. These places have their own stories to share and have their own destinations to be proud of which, in most cases, fall under the shadow of Metro Manila. This #ByahengFX series is aimed at discovering these stories and spots. It is about exploring destinations that is just an FX ride away.
Getting There: Antipolo is about 45 minutes away from Metro Manila. One can take a public van or FX from Cubao, Ortigas, or Crossing in Mandaluyong. If you are planning to go to Boso-Boso Church, you can take a public FX to Cogeo Gate 2 and take a jeep from there to Boso-Boso. You can then hire a tricycle to bring you to Boso-Boso Church.
The rugged features of Aurora was handcrafted by the Pacific Ocean. This coastal province have seen the different temperament of the mighty ocean located east of the country. It experienced its bounty and its fury. Named after the wife of President Quezon, Aurora was once a sub-province of Quezon and it was only in 1978 that a law was enacted making it independent province.
At the heart of the province, Baler is its centerpiece. The capital is a tourism icon for its natural beauty and its surfing activity. It has become one of the country’s prominent surf spots after the filming of some sequences of “Apocalypse Now” in the 70’s. This led to the introduction of surfing on this side of the Philippines. Presently, Baler has grown beyond being just a surfing spot as its rugged beauty is capturing the hearts of many weekend travelers.
Museo de Baler
Inaugurated in 2002, the Museo de Baler is a good spot to start off your Baler exploration. It serves as repository of the province’s artifacts and memorabilia associated to its rich history. On display are porcelain pieces from the Galleon trade, Spanish-period religious artifacts, and the personal effects of its homegrown hero, President Manuel Quezon.
The museum will give you a brief from the humble beginnings of province to its development to what it is now. It highlights important events in the region including the infamous Baler Church Siege and the “Tromba Marina” in 1935 that wiped out the town. The museum’s cold cast sculpture on its facade details the significant and historical events of Baler and Aurora.
A huge part of its collection honors Manuel L. Quezon as the municipality is his birthplace. You will find personal memorabilia of the late President and his family prominently displayed in one its galleries. The museum also has on display the Presidential car of Quezon.
Right in front of the Museo de Baler is an open-park dedicated to Baler’s esteemed statesman. At the heart of the park is a bronze statue of President Quezon silently gazing at his hometown. The installed historical marker highlights that the municipality is the birthplace of the President Quezon and that is the reason why he is highly respected and honored by its local.
The open park has been developed and it is a great place to watch a typical day in Baler. Interestingly, the park is also the location where the ancestral house of Quezon once stood.
Baler 400 Years Monument
Adjacent to the Quezon Park is the Baler 400 Years Monument. It easily stands out because of the spelled out name of the municipality that attracts tourists for a quick photoshoot. However, the monument is more than just a background for photos. It stands as a reminder to 4 strong centuries of Baler since it was founded.
Founded in 1609 by Franciscan missionaries, Baler is a mute witness to our country’s rich history. One could actually say that Baler was the last stronghold of the Spanish forces in the country during its final days of occupation. It has seen the birth of a new government through the eyes of it homegrown hero, Manuel L. Quezon.
The monument was designed by THE revolutionary artist, Junyee, who is also the man behind the “Open Door” sculpture honoring President Quezon in the Holocaust Memorial Park in Israel. The 40-foot structure has 4 pillars connected by 100 stainless bars representing Baler’s 400 years.
Church of Baler
This unassuming stone church in Baler is a spot that holds a lot of history. If its walls and grounds could only speak, it would share centuries worth of stories that are heartwarming, heartbreaking, and heart wrenching. It saw the birth of Baler, the transition from colonizer to another, and the development of Baler as a tourism and business center that it is today.
The church served as the last stand of the Spaniards in the country known as the “Baler Siege” in 1898 to 1899. As the Philippine Revolution was heating up, the Spanish forces in Baler seized the church, which was the only stone structure in town, fortified it and served as its base. They marooned themselves inside the church for months, even if the Spaniards have long surrendered the Philippines to the Americans. Locals tried to convince the forces in different ways to surrender. At one point, they even had young “sensual” ladies attempt to lure the Spaniards out of their “fortress”. Only 30 Spaniards made it through the 11 months of isolation and were called “Los Ultimos de Filipinas” or the Last Ones of the Philippines.
Today, the Baler Church stands as the center of the Catholic faith in Baler. Its simple and plain facade and interiors stand out as it is void of the usual fancy of the usual architecture of Spanish-period churches in the country. But despite its simplicity, it is one church that stands out in Philippine history as the last fortress of the Spanish colonizers.
Dona Aurora Quezon’s Ancestral Home
The restored house of Dona Aurora Quezon serves as a shrine to a lady to whom the province owes it name to. The house, a typical “bahay-na-bato” design, is where the former Philippine first lady spent her childhood. It gives you a glimpse of her life as a child, a young lady, and a mother to her hometown.
A quick stop will give you a glimpse of her humble beginnings. While most of the personal effects are on display at the Museo de Baler, there are a few memorabilia on display at her ancestral home. A historical marker honoring her life and contributions to nation building was also installed at her old residence.
Century-old Balete Tree
About thirty minutes away from the poblacion, the town of Maria Aurora has its own way of attracting tourists. It prides itself to having one of the largest balete trees in the country, and possibly in Asia. The 600-year old balete tree is approximately 5 stories high and would take about 60 people holding hand-to-hand to cover the total diameter of its base.
The Balete Tree is often associated with mysticism and mystery in Philippine folklore. It is often said that it is the dwelling place of spirits and fairies that we are told to keep our distance. But this is not the case for this famous tree in Maria Aurora. You would often see locals and tourists climbing up and exploring its maze of vines and roots. Having a picture taken while tucked in one of its crevices is something that it is not frowned upon but actually encouraged.
Time does really change things. Local folklores that creep us out when we were younger become a thing of our childhood memories. We learn to face our fears as we get older and discover that fear is only a product of our minds.
Ditumabo Falls is probably the most popular tourist spot in Baler. It is often referred to as the Mother Falls because of its grand cascade that drops from a height of 140 feet into a rocky basin. Locals and tourists can take a plunge in its cold waters that come from the mountains of the Sierra Madre.
The trek to the Mother Falls let’s one immerse and enjoy nature. The lush vegetations along the trail is relaxing to the eyes as you see sunlight break through the forest canopies while the sound of water flowing in the nearby stream is relaxing for the mind. The trail is an easy trek and you are assured that you get to fascinated with nature’s beauty along the way.
Ermita Hill and the Tromba Marina Memorial
This small plateau offers a panoramic view of Baler’s coastline and the Pacific Ocean. From its view deck, one can admire the beauty of the province Aurora from a bird’s eye view with Sabang Beach at the foreground and the Sierra Madre on the background. But more than just a park, Ermita Hill is a sanctuary for the early settlers of Baler.
In 1735, a series of large waves engulfed the town of Baler that the town was completely washed out. According to the stories of those who survived, the waves came in with no warning in the early morning that locals were all taken by surprise. Only 7 families survived the tragedy by swimming and climbing up Ermita Hill. A small memorial was installed at the bottom of Ermita Hill as a reminder of that fateful night.
Ermita Hill also served as a refuge by locals from Moro raids during earlier times. These attacks became a frequent occurrence that local history have recorded it as 50 years of terror. It was because of these attacks that Ermita Hill was developed as a “watchtower” against these raids because of its commanding view.
Diguisit Falls is another popular quick stop when you go around Baler. Unlike Ditumabo Falls, this waterfall does not have a grand cascade and the lush greens surrounding it. It prides itself with a subtle cascade and a rugged terrain that overlooks the sea.
Diguisit Falls is located along the main highway making it very accessible to travelers. One does not need to take an hour-long hike to get to admire its cascade. A five-minute uphill hike through unmarked trails is all you need for that face-to-face encounter with this lesser known waterfall in Baler.
Diguisit Beach and Aniao Islet
Diguisit Beach offers a dramatic seascape in Baler. The mix of white sand and crushed corals blends perfectly well with the rocky features of the beach. The Aniao islet adds up to the drama of the sea and the sand.
This is probably one of the most photographed locations in Baler. It perfectly matches the subtlety of its provincial life and the ruggedness of its terrain. One can have a grand time capturing a perfect shot or to just simply enjoying the view. The drama that the beach spot evokes is very appealing.
Diguisit Beach is also the closest white sand beach spot in Baler. If you are the type who loves a white sand beach spot that does not draw too much crowd then this spot is perfect for you.
Sabang Beach is the most popular beach spot in Baler. This is where you will find most of the accommodations, restaurants, and beach activities. It is Baler’s prime surfing spot so you can expect the waters to be filled with swimmers and surfers.
This 2-kilometer gray sand beach spot is where Philippine surfing was born. Its waves and sandy shorelines make ideal for all levels of surfers. It is also a perfect spot for sunrise catchers because it offers a perfect view of the rising sun. It has often been referred to as the sunrise beach of Aurora.
Whether you are looking to start learning how to surf, getting a beach tan, or simply having a nice lunch or dinner by the beach, Sabang Beach is the go to spot in Baler. It has the widest selection of restaurants and activities that will definitely make your Baler trip a fun and memorable one.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
Baler is a great example of a local community that has grown in strides in its tourism front. It may not have the pristine white sand beach spots or the amazing natural attractions but it banked on its strength as the birthplace of surfing in the country. They invested on their unique selling point through the years that they have made a distinct mark in Philippine tourism. Baler did not try to emulate or try to be another alternative choice, it made its own and it is hollering up for tourists to check Baler out.
The community quarantine may have locked us up inside our homes but one thing that I really enjoyed doing while on ECQ was going back to my previous travels. It was fun remembering my past trips and re-living the amazing feeling of exploring and seeing beautiful places in the country. I was kinda surprised to find out that I still have a number of destinations that I still need to write about, Baler included. It’s great to re-live the same emotions while blogging about it.
As we slowly ease out of the quarantine, I am excited to get back on the road again. This would be a great time to encourage local travel to help local communities get back on their feet. Again, I ask you to explore the Philippines first and I assure you that our country’s beauty will not disappoint.
Getting There: One can take a bus that travels direct from Manila to Baler. Genesis Bus have regular bus trips to Baler. The trip takes about 6-7 hours depending on traffic and time of travel.
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Seasoned travelers understand that off-beat destinations are goldmines to explore. These local spots are often overshadowed by their popular neighboring attractions and are often sidelined as a meal or a bathroom break place. But once you put these destinations under the microscope, they offer something new and interesting that will make a brief stop memorable
This is the case of my dad’s hometown in Ilocos Sur.
Tagudin is the first town that you would roll into if you are coming in from the south that it is often referred to as the gateway to Ilocos. People traveling to Vigan or Laoag often just pass through this historical town, not knowing that Tagudin is one of the oldest towns in the region and has played a crucial role in the country’s liberation from the Japanese. The town was a key trading town because of its strategic location that it once served as the capital of the sub-province of Amburayan that covered areas of Ilocos, Quirino, Benguet, and La Union.
The Amburayan River serves as a natural boundary between the provinces of La Union and Ilocos Sur. Its headwaters are from the mountains of the Cordillera, it flows through Benguet, La Union, and Ilocos Sur, and empties to the West Philippine Sea. The Amburayan Bridge, the main link between La Union and Ilocos Sur, spans over this river.
The town of Tagudin lies along the mouth of the river and I fondly remember, when we were still young, that we were told not to go near the river. But of course, kids will always be kids and I remember walking along its dry riverbed during summer vacations. One can enjoy having a picnic on lazy afternoon or taking a quick dip in its cool waters during summer. I guess, locals have learned to live with the different personalities of the river during the country’s wet and dry season.
St. Augustine Church (Tagudin Church) and Belfry
The St. Augustine Church is a commanding edifice at the center of town. Its baroque architecture was preserved by its faith community despite the numerous restoration that the structure had. It is the center of the Catholic faith in Tagudin.
The Tagudin Church was completed in 1832 under the church leadership of Father Juan Sorolla. It's facade reflects baroque architecture with its elliptical arched doors, circular pillars, and blind windows. Its interior is fascinating as it exudes an aura of peace and security. Its main centerpiece is a simple retablo with the image of St. Augustine as its highlight.
Flanking the church on west is the old convent that is now under the care of the St. Augustine School. One of the two sundials of Tagudin is located within the church compound. On the west side of the church is its stand alone belfry. The belfry was completed in 1881 under Father Rubio.
Just like other town stories, we always feared going to the church during at night when we were kids. We were told ghost stories of a headless priest that roam around the church compound. These stories stuck with me that exploring the church grounds gave me the uneasy chills.
Tagudin Town Plaza and Municipal Hall
Located in front of the church is the open-park Tagudin Town Plaza. The park is a central point of many town activities. I remember the water manual pump in the plaza was where we got potable water before the advent of water refilling stations. We sneaked off to its grounds to “play” at the fair during fiestas. This was where we usually played tag during summer vacations with Lola Gring.
The plaza has changed a lot over the years. It was re-designed to give it a more historical feel. This is where you will find the historical marker of Tagudin that outlines the role the town played during World War 2. The town was the home of the largest Base Hospital of the USAFFE - Northern Luzon. It also bears the marker honoring its local guerrilla heroes during the war, my lola included.
The Municipal Hall of Tagudin sits on the eastern side of the town plaza. It serves as the seat of governance of the town. The hall also served as my lola’s office as she had the privilege of serving the people of Tagudin for the most past of her life.
History’s been very kind to the small town of Tagudin. Since its township declaration in 1586, it has been a mute witness to the colorful history of Ilocos and the country.
Unknown to many, the town of Tagudin is home the two oldest sundials in the country constructed suring. The first sundial is located in front of the municipal hall while the second one is on the west side courtyard of the St. Agustine Church. Both sundials were commissioned by Father Juan Soralla and was completed in 1841 and 1845.
Both century-old sundials are still standing and has stood the test of time.
Farola Lighthouse and Beach
A few minutes drive or by trike from the town center is the Tagudin Farola. The lighthouse is a standing testament of the close relations between Ilocos and Belgium. It was constructed as a historical reminder of the arrival CICM nuns in 1910.
The lighthouse stands along the shores of Barangay Farola, formerly called San Roque - the site where the Belgian nuns made their landing aboard a boat. Their arrival marked the start of their ministry in the region that would later establish the St. Augustine School in Tagudin. The lighthouse was initially constructed as a memory of the event but local fishermen learned to use it as a beacon to guide them when they set out to sea.
The Farola Beach is also a favorite spot of locals for a quick beach break. The beach is a mix of black sand, pebbles, and smooth round rocks. It may not be the ideal beach spot but it offers a great view of the sunset.
The Bimmanga Bangka is a new attraction that is still being developed for those looking for a quick day escape. The “park” is located along a small creek and offers a serene place where one can enjoy having a picnic and some activities with families and friends. The place sits in a quiet part of the town and is surrounded by greens and rice fields that you get to enjoy a tranquil place close to nature.
Its main attraction is its boating activity where you can paddle around the placid creek. Your eyes get to relax on the green views of the trees that naturally form a canopy that shields you from sun’s rays. You get to enjoy the sound of the water slushing as you slowly paddle through its waters. The place is a great place to just sit still and relax as you commune with nature in the company of family and friends.
I hope that the place gets to be developed sustainably by the LGU and the community. Its would be nice to see if they refurbish the facilities and offer other activities like fishing or the opportunity to plant or harvest rice. That would definitely complete the bucolic Ilocano experience.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
It’s funny that as young kids roaming around my dad’s hometown like rascals, it never caught my fancy to look into its rich history. I was always impressed by the architecture of its old houses but I never got curious enough to research about Tagudin. Like everyone else, I was focused on getting amazed by Vigan’s history and La Union’s beach life, not knowing that I was roaming around a town that has the same touch of history and its own kind of past time.
This is the case for a lot of our towns here in the Philippines. As Filipinos, we focus too much on the popular destinations that we leave the discovery of off-beat spots to other nationalities. They end up seeing the raw beauty of the place while we get to see it in its initial phases of development. We often overlook that our own hometowns may have its own tourism brand and all it needs is a curious eye from its locals.
This blog has been a long overdue. I have been planning to write this one for years but I have always pushed it because I felt that I needed to see more. I guess I was wrong and I am glad that I finally did it. Who knows... if this gets in the right hands, I might end up seeing more of Tagudin - the small town that Lola Gring loved so much and where my dad and his siblings grew up.
Getting There: From Manila, take a bus going to Vigan and/or Laoag and ask the driver to drop you off at Tagudin. Travel time is 6-7 hours from Manila.
By the end of this week, we have been officially on quarantine for two months. We are feeling the summer heat, minus the sand and the sea, but within the safety of our homes. This health crisis has reduced our summer plans to official house arrests that had most of us working on redecorating our rooms, rediscovering our hobbies, or working on our culinary skills. Some of us might have even tried to adapt our “plans” to our current situation. In my case, I have set up my hammock at our garage and I have grilled my fave “inihaw”, the beach kind of way. Beach na nga lang ang kulang sa set-up.
The enhanced community quarantine had me exploring, virtually, destinations as I go back to the drawing board to adjust my travel plans for this year. The extended time browsing on the net also had me checking out on food spots in the city. That’s when the idea hit me. I need to write about my top food spot discoveries while on quarantine. I went on a virtual food trip in Quezon City through Grab, Lalamove, and Facebook and discovered a number of amazing food destinations on this side of the metro.
The Snack Shack (Sikatuna)
My QC virtual foodspotting started out when I had a sudden craving for a burger. I did not want the usual fastfood burger so I decided to try out Grab’s Food Delivery and came across the Snack Shack in Sikatuna. I placed my order and in 30 minutes, I was already enjoying my afternoon burger.
.I loved the burger because it was really tasty and juicy. It was not the usual run-of-the-mill burgers that you get in fastfood joints. It was packed with meat and bacon so you really get to enjoy it bite after bite. Alam mo na hindi tinipid kaya sobrang sulit.
You can get it delivered via the Grab Food Delivery App. Just look for The Snack Shack.
Mylene’s is, by far, my biggest discovery this ECQ season. I love chocolates, pastries and bread. For those who know me, I am weakling when it comes to ensaymada especially the cheesy and creamy ones. I like them as is or grilled. I was craving for ensaymada so much that I started to check out food deliveries when I came across Mylene’s.
Mylene’s ensaymada and cheese rolls are one of the best that I have ever tasted. The bread is really soft that it melts in the mouth. It is not too sweet or too cheesy that I can eat 4 servings on one seating. It is good to eat as is BUT it is better to have it grilled. It is definitely value for your money.
You can check out their FB page here or you can have the bread delivered right at your doorstep through Grab Food Delivery.
Baked Fresh Daily by Gretchen’s (Quirino Highway)
Everybody is raving about Ube Cheese Pandesal for a time now. I got curious about it, while on quarantine, that I decided to try it out. I tried to check out food deliveries app but to no avail so I explored FB’s Marketplace. That is when I cam across Baked Fresh Daily by Gretchen’s.
BFDG’s Ube Cheese Pandesal did not disappoint. I got my bread cravings satisfied with their soft ube pandesal buns and its cheese filling. I also discovered that it goes very well with my favorite Nutella Spread. I got my chocolate and bread fill all rolled into one.
Baked Fresh Daily by Gretchen also offers Lechon Belly which I still need to try. You can check out their FB page here for order details.
Farinas Ilocos Empanada (Malingap Street)
Craving for that empanada from Ilocos? Check out Farinas Ilocos Empanada to give you that authentic taste of Ilocos. I know that they have a number of branches in the metro but I was pleasantly surprised to find them on the Grab Food Service app. But I am not complaining as they provide an easy fix for a quick afternoon snack.
Their special empanada and miki make a great afternoon snack combination. Its authentic taste brought me back to my memories of visiting Vigan, Laoag, and Tagudin - my dad’s hometown. It is a great way to travel back to Ilocos while making your tummy happy.
You can order from Farinas Ilocos Empanada through the Grab Food Delivery App.
Siyam Yum (Maginhawa Street)
One of the biggest challenge that I encountered while on quarantine is figuring out what to cook next. Although the internet was very helpful with helping me whip out a different dish, I sometimes take a break by ordering lunch or dinner from a local restaurant. This was how I stumbled on Siyam Yum - a Thai place along Maginhawa Street.
I enjoyed my lunch of Thai Basil Chicken with a little spice that was just right for me. Of course, I didn’t miss out on their mango sticky rice which brought me to dessert heaven. But what really surprised me was their milk tea. I am not a milk tea person but Siyam Yum made me appreciate their milk tea. The flavor and the sweetness was just right for me and it is something that I won’t hesitate ordering again from them.
You can check out Siyam Yum’s menu on the Grab Food Delivery App.
POST ECQ VIRTUAL TRAVEL NOTE
By this time, we all know that we will be shifting to the modified enhanced community quarantine where we are still not allowed to leave our homes. That means it is going to be another two weeks of trying to keep ourselves sane by finding different ways of keeping ourselves pre-occupied. You can try doing a virtual foodtrip via FB or Grab and discover new dining spots that would be worth physically checking out once ECQ is lifted. Savor the moment where you can enjoy good food with your family inside the comfort of your home.
This is also a great way of helping local businesses to stay afloat at this time. I am writing about this virtual experience with the hope and prayer that, as we slowly shift to the new normal, let us help local businesses to survive and thrive. Try the local restaurant in your neighborhood, purchase from a local brand, support a local business that was born out of this crisis, or visit a local destination that you have been planning to explore for a long time once we are allowed mobility. Let us help in reviving local economies. This would be a great time to get that Filipino spirit thriving and rallying behind local businesses, products, and destinations.
Summer of 2020 is something that a lot of us will surely remember because it had locked us inside our houses. No thanks, of course, to the COVID19 crisis that had us just daydreaming for the beach. For most of us, this is the time of the year that we all look forward to - the beach spots, getting that much-needed tan, the backpacking trips, and partying the humid nights away. I guess, we would have to make do with enjoying summer online or by leafing through our summer escapades from the previous years.
This summer will stand out for me because I finally got to participate in the #OneWorld2020 project of @ProjectHeadshotClinic. The initiative was launched during the celebration of Earth Day last April 22 and the theme revolved around healing at the time of the COVID19 health crisis while the earth heals itself. The main goal is to spread the positive vibe while we all get transformed to a new way of life in a re-energized earth.
Merging our summer blues and the celebration of Earth Day, I want to share with you seven Philippine destinations where you can get energized and refreshed by nature. We are going to virtually travel from north to south of the country to get that summer vibe by communing with nature. These destinations allow you to see, hear, breathe, and feel the natural beauty of the Philippines.
Batanes is a destination straight out of a movie. Its magnificent and rugged views, its laidback vibe, and its meek locals are the perfect ingredients for one amazing trip. It has its own world that dictates its own time and its own pace. You will feel it in every corner of Batanes and it will draw you into its world.
Read the first part of my Batanes adventure here.
You can spend hours and hours of communing with nature in Batanes as you immerse yourself with the view of its hills rolling to meet the sea. You can just lie down on its grassy hillside and feel the earth under you and the sea wind blowing gently. Or you can choose to walk barefoot along its sandy or rocky shores and feel the cold water wash your worries to the sea.
Read the second part of my Batanes adventure here.
The culture and meekness of the locals blend perfectly well with its rugged natural beauty. The bounty that surrounds them is something that molded their humility and appreciating what the earth provides for them. Beyond getting energized by nature, a trip to Batanes will also teach you that the best things in life are free.
Read the third and last part of my Batanes adventure here.
Sagada, Mountain Province
Sagada brings you back in time. It brings you back to the time where people live with what they have. It brings you back to the time when people value life’s basics more than profit. It brings you back to the time where people understood how nature is valued and how it protects people from harm.
The most striking story that stayed with me during my trip to Sagada was how Bomod-ok Falls kept the town safe during earlier times from raids. A different crashing sound was heard from the water cascading down the base of the falls served as an early warning to villagers of an impending attack. Locals have a unique understanding in nature and it is reflected in their culture and day-to-day runs.
You can read about my Sagada adventure here.
Sagada is a sanctuary for the mind, body, and soul. Tucked within the mountain ranges of the Cordillera, it is another perfect spot to commune with nature. You can always find a spot where you can enjoy the mountain views and breath in its crisp pine-scented air. The adventure that it offers allow you to walk through nature’s artwork that was slowly crafted by nature’s activity. Interestingly, Sagada’s traditional burial practices has a unique way of telling us that, even after life, we always come back to be one with the earth.
Daraitan, Tanay, Rizal
If you are from Manila and you are looking for a quick weekend escape, Daraitan in Tanay, Rizal is a great place to head-off to. This destination, east of Manila, is a favorite day and weekend destination because of the rustic adventures that it has to offer. You get the thrill of exploring without traveling very far.
Read about my daytrip hike to Tinipak River here.
A trek to Tinipak Cave and River is a good way of exercising while enjoying nature. The trail to Tinipak River will keep you entertained with its views of the river and the mountain ranges that surround it. The view of white limestone rock formations of Tinipak River and a dip in its cold and clean spring water are natire’s reward after your hike. You can explore the Tinipak cave or just enjoy its cold spring waters under the shade of the trees. These activities remind me when I was growing up in Baguio and Cavite.
Read about my fitspiration travel to Kuta Bungliw here.
Kuta Bungliw is a great place to spend a night away from the hustle and bustle of the city lights. It is a no-frills kind of accommodation perched along the side of Mount Daraitan. The campsite was designed to blend with its natural setting so do not expect it to be a resort-kind of experience. This is the best place to just sit back and enjoy the sights and sounds of nature. This is where you can sit back and enjoy the awesome view of Daraitan and the river that flows through it from the top.
Palawan will always be on my list... I guess, it will always be on my list at any given time. The province is the last frontier of the country and it has a lot to offer from its northern tip down to the southern tip. It will always have something to offer to any type of traveler.
Read the first part of my Balabac trip here.
Beach lovers... Balabac is one destination where you can get to your sun and sand fix to the brim. You are talking about kilometers and kilometers of untouched white sand shorelines, awesome sunsets, and amazing underwater scenes. You will get enough of waking up every day to discover new beach spots, dip into natural infinity pools, and getting soaked on the summer combination of sun, sand, and sea. There is nothing else to do but just to enjoy and live the beach life. You leave the place energized, amazed that such beautiful natural spots exists, and wishing you could stay longer.
Read the second part of my Balabac trip here.
Balabac is slowly getting more attention now, from the time that I visited the municipality. I have to admit that it has re-defined my definition of beach spots that to this day remains to be THE standard. Spending hours and hours of exploring virgin white sand beach spots was more than enough for anyone to get fully charged and energized by nature. Balabac’s energy lingers for a long time and its memories linger longer.
Antique may not be on everyone’s immediate travel list but it is one off-beat destination that is worth exploring. Most of its attractions remain untouched by commercialism so this is the closest that you can get to its natural setting. Whether you choose to enjoy the inland attractions or the nearby islands, Antique has something to offer.
You can check out my Tibiao and Mararison adventure here.
Tibiao was my favorite spot in Antique. It gave me the sense of freedom from being detached from the humdrum of the fast-paced world - no mobile signal and no television. It was a rustic night where I got to enjoy the relaxing sound of a spring water running down the stream and the chorus of crickets at night. The night sound lulls you to a relaxing sleep.
Mornings were no different as I hiked up to a nearby waterfall and splashed around the river on a tube. A warm and relaxing “kawa” bath completes the Tibiao adventure. To cap off my day, I scooted to the nearby Mararison Island to hike up its rolling hills to watch its golden sunset.
Lake S’bu, South Cotabato
The slow-paced life of the T’boli tribe in South Cotabato revolves around the bounties of nature that surround them. Most of their cultural heritage are intertwined with their respect towards earth and nature. Water is the central element of their community with a lake that is central to their lives to the seven waterfalls that run through their ancestral domain.
For a guest of Lake S’bu, the day starts off with a tranquil canoe ride across the lake. Mornings become brighter with the blooming of the lotus as the sun rises from the horizon. This early morning treat is a feast for the eyes as part of the lake transforms into a sea of pink blooms. The adventure continues on as you explore the two accessible waterfalls within their domain. You can get refreshed as you dip your feet in its cold water as you admire its mighty cascade. The night orchestra of evening sounds crickets and nocturnal animals while you rest by the lakeshore is a great way to cap off the day’s exploration.
Read about my Lake S’bu adventures here.
Beyond the beauty of what nature bestowed upon Lake S’bu, one cannot help but notice the cultural heritage of the T’boli. From their T’nalak dream weavers to their wide collections of trinkets, gongs, and ornaments, its inspiration is drawn from the connection of man and nature. These T’boli ancestral domain in South Cotabato is a perfect example of how man and nature come together to create a functional society. It teaches us that all that we need is just around us.
A close encounter with stingrays made my visit to Hinatuan and Bislig a memorable one. It was even made more special by the fact that it was a first and last summer trip for 2020 because we had to rush back to Manila before the community quarantine was to take effect. Nevertheless, the natural attractions of both destinations did not fail to make me excited to come back and explore it again.
Tinuy-an Falls in Bislig was a stunner. The view of its wide cascade was just simply beautiful and, if you happen to be at the right location at the right time, you can catch the rainbow at the edge of the falls. The park has a lot of viewing spots where you get to enjoy the different characters of this famous waterfall. Take the time to enjoy its cool waters running over your feet while basking in the morning sun. The feel of the rocks, water, and the heat of the sun is energizing.
Read about my Bislig and Hinatuan experience here.
Just an hour away from Bislig is another natural attraction that is now being developed by the local government - the Hinatuan Enchanted River. The river was said to be once the dwelling place of “engkantos” that gave the river its amazing deep-blue and green color. Taking a dip in its cool waters can be a challenge because of the strong water current towards the sea. The opening of the cave is where the freshwater from the underground river meets the seawater of Hinatuan Bay. You can just relax, enjoy the greens that surround you, and enjoy the water as it slowly nudges you.
POST TRAVEL NOTES
I am one of the lucky guys who managed to slip in a summer escape just right before the #CommunityQuarantine was declared. Although it was cut short, I am happy that I got to pull a fast one rather than having none at all. It is true that, when we finally get out of our quarantine, everything will be different. We will be living in a different kind of norm.
One good thing about this quarantine is that it did refurbished the earth that we live in. Nature has a unique way of cleansing and re-energizing itself, in the same way that it can renew and re-energize us when we commune with it. So when we finally step out, take the time to breathe in earth’s energy. Take a trip to the nature spots that I shared with you or to your own earth spot to enjoy nature as it churns the day and breathe in its energy. It will be therapeutic and healthy.
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.