Wondering where are the best places to visit in the Philippines this 2018?
Here’s a list of some of the finest and grandest destinations in our beautiful country:
Jaybanga Rice Terraces in Lobo, Batangas—DOT Director Czarina Zara-Loyola says one need not travel six hours just to see amazing rice terraces. “The Rice Terraces in Barangay Jaybanga is one of the destinations the DOT is promoting as a must-see destination this year,” she said. While the rice terraces in Lobo may not be as far-reaching and as high as Banaue’s, or as old, it is still quite a breathtaking site. Built by hand by the locals, the mini-terraces are lush and green, and as soon as harvest time is near, it gives off a yellowish-gold glint from the ripening palay.
“Beyond the rice terraces, Lobo itself is a pleasant locale to explore,” Loyola added. “It has mangroves, the Ulupong waterfalls, and the Malagundi Coral Wall, which has attracted a number of divers because of its rich and diverse marine life.”
It’s takes about 3.5 hours to get to Barangay Jaybanga from Manila by private car (from SLEX take the San Jose/Ibaan toll road, then turn left going to Lipa). By bus, take the one going to the Batangas Pier and go down at the main bus terminal. From there, take a jeepney ride to Lobo. There are a number of resorts to stay in at Lobo , but if you have more days to spare, drop by the beach in San Juan first, hang out at a local resort, then proceed to Lobo the next day.
Siargao, Surigao del Norte— Our travel experts were unanimous in recommending Siargao as one of the places to be in 2018. It used to be haven for local and a few international surfers, but since the increase in the number of carriers offering direct flights, the destination has attracted a diverse array of travelers longing for secluded white beaches, quiet spaces and a night life reminiscent of the early days of Boracay.
“There’s more to surfing in Siargao,” according to Charo Logarta Lagamon, director for corporate communications of Cebu Pacific. “While the ber months make Siargao any surfers’ paradise, the summer months make Siargao a haven for any beach-lover and nature-trippers with enchanting lagoons, caves, coral reefs and bizarre rock formations. Neighboring Guyam and Naked islands boasts of pristine white-sand beaches and great snorkeling; while the Magpupungko Tidal Pool has bizarre rock formations with a natural pool. It’s separated from the ocean by a large reef.”
Most of the accommodations are located in the municipality of General Luna, but there are other resorts and hotels that offer visitors enough privacy, but still being accessible to the main road.
Cebu Pacific flies six times a week between Manila and Siargao; and daily between Cebu and Siargao.
Masbate—To a people of a certain generation, Masbate was once a place famous for its mythical flying monsters like the aswang. Unknown to many, the province was one of the first areas in the Philippines settled by Spanish colonizers. “People have forgotten that Masbate is rich in Spanish history,” according to Aileen Clemente, president of Rajah Travel Corp. “One of its most famous Spanish-era landmarks, for example, is the Aroroy Lighthouse in Bugui Point, which continues to stand to this day.”
There are also a number of heritage homes designed in the bahay na bato mold prevalent during the Spanish era, which can be found in the city proper (Villa Bayot where a Santo Entierro—the dead Christ—lies encased in glass), as well as in the municipality of Monreal, and on Ticao Island.
Now one of the main cattle raisers in the country, Masbate also hosts a rodeo festival every April, Clemente added. Aside from a parade of horses and cattle, dancers dressed in Western cowboy outfits strut down the main avenue, or participate in cattle wrestling contests. She also said the province is teeming with marine life—“it’s a good place for diving and see manta rays. It is on the migratory path for sea creatures.”
Homestays are available in Masbate, as well as in other islands, as there is only a smattering of adequate accommodations in the city proper. CEB flies from Manila to Masbate once a day, and from Cebu, also once daily. (Pro tip: Flying from Manila to Masbate via Cebu is slightly cheaper, with many flights to Cebu to choose from.) Alternatively, you can take the Isarog bus that leaves from its Edsa or Araneta-Cubao terminals going to Masbate, with fares from P800 to P2,000+one way, depending on the bus type.
Biri Rock Formations in Northern Samar—One of the destinations DOT is also promoting, the Biri rock formations, is one of those awe-inspiring tourist spots that are, unfortunately, still quite a distance to travel to. For now, only Philippine Airlines flies to Catarman, the capital of Northern Samar, from the Clark International Airport in Angeles, Pampanga (one flight every M-W-F-Su), and even then, one must ride a jeepney (to Lavezares town) then a boat to get to Biri Island.
There are also very few accommodations to stay in on the island, mostly bed and breakfasts, so we’re talking about raw and rustic here. (A few on the list are Glenda’s Bed and Breakfast, Villa Amor and Biri Resort.) But DOT Director Loyola promises that seeing the rock formations up close is worth the long trip. “Shaped by wind and waves, these massive rocks are chiseled in different directions creating unique patterns and colorful designs,” she explained. These natural geological sculptures are to be found along the jagged coastline of this weather-beaten island. She added the island itself is a good spot for diving and a tour of mangrove areas.
Other islands worth exploring in Northern Samar are San Antonio, with its magnificent white beaches, and Capul, which was once the last pitstop for Spanish galleons before making the long trip to Acapulco in Mexico. Capul is known for its centuries-old lighthouse and Capul Church, which was established by the Jesuit Order in the 16th century, according to Loyola. To get to these islands, take a van or jeepney from Catarman to Victoria (if you’re going to San Antonio), or to Allen (if going to Capul), then a boat to your end-destination.