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The Covid-19 pandemic threw a monkey wrench to everyone’s travel plans and will drastically alter our jetsetting lifestyle into the so-called “new normal”. It also somehow redrew the country’s tourism map, as some of the crowd-drawing destinations were hit and travel bugs are on the hunt for alternative nature-oriented hideaways, away from the madding crowd, preferably without a confirmed Covid case.

Here are some of the provinces worth checking out after the green light to travel has been given, so you can commune with nature and learn about their best practices in preventing the entry of virus in their localities.

Kalinga

Perched on the Cordillera mountain ranges, this highland hideaway may yet be your most unexpected find with its blend of culture and adventure. Accessible via the Cagayan Valley Road, swing by the fossil remains of the 800,000 year-old rhinoceros on display at the Rizal municipal hall, and is regarded as the country’s oldest archaeological find.

A must-do is white water rafting at the Chico River, the first and unequalled advebture watersport because of its rugged allure and interesting stuff in between.

Other must-sees are Lubuagan town for its Mabilong Weavers Village, Emilio Aguinaldo’s Fil-American War headquarters, and the Awichon Cultural Village, a miniature tribal hamlet where guests can interact with Alonzo Saclag, a Gawad Manlilikha ng Bayan (National Living Treasure), who developed the spot.

Not to missed is Buscalan Village in Tinglayan, home of 90-year old Apo Whang Od, the last master of the age-old batok orKalinga tattoo art.

Puerto Galera

Before the crisis, this resort town has been preparing for the launch of the redeveloped Muelle Port area which includes a life-size replica of a Spanish galleon museum, which will mark its reintroduction to the domestic tourist market for the summer season.

Even without the event, this beach haven in Oriental Mindoro is worth revisiting with its inland attractions—the Iraya Mangyan Village, Excavation Museum, Da Permida, and Ponderosa Golf Club, as well as new cozy boutique hotels.

And because of months of inactivity and the municipal government’s environmental program, its shores, coves and marine life have regenerated and worthy of being a Unesco Biosphere Reserve.

Incidentally, 2020 marks the 15th anniversary of Puerto Galera’s induction in the prestigious Paris-based Most Beautiful Bays in the World Club, and this is the opportune time to marvel at this world-class wonder.  

Sarangani

Despite being at the crossroad of a busy highway in southern Mindanao, it has taken proactive measures in the early days of the pandemic to protect its population and make it safe for future visitors.

With a 200-km coastline embracing Sarangani Bay, it has an infinite stretch powdery sand and marine sanctuaries ideal for snorkeling, scuba diving and boating, where physical distancing can be observed.

Malungon, which shares the boundary with Gen. Santos City and Davao Del Sur, is a showcase of indigenous culture, highland recreation and farm tourism.

Its iconic attraction is Lamlifew Village Museum, the Philippines’s first community museum where guests can immerse to the Blaan tribal way of life through music, dance, weaving, craft and cuisine. It also has a weaving center and the Blaan School of Living Traditions where the exquisite mabal tabih fabric, Sarangani’s crown jewel, is woven.

The town has also ventured into farm tourism to promote organic agriculture and food security, with the opening to the public of the 72-hectare CCT Malungon Retreat and Training Center and the 62-hectare RioVerde Farm and Forest for agrarian and non-traditional recreation.

With the crisis, people’s interest on farming and related activities has been reignited, and farm tourism sites will surely be among the most sought-after places in the coming months.

Relish your new-found freedom and drive to the heights of Kalon-Barak Skyline Ridgewhich offers a commanding view of Mt. Apo, Mt. Matutum, Sarangani Bay and Davao Gulf.

Surigao Del Sur

Sandwiched by mineral-rich mountains and the Pacific Ocean, its geography and remote location in eastern Mindanao must have been its logical shield against the virus.

This unheralded province is known for its top triumvirate of Brittania Islands in San Agustin, Enchanted River in Hinatuan, and Tinuy-an Falls in Bislig City, which is dubbed as our smaller version of the Niagara Falls.

But beyond this popular circuit, it has a wide array of natural wonders scattered across its almost 300-km seaboard. Beach bums can frolic in the islands and beaches of Carrascal, Cantilan, Cagwait, Tandag, Barobo, and Mahiratag, cool off in the cascades of Tago, Lianga, and Lanuza, or surf in Lanuza and Lianga.

From here the rest of the Caraga Region such as Agusan Del Sur, Surigao Del Norte, Dinagat Islands, and the famed Siargao island group, all of which have managed to remain Covid-free.