For decades now, this Motoring Section been showcasing in its pages not only the latest car models, but also gorgeous locales where you can take them and enjoy the pleasure of driving with your family and friends.
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat’s recent Nov. 22 feature titled “Tourism’s Immediate Future: Road trips, Staycations” validated what this paper has been doing. In this column, Day Tripper takes you to 35 of the most exciting places this columnist has traveled since age 19 and this paper was just five years old.
Abra. Much like a cowboy countryin the bosom of the mighty Cordilleras,it is an untamed natural frontier to test your four-wheeled stallion. Virtually unknown to even jaded travelers, part of the thrill are the serendipitous encounters on the road, including the mesmerizing Kaparkan cascades tucked in the middle of nowhere.
2. Aklan. Home to the world-famous Boracay Island, this province also takes pride for being the cradle of the so-called “mother of all Philippine festivals”—the Ati-Atihan. If you happen to be around the neighborhood, bring home the exquisite piña handwoven cloth made out of pineapple fiber which are produced in the capital town of Kalibo.
3. Albay. Synonymous to the perfect-coned Mayon Volcano, it has been named by the Unesco as a Biosphere Reserve because of its marine and terrestrial biodiversity. With splendid national and provincial highways, it has been a favorite for long drives, with cultural, culinary and adventure stops that will literally add spice to the journey.
4. Antique. This underrated province is among the places endorsed by Department of Tourism Region 6 director Helen Catalbas for its low Covid-19 cases because of its proactive local government response. With panoramic seaside highways and mountains, it is perfect for road trips with diverse pit stops along the 155-km stretch. Tibiao is the tourist capital of sort with the myriad of attractions and things to do, including the unique massage by the river and “kawa” hot bath.
5. Apayao. A highland frontier in the Cordillera region, it is a must-see for the go-getters for the rugged outdoors and unexpected finds. With many rough and steep but breathtaking roads, quite literally, it is a most ideal place to put to push your SUV to the limit and test your mountain driving skills. The cradle of the Apayao indigenous peoples, you can immerse with one of the lesser-known but culturally-rich tribes.
6. Batanes. Perhaps listed in everyone’s bucket list because of its exotic appeal, being the archipelago’s northernmost province and very much unlike any other destination. Roads are surprisingly paved which make driving and biking a visual delight. If you’re planning to fly in, include the island towns of Sabtang and Itbayat for a land and sea odyssey like no other.
7. Batangas. Home to Taal Volcano which erupted early this year, your eyes adored this enigmatic geological wonder which seems so close and yet so far. Be amazed by the small-but-terrible volcano within the tranquil lake surrounded by quaint towns. An intriguing island at the lake is Napayong in Tanauan, a gem hiding in plain sight.
8. Benguet. Baguio City’s twin, it is regarded as the country’s “salad bowl” because of the abundance of vegetables and fruits it produces. It is also a farm tourism hub in the Cordilleras with the plethora of DOT-accredited sites, as well as traditional plantations and gardens which will compel you to stop and smell the flowers by the wayside.
9. Bohol. Set for reopening soon, this island province has been a top-of-mind destination for many beach bums. Its organized public transport system, good road network and amiable townsfolk make the do-it-yourself travel scheme easier. With an assortment of bodies of water, mountains, islands, dive spots, and world-class beach resorts, it is an ideal place for wellness and commune with nature, with or without a pandemic.
10. Bulacan. Jocularly called as Metro Manila’s “northern dormitory”, this province is noted for its vital role in the struggle for freedom and the birth of the Philippine republics—Kakarong De Sili in Bulakan, Biak Na Bato in San Miguel, and finally, Malolos, the first democratic republic Asia. In recent years, it has positioned itself as an adventure recreation destination in San Rafael and Doña Remedios Trinidad, the biggest but least known town.
11. Camarines Norte. Called the “zigzag capital” in its 100 kms of twists and turns all over, this is arguably the best place to test your road-savviness. Worry not, as after the dizzying drive across the forests, you can have a visual and gustatory feast of this province’s astounding beaches, mouth-watering cuisine and other surprises.
12. Capiz. Beyond the “seafood capital” tag and the folkloric “aswang” it is known for, the home of president Manuel Roxas beckons travelers who want to avoid the madding crowd. With mountains, infinite coastlines, forests, rivers, lakes, eco-parks, and an abundance of harvest from the sea, it is an alternative place that will capture your fancy. The provincial capital of Roxas City boasts of Pueblo de Panay, a modern home-grown township which is emerging as a new commercial and lifestyle hub.
13. Cavite. It might not sound like the usual hideaway, but let’s not forget that Tagaytay Ridge, not just the City, sits on its soil—from Silang to Alfonso. The weekend favorite of Metro Manilans, ridge road is dotted with gardens, specialty restaurants, coffee shops, farm resorts, picnic grounds, pasalubong stores, and boutique hotels with the sought-after view of Taal Volcano and Lake. But beyond the ridge, Cavite’s inner cavities has surprises waiting for you.
14. Cordova, Cebu. Consisting of the smaller half of Mactan Island, itis overshadowed by Lapu-Lapu City. But big surprises come in small packages, and this seemingly obscure town is slowly becoming a charmer with its 10,000 Roses Park, fine sand beaches, and a modern bridge tollway to mainland Cebu. Its tourism gem is a string of islets topbilled by Nalusuan Island Resort which boasts of remarkable reefs ideal for snorkeling, scuba diving and other water sports.
15. Camotes Island. This island cluster east of mainland Cebu may sound like the lowly root crop, but is nutritious in contact. Composed of four municipalities, it boasts of some of the province’s finest beaches, dive spots, smaller islets and promontories, which can be easily reached by splendid road network. It can be reached by boat from the ports of Cebu and Danao.
16. Davao De Oro. Rebranded from its old name Compostela Valley or ComVal, it is a “land of gold” literally and figuratively as its name suggests because of its mining industry. Its natural magnets include waterfalls and spring resorts Maragusan, beach resorts in Mabini, and the placid Lake Leonard in Maco. Because of its raw beauty, it has been chosen by the luxe Thai hotel group to be the home of its Dusit Thani Lubi Plantation Resort in Kopiat Island.
17. Davao Del Sur. Davao City’s next-door neighbor, this under-the-radar spot is one of the entry points to the majestic Mt. Apo, the country’s tallest peak. But if scaling heights isn’t your cup of tea, you can view it up close from the highland village of Kapatagan in Digos City and stay at the mountain resorts and adventure parks. Downstairs, the province has modest but charming beaches and islands in Sta. Cruz town.
18. Dinagat Islands. Carved out from Surigao del Norte in 2005, this is a southern frontier with many pristine and largely unexplored natural wonders which you can have to yourself on a typical day. Truly an off-the-grid destination for an interlude with nature. The jump-off point is Surigao City with boat trips to various ports of the island province.
Iloilo City. The regional center of Western Visayas, it is known for its Spanish-era mansions, historic churches, museums, and public plazas, as well as its mouth-watering dishes and desserts. In recent years, it has become a model for urban renewal, river rehabilitation and redevelopment, adaptive reuse of heritage homes, and public mobility by making it a pedestrian and bike-friendly city.
Iloilo Province. Get back to the basics of agrarian way of life and a little bit of countryside comfort at the farm tourism sites which are accredited by the DOT. Must-sees are Miagao Church, a Unesco World Heritage Site, and the San Joaquin and Janiuay cemeteries which have taken funerary art to the next level. Hugged by a long coastline, it has talcum beaches in Concepcion, Carles and Estancia towns.
21. Guimaras. Acknowledged as the country’s “mango capital”, this island province is reinventing itself as the bike paradise with its idyllic countryside, Instagrammable points, paved roads, and bike lanes in its forested interiors. Because of this positioning, nature and adventure camps designed for cyclists have become the new norm. It can be reached from Iloilo City and Valladolid, Negros.
22. Kalinga. If you were Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo being chased by American troops in 1901, you would surely run to the remote upland town of Lubuagan in Kalinga. Not only is it tucked in the lush bosom of the Gran Cordillera mountain ranges, it is also an ideal hiding place to run away from the hustle and bustle of urban living, as well as people running after your scalp. It is also a nature and culture haven with its old-growth forest and the Awichon Cultural Village which is a microcosm of the Kalinga indigenous way of life. After retracing El Presidente’s escape route, get that coveted tattoo from the famed master tribal artist Wang Ohd.
23. Laguna. Baby boomers and GenXers remember the 1970s song by rocker Sampaguita who sung about this gorgeous getaway just south of the metropolis. Four decades after that musical hit, the province just gets better and better with more classy tourism facilities for the active new generation.
24. Negros Occidental. The land of the sugar barons and the proverbial dolce vita, this vast land was a republic of its own in the post-Spanish era. It is a mixed bag of nature, culture, cuisine and adventure, and everything in between. The provincial capital of Bacolod is an eclectic city which is a merry mix of Old World charm and an emerging cosmopolitan living in Western Visayas.
25. Palawan. Being named the “World’s Best Island” almost every year has become a hard habit to break for this archipelagic province which accounts for 1/7 of the country’s number of islands. With more than 1,000 kms of roads, Palawan offers an infinity of driving leisure across mountainous greeneries. The province’s southern half from Aborlan to Brooke’s Point is a tourism frontier with Tabon Cave in Quezon town, perhaps the most ancient settlement of prehistoric inhabitants of the archipelago.
26. Pampanga. Monikered as the Culinary Capital of the Philippines, this province sizzles beyond the crunchy sisig. Rich in tradition, resources and proud people, it is a top-of-mind place despite the absence of a beach. Its core is Clark Freeport Zone, a master-planned enclave for light industries, tourism and commerce. A former American air base, it is a northern hub for aviation with a growing aerotropolis around it. The legendary Mt. Arayat is regaining its magnetic pull with nature-themed resorts near its foot.
27. Pangasinan. Withmore than 40 towns and cities, and an extensive web of roads, driving the entirety of this province will take you about three days.Withroadsidedistractionssuch as postcard-pretty old churches, seafood grilleries, islands, food and pasalubong stalls, and beaches, driving around will surely be slower and longer.
28. Puerto Galera. One of the earliest beach hideaways in Luzon, this is also a scuba diving mecca and a biosphere reserve being at the world’s Coral Triangle which is habitat to marine biodiversity. Small wonder it was named as among the World’s Most Beautiful Bays by a Paris-based Unesco-recognized group. The town recently constructed a replica of the Spanish galleon reminiscent of the circa-1800s Manila-Acapulco trade.
29. Quirino. Once an obscure province in the Cagayan Valley, this is an emerging eco-adventure destination in the north with its caves, waterfalls, river rapids, mountain trails, and warrior-like indigenous tribes. Quirino Watersports Complex is now a playground of wakeboarders with its tournament-grade facilities.
30. Sarangani. The hometown of the “Fighting Senator” Manny Pacquiao, this province packs both a knockout and succession of power punches with its array of beach, mountain, paragliding, diving, and watersports spots. It is also a cradle of the cultures of the Maguindanaon Moro community and the Blaan tribal peoples, with the Lamlifew Village Museum and its adjunct School of Living Traditions, and the Weaving Center of Gawad Manlilikha ng Bayan Bai Estelita Bantilan.
31. Siargao. The country’s surfing capital for decades, this Pacific paradise lures even non-surfers with its sea attractions and smaller islets. But beyond the popular tourist circuit, there is much to be discovered in the lesser-known towns nearby. After the adrenaline pumping activities, the island municipality of Socorro or Bucas Grande located across the channel offers a more sedate and awe-inspiring experience which seems to transport you to El Nido, Palawan.
32. Southern Leyte. With the nationwide observance of the 500th year of Christianity in 2021, it is worth visiting the ground zero of this momentous event— the island town of Limasawa where the first Catholic Mass was held on March 31, 1521 in the presence of Ferdinand Magellan. Situated south of the mainland, it is an exciting mix of air, land and sea transportation passing through scenic interior and coastal municipalities of Leyte and Southern Leyte provinces.
33. Surigao City. Regarded as the gateway to Mindanao because of its northernmost location, it is the transit point of vehicles from the Visayas traversing the backbone of the Pan Philippine Highway. Now monikered as the City of Island Adventures, it has scores of under-the-radar powdery beaches, mangrove forests, and dive sites scattered around its Pacific Coast. Its newest attraction is the Battle of Surigao Strait Museum which marks the naval victory of the Americans during World War 2.
34. Tawi-Tawi. The southern edge of the Philippine archipelago, this chain of islands should be in your bucket list much like its northern counterpart. A paradise in every sense of the word, it offers an infinity of ocean and a way of life which closely resembles Malayan culture. Reached by boat or plane from Zamboanga City, this place will always keep you at the edge of your seat with its unadulterated beauty.
35. Zambales. The hometown of former president Ramon Magsaysay, it is a long stretch of road outside the Subic Freeport Zone. With Mt. Pinatubo in the horizon, a surreal laharscape on rivers, Aeta tribal communities, the view of the West Philippine Sea and the Zambales ranges, the endless drive becomes as exciting as your endpoint.
A true-blue day tripper since age 19, he has travelled across the archipelago by land, air, and sea. As a communications trainer, travel photojournalist, tourist mapmaker, scuba diver, environment advocate, or simply a family road tripper, he has imbibed the diversity of the Philippines by learning the basic way of life of the places he visits.