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Bernard Supetran

Here are some often-overlooked getaways that are worth a try, so your bucket list doesn’t turn out into a question of “bakit list” of destinations you failed to visit once more.


Hardly has 2024 kicked in, people were already lining up things to do in the proverbial New Year’s resolutions and bucket list of places to visit. While many resolutions are destined to be broken, wanderlusts go the extra mile to make sure that the must-see destinations are ticked off in the map.

To help you narrow down your choices, your columnist has come up with a series of getaways which are often overlooked, so your bucket list doesn’t turn out into a question of “bakit list” of destinations you failed to visit once more.

Laoag. The country’s northernmost city, it is the aerial gateway of the Ilocandia which is overshadowed by the popular neighboring towns in Ilocos Norte. This provincial capital has been gracing tourism posters and calendars in the pre-Internet age through the Fort Ilocandia, a pioneer luxe hotel with a casino and golf course.

In the heart of the city are the postcard-pretty Spanish-era structures—St. William’s Cathedral, the Sinking Bell tower, and the Abolition of Tobacco Monopoly Monument which serves as a public plaza. Triangulating the vicinity are the regal-looking City Hall, Provincial Capitol, and Museo Ilocos Norte which stores the province’s rich material heritage.

Like its neighboring town of Paoay, the city also boasts of its own sand dunes—the 85-sq km La Paz protected sandy coastal desert which also offers sandboarding and 4×4 vehicle rides. This mesmerizing sandscape is being eyed for a unique desert running event by Mayor Michael Keon, the brains behind the Gintong Alay athletics sports program in the 1980s.

For a place to stay, Amici Resort Hotel is a tropical-themed accommodation which blends the basic comfort of a countryside lodging in a cozy garden setting. It has a restaurant, coffee shop, and bar, which can whip up delectable contemporary renditions of Ilocano delights, as well as all-time Filipino and international favorites, cakes, pastries, and spirits, which make it a homey watering hole.

Explore the city like a local and discover its rich food scene by dining where residents go for a meal or treat friends and family on special occasions.

Laoag is also a public transport hub where you can reach parts of Cagayan Valley, Baguio City, and the rest of the Ilocandia. The good news is wanderlusts from the south can fly direct to the city via Cebu onboard Philippine Airlines.

Talisay. Once an obscure sugar cane plantation in the fringes of Bacolod City, this is now a bustling satellite of the provincial capital and a center for farm tourism and adventure recreation in Negros Occidental. While most guests make it a point to swing by The Ruins, the province’s tourism icon, the foray into Talisay often begins and ends at the remnants of the magnificent Lacson mansion.

The city is also a heritage zone with its many well-preserved century-old homes, most notably the Balay ni Tana Dicang Museum and the Simplicio Lizares Mansion, which both reflect the lifestyle of the 19th-century sugar barons. A few heartbeats away is Nature’s Village Resort which blends the look of an old house and the environment of a green residence.

Driving into the city’s upland portion, you would encounter country-style establishments such as Bantug Lake Ranch and Campuestohan Highland Resort which take advantage of the area’s altitude. The area is best reached on motorcycle which gives you an adrenaline rush and the ability to enter forest trails, and stop to smell the flowers by the wayside, quite literally.

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Near the foothills of the mountains in Cabatangan village is Melba’s Farm which takes you to a no-frills, back-to-nature retreat away from the madding crowd. It has a 7-hectare plantation of fruits and vegetables, surrounded by Lauan and other tree species, and an assortment of flowers, plants, and greenery.

The remaining 3 hectares is a potential partnership with Bacolod City government for an upland eco-park, an environmental advocacy long pursued by the owners, the Carranza family.

Situated some 600 meters above sea level, it has simple but comfy wooden lodges for couples or small groups, a native dining pavilion which serves succulent farm-to-table dishes, and a lap infinity pool overlooking the city. It is also ideal for camping and forest bathing with the canopy of trees providing shade all-day long.

For a consummate experience, hie off to the nearby Tinagong Dagat and Guinam-an Falls and commune with nature.

(To be continued)