(Second of two parts)
At this time of the month when January is about to end, we should have completed listing Things to Do and Places to Visit for 2024. Below are more touristic spots hiding from plain sight, we should be ticking off our bucket list this year.
Pit Stop 3: Los Baños. Back in the days when long road trips and plane rides were prohibitive, this quaint town south of Manila was a haven for day trips for swimming because of the myriad of hot springs dotting the area. The more adventurous would trek the mountain trails of Mt. Makiling, the closest rain forest to the metropolis which boasts of a rich biodiversity.
No less than national hero Dr. Jose Rizal was enamored by this bucolic locale that it often became part of his writings, which also included the legendary mountain fairy Maria Makiling.
Also known for the best-tasting buko pie, it has the unique distinction of being the archipelago’s first “summer capital” during the Spanish period when the governor general frequented this lakeshore town to dip in its therapeutic baths. During the American era, it was the first military rest and recreation area because of its cool climate, lush vegetation and stunning Laguna Lake panorama.
In recent years, Los Baños has been trying to woo back tourists who were lured by far-flung attractions with low airfare promos by reintroducing itself as the country’s hot bath capital and more.
At the core of the town is the 5,445-hectare University of the Philippines complex encompassing the entire Makiling Forest Reserve (MFR) and surrounding areas.
Aside from being a school, it is also a haven for jogging, mountain biking, forest trekking, heritage trips, nature photography, and food crawls with the many home-grown dining outlets in and around the campus.
A best-kept natural feature is Tadlac Lake, a 23-hectare freshwater volcanic crater lake tucked near the Laguna Lake. On its shores is Laresio Resorts which is teeming with extreme recreational activities and facilities with the lake itself as part of the vast aquatic playground.
Drive around the barangays and there you will surely stumble into unexpected places to hang around with family and friends outside the usual swimming pool.
Pit Stop 4: Dumaguete. Dubbed the “City of Gentle People”, it has an enigmatic pull because of its masterful blend of its Old World charm and modern living, but dominated by the former.
Rizal Boulevard is the city’s show window with a promenade which is perhaps the country’s most photographed coastal road because of its scenery and mesmerizing sunrise. The 780-meter stretch is dotted with middle-class ancestral homes which were converted into boutique hotels, coffee shops, restaurants, and watering holes.
Within the boulevard is the Pantawan Park, a 2-hectare reclaimed public park for street food, physical recreation, and socio-civic events. Its centerpiece is the award-winning Spanish galleon-themed Panilongon Quincentennial landmark which memorializes a portion of Ferdinand Magellan’s 1521 expedition.
At the heart of the city is the 123-year old Silliman University, a sprawling iconic landmark which also has an urban zoo and botanical garden, museum, art gallery, and American-era buildings which have become part of local heritage.
Another postcard-pretty spot is the newly-refurbished and manicured neoclassical Provincial Capitol Complex which is conducive for the good old lazy strolls.
Despite its compact size, Dumaguete is a mecca for foodies with over 200 restaurants scattered in its nooks and crannies, a good number of them in cozy repurposed old houses. A must-taste though is the budbud and steaming sikwate in the public market which has been feeding countless students, tourists and locals.
Beyond the city limits, the neighboring towns have exciting hideaways to offer, such as the mountain cool springs and waterfalls of Valencia, the dive sites of Dauin and Zamboanguita, Twin Lakes of Sibulan, the highland cafes of Pamplona, Manjuyod sandbar, the caves of Mabinay, dolphin watching of Bais, Balanan Lake of Siaton, and the mountain villages of Canlaon City.
If you got moolah to splurge, take a joy ride in sky with Royhle Aviation Academy and see the islands of Apo, Siquijor, and Sumilon, and vast swathes and southern Cebu.
Here’s a tip: This year is the best time to visit as the city celebrates its 75th charter anniversary with a year-long festivity which you may chance upon.
Tick these must-go places, so it won’t become a “Bakit List” at the end of the year and ask yourself again, “Bakit hindi ko napuntahan ang mga lugar na yun?”