• Fri. Sep 23rd, 2022

Complete travel guide to the Philippines

5 adventures to experience in the Philippines

1. Trek to the top of Osmeña

Osmeña is Cebu’s highest peak. At 1,013m elevation it’s not too difficult and only a 20 minute hike if you start from the park entrance. Yet as you scrape off the last pitted limestone bumps, your reward is a rare vista of leafy hills stretching out to the horizon. If you’re looking for a longer adventure, the dazzling Kawasan Falls to Osmeña 7-hour hike lets you travel through beautiful countryside along the way. Finish by camping overnight near the summit, to see the land below bathed in golden mist at sunrise.

2. Snorkel in the remote Tubbataha reef

The UNESCO-listed Tubbataha Reef Natural Park is unique. Home to half of the world’s coral species, its remote location (10 to 12 hour cruise from Puerto Princesa) has made this part of the Sulu Sea virtually inaccessible to local fishermen for generations. It was left to thrive, and even today it still thrives thanks to its protected status. Today, its 700 species of fish, turtles, sharks, mantas and reefs provide a wild diving experience, whether it’s to join the predators of the shark airport or to explore the Deslan wreck. Surrounded by nothing but ebbing water and the bizarre drifting whale shark, it feels like a whole other world.

3. Discover an enchanted river

It’s not hard to see why they call Mindanao’s Hinuatan the “enchanted river”. Its incredibly clear iris blue waters originate from the depths of the subsoil and emerge barely 300m before emptying into the estuary. It’s like a magic trick: blink and you miss it. Most of the submerged cave system it empties from is still unexplored, so it’s no surprise that legends of mysterious fairies and fish have developed around these waters. It’s not hard to reach though, and after a 10-minute walk through the jungle you can jump into the refreshing river and spot huge schools of silvery fish that congregate at its mouth. Magic.

4. Go bird watching in Ilocos Norte

The far northwestern tip of Luzon is where the Cordillera Mountains are simply lacking in land. It is perhaps best known for its beaches, with the white sands of Saud de Pagudpud Beach, referred to as ‘Boracay of the North’. But if you look up to the horizon, you might see one of its lesser advertised delicacies. The coast, and Lake Paoay in particular, offer sightings of rare local and migratory bird species. Visitors like the declining Chinese Egret or the endemic Philippine ducks, notable for their orange heads and blue beaks, are just a few of its popular spots.

5. Explore the Chocolate Hills

The ‘Chocolate Hills’ get their name from the laconic shade of brown that the summer sun cooks over the herbs of Bohol. Yet it is not the color but the sheer scale of the hills that make this natural wonder so unique. Over a thousand rounded grassy limestone mounds dot the flat jungle floor here, resembling the world’s most ambitious bubble wrap. Some rise up to 500m, with the entire complex stretching for miles. The views of the town of Carmen and Sagbayan Peak are worth scrambling for, especially when you arrive at dawn and sunset.

3 must-see beaches in the Philippines

Off the shores of Caramoan Peninsula is a wonderful archipelago of islets with green tufts surrounded by milky white sand. Local boats can drop you off on secluded shoreline spiers surrounded by caves and grassy hikes inland. But, for a truly serene getaway, head to the sandy lagoon of tiny Matukad – its setting is as near-perfect as it gets.

Another alluring island chain is Calaguas, found in the province of Caramarines Norte. Its white shores are on par even with Boracay, although much less developed, and the 2.5km Mahabang Buhangin on Tinaga Island is one of the few beaches you can camp on, waking you up to a view. on the ocean backed by green hills covered with jungle.

Finally, what traveler in sandals hasn’t heard of Boracay. Its whitewashed shores are hailed as the gold standard by which most others are measured. Nowadays it’s full of lavish resorts, but when you’ve had enough of the others you can always take boat trips around the islets or set off on your own to snorkel in its stunningly clear waters. Happiness.

3 cultural experiences to live in the Philippines

1. Explore the rice terraces of Banaue

Hand-carved for over 2,000 years, Banaue’s rice terraces are almost a living testimony to life in the Cordillera. The villages of the Ifugao people dot these hills. Some are only a few miles apart, but they might as well be on another island, with unique cultures, festivals and traditions totally removed from their neighbors. Multi-day hikes allow you to spend more time among these communities, where the planting and harvest seasons are essential. Try to arrive in time for the triennial Imbayah festival in April (the next in 2022) and you’ll witness a plethora of traditional games and parties – there’s even a hand-carved scooter race!

2. Discover the historic crucible of Vigan

This 16th-century UNESCO-listed city is everything the Spanish colonial cities of Asia aspired to be: orderly, civilized and elegant. Than its historic center – all the hardwood mansions, the abundant cobblestones and the horse-drawn carriages (calesas) – has survived so much history intact is a miracle. Yet there is more here than colonial relics. Local potters still make their famous burnay pots, a legacy of pre-colonial Chinese immigrants, and outside Calle Crisologo and its historic museums, a typical Filipino town comes alive on the outskirts, albeit scented with the great culinary heritage of the conquistadors – empanadas.

Explore Cebu City’s Colonial Legacy

Cebu City was born from the original Spanish colony in the Philippines, built in 1565. Its quays even still house the ancient fortifications, rebuilt in stone in the 18th century. Fort San Pedro served as a garrison, prison, and even a zoo, but is surprisingly well preserved. You can also visit the islands’ first church, the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño in Cebu. Rebuilt in the Baroque style, it contains a famous Flemish statuette given to explorer Ferdinand Magellan, a complicated figure in the Philippines but still considered the first to bring Catholicism here. The revered Magellanic Cross, kept in a pavilion in Plaza Sugbo, is believed to contain fragments of the original crucifix he planted on the shores of Cebu in 1521.

What to eat in the Philippines

Seafood is ubiquitous here, although the town of Roxas, in the province of Capiz, is often referred to as the islands’ ‘seafood capital’ due to its mix of Sibuyan seafood and a chilled out coastline. water housing thousands of fish farms. For a local version of surf ‘n’ turf, try the pork-stuffed squid (rellenong puse).

Despite an abundance of seafood, the cuisine of the islands is quite rich in meat, with adobo (meat cooked in a tangy marinade) among the most famous dishes. For a real pleasure, try the crisp pata, Fried pork leg where the meat and crackers are then dipped in a soy vinegar dip.

Start the day with a classic ‘silog‘, fried egg and rice usually accompanied either by dry corned beef (faucet), pork belly (tocsilog) or corned beef (cornsilsog). A real breakfast of champions.

Do you feel inspired?