Charming islands, gentle mountains and cultural treasures, Philippines makes for a good choice for a getaway. In the second part of our series, we tell you what you must check out on a visit to the country:
Sagada is a prominent hill station in the Cordillera mountain range of the Philippines. It costs between 760 and 980 pesos to go from Manila to Sagada, depending on the type of bus. The ride lasts for 13 hours. The Sagada Heritage Village offers accommodation in Bahay Kubo huts (house with stilts). Apart from getting to stay on a hilltop surrounded by pine trees, the place has all the trappings like barbeque, WiFi and shuttle services. The price is around 3,000 pesos, although you can get a triple room for 1,600 pesos if you book at least three months in advance.
A great option for meals is Yoghurt House known for its stunning views of the town and the hills from its balcony on the first floor. Choose from a multitude of yoghurt options with fruit mixes. They also have excellent cookies. Prices are from 100 to 150 Philippine pesos. Their pork meal is something to die for. An average meal for two costs 400 Philippine pesos.
You can visit the Echo Valley which is a half hour walk from the jeepney point. True to its name, you can shout aloud and hear your voice’s echo in the valley. An interesting cultural treasure is Sagada hanging coffins. Dead bodies are mummified and placed in coffins to prepare them for the next life. Hanging coffins are a tradition practiced by the Kankanaey people who believe that raising the coffins also help bring the deceased closer to heaven.
Walk further for half an hour to reach an underground river. The water flows here from a minute opening and the loud burble in the dark makes for an awesome experience.
Bontoc is a 45-minute drive by jeepney from Sagada (for 50 pesos). Stop by the Bontoc museum here. The entrance fee to the Bontoc museum is 120 pesos and it is just a few minutes away from the jeepney terminal. The museum houses rare artefacts of the indigenous communities of the region. The marvellous collection also includes several heirloom pieces. You will also find replicas of thatched huts that are constructed as per the styles of Bontoc’s ethnic communities in the outdoor museum of Bontoc.
Mainit, (meaning 'hot' in Filipino) the land of hot water springs, is a 30-minute jeepney ride from Bontoc. They are said to have medicinal properties and are known to cure many illnesses and diseases. Even otherwise, it is a soothing experience for your body. You can either take a bath in the public hot springs or stay in any of the private resorts in Mainit and use their pools which also draws water from the natural springs. There are also cold-water springs adjacent to the hot ones. You do not have to pay money to bathe in the public hot water springs of Mainit.
Puerto Galera is a town in the Mindoro province of the Philippines with beautiful beaches. Take a bus ride to Batangas pier from Quezon Avenue, Manila or Gil Puyat Avenue (also known as Buendia Avenue) in Pasay City or Araneta City, Cubao, Quezon City or EDSA-Kamias area, Quezon City or Alabang, Muntinlupa City, for just 300 pesos. Travel for about three hours. You can take a ferry from there, for 440 pesos, to reach Puerto Galera in about two hours. Take up a sailing class at the Puerto Galera Yatch Club which charges 10,000 Philippine pesos for adults for a 3-day sailing course (basis/advanced/intermediate options are available). Many beaches of Puerto Galera conduct water sports activities like scuba diving or sports fishing.
Jeepneys charge 30 pesos to go from Puerto Galera to Sabang. The average tariff of lodges in Sabang are above 1,800 pesos. Tuna Joe Backpackers at Sinandigan beach village charges 250 pesos for dormitory accommodation (single bed) and 300 pesos per person for double rooms. It is a beach-facing inn and has adequate facilities. This stay is a one-and-a-half kilometre walk from the Sabang beach. Sabang restaurant, located just half a kilometre from Sabang beach, serves a delectable mix of Halo Halo, European dishes, and traditional Filipino food. An average meal for two costs around 450 pesos in this restaurant.
Negotiate with the local fishermen to take you for boating and snorkelling for around 1,500 pesos or take up guided tours. Fins and masks are available on rent for prices of 80-100 pesos. You can get to the nearby seas within half an hour in a boat, and get a first-hand impression of the surreal beauty of underwater marine life.
Cebu city is a must visit for those who want to understand the culture and history of the Philippines. It is possible to fly to Cebu from Manila or from other countries directly without crossing Manila.
The ferry from Manila to Cebu takes about 22 hours and charges 1,000 pesos for tourist class. If you book at the last minute, the fares could range from 1,300-1,400 pesos.
Walk around Colon Street, the oldest street of Philippines. Visit the house of Juan Gorordo, the first Filipino bishop of Cebu at Casa Gorordo Musuem. Check out the heritage of Cebu through its statues of great leaders like Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, Lapu-Lapu, a historical chieftain of Mactan, Miguel López de Legazpi, first Governor-General of the Philippines and Sergio Osmeña y Suico, the fourth president of the Philippines originating from Cebu.
Casa Gorordo charges 70 pesos entrance fee to foreign adults (50 pesos for local adults).
Cebu is famous for its lechon (spit-roasted pig). The dish is also popular in Manila, but the style of cooking is different in Cebu. It involves stuffing the pig belly with spices and is normally eaten without sauce, or with only a mild sauce. In Manila, it is cooked without any stuffing and is usually eaten with a special sauce. There are a lot of lechon restaurants in Cebu. Among the popular ones is Zubuchon which has several branches around Cebu and has also expanded to Manila. Other must-try Cebuano dishes include kaldereta, goat curry stew, embotido, Spanish pork dish and Cebu’s native shrimp dish, ginisang pasayan.
For accommodation, consider Sugbutel Family hotel which offers several options including dormitory, standard, deluxe and family rooms. Dormitory beds are priced at 435 pesos per person and even includes shoe shelf, cell phone stand and safety box apart from other modern facilities.
The writer has also authored the e-book, The Philippines On $40 a Day.
This article is a submission by one of our readers, and part of our new series #OTReadersWrite.