Things have really turned ugly for the Department of Tourism's "Pilipinas Kay Ganda!" campaign (see related stories, "Not So Pretty," "Gets More Flak").
I also think it's blah. But I won't stop at criticizing the campaign. As a proud Filipino, I'm doing my share of promoting the country's 7,107 islands by blogging about my Top Three Pinoy Picks. I know there are more than three must-sees in our country. But for now, allow me to talk about my Top Three.
I've been to Palawan thrice. First with college friends right after graduation, then with J to celebrate our First Wedding Anniversary, then with my family months ago. I've only seen parts of Puerto Princesa, Sabang and Port Barton. I know there's so much more to explore. My impression: If you love the beach, minus the parties, this is where you should go. One of my life dreams is to have a family vacation home in Palawan. But the more immediate goal is to see Coron soon.
Fallen tree by the beach;
Off to the Monkey Trail
(Most people go to the Underground River via a 20-minute boat ride.
We chose to take the 2-hour trek);
Me, floating on water (haha);
Us on a duyan (a cradle);
rock formation in Port Barton;
baby crocs at the Crocodile Farm;
hard hats as anti-bat pee/poo gear;
exiting the Underground River;
Bulol swimming at the Star Fish Island.
A bit from our date: I remember us taking a 2-hour jeepney ride from our overnight stay in Port Barton back to Puerto Princesa. I was seated inside the jeep, together with most of the commuters while J was on the vehicle's roof (yes, top ride!), together with three squealing pigs and a couple of other locals. My husband's fearless. Sometimes, his adventurous spirit could give me a heart attack! Needless to say, I was frantic the entire trip (couldn't sit still, was worried sick about him, especially on the zigzag roads!). Why did I allow him to take the top ride? He's a pro. As a mountaineer, he's done it a gazillion times. And I didn't want to be a kill-joy so I agreed. Thank God we got to our destination safe and sound.
LONELY PLANET: "Palawan is one of the real treasures of the Philippines...Due in equal parts to its rugged topography, its small population and its distance from other islands in the archipelago, Palawan has managed to stay largely pristine.
Palawan's world-class diving, snorkelling and jungle trekking make it a must-see destination for nature lovers and adventure-sports fans. The fantastic seascapes of the Bacuit Archipelago, the wrecks around Coron Town and the magical lakes of Coron Island should rank high on any visitor's list. You could spend a lifetime discovering new islands, beaches and reefs, particularly around northern Palawan and Busuanga Island.
I'm proud to have survived the adventures of Sagada! It was J's nth visit, my first. We were there to celebrate our Second Wedding Anniversary. Considering my limited outdoors experience and skills, it was my roughest but most rewarding travel experience so far! As for J, walang-wala sa kanya (it was peanuts), haha.
The rickety mini bus we rode from Baguio to Sagada
(Glad the hell ride was worth it!);
Bulol by the Sagada Bell;
Take a peek inside the Sagada Church;
Bulol by the Pine Trees;
J hanging off the cliff! (Told you he's fearless.);
Locals dancing in the dap-ayan;
gorgeous rock formations;
Bulol by the lamp, inside the Sumaging Cave;
we went trekking;
a cow guarding one of the tomb stones at the local cemetery;
Center: That's us inside the adventure-filled Sumaging Cave
(expect to trek, rapel, walk through ice-cold, neck-deep water,
crawl through holes)
I'm a Sagada Survivor!
A bit from our date: My favorite moment was napping one afternoon in the Sagada park (near the Church), engulfed by the scent of pine trees, with the locals singing and dancing one-hundred feet away, while J watched over me. It remains to be one of the most relaxing moments of my life.
LONELY PLANET: "The absence of noise and pollution are probably the first things you'll appreciate about Sagada, a tranquil mountaintop town where you can walk down the middle of the road and only occasionally be disturbed by a passing vehicle. Backpackers have been flocking here for years to enjoy the incredible mountain scenery, cheap dope and companionship of like-minded travellers.
Sagada fills up quickly in the March-to-May high season. But despite its popularity it manages to stave off changes that would detract from its appeal as an 'ecotourism' destination - there are no massive hotels or blaring discos, and videoke is conspicuously absent. For many Sagadans, the traditional way of life remains intact. During harvest celebrations, women wear tapis while older men don G-strings and gather in the dap-ay; chickens are sacrificed, gongs are played and general merriment ensues.
#3 Batanes (though we've never been here)
"Taming the wind and the waters in the northernmost Philippine frontier, the relatively isolated islands of the Batanes, the home of the resilient and welcoming Ivatans, with its rolling hills, subtropical climate, ancient cultures, windswept traditional stone houses and breathtaking landscapes and seascapes which perhaps make it one of the prettiest corners of the world." -- http://tourism-philippines.com/batanes/
If J and I could see only one more Pinas Spot, we'd both choose Batanes. I always hear about travelers being taken back in time, as if they're transported to a totally different world.
Just how untouched is Batanes? Read about the Honesty Cafe. I wonder if there's something like it anywhere else in the world. Only in the Philippines!