An official entry to MoneySupermarket’s “A Grand Adventure” competition.
“Do not be a stranger in your own land.” This is one of the famous lines from the late 19th century revolutionary book, Noli Me Tangere, written by Jose Rizal, the national hero of the Philippines. It has influenced great minds then and now and these words still echo its social relevance until today.
For days, I pondered the possibility of having £1,000 in my hands to be spent solely on discovering this wonderful world we live in. I have a lot of dream destinations in mind: ancient architectures, unspoiled beaches, grand mountains and deep forests, and traditional shows I want to see. I also want to travel to a place where I will feel comfortable, where I will naturally feel a sense of belonging and unconditional hospitality. Living outside the Philippines for almost a year now, I decided that I will go back home to have the grand adventure of my lifetime.
The Philippines as the destination of this epic adventure is the perfect choice for the challenge of making the most out of the £1,000 travel budget. I grew up in this country and I know by heart how to haggle in order to find cheaper alternatives for accommodation, food and activities without sacrificing comfort and memorable experiences. Since I know the language, social practices and norms, the following plans are easier to achieve in my home country than in a foreign land. Instead of simply traveling around, I plan to immerse myself into the various social aspects of places I will visit.
- Instead of checking in hotels, I will have a homestay with the locals. This way will bring me closer to them and I’ll be able to know more about their culture and lifestyle.
- Instead of dining out, I will share meals with the families I will be staying with. I’ll be able to know how they prepare their own food specialties and share stories with them while eating.
- Instead of hiring a private car and driver, I will utilize public transportation. Doing this will bring me closer to nature, to the common surroundings of the locals and perhaps meet a new friend.
I’ve been to most parts of the country but there’s still plenty to see. Join me in this 7-week-long, island-hopping adventure to visit some of the must-see destinations around the Philippines.
First stop (A): the northernmost island of Batanes. Batanes boasts of stunning coastlines and lush greenery. Considered isolated, the cultural uniqueness of this province remains intact. Stone houses, grazing cows, fishing boats—there is no better gateway to the country. What will I do in Batanes? Roll on the grass, down the hills, onto the beaches and cap the day with a night of folktales and legends.
Second stop (B): the UNESCO World Heritage Site and historic town of Vigan. With bricked roads and horse-drawn carriages, a visit to Vigan is akin to traveling back in time when Philippines was still a Spanish colony. Spanish influences are preserved to remind us how Filipinos adapted during the colonial era and how we embraced these influences and made them our own. What will I do in Vigan? Visit the museums and take a ride on one of the carriages while appreciating the rich history of my country.
Third stop (C): the mountains of Sagada. Situated in Mountain Province, Sagada attracts those who yearn to escape from the everyday hustle of modernity. It is a perfect place for soul-searching with a slower pace of life compared to the city. I have always dreamt of leaving my worldly worries behind by spending a week in Sagada—reading a book while sipping a cup of coffee with the grand views of rice terraces in front of me. What will I do in Sagada? I will explore the hanging coffins, caves and waterfalls, and participate, or at least witness, in one of their tribal celebrations.
Fourth stop (D): the heritage sites of Palawan. A well-protected province, Palawan keeps on sharing its natural wonders with visitors. Famous for its beaches, lagoons and diving sites, it is the home for two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park and the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River. What will I do in Palawan? Other than be amazed by the underground river, I will go island hopping in Coron, cliff climbing in El Nido and finally overcome my fear of ocean depths and try scuba diving.
Fifth stop (E): the gem of the Visayan region, Bohol. Considered a haven for divers and snorkelers, this island is also famous for its Chocolate Hills—more than a thousand mounds that change colors from green to chocolate-brown every summer. It is also the home for the endangered tarsier where several foundations and centers were established for its protection. What will I do in Bohol? Retrace the steps of my first visit there and be mesmerized again by the dolphins and whales, old churches and caves and the island’s gentle waves and peaceful shores.
Sixth stop (F): the romantic and mysterious island of Camiguin. I was only a curious kid when I saw a movie inspired by this island and yet I was already overwhelmed by its mystery and moved by the tragic love story it portrayed. Since then, Camiguin has been one of my dream destinations in the country. Born out of volcanic activities, it offers a sanctuary for weary travelers and adventure-seekers alike. What will I do in Camiguin? Dip into its hot springs and waterfalls and dive into its famed underwater cemetery.
Seventh stop (G): the southern tip of the country, Tawi-Tawi. With diverse flora and fauna populating this small province and crystal clear waters and fine-grained beaches, Tawi-Tawi is one of those places you thought only exists in your dreams. And to every traveler’s delight, multiply that paradise to the province’s 107 islands. It promises to transport visitors to a whole different world. What will I do in Tawi-Tawi? Stay with a local family and experience how it feels like to belong in this paradise.
The list could go on. But I must stop here because the essence of this adventure is to come home. My last activity, and the most important one, is to gather my family and friends to partake in a feast of Filipino cuisine and music and to celebrate with them the beauty, history and culture of this country we all call home.
Do you have a grand adventure in mind and want to share it to the world? Join MoneySupermarket’s “A Grand Adventure” competition.