Top 10 Philippine destinations for 2013

By , on January 2, 2014


The author with 400-year-old coffins at Sumaguing Cave in Sagada, 2009.
The author with 400-year-old coffins at Sumaguing Cave in Sagada, 2009.

2013 is surely a year of triumph for the Philippines as the entire world witnessed our strength, resilience, and faith through trying times. Truly, no earthquake nor supertyphoon can extinguish the fiery Filipino spirit.

Through thick or thin, tourists kept pouring into the country with their backpacks and wanderlust. Here are the top 10 destinations in the Philippines for 2013 according to yours truly (as DOT is yet to release their statistics).

Vigan's most famous street, Calle Crisologo, at night. Photo by Ching Dee, 2012.
Vigan’s most famous street, Calle Crisologo, at night. Photo by Ching Dee, 2012.
Ilocandia

From adventure trails to water sports to UNESCO World Heritage sites to a perennial artistic haven, Ilocos region has everything a tourist could ever hope or think of. Enjoy stretches of unadulterated beach and take a plunge (or try windsurfing) in Pagudpud; go back in time by going to the heritage city of Vigan; explore one of the four UNESCO World Heritage Churches in the Philippines in Paoay; and tour the home of the Marcos family and savor the best Empanadas in Batac. If you’re starting to miss the hustle and bustle of the city and/or looking for an artistic release, head on to Baguio, the country’s summer capital.

The famous and sacred hanging coffins of Sagada, Mountain Province.
The famous and sacred hanging coffins of Sagada, Mountain Province.
Mountain Province

Hungry for culture and nature? Willing to enjoy over 10 hours of land travel? Then head north to Mountain Province. Marvel at the Banaue Rice Terraces (no water skiing, please); soak in the richness of Filipino culture and warmth of tribal bonds in Bontoc; and don’t miss the mystery held in the caves and mountains of Sagada.

Baler, Aurora

Kapamilya actor Jericho Rosales and award-winning travel blogger “Journeying James” Betia are just some of the personalities who frequent Baler, Aurora to ride one wave after another and “hang ten.” Enjoying its fame in 2013 more and more, Baler is certainly another destination to watch out for in 2014 as the humble provincial capital proves that it is more than just another surfing destination.

Manila

Whether it is the “Gate to Hell” (see Dan Brown) or not, Manila is certainly teeming with tourists day in and day out. Locals and foreigners alike love going to malls, which you’ve got hundreds—if not thousands—to choose from. Manila is also best known for the historical walled city of Intramuros.

Bohol

It’s business as usual after a 7.8-magnitude earthquake shook the church-laden province of Bohol. A large number of heritage churches are found in this island and almost all of them suffered unspeakable damage after the quake. Talks of rehabilitation, restoration, and preservation are still ongoing, as these procedures can be costly. Nonetheless, tourists keep pouring in to enjoy its beaches and natural beauty.

The stunning sunrise at Bantayan Island in Northern Cebu. Photo by Ching Dee, 2012.
The stunning sunrise at Bantayan Island in Northern Cebu. Photo by Ching Dee, 2012.
Cebu

Best known for its uncrowded white sand beaches and diving spots Nemo would be proud of, Cebu surely kept its head held high despite suffering from the same earthquake that almost flattened its neighboring province of Bohol. In 2013, visitors enjoyed their close encounter with the famous whale shark in Oslob.

Boracay Island. Photo by Angelo Juan Ramos.
Boracay Island. Photo by Angelo Juan Ramos.
Panay Island

Panay Island is home to the City of Love: Iloilo and the world famous Boracay. In Iloilo, visit another UNESCO World Heritage Church in Miag-ao and fill your bellies with warmth from a steaming bowl of genuine La Paz Batchoy; in Boracay, find out what the fuss is all about and what brought millions of tourists from all over the world. Is it the powdery white sand? Is it the night life? Is it the unbeatable friendliness of Filipinos? Find out for yourself.

The view from the top on the way to Kayangan Lake. Photo by Ching Dee, 2009.
The view from the top on the way to Kayangan Lake. Photo by Ching Dee, 2009.
Palawan

With 7,107 islands in our territory, Palawan certainly stands out from the rest. Home to the only “fresh water lake” connected to the sea, Coron is known for Kayangan Lake and Barracuda Lake. In 2013, millions of tourists checked out the unbridled beauty of Coron and vowed to come back for more. But Palawan is most famous of the Puerto Princesa Underground River, the longest underground river to be navigated.

Davao

Once hailed as the “4th safest city in the world,” Davao is no stranger to adventure. It is best known for Mt. Apo, the highest peak in the country, as well as Durian. In 2013, Davao Mayor Rodrigo Duterte just upped the ante for all the mayors by patrolling the streets himself (perhaps that’s why it’s so safe there?). Tourists flocked to Samal Island in Davao del Norte as well, which enjoyed its fair share of curious and eager backpackers and honeymooners.

Cagayan de Oro

And what is an article about adventure without Cagayan de Oro? Best known for water adventure sports such as white water rafting, Cagayan also serves as the jump-off point to Camiguin, another mystical island worth exploring.

I’m sure there are thousands of other worthy destinations to be included in this list, but for now, let this list stand as a challenge for all readers to prove me wrong. Book your flight and pack your bags—explore the beauty of the Philippines. Share your own Top 10 Philippine Destinations with us and who knows, 2014 is just a day away.