Pack Your Bags: 2014 is Here!

By , on January 10, 2014


Sagada by Ching Dee
Sagada by Ching Dee

Book your flight and pack your bags—2014 is here!

Through natural calamities or man-made raucous, Filipinos and the Philippines have definitely survived and survived well. Tourists keep on pouring in and the Department of Tourism looks forward to more tourists this year.

According to Mark Johanson of the International Business Times, The Ethical Traveler suggests five “destinations of interest” for 2014: Cuba, Egypt, Iran, Namibia, and the Philippines.

“Visiting places struck by political or natural disasters like Egypt or the Philippines can help instill a feeling of solidarity, boost morale and put much-needed money back in the hands of those whose lives have been altered by forces beyond their control,” Johanson wrote.

With that said, here are some Philippine destinations no one should miss this year according to go-to travel sites, experienced travel bloggers, and yours truly.

On his website, James Betia of Journeying James listed 10 destinations to visit this 2014. From north to south, he had it covered.

From the north, Sagada and Batad earned the 10th spot in his list. While Kalinga and Batanes made it to the 3rd and 2nd spot, respectively. According to James, visitors should enjoy Sagada and Batad while they still can, since the trees that helps maintain a cooler temperature in the area are slowly depleting.

The rich culture and deep heritage of the Kalinga Province dates back centuries ago, so he pleads to tourists to respect traditions and adjust to its customs—not the other way around.

“Go there with the purpose of learning something about the culture. Please, pretty please, get a tattoo not just for the sake of getting a tattoo (or) to brag,” he said in his blog. “Also, try to visit (the) elders and pay homage.”

James also has a very interesting advice for visitors. “Get high with everything you see and maybe help in planting rice.”

He also noted Batanes as his Top 2 destination for 2014.

Batanes (Photo by BingBing on Wikimedia Commons)
Batanes (Photo by BingBing on Wikimedia Commons)

“In Sabtang, elders would open their windows and doors just to greet us good morning,” he recalled. “Batanes is like traveling 50 years ago.”

He concludes, “A lot has been said of the Marlboro Country, lighthouses and incredible hills so I would not add to that. Food is amazing and you have to seize airline promo tickets if you are planning a ticket. Don’t try to cram everything on a 3D/2N stay as it defeats the purpose of experiencing Batanes. Don’t miss Sabtang too and if you have extra time, do visit Itbayat.”

In Visayas, James noted several destinations as well.

Camiguin by Vlad Rud on WikiCommons
Camiguin by Vlad Rud on WikiCommons

In Top 9 is Camiguin, dubbed as the “Island Born of Fire” because of the numerous volcanoes in the island. “Its charm rests on the locals and the volcanoes that make this one unique destination. Underwater charm is also great as I’ve seen a critically endangered hawksbill turtle the last time I did snorkeling at Mantigue island,” James said. Abby Yao of www.AirAsia.com also named Camiguin as the 6th must-see beach in the country.

Calaguas in Camarines Norte is Top 8 and earned the coveted spot in Isla Lipana’s list of “Top 10 Emerging PH Tourism Destination.” Beach bums and adventurists alike will fall in love with Calaguas’ white sand, crystal blue waters, and the feeling of vacationing in your very own island.

Siquijor by Ching Dee
Siquijor by Ching Dee

Siquijor is James’ Top 5. “Siquijor has been a favorite destination when I just want a break from everything. Apart from the secluded white sand coves, number of pristine waterfalls and fantastic sunsets, I like its off-beat charm and lovely locals. I consider it paraiso and waking up in front of a beach with coconut trees swaying just takes away every stress in my body,” he wrote on his blog.

And I couldn’t agree more. I also had the privilege of visiting Siquijor in 2013 and it’s one of the safest, most relaxing, most beautiful places I have ever been to. James also has a note for the wise, to which I agree.

“If you still believe in “kulam” (witchcraft) or potions, I think you belong to the past century. Go now and visit Siquijor,” he said.

Siquijor is a place of gentle and friendly people. Stories and lore about witchcraft and paranormal creatures still abound, but once you experience the Island of Fire for yourself, you will understand that lore is just lore and you get to create your own stories once you’re there. Stories of adventure and relaxation and getting back with nature.

In Mindanao, James suggested a visit to Lake Sebu in South Cotabato. “A visit to the National Living Treasure awardee, Be Lang Dulay, is definitely a must when in Lake Sebu. Her handicraft is like the stone carvings you see on the walls of Angkor Wat only depicted on a weaving called T’nalak, a cloth waved using abaca fiber. On a T’nalak cloth one would easily see the patterns that surrounds a life of each T’boli tribe. These weavings are unique to each other since they are weave according to the dreams of the master weaver,” he encouraged.

He also encouraged tourists to visit the otherwise averted province of Tawi-Tawi. “If safety is your concern, I would say that Bongao, Tawi-Tawi is my second safest place in Mindanao, Davao City being #1. What I love about Bongao, Tawi-Tawi is its color—vibrant and alive, bustling with life from the colors of their public utility tricycles to the color of their clothes,” he wrote.

El Nido by Philippine Fly Boy on WikiCommons
El Nido by Philippine Fly Boy on WikiCommons

For his top pick, he hailed the islands of El Nido and Coron in Palawan as the top Philippine destination for 2014. AirAsia.com also named El Nido as its 2nd most worthy destination beaches in the Philippines. While the oh-so-famous travel site Lonely Planet included Palawan in their list of destinations to watch out for in 2014, together with tourism big guys Greece, India, Italy, and Bulgaria.

“What I like about El Nido is the Taraw Cliff Climbing. It’s a 2 hour or so cliff climb from the town proper. From the cliff you have an unobstructed view of Bacuit Bay,” he said. “The El Nido bay, the boats docking to shore after island hopping the whole day, the sun slowly setting on the west, the lush green forest on my south, the Cadlao island and the town center. I even saw Nacpan beach on the horizon.”

Coron by Ching Dee
Coron by Ching Dee

“Speak of palm-fringed powdery white beaches, crystal clear lagoons, stunning lakes and towering limestone karst and you are brought to Coron. But wait there’s more,” James boasted. “If you think what’s above is enough, you are just scratching the surface. Coron boasts of its world-class dive sites—WW II Japanese shipwrecks, thermocline lakes, Cathedral Cave, coral gardens and more.”

Speaking of AirAsia, Yao also listed 5 other must-visit beaches in the country. For the party animal, there’s Boracay. For adventures of gigantic—as in whale shark—proportions, there’s Oslob in Cebu where you can swim next to the largest fish in the planet. If you just want to laze around and be a beach bum, then head to Panglao and Pamalican Islands in Bohol. For an experience even more precious than pearls, go to the Island Garden City of Samal in Davao del Norte. They weren’t kidding when they said that it’s “the island that has it all.” Aside from the luxury resort The Pearl Farm, azure seas and picture-perfect landscapes will greet you upon arrival and will beckon you to stay longer than you planned. For AirAsia’s top pick, they chose The Last Frontier—Tubbataha Reef. One of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Philippines, tourists described the reef as a “true underwater jungle.” The staggering amount of ocean life within the area is beyond compare and a definite must-see for everyone who can afford to do so.

Other famous travel bloggers also shared their top 3 Philippine destinations for 2014.

Edgar Alan Yap of Eazy Traveler (see his PCI feature here) chose Isabela and the Visayan islands of Dinagat near Southern Leyte and Biliran in Eastern Visayas.

Tourism professor and professional travel blogger Ivan Henares of Ivan About Town answered “Bohol, Bohol, Bohol!”—both for restorative tourism after the massive 7.8-magnitude earthquake and for his love of Bohol and the Boholanos.

Lastly, travel and architecture photographer Estan Cabigas of Langyaw shared, “For food, architecture, history and culture—Iloilo, especially with refurbishing of Calle Real and similar plans; Bohol for beaches, cave pools, caves and mysticism, and lastly, Northern Mindanao for adventure and thrills.”

Add your own 2014 dream destination to the list!