5 destinations that look like they’re not in the Philippines

5 destinations that look like they’re not in the Philippines

We tell you: You can go overseas without having to leave the country. Read how.

The Philippines may be a tiny archipelago but it’s so beautiful and blessed—thanks to its 7,000++ islands making it almost have a bit of or something similar to what another country has to offer.

Here are five places in the Philippines that transport you to places outside the Philippines.

The rolling hills of “New Zealand” (Batanes)

By Ferdz Decena

This one’s no secret. Every time we see someone post about one of the ultimate #travelgoals, it almost always involves a sense of awe.

The northernmost province of the country, Batanes, is home to rolling green hills dotted with livestock that resembles the home of the Kiwis. You may not see fluffy flocks of sheep, but you will see herds of cattle and/or cows grazing among all that beauty, a rare combination in the country. There’s also the clear skies that add to the whole “this shouldn’t be in the Philippines” vibe.

There’s a particularly good spot that will make you say “Am I REALLY in the Philippines?”: Rakuh-a-Payaman in Mahatao.

“African safari” (Calauit Safari Park in Palawan)

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Blending in. 🦓

A post shared by ᴄʜᴇʀʀʏ ʟᴏᴜ ᴅᴏʀɪᴏ (@cheessly) on

It’s safe to say you’re not really going to find wild zebras and giraffes running around in open fields ANYWHERE in the country; they’re usually seen in enclosures inside zoos. Not that we’re complaining, but we’d like to see them in their element, similar to their brothers and sisters in Africa.

Luckily, there is a place just like the African safari that’s within 35 minutes of Metro Manila: the Calauit Safari Park. It’s home to reticulated giraffes and Grévy’s zebra that get to run around and play alongside local species, some of which are endemic to the Calamianes Islands where the park resides.

Experience the rolling hills of Batanes by booking #DashHolidays!
Tel: +63917 840 6853, +639917 627 6179
Solar Century Tower, 100 Tordesillas cor. HV Dela Costa Streets, Salcedo Village, Makati City

Time travel to “old Spain” (Vigan, Ilocos Sur)

Vigan itself looks like an old Spanish colonial town, but this street is what transports you to Spain. Photo by Ray in Manila

UNESCO calls it the “best-preserved example of a planned Spanish colonial town in Asia,” and it’s not hard to see why.

Vigan, Ilocos Sur is a remarkably well-preserved Spanish colonial town thanks in large part to the people taking pride in their heritage. One street, in particular, gives this city that true “old Spanish town” feel: Calle Crisologo. This cobblestone street is at the heart of Vigan’s very best when it comes to preserving old Spanish architecture. That, coupled with local laws that prevent extensive modifications to heritage houses, make this sight unique to Vigan.

“Japanese Bamboo” Forest (Man-made forest in Bilar, Bohol)

It’s not bamboo, but it is just as quiet and as peaceful. Photo by R294

This is not quite an apples-to-apples comparison, but the way the Bilar Man-Made Forest looks really gives you that feeling of being inside the Sagano Bamboo Forest in Kyoto, Japan.

You won’t see a single bamboo tree standing here (nor will mahogany make the same soothing sound when they get hit by a breeze), but you have to admit that the tree tunnel it creates is eerily similar. It’s like going through a wormhole that will transport you to somewhere completely different.

Going “Dutch” with flowers (Sirao Flower Farm, Cebu)

You can’t grow tulips in the Philippines without a truckload of struggle. Does this mean Amsterdam’s flower gardens are a far-fetched dream reserved for those lucky enough to get a Schengen visa? No.

A trip to Cebu is all you need to see sights similar to those in Amsterdam. The Sirao Flower Farm started making rounds in social media before the 10,000 Roses Cafe was even a thing. It looks spectacularly like the flower gardens in Amsterdam even without the tulips thanks to a more Philippine-friendly flower that’s just as colorful: the celiosa flower or cock’s comb.

Do you know of other destinations that you feel are similar to those overseas? Let us know and we’ll do a second set!

Unique Holy Week holidays for 2019

Unique Holy Week holidays for 2019

Make your Holy Week vacation more interesting by actually engaging in Holy Week activities. *wink wink*

Going on a social media purge as your penitensya (penance) or beach bumming in places like Boracay or Palawan for the Semana Santa is well and good, but don’t you ever get tired of the same trend every single year? Why not go on a simple summer holiday where you can enjoy your vacation AND still experience something relevant to Holy Week festivities? We have rounded up ideas for your Semana Santa escape.

Barotac Viejo, Iloilo

Iloilo isn’t the first place that pops into people’s heads when it comes to answering the question “Where should I be this Holy Week?” It’s not as popular a destination especially that crowd favorite Boracay is merely on the northwest part of the island. But the sleep town of Barotac Viejo may just give you something new.

The little town is known for having a community that is takes their Holy Week seriously by mimicking the Passion of Christ. The townspeople themselves have been performing the Passion play, with “passion” Hiligaynon every Good Friday for almost half a century in their annual Taltal sa Barotac Viejoand it’s a delight to watch.

Places to see: Bucas Grande, Old Iloilo City, Miagao Church, River Esplanande, “Little Baguio” (Bucari)
Things to do: Party at Smallville, Walk along Iloilo River Esplanande, Island hopping at Concepcion

Bantayan Island, Cebu

Bantayan Island
This small island north of Cebu isn’t just a hit for its white sand beaches; it’s also a good place to be if you want to see lifesize replicas of religious images this Holy Week. Photo by Roderick Eime

It’s an island north of the Cebu mainland that’s become popular for its stretches of fine-sand beaches that is expected to see an influx of tourists this Holy Week. What people shouldn’t miss while in the island paradise is the annual Pasko sa Kasakit, a simple celebration of the stations of the cross, but with a twist where the images in the Station of the Cross are supersized and paraded around.

Places to see: Alice Beach, Camp Sawi, Kota Beach (all in Santa Fe), Malapascua Island, Virgin Island, Hilantagaan Island, Kota Park
Things to do: Biking, snorkel, freedive/scuba, beach bumming, tour the town of Bantayan for heritage houses

Siquijor

This island is starting to blow up more for the views you’ll get than what happens here during Semana Santa.

Siquijor, known across the country as a home to witchcraft and mysticism, but locals have since shed that image and now proudly celebrate their folk healing expertise with the annual Folk Healing Festival, taking place during the last few days of Holy Week. Get yourself treated by local healers or witness how they make various concoctions with the promise of curing almost anything you can think of—yes, including heartaches.

Places to see: Century-old balete tree, Salagdoong Beach, Paliton Beach, Kagusuan Beach (extremely hidden, possible that not even the locals know about it)
Things to do: Go around the island on a scooter, visit a ranch, hit the island’s peaks on a mountain bike, snorkeling, beach hopping

Marinduque

If there’s a Holy Week destination that’s never left off any list, it’s Marinduque. Known as the geographical heart of the Philippines, it’s basically an island that’s made itself known for a festival that celebrates a Roman soldier who became a believer in Jesus Christ: the Moriones Festival.

Moriones Festival
He’s not really angry, but he is the first thing you’ll see when you look up information on the Moriones Festival, the tale of a Roman soldier who became a believer in Jesus Christ. Photo by Richard Reynoso for travelingmorion.com.

Most of you will know what this festival centers on commemorating Roman soldier Longinus, who stabs Jesus on the side, witnesses His resurrection, tells the Romans about it, and (gruesomely) gets his head chopped off. This part is often depicted in their version of The Passion play, which talks about Christ’s last moments before He eventually passes on.

Places to see: Tres Reyes islands, Mt. Mataas, Boac, Palad Sandbar, Ungab Rock Formations, Bathala Python Cave
Things to do: Visita Iglesia, Beach hopping

Pampanga

It’s the piece de resistance of a list of Holy Week destinations, and something that’s also been a source of controversy as to whether or not it should be considered a tourist attraction. We’re talking, of course, about the Maleldo Festival in San Pedro Cutud, Pampanga.

struck
Yes. This is a very REAL crucifixion. In San Pedro Cutud. And it happens nearly every year. Photo by istolethetv on Flickr.

The Maleldo Festival is the full (and very real) re-enactment of Christ’s crucifixion. Yes, it’s the whole 10 miles: the garb, the Crown of Thorns, crying depiction of Mary Magdalene, people marching on the streets whacking their backs with things that make them bleed, and someone actually getting nailed to a cross that they’ve been carrying for several miles.

Places to see: Mt. Pinatubo, Subic Bay, Sandbox at Porac, El Kabayo, Skyranch Pampanga, Nayong Pilipino
Things to do: go on a food trip, adventure activities, Visita Iglesia

Poblacion, Makati

Yes, you read that right. It’s an option for those who don’t want to go out of the city yet still want to witness something that only happens once a year. The citizens of Makati, particularly those who live in the restaurant-and-bar hub that is Poblacion, stage a parade commemorating Lent.

They hold a grand procession every Holy Wednesday (closed roads, of course) and put up booths with life-size depictions of The Passion of Christ. Another plus: some establishments stay open even during Holy Week!

Places to see: Sts. Peter and Paul Parish (one of the oldest churches in the country), Circuit Makati (but hold off on that after Holy Wednesday), art galleries in Poblacion
Things to do: staycation at one of the many hotels in the area, food trip, pub crawl

Local curates Cebu…and food!

Local curates Cebu…and food!

Market raider Joel Binamira teaches us things like the unique way Cebuanos have their lechon and the best destination eats in the Philippines

 

Backyard-raised pigs, which Joel uses in making his lechons (roast pig)

I always enjoy good food but I only learned how to cook in my college days in the US. My love for markets came later when I was already traveling to various cities for work and pleasure.

Home-cooked sinigang na baboy

At home, we like to prepare Filipino food like the classic sinigang na baboy (pork in sour soup) which we do from scratch, adobo cooked in wood-fired palayok, grilled meat and fish. I also cook Western dishes like pastas, paellas, roasts, and salads.

Of the local ingredients, my favorites to use include the dayap (key limes), coconut, muscovado, siling labuyo (bird’s eye chili), coconut vinegar, bagoong (fish paste) and tinapa (smoked fish).  I’m also looking at getting my hands on the kurakding, a wood mushroom from the Bicol region, since it has always eluded me.

Pork roasting to crackling perfection, then eaten with vinegar as dipping sauce. This is how Cebuanos eat their lechon

Cebuanos or Visayans typically don’t use a liver sauce in eating their lechon, rather they use a simple vinegar and/or soy dip. A tip: the next time you eat lechon, try to have it with a dip of patis (fish sauce) and dayap (lime) or kalamansi.

I love lechon paksiw or the day-after lechon stew made with good coconut vinegar, lots of garlic and a touch of muscovado. 

Lechon pairing tips:
I am a Diet Coke addict so that’s what I normally have with my lechon. I have also tried pairing it with wine, and the best I’ve had was a Verdicchio. Lechon skin and meat also go well with Italian varietal that has citrusy notes.

Kinilaw na tanigue dish: a must-try Cebuano dish

Cebu first-timers must-try food:
Lechon
Grilled fish
Seaweed salad dressed with local vinegar
Kinilaw (local ceviche)
Budbud kabog or millet cake for dessert

My go-to restaurants in Cebu:
Oriental Spice Gourmet in Lapu-Lapu
Phat Pho
La Nostra Pizzeria Napoletana

Get to know a local destination’s food culture. Three tips:
Visit a market in each town you visit.
Ask the vendors which restaurant buys the freshest seafood and dine there.
When in doubt, buy something fresh and spectacular in the market and ask the chef/cook in your hotel to cook it for you. Pay the corkage. It’ll usually be worth it.

Shopping for dried dorado in Batanes with Chef JP Anglo

The 8 most notable eats that I’ve had in the Philippines:
A couple of steamed lobsters cooked and enjoyed at the verandah of a private home over water in Coron. Book a SkyJet flight to Coron
The arayu or dried dorado (dolphin fish) in Batanes. Book a SkyJet flight to Batanes
A gorgeous
kinilaw na Malasugui at the carinderia by the pier in Tagbilaran, Bohol
Lechon from the sidewalks of Carcar, Cebu
Seafood on the beach in Bantayan Island, Cebu
Laing (dried taro leaves cooked in coconut milk) in Legazpi, Albay
Lumpiang ubod (fresh palm spring rolls) in Bacolod City
Batchoy (local noodle soup), also in Bacolod

My go-to restaurants in Manila:
Mamou
Sarsa
Milky Way Cafe
Mendokoro Ramenba
Tsukiji

Ten or 15 year’s ago, Manila’s dining scene wasn’t as active, creative and interesting than it is now.  Filipinos love to try new places, but it’s the restaurants that get repeat customers that have a better chance of survival in a very competitive marketplace. [Sadly] so many places open only to close by the time their first lease is up, or sooner.  

Island hopping in Coron, Palawan

My favorite holiday escape is Palawan but my recent trip to Batanes was eye-opening to say the least.  Batanes was so stunningly beautiful.

View from Fundacion Pacita in Batanes

Next on my culinary bucket list are Siargao and Iloilo.  I also have yet to explore much of Mindanao in terms of food.

My guilty pleasure are donuts, preferably old-fashioned or cinnamon sugar. Home-cooked sinigang na sugpo (prawn in sour soup) and bistek Tagalog (local beef steak) are my comfort food.

Chefs I admire are Thomas Keller and Eric Ripert who are way up there on the chart.  I have always loved Margarita Fores and have recently been working with Chef JP Anglo who cooks with such spunk.  A recent meal at Bad Saint in Washington makes me a serious fan of Chef Tom Cunanan.

More on Joel
Currently reading: A stack of 10+ cookbooks and food-related books on my bedside table
Currently watching: The Crown,  Howard’s End
Food I’d eat before I die: Too many to pick just one but I would like a hit of Beluga caviar, a generous portion of the finest quality tuna sashimi, a few slices of a good steak, a perfectly ripe Cebu mango, several sections of pink pomelo with bagoong, a nice salad and a Diet Coke.
My go-to casual footwear brand: Cole Haan, Tod’s
My go-to casual clothing brand: Rag & Bone
Accessory I splurge on: Crocodile leather wallets

Who is Joel Binamira?

Joel Binamira, who owns the famous lechon restaurant from Cebu, Zubuchon,is the man behind food blog Market Manila and Instagram account @therealmarketman. His pursuit for good food has taken him across the globe, hopping from one restaurant to the next. His staple? A stop at the local market.

Photos courtesy of Joel Binamira

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