It's time again to look back at my local trips last year and choose my top Philippine destinations for 2009. I visited my 63rd province last year! For my list for 2009, I'm not limiting my choices to ten since there were a lot of destinations which I consider very memorable.
1. Banol Beach, Twin Lagoon, Kayangan Lake and Siete Pecados Marine Park in Coron, Palawan
Coron is one of those places in the Philippines that we can truly call paradise. There are so many things to see and do there, you can spend a week or two and not get bored at all. I definitely enjoyed the trip. In fact, I also came out with a list of Things to do in Coron, Busuanga and Culion, Palawan which outlines the many different activities in the area.
2. Batanes: Valugan Beach, Vayang, Nakamaya Burial Grounds, Diura Fishing Village and Naidi Hill
My second trip to Batanes and I got to visit new places! On this trip, we trekked to the Nakamaya Burial Grounds and visited the Diura Fishing Village as part of the Ultimate Batanes Tour. Speaking of Ultimate Philippines, we have six Batanes tour dates for this year. Slots are going fast so I suggest you book now. Last year, we closed the tours weeks before since we were swamped with bookings as soon as we came out with the dates.
3. Puraran Beach is surfing capital of Catanduanes
Another well kept secret, but not for long, Puraran Beach is a major surfing destination of the country, and very popular among foreign surfers. In fact, when I was there, I was the only local visitor. The beach was very picturesque as well!
4. Hundred Islands in Alaminos, Pangasinan
It was my first time to visit the Hundred Islands. And it surely did not disappoint! An iconic attraction of the Philippines, I hope it remains that way. And the good thing I like about the Hundred Islands is that you can choose your own secluded island and enjoy the rest of the day in a beach all to yourself.
5. Surfing, kayaking, rappelling, mountain biking and more Aurora adventure activities
I was back in Aurora just last month. And I discovered that there is now more to Aurora than just surfing. In fact, it's poised to become the next major adventure tourism destination. I also got to visit Ditumabo Falls which was off limits to visitors the last time I was in Aurora some years back. I'm sure once the roads are completely paved, the mad rush to this Pacific paradise will go full speed ahead. So enjoy it while it's still all yours!
6. Tondol Beach in Anda, Pangasinan
This beach was a revelation. It can become one of the most fantastic beaches in Luzon, especially when the sun is out and shining and when the tide is low. I enjoyed wading the powder white sand which streches a kilometer or so from the shore. Always visit the beach during low tide and the summer months since the thing about this beach is the view and experience is not consistent. But be there at the right time, it's picture perfect!
7. MassKara Festival 2009 in Bacolod City
I was in Bacolod for a grand family reunion of the Henares Clan. And we made sure it was the weekend of the MassKara Festival so that we could enjoy the festivities!
8. Bantayan Island, Cebu is rich in heritage and great beaches!
Another great discovery, Bantayan Island is on its way to becoming another Boracay. Give it another ten or fifteen years. Right now, several foreigners already settled in the town of Sta. Fe and have opened some very interesting restaurants most defintely worth visiting.
9. Corregidor Island day trip via Sun Crusies
I've always enjoyed visits to Corregidor Island which is a silent witness to the Second World War. And early last year, I got to visit the island twice, one of the visits an overnight trip where I got to explore the Malinta Tunnel at night!
10. Bohol: Loboc River Cruise, Baclayon Church and Panglao Island
I was lucky to get invited to a test drive of the new Honda City in Bohol. We got to drive around most of Bohol island and stay in Panglao Island for a night.
11. Capul Island's lighthouse and old fortress church
Although I mentioned this trip only this year, I made the trip to Northern Samar late last year. Capul Island is for those who really want to experience the rustic beauty of the country. It's doesn't have any travel amenities whatsoever. And you'll definitely immerse with the locals since the readily available accommodation is homestay.
12. Viva Vigan! Binatbatan Festival, Tres de Mayo and more Vigan festivities
While I try to avoid trooping to festivals due to the crowds, I enjoy watching them. We got to experience an old tradition of Vigan, the centuries-old Tres de Mayo Fiesta held annually, as part of the Ultimate Ilocos Tour. And we're doing it again this year. So book now!
13. Visita iglesia in Leyte and Southern Leyte
Another off the beaten track trip I did early last year. And I got to experience how it feels being stranded!
14. Cagayan: Callao Cave, Pinacanauan River and Iguig Calvary Hills
We had a barbecue picnic along the banks of the Panacanauan River which to me was the highlight of this visit to Penablanca. We'll be back again in Tuguegarao this month for even more adventure activities. So watch out for it.
15. Mairaira Cove (Blue Lagoon) in Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte
Beyond touristy Saud Beach is this secluded Pagudpud cove called Mairaira. Tourists are fast discovering this surfing destination on the northwestern tip of Luzon Island. So better troop there while it's still relatively a secret.
16. Around Clark: Mt. Pinatubo Sky Tour at Omni Aviation
Last but definitely not least of my top Philippine destinations is Clark. And one the more memorable things I did last year was riding on a Cessna plane over the crater lake of Mt. Pinatubo! I even came out with a list of Things to do in Clark Freeport and Pampanga.
Read also Top Philippine destinations for 2008.