I have been traveling long-term for quite a few months now outside my country, the Philippines. While I did return home for a bit last Christmas, I didn't really travel around that much. Needless to say, I'm missing a lot of things, mostly people and of course, experiences unmistakably Filipino. That is why I feel the need to write this post.
Plus, some travelers I met in Chengdu asked me a question I could not answer right away. They asked me what the five unmissable travel experiences in the Philippines are, the five must do's in the Philippines. I was stumped. I always tell other travelers I meet on the road to travel to the Philippines. But when they ask me why exactly, I could not give a definite answer. So after much thought, here they are: the 5 unmissable travel experiences in the Philippines.
1. Virgin Beaches
We have 7,107 islands and you can bet that not all of those islands are developed, much less, inhabited. My idea of a perfect beach is fine white sand, the clearest turquoise waters, a hammock, and not a single soul in sight (save for the person/s you are with, of course). Then, after the beautiful sunset, you set up a bonfire and have a cook-out. Perfect. Simply perfect. And you can easily, easily have that experience in the Philippines. Any must do's in the Philippines list, well, must clearly have virgin beaches as number one. I've written about the most beautiful virgin beaches here in the country. Take your pick.
(See related post: 7 of the Most Beautiful Virgin Beaches of the Philippines)
2. Mount Pinatubo
This is one of the things you can only do in this part of the world. By that, I mean the Pacific Ring of Fire—a string of volcanoes circling the Pacific Ocean. And fortunately (as well as unfortunately), the Philippines lies on a big chuck of it. Thus, we have volcanoes whose eruptions hurl so much particles into the atmosphere that global, yes global, temperatures drop. I am, of course, talking about Mount Pinatubo's 1991 eruption. It is now possible to trek to the caldera of this powerful volcano. And it's a nice and easy trek, the reward being the beautiful turquoise crater lake you'd be hard-pressed to find anywhere else.
(See related post: Central Luzon: Trek to Mount Pinatubo)
3. Catholic Festivals
Attending at least one of these festivals is definitely a must do in the Philippines. Being the only predominantly Catholic country in Southeast Asia, festivals in the Philippines have more of a Latin America feel. To me, that is very interesting, especially when one such festival has the most religious of devotees literally nailing their hands and limbs to the cross, as a panata or vow dedicated to Christ. Such festivals, i.e., those not for the faint of heart, are the Semana Santa in Cutud (that's the one with the nailing of the cross) taking place around end of March to early April, or the Feast of the Black Nazarene, a procession of the statue of the Kristo Nazareno right in downtown Manila happening every January. More fun, colorful, light-hearted festivals include the Panagbenga Flower Festival in the mountains of Baguio City happening February and the Pahiyas Festival in Lucban, Quezon province, happening mid-May.
(See related post: Quezon: Pahiyas Festival)
4. Rice Terraces
Photo by miguelito | CC BY-SA
Admittedly, I have only traveled to some minor rice terraces in the Philippines. However, I still think they are unmissable because you get to experience something you only experience in the Philippines. Alright, the Philippines is not the only place where rice terraces exist. However, if you combine that with the rich culture of the people in the mountains, like the Ifugaos, who eluded Spanish conquest and indoctrination, unlike the rest of the country, then a trip up there is worth your time, I think. Something I ought to do the moment I return to my country. To find out more, you can google the words Banaue, Batad, Happao, or Mayaoyao.
5. Whale Shark
Photo by Marcel_Ekkel | CC BY
Imagine being able to swim in the open sea with these gentle giants floating right beside you. People say it's unbelievably frightening. I mean, it is a creature several times the size of a normal human being. But at the same time, they say it's pleasantly overwhelming. Spiritual even, some might say. Whatever it is, beholding these butandings, as we call them, is a travel experience everyone should have when visiting the Philippines. To view whale sharks in the wild, you can go to Donsol in Sorsogon during the Philippine summer (around March to May). This is definitely something I shall experience very soon.
There you have it. The 5 unmissable travel experiences in the Philippines. I'm proud to call the Philippines home and I think it will always stay that way wherever I am in the world. So yes, I will probably get my chance to do all of these at some point. Hopefully, very soon.
Have you traveled to the Philippines? What do you think are other unmissable travel experiences in the Philippines?