2009 was a great year for local travel for me. Ironically, from my wish list for the year, I only set foot in one spot. Nevertheless, 2009 made me a live on my trusty backpack. I have taken a spectacular and unforgettable trip to Southwest China, and discovered how much Siem Reap in Cambodia has changed. I finally got to travel outside of Ho Chi Minh, particularly in Mui Ne, and experienced the villa life in Bali. However, since we're all about promoting local tourism, this list will cover only my top local travel experiences. I can't wait to experience what 2010 has in store for me.
10. Baler, Aurora
Finally, after 3 years of not being able to go on trips to Aurora, I was able to drive all the way to Baler. Passing through the majestic mountains of Sierra Madre and parts of isolated Nueva Vizcaya, I witnessed dams that looked like seas on top of mountains. Baler proved to be one of the most laid back towns I have ever been to. It's like the place forgets about time. Though I wasn't able to surf, seeing the powerful waves was enough to take my breath away.
9. Malapascua, Cebu
Back to one of my favorite islands in Cebu, Malapascua. Home of the thresher sharks, Malapascua has that island vibe that Boracay has, only 10x less busy. A lot of foreigners put Malapascua on their maps, as it is promoted in Lonely Planet. Hence, there are more foreigners than locals here.
8. Waniban Island, Mati, Davao Oriental
Mati is a peninsula in Davao Oriental around 3 hours from Davao City. It is touted to be the next big thing in Mindanao tourism. We explored Dahican Beach and Cinco Massau. However, what sealed the deal was a trip to Waniban Island, a small island near Cinco Massau. You can ride one of the outrigger boats from Cinco Massau and arrive in Waniban after 20 minutes. Waniban is best when you are the only visitors. It is a popular place for snorkeling and having a picnic.
7. Dakak Beach, Zamboanga del Norte
Dakak surprised me, and I was happy. I never expected this old resort to be as well-maintained. Having a wide white sand beach made me fall in love with it even more. You can trek up to the top of one of the rocky peaks that sandwich Dakak, and experience a breathtaking view of the coastline and the hills behind it. Dakak has just so much to offer.
6. Moalboal, Cebu
Probably the best Cebu City escape, Moalboal is only 2 hours South of the queen city. Moalboal has a lot of attractions, but people go here primarily for the diving. For beach bums, you can opt to stay in Bas Daku, where the fine white sands and sand bars will keep you burnt the whole day. Stay in Ravenala Beach Resort, for a more relaxing experience.
It's also my fist time to go to Bohol. Catching a modern Supercat fastcraft from Cebu City, we conveniently arrived in Tagbilaran, before heading off to a super speed tour of the Chocolate Hills, Loboc River, a tarsier pen, and the man made forest. We stayed for one night in Alona Tropical Beach Resort in laid back Alona beach in Panglao Island. I need to go back to Bohol.
4. Bellaroca, Marinduque
Imagine Santorini in the Philippines. Bellaroca will transport you to luxurious heaven. Though very expensive, I got to experience THE life in one of the country's most beautiful resorts with great friends, 18 of them to be exact. With all the company and partying, Bellaroca will remain etched in my mind as a gift from the gods.
This trip gave me my most unforgettable travel experience. Getting to Sulu and Tawi-Tawi was an accomplishment in itself, but seeing first hand the tumultuous town of Jolo was an experience that can never be replicated. Experiencing a kidnap threat was enough to make me realize how much I could go just to travel. Bongao was more secure, so I had the time of my life there, seeing the houses on stilts and watching the sun set behind Bud Bongao. I wish to go back to Tawi-Tawi again. Sulu? Well, as soon as it becomes safe, I will be the first to go back.
Siargao is one of my dream destinations, so when I was in Surigao City, I immediately hopped on a ferry to the popular surfer's paradise island. Siargao is more than just surfing though. There are several beautiful islands that can rival those of Palawan. In fact, the entire Surigao provinces can be developed into a world-class tourist spot if the government gets their act together. A surprise in Siargao was Magpopongco in Pilar, around an hour from General Luna, the main beach town. Magpopongco has one of the most dazzling coastlines in the country, as it forms lagoons during low tide.
1. Tambobong, Dasol, Pangasinan
Finally, the best travel experience of 2009. I have to give it to Tambobong in Pangasinan. Getting here is amazing in itself. We had to drive through rough roads for an hour amidst a backdrop of rolling hills with rocks jutting out of the fields. And when you arrive in Tambobong, you will be rewarded with the best beach in mainland Luzon (only 5 hours from Manila). Powder white sand and clear blue waters (to think that Tambobong is a bustling village). Make your way to idyllic Snake Island (Colibra Island) or explore the hidden coves and caves around the area. Again, and as always, I can't wait to go back.
Pangasinan wins this year's list. Aside from Tambobong, the province has Patar Beach in Bolinao, the Hundred Islands in Alaminos and Tondol Beach in Anda. Because Pangasinan is huge, I'm sure there are still more undiscovered places waiting to be explored. Till then, happy traveling!