The rice terraces in the Cordilleras are probably the biggest tourist attraction of the Philippine archipelago. They offer fresh, clean air – which stands in opposition to polluted Manila – breathtaking views and exhilarating treks.
Banaue is generally reached by a night bus from Manila which takes around 8 hours. Both Florida and Ohayami have a bus that runs this route, and prices are 450 pesos per person. From Ohayami one sets off at 9 and one at 10pm, both of them arrive into the village at around 6am. If you have already booked accommodation they will collect you from the station. If not there will be tour guides encouraging you to sign up to up to treks around the area; these are significantly more expensive than those found in hostels in the village though, and you will be in a much bigger group.
We stayed in Bogah home stay which was perfect for the trip. They offer freshly cooked, reasonably priced meals served 6am-9pm. Also, they provided us with a very impressive personal guide, who knew a lot about the area. The town itself doesn’t have much to offer, so it’s advisable that you hire a tour guide,even just for one day.
The first thing our guide showed us was a waterfall-cum-slide on the outskirts of the village. We trekked for about an hour through the exquisite countryside and along the thin terraces walls (be careful as these can be slippery and it’s easy to lose your footing). The waterfall and chilly pool were remarkably refreshing after the walk. Also, we were lucky enough to be the only ones there. On the trek back to Banaue, our guide invited us into his family home, where they were preparing for a wedding. We ate chicken and soup with the family whilst the various pets and wildlife scurried about our feet. This cost 800 pesos, including the cost of a tricycle to the start of the trek.
Another excursion we participated in was to Batad, it took around an hour in a tricycle to get to the start of the hike. Our guide showed us some spectacular view points, and was very informative about the area and culture. We also went to Tappiya waterfall which is a short trek from Batad. Once again, the water was just what we needed to revive us. Our guide invited us into one of the residences home and taught us about the process of making organic rice. We also had the opportunity to pound the rice ourself. This trip cost 2,200 pesos, including the transport.
On the northern tip of Mindoro in the Philippines there’s a small city called Puerta Galera that supports a handful of coastal towns. This area has been dubbed as one of the best diving resorts in the world, it is enveloped in a rich array of soft and hard coral which the bountiful sealife feeds off.
It was here that I chose to take my open water divers course. Blue Ribbon (situated in Small La Laguna) had been recommended, so I opted to go with them. The course cost 18,000 pesos, which is not the cheapest in the area. However, they insisted on a thorough training process which made me feel safe and confident. The course can take from 3 days upwards, depending on how easily the student grasps the skills. At Blue Ribbon they aim to perfect all the skills in the private swimming pool before testing them out in the sea. They also provide video clips and a text book that explains in depth each procedure and technique.
Having never dived or snorkelled before, the whole experience was riveting. There was a multitude of exquisite and mysterious creatures to gaze at in awe, and all of it was in the surreal location, deep beneath the sea.
The only downfall to Sabang was the nightlife. When the sun goes down the small back alleys come to life with a vibrant display of girly bars and other seedy affairs. Of course if you’re a diver who wants a good time in the evening then this is the perfect location for you!
The towns of Puerta Galera are connected by regular boats to Batangas, they take about an hour and from there it’s two hours on a coach to Manila.
The first stop on my Asian expedition was the Philippines. Many of my friends in Korea have visited and raved about Boracay, the paradise island that’s renowned for its white beach and never ending parties. I was eager to see what all the fuss was about, but it didn’t feel like the right place to begin travelling.
After some research I stumbled upon a small beach village called Jawili that boasted a 7 tiered waterfall. It was the perfect location, just 30 minutes outside of Kalibo and bringing me closer to beautiful Boracay. From Kalibo terminal you can take a jeepney which run regularly to Tangalan (20 pesos), then charter a tricycle (150 pesos) to either the beach or the falls. It’s a pleasant 10 minute walk between the two locations.
The waterfalls have formed natural rock pools which are fairly deep. It’s a slight hike along the rocky edge of the water to the top tier. If you’re brave, there are plenty of opportunities to jump in from the rocks that overlook the pools, or just watch the daring local children. It costs 5 pesos to enter. Near the entrance there is a small bar that also serves some Filipino food.
Natural beauty oozes from the peaceful seashore. Tall palm trees fringe the sand and offer some cool shade, and there are also plenty of beach huts. The shallow, clear water is freckled with many small fishing boats. However, the beach is in need of a little cleaning. Also, a medley of wildlife dwell along the coast; don’t be surprised to see a cow whilst you’re swimming.
The resort is relatively small, but I chose to stay there for 2 nights. If you do chose to stay I would recommend The Wave (firstname.lastname@example.org). It’s a lovely rustic resort which sits right on the beach front. Rooms are 500-1,000 pesos, and they are pretty basic. The area doesn’t have much to offer for entertainment or food, but the owners can provide some mouthwatering homecooked dishes for 140 pesos. Their hospitality and helpfulness was outstanding, in fact everyone I met in Jawili was so welcoming and helpful.
If you do stay in Jawili I would recommend watching the sun rise over the sea. It was exhilarating to watch the rays reflecting off the water in the eerily quiet morning.