some people raised their eyebrows when i said that i wanted to set foot in all of 81 provinces that make up my country, the philippines. some felt that it's too difficult, some said that it may be too expensive, while some just asked why on earth would i want to do that.
and i don't blame them. it's hardly a feat anyone would aspire for. not too many people will say that it is one of their goals in life. yes, it is going to be difficult. while there are linkages from one place to another, commuting to and from is going to be a challenge as i've experienced in my recent trips. plus there are a lot of places that might not be too safe for a solo traveller like me. it is going to be expensive. of course, it will be. while i can always wait for budget airfares, hiring a habal-habal, tourist guide fees, entrance fees, accommodation and food… all these will make a dent on your budget.
but in spite of these, i still want to do it. i want to see every nook and cranny of this great country because of the enriching experience my travels will provide. every place in the philippines offer different feel and experience. there's hardly two places that are very similar with each other. for this alone, it is great to see all 81 provinces.
the philippines of course has some of the best beaches (nacpan beach in el nido and hagonoy in britania islands), waterfalls (tinuy-an and bomod-ok), rivers (cagayan de oro river and siitan river), underground river (puerto princesa subterranean river), lakes (taal lake and kayangan lake), natural pools (timobo underground pool and ogtong in bantayan). even manmade infinity pools (club punta fuego and in balesin island). my country also has magnificent natural landforms such as mountains (makiling and arayat), valleys (nagtipunan valley), rice terraces (banaue and batad rice terraces), volcanoes (mayon and taal volcanoes), rolling hills (vayang rolling hills in batanes and batulao rolling hills), caves (capisaan cave system and sumaguing in sagada), islands (capones in zambales and sabtang in batanes), sand dunes (paoay sand dunes – haven't been here), rock formations (kapurpurawan in ilocos – also haven't been here) or cliffs (anywhere in benguet and mountain province).
but there's more! there are attractions steep in history such as old and heritage churches (san agustin church in manila and taal basilica), houses (laperal house in baguio and rizal shrine in calamba city), buildings (metropolitan theatre in manila and the main building of university of santo tomas), as well as heritage sites such as ruins (old guiob church ruins in camiguin and cagsawa church in albay), forts (fort san pedro in cebu and fort santiago in manila), historical trails (cebu historical trail from cebu city all the way to oslob and of course, vigan city) and various architectural pieces. there are manmade wonders such as san juanico bridge, as well as modern marvels such as the mind museum in taguig city. numerous interesting museums (bencab museum in baguio city and balangay museum in butuan city), plus a host of historical plazas (plaza cervantes in binondo and oslob's historical plaza), interesting boulevards (in dumaguete city and bislig city) and other places to see.
the journey to a place is in itself going to be an enriching experience. imagine trying various local forms of transportation, from airplane, metro rail, to ro-ro ferries, mid-sized bancas, local outrigger boats, bangka without katig, to jeepneys, tricycles, rafts (could be bamboo), kalesa, kuliglig, carabao-driven carriages and buses. these modes of transportation will bring you not only to different locations but also prepare you for exciting activities such as surfing, mountaineering, hiking, ziplining, canyoneering, rappelling, whitewater rafting, wakeboarding, water tubing, cliff diving, parasailing, 4x4 ride and spelunking.
of course, the philippines is not going to be fun without food! this is central to pinoy culture and my country offers a lot in this regard. unique dishes and town's specialty should not be missed. even next-door friendly sari-sari store can double up as carinderias. there are boutique restaurants, coffee shops and traditional ihaw-ihawan or larsian-style food joints, as well as floating restaurants, videoke bars, and various streetfood corners. there are culinary trails one should not miss out on such as in laguna and pampanga. when it comes to food, name it and we have it!
but more than these, the philippines is all about people and culture. even the everyday life in a little quaint town such as maripipi excites me. it is about discovering the uniqueness of each place and how this actually makes up what i know as the true filipino. it is about getting invited to a town's fiesta when you don't even know anyone in the whole island. it is about learning little intricacies of how sinigang or pancit is prepared and consumed and how sunday masses form the basis of town's camaraderie. it is about little chitchats with everyday townsfolk such as the habal-habal driver or the tindera in a carinderia, whose experiences in life are readily shared with you right after that first smile and hello. it is about realizing that people are not after your money, that most pinoys are good-natured individuals and are glad to see a kababayan visiting their hometowns. it is about getting lost a bit and finding nice surprises along the way. it is about coming across fascinating insights and tidbits that will stick with you.
it is about travel experiences that enrich my soul, my body and my mind. these are what the philippines has to offer. as st. augustine said, “the world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” so i'm going to see all of the philippines, all 81 of its provinces. #81LalawiganPinas #all81PHprovinces hashtags to guide on this journey!
ikaw, naka-ilan ka na ba?! i'm a little bit more than halfway there… biyahe tayo!