10 Dangerous but Beautiful Places in the Philippines
The Philippines is not just all about Boracay, Palawan, Sagada & Cebu. It is also about the colorful Mindanao region, the uncombed fringes of Quezon or the virgin environs in the northern highlands. But sadly, many of these destinations are headlined as dangerous places in the Philippines.
While the incidences of conflicts may be true, the news sometimes gets over-sensationalized & blown out of proportion. It scars beautiful places. It scares the uninformed travelers.
It’s about time that these places make beautiful headlines. Know the situations & why they’re tagged as dangerous places in the Philippines. Find out the charming spots that we are missing & learn how to safely experience these destinations.
Disclaimer: The list is in no particular order. The article is meant to inform the readers that what you hear or see in the news is not always the case. These places are awesome travel destinations but are unfortunately tainted by overhyped stories.
1. Zamboanga City
Get ready with your emergency Spanish as in Zamboanga City, this colonial rich-feel language is still spoken even by the simplest of people. It is the economic hub of the peninsula & shared by Hispanic Christians, indigenous Subanen & seafaring Muslims.
Zamboanga is famous for its seafood dishes, historic buildings & natural attractions like Santa Cruz Island. Every October, it celebrates the Zamboanga Hermosa Festival in honor of its patroness, Nuestra Senora del Pilar.
It is often perceived as dangerous as news about the violence in Sulu is usually reported from Zambonga. Walking around the city is safe. Local guides are only needed in areas outside the city proper.
Tawi-Tawi boasts of islands that are hemmed by sparkling white sand. In Bonggao, you can still observe the charm of old-world trading & houses on stilts.
Most people think it’s the battle zone because of its name & location. Terrorists do not camp in Tawi-Tawi because the last naval frontier of the Philippine Navy is stationed here. It is still recommended to get a local guide when visiting the islands. Stay low-profile & women must dress modestly.
This island, when you are on the wrong side is risky. But if you just stay in the right places like Isabela & Lamitan, you will be rewarded with unspoiled beaches.
Basilan is home to the Muslim Yakan, Sama, Tausug & Bajao. They are proud of their exquisite handicrafts like handwoven tapestries, basketry & bronzesmith wares. Tourists come here for the pristine Malamawi Island.
The feared bandits called Abu Sayyaf taint Basilan’s image. This is their bailiwick. Tourists are advised to stay away from red zones where military activities are conducted. Most tourists take Basilan only as a daytrip from Zamboanga. When in town, never stand out in the crowd & always dress chastely.
This is the acronym for South Cotabato – Cotabato – Sultan Kudarat – Sarangani – General Santos, otherwise known as Central Mindanao. It has a long stretch of beautiful coastlines, mountain ranges & waterfalls. Delectable seafood dishes & fruits also abound in this region.
A large group of Christians & indigenous people like the T’bolis & Muslim Maguindanaos populate this region. They are the stewards of Mt. Apo, Lake Sebu, Pangi River & Sarangani Bay.
This side of Mindanao is notorious for political conflicts among dynasty rulers in Cotabato. But these incidents are isolated & happen only in some high-risk areas. The easiest gateway is via Gen. Santos City. It is also safely accessible by land from Davao & Bukidnon. Do not take the Marawi-Cotabato route if you’re unfamiliar with it.
5. Iligan City
Do you like to chase waterfalls? Does feasting on kinilaw (fish ceviche) & lechon (roasted pig) excite you? Then Iligan City is the perfect place to be. Here, you’ll get an overload of cascading water & exciting local food choices.
Iligan is predominantly a Christian community. But it shares its city with the Muslim Maranaos & the indigenous Higaunons. Every September, it celebrates Diyandi Festival in honor of its patron, Saint Michael the Archangel.
Being the easiest entrance route to some conflict-plagued municipalities in the Lanao provinces, Iligan City is wrongly portrayed as dangerous. It is absolutely safe to move around even at night.
6. Quezon Province
A progressive isthmus in the Southern Luzon region, Quezon is filled with stunning beaches, charming farmlands that crouch the mystical Mt. Banahaw, 17th century churches & well-preserved art-deco houses.
Quezon is often associated as the base of the National People’s Army (NPA). Although their presence can’t be denied, they are not in the lowlands & no threats to tourists are recorded. Local guides are only needed if you want to trek Mt. Banahaw or Pinagbanderahan in Atimonan.
Bound by Ilocos, Kalinga & Apayao, Abra is a landlocked province. Populated by Ilocanos & the indigenous Tingguians, Abra is the land of master weavers, bamboo & rattan furniture makers.
With its rugged terrain, Abra is blessed with exciting trekking trails, cave connections & wild rivers.
Abra is often criticized for its chaotic political situation caused warring political clans. During election season, it is highlighted as one of the violent hotspots in the country. Guides are required when you are exploring its hinterland sights.
8. Siquijor Island
Unusually, this tiny island in Visayas gained a different kind of notoriety—-witchcraft! Many believe that Siquijor is the territory of witchdoctors. But there are more to this island than its folktales.
Siquijor is a quiet island fringed by blinding white sand. It also has waterfalls, caves & heritage churches. Indulge in “hilot”, a traditional Filipino deep-tissue massage & folk herbal remedies. There’s nothing to fear here. It won’t hurt to respect its folk cultures & traditions. Public transport is the island’s biggest challenge. Renting a motorbike is the best way.
At the heart of the Cordilleras is Kalinga. This place slipped into infamy because of the violent clashes in the past when its ethnic people fought against the building of a dam on its ancestral lands. The Kalingas are also portrayed in history as the elusive & brave headhunters of the Philippines.
But there are no more ethnic wars. Headhunting as a tradition also ended in the 70s. What await you in Kalinga are rice terraces carved on the imposing mountains along the wild Chico River.
10. Metro Manila
Many tourists, especially 1st-timers in the Philippines make Manila only as gateway to other sites in the provinces. They are under the impression that it is just a big capital city infested with criminals & scammers. Sadly, Manila is always on the list of dangerous places in the Philippines & in the world.
Seventeen cities compose the National Capital Region. Each has its own character, vibe & history. It collectively creates the happy experience in this charming Asian capital city.
Relive its colonial past through history walks in Intramuros & Sta. Cruz. Food trips in Marikina, Quezon City & Binondo. Cheap shopping in Greenhills & Divisoria. From hip to chic & from wild to tame, the party venues in Manila are as hot as you can imagine.
Never go to slum areas. Take the taxi as Manila has the worst public transport system in Asia. Always keep an eye on your belongings in crowded areas.
There’s no shortage of beautiful spots here. Unfortunately, some are tagged as dangerous places in the Philippines. But always remember that the media sometimes overhype the news. It is good to know that by exercising the necessary safety precautions, we can still find ways to experience these fantastic travel destinations.