My Favorite Places in the Philippines
Having traveled extensively around the country, I am always asked about my favorite places in the Philippines. Seriously, it is the hardest question to answer because every place has its own distinct beauty & vibe.
The Philippines is home to many fantastic attractions. With 7,100 islands, we never run out of fun activities to do. Top it all with the Filipinos’ cheerful hospitality, choosing a favorite is a challenge.
“My favorite places in the Philippines are those that fulfill my travel goals.”
A destination becomes personally real when we reach it. A place becomes special if it gives us wonderful experiences that answer our intentions. All these are what we bring home from our travels & are kept in our memories.
In no particular order, I listed 15 of my most beloved places in the Philippines. These are the towns that I will never grow tired going back to in my lifetime.
If you have ever imagined what’s a real island life is, then this is the place. Siargao captures the hang loose vibe that’s familiar among surfing communities. But there’s more to life here than just surfing. Its bucolic charm, unspoiled beaches & simple lifestyle are what trap those who have come to Siargao.
I have lived in so many places & there’s really nothing like home. I grew up chasing waterfalls & eating delicious versions of our Filipino favorites like lechon & kinilaw. For a small city but with an art & culture scene that is so well alive, coming home is always a delightful feeling.
If there’s one place that characterizes Mindanao grace in a cosmopolitan pace, that is Davao City. It is a multi-cultural community that converges many of the country’s best minds, skills & talents. Popular for its unbeatable security & order, Davao is a charming & progressive city to visit or live.
4. Cagayan de Oro
CDO as it is popularly called, rose to fame when its decibel-breaking white water rafting adventures caught the country in a surprising splash. But what I also like most about CDO is its dining culture. Whatever cuisine you fancy, its dizzying choices of food spots are truly amazing.
While Zamboanga is known for its delicious seafood dishes like the exotic curacha, I’ll let you in on a hush-hush—-Lantaka Hotel’s Saging Prito. It’s just your humble banana, fried & dazzled with a distinct kind of “latik” or sweet coco jam called “halea”. Zamboanga City keeps its Hispanic traditions alive—from its heritage buildings & food to its religion & language. Quiere quiere yo aqui!
There’s nothing much to do in Siquijor. I wake up to the sound of the crashing waves, walk on the beach or laze on a hammock reading a book. I drive around on a motorbike to visit centuries-old churches. Indulge on “hilot”, an indigenous deep tissue massage. I eat dinner early then gaze at the stars & tuck myself to bed. Nothing much, really.
Dumaguete attracts the more relaxed kind of tourists. Those who like to take quiet walks on a sunset boulevard, & hearty chats over coffee & silvanas. It excites beachcombers, divers & those who just like to be happily anonymous. As a University Town, Dumaguete is the convergence of scholars in both art & science. Life here is simple & its people are gentle.
Need I say more? Be it the City or the entire Province, Cebu is the ultimate travel destination. It throws sensational parties & fills its guests with the most sophisticated or weirdest cravings. From beaches & dive sites, to heritage architectures & cultural festivals, Cebu is truly the Queen of the South.
I always feel special everytime I visit Bacolod. Palangga, as how the Negrenses call it, pampering is not unusual here. Whether you mean excellent food or sights, arts or parties, no one goes hungry in Bacolod. Every October, its Masskara Festival goes on a live stage. I must say it is the loveliest of all festivals in the Philippines.
10. Northern Samar
The Waray sunshine never ceases to amaze me. There’s nothing quite like the city of Calbayog —- simple but bright. Escape into the islands of Biri or San Antonio or trek its mountains punctuated by waterfalls. Their modesty of lifestyle is also what makes Northern Samar spectacular.
I stumbled upon a paradise called Port Barton. Unlike its popular neighbors Puerto Princesa, El Nido & Coron, this small beach town is absolutely idyllic. Its antithetic sophistication always leaves me captivated in simple & quiet fun time on the beach. This is my kind of place —- peaceful & restorative.
Did you know that Bicol is home to many of our heritage churches in the Philippines? Have you ever felt so moved by something of the religious kind in your travels? I lived in Naga for a few years. During those times I had the opportunity to explore its deep religiosity, uncombed islands, delicious cuisine & exciting best-kept sights. But I still keep coming back because there’s more to experience in Bicol.
Whenever I feel a need for a quick escape from the daunting life in Manila, I run to my personal sanctuary, Quezon. I just hide in the old Halina Hotel or my favorite Villa Javierto. Sometimes, I just walk on the quiet streets of Lucban nibbling “espasol”. Whenever I want to feel rich, I indulge on a Mexican-inspired getaway in Pagbilao. Or simply disappear in Dolores.
If chillin’ under pine trees on a quiet afternoon is your kind of retreat, Baguio indulges you this both the literal & the figurative. The soothing highland weather & quiet escapes are what captivate its visitors. For many, it is an easy summer choice but I love to come to Baguio anytime of the year.
15. Ilocos Norte
Ilocos Norte always brings good memories to me. If you find yourself driving on this region, take it slow & take occasional detours. Pull over & explore the attractions in each town. Then repeat. Ilocos Norte has so much to offer. It has beautiful beaches, historic buildings, interesting arts & crafts, superb local cuisine & exciting adventures. It also boasts of quiet & stylish resorts. This place is surely awesome.
We travel for so many reasons. Some experiences are delightful & some are not. There are destinations that you won’t miss at all & there some that you make your favorite places in the Philippines.
There are endless back roads to discover in the country. What are those places that you never grow tired going back to over & over? Share your story on the comment box below.