Welcome to the Philippines: Local Trips to Take in 2017

New Year’s Resolution: see more of the Philippines.

The Philippines is home to a plethora of wonders. This year, make it a goal to see more and do more in the country. Here are five great trips to get you started.

Pay respects to the Ibaloi mummies in Kabayan, Benguet

The Timbac Caves, located about 1,200 kilometers above the town center of Kabayan in Benguet, are the Ibaloi’s most sacred caves. Here lie the tribe’s fire mummies, the preserved remains of their ancestors. Present-day locals honor the dead by bringing offerings of gin before entering the cave.

To get there and witness the preserved remnants of this great Ibaloi tradition, take a 4WD from the town proper of Kabayan until the end of the track. From there, the caves are four to six hours away by hiking. The trail is breathtakingly scenic, an attraction in itself. And while it isn’t required, it’s strongly recommended, because of the nature of the destination, that tourists visit with a local guide.

Experience this avian paradise in Bataraza, Palawan

About 250 kilometers from the capital city of Puerto Princesa lies Ursula Island, a remote, hidden paradise. The island’s shores boast of fine white sand and crystalline waters, while it’s skies and flora provide the backdrop for a bird sanctuary. The island became the first bird and game sanctuary in the country when the declaration was issued in 1960. It’s home to endemic species like the Palawan Peacock Pheasant.

The trip to the island is long and arduous but most definitely rewarding. The visit will require a permit from the Provincial Environment Office in Puerto Princesa, then a six-hour jeepney ride from Puerto Princesa to Bataraza, and finally a two-hour pump boat ride to the island. To maximize your trip, stay in one of Bataraza’s beachfront inns, lay back and enjoy the view.

Swim with hundreds of jellyfish in Bucas Grande

From March to August every year, millions of jellyfish bob around the waters of the Jellyfish Sanctuary, part of  the Bucas Grande Islands in Surigao Del Norte. It’s a sight to behold, especially considering the relatively small and shallow size of the lagoon. Don’t hesitate to jump in (just be wary of the bottom-dwelling sea urchins) and take a dip with the little creatures, here, they don’t sting.

A trip to the sanctuary is typically part of the tour around the islands of Bucas Grande featuring lagoons, cliff formations and caves. This particular lagoon is a short paddle boat ride from the Sohoton National Park.

Chase the cascades in Cateel, Davao Oriental

Less than an hour away from the Cateel town proper in Davao Oriental is the ultimate waterfall experience.  Aliwagwag Falls, with its over 100 tiers, is the longest waterfall in the Philippines. It’s a magnificent natural sight made up of cascading rock formations in different heights in shapes. The water’s refreshingly cool, you won’t be able to resist taking a dip.

The waterfall is accessible from Davao City. From the Ecoland Terminal, take a van (about PHP300-400) or a bus (about PHP150) to Cateel. The trip will take about six hours, and there are two trips: one at 3 a.m and another at 5 p.m.). From the Cateel town proper, take a habal-habal (about  PHP100) to the Aliwagwag Falls Ecopark. The motorcycle ride will take about 40 to 45 minutes.

Explore the lush flora and fauna in Mount Hamiguitan

Davao Oriental seems to have a host of natural gems, from the famous Dahican Beach in Mati to Aliwagwag Falls, to Mount Hamiguitan. The mountain, a UNESCO Heritage Site and an ASEAN Heritage Park, is made up of over 6,000 hectares of plant and animal life, including a bonsai-filled forest, which could very well be the largest forest in the world at 225 hectares.

Mount Hamiguitan (which is also home to a host of endemic fauna like Philippine Tarsiers and the Philippine Eagle), is currently closed to the public to uphold conservation efforts, but the local government recently launched the Mount Hamiguitan Natural Science Museum. The museum allows visitors to remotely explore the mountain via the four sections that display Mount Hamiguitan’s wonders — complete with an experiential showcase of the nocturnal animals’ habitat and views to actual portions of the heritage park.

The museum is a three and a half-hour ride from Davao City’s Ecoland Terminal to General Generoso by van or bus. Then, take a short habal-habal ride from the junction leading to the museum. Entrance to the museum is PHP50.

How about you, what’s in your local destinations bucket list this year?