Top 10 Unforgettable Places I Visited in 2009

Year 2009 has been the best year of my life so far. It was so good to almost every aspect of my life — family, friends, love. The only thing that let me down was my health. I often found myself unable to enjoy the day with several gastro-intestinal disorders and, well, as usual, asthma and tonsilitis.

Another thing that almost spoiled the previous year for me was my failure to make it through the Foreign Service Oral Exams. I was devastated, I have to admit, because I planned my future around it. And when I learned I didn’t make it, I just needed to find an alternative route — reexamine myself and search for other things that I wanted and was good at and pursue one, or even more.

True enough, the situation opened several windows. Together with my friends, I set up a small marketing group. I also took my blogging a little more seriously and launched several blogs other than this.

But one thing that made 2009 so special was my many travel adventures. I’d always considered myself a well-traveled person having been to Benguet, Leyte, Palawan, Aurora, General Santos City, and many more. But 2009 proved to me that there was still so much to explore in this country. And this post is about the many memorable places that I visited in 2009. Here they go.

10. Tagaytay City

Well, Tagaytay has always been a favorite city. I love its climate, its landscape, and its proximity to Manila and to my house in Batangas. (Tagaytay is only 30-minute drive away from my mum’s house.) I’m a regular. But what made my visit to Tagaytay special this year had nothing to do with the destination nor does it involve the journey. It’s not where I went or how I got there. It’s whom I went with. And darn, Tagaytay just became the most romantic city on the planet.

9. Matabungkay, Batangas

Matabungkay has always had a special place in my heart. In August last year, I stepped on its sands again for the first time in three years and although I was glad to see its shore again, I was disappointed to find piles of garbage littered on it. I hope that when I go back, perhaps this year, I could see some improvement. Matabungkay is slowly losing what made it famous in the first place year after year.

8. Concepcion, Tarlac

I’d always wanted to participate in a Gawad Kalinga project and in early November, Globe made it possible. I was invited to be part of one of Bangon Pinoy’s initiatives — Bayan-Anihan. Globe works with Gawad Kalinga to push a food sufficiency program that aims to put food on Filipino’s tables. The end-result that they wanted was obvious in their cheer: β€œGoodbye Gutom!β€?

It was a sunny Saturday and the sultry weather didn’t keep us from working on our little Farmville-in-real-life efforts — building fences, landscaping, installing huts, painting, and partying with kids!

7. Cebu

Since I was a kid, I’d always dreamed of going to Cebu. Last year, I was able to visit the Queen City of the South twice. First, as part of our Western Visayas tour and second, for Philippine Blog Awards – Visayas, which my friend Esan and I attended. While there, I was able to meet up with other bloggers including Byahilo, which kept us company for a day. There wasn’t enough time to explore much of the city so I’m hoping I could go back soon.

6. Iloilo

The best thing about Iloilo is its people. I found many goodlooking peeps in Cebu but the Ilonggos I found the most charming. The people we met in Jaro and Iloilo City were all very warm, hospitable, friendly, and helpful. Not to mention that food and lodging were remarkably inexpensive.

5. Guimaras

We got lost in Guimaras on the way to the resort but the destination was all worth the trouble. Considering it experienced an oil spill nightmare a few years ago, Guimaras is a beauty. Too bad for us we didn’t get a chance to taste their world-famous sweetest mangoes as it was not mango season when we were there. That means someone has to go back for it!

4. Ilocos

Our Ilocos Tour courtesy of Lakbay Turista (Thanks, Rhia) was an unexpected treat. Unexpected because we never really thought we’d explore the region that early and I really had no plans of paying the Ilocos provinces a visit. But Ilocos was a big surprise. It was beautiful — its history, its culture, its terrain.

I particularly liked our tour of Vigan and our visit to Paoay Church, which was magnificent in every sense of the word.

But the most enjoyable was Pagudpud. Its giant waves, ivory sand, and clear waters were just so enchanting there’s no way I could forget them. And like I said before, Ilocos’ windy environment was something refreshing to me and Bangui Windmills were landmarks to prove how anyone can create an intimate relationship with the wind in this part of the Philippines.

3. Singapore

It was my first time to go out of the country. And although Singapore is less than three hours away from Manila, I could not complain. Primarily because the entire trip was shouldered by Nuffnang (and Pringles, yeah), haha. But more than that, Singapore is just an inspiring place. In my three-day stay in that Asian city, I was able to discover how Singapore became what it is today, and what things can we, Filipinos, learn from how they build and run their city.

And yeah, for a night I felt glamorous, being one of the not-so-many fortunate enough to attend the very first ever Asia Pacific Blog Awards.

2. Coron, Palawan

Most of my relatives from my dad’s side found their home in Palawan. Almost everyone resides in its capital Puerto Princesa. Thus, I am no stranger to this marvelous city. However, this year, I was able to get a glimpse of the province’s other end — Coron.

Puerto Princesa is a beautiful city, no doubt, but Coron offers a different kind of adventure for a cheaper price. I felt like I was in a fantasy film. (Lord of the Rings, anyone?) Coron is just so cinematic. Its limestone cliffs, white beaches, deep lakes, and rustic atmosphere were nothing I’d ever seen before.

Swimming inΒ  Barracuda Lake in particular was an awesome experience. I still get goosebumps even up to now just thinking about how I swam across it, fully aware of its mind-blowing depth. It was just surreal.

1. Sagada, Mountain Province

It was a close fight between Coron and Sagada for the top spot on this list but I’m giving it to Sagada. Perhaps because the memories are still fresh; I was just there a couple of weeks ago. Aside from that, I’ll try to justify Sagada’s place on this chart.

First up, it was delightfully cold in Sagada. I’d never been to a place that cold. I loved it. But other than the climate, what makes Sagada so interesting is its, well, everything about it. It’s a smallΒ  town with a big lot to offer. Well, actually, there isn’t as many to see as in other Philippine destinations but Sagada is where I felt TRULY relaxed and laid-back.

Yeah, despite the long treks and a lot of climbing resulting in me trying to consider to inject steroids to my fluffy body, it’s still far from exhausting. There’s just something anesthetic in the atmosphere, it’s almost addictive. πŸ˜›

I also fell in love with the people and its culture. (Benj must be laughing at me now.) It was great to finally see the Hanging Coffins outside my TV screen, pick oranges in a ponkan orchard, get up close and personal with rice terraces, go spelunking, dip in almost freezing water, and celebrate New Year with the locals around a bonfire on top of a hill. Whew!

And oh, the yogurt. What made Sagada beat Coron had to be yogurt. Nom-nom.

There you have it. The 10 places I visited last year that I surely won’t forget. I hope 2010 would be as friendly to my itchy toes and restless spirit!

Comments

  1. yipee!!!namenton ang iloilo & guimaras…hahaha

    for 2009, mine would include davao, palawan, bohol, camsur, and singapore. (no wonder, butas ang bulsa ko pagdating ng 2010. but it was all worth it.)

    but bora has a special place in my heart.

    “It’s whom I went with.” – i knew this kind of feeling…*sighs happily*

  2. been to sagada as well and it’s also my no.1 tied with palawan! it’s one of my favorite destination as well… been there twice and it will not stop from there… planning to go to the places you’ve been to as well and more… hahaha… it’s a good time to travel this year as what my horoscope indicated… and my passport is itching for another stamp! good luck on your other trips! ^^,

  3. mali napuntahan nung comment ko! i was talking about sagada dun sa “going loco in ilocos” post mo! hahaha!
    Sayang, binaha at nanakawan ako last year kaya di nagtuloytuloy mga byahe sana this year!

    nasaan si hubby? hehehe! pwede mo napalitan si regine sa commercial! hahaha!

  4. Eh unforgettable naman talaga lahat yan dahil kasama mo yung may-ari ng red bag dun sa picture sa itaas! HAHAHA =P

    (some parts deleted to protect Shy Guy’s identity, wahaha)

  5. yey to tagaytay, ilocos and matabungkay.. coz they’re the only places I have been too like you. haha!

    anyways, we celebrated 25th of december which is christmas in tagaytay. I think it has been a ritual activity, almost every year we do it..

    wish I could go to singapore, and palawan.. also in sagada..

    dreams …..

  6. Yeeey! You went to Sagada na! woot-woot! U went to yogurt house, right? πŸ˜€ i love sagada too. sarap maglakad lakad lang doon. πŸ˜‰ went there 6 years ago, sana makabalik coz i bet ibang iba na itsura ng Sagada ngayon.

    CamSur is THE BEST. Saraaaap kumain sa Naga. Then wakeboard sa CWC, which is in Pili, the town after Naga (but i bet u already know this) πŸ™‚ then go to Caramoan or Atulayan. Missed my chance to go there πŸ™ Tas, akyat ka Isarog. Pero kung bandang April/May ka pupunta, might as well go swim with the butandings in Donsol. πŸ™‚ Pero reserve na an inn. Yung malapit sa dagat mismo. Then mag-firefly watching sa gabi. Visit na din cagsawa ruins on your way back to Naga. πŸ™‚

    i wanna go to Palawaaaaan!

    Next stop: BALI! Taraaa!

  7. I wish I can stay in Philippines for a while and visit at least half of the places you’ve seen last year. Can you believe that I was in Thailand 3 times last year and 4 times in Philippines but the furthest place I’ve been to is Magalang Pampanga? lol by the way I am from Angeles City and do the math from A.C. to Magalang. lol again.

    Lucky you bro… πŸ™‚

  8. Been to coron apr 2010 for 4 days, 3 nites. I am as awestruck as you are by the islands. I am a native of Jaro, Iloilo City. I try to go every year to the phils and hit the different island destinations. If you decide to go back to Iloilo, try the town Miag-ao (1 hr away fr the city) and Miag-ao church. It is listed in the UNESCO as a historical structure. Another few minutes after Miag-ao is San Joaquin. The beaches are blue & clean. Beach is not covered in sand, but small pebbles mostly green in color…it’s beautiful. Make sure to bring water shoes for protection.
    Also check out Dumaguete City (Negros Oriental). Siliman Univ is in the heart of the city overlooking the ocean. Drive south of city for about 30 mins along the coastal highway to catch the ferry going to Apo Island (40 mins boat ride). Apo Island is a marine sanctuary for divers and snorkelers, and reefs are covered in amazing corals and exotic marine life.
    Happy Travels!

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