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Ten Philippine Destinations Where Your $100 Can Go Far

Said the overly quoted Pico Iyer, “We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.”

Travelers are the most amorous. They fall in love with places way too easily. Or sometimes these very places are the backgrounds, the witnesses of their love affairs.

But how about a place as a gift?  Or if you happen to be single, why not have a mountain, an island, a river or church ruins for a date? Have love? Travel. Here are ten affordable destinations in the Philippines.

Scale Mt Pulag while holding hands

Ten Philippine Destinations for Couples or Solo Travelers

Sprawling in Benguet, Mt. Pulag has two commonly used trails to choose: the arduous Akiki or the laidback Ambangeg.

Some climber friends scale mountains with their beloved. They make the exhausting uptrek less taxing with a gesture of romance like holding hands or guiding the girl in a steep part, or cautioning the lover about the caterpillar on his jacket.

NOTE: These days, Mt. Pulag is rather too crowded that it feels unromantic

Yes, couples have their fair share of ups and downs. And there is nothing more metaphorical than taking these peaks and valleys literally: climbing a mountain. Located in Benguet in Northern Luzon, Mt. Pulag will force a fighting couple to make amends and share warmth inside a tent.

There is no door to slam, only a vestibule that makes a soft sound when hit.

Get lost in Batad

Ten Philippine Destinations for Couples or Solo Travelers

“Do you need help?” asked someone from above. I anchored the camera on the rice paddy dike and cautiously walked three steps down to have a portrait with the very rice terraces in our old Php1,000 bill.

READ: Batad Photos and Notes on Love

It was a young Israeli couple looking for their way to Cambulo Village tribe nearby. Rather interested where it was, I journeyed with them. We followed the irrigation system that a rice farmer whom I met earlier said. It worked just fine at the Batad Rice Terraces in Banaue in the Cordillera Region. Needless to say, it did not apply for Cambulo.

Unfamiliar with the Philippine soil, they slipped, hit their butt on the ground, got their knees scraped. But for every slip and scrape, they were there for each other.

Be charmed by Enchanted River

Ten Philippine Destinations for Couples or Solo Travelers

True to its name, Enchanted River in Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur leaves any visitor in complete awe.

A mystery sometimes takes the form of a river. It is a river that has ocean fishes in varied shapes and colors, teasing humans with their elegance. It has a hole that pumps water out, which makes reaching its bottom rather herculean.

The translucence of the Enchanted River in Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur still awes me. I have never seen such water of clarity. I endured an eight-hour bus ride and traveled Mindanao solo for the first time for this. Yes, I was, I am madly in love with Hinatuan. It is the kind of love that makes me perpetually ache for this place every time I see fellow wanderlust posting photos. I feel jealous. I feel the need to dip into its waters and marvel at its charms.

Note: I traveled three years ago, and based on the photos shared by others, the water is not as clear as it used to be.

Be reckless at Aliwagwag Falls

Ten Philippine Destinations for Couples or Solo Travelers

Aliwagwag falls located in Cateel, Davao Oriental is the highest falls in the country with its majestic 84 falls.

Love can be reckless. For a person obsessed with the dangers and beauty of rivers, upstreaming in Aliwagwag Falls in Cateel, Davao Oriental fits the bill.

READ: Us Kids at Aliwagwag Falls, Davao Oriental

It is the longest falls in the country with 84 tiers of falls. While most falls need long walks to the wilderness, this one is rather accessible through the road.

River trekking, admittedly, is not for the faint-hearted especially for a river system as long as, as rapid as Aliwagwag. It is an adventure that I don’t have the confidence to do solo. Battling its rapids is arduous. Not to mention, rivers are masters of treachery.

Perhaps it is appropriate to call it “a stairway to heaven.”

Rush towards Kawasan Falls

Ten Philippine Destinations for Couples or Solo Travelers

Considered as one of the most beautiful falls in Asia, Kawasan falls located in Badian, Cebu, has attracted foreign and locals tourists in the past years.

Rivers are my obsession. Flowing, rushing are their destinies. They are the perfect metaphor of a whirlwind romance. Remember, Elvis Presley crooning “wise men say only fools rush in?” Yes, rivers like Kawasan remind me of that.

FOR LOVERS: Stay at the lovely Hale Manna in Moalboal or Badian Island Wellness Resort

Kawasan Falls in Badian, Cebu is one of the few gems that remain rough, raw, unpolished despite being famous. True, the crowd in the first fall can be disheartening. But if you push upward, you can find lagoons, smaller falls all for yourself and your lover. It is a little introduction to river trekking, to bird naming, to collecting leaves bigger than your face.

And if you are in love, everyone knows that you are already a fool. So, go, rush. Rush in.

Stay bewitched in Siquijor

Ten Philippine Destinations for Couples or Solo Travelers

Those who have been to Siquijor can tell that there is more to this third smallest island province in the country than its rumored witchcraft tradition.

Stories of witchcraft and plain evil about Siquijor Island often stop some people from traveling to the third smallest island province in the country.

READ: Bewitched by Siquijor

But in my past two visits in this quaint island, I discovered a different kind of witchcraft. Siquijor can disarm a traveler or a couple. It has everything that most small islands don’t have: historical churches, reticent beaches and springs, rushing falls, a challenging cave, storied trees.

FOR LOVERS: Stay at Coco Grove Beach Resort or U-Story Guesthouse!

When I feel the itch to leave Cebu, Siquijor is my prime candidate for a quick escape.

Soar at Kalanggaman Island

Ten Philippine Destinations for Couples or Solo Travelers

Kalanggaman Island in Palompon, Leyte.

Before Yolanda wrecked havoc in northern Central Visayas—Kalanggaman Island in Palompon, Leyte—from the air—looked like a bird soaring in the vastness of the sea.

This thin stretch of an islet is for the rough, the adventurous, the thrill-seeker. It is for the couple who admires a universe of stars as a roof and the saline breeze as the air conditioner. It is for the lovers who don’t mind preparing their meals with a portable stove and butane. It is for the lovers who are most comfortable around nature, saltwater, and seclusion.

NOTE: It is possible to hire a boat from Malapascua Island or Bantayan Island for a day trip here

It is for sun chasers. It is an islet where you can admire both the rising and setting of the sun.

Feel the love in Sambawan Island

Ten Philippine Destinations for Couples or Solo Travelers

Sambawan Island a part of Maripipi Island, in Biliran, Leyte is an elongated island that has a rugged back and a sandy front.

READ: Reaching Sambawan through Kind Hearts

Sometimes a traveler can become weary of the trappings of tourism, of islands whose existence relies heavily on its tourists. But Sambawan Island in Biliran, Leyte is far from that. The locals are so disarming and genuine.

I reached this place with the help of a lot of people. The stewards of the island fed me, a local politician allowed me to hitch on his boat, and a family provided me a roof for a night. And all of them did not ask anything in return. It amazes them that strangers are willing to travel far for their small Sambawan. Perhaps it’s because visitors feel loved and they give the love back.

Give Malapascua Island a second chance

Ten Philippine Destinations for Couples or Solo Travelers

I travel to give islands labeled touristy a second chance like Malapascua—which has a rather foreign-sounding name—in Cebu. Malapascua has become one of those islands that I kept on coming back.Last year, almost every other month, I found my place here. Yes, I’m looking at Malapascua, as a story-in-the-making, a painful one. But isn’t all beautiful stories sad?

READ: A Travel Guide to Malapascua Island

Often, we misconceive Valentine’s as a celebration solely for couples. It’s not. Rather, it’s a celebration of the triumphs of love, of humanity, of kindness. Or pure self-loving.

This year, I’m going to trek, with the very people who showed me the rocky, smooth, often confusing road to wanderlust.

So, yeah, single or not, these places do not discriminate. Go. Bask. Love.

Are you going somewhere soon? Where? And with whom?

An earlier version of this appeared on my column Down South on February 14, 2014

Jona of Backpacking with a Book

Hi there, I’m Jona, originally from Cebu, Philippines, had live in Hanoi, Vietnam, and now currently based in Munich, Germany. This blog used to house thoughts on life and books, but eventually it morphed into a travel blog. For collaborations, projects, and other things, please email me at backpackingwithabook@gmail.com. For essays, creative nonfiction, and others, find me elsewhere.

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  1. Hannah says:

    Hi, Kakatuto ko lang magdrive – at sobra ko siyang naenjoy. Ngayong May, balak ko sana mag roadtrip. May alam ka ba na maganda at madali lang idrive na may budget hotels? I know this question is a long shot – pero I enjoy beach. Any suggestion will be highly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

  2. […] READ: Ten Philippines Destinations for Couples or Solo Travelers (Luzon-Visayas-Mindanao Represented) […]

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