Exploring the Many Different Sides of the Philippines

Jodi Ettenberg February 11, 2013 13

My reason for traveling to the Philippines wasn’t the country’s thousands of beautiful islands or turquoise coves, nor the lush green rice terraces that wind their way across the mountain passes in the far North. It wasn’t the great volcanos to climb nor the wonderfully friendly, quirky people. Nope. It was this:

My brother and a tarsier

My brother and a tarsier, photo by Jodi E.

The gremlin-like animal is called a tarsier and was a favourite of mine for years, even as a photo on my mousepad when I was working as a lawyer (to my colleagues’ confusion). Endangered, the tarsier exists on only a few islands now – in the Philippines, in Indonesia and elsewhere in the region. One of the smaller primates on earth, they are shy, nocturnal and, in my eyes at least, beyond adorable. So I headed to the Philippines to see them at a sanctuary in Bohol, an island in the south of the country.

The thing about the Philippines, however, is that it is a wonderful country, and one with incredible diversity from north to south. I might have arrived there for a small furry primate, but I stayed for many other reasons. After a full four months in the country, readers often write about where to visit for their own Philippine trips. Some suggestions:

Bohol

Home of the tarsiers. How could you not? Be sure to visit them in the official sanctuary, not in the illegal zoos that line the road.

Loboc river, Bohol

Loboc river, Bohol, photo by Jodi E.

Palawan

Explore the underground caves of Sabang near Puerto Princessa, head to the Bacuit Bay’s El Nido and snorkel through some incredible karst rock formations and revel in the beauty that nature has to offer.

El Nido Palawan

El Nido Palawan, photo by Jodi E.

View of the Bacuit Bay

View of the Bacuit Bay, photo by Jodi E.

Rice terraces of Batad

While Banaue is more well-known as far as rice terraces go, taking a multi-day hike through Batad, Cambulo and other small villages, looping up and down the terraces to get from one to the other, was a serious highlight of my time in the Philippines. When the rice is fully grown the terraces burst with green, steps from sky to ground as far as the eye can see.

Batad rice terraces

Batad rice terraces, photo by Jodi E.

Sagada

The tiny mountain town of Sagada had some fabulous restaurants and a fun coffee culture, and was an excellent stop-over during an exploration of the country’s north. Don’t miss the underground cave experience, a 6-hour crawl through giant caverns, full of water. Not for the faint of heart.

Hugging a rock in a Sagada cave

Hugging a rock in a Sagada cave, photo by Jodi E.

Island hopping in the Visayas

South of Manila, there are great island groups to see, with many ferries that ply the routes from one to the other. From the Visayas (Bohol is within them, but I had to note it separately given my love of tarsiers), Leyte, Negros and more, including the party in Boracay, a hugely popular resort beach for locals and tourists alike.

Sunset in Sipalay

Sunset in Sipalay, photo by Jodi E.

Island hopping

Island hopping, photo by Jodi E.

These are but 5 suggestions for time in the Philippines. I spent 4 months there but I didn’t get to see all of what I wanted and as with any country, there is always more than meets the eye. Whether you focus on the North or the South, the islands or the culture, I’ve no doubt you will find the Philippines a place that leaves you smiling, even years down the road.

13 Comments »

  1. Agata February 12, 2013 at 4:34 am - Reply

    Great post and lovely pictures!
    The one with the rice terraces is cool.
    Thanks!

  2. Matthew bailey February 12, 2013 at 11:44 am - Reply

    You can also find that cute little creature in malaysian borneo. We saw him up close in sabah. Amazing creature!

  3. Matthew bailey February 12, 2013 at 11:45 am - Reply

    Batad was my favorite place in the phillies. We stayed 4 nights, we loved it so much. Malapascua was another greatisland for those interested in diving with sharks

  4. Carlo February 15, 2013 at 12:34 pm - Reply

    Being Filipino, I haven’t even been to half of these places. haha. But Bohol is great though. Looking fwd to spending time in Palawan.

    • Jodi February 17, 2013 at 3:12 am - Reply

      It’s the same in Canada for me – so many people visit and get to all these amazing places that I’ve never been to. One day I’ll take the time to explore what’s in my backyard too! :)

  5. val February 15, 2013 at 12:49 pm - Reply

    great article and nice impressions you have on the places to see in the philippines. i hope one day you can visit and experience the beauty & culture of mindanao island, too.

  6. Micamyx|Senyorita February 15, 2013 at 12:53 pm - Reply

    Lovely photos! I remember when I went to El nido, I referred to James’ blog (Nomadic Notes). He told me that he booked in The alternative inn because of your referral. I stayed there too :D I’ve been to all the destinations you listed here except Sagada. When are you coming back here? :D

    • Jodi February 17, 2013 at 3:12 am - Reply

      Thanks! Glad you stayed at the Alternative as well – such lovely people :) No current plans to return at the moment but I’d love to one day!

      j.

  7. Sab February 15, 2013 at 3:22 pm - Reply

    I love love LOVE the Philippines! Flying back in 2 weeks for my 5th visit. The people are so nice and kind there and the beaches are among the best ones I have seen in my life. I wrote about the Philippines on my blog http://www.justonewayticket.com/2012/12/05/why-you-should-travel-philippines/

    Can’t wait to get back!! <3

  8. Tuesday Freya February 15, 2013 at 9:20 pm - Reply

    Nice post. Come back again sometime. Apart from the above, the chocolate hills in Bohol and the (now dormant) volcanoes (some with lakes in them) in the north are also fascinating. :)

  9. Freya February 16, 2013 at 12:11 pm - Reply

    I never made it to the Philippines yet but would for sure love to. It looks so beautiful. Sagada cave looks quite adventurous. Beautiful photos.

  10. Dakota February 25, 2013 at 8:54 pm - Reply

    I have never been to the Philippines, but my dad has been talking about taking my siblings and I there for a month or two, so we can fully experience the culture and food and language. I think it’d be a lot of fun, looks like it’s beautiful! I love the pictures!

    ~Dakota

  11. Noel June 22, 2013 at 3:35 pm - Reply

    Hello Jodi, thank you for visiting our lovely country and spending some time there. I’m glad to know you enjoyed your stay there. Philippines is full of natural wonders and I hope someday I can see them too.

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