Tuesday, January 6, 2015

My 14 Best Travel Moments of the Year 2014

A year of unexpected journeys and dream destinations fulfilled. 

In terms of squeezing my passion for travel into my hectic life, the sentence above best described the year that was. For 2014, majority of my travels were unplanned and only one pre-booked travel push through. However, that does not mean, this I did not enjoy my year in wandering. In fact, 2014 was the busiest, and probably the most exciting since, compared to previous years, I was able to visit more destinations in Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

Hereunder, listed in chronological order, are my best travel moments of 2014:

1. Hope beyond destruction in Maribojoc, Bohol

Landslide in  Mount Padhan as seen from the "pantalan" of Maribojoc

In January, I accompanied my mother to her hometown in Maribojoc, Bohol to attend the wake of her departed sister. It was a bittersweet homecoming for me as I was saddened not only by the passing of my aunt but also in seeing the destruction brought upon by the 7.2 magnitude earthquake which struck the province on October 15, 2013. Beyond the grief however, I also find hope seeing the people moving on after the tragedy, rebuilding their lives and getting back on their feet once again.

2. Revisited Mag-Aso Falls in Antequera, Bohol

A foreigner showered at the bottom Mag-Aso Falls' smaller cascade

The short visit to Maribojoc also gave me the opportunity to get reacquainted with Mag-Aso Falls in the town of Antequera. The falls has always been part of my childhood memories as we used to frequent it during our family vacations in Bohol. Though easily accessible, Mag-Aso is not usually included in Bohol packaged tours making it an off-the-beaten-path destination. From Maribojoc, a less than one hour motorcycle ride took me and my mother to Mag-Aso where we once again marveled on its beauty and basked on its cool and clear water.  

3. Pleasantly Surprised by Isla Reta in Talicud Island, Davao

The fine white sand beach of Isla Reta

In February, Malou and I went to Davao City to visit the wake of my uncle who passed away. Since we arrived in Davao very early in the morning, we decided to make a side trip to Isla Reta Beach Resort in Talicud Island. After a one-hour boat trip from Sta. Ana Wharf, we stepped into this popular resort. I was immediately amazed by its fairly long stretch of powdery white sands shaded by talisay trees, turquoise waters and gentle waves. We walked farther towards the rocky end of the beach and was even more surprised to discover a patch of white sands near the resort's boundary which we thoroughly enjoy without the crowd.

4. Wandered Around Baguio City

Mines View Park in Baguio City

On the third week of March, I was sent to Manila for a work-related training which lasted for almost a month. On my first weekend off the training, my high school classmate took me to Baguio City. It was my first time to visit the Summer Capital of the Philippines and finally experienced its cold weather as we visited its famous tourist spots such as Camp John Hay, Mines View Park and Burnham Park.

5. Traveled Solo to Banaue, Ifugao

My guide Mang Vicente, leading the way at Batad Rice Terraces

In one courageous act, I embarked on a long, solo trip to the highlands of Banaue, Ifugao. A 10-hour bus night trip took me from Manila to Banaue where I hiked along the world-famous Batad Rice Terraces en route to the majestic falls Tappiya Falls and viewed Banaue Rice Terraces from its various view decks. My solo backpacking lasted only one day but the memories I made in discovering the treasures of Cordilleras are definitely worth keeping for life.

6. Rediscovered Intramuros

A young boy biked near the ruins of Aduana Building in Intramuros, Manila

During my training in Manila, I stayed at our company's dormitory inside Intramuros. On my last weekend, instead of going to another far away province, I decided to get to know more about Manila's Walled City. In less than a half-day of walking back in time, I learned more about this popular heritage site and even came out with a list of 10 Historical Structures You Should See Inside Intramuros.

7. Hard Climb to the Peak of Mount Capistrano

Climbers enjoying the view at rocky peak of Mt. Capistrano

I was back in my hometown just before the Holy Week. It was a Good Friday when Malou and I climbed Mount Capistrano, a popular hiking destination in Malaybalay. It was my second time to climb this mountain and since it rained heavily the night before, the slippery trail made our climb much harder. But the sweeping vista seen on its rocky summit made the tough climb worth it. 

8. Mother's Day Hike at CEDAR, Impalutao, Impasugong, Bukidnon

My wife enjoying the view of Dila Falls in CEDAR

Instead of giving Malou a wrapped gift for Mother's Day, I took her to a trail hike at the Center for Ecological Development and Recreation (CEDAR) in Impalutao, Impasugong, Bukidnon. It was a not-so-usual Mother's Day treat for my wife as we hiked through a dense forest, visited three waterfalls and bathed in the ice-cold waters of Gantungan River. After the nature trip, we took a 10-minute bus ride and ate a heavy lunch at the roadside Kafeneio Restaurant in Impasugong.

9. Unplanned Trip to Glan, Sarangani

The quiet side of Gumasa Beach during the Sarangani Bay Festival celebration

When I learned from a triathlete friend that he and his teammates will be joining a competition in Glan, Sarangani, I asked if I can tagged along to act as their photographer. Fortunately there was still enough space for me inside his vehicle. I would later find out that the competition is actually part of the Saranggani Bay (SarBay) Festival 2014, considered as Mindanao's Biggest Beach Festival. The trip turned out well as I not only set foot on one of the best beaches in Mindanao but my friends also won in their respective triathlon categories. As an added bonus, I won 1st Place in the Sarbay Fest Online Photo Contest!

Read all my posts about Sarangani HERE.
View my winning entry to the SarBay Fest Online Photo Contest HERE.

10. Day Hike at the Mossy Forest of Mount Lunayon

Tall, mossy trees characterized the foot of Mt. Lunayon

Just before summer ended, I received an invitation from a friend asking me if I am interested to join a day hike at the foot of Mount Lunayon, situated in Brngy Capitan Angel, Malaybalay City, Bukidnon. Sensing the opportunity to perfectly end the season of the sun, I gladly accepted the invitation. Mt. Lunayon is part of Kitanglad Range Natural Park which is home to dense rain forests, diverse flora and fauna and the endangered Philippine Eagle. Hiking through the mossy forest was an exciting experience and we got lucky that day as we spotted a Philippine Eagle soaring above the tall trees. Just before going back to the barrio proper we freshened up by taking a dip at a stream we passed along.

Read: Into the Mossy Foot of Mt. Lunayon 

11. Day Trip to New Bataan, Compostela Valley

Rocky river bed and the mountains of Brngy. Andap, New Bataan, Compostela Valley

A work-related travel took me to New Bataan in the Province of Compostela Valley. It was a long exhausting land travel which started from Cagayan de Oro to Davao City via Bukidnon. After an overnight stay in Davao, we proceeded to New Bataan the following morning. We went there to visit a proposed hydro power plant project in Barangay Andap. But what made this trip significant to me as a traveler is the opportunity to catch glimpses of the place heavily devastated by Typhoon Pablo two years ago. Beyond the memories of the tragedy, however, I also saw a place teeming with tourism potential especially in outdoor-related activities. I hope to come back one day and explore more of its mountains, forests and waterfalls. 

12. El Nido, Palawan, Finally!

A man snorkels on the emerald waters of El Nido, Palawan

Palawan was my only pre-booked travel which pushed through in 2014. Having booked our airline promo fare tickets more than a year before the actual travel, I have more than enough time to carefully plan this trip. El Nido naturally was on top of the itinerary as the place has always been one of my dream destinations. And it lived up beyond my expectations as I could not described in words the beauty of its karst-filled islands, pristine lagoons, white sand beaches and emerald waters. What made this trip special for Malou and me was that it happened during our 8th wedding anniversary. 

Read all my posts about El Nido, Palawan HERE.

13. Puerto Princesa Underground River Tour

Going inside Puerto Princesa Underground River 

Puerto Princesa Underground River, being one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, is Palawan's number one tourist attraction. And we got the chance to visit it during our 5-day trip to Palawan as it is part of the sponsorship deal offered to me by Palo Alto Bed and Breakfast Hotel. The Underground River Tour, despite being short in time, left us in awe with the amazing natural rock formations found inside the cave. Truly, Puerto Princesa Underground River is one the Philippines' most prized gems.

14. Lunch at Palo Alto's Private Beach

My wife enjoying the view at Palo Alto's private beach

A week before our scheduled trip to Palawan, I received an email from Palo Alto Bed and Breakfast Hotel offering me a 2-night accommodation, Underground River Tour and lunch for two at their own private beach. I excitedly accepted the invitation and we did have a wonderful stay at their eco-friendly hotel in Puerto Princesa and thoroughly enjoyed the Underground River Tour. But what took the cake away was the lunch at their own private beach. After the Underground River Tour, a less than 15 minutes boat ride took us to Palo Alto's private and still undeveloped beach. A buffet lunch was spread over a mat shaded by a temporary tent set up for me and my wife by the warm and friendly hotel staff. The sumptuous lunch on a quaint beach setting perfectly capped off our Palawan vacation.

Read more about Palo Alto Bed and Breakfast HERE.

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