As Leo’s rehab continues after his recent procedure, we’re slowly traveling to places a bit farther away from home. Last week we drove just outside Metro Manila for the first time in over a year to the capital of Rizal province: Antipolo.
During Holy Week here in Metro Manila, residents often take the time to escape the concrete jungle for fresh air and mother nature. During the past years, however, our practice has been the opposite: stay in Manila and leave for the provinces before or after Holy Week.
A favorite destination of ours for a quick getaway outside Metro Manila, this coastal town boasts a variety of attractions – pristine waterfalls, lush forests, fast-moving rivers for white water rafting, a ruggedly beautiful coastline and the raging swells of the Pacific for surfing.
It used to go by the names Sabuluag or Salauag after a tree species endemic to these islands. During the Spanish colonial era, coffins containing oversized human bones were reportedly discovered at a cave in one of the islands.
Another province hit hard by Typhoon Odette (Rai) last December was Negros Oriental, one of our favorite places to visit in the Eastern Visayas. Hammered badly were municipalities in the north and central part of the province, especially Bais City and Manjuyod where dozens were killed and estimated damage ran up to hundreds of millions of pesos.
Leyte for us, and specially for Leo, was a place famous for history – the first landing of American forces in the Philippines during World War 2 and the largest naval battle of that conflict, the Battle of Leyte Gulf, both occurring in 1944. We had not considered this heavily forested and mountainous province as a tourist destination until 10 years ago.
When Category 5-super Typhoon Odette (international name Rai) hit the Philippines last Dec. 16-17, it created a wide swath of destruction over the provinces of Surigao del Norte, Dinagat, Southern Leyte, Bohol, Cebu, Negros Oriental and Palawan. Many towns in the island province of Bohol suffered catastrophic damage and dozens of deaths.
When it was still largely unknown to local tourists, the Caramoan peninsula was featured in the 2004 edition of an international travel guide book. It was described as a rugged, pristine and beautiful landscape only accessible by boat. Caramoan burst into the scene in 2008 when the French version of the TV series Survivor featured the place. It soon began attracting local and international visitors.
More than a month ago we revisited the walled district of Intramuros in Manila with friends. On the way there we passed by Binondo, Manila’s famed Chinatown, for lunch. It had been a while since we last visited this bustling district of offices, restaurants, food stalls, groceries and herbal stores. Our latest foray into Intramuros and Binondo stimulated Leo’s interest about the history of both districts.
Amidst a dramatic increase in Covid infections in recent days, authorities have again tightened travel restrictions in Metro Manila and its surrounding provinces. This means being practically confined to our home as we try to do our part to help control another wave of the pandemic. We were fortunate to have visited a number of places the past 2 months before the recent round of travel restrictions.
Although travel restrictions are slowly being eased in the Philippines, we’re still not that confident about traveling by air or sea especially with the Covid infection rate spiraling up in the last few weeks. Confining our trips to travel by land – especially to relatively uncrowded spots – we chose to head up to the coastal town of Real, Quezon earlier this week.
The Rizal towns of Antipolo, Angono and Binangonan are known for its art galleries. Even the oldest known art work in the Philippines – the Angono-Binangonan Petroglyphs believed to be 4,000 years old – is located in the area. But an art gallery with panoramic views of the surrounding countryside?
Since this pandemic broke out we’ve been itching to head up to a white sand beach or trek to a waterfall. But it’s better to be safe than sorry so we chose to button up at home for most of 2020. A few days ago, however, we got the chance to visit some of the waterfalls at beautiful Siniloan in Laguna.
During 3 centuries of Spanish rule the 0.67 square kilometer Intramuros (Latin for “within the walls”) was considered the entire City of Manila and served as the political, religious, educational and economic center of the Spanish East Indies.
Before this pandemic we would never have imagined doing a tour of the old city of Manila. Whenever visiting friends from other countries would inquire about what place to visit in the Philippines we wouldn’t dare mention Manila.
One thing we’ve learned during this year of quarantine is appreciating the beauty of places not too far from the metro. Our preference is for off-the-beaten-path destinations which often suggests travel to remote places far from home.
Within a span of 18 days, three powerful typhoons – one of them the strongest in the world in 2020 and among the strongest in recorded history – struck the major island of Luzon in the Philippines. Hard hit were the provinces of the Bicol region
Staying mostly at home for more than 7 months is perhaps the ultimate test of sanity for these restless travelers. So recently, when the lockdown in the nation’s National Capital Region (NCR) was relaxed somewhat, we needed no further bidding to go on a trip outside the metro.
The Covid19 pandemic has messed up our travel plans and a lot more this year and 2020 will go down as probably one of the worst in our lives. Here in the Philippines a 7-month (and counting) lockdown has forced us to stay indoors for the most part.