11 Reasons Why you Should Include Philippines in Your 2017 Travel Bucket List

With over 7,100 islands the Philippines is made of, aside from its tropical climate every tourist is dying to have, you can never go wrong exploring each majestic site this small but tourism-rich country could offer.

Philippines is known to have one of the best beaches if not in the whole world but in Asia. Have you heard of Boracay Island? I bet you did already. What about Palawan? Rice Terraces? There’s too much to that though. Being dubbed as one of the favorite summer destination, visiting the Philippines is always worthwhile.  But why do I endorse this island too much? Aside of course because it is my motherland, the Philippines is worth to be in your bucket list in 2017. And here are the reasons why.

  1. Go island hopping. Well, with at least a hundred of its thousand islands. Too many islands to explore. But seriously, explore as much island as you can when you travel to the Philippines. First on the list is the Boracay Island, it was once awarded as the 2012 best island in the world  from The International Magazine and top the list for best destination in 2012 and 2016. The island is known to its white sugary  and powdery sand and a postcard-sized tropical paradise. Next to Boracay is Palawan, an island province consists of stunning islands such as El Nido, Puerto Princesa and Coron Island to name a few. Bohol, another small island that is worth to explore. Experience river cruise at Loboc, go scuba diving in Panglao and try diving the 25-feet tall Mag-aso falls, and many more to do. Cebu is another perfect island to visit. Dive with the whale sharks at Oslob, Cebu.  Yes you heard me right; I really meant whale sharks, but the friendly versions. These are just few. Explore other islands and experience more fun. Ilocos Norte Hotels

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    Sunset in Pagudpud Beach
  1. Go feed yourself. Indulge with the foods. Filipinos are recognized to be great cooks and well, we love to eat. And like most Asian countries, the staple food of the Philippines is rice. The cooking style and the food are origins of mix cuisines such of that of Malay, Indian, Spanish, Chinese and American. While The Philippine islands are home to various ethnic groups resulting in varied regional cuisines, there are specific specialties from each region. A good example is the pinakbet and bagnet in the Ilocos Region, sisig in Pampanga, chicken inasal in Bacolod, lechon in Cebu and of course the famous adobo which is always present in every Filipino household. Don’t forget to try balut an exotic Filipino food every tourist must try. These are just little palatable gastronomy in the Philippines. You will discover and learn to love more of our foods. Diet is never an option.
  1. Go shopping. The Philippine shopping lifestyle is no doubt one of the common norms for every Filipino. From the thrift to the extravagant shoppers, we’ve got something for everyone. Haggling at street market stalls are all over the country. It is so much cheaper to travel and enjoy around Philippines. 
  1. Go extreme. The Philippines is an island full of adventures. If you’re looking for an adrenalin rush, well this is the right place to be. Get wet and wild with white water rafting in Cagayan De Oro. Get into mountaineering. It’s no secret that the Philippines is also rich in hills and mountains that you and your friends can climb any time of the year. Appreciate majestic view from summit to summit of our beautiful mountains like Mt. Ulap, Mt. Pico de Loro, Mt. Batulao, Mt. Pinatubo, Mt. Pulag and many more. There are just too much to mention. Try canyoneering or canyoning in Kawasan Falls in Cebu. How about surfing in Baler, La Union and Pagudpud? Don’t forget to visit our own sand dunes in LaPaz to try sand boarding and 4×4 ride – for those who are hydrophobic. That is definitely an adventure.

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    Campers at Mt. Ulap
  1. Go celebrate fiestas. Fiestas or festivals in foreign language are very much celebrated in the Philippines. From small towns, to provinces, to every region of the country, fiesta is renowned. It is a part and bundle of Filipino culture. Celebrate with the locals’ different festivals like the Feast of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo, Manila, the Ati-Atihan in Kalibo Aklan, Sinulog Festival in Cebu, Dinagyang in Iloilo, Panagbenga or Flower Fest in Baguio, the Moriones Festival in the Island of Marinduque, Pahiyas in Lucban, Laguna and so on and so forth. Too many to mention! 
  1. Go appreciate history. The Philippines history is a very interesting topic to learn. Be amazed of our story by learning historical facts and visiting historical places. Include in your itinerary the historical Cebu – the oldest city and it is where the first Spanish settlement took place. It is also considered as the Fount of Christianity in the Far-East. If you are looking for a well-preserved Spanish colonial and Asian architecture, visit Vigan, on the West Coast of Luzon Island. Be mesmerized with rustic mansions, cobblestone streets, baroque-style cathedrals, horse-drawn carriages and the culture itself. The Corregidor Island located at the entrance of Manila Bay is another site where it could bring you to the past. Now a historical monument, among its attractions is the Pacific War Memorial with its dome ceiling and marble altar, the 830-foot-long Malinta Tunnel, and the Filipino Heroes Memorial.  The island also has forest trails, a jungle survival camp, bird watching opportunities, scenic boat rides, and even a beach. 

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    Kalesa –

    a horse-driven carriage used in the Philippines

     

  1. Go embrace the Filipino Culture. The Filipino culture is our way of life we Filipinos preserve. From the first settlement of Melanesians, to the engaging of trading with China, India, Palau, Malay, USA and other countries introduced by the Austronesia, to  the colonization of Hispanic influence marked a heavy impact on Philippine culture. Being colonized by the Spanish, the Philippines is one of two predominantly Roman Catholic nations in Asia-Pacific, the other being East Timor. The Filipino arts cover a variety of forms of entertainment.  Folk art and ethnographic art consist of classic and modern features that flourished as a result of European and Indigenous influences. Our education has been influenced by Western and Eastern ideology and philosophy. Filipinos are also competitive in all forms of sports. Arnis, a form of martial arts is our national sport. 

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    The Saint Augustine Church in Paoay – A UNESCO World Heritage Site
  1. Go surfing. Unknown to many, the Philippines have a long list of great surfing spots. It has become a culture to water adventure-aficionados. Though we do not have those giant waves like in Hawaii, our waves from small to large sizes are promising for beginners to novice surfers.
  1. Go underwater. Did I mention the Philippines has over 7,100 islands? Well, let me say it again – over 7,100 islands. That is why there are too much to do with our salt water surrounded in our land. Aside from having world-renown beaches, we are also known for diversity of our marine life. The Philippines is Asia’s Dive Capital. We are blessed with world’s most beautiful natural harbors. Discover underneath our tranquil waters. 
  1. Go discover the wildlife. The Philippines include significant number of endemic plants and animal species. We are a tropical country with Tropical rainforest climate. The influence of tropical climate serves a vital role to our plants and animals. Almost one fourth of the country is covered with forests. The Philippines is also rich in endangered species like the Philippine eagle, mouse deer, tarsier, whale shark, marine turtles, the Subic fruit bats and the cockatoo who are now on the list of endangered species in the Philippines because of its extinction. Thus, the authorities are doing their best to make sure that wild life in the Philippines is still well preserved. 
  1. Go meet the locals. The hospitality of the Filipinos is incomparable in the world. Filipinos are known to be kind and friendly people. We are known for always smiling and happy, and we also love to sing and dance for whenever there is an occasion to celebrate.
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Here’s a smile from your local girl 🙂

Why is there no reason not to travel to the Philippines? Read again from the top.

Weekend Climb: Mt. Talamitam, Nasugbu, Batangas

Going outdoors is my kind of weekend. There is nothing like stepping outside, feel the Earth and breathe.

Mount Talamitam in Nasugbu, Bantangas is one of the easiest and shortest climb in the Philippines. For newbies, and for some hardcore mountaineers who just want to have a good time outdoors, Mt. Talamitam is a must-climb. Also, it’s a good place to train for those who are aspiring to become trail runners (like me).

Reaching the summit is like no other. The view is such a beauty. You’d also get to see Mt. Batulao on the other side. My friends and I took a lot of photos and we enjoy every view.

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Stopped by the bahay-kubo for a rest
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At the summit
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Stopped at the bamboo-hanging bridge
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Friendship goals
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Photo with our super nice guide, Eugene

Here are some tips/guide if you plan going to Mt. Talamitam on a day hike.

  • It is a less than 2-hour drive from Manila if you’re in a private vehicle taking SLEX-Nuvali-Tagaytay-Nasugbu route
  • You may also take public buses going to Nasugbu, Batangas and stop at the registration site itself.
  • The registration site is at Barangay Aga, Sitio Bayabasan
  • Registration fee is PHP40.00 per head
  • Guide fee depends how much you want to give  your guide. As for us, we gave Kuya Eugene PHP400 + food
  • Note: there respective fees if you want to use their toilet and have shower.
  • Camping or spending over night is also possible with corresponding fees.
  • Sidetrips: Layong Bilog River (optional)
  • Rappelling activity is also available at the campsite of Mt. Talamitam.

Wandering in Ilocos

We wandered the provinces of Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur for a quick 2-day DIY itinerary. For only two days, we managed to visit not all, but most of the tourist attractions of Ilocandia.

We left Manila at about 11 o’clock in the evening. We took the TPLEX route that is why we only travelled seven hours from Manila to Laoag. If you take the bus, travel time is eight to ten hours.

After we had our breakfast at our home, we headed to our first leg of our tour. First leg is visiting some notable tourist attractions in the north.

We started at Cape Bojeador which is located in Burgos, Ilocos Norte approximately 50-kilometers from Laoag. Cape Bojeador Lighthouse is a cultural heritage structure established during the Spanish Colonial times.  Normally, a visit to the lighthouse requires an entrance fee of PHP40.00. Luckily, when we were at the gateway to the lighthouse, our student tour guide told us that for now the entrance is free until the national election. It is a way of the incumbent Governor of Ilocos Norte, Imee Marcos’ way to promote tourism and bring tourists to appreciate the site for free.

Our next stop was the Kapurpurawan Rock formation also located in Burgos. It was just a few kilometers away from the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse. The Kapurpurawan Rocks are formations created by the forces of the ocean on the rocky coast of Burgos. In Ilokano dialect, Kapurpurawan means white. We were stunned by the beauty of the formed white rock which is the main attraction. They say it was formed thousands of years ago by the forces of sea waves and wind.

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Kapurpurawan Rock Formation – Burgos, Ilocos Norte

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After seeing the beautiful rock formation, we took a stop at Bangui Wind Farm. The windmills in Bangui are a tourists’ favorite. Standing on the windswept shores of Bangui, these mighty giants are not only a tourist attraction but they serve as producers of electricity up to maximum capacity of 1.65 MW, for a total of 24.75 MW. A project of Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. in 2005, the Governor of Ilocos Norte at that time, this was highly prioritized to build up the power shortage of the province that slows down economic growth.  Be mesmerized with the dancing wind turbines as the wind blew swiftly from the coast. These were first in the Philippines and in Southeast Asia.

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Windmills in Bangui, Ilocos Norte

After watching the dancing giants along the shore, our group headed to Pagudpud beach to have our lunch. We took some time to rest and headed our way to Patapat Viaduct to watch the sun sets. Unfortunately, we were not able to catch up the setting of the sun. Though we did not catch the sunset, our trip to the viaduct was still awesome and took a lot of photos because of the majestic view of the coastline of West Philippines Sea and the long-high bridge connecting Ilocos Norte and Cagayan Valley.

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Patapat Viaduct in Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte

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Pagudpud Beach 
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Pagudpud Beach during sunset

On our second and last day of our short Ilocos trip, before heading to Ilocos Sur we took a short stop in Batac, visited the Marcos Museum, the formerly ancestral house of the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos. We were amazed by the untold stories of the Marcoses most especially the achievements of the late dictator from surviving the World War II until his political years where good and bad tales were told. And were able to see his body in his Mausoleum.

After our tour in the Museum, we headed downtown and had miki and empanada for our late lunch. A trip to Ilocos Norte is incomplete without a food trip in Batac, the home of the famous Ilocos Norte empanada. Miki, a homemade thick noodle with orange soup, sprinkled with green onions and chicharon (pork rind) plus a hard-boiled egg is also one of Batac’s pride. Our tummies were super satisfied with what we had and forgot about getting tired.

And because we regained our energy from the tasty lunch we had, we traveled to Paoay, Ilocos Norte and took a short visit of the Saint Augustine Church, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The church was just an amazing structure. It was built in 1694 and completed in 1710 where it took almost a decade building it. The church is made up of coral stones and bricks and known to be a prime example of “Earthquake Baroque” design. The Paoay Church stood the test of time. It has survived wars and countless tremors and typhoons. Although it was partially damage during huge earthquakes, the church has been reconstructed and repaired that makes it looks unscathed. Today, the Saint Augustine Church in Paoay stood still as the mighty icon of the whole Ilocos Norte province. Tourists fall in love with this royal structure overtime and are one of the most visited places in North.

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The Saint Augustine Church, Paoay, Ilocos Norte

From the north, we headed to Ilocos Sur and took a very quick tour in Vigan (leg 2 of our tour) – known as the home of ancestral houses and sites. Like Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur is also rich in historical stories. In fact, the province’s capital, Vigan, now a city is known for its well-preserved Spanish colonial and Asian architecture. Due to an insufficient time we have, we were only able to visit The Baluarte or fortress, a must-see attraction in Vigan that offers a mini zoo with various animals from different countries and others endemic of the Philippines. It has also a butterfly farm, a track for horse riding and a skeet shooting range. The Baluarte has no entrance fee from 9AM until 5PM.

After wandering inside the Baluarte, we headed our way, in fact our last stop in Calle Crisologo. The Calle Crisologo is a historic walking site. History lovers like me will enjoy strolling in the streets. A historical site Vigan City is famous of. We reached the historical streets of Vigan before dark and the view of the whole place was just nostalgic and returns you to olden times. It is just wonderful. When you get to visit Calle Crisologo, don’t forget to ride on a calesa and have a joyride around the historical streets of Vigan. You’ll be able to see remarkable old Spanish-inspired houses around. Make the most of your stay in Vigan City and you will not regret.

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Calle Crisologo
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Old Spanish-style houses at the Calle Crisologo
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Calle Crisologo at night
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Taking a photo in the middle of the street

Before we headed back to Manila, we had dinner at my uncle’s ancestral house in Bantay, a small town near Vigan City.

And that concludes our two-day trip to Ilocos. Our original plan was just to spend a day in Pagudpud beach but we were fortunate to cover some different attractions the Ilocandia can give.

 

Madongan Dam: A New Favorite Summer Getaway In The North

This past few weeks, photos have been circulating over social media about a newly discovered summer attraction with its cascading waterfalls and crystal clear waters – the Madongan Dam.

Initially, the Madongan Dam in San Marcelino, Dingras, Ilocos Norte was just out of curiosity of the locals. In just a span of a week, the local dam (which is also called Papa Dam) is now a tourist attraction and a new favorite for a weekend getaway.

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Cascading waterfalls of Madongan Dam

 

Madongan Dam, a new favorite spot

 

Visitors at Madongan Dam

 

Crystal Clear Water

If you are looking for a cheap but a relaxing and fun weekend escape this summer, visit this eye-catching spot located in the northeast part of Ilocos Norte.

Top Summer Destinations in the Philippines

It’s officially summer in the Philippines. Summer here means more fun and more sun. Philippines is known to its famous beaches in the world. You heard of Boracay, right? We have more of that. Beach, beach and more beach! If you speak of summer, the Philippines defines that word. So if you’re planning for a summer getaway, here a some perfect summer destinations to visit.

1. Boracay Island – Boracay Island maybe overrated but it is no denying that this beautiful island is one of the best summer destinations in Asia. A tourist’s favorite because of its stunning beaches, fine white sand and so much fun.

  

2. Palawan – With Boracay in the south, Palawan is a beautiful gem in the north. Famous places include El Nido where you can see the Marine Reserve Park and the Puerto Princesa where UNESCO World Heritage sites such as the Subterranean River Park and Tubbatha Reef Marine Park are located. 

The Undergound River at Puerto Princesa by Mike Gonzalez

3. Cebu – Do you want to experience whale shark diving? Well it’s true. Watch local fishermen in Sumilon Island feed these lovely creatures by hand. And if you want a real up-close encounter with these friendly giants, try scuba diving with whale sharks. How is that for an extreme summer experience? Whale Sharks Watching

    

Get up-close encounter with the friendly whale sharks in Oslob, Cebu
  

4. Ilocos Norte – If you’ve visited Boracay a couple of times already, have a taste of the Boracay of the north- Pagudpud. Ilocandia’s pride Pagudpud is a fourth class municipality and a coastal resort town located in the north-most part of the Ilocos Region. Afraid of heights? Conquer your fear with Asia’s longest over water zipline at Hannah’s and have an unforgettable summer ever.Hannah’s Zipline in Pagudpud

 

Saud Beach in Pagudpud by John Ryan Cordova
 

5. Camarines Norte – Ah the Calaguas Island. A newly-discovered paradise in the Bicol Region. Though local tour operators are still gearing up towards a better local eco-tourism in the island not that bad to visit the island while it’s fresh.

Calaguas Island
 
6. Laguna – I’ve been talking about beaches in this post. I know, I know I am a bit bias. Next on my list is not about the beach and sandbar. The province of Laguna may not have those huge seas but they are still rich in water natures. Waterfalls, hot springs and lakes are all over the province of Laguna. Check out the local travel sites of Cavinti, Pagsanjan, Los Banos and Liliw to name a few. There’s a lot more Laguna can offer.

  
 7. Aurora – Baler the provincial capital of Aurora province is rich in historical stories. It is host to a spectacular geographic formations and situated ion a vast plain at the south end of Baler Bay, a contiguous segment of the Philippine Sea.Baler is said to be the birthplace for surfing in the Philippines.Baler provides small to large size waves best for beginners and novice surfing. List of surf spots in Baler   

A local surfer sporting his surfinfg skills with Baler’s wave
   

8. Cagayan de Oro – From north let’s go down far southern part of the country. Another extreme activity to do during summer is water rafting. White water rafting could be Cagayan de Oro’s most popular tourist’s getaway. Waters splashing and slamming against boulders will remind you of nature’s powerful effect on life. If you want real adventure and at the same time commune with nature, include Cagayan de Oro on your list.White Water Rafting Package

White Water Rafting in Cagayan de Oro

Well, these are just few destinations you can add-on to your bucketlist to experience adventure, fun and nature-loving summer in the Philippines. Being a tropical country and summer is the most favorite season, now is the best time to experience Philippines!

 

Top 6 Destinations to Visit this Holy Week

Last Wednesday is the start of the Lenten Season. This season is observed by Christian traditions particularly by Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran and Methodist to name a few. It begins on Ash Wednesday and covers a period of approximately six weeks before Easter Sunday. In the Philippines, since the majority of us is Roman Catholics and mostly is Protestants, the Holy Week is very important to each and every Filipino and is well observed. Beginning Maundy Thursday until Black Saturday, business operations mostly are shut down. This means most offices are not in operation to give meaning to its purpose, the preparation of the believer through prayer, penance, and repentance of sins, alms giving, atonement and self-denial. In the Philippines, it also means long weekend. There are certain traditional and non-traditional activities and practices most Filipinos do during this season. Some, most especially the Catholic devotees, practice Holy Week rituals. Some practice abstinence during Holy Week, where they restrain themselves from indulging in something, typically alcohol and smoking, while others travel to faraway places to reflect. And for those who choose the latter, here are top six destinations where you can reflect, soul-search and simply relax.

1. Ilocos Norte
They say if you want all sorts of fun and make sure you cover everything the Philippines could offer, start right at the top. Ilocandia is the perfect start to an awesome Holy Week getaway. If you’re looking for an adventure this Lenten Season, Ilocos Norte is a must visit destination. What to do in the northern part of the country? A lot! To name a few, a diverse beach experience in Pagudpud, site-seeing at Bangui Wind Farm, entice with the amazing rock formation at Kapurpurawan in Burgos, climb the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse and a city tour in Ilocos Norte’s biggest city, Laoag. From up north, go down south and indulge to another escapade that the southern part of Ilocos Norte can offer. Go sand-boarding and try an ATV ride at LaPaz Sand Dunes, stopover at Juan Luna Shrine in Badoc, visit the Paoay Church in Paoay, a national treasure of Ilocandia and a designated UNESCO world heritage site, and the list goes on.

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Kapurpurawan Rock Formation – Burgos, Ilocos Norte
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Saint Augustine Church – Paoay, Ilocos Norte

2. Boracay Island
There is no way Boracay would not be included in the list. Boracay could be the most popular destination not just for summer getaways but also to spend Holy Week with family or friends. Enjoy the beauty of the beach and fine white sands. Though Boracay is known for its loud celebration and crowd in every station, you can still enjoy and relax in observance of the Holy Week with lots of great hotels and resorts to check out and enjoy quiet sunrise and sunset at the beach.

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By Mikkel Duvå Lund – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1812861
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By Joannerfabregas – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39784859

3. Camiguin Island
There are too many places to visit in Camiguin Island, and this is one perfect destination for your Holy Week getaway. You may visit the Sunken Cemetery marked with huge cross which is placed below sea level. Aside from this, the island is full of natural attractions that keep visitors coming. The Camiguin Island is rich in hot springs and waterfalls. The White Island, a sandbar is the most popular site the small island of Camiguin has. Its serene view and clear waters makes it one of my favorite places for getaways. It is composed solely of white sands and calm water. And from White Island you can view the Hibuk-Hibul Volcano and Mt. Vulcan in the background. Aside from all the beautiful natural attractions, you can also visit the walkway in Mt. Old Vulcan dotted with 14 life-sized Stations of the Cross. The Panaad Festival is celebrated by tourists and pilgrims during the Holy Week.

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White Island
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Fine white sand at White Island

4. Marinduque
A more enjoyable way to spend your Holy Week is to witness the Moriones Festival, Marinduque’s pride. Here, locals are seen in their costumes of Roman soldiers to depict the story of the Passion of Christ. This practice for the people in Marindugque is an act of penance and as a way of thanksgiving.

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5. Palawan
If relaxing is your main purpose during Holy Week, there is no other way to spend it than in beaches. The island of Palawan is one perfect place. Have you heard of Coron, El Nido and Puerto Princesa? These are just the famous islands in Palawan that showcase the richness of paradise-like beaches and not to mention abundant in beautiful coral reefs.

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By User: (WT-shared) Jdkoenig at wts wikivoyage – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23325365
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By IRRI Images – originally posted to Flickr as POTW_MichelleELLA01, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8114349

 

 

6. Christ of the Divine Mercy in Misamis Oriental
The Shrine of the Divine Mercy is located in El Salvador, Misamis Oriental overlooking Macajalar Bay on the southern island of Mindanao. This shrine serves as a pilgrimage site for Divine Mercy devotees.

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Shrine of Christ of the Divine Mercy

By Tin2little – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21432421

So, have you decided where to go this coming Holy Week? Do you have a destination in mind that is not included on my list? Feel free to share yours!