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5 Places in the Philippines You Would Want to Go Back to Again and Again (Part 1)

Tourism has a notorious one-liner - "Been there, done that." Many destinations are just trophies or bragging medals of people who travel. Tick off the place in their list then off they go to another destination. Its like he-who-has-the-longest-list becomes the alpha of the travel tribe among his/her family, friends, and social media fans (okay, subscribers). And its perfectly normal. No question about that.

But there are places that defy this trend. Places that are simply awesome, huge or special that they seem to burn your heart with a branding iron with the words, "You will come back" as if its a spell that your just simply have to follow or you will live your life feeling miserable for not going back to the place. Uhmm…. it's a bit out of  context, but that statement should do.

Well, the simple reasons why you would really want to come back to these places are: you missed other interesting sites because you had to go back to your work, you really felt special and would want to feel again that moment, you gained friends, or you don't want to waste your time trying out unknown other places when you are assured that your next visit will be as great as the first time you set foot on them.

I will start with the five sites first (I actually have 17 destinations in mind) then add more sites as I get the luxury of time to write.

Ey, you can also nominate places to be included in this list and we'll see if they are really worthy of a second visit.

So take a close look at these first five destinations in the Philippines that would have a good chance to put a spell on you.


1. BATANES

Photo by: Suzette Cuerpo - http://on.fb.me/1njHpKZ
One step on Batanes Islands and you will be completely hooked.

Its a group of isolated islands and the only practical way to reach them from Luzon would be by plane. You will need a lot of time deciding and planning your travel. And you will need more than the usual travel budget with the plane fare gobbling up your hard-earned lifestyle allowance.

While in Batanes, you will have no regrets and completely savor the moments of humbling nature experience, plus the unassuming culture of the people. You will be amazed quite a lot of times. You will be very happy.

But when you come back to your home,  you will not be able to shake off that feeling that you would still  want to return to Batanes. You will miss the landscapes and seascapes, those far, far-away islands you were not able to visit, the idjiangs  you only found out but were not able to see when you were already in Batanes. The winds, the crags, the boulder beaches, the sounds that the rolling rocks in the sea make when the waves push towards land, the stone houses, the vakuls, the honesty store, the Marlboro country that has been a puzzle to the young ones who were not born during the age of Marlboro men.

The simplicity......

You would really want to go back. No doubt about it.


2.  BAGUIO CITY

Baguio was (and probably still is) the de-facto must-visit destination for Filipinos. Its hard to find any Luzon-based Pinoy who has not visited Baguio City by the age of 25.

Of course, it went through a lot of challenges like the earthquake in the early 90's, head-shaking traffic, and occassional shutting of roads due to landslides.

But the magic of Baguio, with its cool climate and Cordillera culture remains a huge magnet for many Pinoys (and also Koreans).

So, your first visit will most probably be limited to Burnham Park, the Botanic Garden, Wright Park and the Mines View Park. Of course, there's also the mandatory ukay-ukays and the public market for pasalubong.

Then you go home heavy with a lot of Baguio stuff. Your families and friends would say that you should have brought down other pasalubong like the authentic ube jam, the hand-picked strawberries, and  probably those colorful walis-tambo.

No problem, you would say. Its so easy to go back to Baguio, there are a lot of buses going there every 30 minutes, and its so easy to go around with the honest taxi drivers (well, at least most of them).

Then you start fancying staying in one of the villas in Camp John Hay, or you meet people who can bring you to holes-in-the-wall  intimate restaurants that can show you what Baguio really is all about. And those museums of the national artists, plus a hike to some places tucked away from the hordes of tourists visiting this famed city.

Then you will find out that Baguio is the perfect jump-off to Mt. Pulag, Bontoc and Sagada.

And you plan to visit again.... and again...


3. SAGADA
Lomiyang Burial Cave
If you haven't been to Sagada, the name would evoke a sense of wonder whether the place is really good to visit. Then you find out about the Hanging Coffins, the Big Cave, the burial caves, pinikpikan, Echo Valley and the cool mountain climate. So you pack your bags for that 3 days stay in Sagada. No matter with the travel first to Baguio City then transfer to another bus in the early morning for that 6-hr ride over mountain roads and scary drops. Ey, you're already very lucky since it used to take 9 hours between Baguio and Sagada over very rough and definitely more scary high altitude roads.

Or you may already be in Banaue and given the chance to visit Sagada on a day trip. Hmmm..... it will be a fast-paced travel. The hired jeepney would be traveling very fast and expect to be pressured to finish your tour so you can make it back to Banaue by nightfall.  Not my cup of milk tea.

In Sagada, you will get what you anticipated. Great scenes! And more - you probably did not have an idea how hard (but exciting!) that big cave was!

Your 3 days would be over and as you depart, you will look forlorn and wonder how you can visit other places like the other waterfalls, that mountain, whether the local would open up the Crystal Cave again to tourists, the lake , the hills, rice terraces, more mountain food, or probably even the endangered group of wild horses of Sagada that very few people have seen.

Its probably early in the morning when you leave. You finally gave in the egging of some people to try out top-loading and you will see the grand vistas of mountains shrouded by morning clouds. You will sigh and ask yourself that maybe, to just chill out would be a good excuse to visit Sagada again.


4. BANAUE RICE TERRACES
Photo by Juju Paner. https://www.facebook.com/juju.paner
Every Pinoy knows what the Banaue Rice Terraces are. As far as we're concerned, that's the 8th wonder of the world. Actually, there were only seven, and the 8th slot is claimed by more than a hundred sites that range from a family garage to pre-historic landmarks.

But admittedly, it is so hard to beat the beauty and marvel of this man-made site that seems to try to reach the steps of heaven.

So you would take that 9-hour drive from Manila via Nueva Vizcaya. Go on a dizzying zig-zag slalom over mountain roads, and...... the rice terraces right before your eyes! Its a visual feast, especially when the grains are about to be harvested. You take a tricycle to bring you to the viewpoint for that postcard-perfect shot. You take short hikes to the tiny villages and maybe even try out that hanging bridge in the town proper. You may even make sure (and get physically prepared) to visit Batad Village which is a good 11 km away from the town proper, plus an hour or two by hiking.

Well, you could say that you have seen everything what the Ifugao Rice Terraces can offer. But then you realize that what you've seen are just the show windows. You would encounter later on the words, Cambulo, Pola, Hungduan, more trekking, more adventure, more culture.

Have you noticed that smirk on your guide's face when your eyes became blank upon realizing this?

You would probably say, "Before i turn 40 or 50 or 80 years old"


5. MT. PULAG
Photo by: Caloy Llamas - https://www.facebook.com/caloy.llamasii
 "A walk on the clouds" is a literal experience in Mt. Pulag. And who would not want to do that?

It will be very cold. You might see that the pool of dew at the sides of your tent become pieces  of clear ice. Or for the men, your pee-line becomes a steady flow of steam rising through the cold air. You will be amazed by this very funny experience!

On top of Mt. Pulag, you would realize how miniscule you are. The walk through the dwarf bamboos will make you wonder how nature plays its game. You will have great, freezing fun!

Then you would ask your companions when you can climb Mt. Pulag again.

Back in the lowlands, when you hear the words, Mt. Pulag, your heart skips a bit and you stare at nothing, daydreaming of your next visit to this life-changing place.

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