Philippines Spotlight - A Rural Escape
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Philippines Spotlight - A Rural Escape

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The Philippines is made up of 7,107 islands all unique and alluring in their own way. It would be impossible to explore even half of them but I was lucky enough to spend ten days travelling through areas where I got to see spectacular landscapes, try out traditional Filipino food and learn about the amazing culture of Filipino people. From the Hispanic themed streets of Vigan to the rolling hills of Batanes, the Philippines really does have it all.
BY Jessica Dellow
Luxtripper Travel Editor

After spending a peaceful night in Manila at the impressive IM hotel and waking up early to a spectacular sunset across the city, we to set off on our first adventure to explore the nearby city, Tagaytay. We began by visiting the People’s Park in the Sky. This urban park located at Mount Sungay is an eerie, abandoned mansion offering some of the best panoramic views of Tagaytay. We were spoilt with sights of the famous Taal volcano and took some time to absorb the scenery high above the bustling life below. The contradiction between the beautiful views and the neglected mansion create a dreamy atmosphere, one that is perfect followed by a visit to the nearby Nurture and Wellness Spa.

At the Nurture and Wellness Spa we wandered through the winding, cobbled paths entwined with an array of brightly coloured flowers and jungle like leaves. We were able to sit back and chill on the sheltered outdoor chairs and enjoy an intense massage, perfect for loosening up stiff shoulders from a long flight. Once we were in full relaxation mode we had one last stroll through the garden before setting off to nearby Sonya’s Garden where you can enjoy fresh food, some of which is grown in the grounds. All of the food is produced to enrich and fuel your body and there is plenty to choose from. It was my first time trying traditional Filipino desserts; glazed sweet potato garnished with mint leaves and banana rolls with jackfruit. I also tried detoxifying tarragon tea for the first time too. A natural, medicinal tea that helps to regulate metabolism and boost your immune system, this was a perfect way to end a nourishing lunch.

After a peaceful afternoon we checked headed to the Taal Vista Hotel for the infamous view deck. The sights of Taal Lake and Taal Volcano almost looked too good to be true! We all sat along the wall, took in the postcard scene in front of us and enjoyed the glistening heat of the sun. We didn’t stay at the Taal Vista Hotel, but this 4 star accommodation was really rather impressive! After the hustle and bustle of the days' activities we got to the airport to catch a flight to Laoag City in the province of Ilocos Norte, where we settled into our new resort, The Fort Ilocandia.

The following day we scheduled to explore some of the surrounding areas. Our first stop was Paoay Church. This intricately designed building was declared as a National Cultural Treasure in 1973 by the Philippine government, and the distinctive architecture on the backs and sides of the church make it exquisitely unique.  After taking some photos of the church and famous Paoay sign we continued our way to the city of Vigan where our first stop was the city’s loom weaving zone. Here you can experience the traditional weaving process and even have a go yourself. It is fascinating to see how the manual machines work and gives you a real feel for true culture. 

Vigan is an unspoiled example of Spanish colonial streets in Asia. The detailed, grid-like roads and architecture reflect the integrating of areas in the Philippines with areas of Mexico and Europe. This beautiful city is famed for maintaining its Hispanic character, and horse drawn carriages take over the streets as the main mode of transport within the urban lanes. After exploring a little we stopped for lunch at Café Leona, a hideaway tucked neatly away on the side of the street. Here we tried traditional Filipino food served family style. My favourite was the longaniza, a Spanish sausage similar to chorizo served with a vinegar dip. 

Once we had eaten we made our way to Bantay Bell Tower in Bantay, Ilocos Sur, where we were able to well and truly walk off our food. This historical tower has many steps that lead up to an impressive panoramic view of the surrounding city. We spent some time relaxing and reflecting in the beautiful chapel by the ruins before setting off back to Paoay where we enjoyed even more Filipino food. Once we got back to our resort we had a few drinks in the bar before getting our heads down ready for another packed day in the morning.

When we woke the sun was beaming so we decided to make the most of the good weather and head over to the nearby Paoay Sand Dunes. The Paoay Sand Dunes stretch far across the land and the meandering tracks make for a thrilling adventure. We hired a 4x4 with a professional driver and held on for dear life! After exhausting our adrenaline we had a quick go at sand boarding before heading to our next destination, The Cape Bojeador Lighthouse.

Cape Bojeador Lighthouse, also known as Burgos lighthouse, is located high up on Vigia de Nagpartian Hill. We hopped in one of the little tricycles and rode to the top where we were greeted with another set of stunning views. This place had a welcoming feel to it and once we reached the top we stopped to get to know some of the locals and take some photos. We immersed ourselves in the historical surroundings before taking a ride back down to the bus waiting for us below.

The Philippines is the proud owner of Southeast Asia’s first ever wind farm located in Pagudpud. We wandered down to the beach where long rows of wind turbines stand proudly overlooking the shore. To us back home this may seem like just a wind farm, but to Filipino people this is a symbol for the way in which the Philippines and South East Asia in general is evolving. It is a little slice of history that should not be missed. There is something quite majestic about the panoramic view when you are standing down by the sea, and the fact that the Philippines now have this source of renewable energy should be celebrated and encouraged around the world.

After a jam packed few days exploring Laoag and its neighboring areas we headed up to the scenic province, Batanes. This vibrant land of rolling hills is any photographers dream. We spent the next couple of days exploring the villages of Batanes and the many different lighthouses, meeting with the locals and eating traditional Filipino cuisine. We explored the depths of Batanes, learnt about the history and trekked through many picturesque fields. We even took a boat across to the nearby island Sabtang where we met with a local Ivatan tribe and learnt about their own unique ways of life. 

The Philippines is such a humble and beautiful country with so much to offer. There is far more to it than scenic beaches and turquoise seas and in only ten days we were able to experience just a fraction of traditional Filipino culture, meet warm and welcoming locals and see sights we will never forget…

So Paalam for now, Philippines.

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