“ONCE a year, go someplace you’ve never been before.” Dalai Lama.
It’s an instruction I heed. This year, the Universe has been kind and generous that it led me to, not one, but several new places to see. My heart is filled with gratitude and joy.
It’s always an exhilarating experience to see what the world has to offer with one’s own eyes. Bucket listed or not, whenever the travel opportunity knocks on your door, or whispered on your ears, don’t decline the offer. Grab it! The very reason it came to you in the first place only means it’s your time to pack your bags and embark on a new adventure.
2014 comes to an end and let me summarize what transpired in a single word – exciting. I made it to a new place both near and far, and with each destination I reach I always ask myself the same question, “Jinggoy, why did it take so long for you to visit this place?” To which my appropriate reply was, “I was patient enough to wait for the whisper to come.”
In Mindanao alone, where I live, there are still thousands of places to be explored. I’m glad I made it to a few spots, thanks to the Department of Tourism for making the trips happen.
Mati is fast tracking its development in the tourism trade. The latest addition to its must-see is the Subangan museum. It’s an impressive museum, well curated and very comprehensive. Before you hit the beaches of Dahican, do drop by this place. It will be a quick one and you’ll leave wanting to see more than what the Davao Oriental waves can offer.
|First time in Mati’s recent attraction—the Subangan Museum. The centerpiece—DavOr, the 53-foot sperm whale’s skeleton.|
In the Zamboanga Peninsula, I said hello to the National Hero’s place of exile in Dapitan. The city’s heart beats with everything Jose Rizal, from the monuments erected along the shore where he first set foot on to the land he owned, lived, taught, and loved, now known as the Rizal Shrine.
|First time in Dapitan. I might find my love standing on the Mi Retiro, the Lover’s Rock, at the Rizal Shrine.|
Past the historic area is a place for fun and excitement. There is the new Gloria de Dapitan, a theme park that mimics the parks abroad, and there is Dakak, which is reviving itself into more than beach destination. Today it is an adventure zone that takes you underwater, over hills and up in the air.
|First time in Dapitan & this Gloria (de Dapitan) was waiting to take me for a ride– a fun one.|
|First time in Dakak. Yes. But unlike before the place is now an adventure park. Try zipping on the longest dual zip line in Asia with a 250 foot drop.|
The twin city, Dipolog, is as interesting. The mix of the past and the present give the visitors the chance to experience both eras — heritage houses and walking along quaint streets by day and the bars and clubs or strolling by the bay walk at night. I did both.
|First time in Dipolog. One of the attractions—the 1896-built Cathedral of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary with an altar designed by Jose Rizal|
Then there is Zamboanga City. I’m glad I finally made it to the Chavacano-speaking city, short the trip may be. The highlight, I have to admit, is making it to the pink sand beach of Greater Sta. Cruz Island. Beautiful, tranquil island it is. “May I come back to frolic in the city and island longer on the next visit?” I asked DOT 9 Regional Director MaJune Bugante as I departed, thanking her for the wonderful experience.
|First time in Zamboanga City & the pink sand beach of Greater Sta. Cruz Island. This made me blush with joy.|
In the Western Visayas Region, my favorite place is Boracay and this year, I was able to see its neighboring cities. Yes, I’ve been to Bacolod and Iloilo but never really “seen” it. Thanks to the DOT 6 Regional Director Helen Catalbas, I was able to explore the points of interest across Sugarlandia, and the Church of the Angry Christ was one.
|Been to Bacolod & Iloilo. Adding more “done that” entries to my list. The Church of the Angry Christ & The Ruins are just two of the many.|
|First time in Silay & the Ruins is not the only thing “ruined” in this shot. LOL.|
Oh capital city, how I have lost my love for you but you always have something for me to be cheerful about and seeing the works of our national artists is one of them. Although I have lived a good number of years in Manila, I haven’t been to the National Museum until this year. Finally, I saw the Spoliarium and the Parisian Life, the rural sceneries of Amorsolo on canvas and many more. If this was what being drugged feels like, then I want more of it.
|National Museum- check. Spoliarium- check. Finally! But I got more than I wished for with the museum’s amazing collection.|
Moving farther to the Southeast Asian region, Bangkok is the city I frequent most. I can’t get enough of the place, the people and the food. In the past, I always make sure I visit a new place off the city but along the line, I stopped. I recently put it back into action.
The visit is Ayuthaya, the old capital of the nation, was worth the trip. It was like Siem Reap with all its temples (throw in the heat and humidity as well) but spread in a bigger area. I finally saw the iconic Buddha head of Wat Mahathat and more.
|Going back to exploring more of Thailand with each visit to Bangkok. My first time in Ayuthaya and finally did my temple run in the ancient city.|
A day tour would have been enough but planned to spend a night. The decision can’t be a coincidence because the rain poured heavily the afternoon I arrived.
Dubai popped up on the last month of the year. I said yes to PAL’s invitation to join the familiarization tour with the local travel agents, after much deliberation (though the fare was free, shelling out moolah for land arrangements was out of the budget, and Dubai was not in my bucket list). It was a good decision to go.
|First time in Dubai & Abu Dhabi. I’m glad I went & discovered that there is much more to the manmade attractions that dominate the skyline & the gold that glimmers across these emirates.|
Having no expectations of the place, it turned out quite well. I had a fun time in the “city of gold.” There was more than to having a photo-op with “everything big” and opulent in this town.
Next year is Visit Philippines year, and that I will do. Of course, I will not say to other destinations the Universe whispers I should be heading to.