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Summer in the Philippines is often a choice between a trip to the beach or to the mountains.In a tropical country characterized by endless coastlines, the beach is relatively an easy pick.
But if you’re up for some fresh air to escape the rising temperatures in the lowlands, take the route to the mountains and lakes. I’m listing here some of the coolest destinations I’ve visited around the country:
Go the distance
I remember passing by the sprawling pineapple field as we ventured deeper into the inlands of Bukidnon. It was harvest season for the locals farmers, and we could see the morning dew as the smell of sweet pineapple filled the air.
Leaving behind the lowland and farther away from the field, we navigated along a rugged and dusty mountain terrain. The sight of high plateaus and hills with several pine trees started to reveal itself to us. And as we were taking the route towards the village of Dahilayan, the cold wind followed us through.
The climate in Bukidnon is year-round cool and pleasant making one of the ideal places in the country to grow crops such as pineapples, corn and bananas.
How to get there: Take a scenic van drive from Cagayan de Oro City to Camp Philips in Bukidnon. From there, take a habal-habal (motorcycle taxi) ride going to Dahilayan.
2. Lake Sebu
The wisp of the cold breeze did not escape me as the van trailed the well-paved and uphill road while passing several nipa houses, corn plantations, and forested hills. I was enjoying the green scenery outside my window, and as soon as the sight of the lake came to view, my excitement started to swell. We were finally at Lake Sebu in South Cotabato.
Dubbed as the “Summer Capital of Southern Philippines,” Lake Sebu is a rising tourist destination in Mindanao. I’ll always remember the quiet and relaxing stay we had there – the al fresco breakfast where we were surrounded by flowers in full bloom, music playing in the background, with a generous serving of tilapia dishes and a warm cup of T’boli coffee. I wished I didn’t have to leave.
Some of the things and people not to be missed when you visit Lake Sebu: the zipline that glides through the Seven Waterfalls, the T’boli dream weavers that continue the tradition of weaving the T’nalak cloth, a serene morning boat ride around the lake.
How to get there: From General Santos City, get on a Yellow Bus Liner bus going to Koronadal City (Marbel), travel time takes about 45 mins to 1 hour. From Koronadal City, take the Yellow Bus Liner bus going to Surallah, 45 minutes travel time. From Surallah Integrated Bus Terminal, take a van going straight to Lake Sebu. Travel time: 30 minutes. Alternately, there’s a van going directly from Koronadal City to Lake Sebu.
3. Marawi City, Lanao del Sur
The city landscape of Marawi is dominated by mountains, hills and the large Lake Lanao, and this kind of topography produce an ideal cool climate that helps ease the escalating temperature during summer.
Although it is not a very touristy place, this city has great charm. Mosques are around and the sound from loudspeakers calling for prayer is commonplace.
Located a few minutes from the city proper and residing on a high altitude is Mindanao State University. This beautiful campus is surrounded by shady trees and green hills. Here, students dwell peacefully and in commune with nature.
How to get there: From Cagayan de Oro City, take a bus or jeepney bound for Iligan City. Marawi is one-hour away via jeepney or van from Iligan.
I remember how the fresh air from the nearby sea and the hills came freely as we were touring Batan Island in Basco. Although the sun was strikingly high that day, the breezy surroundings kept us cool the whole time we were there.
Besides the mild and easy island life in Batanes, there’s quite a lot to love about this province, which is located in the northernmost part of the Philippines.
I liked the boat ride from Batan Island to Sabtang, the green rolling hills, the one-of-a-kind shopping experience at the Honesty Coffee Shop, the native Vakul (Ivatan protective headgear), old stone houses at Chavayan, and the sunset at Naidi Hill or at the Basco Lighthouse.
How to get there: PAL Express and Skyjet Airlines have regular direct flights from Manila to Basco.
Take a road trip
5. Baguio City
Seeing the fog-kissed pine trees and the morning mist rolling from outside are some things that I look forward to whenever I get a chance to go to Baguio. Along the way to Baguio, we’d pass by some locals sitting on their porch, sipping on their morning coffee.
Scenes like these never get old for me.
Hailed as the Summer Capital of the Philippines, Baguio is located in the mountainous Benguet province. It attracts many visitors with its chilly temperature which ranges from 15 to 23 °C (59 to 73 °F).
Only about six hours drive from Manila, Baguio is home to some favorite tourist spots that show off the rich local culture. But besides sight-seeing, visitors go museum-hopping, shopping in the famous flea markets, and food-tripping to explore the best eats around the city.
How to get there: The most popular bus taking the Manila-Baguio-Manila route is Victory Liner with terminals at Cubao, Pasay and Caloocan. Fares for first class (1×2 w/ toiley) fare is P715 (about $US 16.5) and Regular fare is P445 (about $US 10). Its terminal in Cubao has buses leaving every 30 minutes, 24 hours a day. Genesis Transport also has daily trips to and from Baguio. Night trip is the most ideal to avoid traffic.
(READ: How travel still surprises me)
6. Sagada, Mountain Province
I first visited this town in Mountain Province summer a few years back and I remember I came unprepared for the biting temperature especially at night time.
After exhausting treks and spelunking activities during the day, and having to catch up with the cool temperature at night, I was freezing during my last few days there. But I still consider Sagada one of my favorite places because of the natural man-made wonders that can be found there.
Sagada is nestled in a valley surrounded by the Cordillera and Ilocos mountain ranges. It is famous for its hanging coffins, which were a traditional way of burying the dead. Tourists can see some of these coffins at the entrance of Lumiang Cave and near Eco Valley, a few minutes away from the town proper.
Trek the rice fields leading to the imposing Bomod-ok Falls, see the sunrise at Kiltepan Tower, experience the sunset and bonfire at Lake Danum, and go spelunking at Sumaguing and Lumiang Caves.
How to get there: Sagada is about 12 hours away from Manila, and here are three ways to get there:
1. From Manila, take a 6 hours bus going to Baguio, then from Dangwa Terminal in Baguio take a bus going to Sagada
2. From Manila, take a bus bound for Banaue, Ifugao, from there take a jeep or bus going to Bontoc, then a jeep going to Sagada
3. From Quezon City, take a bus going to Bontoc, then finally a jeep to Sagada.
7. Tagaytay City
Only about one and a half hours away from Manila, Tagaytay is considered the cheapest and most accessible getaway to escape the scorching heat of the big city.
Tourists here enjoy the howling fresh winds and the spring-like atmosphere with aplenty of blooming flowers especially during summer. It has a relatively cool climate averaging at about 22.7 °C (72.9 °F) offering a perfect respite from the escalating weather in the lowlands.
Local and foreign tourists are drawn in to this city not only because of its cool climate, but also of the commanding view of the iconic Taal Volcano which rests in the middle of the placid Taal Lake, aside from other local attractions.
How to get there: Via a private car, you may drive to Tagaytay via the South Luzon Expressway or SLEX.
Via bus, take the buses that are labeled “Mendez-Tagaytay-Nasugbu” accessible from many points in Manila.
8. Batad, Ifugao
Batad Rice Terraces are part of the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras inscribed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. These 2,000 year-old impressive terraces skillfully sculpted into the mountains of Ifugao by our ancestors constantly welcome local and foreign travelers who are eager to get a piece of the quiet mountain life.
Spending a night in an Ifugao hut and waking up to the stunning view of contoured mountains and verdant rice terraces made my trip there in 2011 special. The rice fields which resembles a patterned staircase basking in the morning sunlight, and the sight of the local people going about their early routines, were gentle reminders that the village was ready to go on with the regular day.
My Batad experience was probably one of the most challenging yet fulfilling adventures while I was traveling around the country. Hiking for hours under the warm midday sun along rice paddy fields and deep ravines wasn’t exactly a walk in the park. Unlike its more famous neighbor, Banaue, Batad is less traveled. But it is a trip definitely worth taking.
How to get there: Take a bus going to Banaue, Ifugao. Estimated travel time is about 8 hours. From Banaue, you either hire a private jeepney or wait for a passenger jeepney bound for Batad Saddle. From there, you will have to walk for two hours before reaching Batad village. – Rappler.com
Che Gurrobat is the blogger behind backpackingpilipinas.com. She founded the literacy project, BookSail, and spent the last 5 years traveling 80 (of the 81) provinces of the Philippines