Siquijor: La isla de Fuego

A very interesting island off the southern tip of Cebu and Negros is the mysterious Siquijor. This island paradise has long been known to be the home of healers, locally called as mangkukulam, which are often mistaken as wizards or witches. Even up to this day, a handful of healers can be tapped in the mountainous parts of the island, specially during the holy week or around halloween.

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Siquijor Church

Mysterious it may seem, but the island is slowly developing its tourism footprint. Siquijor is accessible through Dumaguete (Negros Oriental), Cebu City, Plaridel (Misamis Occidental) and Iligan City in Mindanao. The popular mode of transport is a fastcraft from Dumaguete City. There is no airport in the island, so travelers must have to get to the island via sea.

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L is for Leyte

Resilient Leyte. That province which was ravaged by Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, and was put into the limelight and gained the sympathy and the hearts of people all over the world, is slowly picking up itself and painfully rising from the horrors of it all. Leyte, the anchor province of Eastern Visayas, is rebuilding itself.

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Leyte Provincial Capitol

Even before the tragedy that was Typhoon Haiyan (local name Yolanda), Leyte has been on-track for progress and development. The province’s major cities – Tacloban and Ormoc had seen the rise of economic activities with businesses opening up, malls, hospitals, hotels and restaurants.

Just before Typhoon Haiyan, Tacloban was elevated to an HUA (highly urbanized area) status which made it an independent from the provincial government. Tacloban hosted several regional offices for decades until they were transferred to the adjacent town of Palo. Tacloban serves as the transportation and tourism hub.

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P is for Palawan

That very long, slender, sword-shaped island at the western side of Sulu Sea, along with the cluster of islands near Mindoro, is PALAWAN, the largest province in the Philippines in terms of area.

The country’s last frontier, PALAWAN’s geographic location and remoteness may have largely helped in preserving its beauty. For decades, the province did not experience over commercialization and most parts of the island remain unexplored and undeveloped.

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But recently, PALAWAN has awakened and began to open its door wider for the whole world to see. Condé Nast declared PALAWAN as the world’s best island in 2014. And with the inclusion of Puerto Princesa Subterranean River (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature, this province has become a popular tourist destination.

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Sagada: Brewing on my Mind

I am one of the many who loves to go to cooler places every chance that I get. Being born and raised in the Visayas, we do not have much of such places where the temp is below 20˚C. Sometimes I consider my place as having only one season: Sizzling Summer.

Sometimes my mind drifts off to places in the Cordilleras. Baguio may just be a perfect option to escape the summer sting, but the place is just too crowded and so much covered with urban development and commercialism.
Instead I pushed my mind to wander beyond the city of pines and imagine a cool summer place deep into the arms of the Cordilleras. And Sagada just popped into mind.

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Goal 81

The country is currently composed of 81 provinces and only a few people have set foot in all of them. But for those who love Philippine geography and local travel, at some point, they may have fancied going to all of these provinces in their lifetime.

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Add me to the group of people who dreamed of travelling to all of the Philippine provinces. I consider this as a welcome challenge. Personally, I see it as a way for me to learn about the country through its political units, exploring each one by knowing its people, its culture, its history, the interesting places to go, the popular food to eat, the festivals to look forward to, or the stories of glory and pride.

Other than being a way to express love for the country, apart from dutifully paying taxes, domestic travel is something that has not fully developed in the Philippines.

I have visited most of the provinces in the country. There are only 23 provinces which I have yet to visit. My goal now is to visit them the soonest possible time. Allow me to enumerate them.

1. Abra – a landlocked province under the Cordillera Administrative Region. Capital: Bangued. Planned date of visit: August 2016
2. Apayao – also a landlocked province in the Cordillera Administrative Region. Capital: Kabugao. Planned date of visit: August 2016
3. Aurora – the easternmost province under the Central Luzon region. Capital: Baler. Planned date of visit: May 2016
4. Basilan – an island province within the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Main City: Isabela. Planned date of visit: 2017
5. Bataan – a historic province in Central Luzon. Capital: Balanga. Planned date of visit: September 2016
6. Biliran – volcanic island province in Eastern Visayas. Capital: Naval. Planned date of Visit: May 2016
7. Cagayan – a province in Cagayan Valley Region. Capital: Tuguegarao. Planned date of visit: August 2016
8. Catanduanes – an island province in the Bicol Region. Capital: Virac. Planned date of visit: 2017
9. Davao Occidental – the 81st and the newest province in the Philippines. Davao Region.Capital: Malita. Planned date of visit: June 2016
10. Dinagat Islands – province in the Caraga Region. Capital: San Jose. Planned date of visit: 2017.
11. Eastern Samar – easternmost province in the island of Samar. Eastern Visayas Region. Capital: Borongan. Planned date of visit: May 2016
12. Guimaras – island province near Panay. Western Visayas Region. Capital: Jordan. Planned date of visit: April 2016
13. Isabela – province in the Cagayan Valley Region. Capital: Ilagan City. Planned date of visit: May 2016
14. Kalinga – a landlocked province in the Cordillera Administrative Region. Capital: Tabuk. Planned date of visit: August 2016
15. Masbate – island province under the Bicol Region. Capital: Masbate City. Planned date of visit: 2017
16. Marinduque – an island province in the MIMAROPA Region (Region IV-B). Capital: Boac. Planned date of visit: 2017
17. Occidental Mindoro – province at the western half of Mindoro island. MIMAROPA Region (Region IV-B). Capital: Mamburao. Planned date of visit: 2017
18. Quirino – landlocked province in the Cagayan Valley Region. Capital: Cabarroguis. Planned date of visit: May 2016
19. Romblon – an archipelago province in the MIMAROPA Region (Region IV-B). Capital: Romblon. Planned date of visit: 2017
20. Sulu – an archipelago province under the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Capital: Jolo. Planned date of visit: 2017
21. Tawi-tawi – an archipelago province under the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. Capital Bonggao (de facto) / Panglima Sugala (formerly Balimbing). Planned date of visit: 2017
22. Zamboanga del Sur – a province in the Zamboanga Peninsula region. Capital: Pagadian City. Planned date of visit: 2017
23. Zamboanga Sibugay – a province in the Zamboanga Peninsula region. Capital: Ipil. Planned date of visit: 2017

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I’m setting this Goal 81 for a period of at least two years. 2016 is pretty much loaded, with at least 10 provinces already firmed up for visit. It is very much attainable. I’m pretty much excited.