With its endless stunning islands, the Philippines offers a variety of beautiful natural spots from white sand beaches, crystal blue water to spectacular mountains landscapes, waterfalls, rice terraces and more!

After travelling for 4 months around my motherland the Philippines , let me share with you the 10 must-go-NEW-places to visit in the Philippines in 2019!

If you are not a reader lover, you can watch my travel series videos #VISITPHILIPPINESWITHLEAH on my Youtube channel & Facebook page!

1. Ifugao Province: magnificent mountains & terraces 

If you like hiking, bonding with nature and you are ready to disconnect from the Internet to immerse yourself into an authentic experience to learn about the origins of the native Filipino culture, you should explore the Cordillera of Ifugao! Go on a 2 to 5 days hiking to Banaue, Cambulo, Batad, Patpat, Mayoyao, Bangaan.

And in case if you were wondering, the rice terraces of Batad are the 8th wonder of the world and a UNESCO site. For those who are familiar with the rice terraces from Vietnam or China, these ones are far more impressive as they are perfectly built symmetrically into an amphitheater of rice fields with endless stairs (sensitive knees abstain). They have existed since 2000 despite the many challenges and natural disasters (typhoons, earthquakes, torrential rains …).

Magnificent, incredible, WOW these are the words that came to my mind.

ifugao

2. Diving at Apo Island in Dumaguete & Maldives of the Philippines: Manjuyod

Dumaguete Island, the capital of Negros Oriental, in the province of VISAYAS, is famous for its diving spots. There you can go on a day trip snorkelling or scuba diving and get your license, and explore the rick marine life of the area: corals, fish of all kinds & sea turtles in Apo Island.

But Dumaguete has more to offer: it is a multicultural island that offers various hidden food gems: Chicken Jo’s Inasal, Sans Rival, Boulevard Street Food – to eat squid balls, tempura. And at night, locals and students coming from all around the world dance, sing and enjoy their time at the various bars and clubs such as Tiki Club or Hayahay Bar for live music bands.

The second highlight of my stay was watching Dolphins and chilling at the Maldives of the Philippines: Manjuyod. You can rent a private boat for the day to go see watching dolphins in the nature and then enjoy the sand bar beach in Manjuyod ! There, you can have fun and do water activities: banana boat, have some fresh grilled lunch, have some drinks a la pinoy and just enjoy! Oh and if you are craving for snacks, No worries, there are SARI-SARI boats floating around! Also, little tip: you can rent a cottage for 3k-3,5K only and stay over one night with your family and friends! It can welcome +15 people!

3. Fall under the spell of Siquijor

If you visit the VISAYAS, you should definitely stop by the mystical island of SIQUIJOR! Locals believe that there are witches, ghosts and mystical creatures that will either hurt you or put a magic love spell called the GAYUMA on you…But those are just stories and legends that gives the island a little bit of charm! Siquijor has a lot to offer to adventure-seekers such as waterfalls such as Cambugahay Falls where you can swim in natural water, jump from swings and cliffs, relax on white sand beaches such as Pilaton beach and have a taste of freedom as you ride your scooter around the island.

HEYOLEAH’s TIP: The nightlife is very little developed so enjoy your stop in Siquijor to relax! Stay 1 night and 2 days, for 1 day of rest and 1 day of exploration. If you want to avoid the crowds at Cambugahay Falls, wake up early, leave at 6am to arrive at the opening at 7am.

4. Sardines Run in Moalboal, South of Cebu

From Manila or Clark airport, the most sensible way to continue is by taking a flight to Cebu. Cebu City is the 2nd largest city in the Philippines and has a lot of resemblance with Manila – an urban city growing into the center trade, commerce and tourism of the Philippines with many old historic & religious monuments. Click here for more info!

While there’s a lot to do in Cebu island – whale shark watching, waterfalls, canyoneering and more – the one attraction which stands out as the most unique is undoubtedly Moalboal’s Sardine Run.

HEYOLEAH’s TIP: Great news! As the sardines at Moalboal don’t migrate, it’s available all year long.

 

5. The Chocolate Hills, Bohol vs Osmena Peak, Cebu

The Cholocate hills are one of the most famous places in the Philippines located in Bohol because of its homogenous shapes.

But Cebu, also has its own Chocolate Hills called the Osmena Peak! Indeed Cebu is a total package: you don’t only have beaches, waterfalls to jump and swim in but also mountains to climb and hike! 

Locals often compare the view to Bohol’s Chocolate Hills. But instead of rolling curved mounds, the hills have salient peaks.

Along the way, you can see farmers carrying large baskets of freshly harvested vegetables. The Mantalongan & Dalaguete Vegetable Market is the wholesaling station for cabbages, carrots, peppers and other vegetables. This is also the most popular starting point for hikes, if you do not want to hire a Habal-Habal driver to get to base camp.

HEYOLEAH’S TIP: Rent a scooter for the day to be free of your movements!

6. Malapascua Island, New Boracay North Cebu

 

From South Cebu to Cebu City, we highly hesitated to visit Bohol and explore the famous Chocolate Hills, but instead, we decided to have a complete tour of the Cebu Island by going up north to Malapascua Island.

From the North Bus Terminal in Cebu City, we took a 4hour bus to the Port in the North then a 30minutes boat ride to Malapascua Island. (TIP: there is a boat ride every 30minutes from 6am to 6PM)

And there, we found the most underrated island and beach in the Philippines! My first impression was that IT WAS VERY HOT! But right after, I thought that Malapascua looks like Boracay but 15 years ago: white sand beach, not crowded, yet enough developed to offer basic structures & amenities (resorts, hotels, restaurants, bars, clubs) to let tourists enjoy their stay.

Our program was simple: rest & chill by the beach for few hours then island hopping tour at 4PM to 1) dive near wrecked ship  2) jump off a cliff of +15meters (I didn’t jump) and watch the sunset on the boat.

HEYOLEAH’s TRIP: Being a small island, supermarkets and restaurants are very few and prices more or less high; so before heading to the island, buy basic products: water, fruits, snacks!

7. Kalanggaman Sand Bar in Leyte

One of my dreams was to go on a heavenly sand bar, and I finally realized it in the Philippines on Kalanggaman Island! The water there is crystal clear, clean and fresh – the beach is beautiful and breathtaking! You can either take a half-day tour from Malapascua or stay overnight in a tent and enjoy an unforgettable experience under the sparkling stars.

Do not worry, the island is not that empty! There are small shops called “sari-sari”, the municipal police, cabins, a medical team and even a resort!

9. Siargao or the island of Surfers

Time to get adventurous and live the surfing beach lifestyle! Siargao is one of the best surfing spots of the Philippines and in the world! You will enjoy surfing or watching the seasoned surfers tearing up the bigger waves out at Cloud 9 and in Pacifico.The waves are perfect for both pros and amateurs ! Many will compare Siargao as Bali but the main difference is that you will fall in love with the island but more especially with the locals who are warm and very welcoming. As visitors, let’s respect the environment and avoid plastic use as locals want to prevent any consequences of mass tourism.

There are different also various places to explore in Siargao Island! Click hERE to see the different activities to do!

HEYOLEAH’s TIP: The best way to go around? If you are an adventurer, by bike or motorcycle! But there are also private tours by vans or jeepneys!

9. Above the clouds in Sagada

Located in the mountains of North Luzon, Sagada doesn’t offer what most of you are used to hear of the Philippines- no crystal clear blue water nor white sand beaches – but instead – natural waterfalls, high pine trees forest, caves, hanging coffins… So take a break in the fresh air of nature and go on a hike to the Marlboro Hills to watch the sunrise above the clouds. Experience this unforgettable trip that awaits you.

Sagada is a touristic spot that attracts many local people and international ones especially adventure-seekers. FYI: it is expensive and you cannot visit the place on your own – DIY travel – you must be accompanied by a local guide – I recommend you to contact my friend Reynald, a young and professional local guide (09 954 177 696).

TRAVEL TIP: Visit Sagada as a group to have lower prices on activities and get a jeepney to tour you around! If you travel solo, you may easily join other groups at the Tourism Center.

10. Old & Modern Manila

Give Manila a chance!

Unbelievably known for its appalling traffic jams, polluted air and overcrowding, Manila may well be the most underrated capital of Southeast Asia. But Manila has proven to be one of the places you would really like to go. Why do you think there is traffic in the first place? It is growing, evolving and has a lot to offer tourists.

Staying in Manila can be an intense experience. But the beauty of this historic city, formerly known as the “Pearl of the Orient” in the 1950s, is based on its paradox: Manila is large but vibrant, dirty but full of historic, noisy and cumbersome places, but filled with life, music and music. entertainment.

So, despite the chaos, there is still something about Manila that will bring you back to the Philippines.

Written by HeyoLeah

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“Don’t go chase the waterfalls…🎵”

This is the music lyrics that describes the perfect hunting day of waterfalls, right?! So in this article, I will bring you to the South of Cebu, an island of unique and beautiful waterfalls & natural pools.

One of the most beautiful and famous are the KAWASAN FALLS!

Although it is very touristic, it is a must-see! To fully enjoy it, I advise you to get up very early to be around 6:00 am; that way you will avoid the arrival of the mass of people and therefore be able to take your  #INSTAGRAMGOALS photos

The particularity of the waterfalls of Cebu is that there are many waterfalls in one in a place! For example, the Kawasan falls have 13 floors and you can explore them 1 by 1 by doing  the Canyoneering! The flagship activity of Kawasan Falls!

What is Canyoneering? In small groups, you will climb and jump into different levels of waterfalls! No worries, lifejackets and helmets are mandatory to wear because SAFETY IS FASHION you (PS: do not take your go-pro AT RISK of losing it)

After spending the morning in the Kawasan Falls, you still have the whole afternoon to explore the rest of the island and chase all the other and hidden wild waterfalls that are as beautiful as the Kawasan Falls.

The best way? Rent a scooter and feel free to stop whenever you pass by a waterfall entrance!
Here is a quick list! Will update it once I will visit them!

  • Tumalog Falls
  • Cambais Falls (my personal favorite discovery ❤️)
  • Dao Falls

Written by Léah with an H
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One of the most famous attractions of Cebu Island is swimming with whale sharks at Oslob!

Where is Oslob? How to get there?

Oslob is located at the south point of Cebu Island, so if you are in Cebu City it takes 6 hours of bus ride from the South station of Cebu City without hazards. Or if you are from Moalboal (if you follow my route) 2h30 by bus. From Moalboal, take the bus at 4AM (be patient). Stop at Samboan and take a second bus to Oslob.

So I’m sure you’ve seen these incredible pictures on Instagram of super good girls and boys swimming a whale shark? And of course, when you see this kind of photos, the magic of Instagram + egocentrism of the human being that YOU WANT this photo too.

Well, know that these instagram photos hide a lot of truth ..

1. The mass of tourists 

2.It’s a real business

In reality, Whale sharks are in a “net fish cage” so that they cannot espace the shore. As you can see from this drone shot, it is very well organized! Boats are lined up while whale sharks are being fed on each side of the boats so that tourists can see them, swim next to them (snorkelling or scuba diving).

Tourism is not a bad thing, actually locals need it to support financially themselves. But it would be better if it was ethical and in respect with the wildlife and environment.

3. Photos are hard to take!

From my experience, I remember the water being so salty, the waves kind of strong that it was actually very really difficult to swim down and take #instagramworthy photos! Plus, I was pretty nervous to swim by the whale sharks as their were enormous! I could have been easily swallowed by one of them! And even though you are not allow to touch them, they were still very close to you and their long tale could accidentally touch your feet if you don’t pay attention! It was hard to navigate around them but at least…thanks to my friend I have my photo..! Do you like it?! haha #kungfukick

Now the question is, Is it really worth it?

To be honest, no. It’s not ethical for the environment and the whale sharks natural behaviour and habitat are being jeopardised.
As a visitor, I’d rather explore a place in respect with the environment.

However, there are other places than Oslob where you can ethically swim with wild whale sharks that are actually protected! The spots are, Donsol, in the south of Leyte and the Tubbataha Reef.

 

Comment below to share your thoughts! Would you swim with whale sharks or not?

 

Author: Léah with an H

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If you travel in the Philippines and you have the opportunity to attend a Filipino Fiesta in the area you’re visiting, just GO & CELEBRATE! It is an unique and immersive experience that you won’t regret. 

Across the Philippines, cities and regions organise many festivals to celebrate their culture and believes. For example, the Coconut Festival in Laguna, the Panagbenga Flower Festival in Baguio City etc They arevery festive and colourful with parades, music, dance and colourful Filipino costumes!

Last January 2019 I finally had the opportunity to go to Cebu City and attend the Sinulog Festival!

When? It is celebrated every year during the third week of January.

Where? in Cebu City

What? The biggest religious fiestival of the Philippines where thousands of people coming from the Philippines and the world gather to celebrate the Little Jesus and party!

The Philippines is a very religious country – the majority of the Filipinos are catholic christians. The Sinulog is one of the many religious festivals as it celebrates Santo Niño – the little Jesus – to honour him, locals shout Viva Pit Señor! 


For a week, Cebuanos (people from Cebu) pray and worship the little Jesus. On Saturday, they go on a pilgrimage that starts from the center of Cebu City to the Basilico of Santo Niño. During the march, you will see hundreds of people praying and holding a statue of their little Jesus.

On the week-end and especially on the last day, on Sunday, the festival take a whole different turn, people party on the streets, there are different kind of music festivals – rave parties, hip hop, electro – organised on parking lots, parties & safe drinking. People are very friendly to each other, they sing and shout “Viva Pit Señor!”, you’ll be hugged and painted in the face – that is the tradition!

© LostJuan ft HeyoLeah & VlogbyBlair

SO THE QUESTION IS, IS IT REALLY DANGEROUS..?

The first time I’ve heard of the Sinulog festival was when my friend Akiko mentioned it to me back in 2016. Since it stucked to my head and I knew I had to go there one day! Then I asked my family and the first thing they said was:

« ahh ang gulo duon! Madaming tao tapos lasing na lasing- mga botte lumilipad! » 

is a chaos there! It is very crowded, people are drunk and bottles fly in the air! 

Well… it really sounds like any other music festival… HA-HA

So, on 2019, I got to finally go to the Sinulog festival. My mission was to get content of the parade and live the celebration to the fullest!


Here are some information & tips on how YOU can enjoy the Sinulog Festival

  • If you are afraid of the crowd or claustrophobic, don’t bother to go to the Sinulog Festival. It is very crowded. You will have a hard time to enjoy and blend in to the fullest.

 

  • Budget & Hostels – Expect price ticket fares to be higher and the price of hostels tripled up! I got super lucky as I booked our nights super last minute at Bunks Hostel. And feeling ko meant to be because this hostel has the BEST LOCATION EVER in cebu especially during the sinology because it is literally in the center of everything! Plus, I got to meet the owner, his family and make some new friends! 
  • Be open-minded and friendly! This Sinulog was perfect as we met local people, amongst them the blogger Blair, who toured us around Cebu. Super friendly people!They gave us tips, taught us some cebuano words and grabe really welcomed us as king and queen. Guys, if you go to Manila or Paris, just hit me up
  • Get dirty & Blend in – In order to enjoy a festival, you need to feel part of the whole thing! So we bought some t-shirts and accessories to be comfy and ready to get dirty painted!

  • No signal for 3 days – On the week-end, major telecoms will cut their networks for the day. If you are with friends, make sure to pick a meet up point.
  • Secure bag – Bring a fanny pack or water bag that you can keep close to you. Make sure to wear it in front of you because some people can cut the fabric from the back and steal from you.
  • Drugs & Alcohol – During those crowded party events, alcohol is all over the place. But since 2018, the mayor has put strict measures to avoid any major incidents : liquor ban for 24 hours: all convenience stores within 100 meters of the center are not allowed to sell alcohol; And people are not allowed to bring bottles and drink publicly. However, you can still have some drinks in private bars or at your hostels on the parking lots. Now, Like anywhere else, dangers are still around.  So always have a look on your glass, be well accompanied with people you trust and can take of you, drink with modernity and don’t accept anything from a stranger.

Special thanks to Reggie and Blaire Tumalak @VlogbyBlair and his whole squad for welcoming us in Cebu! Thanks to Pierre and the Bunks hostel squad where we had an awesome time! Best location ever during the Sinulog Festival!

 

For more tips, please read Thetravellingfoxes’s article named ‘How to experience Sinulog like a local‘ as one of the Nats who is from Cebu, gives you more information and tips about the Sinulog Festival!

 

Watch my  videos vlog for more insights of the Sinulog Festival!

 

Written by Léah with an H

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