How to get there: Take the bus from Victory Liner Cubao terminal; the fare going to Baguio is P445. If you’ll be coming from the Pasay terminal, the fare is P455. Deluxe buses with lavatories and more comfortable seats cost P715 one-way.
Do: Go ukay-ukay shopping, pick strawberries, drop by the Good Shepherd Sisters convent, hit the public market, visit the Botanical Garden and Mines View Park, play mini golf at Camp John Hay, spend an afternoon at Tam-Awan Village, enjoy the cool temperature.
Eat: For a quick and cheap steak fix, go to Sizzling Plate (Session Road). Try Pizza Volante (Session Road)—we love its pizza and pasta. Even the breakfast is good. And the best part, it’s open 24 hours. 50s Diner (92 Upper General Luna Road corner Brent Road) offers old-school charm, Instagram-worthy interiors and really affordable comfort food. Café by the Ruins (25 Shuntug Road) is a Baguio must—it’s not exactly cheap but it’s so worth it. Order the Cheese Lumpia Straws, Tita Susie’s Crispy Tapa, Baguio Bagnet and end your meal with strawberries and cream. (And maybe bring home some Kamote Bread.)
Sleep: Baguio Village Inn; Casa Vallejo; La Brea Inn; Hotel 45; Safari Lodge
How to get there: By plane; for cheap rates, watch out for special promos offered by different airlines.
Do: Go swimming and sunbathing in Paradise Island Beach Resort in Samal Island. A boat ride costs P15 per person and entrance to the beach costs P100. You can scuba-dive for P1,000. Get a big dose of art at Ponce Suites where Kublai Millan’s numerous works are on display. Drop by People’s Park, visit Jack’s Ridge and spend an afternoon at the Philippine Eagle Center in Malagos. If you want to wakeboard, go to Deca Wake, Zorb Park for zorbing fun and Zip City if you want to try the zipline. If you love durian and suha, hit the markets and enjoy your favorite fruits at amazingly low prices.
Eat: Have breakfast at D’ Breakfast Club (Ponce corner Guerrero Street, Davao City)— love the bacon and chicken skin. The last time we ate there, bacon, garlic rice and fried egg cost P40. You have to eat Aling Foping’s Halo-Halo (Matina Town Square); and if you love isaw and other barbecued meats, Pastilan Sa Ponce (Ponce Street, near Ateneo de Davao) is a must-try. The last time we ate there, isaw cost P2 per stick and an order of pastil with rice was P7. If you’re brave, head over to Harley Boulevard Motor Café (Juan Luna Street) and try to beat the record for most number of chili peppers eaten. Another Davao must: Lyndon’s (Wheels & More Drive, Bajada; Km. 6 J.P. Laurel Ave., Lanang). The owner calls his spareribs “World’s Worst Ribs” but trust us, they’re so good we bought more to take home. Don’t leave Davao without trying it. Prices range from P125 to P230, depending on the size of the ribs. Each order is served with rice, sauce and a side dish. You might also want to try Lyla’s Awful Chicken and Disgusting Tilapia.
Sleep: Ponce Suites; Mirage Budget Inn; Sampaguita Tourist Inn
How to get there: By plane; those airline promos should come in handy.
Do: Gape at the bats flying around Santa Barbara Church and take pictures of the biggest flag in Iloilo outside the church. Visit Biscocho House and Ledesma House. Drop by Jaro Plaza, Pavia Church, the bell tower and Jaro Cathedral. Take a pump boat to Guimaras and hire a tricycle to take you around. There you can visit a mango research facility, Alubihod Beach and a Trappist Monastery. Go to Anhawan Beach Resort; entrance is P150 but you need to pay an extra P75 to swim in the pool.
Eat: Try the delicious Balasan Bibingka on Lopez Jaena St.; a small bag of cakes was P20. You cannot visit Iloilo and not eat batchoy. Go to Ted’s La Paz Batchoy. Try the siopao and meatballs on stick at Roberto’s (J.M. Basa St.). Visit Panaderia de Molo, a historic bakery. Grab a cup at Madge Coffee—where the brewed coffee is prepared like teh tarik (Indian milk tea). Have dinner at Tatoy’s (we like the scallops and chicharon bulaklak) and be inspired by the restaurant’s success story. If you’re a burger fan, have lunch at Perri Todd’s (8 Cuartero St., Jaro)—the place serves giant burgers good enough for three or four people to share.
Sleep: Urban Inn; Westown Hotel; Jaro Bellevue Lodge
Cagayan de Oro
How to get there: By plane
Do: Museum-hop—La Castillia, Museo de Oro and Museum of Tri-Cultures are all worth a visit. Feeling adventurous? Go white water rafting. Head to nearby Bukidnon to visit the Del Monte Plantation. Opol Aviary, near Misamis Oriental, is also a good place to visit. You can also find the Ostrich and Crocodile Farm in nearby Misamis Oriental. Explore Macahambus Cave, Catanico Falls and the Gardens of Malasag Eco-Tourism. Go to Claveria if you want to try the canopy walk, zipline and if you want to rappel. At night, enjoy drinks at Divisoria.
Eat: If you’re on a budget, Jopherson Eatery, a popular carinderia, is a good choice. Try Kagay-anon Restaurant at Limketkai Center for good local food. If you want to try the ostrich burger, visit Rhythm Café at River View Inn (Vamenta Boulevard, Carmel)—the burger is huge, it can be shared by two to three people. If you’re averse to ostrich meat, the turkey and apple sandwich is delicious. If you love salads, Lunchtime Bar at VIP Hotel offers a great salad bar with fresh greens from Bukidnon.
Sleep: The New Dawn; VIP Hotel
How to get there: By plane
Do: Visit Basilica del Sto. Niño and Magellan’s Cross. Go island-hopping. Have fun at Talima Adventure and Water Park. Visit Tops for a breathtaking view of the city. Hit the Cebu Zip Line or K33 Balamban Zip Line. Try the Sky Experience Adventure at Crown Regency Hotel and Towers. Hit the bars at The Walk IT. Grab drinks at Formo. If you have enough time, take the trip to Moalboal and enjoy the beautiful beach.
Eat: CnT Lechon has branches all over the city. Go to Sunburst for the chicken (and the chicken skin, which you can bring home to Manila); it also has branches all over Cebu. The Original AA Barbecue (Salinas Drive, Lahug) is a great place for barbecued meats. Go to Sutukil (near Mactan Shrine, Mactan Island) for fresh seafood; Larsian (A.S. Fortuna) for barbecue; and Hukad (Ayala Mall) for scallops, kare-kare and lechon kawali. If you like liempo, have dinner at Balamban Liempo (Salinas Drive, Lahug).
Sleep: Sugbutel (www.sugbutel.com); Kukuks Pension House
How to get there: By plane—the flight will actually be the priciest part of the trip. The rest—food, transfers, lodging—are affordable.
Do: Visit Rolling Hills. Take a photo by the lighthouse. Experience how the Ivatan community live, and learn the history behind the stone houses (you can get in touch with the Batanes Cultural Travel Agency and arrange a homestay). Go to the town plaza, rent a bike and explore the small town. Take a boat to Sabtang Island, have a picnic by the beach. Most guest houses offer guided tours by locals. Take lots of pictures.
Eat: Pako salad, have coffee at Honesty Café, enjoy organic vegetables and produce.
Sleep: Seaside Lodge