IN THE FINAL STRETCH OF THIS EVENTFUL YEAR, THERE’S ONE THING that I realize is true, I lived my life exactly how I wanted to – full of travel.
Despite transitioning to two jobs, I got to travel solo in Mindanao, and went to new places every month of the year except June and December. This post reflects on the year behind after I dug up my best photos and stories from each travel destination.
Year In Review: Best Travel Photos In 2016
The funniest thing that happened during our 6-day stay in Siargao is being served pancit canton when the menu said, “noodles.” On the other hand, we also got to try to eat in the famous Kermit, that serves what Erwann Heusaff calls “one of the best pizza in the Philippines.” Siargao is gorgeous and not crowded, two of my favorite characteristics for a tourist spot. There are lots to do even if you don’t want to go surfing. For one, take Kermit’s 3-island tour. For Php 700 per person, it already includes the famous restaurant and boarding house’s trademark delicious food and a trip to some of the best beaches I’ve seen.
Surigao Del Norte
Serendipity is what I felt on my way back to my hotel after a full day of exploring Surigao Del Norte. I went spelunking in two caves, visited Day-asan village and saw the mysterious but stunning (literal) Rock and Pebble Beach. I only went because I scored dirt cheap tickets via Cebu Pacific for Php 1,200 round trip, but I left with great memories because I traveled safely and enjoyable just by myself.
For my 25th birthday, I wanted something social. We threw a party for 30 people in my house, served by the chef himself from my favorite Mexican food in Cebu, Dennis of Meximama. A few days later, together with my father-in-law, husband and the law office staff, we flew to Boracay for their annual team outing. I’m sad about the overcrowding problem in Boracay, but it turned around on my last day there. I took a last-minute solo excursion to Shangrila-Boracay and was blown away by its grandeur. If you want peace and quiet, that’s where I recommend you to go, even just for a meal.
We attended the annual Manggahan festival, ate mangoes by the bucket, went to the beach and saw the famous Windmills of Jordan. The best part is being with my mother whom I only see once a year. It wasn’t the typical crazy travel adventure, but my husband had a great time hanging out with my mom’s side of the family, the Gimenos.
It’s still fresh on my mind. We went there at 6:30PM, just when the skies are still pink, blue and yellow, the water is blue and calm, the island still not crowded. The views from White Island is one of the prettiest I’ve seen this year. I loved every minute of staring at Balay sa Baybay, the best accommodation in Camiguin. We usually don’t stay in nice places, so it’s a good reminder of what you get when you pay for more. As my father-in-law has roots in Camiguin, expect to see more of this humble island in my upcoming trips there.
Oslob’s Whalesharks via helicopter
I’ve seen Oslob whale sharks twice already, but getting there through a chartered helicopter is an exciting experience sponsored by my former employers. In the aviation base, there were no lines, no security, no waiting. On board we were served with VIP treatment, champagne included. It usually takes 6-hours to drive from Oslob to Cebu City, but the helicopter ride just took less than 2 hours.
Just 35 nautical miles of the east of Cebu city, I went to Camotes Island for the weekend. When my friend couldn’t tag along, I hired a tour guide named Allan. We went to a beach, bay walk, cliff, and 5 caves. The reason why I love caves is because they have been the way they are for thousands of years, while everything else changed around them. Fresh water pools are clear, refreshing – the interior of the caves reminded me of Disneyland but even better because it’s real.
If you’re a Filipino you must see Mayon Volcano in person at least once in your life. We all read about it in history books, but nothing beats every crevice and curve with your own eyes. Every morning, I’d get so excited to have breakfast at the hotel rooftop to see a full-on view of Mount Mayon. I just couldn’t get over how near it was. Also, doing the ATV tour is one of the highlights of my year because we got to see Mount Mayon even closer. The combination of a workout and pure fun while traversing through lava rocks and rivers were the highlight of my trip there.
I had to force my husband to wear a kimono. He was uncomfortable and a bit pouty, until a few hours later when he discovered he can actually move around while wearing it. The result is this fantasticpicture of us in Kamakura. Our 8-days there were filled with lots of onigiris (Japanese rice balls), commuting in the endless transport system, and tours. Seeing Mount Fuji alone made our trip, or even trying otoro (fattiest belly meat of a tuna) in Tsukiji Market. On my last day, I almost cried because I didn’t want to leave. I miss the culture, temples, and street fashion.
Crystal Neri is a freelance writer who has worked across media platforms in places as diverse as US, Singapore, and Australia. She lives in Cebu City where she covers travel and entrepreneurship at crystalneri.com. Say Hi to her (@nericrystal) on Twitter and Instagram. Subscribe to her newsletter: