How it all started?
Looking back from January 2013 when I set foot on Sagada and in that very place, I got bitten by the travel bug, note that I am already on my latter half of the twenties that time. Thereafter, I saw myself taking the first airplane ride with Cebu Pacific Air bound to the land of Mt. Mayon and traversing the provinces of Bicol. Blessed that I can speak their language, I was able to set foot on four provinces with lesser hassles. Note that I took advantage of their public transportation mostly during transits from destination to destination. By summer of the following year, organized a first travel event to the town of Baler, filling up two vans, after which, I came back four times with different groups.
How did I learn about the so-called “Project 81”?
It was after two years that I opened my blogsite and set up my social media handles to support it. The goal of the blog site is to provide travel guides and techniques on the places I visit. I also intend to focus on the less-traveled places, giving them online exposure I can manage. During the course of interacting with my followers, I saw the hashtag #project81ph. It tickled my interest and learned about the race to visit the 81 provinces of the Philippines. I reviewed the provinces I set foot before and started counting. Since then, I was an avid fan of waiting for airfare seat sales. I started researching and reading about the tourism landscape of different provinces. I also learned from experience in researching and preparing the itinerary.
What are the major traveling activities I did?
Covering as much as provinces on each roundtrip flight. I was able to set foot in all Visayan provinces with just four roundtrip flights. Chronologically, the first region is the Central Visayas, which I came solo, then Eastern Visayas with a former colleague, Sir Michael James and Pilot Sir Juan Carlo, and in Western Visayas with a former colleague, Ms. Catherine Pingul. The fourth flight fulfilled the last province which is Negros Occidental in Bacolod City. This then became my pattern in traveling.
In Mindanao, with fellow backpacker, Ms. Ella Dalisay, we are able to visit the 5 provinces of Davao Region, also in Cagayan, Region 4-A and Cotabato City. With fellow blogger, Ms. Qing Pineda, and other backpackers, Ann Lucilo and Arianne Garcia, we set foot on most of the provinces of Caraga Region and SOCCSKSARGEN region. A social media connection turned friend, Mr. RJ Dumalag, hosted me in the Northern Mindanao Region, including Marawi City, a few days before the recent war. Fellow former colleagues, Engr. Mike Go and Engr. Kytte Sicat, Teacher Joanne Balagon, joined me in traversing the Zamboanga Peninsula region. Another hardcore traveler, Dave Tumindig, an awesome host and close friend, assisted me in visiting the ARMM provinces of Sulu and Tawi Tawi.
What other activities I was inclined to experience?
With one of the pioneer bloggers of Pampanga, Sir Robin Pinzon, he influenced me on covering festivals around the Philippines, thus, adding another objective in travels. It led me on searching different less known festivals across the archipelago. I was able to witness firsthand festivals from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, like Imbayah Festival of Ifugao, Pintados-Kasadyaan Festival of Leyte and T’nalak Festival of South Cotabato.
It is also with Ms. Ann Pineda, a former colleague, that invited me to my mother mountain, Mt. Pico De Loro, that led me my interest in mountain climbing and trekking.
One of the highlights of traveling the Philippines are visiting the off the beaten path provinces like Quirino, Nueva Viscaya, Northern and Eastern Samar, Antique, Sulu, Zamboanga Sibugay, Camarines Norte, Apayao, Catanduanes and Lanao del Sur.
Here are my personal favorites per category I made:
- Waterfalls – Tinuy-an Falls of Bislig, Surigao del Sur
- Major Urban Area – Zamboanga City
- Mountain/Hiking trail – Mt. Ulap of Benguet.
- Island – Onok Islandof Balabac, Palawan
- Beach – Malamawi White Beach of Basilan
- River – Siitan River of Nagtipunan, Quirino
- Cuisine – Coconut Based Bicolano dishes like Kinunot and Pinangat.
- Manmade structure – Rice Terraces of San Remigio, Antique
- Festivity – Dinagyang Festival of Iloilo City
- Cave – Capisaan Cave of Kasibu, Nueva Viscaya
- Wildlife/Animal Encounter – Kalibasib, Tamaraw in captivity in Rizal, Occidental Mindoro.
- Meeting cultural icons – Apo Whang Od of Buscalan, Kalinga and Maria Todi of Lake Sebu, South Cotabato
What marks the completion of the project?
On the very day of 17th of June 2019, I was able to set foot on my 81st province, Agusan del Sur, visiting the majestic Bega Falls. Thank you to Philippine Airlines for having direct routes from Clark to Cagayan de Oro. It is convenient to explore the Northern Mindanao region.
It is not easy to fulfill such a feat, as I have to arrange and negotiate my employers about it. There are vacation leaves that would have me off duty for 4 working days. I was also blessed to be connected with my current job, as I can remotely manage correspondence wherever I go. There are necessary sacrifices as well, like cutting of spending on eating out, pampering sessions and almost zero purchase of non-essential material stuff.
Why do such a feat?
For me, it is not about bragging, but my intention is to promote the natural beauty and interesting culture of all the provinces of the Philippines. I want to help also in breaking the stigma that was attached to Mindanao. This region has more promising destinations and huge tourism and investment potential.
What made some of my traveling convenient?
With the Clark International Airport having more direct domestic connections, Kapampangans, and residents of Central to Northern Luzon have the strategic convenience, adding up, are lower airfares offered. This development made my latter part of air travel more convenient, without the hassle of the land transits of about 5 hours to safely catch my flights via NAIA terminals. Cebu Pacific Air is also planning to expand its Clark Hub by mounting routes to Narita, Bacolod, Iloilo and Puerto Princesa.
What are some off the beaten path destinations I still look forward to visiting?
- Linapacan, Palawan
- Laoang, Northern Samar
- Coastal communities of Isabela: Maconacon, Divalacan and Palanan
- Beaches of Parang, Sulu
- Olanivan Island of Davao Occidental
- Calayan Islands of Cagayan
- Cagayancillo Island
- Lubang Island
What have I learned?
I felt a lot blessed and very thankful for being a resident of Pampanga. There are lots of employment opportunities and conveniences in easy reach. Whereas other provinces are struggling with industrial generated employments or investments, and some are mostly dependent on tourism and agricultural incomes that come with risks, and sometimes limited seasonal periods, thus, causing income limits to locals. Sustenance comes from the bounty of their surroundings: the sea, forest, and land. I have learned as well the importance of cultural and language preservation. I became quite envious in the Visayas and Mindanao region, as they would really transact with you with their mother tongue. This led me to learn the Cebuano language and made a personal move to teach the Kapampangan language to my younger kin.
Also, whenever I visit some places, I mostly seek insights from Tourism Officers for my safety as well.
Travelling is more than a luxury activity, but another lifelong learning experience beyond the walls of your educational institution and employment. For others, it could be daunting, but it is a must, even just a year, to break your daily routine, and refresh your soul and body with the awesome beauty of the Philippines. It does need to cost you an arm and leg, but with sufficient research, you will be able to tackle your destinations at the lesser possible costs. It also gives you a wider perspective of life and understanding of living. Do not make traveling as your social status but make it as an extension of your continued lifelong education, create a positive impact to the community and environment you will interact with, and instill good memories that you would happily share to your kids and grandkids.
List of the 81 provinces of the Philippines in Alphabetical Order:
|1. Abra||Calaba and Bangued|
|2. Agusan del Norte||Butuan City and Vinapor|
|3. Agusan del Sur||Bega Falls, Prosperidad|
|4. Aklan||Ati Atihan Festival, Kalibo, Pawa Windmills, Boracay|
|5. Albay||Daraga, Legazpi, Tabaco, Tiwi, Joroan, Bacacay and Malilipot|
|6. Antique||Antique Rice Terraces, General Fullon, Valderrama|
|7. Apayao||Lussok Cave, Maton River, Pudtol Ruins|
|8. Aurora||Dipaculao, Dingalan, Maria Aurora, San Luis, Dinadiawan and Baler,|
|9. Basilan||Malamawi Island and Isabela City|
|10. Bataan||Morong Beach, Dambana ng Kagitingan|
|11. Batanes||Sabtang and Batan Island|
|12. Batangas||Anilao, Nasugbu, Batangas City and Taal Heritage Town|
|13. Benguet||Baguio, Atok, Itogon, Panagbenga Festival|
|14. Biliran||Naval, Almeria and Iyusan|
|15. Bohol||Tagbilaran and Panglao|
|16. Bukidnon||Mt. Capistrano and Valencia City|
|17. Bulacan||Singkaban Festival, Baliwag, Calumpit and Malolos|
|18. Cagayan||Aparri, Abulug, Tuguegarao, Baggao and Sta. Ana|
|19. Camarines Norte||Capalonga, Daet and Jose Panganiban|
|20. Camarines Sur||Naga City, Ocampo, Caramoan and Pili|
|21. Camiguin||Sagay, Mambajao, Catarman and Mantigue Island|
|22. Capiz||Roxas City and Panay|
|23. Catanduanes||Virac, Baras and San Andres|
|24. Cavite||Dasmarinas, Tagaytay and Ternate|
|25. Cebu||South Cebu and Metro Cebu|
|26. Compostela Valley / Davao De Oro||Awao Falls in Monkayo, Mainit Hot Spring in Maco|
|27. Cotabato||Lake Agco, Arakan and Kidapawan City|
|28. Davao del Norte||Tagum City and New Corella|
|29. Davao del Sur||Kadayawan Festival, Kapatagan Valley and Digos City|
|30. Davao Occidental||Little Boracay, Sta. Maria|
|31. Davao Oriental||Mati and Cateel|
|32. Dinagat Islands||San Jose, Libjo and Unib Island|
|33. Eastern Samar||Guiuan and Calicoan|
|34. Guimaras||Buenavista, Jordan, San Lorenzo and Nueva Valencia|
|35. Ifugao||Imbayah Festival, Banaue, Hapao and Batad|
|36. Ilocos Norte||Pagudpud, Bangui, and Paoay|
|37. Ilocos Sur||Vigan, Suyo, Cervantes, Bantay and Narvacan|
|38. Iloilo||Dinagyang Festival, Mandurriao, Molo, La Paz and City Proper|
|39. Isabela||Cauayan, Santiago City and Roxas|
|41. La Union||Agoo, Aringay, Bauang, San Fernando City and San Juan|
|42. Laguna||Sta. Rosa, San Pablo, Pansol, Paete|
|43. Lanao del Norte||Iligan City and Naawan|
|44. Lanao del Sur||Marawi City|
|45. Leyte||Pintados-Kasadyaan Festival, Tacloban and Palo|
|46. Maguindanao||Datu Odin Sinsuat and Shariff Aguak|
|47. Marinduque||Moriones Festival, Boac, Mogpog, Gasan, Torrijos, Sta. Cruz, Buenavista|
|48. Masbate||Burias Island|
|49. Misamis Occidental||Ozamis City, Tangub City, Hoyohoy Adventure Park|
|50. Misamis Oriental||Cagayan de Oro City and Balingoan|
|51. Mountain Province||Sagada and Bontoc|
|52. Negros Occidental||Bacolod City and Talisay City|
|53. Negros Oriental||Dumaguete City|
|54. Northern Samar||Capul Island and Allen|
|55. Nueva Ecija||Mt. Sawi, Mt. 387, Gabaldon, Cuyapo, Nampicuan and Cabanatuan City|
|56. Nueva Vizcaya||Capisaan, Quezon, Solano and Bayombong|
|57. Occidental Mindoro||San Jose and Rizal|
|58. Oriental Mindoro||Bulalacao and Mansalay|
|59. Palawan||Coron, Puerto Princesa, Bataraza and Balabac|
|60. Pampanga||Current Residence|
|61. Pangasinan||Dasol, Alaminos, Urdaneta, Calasiao, Dagupan and Villasis, Mangatarem, Balungao|
|62. Quezon||Pagbilao, Tiaong and Lucena|
|63. Quirino||Saguday, Aglipay, Diffun, Cabarroguis, Nagtipunan and Maddela|
|64. Rizal||Higantes Festival, Tanay, Angono, Binangonan and Taytay|
|65. Romblon||Bonbon Beach, Romblon Proper, Agnipa and Cogon|
|66. Samar||Catbalogan and Calbayog|
|67. Sarangani||Kiamba and Tambler|
|68. Siquijor||Siquijor, Maria, Lazi, San Juan, Larena and Enrique Villanueva|
|69. Sorsogon||Sorsogon City, Matnog, Barcelona, Gubat, Irosin and Bulusan|
|70. South Cotabato||T’nalak Festival in Koronadal City, Polomolok|
|71. Southern Leyte||Sogod|
|72. Sultan Kudarat||Isulan and Tacurong|
|73. Sulu||Jolo, Patikul, and Panglima Tahil|
|74. Surigao del Norte||Surigao City|
|75. Surigao del Sur||Bislig and Hinatuan|
|76. Tarlac||Tarlac City, Anao, Capas, Bamban and Concepcion|
|77. Tawi-tawi||Kamahardikaan Festival, Sitangkai, Bongao, Simunul and Sanga Sanga|
|78. Zambales||Singkamas Festival, Olongapo, Subic, Iba, San Marcelino, Cawag and San Narciso|
|79. Zamboanga del Norte||Dipolog and Labason|
|80. Zamboanga del Sur||Pagadian and Lakewood|
|81. Zamboanga Sibugay||Ipil, Buluan, Malangas and Titay|