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No Boracay? No worries, try these 10 emerging destinations in the Philippines

ABS-CBN Investigative and Research Group; Infographic by Louie Magano, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 14 2018 09:43 AM

No Boracay? Not to worry, there's more to the Philippines than just white sand beaches.

Visitors are showing diverse interests as reflected in this list of 10 emerging tourist destinations in the country.

These provinces experienced the fastest growth in terms of number visitors over a 7-year period, from 2009 to 2016, according to data from the Department of Tourism (DOT).

These figures are based on the DOT’s count of travelers who spent at least 1 night in the area, as logged by the accommodation establishments and gathered by DOT regional offices as of March 22, 2018.

10 - DINAGAT ISLANDS

The crystal clear waters and underwater cave system of Lake Bababu and the white-sand beaches in the town of Libjo attract both local and foreign travelers to Dinagat Islands. The limited number of beach cottages did not deter the influx of travelers to this province in Southern Mindanao.

The number of tourists in Dinagat Islands grew annually by an average of 66 percent from 2009 to 2016, exceeding the national average of 14 percent by far. More and more European tourists have been visiting the province in recent years, Provincial Tourism Officer Daryl Mae Lopez said.

9 - DAVAO DEL NORTE

A tourist only needs to take a 10-minute ferry boat ride from Davao City to reach the Island Garden City of Samal and enjoy its white-sand beaches, waterfalls, mountain peaks, and caves. One of Samal Island’s caves, Monfort Bat Cave, holds the Guinness World Record for having the largest colony of fruit bats.

Its vast banana plantations earned for Davao del Norte the title “banana capital of the Philippines.” Tourists can visit Banana Beach, a beach resort and nature park in the province’s capital Tagum City. They can also tour the plantation, take a river cruise, or follow an adventure trail to see wild boars and monkeys.

The number of Davao del Norte’s local and foreign visitors grew by an average of 67 percent annually from 2009-2016. Majority of the tourists are locals. Foreign visitors who visit the province prefer to go to the beaches, Provincial Tourism Officer Noel Daquioag said.

8 - BATAAN

Only a three-hour ride to the north from Manila, Bataan is home to Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar in the town of Bagac. This private beach resort owned by art collector and architect Jose Acuzar features restored centuries-old Spanish-Filipino houses where visitors can stay overnight to have a feel of how Filipinos lived during the Spanish era. It is the top tourist destination in the province, Provincial Tourism Officer Christina Banzon-Enriquez said.

The rest of the province is likewise steeped in history.

Bataan’s historical landmarks include the Plaza Mayor de Ciudad Balanga, Surrender Site Memorial, Bataan World War II Museum, Flaming Sword, Mt. Samat Shrine of Valor, Philippine-Japan Friendship Tower, and the Zero-Kilometer Death March Marker.

After visiting these historical sites, tourists may relax on any of the province’s many pristine beaches, or go for more outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, and treetop adventure.

It’s no wonder that the province saw a 68 percent average annual increase in the number of visitors from 2009 to 2016.

7 - SOUTHERN LEYTE

Sogod Bay, located in the southern part of the province of Southern Leyte, is a popular destination for scuba divers, especially those from abroad. A three-hour ride from Tacloban City will take tourists to this sanctuary for massive coral reefs and diverse sea creatures including whale sharks, Provincial Tourism Officer Nedgar Garves said.

The province is also home to Limasawa Island, where the first Holy Mass was celebrated on March 31, 1521.

Southern Leyte has seen a consistent increase in the number of travelers from 2009 to 2016, posting an 85 percent annual average growth rate during the period.

Note: DOT data on the number of travelers to the province may include aid workers who visited the area in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) beginning in late 2013. The number of visitors to the province has been increasing since 2009.

6 - OCCIDENTAL MINDORO

The 34-kilometer protected area of Apo Reef Marine Park in the town of Sablayan is a favorite destination among European and Asian tourists because of its many surfing and diving spots. Aside from beach activities, Sablayan is also famous for its 1.76-kilometer island-to-island zipline that traverses Parola Park and South Pandan Island, Provincial Tourism Officer Ma. Isabel Castillo said.

The town of San Jose is popular for the Mts. Iglit-Baco National Park. Mt. Iglit is an eight-hour trek that showcases the area’s biodiversity. It is home to the critically endangered Tamaraw.

Occidental Mindoro posted a 98 percent annual average increase in the number of local and foreign visitors from 2009-2016.

5 - AGUSAN DEL SUR

The capture of Lolong, the 20-foot saltwater crocodile, in the town of Bunawan in 2011 boosted ecotourism in Agusan del Sur, Provincial Tourism Officer Maria Cristina Basan said. Lolong has since been declared the world’s largest crocodile in captivity.

But even before Lolong’s capture, Agusan del Sur has been seeing a steady increase in tourism. The province is known for the Agusan Marsh, a 14,000-hectare protected area that is home to some 200 species of migratory birds and more than 17 different species of fish.

Agusan del Sur posted an annual average increase of 105 percent in the number of visitors from 2009 to 2016.

4 - EASTERN SAMAR

With its clear waters, Calicoan Island in the town of Guiuan is the most popular destination in Eastern Samar. Guiuan, a three-hour drive from Tacloban City, is also home to the island of Homonhon, where explorer Ferdinand Magellan was said to have first set foot in 1521 and claimed the island for Spain.

Balangiga town, meanwhile, houses 2 famous historical sites: the Balangiga Encounter Monument and Balangiga Church and Belfry. The belfry used to house the Balangiga Bells, which were taken by members of the US Army as war booty during the Philippine-American War in 1901 and are now in the American Air Force base in Wyoming state in the US. The Philippine government has been seeking the return of the Balangiga Bells for decades.

Eastern Samar has seen dramatic growth in the number of tourists in the 7-year period from 2009 to 2016, posting an annual average increase of 124 percent during the period.

Note: DOT data on the number of travelers to the province may include aid workers who visited the area in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) beginning in late 2013. The number of visitors to the province has been increasing since 2009.

3 - SAMAR

The province of Samar has seen a phenomenal increase in the number of tourists in recent years. Even though three of its towns were affected by Typhoon Yolanda in 2013, the number of tourists in the province grew steadily over the last several years, reaching 178,000 in 2016 from only 4,000 in 2009.

Provincial Tourism Officer Marvin R. Picson said that majority of the tourists in Samar are local travelers who explore the province’s caves: Sohoton Cave in the town of Basey, Lobo Cave in the town of Jiabong, and Langun Gobingob Cave in the town of Calbiga, which is said to be the world’s second largest Karst cave. The extreme boat adventure in Ulot River in the town of Paranas is also popular among tourists.

Note: DOT data on the number of travelers to the province may include aid workers who visited the area in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) beginning in late 2013. The number of visitors to the province has been increasing since 2009.

2 - NORTHERN SAMAR

Northern Samar had the fastest annual average growth of tourist arrivals among all the provinces in Eastern Visayas in the 2009 to 2016 period.

Tourists flock to see the spectacular rock formations in Biri Island at the northernmost tip of Northern Samar. The big waves from the San Bernardino Strait sculpted the rocky shore line through time, resulting in the jagged landscape. The Pink Beach in the town of San Vicente is also popular among tourists.

Since 2011, the province has seen a dramatic increase in the number of tourists, most of them locals, Provincial Tourism Officer Michael Jonathan Hermocilia said. From 2009 to 2016, the number of tourists visiting Northern Samar grew annually, on average, by 280 percent. This is way above the 14 percent national average during the period.

Note: DOT data on the number of travelers to the province may include aid workers who visited the area in the aftermath of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) beginning in late 2013. The number of visitors to the province has been increasing since 2009.

1 - CAVITE

Only a two-hour drive to the south from Metro Manila, Tagaytay City is the most popular destination in Cavite. Its cool climate and unobstructed view of Taal Volcano make the city a popular weekend destination for Metro Manila dwellers.

Tourists go to the leisure park Sky Ranch in Tagaytay City. Tourists also flock to Tagaytay Picnic Grove for its great view of Taal Volcano and Lake.

The ancestral house of revolutionary leader Emilio Aguinaldo in the town of Kawit is also a popular tourist destination, Cavite tourism staff Clarisse Kim said. It is where the country’s independence from Spain was proclaimed on June 12, 1898.

Among all the provinces in the country, Cavite’s tourist arrivals grew the fastest in the 2009 to 2016 period. The number of visitors to the province grew annually, on average, by 346 percent over the 7-year period.