Where to go in 2012

Ces Rodriguez

With 16 holidays in 2012, including Chinese New Year on January 23 (which has never before been designated as a national non-working holiday), you may want to check out the following destinations based on travel trends and forecasts for 2012.
1. Spend the night with the Manobos in Agusan Marsh, Agusan del Sur, Eastern Mindanao. While it helps that the world’s biggest crocodile now resides in captivity in the 14.8-hectare marshland, noted travel blogger Ivan Henares tells Yahoo! She that he’s keen on having people spend a night with the indigenous Manobos who live in the marsh. “It's not easy to get to, and there's no electricity when you spend a night in one of the floating houses,” he says. “But you're one with nature and the local culture. Agusan Marsh is an internationally significant wetland which needs to be nurtured and protected. So make sure you coordinate with the local Manobos for your visit since it's their ancestral domain.” For more information, visit the Agusan Marsh website and Facebook page.

2. Make like a reality TV star in San Vicente, Palawan. Quoting the website cheapflights.com, the news agency Reuters said, “Reality shows are inspiring TV junkies to consider vacation spots that, if not for their DVR, they may not have considered.” Case in point: the site of “Survivor Philippines Celebrity Doubles.” Host Richard Gutierrez said the island in which the show was shot was breathtaking, with pristine beaches and lush vegetation. Located in northwest Palawan, San Vicente is 186 kilometers from Puerto Princesa. It has 14 kilometers of white sand beach, the longest in the Philippines. A few huts have been erected by the local government, but hurry and visit while the going is rustic; major developers are said to have snapping up parcels of land in San Vicente. For more information, visit the San Vicente website. 

3. Get it all in Bohol. Bryan Ocampo of Mabuhay Guides, a group of professional tourist guides created by the Philippine Department of Tourism in 2009, recommends Bohol “for the variety of activities and destinations it offers,” he told Yahoo! She. “For thrill-seekers and to those who love the outdoors, E.A.T. Danao has adventure attractions. It's two hours away from [the capital of] Tagbilaran. Aside from this, Bohol has white sand beaches and majestic old churches.”

4. Camp out in Palaui Island in Cagayan.  In the northeastern tip of Luzon, Palaui Island Protected Landscape and Seascape is one of 13 destinations being developed until 2013 by the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The idea is to provide alternative livelihood to fishermen who have been displaced by efforts to conserve dwindling resources of the sea. Palaui hosts a primary forest that botanists and conservationists say harbor species that have yet to be identified and at least two unidentified floral specimens. The adventurous traveler can swim, snorkel, hike and trek to the summit of Cape Engaño to check out the marvelous views and the Spanish-era lighthouse that may soon be declared by the National Museum as an important cultural property.

5. Dream big in posh Taytay, Palawan.
Sonia Lazo, managing director of Intas Destination Management, Inc., says that for high-end inbound European visitors unaffected by the crunch, the Philippines has become an attractive option.  “These are travelers who have been there, done that, and most likely have been to everywhere else except the Philippines,”  she tells Yahoo! She. They will be looking for “pristine, less touristy areas” like El Nido and  Taytay in Palawan. Taytay is 220 kilometers northeast of Puerto Princesa and is the jump-off point to Apulit Island, a high-end resort destination managed by the El Nido Resorts group.  The Apulit resort has 50 cottages built on stilts over turquoise waters.

6. Head to one of the world’s new 7 Wonders of Nature, the Puerto Princesa Underground River. Thanks to this recent distinction, the Department of Tourism expects tourist arrivals to increase by 25% in 2012 to around 625,489.  There are 23 new hotels being constructed in Puerto Princesa. The Puerto Princesa Airport is also set for an upgrade and expansion by the end of 2012.

7. Make it the full monty. According to New York City-based Janine Yu, a travel writer who designs bespoke itineraries to Asia for an ultra luxury tour operator specializing only in Asia, most of her high-end clients have often bypassed the Philippines. “Many [property owners] do not know how to market beyond the country or the region,” she told Yahoo! She. Plus, “they are usually lacking in two things: a real understanding of international hospitality standards and strong marketing efforts that make them palatable to an international community.” But, if she could design a tour for one of her high-end clients, she would: “Start with a historical and cultural overview of the country with one of Carlos Celdran's walking tours in Manila; move on to Bicol for the seasonal whalesharks, or if they're not in residence, Bohol for its charming mix of natural beauty, ecotourism activities and historic sites; end in one of Palawan's private island resorts. If the client is adventurous enough, I would recommend adding on Batanes for a taste of something remote, rugged and just markedly different from the rest of the country.”

8. Party hard in Boracay. Intas chairman Teresita Henderson, whose company concentrates on inbound tourists, says she is now looking to emerging economies because Europe is in the doldrums. “We have in fact started making our presence felt in the Indian market as we feel that this is the market of the future,” she told Yahoo! She. As such, Boracay remains an alluring destination.  As it will be for Australians, who have saturated Bali, Indonesia and Thailand, rejoins managing director Sonia Lazo. Aussies will head to Boracay as their next “hot beach destination” for its beauty, nightlife and “dizzying slew of activities.”
9. Party harder in Manila.  If you’re in the NCR, stay put. Tourism secretary Ramon Jimenez plans to counter the visible blight that turns off tourists when they land in Manila, he told members of the Philippine Tourist Operator’s Association (PHILTOA).  Jimenez wants to make the hours between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m. attractive to inbound tourists because traffic has waned, the lights are on and Manila’s many restaurants, bars, clubs and hotels are in high gear. “So, when you are asked, ‘Where do you want to wake up tomorrow?’ Everybody says Singapore or Hong Kong. But when you are asked, ‘Where do you want to party tonight?’ Everyone will say, ‘Manila!’"