It's every Christmas season when the 13th month pay and bonuses are released to hardworking Filipino workers who hustle and do the daily grind all throughout the year. It's also the time when these same people schedule their vacations -- whether solo or with loved ones -- to slow down time and relax with the notion that the next year is just around the corner. Festooned with childlike excitement, they temporarily leave their urban cocoons and embrace the annual year-end revelry.
For everybody's convenience, I've compiled eight essential holiday destinations in mainland Luzon that I've tested for myself in the past five years of travel blogging. They're all worthy of leaving your comfort zones for. They usually have a cold climate all throughout the year, but they all definitely feel chilly every December. The holiday weather even persists in these parts even every start of the new year. Divided in two categories -- popular and cool alternatives, they're destinations that you're likely to wake up to with a piping hot coffee in the morning.
4 Popular Destinations
If the following destinations bore you to death, please scroll down further to view my other recommendations that I consider as four cool alternatives:
1. Baguio City, Benguet
What's in store: For as long as our parent's parents can remember seeing a pine tree, Baguio City has always been a preferred getaway to celebrate the Christmas season. It doesn't cease to amaze new travelers and the holiday nostalgia is always popular with repeat visitors.
|Baguio City proper|
|Baguio City Public Market|
|View of Baguio City from Camp John Hay|
|Choco-late De Batirol|
Which lodging to book: Baguio GM Apartel, Peredo's Lodging House or Microtel By Wyndham-Baguio
For those on a tight budget, the affordable Baguio GM Apartel can work. If you want to splurge a little on a no-frills stay that's still luxurious, the reliable Microtel By Wyndham-Baguio is highly recommended. If you want to have an authentic stay in a century-old highland home, try the historic Peredo's Lodging House.
2. Tagaytay City, Cavite
What's in store: Tagaytay City is blessed to have a combo of a terrific climate and enthralling Taal Lake views. Some prefer to enjoy golfing at the Tagaytay Highlands, but the sought-after activity here as a result of the terrain is going on a food trip which always culminates with drinking a hot beverage at a cliff-side cafe that offers views of the distant Taal Volcano. For most tourists, they simply want to cuddle next to a loved one on a comfy bed that overlooks the same vista.
|Taal Lake view from Tagaytay City|
|Tagaytay Highlands at night|
|View of Tagaytay from Tagaytay Highlands|
There are a lot of hotels to choose from, but Casa Alegria is perfect for those on a mid-range budget as an overnight stay allows for an access to a well-designed guestroom that shows a stunning view of Taal Lake and a swimming pool that shares the same panorama.
3. Sagada, Mountain Province
What's in store: Sagada, as a destination, is just one facet of how this trip to Mountain Province can be a great holiday vacation. Cliche as it may seem, the journey to it is part of its irresistible lure. From your car or commute, you can start gazing at wonderful views of cliff-side vegetable farms and rice fields that can make your whole trip quite memorable.
|Sagada town proper|
|Dap-ay at Rock Inn and Cafe; Photo courtesy of RockInnSagada.com|
|Hiking at the Rock Inn and Cafe property|
|Rock Inn and Cafe's orange orchard and rock formation; Photo courtesy of RockInnSagada.com|
Which lodging to book: Rock Inn and Cafe
When I visited Sagada, I hardly had to leave Rock Inn and Cafe because it offered me a piece of what the highland destination has in all its nine-hectare entirety.
It has a dap-ay, a set of stone slabs where guests can enjoy a bonfire at night. It also has a restaurant where lingering in odd times of the day can be worth one's while. Guests can also enjoy orange-picking at the orchard. It's surrounded by a pine forest that makes you forget that there even exists a civilization outside of the property.
4. Tanay, Rizal
What's in store: It's remarkable how you can be in Rizal's Cogeo where it's usually as hot as Metro Manila and be minutes away in Tanay where it's suddenly chilly. As a matter of fact, it's where a sea of clouds can be viewed in select areas. Pine trees can also be seen covering a part of this town's Sierra Madre which makes travelers in Metro Manila choose this destination over having to spend almost half a day's travel to Baguio City.
|View of Momarco Resort in the morning|
|Sierra Madre view from Sierra Madre Resort|
Which lodging to book: Momarco Resort
Momarco Resort has various types of lodgings for different guests. You can choose a hotel guestroom or a secluded casita. Large groups can even book a whole house for privacy.
4 Cool Alternatives
1. Orani, Bataan
What's in store: It's a bit odd how travelers always pass through Orani to reach the province's various historical attractions and never get to its part where it's as chilly as Baguio or Tagaytay. This side of Bataan can be found in the village called Tala where most hikers for Mount Natib commence their rugged adventure of the Bataan Natural Park. It's here where it can be foggy in the morning and in the afternoon. What many don't know is that it's just roughly a couple of hours away from Metro Manila.
|View of the Bataan Natural Park from Vista Tala Resort and Recreational Park; Photography by Josua Chan|
|Hiking the Pinagbutasan Trail of Orani; Photography by Josua Chan|
|Vista Tala Resort and Recreational Park; Photography by Josua Chan|
|A foggy morning at the Pinagbutasan Trail; Photography by Josua Chan|
Vista Tala Resort and Recreational Park is located at the jump-off point of Bataan Natural Park hikers. Its unique location offers guests wonderful views of Orani's highly vegetated forest from its well-appointed guestrooms and cliff-side swimming pool.
2. Tayabas City, Quezon Province
What's in store: Where Mount Banahaw can be viewed, it's almost always certain that the place can also have its share of its unpredictable weather conditions. This makes Tayabas City equally unpredictable. It can be balmy in the morning and suddenly chilly, to the point of being breezy, in the afternoon. If anything, the city is ripe for relaxing getaways that can rival Baguio and Tagaytay. Two historical attractions to visit are the age-old Tayabas Basilica and the stone-arched gem that's Malagonlong Bridge.
|Graceland Estates and Country Club|
|Deer farm in Tayabas City|
|Graceland Estates and Country Club|
This 22-hectare property is probably where the city can look and feel the most like it's Christmas time. For one thing, Graceland Estates and Country Club has a deer farm. Here, the climate is as cold and rainbows can be spotted in the morning or early afternoon after a brief drizzle.
3. Nasugbu, Batangas
What's in store: Nasugbu is comfortably the easiest destination to visit when you're in chilly Tagaytay because it's just at the border of Cavite where the latter is. Simply tackle the Tagaytay-Nasugbu Highway to reach this equally chilly destination which can be foggy all throughout the day from October to January. A reasonable attraction to visit when you're here is the charming Caleruega Church where a lot of romantic weddings and solemn retreats are held.
|View of Nasugbu from Caleruega Church|
|Misty morning at Chateau Royale|
|Chateau Royale Park Resort|
It's at Chateau Royale Nature Park Resort where you can have misty mornings and foggy nights. In the middle of the day when the sun is up, you can opt to hie off to its sprawling wave pool where there's a swath of beach sand for a poolside.
4. Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte
What's in store: Pagudpud is famous for its cerulean beaches. What not many tourists know is that further up this Ilocos Norte town's so-called Pico De Loro Norte, the surroundings can be foggy in the early morning and late afternoon.
|Pico De Loro Norte|
At the foot of Pico De Loro Norte in Barangay Pancian is where Pannzian Beach Resort is located. It's just 30 minutes by bus from the border of Cagayan and approximately 45 minutes from the municipality center of Pagudpud. Aside from access to a swath of Pagudpud Beach, guests are given the freedom to read a book or simply lounge around because of the absence of mobile phone signal, Wi-Fi access, radios and television sets.
Have you now decided where you'll be this coming Christmas season?
Check out more travel recommendations just in case.
|At the Tagaytay Highlands|