My favorite places in the Philippines: Iren Dornier, aviator

"I feel that the recipe for travel is to go as unprepared as possible and whatever happens, just go and take it in.” —Iren Dornier, SEAIR Chairman & aviator

Mariveles, Bataan

Mariveles Beach, screengrab from Camaya Coast Facebook page

“I found a beautiful place in Mariveles, which is 20 minutes away by helicopter and two hours by car from Clark. I fell in love with this place because it was unexpectedly beautiful. I have invested in a small lot for myself. I see myself in a nipa hut there, enjoying the beach. It’s very clean, very private. It’s also perfect for me since I build amphibious seaplanes and this area is for the plane to land on and take off from the water.”

Find out more about Mariveles' beaches. Book at Montemar Beach Club, about an hour from Mariveles.

El Nido, Palawan

El Nido, Palawan is still the Philippines' last frontier. By Ferdz Decena

“El Nido is such a magical place. It’s very remote and it’s one of the most beautiful areas in the Philippines. What appeals to me the most is its nature, which is still very intact, and leaves me with that feeling of mystery. It reminds me of the islands in Phuket. At El Nido Resorts, there are so many things you can do. You can go trekking, kayaking, island hopping, diving. You go swimming and see this monster sea turtle swimming in the crystal clear water.”

Book at El Nido Resorts. El Nido Boutique & Art Cafe operates island hopping tours and can recommend affordable accommodation. 

Camotes Island, Cebu

Camotes Island, Cebu, pinched from Mangodlong Resort Facebook page

“One of the cleanest places I’ve ever seen. This is a very beautiful island; I would even consider having my own little place there. There is this interesting underground cave Timabu with freshwater spring and a natural pool that is incredibly clear and aqua blue.”

Find out more about Camotes Island on It's More Fun in the Philippines. Find Camotes resorts on Tripadvisor.


Sila Island's pink sand beach pinched from Samar Tourism Facebook page

“Samar is a long stretch of white sand, with small islands nearby and the water’s either below or above your knee. It will take a long walk before you reach the deep part of the sea. The beach offers a nice and commanding view of the Pacific Ocean.”’

Find out more about Samar.

Tacloban City, Leyte

Bagongbong Falls pinched from

“It has a big airport and it’s very accessible. There’s Bagongbong Waterfalls that’s 30 feet high. Going there requires some easy 30-minute trekking but the view is very beautiful, very scenic. At the end of the concrete road, the trek will lead you to this downhill trail and then you cross this stream to get a grand view of the falls. The waterfalls have strong water flowing from a canyon with lush tropical forest above it. It was absolutely stunning.

Find out more about Tacloban. Visit Calicoan Surf Camp in Samar. 

Banaue Rice Terraces, Ifugao

The Banaue Rice Terraces. By Joel Garcia

“Another little Tibet for me. The beginning of the slope of the mountains is just amazing. The rice terraces tower up the mountain, making the panoramic view awesome. The farmers built these terraces thousands of years ago using only the simplest tools. It surprises me how the people have continued this culture of farming for so long. Seeing the rice terraces from a little town in Bagabag, it’s just very surreal for me. It’s an incredible getaway and an incredible adventure place to travel to.”

Find out more about Banaue.

Cagayan De Oro

Umalag River in Cagayan de Oro, screengrab from

“There’s a different feel in Cagayan De Oro and it’s probably because of the people there. They’re really a very nice group of people. Like everybody knows everybody. When I’m in the city, I see all these mountains surrounding Cagayan so you get that very provincial feel of the place despite it being such a modern city.”

Find out more about Cagayan de Oro on It's More Fun in the Philippines

Siargao Island, Surigao del Norte

Surf in Siargao. By Mike Alcid

“Siargao is a beautiful place with lots of reefs, small points and surrounding islets plus many islands, so you don’t get bored with the place in case you get tired of surfing. The weather is always very nice too.”

For an indulgent stay in Siargao, book Dedon Island Resort. Find out more about Siargao surfing from local surfer Elaine Abonal.


Battens has a pastoral, breathtaking landscape. By Jocas See

“I like the mountainside of Batanes. It’s a very local, provincial place but also very charming. There’s that little Spanish influence in the place. Go up to the lighthouse and you’ll see the very dramatic views of the rolling hills and the rugged mountains and the cliffs. The sunset, the hills, the quietness of it all are just overwhelming.”

Find out more about Batanes.

Vigan, Ilocos Sur

Walk along Calle Crisologo in Vigan, Ilocos Sur. By Daniel Soriano

“That’s old Spain! I like that village in Vigan that I never fail to visit when I’m there called Calle Crisologo. It’s a very precious place. Vigan’s like a little Seville for me because it is very much like that. I’ve never seen such integrity of architecture.” 

Find out more about Vigan in Ilocos in our Experts' top 18 backpacking holidays in the Philippines.

About Iren Dornier

Iren Dornier is the grandson of the legendary German aviation pioneer Dr. Claude Dornier. A consummate entrepreneur, engaged in aircraft engineering, fashion and watch development, Dornier is also a US flight instructor, airline transport pilot and aviation consultant. He co-founded South East Asian Airlines (SEAIR, Inc.) with close friend Nikos Gitsis in 1995. In 2004,  Dornier set off on a world tour flying the Dornier 24 amphibian aricraft, helping raise money for UNICEF  for children's causes. 

—by Margie Francisco

Originally published in Inflight Traveller April 2012. Updated February 2016.