My favorite places in the Philippines: Nikos Gitsis

Entrepreneur and pilot Nikos Gitsis, co-founder of SEAIR airline, reveals his favorite off-the-beaten track destinations in the country 

By Monica De Leon

Crystal Paradise Resort, Spa and Winery pinched from Crystal Paradise Resort, Spa and Winery's Facebook page
Palawan, south of Puerto Princesa. South Palawan has got caves, jungles, wild beaches, quaint resorts, amazing islands you can explore, wildlife, bird sanctuaries, turtles, fishes. Southern Palawan for me encapsulates everything that can be beautiful about a tourist destination. And it’s a quiet, not-overrun-type of a tourist destination.”

Book at Crystal Paradise Resort, Spa and Winery in the southern municipality of Narra.

Tuna fishes in General Santos City By Edwin Espejo. Pinched from gensantimes.com
General Santos City.  “We went from Cotabato to General Santos by land in 1998 escorted by about 15 armed guards. Iren Dornier and I were invited to attend the anniversary of the ARRM agreement and Nur Misuari himself gave us a special tour. In General Santos, I loved their fish market. They have a tuna fish as big as a room.”

Find out more about General Santos City.

Secret Paradise Resort in San Vicente, Palawan By Mon Corpuz
San Vicente, Palawan. “They have maybe the most beautiful beach in the Philippines. San Vicente has wild jungles, virgin forests, is very underdeveloped, with very few hotels. It's so called Long Beach curves around a mountain so from one end of the beach, you could see 14km of beach. The mountain is perfect for rock climbing.”

Find out more about San Vicente, Palawan. Book at Secret Paradise Resort.

Siargao By Mike Alcid
Siargao Island, Surigao del Norte  “Siargao itself and the little island around it are amazingly beautiful. There are these islands close by called Dinagat Islands with a small Robinson Crusoe like resort. It’s undiscovered, unheard of.”

Find out more about Siargao Island. Book at Patrick’s on the beach and go diving to see Siargao’s amazing underwater world.

Sagada pinched from Instagram @orangebangle
Sagada. “Sagada because of caving. We went inside this cave for a four-five hour trek. I also liked the big waterfalls there and the small waterfall. The hiking around the rice terraces was amazing. And their delicacies were great too like the nice ferns, salads and special “meat stews”. We stayed at St. Joseph’s Inn ran by nuns.

Find out more about Sagada. Book at Rock Inn.

Anilao pinched from Instagram @ptntravel
Anilao, Batangas. “There’s nothing special about Anilao until you go underwater. They have nice coral reefs. And what’s nice about Anilao is it’s close to Manila.”

Book at Anilao Beach Club, where they have one of the premier dive facilities in the Philippines.

Apo Reef pinched from the Facebook page of Apo Reef Club
Apo Reef, Mindoro. “Apo Reef is a diving site between Palawan and Mindoro. It’s an international park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and maybe the most beautiful diving site I have been to.”

Find Apo Reef on Tripadvisor. Book at Apo Reef Club.

Bukidnon Sunrise By Jo Nicdao. Pinched from bukidnon.gov.ph
Bukidnon and Cagayan de Oro, northern Mindanao. “Bukidnon’s pineapple plantations are very nice. In fact one out of five pineapples in the world comes from the Philippines. We also did a sidetrip to Cagayan de Oro where they have really great white water rafting and a canopy walk in the jungle.

Find out more about Bukidnon and Cagayan de Oro

Rakuh A Payaman, Batanes By Oggie Ramos
Batanes. “Batanes is more like a nature wellness island because you get out of the city and get fresh air. You have limited cell coverage here so you disconnect from the hustle and bustle of work and city living. Here, you’ll see a part of the Philippines that is very different.”

Find out more about Batanes. Book a tour with Batanes Travel and Tours.

Mt. Mayon By Ferdz Decena
Legazpi and Donsol, Bicol. “I took a small plane once and flew to the Legazpi area and around Mt. Mayon Volcano. It’s not just one volcano but there are other extinct volcanoes so it’s like a mystical landscape from the perspective of a pilot doing low flights around that area. I flew around a steamy volcano, landed and then went to swim with the whale sharks of Donsol. That area was something you would draw as a child —volcanoes and beaches and water, something that you would discover if you were a pirate on an adventure discovery. “

Find out more about Legazpi. Book a tour with Donsol Eco Tour.

Originally published in InFlight Traveller April 2012. Updated April 2016

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