Feast on durian, chocolate and cheese

Besides the usual tourist haunts, other Philippine destinations are often not top of mind places for most travelers here. Writer Michelle Ng decides to make a trip to Manila and gave these other cities a chance.

Cebu


Sikwate, or hot chocolate as we know it

Cebu doesn’t need much introduction—it’s a popular beachside town and the gateway to the famed Bohol Island. But besides all your usual water sports and beach activities, Cebu also hosts an annual festival that rivals the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in New Mexico. The best part? You don’t have to travel far from home, but you’ll still get the same experience and amazing photo ops.

Must visit: The Basilica del Santo Niño. Popular with both locals and tourists, the church is famous for its statues of Jesus as a child. Stop by for one of their mass sessions or light a candle for prayers outside the church. Even if you aren’t religious, the church is a good stop to truly experience the Filipinos’ devout religion.

Must-try drink: tsokolate. The Philippines has a booming cacao industry, and they’ve also got their own version of the hot chocolate. If you want to see how cacao turns into the chocolate that you eat, you can join Raquel Choa on her famed Chocolate Appreciation Tours at The Chocolate Chamber Boutiques. While you’re there, take home some cacao butter as it makes a really good moisturizer and smells heavenly. Chances are that Raquel also supplies the tableau used to make the tsokolate at your buffet breakfast, so you’ll get to try it anyway!

Where to stay: Radisson Blu Cebu. Indulge yourself and enjoy the your stopover in luxury, with a spa, swimming pool, fully equipped gym, and even a tea bar all found within the hotel. There’s also a newly opened Japanese restaurant in the hotel lobby where you can dine on pretty decent Japanese food if you are too lazy to go the SM Mall just next door.

Davao


Cheese from Malagos Farmhouse

Davao is probably the most well-known for being the hometown of President Duterte, where a lot of the locals love and support his administration. Moving past politics, Davao is the largest in terms of land, which means they have loads of space for agriculture to grow fruits like durian.

Must visit: Kadayawan Tribal Village. Learn more about the 11 indigenous tribes that populate the city and its surrounding regions as they are all present in this village. Check out traditional clothing and replicas of their homes, or even strike up a conversation with the natives to get to know more about their culture. It’s not all for tourists either; the local kids use it as a recreation park too, with a small outdoor rink for them to ride their bikes or boards around.

Where to eat: Malagos Farmhouse. Don’t expect a full meal at this farmhouse as they only sell loose cheeses and produce. But you’ll be well fed stuffing yourself with unlimited breads and cheeses as you eat your way through the cheeseboard. Finish up your meal by popping over to try out some chocolate fresh from the farm. If you cook or bake, take home some seeds or ingredients, such as vanilla pods fresh from the garden.

Must-try food: durian. Davao grows over 23 varieties of durian, including some varieties that first originated in Thailand. Go crazy whenever you see a street vendor selling them, since you’ll be hard pressed to find durians at such affordable prices and with so many varieties to choose from. If you see hawkers on the side of the street selling “Special Ice Cream”, chances are that it’s durian flavored.

Where to stay: The Park Inn by Radisson Davao. The Park Inn is on the smaller side, but it’s got everything in close proximity. There’s a covered link to the SM Lanang Premier Mall next door, a business lounge, a relaxing pool area and even a roving spa that will go to you so you don’t have to leave the comfort of your room.

Clark


Mount Pinatubo will always be in the distance in Clark

If you have are into the outdoors, you might want to take a day to hike to the crater at Mount Pinatubo. Otherwise, the little city a couple of hours away from Manila is a quiet respite from the urban life. Enjoy some time to yourself as you feast on local food and take in the quiet sights.

Must visit: Pamintuan Mansion. This little heritage house has been many things in its long eventful past—as a wedding gift, the headquarters by the Americans, a hotel, and even used to house Japanese Kamikaze pilots. Now, it’s a museum dedicated to the history of the mansion and the country’s architectural and cultural history. Marvel at the elaborate religious statues and ask to head up to the rooftop where you’ll get a bird’s eye view of the city, including the nearby Holy Rosary Church.

Where to eat: 25 Seeds. Have lunch at this quaint little café, where all their food comes straight from the farm to your fork. Designed as a resting space to calm your mind, the café is a little respite from the heat, and serves up traditional Filipino fare. Our favorite? The to-die-for spicy and sour sinigang and crab cakes.

Where to stay: The Park Inn by Radisson Clark. An ideal mid-range hotel, you won’t want for anything with a restaurant in the lobby to satisfy any food cravings you have and a gym to work off any extra energy. It’s also just 10 minutes away from the airport, making it an excellent choice to beat the crowds at the Manila airport.

This trip was made possible by the Carlson Rezidor Group and Cebu Pacific, which offers direct flights between Cebu and Singapore daily. Cebu Pacific also connects Cebu, Clark and Davao.