An aerial view of islets and a blue-green lake below
Backpacking Philippines,  Travel Guides

My Top 5 Backpacking Trips in the Philippines

Organized joiner tours used to be my thing because it’s convenient and cheaper as we get to split expenses with the others. Consequently, I started imagining how great would it be to be traveling around on my own.  Also, I wanted to bring out the street-smart traveler in me who goes from one point to another by myself. That’s when I started backpacking. After a few trips, I realized how greater the experience is! I even met and became friends with a lot of locals who introduced me to their respective provinces and cultures. Most importantly, I realized how learning was more valuable in DIY backpacking trips.
With that, I am sharing with you my top 5 DIY backpacking trips in the Philippines and what made them memorable for me. I considered these as my top not solely for how great the destinations were, but because of the epic experiences I’ve had in every trip as well.

1. Backpacking Philippines in 12 Days

a lady in white in the middle of mango trees
Mango Plantation in Guimaras
It started in summer 2018 when 2Go Travel called and told me that I was chosen to be one of the contestants of “Trip of Your Life“. On the following month, we found ourselves at 2Go Travel’s main office. getting oriented about our tasks and itinerary.
We were a group of strangers from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao bound for an epic adventure for twelve days and in the eight provinces of the Philippines.
a group of people in circle lying on the grass
The 2Go Travel Trip of Your Life Backpackers
This backpacking adventure was truly one for the book for me. It’s due to the fact that we had an all-expense paid trip from Luzon to Visayas to Mindanao by land and sea. Further, it was a wholesome trip of exploring culture, history, food and the tourist spots in the provinces we visited.
The Backpacking Route
The adventure started in an early morning of June 2, 2018 at 2Go Travel’s main office in Pasay. Then, we traveled together in a bus to Batangas and explored the heritage town of Taal. At night fall, our group traveled to the port and departed for Aklan and arrived early morning the next day. It took us three days to explore the whole Panay Island. After Aklan, we traveled to Antique by land then Capiz and Iloilo. From Iloilo, we took the ferry to Guimaras and returned to the province in the evening. On the next day, we traveled from Iloilo to Negros Occidental via 2Go Travel’s fast cat. We spent two days in the province and sailed on the evening of the second day to Cagayan de Oro. For two days, we went chasing waterfalls in Iligan City, sliding and soaking at Seven Seas of Misamis Oriental and finally trying the white water rafting in Cagayan de Oro. Then, from Cagayan de Oro, we traveled by sea to our final destination, the Queen city of the South – Cebu. The trip took us around 22 hours. After a day and a half in Cebu, we left for Manila.
a group of people with helmet and life vest on a boat
White water rafting in Cagayan de Oro
a lady climbing up a bent coconut tree
Bugang River, Pandan. Antique
a lady standing on a post in front of a waterfalls
Maria Cristina Falls, Iligan City
a lady in bikini standing in front of a waterfalls
Tinago Falls, Iligan City
What made this trip a memorable one for me was that, it was my first time to set foot in Mindanao and also the first time to travel from a province to another by sea.
Read the full and detailed travel guide hereBackpacking Philippines in 12 Days with 2Go Travel

2. Palawan Backpacking in 17 Days

Candaraman Island, Balabac, Palawan
This Palawan Backpacking is so far the longest solo travel I’ve had to date. Since my job lets me off every summer for almost a month and a half, I took this as an opportunity to engage in such a trip.
The trip made me fall in love with Palawan even more for it showed me how wholesome the province is. My senses feasted over the pristine beaches with fine, bone-white sand and turquoise waters, secret, known, big and small lagoons, limestone mountains, hot spring, rivers, rich coral reef and a lot more.
Home bound!
Departing from Puerto Princesa City Port for Manila via 2Go Travel
Big Lagoon, El Nido, Palawan
The Backpacking Route
The trip was a four-leg solo adventure. I traveled from Manila to Coron by sea in the early evening of April 6, 2019 and arrived the next morning. I spent a week in Coron – beach bumming, diving and hiking; basically visiting all the destinations available in all the tours. From Coron, I took a three-hour sea travel straight to El Nido. It took me four days to explore  the beaches and lagoons. In the evening of the fourth day, I took a land trip to Puerto Princesa City and waited for the van service that would take me to the jump off to my next destination – Balabac. Then, I spent four days at the other end of Palawan and returned to Puerto Princesa City – the last destination and the fourth leg of this 17-day solo adventure. It was supposedly that way. Unfortunately, I had a misadventure in the city making me return to El Nido. After two days, I went back to Puerto Princesa City finally with a good plan and a brave heart. After exploring the city, I departed in the morning of my last travel from Puerto Princesa City and returned to Manila by sea. It was a 24-hour trip but it was truly worth it!
a lady in white standing at the waters looking at a cave from afar
Puerto Princesa Undeground RIver

3. North Luzon Backpacking in 1 Week

A group of people at the back of a black car parked in front of an old church
The Ruins of Old San Pablo Church in Cabagan, Isabela
Our North Luzon loop road trip and backpacking is my most recent. It was truly a memorable one because it’s seriously a spontaneous trip with a friend and my mom. Actually, we were just craving for some year end travel – maybe a hike or a beach trip, but we ended up taking the scenic route to the north for several days.
a girl with an arm up, seated at the edge of a road overlooking mountain ranges
A random stop we had at Tinglayan, Kalinga
The Backpacking Route
The trip started with our departure in the evening of Christmas day from Tagaytay City. Then, we arrived late in the morning at Quirino province. We spent a day in there and drove early in the morning the next day to my home town in Isabela Province. After exploring my home town, we drove to Cagayan visiting caves and churches. In the evening, we drove to Kalinga to stay for the night because we were too tired to drive to Sagada. Originally, we planned to go to Ilocos Norte from Kalinga but the recent typhoon made the roads impassable so we reroute to Kalinga instead. The next morning, we drove from Kalinga to Sagada. After a day in Sagada, we drove to La Union passing by Benguet and Ilocos Sur. We watched the sunset and had dinner at La Union at December 30; then, we departed for Tagaytay City before we get caught in a jam due to holiday rush.
a smiling lady presenting her food in caseroles
A local restaurant in Kalinga
a stir fried saucy noodles on a white plate
The famous Pancit Cabagan of Isabela Province
a bus with graffiti all over in a woods
The most photographed abandoned bus of Sagada
a silhouette of a girl facing left against a lit facade of a building
Quirino Provincial Capitol, QUirino Province
a wooden boat afloat a green river
Pinacanauan RIver, PEnablanca, Cagayan

4. Backpacking Panay Island in 3 to 4 Days

a collage of three photos (from left): a wok on fire, a girl standing at a white heaven-like structure and a girl on a beach
Panay Island Backpacking
This trip around Panay Island is my first backpacking adventure ever. It happened last July 2017. We were only supposed to stay in Boracay island but it was indeed tempting to be visiting the nearby provinces for they are just a few hours away from one another. I traveled to the region with a few friends from a trip to Masbate that I joined into in December 2016.
The Backpacking Route
On the first day, we departed from Manila by plane and arrived at Caticlan Airport past noon. After lunch, we took a van to Tibiao, Antique and tried the famous Kawa Bath. After a warm kawa bath in Tibiao, we took a habal-habal to the highway and took a bus to Iloilo. We explored the heritage sites in the city for a day and visited Garin Farm, the famous ‘Heaven on Earth‘ attraction nearby. Then, we took a van going back to Caticlan for Boracay. We arrived at sunset in the island known for its long stretch of fine white sand.
a girl with a unicorn floater at the beach
Puka Beach, Boracay Island
facade of a church
Jaro Church, Jaro, Iloilo
a girl standing at the top of a staircase of an all-white heaven-like structure
Garin Farm, San Joaquin, Iloilo
What made this adventure epic is that, we braved a 5-hour air-conditioned bus ride from Antique to Iloilo with us soaking wet from the rain. It rained hard while we were on the habal-habal and we didn’t get any chance to change our clothes because we didn’t want to miss the last trip to Iloilo.
Read the full and detailed travel guide hereThree Days Panay Island Backpacking: Sample Itinerary and Expenses (Antique, Ilo-Ilo, Boracay)

5. Negros Occidental Backpacking for 6 Days

a girl at the middle of two persons in coloeful masks and costumes
Masskara Festival, Bacolod City, Negros Occidental
What made it to my top was that I considered it an epic one due to the literally last minute change of plans and of course, it was my first time to witness the province’s sough after festival. Also, this trip made me realize how wholesome Negros Occidental is.
It was October 2018 when I attended my first Masskara Festival in the City of Smiles, Bacolod City. Since I got a week, I decided to do a Negros loop starting from the attractions in Negros Occidental then traveling to Negros Oriental. However, due to the unexpected inclement weather, I ended up exploring Negros Occidental alone.
a girl in bikini at the middle of a wooden bridge
Lakawon Island, Cadiz Viejo, Negros Occidental
The Backpacking Route
Before the Masskara Festival, I got a dose of vitamin D and salt water in Lakawon Island. The following day, we explored the streets of Lacson for the Masskara Festival. I was supposed to travel to Dumaguate the day after. However, it rained hard so I decided to just explore Sipalay City and Danjugan Island. Then, I went back to northern Negros exploring Don Salvador Benedicto to visit Vacation Villa at Kilometer 55, the AirBnB which was the reason I was back in the province in the first place. Before leaving the province, I wandered around Silay and Talisay for the famous Ruins, a cafe by the mountain side called Duyan Cafe and a theme-park.
a reflection of a lady and the ruins behind her
The Lacson Ruins, Silay City, Negros Occidental
a golden sunset at the back of a nipa hut
Danjugan Island, Cauayan, Negros Occidental
a girl standing at a door of  hobbit house
Campuestohan Highlands Resort, Talisay City, Negros Occidental
a girl sitting under a bougainvillea tree with pinkish purple flowers
Jomax Peak, Don Salvador Benedicto, Negros Occidental
a girl at the edge of the pool overlooking a lake with islets
Perth Paradise Resort, Sipalay City, Negros Occidental

What I learned from Backpacking

Among the many things that I have learned from all these backpacking trips is that, things will never work out the way we planned it. The universe will always find a way to throw you off the plan and you just got to be smart enough to pull out plans B to Z and of course, to enjoy it. Also, backpacking will not only teach you to become street smart but also people and life smart because you’ll be facing a lot of crucial decisions as you engage in these adventures, too.
How about you? What’s your most epic adventure in the Philippines and what made it memorable?

Anne Elizabeth Gumiran, also known as Queenie, is a 20-something, full-time public school teacher, a part-time travel blogger and a freediver. She started putting her stories of adventures and misadventures into words and pictures in 2017 and continues to do so as she shares her advocacy, Sustainable Traveling.

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