My 16 Best Travel Memories of 2016

Friday, December 30, 2016

I know I shouldn’t feel shocked that a brand new year arrived on my doorstep, but still. How the days disappeared so damn fast? 3 more days and 2016 will come to an end. What happened? Looking back, 2016 kept me busy because of work, LOMA and travel. Although I encountered many roadblocks this year, I still feel grateful for all the opportunities I've had.
Project Gora's year end review :)

Anyway. Let’s get to it – here are my 16 best travel memories from the past year, which I put down in chronological order.

1. My friend’s wedding in Boracay Island
In February, Xeryl and I travelled to Boracay to attend Karylle’s wedding. We were classmates in College and we always make sure to get together every time Karylle visits the Philippines (she currently resides in Australia with her husband and family). Her wedding was probably the most beautiful celebration of love I have ever seen. I know that it takes a lot of hard work and planning to pull one off, let alone please every guest at the ceremony, but the couple managed to do it. It was amazing how they were able to plan various activities in the days leading up to the wedding - a pre-wedding party and a sunset inuman session in Spider House. How I wish all weddings are like this! :)

A photo posted by Boracay Weddings (@boracayweddings) on
In March, I've finally found a place that can rival and perhaps even surpass Batanes. Here, I found classic Philippine island blue waters, stunning mountain views and transporting sunset. Also, its laid-back charm is so hard to resist! Getting to Sambawan Island is not easy. We even considered dropping it in our itinerary. Thank God we did not. :) I truly had a great time and I recommend you to visit there. And try to go as soon as you can, before the island explodes in tourism in the next 2 years!

Another island I visited in March was Kalanggaman Island. That one question I had in mind before I came to Kalanggaman Island: “Does it really look like those impressive photographs circulating in Facebook and Instagram?” Coming from Palompon, we watched the distant island of Kalanggaman to reveal itself and it did not disappoint! It was incredibly beautiful! It was exactly what I was looking for - an island that hasn’t been overrun by development. Who could resist the sand bar (the most photographed spot in the island)?

Before we visited Sambawan Island and Kalanggaman Island, we decided to see some of the famous attractions in Tacloban. San Juanico Bridge, the longest bridge in the Philippines that connects Samar and Leyte, was probably my favorite in the city. I can still remember the feeling of my first visit there. The view was so stunning especially with the setting sun. It was fun and scary at the same time because evey time a big truck or bus would pass, the bridge would shake a little. Haha!

*I read somewhere that San Juanico Bridge is also known as ‘Marcos Bridge’. It was said that the late dictator dedicated it to his wife, Imelda Marcos, as a birthday present. Although it was built during the Marcos Administration, I CANNOT accept this as ‘Marcos Bridge’. It was the Filipino people’s money so we should not feel indebted to him. #neveragain #neverforget #notomarcos*

In May, my office mates and I went Romblon, an archipelagic province in the Mimaropa region. DJ, my friend from the office, is from Odiongan in Tablas Island. She’s been raving about her province for some time now, but we never really made plans to go there. It was only a week before our trip when we finally decided to explore Romblon. Coming to the island was one of the best decisions I made this year. Just look at the photo below :)
In July, I travelled solo for the first time and went to Fukuoka, Japan. Hakata Gion Yamakasa was the primary reason why I want to go to Fukuoka. If you are not familiar with Hakata Gion Yamakasa, it is actually a tradition in Hakata which can be traced back 750 years ago and was held annually to keep the epidemic away from Fukuoka. It was later evolved into a festival. Thousands of loincloth-clad men from 7 districts race through the streets carrying decorative one-ton floats. It was probably the greatest butt show I have ever seen. Lol! 

If you are a ramen fan like me, then there’s no way you wouldn’t know about Fukuoka Ramen (or Hakata Ramen). This ramen is widely known as the best tonkotsu (pork bone broth) ramen in Japan, and it is easily Fukuoka’s most famous food. My words are not enough to describe how great my ramen adventure in Fukuoka was. Just book a Cebu Pacific ticket to the ramen mecca and find out!
Another destination I visited in July was Nagasaki, a city often overshadowed. Why does Hiroshima get more attention? That was the question I had in mind before I arrived in the city. People I know who have been to Japan almost always include Hiroshima in their itinerary but never Nagasaki. Because of that, I was very determined to visit the city. It was the best decision ever.
On the 4th day of my summer adventure in Northern Kyushu, I decided to do a spontaneous trip to Usuki, a former castle town located on the east coast of Ōita Prefecture, Japan. I had absolutely no expectations going into my trip, and I didn’t do extensive research. I just went in with an open mind and strong desire to explore a new culture! This trip was one of the highlights of my first solo out of country :)
A photo posted by Project Gora (@projectgora) on
It was my last day in Beppu when I decided to do the Jigoku Hells Tour. This trip was the most memorable and scariest! Read more about it here.
My blog celebrated its 4th anniversary in August. Because of that, I decided to compile some of my travel videos and join the video contest of Cruising Going Places, the monthly travel magazine of Manila Bulletin. Fortunately, I won second place! Yay! I was actually hoping to get the 1st prize because I want my parents to experience an overnight stay in the fancy The Manila Hotel. But that's okay, I guess. I got 8,000 peso worth of Travel Club and ROX Philippines merchandise. :)
In November, my friends and I were able to swim with the stingless jellyfish of Sohoton National Park in Bucas Grande Island, Surigao del Norte. This item on my travel bucket list was the motivating factor for my recent trip, and only a day after arriving, I was able to cross it off with a joy-filled smile! Although we went there during off season, we were still able to swim with several stingless jellyfish. Truly a fascinating experience!
A photo posted by Project Gora (@projectgora) on

13. Surf in Cloud 9, Siargao
While my friends and I struggled for our lives in Cloud 9, all I could think of was my first wave. My surf instructor yelled at me to paddle and to position my body properly on my surf board. When my first wave arrived, I did my best to maintain my balance. In just a second, I was up on my board. It was the best feeling ever! After a few seconds, I fell off and warm salty water entered my nose. My head emerged above the water with the biggest grin possible. I did it!
A photo posted by Project Gora (@projectgora) on

14. Island Hopping in Siargao
Have you ever experienced falling in love with a place and find yourself asking "Why did I come just now?" Siargao was my first Mindanao destination. Surprising isn’t? I have been travelling for almost 5 years now but never really had an urge to go to Mindanao. Island hopping in Siargao was definitely one of the best things I did this year.

Well.. the photo below explains why Magpupungko Tidal Pool is included in this list.

Just before November ended, I received an invite from Bataan Tourism Office to witness the 2016 Pawikan festival in Morong, Bataan. It was my first ever invite from a tourism office so I was really delighted. This trip also made it possible for me to meet some of the members of Pinoy Travel Bloggers. But the highlight of the trip? I finally witnessed the sea turtle hatchlings make their way to the ocean! My words are not enough to describe it. I pray that each one of them will survive to adulthood and go back to Morong, Bataan to lay eggs.

A photo posted by Project Gora (@projectgora) on

SaveSave And it’s a wrap for Project Gora’s busy 2016! :) To my dear readers, I just wanted to say thank you so much for allowing me to share my travels with you and that I am so grateful you are on this journey with me. To the people I meet while traveling, be it on a bus, on a plane, in a hostel or on the street in front of a local restaurant, I want to say thank you for inspiring me. To my friends in the office, friends from grade school, high school and college, THANK YOU. Thank you friends for joining me on all of my adventures. You guys definitely make traveling so special. Thank you for sharing experiences with me and I look forward to more adventures together!

This post in my entry to the Pinoy Travel Bloggers’ Blog Carnival for December 2016 hosted by Mervin Marasigan of Pinoy Adventurista. Make sure to check out his blog and read some of the best year enders of Pinoy Travel Bloggers. Happy New Year! :)

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