Travel in 2021: Looking at the bright side

Published December 31, 2021, 11:46 PM

by Johannes Chua

Let’s not talk about the Omicron variant or the rising new cases of COVID. I would like to imagine a 2022 where the tourism industry is starting to recover and where all of us are dusting off our luggage and anticipating to reach the airport on time. After all, it has been a while since we traveled and we are all itching to hitch a ride to somewhere (anywhere but here!). 

We may have not added our “miles” because we haven’t visited any foreign land, but 2021 offered some glimpse of hope (aka the “bright side”) for the tourism industry, which was beaten black-and-blue in 2020. May all of these “More Like This” become a regular part of our traveling lives once this pandemic is over.  


  • Short drives outside Metro Manila

Let me tell you a “secret” – the best way to beat stress is to go on a weekend drive outside Metro Manila. Bribe your buddy to drive for you if you can’t drive like me. There are so many destinations waiting to be discovered in the north (Bulacan, Pangasinan, Tarlac, etc.), west (Zambales, Bataan), or the south (Laguna, Cavite, Quezon, etc.) 

There are so many towns to explore. Each one has its own distinct character.  For example, I love the towns surrounding Laguna de Bay. Enter Los Banos, then go to see Pila, Bay, Nagcarlan, Pagsanjan, Lumban, etc.  There are nice stops in each town, quaint restaurants offering simple yet soulful food, and each one has an interesting pasalubong outlet (e.g. wood crafts from Paete are the best). What’s great about these short drives is that you don’t have to spend much (except for gas money) as you can depart Metro Manila early in the morning and arrive back at your home by dinner time. 

A relaxing horseback ride at El Kabayo in Clark, Pampanga. (Photo by Noel Pabalate)

In 2021, Manila Bulletin Lifestyle Travel offered these stories to serve as your short drive guides. Please try visiting one of them if possible. You don’t only have a good time but you also help the local economy.  

Short drive to savor the best al fresco dining experience – Manila Bulletin (

HEAD NORTH NOW: Explore this breathtaking bike trail in Nueva Ecija – Manila Bulletin (

Horses are the stars of ‘Squid Game’ at Horsefest 2021 in Clark – Manila Bulletin (

Tinipak River: Feel the freedom, join the flow, and think of the future – Manila Bulletin (

5 fun and relaxing activities to do at Mountain Lake Resort, Caliraya Springs – Manila Bulletin (

Korea ‘feels’ is just a two-hour drive away from Manila – Manila Bulletin (

Plan your weekend: Experience lakeside leisure in San Pablo, Laguna – Manila Bulletin (

Follow this easy day trip to San Fernando, Pampanga that you can do right now – Manila Bulletin (

Reaching Potipot Island in Zambales. You can reach this province via a road trip or bus trip (to Iba). (Photo by Joseph Bautista)
  • Bus rides to the countryside 

No car? No one to bully to drive? No problemo!  Provided that no serious lockdowns occur once again in the metro, then bus stations are open. Explore the trips offered by the different bus companies and check the entry requirements for each province. 

Baguio, naturally, is a popular destination for a bus trip. If you’re more adventurous, try Laoag or Vigan (please check first with the LGU if they are accepting travelers from NCR considering our new Alert Level 3 classification). 

The south also offers bus-worthy destinations. There’s the whole Bicol region to discover such as Camarines Norte and Sur, Albay, to as far as Sorsogon (if you feel like “Heart”).  Naga is also a nice place to visit, with its progressive vibe and youthful glamor.  

Read our bus travel stories in 2021 to help you plot your travel itinerary this 2022.  

SOON: 3 hours land travel from Manila to Bicol – Manila Bulletin (

GUIDE: Step-by-step process on how to visit Baguio – Manila Bulletin (

Session Road in Baguio City, reachable via bus ride. (Photo by Jessica Pag-iwayan)
  • Safe Staycations

Pre-pandemic, hotels, hostels, inns, B&Bs all highlight their leisure amenities, food, promos, “drinks of the month,” etc. Now, it’s all about highlighting the “safety” of their properties. This hotel has a safety seal. This other hotel has this robot that purifies the air. This hotel in the bay area has all its workers vaccinated. This hotel in Makati used UVC light to disinfect the bed. 

I don’t know if you agree with me but if there’s one “good” thing that this pandemic has taught us – it is the value of safety. More than the interior design, the carpet used, the feather count in the pillow, etc., we have to value safety and cleanliness above all.  So now, because of the pandemic, all these leisure properties have elevated their standards to sanitize, disinfect, and clean their rooms, restaurants, bars, and even lobbies. 

We are all pampered, aren’t we? Now, we have the peace of mind to sleep inside a truly clean hotel, even after this crazy pandemic is over! 

Read some of the articles on hotels that went out of their way to guarantee the safety and health of their guests.

It’s sunny-safe at Solaire! – Manila Bulletin ( 

Holiday staycation at the No. 1 hotel in Metro Manila on Tripadvisor – Manila Bulletin (

Hotel frontliners are hospitality heroes – Manila Bulletin (

Staycations become better: Hotel passes int’l safety standard to safely welcome guests – Manila Bulletin (

Solaire’s Taski Swingobot 2000 is a fully automated cleaning robot that roams around the property to make it doubly safe and clean.
  • Sustainable Tourism

The pandemic is not the only one that disrupted the tourism industry. At the end of the year, some popular tourist sites in Visayas and Mindanao were not spared with the destruction of Typhoon Odette. What a bummer! 

For example, in the tourist area of Siargao, almost all structures were wiped out, including inns and B&Bs, bars and restaurants, even its famous landmark – the boardwalk and platform.  

Now, a strong typhoon such as Odette would not be the last of its kind to enter the country. With climate change, stronger typhoons are anticipated. What we all need to learn is that each and every one of us has a stake to help the tourism industry become more sustainable. 

There are a lot of ways to become a sustainable traveler. First is to honor the environment by leaving no trace (and taking nothing with you!). You must avoid using single-use plastic bottles. Choose a sustainable accommodation if possible, and if it is available, opt for a meal harvested from local sources.  

These are really simple steps but mean a lot for the environment. If we protect the environment, it also protects us back, especially the tourism stakeholders.  

If you want to learn more about the importance of sustainable tourism, read this informative article from The Climate Reality Philippines.

ELEVENTH HOUR: The climate emergency and the need to shift to low-carbon tourism – Manila Bulletin (