This is the Philippines, our awesome country

(Anton is the founder and creator of Our Awesome Planet, one of the top 50 travel blogs in the world. He’s been blogging since 2005 and creating video content since 2014. He is also a digital transformation coach.)

Our Fave Summer Places, Best Summer Ever, Top Five Places We Love in the Philippines, Best Places to Travel with the Family and Our Memorable Trips in the Philippines — these were the initial headlines I had in mind when I started writing this article. But they felt mababaw and not the kind of title for my first ever piece for a beloved media institution after 14 years of exclusive online writing for my blog.

Summer is a chance for us to orchestrate experiences so that our sons would continue to fall in love with the Philippines. It’s a moment for our family to bond and to live in the present, knowing that this would be the stuff of legend that our kids will reminisce about 20 years from now. We want to immortalize happy family moments that they can remember when they are down and in search of happy feelings to focus on. We do hope that they pass this on to the next greatest generation of Filipinos traveling throughout our awesome country.

Author Anton Diaz and wife Rache Diaz in Sagada.


I started the blog in January 2005 when my first son Aidan was born, to document our food and travel adventures in the Philippines and beyond. It’s a sort of autobiography told through food trips, hotel staycations and endless road adventures.

My son Joshua was born in November 2007, and six months later I quit my job as P&G chief information officer to focus full-time on blogging. My third son Raphael was born in February 2010, the same time we started our video channels. The kids, until now, don’t read the blog, but they do watch videos of our travel experiences over and over again. Finally (hopefully), our bunso Yugi was born in 2014, the time when my blog was recognized internationally as one of the Top 50 travel blogs in the world, traffic-wise.

Wala nang hihirit na puwedeng isang son pa to complete a basketball team. I’m already the 5th and youngest son whom my wife Rache has to take care of!


Having four sons is not something you plan on — it is indeed a gift from Him to a middle child who grew up with three brothers. We now travel as a big family of six — three adults and three kids — and we like to see it as a barkada or a travel team instead of parents traveling with their four kids. When we eat in restaurants, we let them try any food and not preempt them with our biases — maanghang yan or di masarap yan — but we do hate kiddie junk meals.

When we travel, we assign them tasks to do, like navigating or double-checking the room when checking out. We regard the hotel as our own home: we organize our shoes on one side, arrange the toothbrushes properly like we do at home, bring our favorite board games to play before going to sleep.

The Diaz family at Boayan Island.


When traveling, we don’t go for the Instagrammable or places where the Instagram lifestyle influencers tend to crowd, we don’t go to expensive places or summer destinations para masabi lang. We don’t go YOLO for FOMO and, in fact, prefer to skip the hyped events and familiarization trips where you don’t really get along with the people you are with.

Instead, we go for unforgettable experiences you can’t buy even if you have all the money in the world. We go for Filipino moments that make the Philippines the truly  awesome planet we live in. We orchestrate the characters in our travel experiences, and we only want to spend these with the people who matter to us and our family.

If we travel with you, it is an honor for us to call you our friend and to have you as a significant part of our family adventures. We go for one-time-only experiences that you will want a time machine to revisit.


Think about this list as our favorite plots for stories of your family’s very own summer experiences that you will tirelessly talk about over and over again. I’m sharing this with the hope that you’ll take this summer as a chance to create memorable experiences with your kids — to make this summer count.

These are the places in the Philippines I always have a hard time writing about because I feel my writing does not give justice to the experiences and memories they create. These destinations have a travel window for you to actualize that point-in-time moment before they succumb to overdevelopment or the influx of the Instagram crowd and bucket-list tourists.




When we started travel blogging in 2006, we were in search of the best beach in the Philippines. The search led us to Kota Beach in Bantayan, Malapascua in Cebu and all the way to Caramoan and Calaguas in Bicol.

But the best of all was — and still is — Daplac Cove in Boayan Island in San Vicente. At the time, people in Palawan referred to it as “The Beach.” When I visited for the first time, I found the legend to be true — there stood a rustic wooden house embraced by mangroves and overlooking a calm cove with waters where you could submerge your head with open eyes; white-beach sand with no footprints and coconut trees as your only witnesses to the whole experience. I vowed to bring my family there for my sons to experience this place.

The Beach at Daplac Cove, Boayan Island, San Vicente, Palawan.

I am so happy that there is now a direct flight from Clark to San Vicente, my favorite beach cove in the world now closer than ever. I was laughing inside when the leading Philippine airline marketed San Vicente as a gateway to El Nido and not as a destination with its own merits (granting that El Nido became a mere two-hour land trip because of San Vicente compared to the six-hour journey from Puerto Princesa).

Most people don’t know that San Vicente is what makes Palawan truly awesome, and this is a rare time to go and be able to say that you were there before everything started. (Think Boracay with its raw beauty before the overdevelopment.)

At 14.7 km., San Vicente’s pristine white sandy coastline is the longest in the Philippines and the second longest in Asia. The place has yet to be developed, and Club Agutaya is the only notable eco and conservation resort leading the development of its eco-town foundation and making the destination tourist-infrastructure ready with hospitals, sustainable experiences and inclusive-growth entrepreneurial programs. Presently, you can enjoy the long beach all to yourself and enjoy endless sunsets without the crowds (with only the niknik to bother you).

Daplac Cove in San Vicente, Palawan

Just recently, I was able to bring our family here on a dream trip, thanks to our friends from Discovery, which now owns a 20-hectare San Vicente property and our friend Dixie of Club Agutaya. The water was so calm that Yugi was able to enjoy playing on the shore. This time, I was able to enjoy snorkeling with my son Aidan to see the awesome five-year rehabilitation made on the colorful corals underneath with lots of fishes and sharks. Raphael began to like the beach and enjoy snorkeling. Joshua just loved to play with his ahiya and younger brothers.

Using our hands, we had a binalot picnic lunch with chili sauces and fruits in season for our mango monsters.

It’s almost impossible to come here at this time. But when you do, it’s a summer moment to cherish for the rest of our life.

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When you ask travel writers or bloggers about their favorite place in the Philippines, most will say the Batanes Isles. We began traveling to this island when it was still hard to catch a flight and there were no crowds.

Sabtang Island was formed by a volcanic eruption and is the smallest of the three major islands of Batanes.

Batanes holds a special place in our hearts because it is the only place that is still not commercialized with fast-food franchises. It’s home to the best boutique hotel in the Philippines — Fundacion Pacita, with a 270-degree view of the sea and Batanes’ hilly landscape. They say the landscape gives Ireland  and New Zealand-like feels, but for me, it is actually more charming because you can literally go around the island in a day and visit different landscape textures from Marlboro Country to the boulder beach of Valugan.

What really makes Batanes special are the Ivatans who will make you feel the true bayanihan spirit, of people helping each other and the real warmth of the Filipino people. This is the only place where the Honesty Store can truly exist (many have tried to adopt the concept in the city but have failed). You also get to sail on a U-haul falowa going from Batan Island to Sabtang or Itbayat and experience how our ancestors traveled with a boat without a katig and still managed to sail through the rough seas of the north.

The Basco lighthouse in Batan Island.

If you want to teach your kids what Filipino culture is all about, Batanes is the place to showcase our true nature. If you are a Filipino, I encourage you to prioritize visiting this slow-growth town this summer before modernization destroys the beauty of this island treasure.

Don’t listen to common excuses for not going: that it is more expensive to get there than to visit Hong Kong or Taiwan. Being a tourist in another country will never be better than immersing yourself in your own heritage and discovering yourself in the process.

The best time to go to Batanes is summer, when the waters are not rough going from one island to another and when the flights are not disrupted by bad weather. There are more flights now from Manila and Clark. We will bring all the boys one of these days, when Yugi is a bit older to appreciate the beauty of this travel moment.

The vakul is a traditional headdress Ivatan people wear to work in the fields and to protect them from the sun and rain.

I led Ultimate Batanes culinary tours for a time — and no Filipino visitor left the place without falling in love with the Philippines and the beauty of the Filipino culture all over again.

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The Philippines is an archipelago of 7,000+ islands and the sea is our highway to move from one island to another. Going on an island expedition is the only way to reach the islands that are not accessible by land means.

People ask me what is the best experience to discover the Philippines, and I always say go on a Tao Expedition tour from Coron to El Nido to discover the real deal about island life in the Philippines.

The Tao Foundation Building is made from cogon and bamboo.

I can still remember my first-ever Tao Philippines trip, not because it was an awesome tour, but because it was more of an invitation to experience Filipino life on the islands and to transform the way you travel — from being a checklist tourist to one who uses travel as a means to learn and bring meaningful change to the lives of the people you meet.

The Tao expedition brings you to a special place called Linapacan islands where you can go snorkeling and experience colorful corals in super-clear waters, as if you were diving into an aquarium. When you visit the Tao Village and see their inclusive growth programs and touch the lives of community members along the route of the expedition, you get to experience the true meaning of “sustainable travel” before the term was bastardized by travel marketers.

Experience Filipino life on the islands, it’ll transform the way you travel.

Definitely not for the IG travelers, the expedition encourages a no-mobile phone policy so that you can really have a nice chat with your tour-mates, be present and live the moment. This is not for the tourist who just wants to check Tao off his list or “para masabi lang.”

Most resorts offer beachfront properties, but in Tao, you literally sleep on the beach with the sound of the waves singing you a lullaby. I can still remember the street ball session on a concrete floor and the smiles on the faces of the people purely enjoying basketball. Likewise, I can’t forget the time I sang my heart out during a karaoke session with the locals until late at night.

A room with a view, catch a glorious sunset inside one of the Tao huts in El Nido, Palawan.

It’s a great coming-of-age travel experience to do with our kids, for them to be grounded on what travel is all about. Tao is the best.

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One of our parent-friends who has a three-year-old boy asked me one time where they can go this summer. I said consider going to Boracay because we need to expose our kids to what the best beach in the world is like and to let them experience every moment of it and remember it as they grow up.

They say Japanese parents always inculcate in the minds of their young ones how beautiful the sakura flower is, so that when they grow up, they learn to appreciate it and celebrate its beauty. As Filipino parents, we also want to inculcate the beauty of Boracay to the next generation for them to love our beaches and protect them as their own.

Enjoy the moment as the sun sets after a day of soaking up some vitamin D.

Last year, it was actually a pain listening to every sustainable travel speaker in travel conferences using Boracay as a poster child for a tourist destination damaged by overpopulation. I do hope they use Boracay now as an example of how political will from the government can implement the right mindset and necessary changes to address the greed of the travel industry.

Most people ask what is there to do in Boracay? There’s none really and I love it for that — I get to spend quality time with the family and the kids, enjoying the sunsets and never-get-dry moments of hopping from the pool to the beach and Jacuzzi.

I let my sons enjoy the powdery white sand, the shore and show them how the beach slopes gradually and how clean the water is. Yes, you can now actually swim on the beach and trust that the coliform levels are lower because the resorts now have their own Sewage Treatment Plants (STP).

The powdery white sands of Boracay.

You can sunbathe and sleep on the sand without obstruction from beach tables and chairs and without fear of injury from broken glass bottles. You can put your watch away, and just enjoy the moment — soaking up vitamin D, relaxing and releasing your stresses to the universe.

The dining experiences and quality of food on the island are starting to level up and become more sustainably creative without damaging any natural resources. The road infrastructure is still being fixed, and we need to continually protect the island from greedy entrepreneurs to reverse its course of destruction and move toward the road to honest sustainable development. And I used to think Boracay was hopeless.

A 360-degree photo of all that Boracay has to offer.

We’ve been to a number of beaches with the family, but our sons always ask us to go back to Boracay because they appreciate its beauty. We’ve traveled the world to find the best beach and after the search, we’ve realized that the best one is right here at home. Enjoy Boracay moments every summer with your kids before their teen years, while they still like to go with mommy and daddy. This is our gift for the next generation of Filipinos.

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We love road trips and, in fact, my love affair with my wife Rache started when I asked her, together with our friend Luisa, to go on a road trip to Pagudpud. Those were pre-travel blogging days — and we only had a road atlas with us —  and yet we went to places where the endless road led us. These days, our favorite road trip with the family is to Sagada, Mountain Province.

Sagada is a magical place in the Cordillera Mountains, almost 12 to 15 hours of driving straight from Manila. We like to break our road trip with an overnight stop in Baguio before proceeding. The road to Sagada from Baguio is one of the most scenics routes you’ll ever drive through, passing by the Strawberry Farms of Benguet, the highest peak in the Philippine Highway System, and endless winding roads with awesome views of the Cordillera Mountains. It’s ideal to go during the peak of summer to ensure safe roads with fewer occurrences of landslides, not to mention to escape the city heat and cool down during the hot season.

An aerial view of the town of Sagada.

Farm-to-table, plant-based food is a norm forced by its remoteness while restaurants get more creative, harnessing the mountainside and the view that surrounds the experience. You chase the mountain sunrise each morning, conquer the cave connection and immerse into the Sagada culture and way of life. It’s a great place for kids to naturally enjoy hiking especially if you don’t preempt them with your biases on the difficulty of the activity. The boys were energetic and always ready to conquer another mountain or hike to the next destination as long as we fed them with good food or snacks.

As in any popular tourist destination, there is a threat that Sagada’s carrying capacity may not be able to handle the volume of tourists during peak season. There is also the danger of losing the honest disposition of the guides or the warmth of the establishments as they become greedy for profit. Good thing then that new spots are being developed like Marlboro Country where visitors can go for sunrise watching instead of going to Echo Valley where people just shout, having been popularized by a movie.

It’s good to choose homestays for accomodation to have your kids live with the locals, experience the simple life in the mountains and to show them that the Philippines is not only about beaches. I can’t pinpoint whether it is the landscape, the people, the food, the fresh crisp air or its strategic location in the mountains that made us fall in love with this place. It simply is magical and you realize this the first time you drive into town and it just grows on you each day.

Explore the Sumaguing Caves with your kids for a summer they will never forget.

On the way home, you can decide to stop by Vigan, La Union or Baler to complete the mountain to beach adventure at your own pace. Create a Sagada summer your kids will never forget.

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Summer is a golden opportunity for us to orchestrate memories that the kids will cherish, to inculcate in the next generation of Filipinos the beauty of our heritage and to give the young ones more and more reasons to fall in love with the awesomeness of the Philippines.

Our oldest son Aidan is now a teenager. He is starting to assert his independence and showing his preference for the company of his friends. We quit our day jobs to be with our sons during the formative years of two to 12 while enjoying the benefits of the Internet lifestyle.

As parents, we want them to inherit a beautiful Philippines, better than what our own parents failed to bequeath to us. Just like in any system, what you input is the output that you get. Show the children how much you appreciate the beauty of the Philippines and how much you love your country and they will, most certainly, do the same.

Show them what the Philippines is all about in our awesome planet.