Road Trips in the Philippines - Good road to stray

Philippines - A road trip is the easy way to experience the country.  If you have a vehicle in good running condition, some cash for the fuel, food and lodging – you can have an adventure that will give you more than just travel photos.  The most expensive part of a road trip is one’s time.  It is also the factor why most people I know can’t take one – time is very expensive.  But it is time on the road that makes the adventure happen.

For 12 years, Cruising, Manila Bulletin’s travel magazine has been featuring road trips that take a day, two days, three days, even a week.  Those drives have taken us around the Philippines – from Manila to Gensan in five days; Manila to Boracay in 12 hours; Manila to Negros in 24 hours; Manila to Marinduque in seven hours; Manila to Masbate in 26 hours; Manila to Leyte in a day; Manila to Pagudpud in 12 hours; Manila to Banaue to Mt. Data, to Baguio in three days; Manila to Catanduanes in 30 hours. Cruising was the “First on the Road” when we started 12 years ago, and we are still here dedicated to giving information on motor travel. In this column, we give you information on the road conditions.

The country’s road network is not in perfect condition but it is in good functional condition.  Many times, we were surprised at the good road conditions in far-flung areas away from the crowds where one would think roads will be just traces of a trail.  Our government is working – we like to say when we see those roads.

The Halsema Highway is a good example. Its first phase which is 100 kilometers from La Trinidad to Mt. Data, is a beautiful concrete highway with proper road signs and concrete barriers to prevent landslides and road slips.  The last time we passed across the Cordillera mountains, the road construction was pushing slowly up to Banaue and although not yet completely concreted, the all-weather roads are good enough for a comfortable drive.

I hope that by now, most people know that the road from Manila to Banaue is in good condition that even a sedan can take.  However, for a long drive such as that (about 10-12 hours, if you count the meal stops), we suggest you take a vehicle with a higher ground clearance – just in case of bad weather and rains.  Also, such a vehicle would be an SUV, van or pickup – which will have more space to carry what you will likely buy along the way!  If you’re planning to go to Sagada or to explore the mountains for more rice terraces, you can hire a jeepney in Banaue – and those have 4x4 capability and high ground clearance.

The newly completed Baguio to Ambuklao Road is another reason to go out and have a road trip.  This 50-km highway of mostly tight to tighter zig-zags wind through a beautiful mountain range which could even be the destination for this trip – the views are really magnificent!

Even if traffic is very light in that highway, the road is concrete and the pavements and mountain sides have barriers designed to protect the motorists – should there be bad weather or poor visibility.

Last month, we passed the 126-km highway from Calapan to Roxas in Mindoro.  We were pleasantly surprised to find the road in very good condition, it only took two hours to drive from Calapan to Roxas.  (It used to take three hours with long stretches in dilapidated asphalt roads.)

Another pleasant surprise was the road from Sta. Rita town (where San Juanico Bridge ends the Samar side) to Allen (about 280km), the port town for the RORO ferries to Matnog. About five years ago, the stretch from Allen town to Catbalogan was something travelers would rather forget – if not avoid.

In the island of Negros, there is another road system that makes road travel comfortable.  It is the 90-km Negros Transnational Highway which links the cities of Bacolod and San Carlos. This link allows easy land-and-sea travel since there is a port in San Carlos that takes passengers and vehicles to Cebu Island; and there is a port in Bacolod City that links traffic flow to Panay Island.

Also in Negros Island, there is a road that cuts across the Kanlaon mountain range and links Bacolod City to Dumaguete City in the Oriental side where there is a port that allows the flow of people and vehicles to the island to Mindanao, entering through Dapitan.

Our islands are now connected by an efficient road and sea transport system that opens the provinces to travelers and road trips.  If you’ve never tried exploring the country through our road and sea system, make time to do one soon.  Email us; we may be able to help (motoring@mb.com.ph).

Still on roads, the connection between the SLEX and STAR now cuts travel time by at about 40 minutes – so you can catch an earlier ferry from the Batangas port if you plan to go to Mindoro.

Of course, the SCTEX has cut a lot of travel time going to the north – to Pangasinan, Benguet, Mountain Province.  SCTEX especially makes driving to Subic very relaxing – we sometimes do that just to have some time to think. You’ll get there in two hours of leisurely driving from Quezon City.

All that road information we could get because Cruising went on cruising for 12 years with the support of our loyal sponsors – Isuzu Philippines Corp., Caltex Philippines, Smart Communications.  Last year, Dockers joined us as our outfitter. This year, we have the support of Cebu Pacific Air to bring our road teams to more destinations.

 

 

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