Mark Villar Opens New Routes To Bring Nearby Provinces A Lot Closer

As the clouds of concerns clear up, be the first to rediscover nearby provinces in the northern and southern regions of NCR and fall in love with them all over again

When you think of everything that has happened within the past year, along with the circulating news today, the last thing on everybody’s mind should be travel. The National Capital Region and its nearby provinces (known as “NCR Plus”) have been placed under modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ) as of late. Although businesses continue to operate and public transportation ensues, the fear of infection still looms in everyone’s minds. This is why recommendations of stricter border control with a “hybrid” MECQ have been backed by mayors and other officials, regulating movement in and out of cities.

However, the irony of it all is that these talks on travel restrictions got everyone craving for travel more than ever before. Indeed, 2021 is shaping up to be the year of revenge travel. The recently-coined term is an act of retribution against the pandemic and its power to control our lives, including travel plans. This doesn’t just involve flights to faraway locations, but also road travel to local destinations. The thought of safely leaving home to a nearby seaside province just to stretch your legs and get that much-needed sunshine has crossed everyone’s minds at this point.

Department of Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar

As we continue to await the safe return of weekend getaways, developments are in place to bring these provinces closer to us. The EDSA Decongestion Program, and the Build, Build, Build initiative as a whole, features systems of new highways and rehabilitated roads to improve inter-city and cross-provincial travel. Here are just a few locations that are now more accessible thanks to these new routes.

The sunny shores of Pangasinan and La Union

If you frequent northern Luzon, you’ve grown accustomed to the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX), and Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX) transfers. However, the tail end of TPLEX from Pozorrubio, Pangasinan to Rosario, La Union was opened last year and now serves as the quickest way to get to some of the country’s most-visited beaches.

Photo courtesy of Vernon Raineil Cenzon

Once you reach TPLEX after a mere 1 hour and 30 minute drive from Manila, take the Binalonan exit and make your way to the heart of Pangasinan. Cross the busy city of Dagupan and take a peek at the clear shores of Lingayen, or move onto the famed Hundred Islands of Alaminos. The hidden natural wonders of Bolinao are just a little bit further west, where you can explore caves, sit by waterfalls, or frolic on white sand beaches.

With Rosario as the last exit of TPLEX, the youthful jive of seaside cottages and thrill of crashing waves at La Union is now a weekend possibility. Grab an ice-cold fruit cocktail and lay down on a hammock by the palm shade, or take a seat in any of the cafes and bistros lining the shores of San Fernando and San Juan. If you want to get your heart pumping, suit up and try your shot at riding the waves, or go on a nature walk to the many sights and sounds the province has to offer, such as Tangadan Falls or Poro Point.

Adventure awaits at Zambales

Potipot Island in Zambales. Photo courtesy of J.P. Leo Castillo

For thrill-seekers, Zambales may already be a familiar destination to you. From its crystal clear waters, untouched islands, and jagged paths perfect for offroading, there’s a lot to discover in this northern province.

No matter where you are in NCR, developments make crossing big cities much easier. From the ports of Manila, take the NLEX Harbor Link C3-R10 Section and Harbor Link Segment 10 to reach the NLEX gate. This also serves as an alternative route to the EDSA Balintawak gate which always sees its fair share of bumper-to-bumper traffic. This new route makes your transfer from C-3 in Caloocan to Valenzuela, and subsequently NLEX, in just five minutes. If you’re on the eastern side of Quezon City, Marikina, and the like, NLEX Segment 8.2 reduces travel time from Commonwealth Avenue to Mindanao Avenue from 45 minutes to just 10 minutes.

Once you reach NLEX, it’s a pretty straightforward drive to the Zambales region. Take a guided trek for the family, or experience a jungle tour at Subic. Take a short boat ride from the shores of Candelaria and reach the tranquil Potipot island. Lastly, you can’t talk about Zambales without mentioning Mount Pinatubo, open for both scenic on-foot hikes and exhilarating 4×4 off-road tours.

A new world in Batangas

Batangas beach. Photo obtained from The Traveller World Guide

One of the most talked-about destinations for a quick weekend adventure, or a prolonged stay away from the busy city, is the southern region of Batangas. With the recently-opened Metro Manila Skyway Stage 3, travellers going southbound should no longer be intimidated by the EDSA crawl or reliant on side-street shortcuts via navigation apps. Heading to Buendia from Balintawak just takes 20 minutes, and a quick switch to South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) will bring you to the coastal province in just 1 hour and 30 minutes.

If you’re coming from the eastern regions of Antipolo and Taytay, the Laguna Lake Highway becomes a convenient route that eliminates the need to take EDSA or C-5. The newly opened highway cuts down travel time to the south to just 30 minutes.

For unique experiences, head over to the town of Taal lined with well-preserved heritage sites dating back to the Spanish era, or explore the depths of Anilao’s waters and discover a whole new world of marine life.

But no matter where your heart decides to travel to, make sure you know everything you need to do before traveling to your favorite local destination.

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