Because of the surge of COVID-19 cases, the Philippine government recently announced stricter quarantine measures for residents of Metro Manila and four neighboring provinces.
From March 22 (Monday) to April 4 (Sunday), the areas have been placed under general community quarantine (GCQ) and within a bubble dubbed “NCR Plus”, which covers the areas of Metro Manila, Rizal, Bulacan, Cavite, and Laguna.
This means that residents of these areas can no longer travel outside the bubble to other destinations that were previously accepting tourists such as Baguio City or hop on a plane islands like Boracay or Bohol.
So while while non-essential travel outside NCR+ is not allowed, this doesn’t mean your Holy Week plans are completely ruined.
Those living in NCR Plus can still freely travel to places within the bubble like Tagaytay and as far north as Bulacan and as far south as Laguna, as long as they remain with the borders of the merged area during the two-week period.
According to a report in The STAR, there will be no checkpoints while crossing provincial borders within the bubble.
Residents of Metro Manila and the provinces of Bulacan, Cavite, Laguna and Rizal will no longer need to undergo inspection at checkpoints within the bubble, the Philippine National Police (PNP) said on Monday night.
According to PNP officer-in-charge Lt. Gen. Guillermo Eleazar, people are still free to roam around for essential and non-essential travel as there would be no security checkpoints during the daytime.
However, checkpoints would still be in place to enforce the 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew and ensure public compliance with health protocols.
“Checkpoints within the bubble are still necessary, particularly during curfew hours. Beyond curfew period, they can observe, caution or accost violators of health protocols but will no longer check motorists for movement restriction,” he said.
Here are just a few suggestions of things you can do in NCR+ this Holy Week Break.
1. Stay at home
The announcement of new restrictions came after the country reported over 7,000 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday. So maybe instead of heading out for a road trip this Holy Week break, everyone can do their part to curb the spread of the virus and voluntarily stay home instead.
If you’re below 18 and above 65, you have no choice anyway. All minors and seniors are strictly not allowed outside of their homes unless the reason is essential.
While adults can still go out of town, you may have to leave the kids at home with the grandparents, putting a damper on family road trips and plans.
2. Go on a staycation
The Department of Tourism (DOT) has said that staycations within NCR+ are still allowed among travelers aged 18 to 65, provided they follow the minimum health standards.
Only hotels with “Certificate of Authority to Operate as Staycation” from the tourism agency are allowed to operate for leisure purposes. Hotels operating as quarantine accommodations approved by the Department Health (DOH) cannot accept guests.
Some hotels in Metro Manila that remain open include Okada Manila Hotel, Shangri-La at the Fort, Solaire Resort, Sheraton Manila Hotel, Hilton Manila and more.
For those who want to get out of the city, destinations like Tagaytay City and Laguna are popular choices.
In Tagaytay City, there’s Taal Vista Hotel, Twin Lakes, Nurture Wellness Village, Escala Tagaytay, and more.
In Laguna, there’s Casa San Pablo, Sulyap Gallery Cafe Bed and Breakfast as well Caliraya Resort Club in Laguna.
If you’re planning to go on a staycation in a hotel outside NCR but within the GCQ bubble, make sure you have a proof of booking just to be safe.
Despite its location within the bubble, some areas like Cavite, as announced by Governor Jonvic Remulla on March 21, may require those going for staycations to present proof of booking and negative COVID-19 test results to get through checkpoints.
Beach resorts in Cavite can only accommodate pre-existing or advanced bookings, and public swimming and leisure day trips are currently not allowed.
3. Dine in al fresco restaurants
For those who plan to just enjoy a meal outdoors, take note that only outdoor dining or al fresco are allowed in restaurants with max of 50% of venue capacity.
With more people taking a break from work, and the closure of many indoor restaurants, expect restaurants with overlooking views to have limited seating or long waiting times to get in.
Many shopping malls in the city have converted their open air spaces, balconies, and even driveways into al fresco dining areas to comply with new regulations, including new areas in Up Town Center, Greehills, Capitol Commons and more.
ArtSector Gallery & Chimney Cafe 360, a special events place that offers a 360 view of Laguna Lake, Sierra Madre Mountains, Pililla Windmills, sunset, moon, and city lights, recently added more tables to extend their al fresco dining area.
Guests can now enjoy outdoor dining from the 2nd level entrance balcony, hanging bridge, terraces at the rock balcony, 3rd level balcony mountain side, 4th level roof deck and 5th Chimney rooftop.
Restaurants along the ridge of Antipolo like Kaulayaw Cafe and mobile pop-up cafes along Boso-Boso highway also offer coffee with a refreshing view.
4. Go sightseeing at open-air tourist attractions
Traditional cinemas, game arcades, libraries, museums, and cultural centers are temporarily closed once again and only open-air tourist attractions remain open.
Residents of NCR+ can still revisit public parks and other tourist attractions that remain open for nature therapy and R & R.
Luljetta’s Hanging Gardens and Cloud 9’s Hanging Bridge in Antipolo are always popular spots for a quick nature fix and scenic views near the city.
The open-air theme park Enchanted Kingdom in Laguna is also open for visitors, though kids are still not allowed.
Top hiking destination Masungi Georeserve in Rizal is also accepting guests for trail hiking and tree planting activities.
While mass gatherings are not allowed, you could embark on your own Visita Iglesia by biking to different churches within your neighborhood or within the bubble.
5. Commune with nature
Religious gatherings are prohibited during the Holy Week break and some pilgrimage sites have already announced temporary closures to prevent people from visiting, so you may have to hold off on your Holy Week masses and Visita Iglesia.
While some religious sites may still be open to visitors in a limited capacity, expect these to be crowded or sudden restrictions to be put in place to ensure that no mass gatherings are held.
As an alternative, you could head somewhere quiet and near nature for your own Holy Week prayers and reflection. Camping and staying in nature-inspired resorts could give you a temporary respite from the city.
San Rafael River Adventure in Bulacan is a nature-inspired facility that offers several glass villas, glass cabins, glass bamboo huts, stilt glass cabins and other accommodations by the river ideal for overnight getaways.
Mount Purro Nature Reserve is a family-run eco-park in Antipolo, tucked away in the foothills of the Sierra Madre Mountain Range, that’s still open for daytrips, overnight staycations and camping.
3 Springs Mountain Park is an outdoor park in Tanay, Rizal ideal where guests can enjoy camping, day-trip getaways, picnics, swimming, retreats and recollections.
Take note that only immediate family members who live in the same household should be going on staycations and traveling together at this time as mass gatherings are still prohibited.