Paddling at Loboc River in Bohol

World War 2 movie aficionados shouldn’t miss the 1963 film “The Great Escape” which tells of the epic mass escape by British airmen from a Nazi camp in Poland in 1944. With Steve McQueen’s iconic motorcycle chase and musical scoring by Edward Bernstein, the movie has a become a classic and is an inspiration for prisoners to break free no matter what it takes.

The country’s fluctuating quarantine status has become a virtual prison camp for the young, elderly and outdoor lovers. Travel is a necessity for a person’s well-being and mental health which the infamous Manila Bay dolomite beach cannot simply provide.

With granules of the pandemic’s incompetent handling scattered all over the country, the “stay home, stay safe” slogan is no longer be an absolute truth. Lockdown-weary people have to go out, dine, bond with the family, and travel for a change of environment, and help restart the economy.

Here are some tips to make your own proverbial “Great ECQcape,” so you can do your “revenge travel” and splurge to make up for the lost time. For motivation, play “The Great Escape” soundtrack on YouTube to give you a now-or-never feeling as you plan your trip much like the British escapees planned their dash for freedom.

Panilongon Quincentennial Landmark in Dumaguete

Tip No 1: Scout your destination. While there’s an abundance of places to visit, things aren’t the same in this new abnormal. Many of the sought-after destinations are regional epicenters of the Covid-19, and going there from Metro Manila is like jumping from the frying pan to the fire.

Check out your target’s quarantine classification, as well as the Department of Health (DOH) bulletins on the daily cases tally. It may not give a complete picture, but that’s the only official information available.

Check also your chosen locality’s entry requirements, which are almost always an RT-PCR negative result (swab or Red Cross saliva test) and an electronic confirmation of acceptance from the local government under the nationwide S-Pass of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) or a parallel contact tracing apps other provinces are using.

Some local governments require confirmed bookings with accredited accommodations which have been certified as compliant to health and safety protocols.

Among the sought-after destinations with streamlined travel requirements are Negros Oriental, Bohol, Cebu, Siargao, and Boracay.

Driving through Sampaloc, Quezon’s zigzag road

Tip No 2: Scout for hotel promos. Posh resorts and hotels we can only dream of staying in are currently offering incredible discounts and promos for travel-starved wanderers. The Hotel Sales and Marketing Association (HSMA) recently launched its second September Online Sale (SOS) which runs till October 15. With discounts of up to 70 percent, the country’s star-rated hotels are selling tour package e-vouchers under very flexible terms, and this may be your crack at a semblance of the rich and famous lifestyle.

Outside this month-long sale, there room rates are being offered for a song through online bookings, if only to keep tourism alive and kicking. Tempting they may seem, do your own due diligence with your family’s safety enjoyment and safety in mind.

Tip No 3: Go on a road trip. If patience isn’t your virtue for these procedures, a family road trip is the most practical, inexpensive and safest escape you can do. Despite its seeming ease, refer to Tip No. 1 as change is coming often in policies regarding entry of guests outside their local bubble.

Avoid the all-too familiar and crowded places, and explore off-the-beaten, under-the-radar, close-to-nature, and back-to-basic spots. By doing this, you’ll realize how blessed we are to be given by the Almighty a pearl of an archipelago.

If the above seem to be a pain in the neck, you’re fortunate you don’t have to dig a tunnel for months, grope into the jungle, or be chased by Nazi soldiers and their hound dogs. Just dig into your keyboard, and shovel your way into your own “Great ECQcape.”