MANILA – For many of us, 2020 will not be known for road trips and grand travel plans here and abroad.

At this time of the pandemic, staycation seems to be the best way to get out of the house after being on quarantine for what feels like years.

Even if one doesn't feel comfortable traveling far during the pandemic, it is still important for families to do something together.

However, a staycation in 2020 is unlike what it used to be, with the continuous threat of the coronavirus. Activities are limited, tests are even required in some areas, and most of all, there's the anxiety and risk of getting infected once you step outside your home.

But it can be doable and safe as long as the health protocols are followed by would-be staycationers, said Christine Ann Ibarreta, president of the Hotel Sales and Marketing Association (HSMA).

Speaking with the Philippine News Agency (PNA), she gave the following tips on how people can enjoy their staycation or workcation safely:

  • Book in advance
  • Take the antigen test on the same day of check-in (for GCQ areas)
  • Follow the rules and regulation of the hotel/resort
  • Make sure that you wash your hands all the time
  • Wear your mask
  • Hotels accredited to operate in all community quarantine classifications most certainly have standards for clean facilities, but do spray disinfectant around your room just to be sure
  • Observe physical distancing and avoid mingling with the crowd

"They've been working so hard, they should gift themselves with good sleep and somebody who'd prepare breakfast for them or lunch or dinner. They deserve to relax. Sometimes you have to be inspired and go to a quiet place and to be pampered so they should stay for a staycation. They have the assurance that health protocols are enforced," she said.

‘A break’

At this time of the pandemic, one family is rediscovering ways to appreciate their own province.

Erica Dizon, a 25-year-old mom from Bukidnon, says staycation is indeed a way to de-stress following months of being cooped up in one place. "Whether or not we admit it, it really gets to you."

"We don't know when this pandemic will end, so personally I don't think we should just stop our lives because of quarantine. We all have to learn to adapt to the new normal. Adapting to how we can be careful and still do the things we want to do," she said.

Erica's family enjoy a staycation in their home province (Photo courtesy of Erica Gale Dizon)

When Bukidnon was placed under modified general community quarantine (MGCQ), the most relaxed classification out of four, Erica and her family decided to do a one-day staycation at a resort offering leisurely stay for guests.

This "day off" outside her home was particularly special, she said.

It gave her a break from all the anxiety the health crisis brought, as well as an opportunity to cherish moments with her loved ones, especially her baby girl Matea Elisse.

“We all suddenly can’t go outside, we don’t know when the pandemic will end, we can’t see our friends, it was all just something we never thought would happen but it did. As a single mom, I guess the stress was from my child not being able to play outside and meet new friends, what would life be for her growing up? The world she knows now is cocomelon or her toys, and she only has me, my mom, and uncle for social interaction,” she said.

“When MGCQ was declared, my mom decided we needed a break from our thoughts, and we just had to be sure that the place we are staying is following the right protocols. And of course, we did our part also with sanitation, social distancing, mask, etc.,” she added.

The family stayed in a geodesic dome overlooking Bukidnon. (Photo courtesy of Erica Gale Dizon)

Aside from the calm and peace it gave, glamping inside geodesic domes overlooking Bukidnon also made Erica appreciate the equally tourist-worthy places her province offers.

“I’m amazed how much Bukidnon really does have to offer in terms of tourism, which I never got to appreciate because usually we would go to Cebu mostly when we travel because I have family there or to Manila. Because of the staycation, we got to see that Bukidnon really is beautiful and there are a lot of places pala to enjoy,” she said.

‘Fun, quick escape’

Harold Ian Bartolome, a lawyer from Mandaluyong City took two consecutive weekend escapes to Sonya’s Garden in Tagaytay City last September.

For the city-dweller, it was a much-needed breath of fresh air, literally.

The lush greens at Sonya's Garden (Photo courtesy of Harold Ian Bartolome)

“It felt so good to get away,” he said. “We picked Tagaytay City because it was near Manila and allowed guests from GCQ areas plus we missed the cool breeze.”

Harold says prior to the pandemic, he frequently goes for short trips to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.

"Aside from my home province of Tarlac, we have Tagaytay and its adjacent town of Alfonso as our usual havens whenever we go out. Be it a short trip for a meal, a run for some Hispanis bread, or an overnight stay at Sonya’s Garden, the winding roads outside the city always provide a tranquil setting that signals our time to unwind," he said.

For Harold, the experience at Sonya’s was memorable because it was making the most of a pandemic staycation.

"At Sonya’s, with her lush gardens and towering trees that are home to fireflies at night, one gets to indulge in simple things like having more greens in meals, sleeping al fresco with birds and crickets humming in the background, or playing with their doggo receptionist, Hugo," he said.

Hugo, the doggo receptionist at Sonya's Garden (Photo courtesy of Harold Ian Bartolome)

‘More areas’

Even as the tourism industry prepares to reopen in most parts of the country, travelers have to play by stringent rules, thus the need for research and precision planning. 

If you decide to travel, before you book be sure to look up any restrictions and regulations for your destination. 

Hotels and resorts in MGCQ areas are allowed to accept the leisure market even from other provinces that have the same CQ classification.

Tourism activities in GCQ areas, meanwhile, are not yet allowed except for staycations in hotels granted with a Certificate of Authority to Operate for Staycation (CAOS) and have a 4- or 5-star rating from the Department of Tourism.

In Metro Manila, around five hotels have so far been given the CAOS as of October 6 – the Grand Hyatt, Makati Shangri-La, Nobu Hotel, Okada Manila, and Shangri-La at the Fort.

Hotels have to choose whether to operate for a staycation or as a quarantine facility for arriving overseas Filipinos and front-liners.

“Pinu-push talaga ng hotel owners and some of the directors of hotels, siyempre they’d like to maximize pero ang number one kasi is the health muna ng tao, sanitation (Hotel owners wanted to maximize but, of course, the number one priority must be the health of the people as well as sanitation). We have to choose as of now based on the guidelines,” Ibarreta said.

For guests planning a staycation in GCQ areas, Ibarreta said the estimates include the required antigen at about PHP1,200 plus the room rate that ranges from PHP8,000 to PHP100,000, a bit high since only 4-star and 5-star hotels are allowed. (PNA)