Going Beyond the 81 Provinces of the Philippines (Marco de Ph)

The race to complete the 81 provinces of the Philippines is becoming the ultimate travel goal for backpackers. Finishing the list used to be a rare achievement that can only be attained by a few. But in a world of seat sales and budget travels, the list got a bit longer as the wanderlust bug have infected a lot of Filipinos. I have met quite a handful of travelers who were able to complete such feat. Popular blogger Estan Cabigas of Langyaw Media is one of the first person who have been to each province of the country while Glen Santillan of Escape Manila completed his journey recently. I have personally met some of the 81-list hall of famers during their stop-over here in Zamboanga on their way to the islands of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi.

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Marco de Ph at the Capitol Building of Zamboanga Sibugay
Most of the 81-listers are frequent travelers who decided to complete the list when they realized that they are close to visiting each of the Philippine provinces. But each of them has their own unique reason to feed their hunger for beaches, mountains, and waterfalls. Instagram profiles are now updated with status on their individual #Project81. It is no longer a race but a fun run where everyone can join.

81 Provinces marco ipil
Marco de Ph on top of a hill in Ipil, Zamboanga Sibugay overlooking Buluan Island.
Just when you (or your mother) think that travelling the 81 provinces is insane, you’ll never see backpacking the same way again after you meet Marco de Ph. Back in 2010, he almost completed all 81 provinces of the Philippines with less than 10 provinces left. He had a chance to facilitate a training in Barobo, Surigao del Sur but never had the chance to visit the capital city. He asked himself if he can really tick-off Surigao del Sur from his 81-list if he had only been to a single town. No, he was not satisfied. Marco decided to start on a clean slate and went back to zero on March 27, 2013.  Insane, right? His initial goal was to complete all 771 towns and cities in Luzon. But opportunities to do consultancy work in the Visayas and Mindanao got him thinking to visit all 1,643 cities and municipalities in the country.  And he did set his goal to finish the race to 1,643 by the time he reaches 50 on 2019.

81 Provinces
Map of the Philippines with GPS pins of the places Marco has visitied since March 27, 2013.
Many would not believe me at first. A lot would even joke that they would also try to go to every barangay in the Philippines. People in Marco’s circle know how he pays attention to details. His documents each town and posts updates on his facebook profile. Visitor logbooks of town halls can also be checked if you want to verify his presence on a certain date (weekdays only).  He has a particular interest in structures dating back to the American and even Spanish period. Tourist spots along the way are just added bonus for his travels.

In just two months of 2017, Marco clocked 49 towns and cities in 9 provinces in Mindanao, from Davao Oriental to Zamboanga Sibugay. I can personally attest to the challenges

dapitan 81 provinces
It took Marco 19 years to return to the centuries-old baluno tree at the Rizal Shrine in Dapitan City, Zamboanga del Norte.
With only 270 municipalities and 5 cities left on his list, will Marco be able to complete his journey in less than two years? Is he the only person to take on such feat? Will his feat be included in the 81-list or is he a league of his own?


GPS pins in orange are places Marco visited during his latest trip in the first quarter of 2017. The ones in purple were during his trip in 2015 and 2016.




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One thought on “Going Beyond the 81 Provinces of the Philippines (Marco de Ph)

  1. Thank you for the wonderful article, UJ! I look to more travels with you. Keep on showing the best of ZamboPen! Join me in Elusive Sibuco?

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