TOP 10 THINGS TO DO
The Philippines, being an archipelago, offers countless of destinations to see, adventures to experience and activities to do. The country is blessed with a rich environment— lush forests, tropical islands, white sand beaches, lakes, rivers, mountains— and friendly, artistic and hardworking people who are always happy to welcome visitors and friends. When you come for a visit, be sure to stay for a long time so that you can enjoy the different exciting experiences that the country has in store for you. Here is a list of ten things to do in the Philippines to help you plan and maximize your stay.
Do all ten for a unique and complete travel experience— a guaranteed unforgettable vacation.
There are a lot to see in the Philippines. The country is blessed with a beautiful environment and skilful people whose talented hands created some of the most magnificent man-made structures in the world.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site, Banaue Rice Terraces; The well-preserved Spanish-style architecture in the historic town of Vigan, Ilocos Sur; The Baroque-style Philippine World Heritage site churches: the San Agustin Church in Paoay, Ilocos Norte, the Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion Church in Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur, San Agustin Church in Intramuros, Manila, and the Santo Tomas de Villanueva Church in Miag-ao, Iloilo.
The smallest active volcano in the world Taal Volcano in Batangas; the volcano with the most perfect cone, Mt. Mayon in Legazpi, Albay; the unique land formation that is the Chocolate Hills in Bohol. Marvel at the endemic Philippine fauna: Tamaraw, Tarsier, Phillipine Eagle.
It has numerousbeachesmost with fine powdery white sand and clean, clear and cool blue waters.
Be sure to bask in the warm tropical sun and get the perfect tan that will be the envy of your friends back home. Top Philippine beach locations: Boracay Island, Aklan; El Nido, Palawan; Camiguin Island; Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte; Puerto Galera, Mindoro; Nasugbu and Lian in Batangas; Ternate in Cavite.
The Philippines is Asia's Dive Capital. If you are a diving enthusiast— amateur or professional, or someone who is looking for an underwater experience of a lifetime, then you must go to the Philippines if only for the reason that the country has the highest density of coral species in the world. Philippine seas are some of the most bio-diverse and marine-rich waters in the world and home to a diverse species of aquatic resources. Amateur divers can train and get their licenses at any of the diving training centers located in diving spots Anilao, Puerto Galera and Boracay, and once done with training, they can dive side-by-side with professional divers in the country's other must-see diving spots: the UNESCO World Heritage Site Tubbataha Reef and the location of some of the best wreck diving sites in the world, Coron both in Palawan; Verde Island in Mindoro Oriental; Apo Reef National Park in Mindoro Occidental, the largest atoll-like reef in the Philippines which includes 285 species of fish and 197 species of corals (featured in the SHEDD Aquarium permanent Philippine reef display in Chicago, Illinois, USA) ; the Apo Island Marine Reserve & Fish Sanctuary in Dumaguete, Negros Oriental; Balicasag and Pamilacan Islands in Bohol; and Malapascua and Moalboal/Pescador Islands in Cebu.
The Philippines offers a wide variety of sports adventures. Different locations cater to a specific activities: play a few rounds of golf in the different golf courses around thecountry designed by some of the most famous golf celebrities in the world; Snorkel and interact with the "gentle giants"— the whale sharks— in Donsol, Sorsogon; Surf in Siargao Island, Surigao del Norte, Baler, Aurora, Daet, Camarines Sur and in Catanduanes province; climb the country's highest peak at 9,689 feet- Mt. Apo- in Davao City, Davao, trek Mt. Pinatubo or explore the Callao caves in Tuguegarao, Cagayan province; go white river rafting in Chico River or in Cagayan de Oro River; go kayaking and canoeing at the Bacuit Archipelago and at the St. Paul Subterranean Cave both in Palawan; windsurf in Lake Caliraya or in Taal Lake, kitesurf in Boracay, wakeboard in Pili, Camarines Sur.
There is nothing more relaxing than enjoying the traditional Filipino "healing" massage or touch therapy called Hilot. The soothing touch of this massage relaxes and heals tired muscles and aching joints. Try this and other spa treatments at the Nurture Spa in Tagaytay, Mandala Spa in Boracay, Sanctuario Spa in Manila, Chi Spa Village in Shangri-La Mactan, Cebu, and at The Farm at San Benito in Batangas.
Be ready to put on a few extra pounds as you satisfy your cravings by indulging in a Filipino feast. Dishes to try: Lechon, spit-roast whole pig served with liver sauce; Adobo, pork, chicken or a combination of both, marinated in vinegar, soy sauce and garlic and stewed until tender; Kare-kare, meat and vegetables cooked with peanut sauce served with shrimp paste; Sinigang, pork, or seafood in tamarind soup; or the freshest seafoods— fish, squid, shrimp, lobsters— grilled to perfection. The more adventurous should try Balut or boiled duck eggs containing a partially formed embryo, and Dinuguan, the pork blood stew eaten with steamed rice or Puto, rice cakes. All around the country, there are restaurants offering different cuisines from American to Chinese, from Indian to Greek, from Japanese to French.
Shopping in the Philippines is an experience both in bargain and variety. Most shopping places or Malls in Manila, Makati, Cebu and Davao virtually have everything that you will need— from designer western brands to items specifically designed for the tourist market. Around the country, specifically in city centers, Tiangges or the Filipino version of flea markets abound offering quality items at bargain prices. In Manila shop at the third largest mall in the world Mall of Asia, Robinson Place, Balikbayan Handicrafts, Tutuban Center Mall and at the San Andres Market (for fresh fruits and other produce). In Makati and its surrounding areas, shop at Greenbelt, Glorietta, Landmark Department Store, Greenhills Shopping Center, Megamall, Shangri-La Mall and at Tiendecitas. In Cebu, check out the Ayala Center, the Gaisano Malls, Robinson's Place, SM City, and for native delicacies, fresh produce and fresh and dried seafood, go to the Carbon and Tabo-an Markets. In Davao, shop at Aldevinco Shopping Center (for fabrics, batik, carvings) Victoria Plaza, Gaisano Mall and at the New City Commercial Center department store.
An experience not to be missed in flea market-shopping in the Philippines is the "bargaining" where shoppers can buy items with big
discount, depending on charm and good bargaining skills.
Philippine culture is best experienced in events and activities that highlight what Filipinos are passionate about— faith, love for country, family, beautiful women, and celebrations. Filipinos love to celebrate, and there is no better way of celebrating than by having festivals: Ati-atihan in Kalibo, Aklan, January, the best and biggest in the country, it commemorates the feast of the Sto Nino with a week-long street party. Groups of dancers dressed as the aboriginal Atis, representing different communities from the city participate in the festive weeklong street party that highlights during the feast of the patron saint; Pahiyas in Lucban, Quezon. May 15, the annual harvest festival and feast of San Isidro Labrador. Witness the colourful display of kiping and other thanksgiving offerings hung in the houses that line the street where the procession of the image of the patron saint will pass. Giant papier-mache effigies join the parade to add to the spectacle of a celebration; Masskara Festival in Bacolod City, October, coinciding with the city's charter day celebration, the festival features carnivals, fairs and a mardi gras-style parade by costumed and masked street dancers. There are as many festivals as there are towns in the Philippines and when you attend and enjoy a Filipino celebration, you come closer to understanding the culture of the people.
Other unique Philippine cultural events and activities include the cultural spectacle Santacruzan—a Maytime procession of beautiful Philippine maidens staged as a re-enactment of St. Helen's quest for the Holy Cross; the awesome display of Filipino religiosity in the frenzied Black Nazarene procession during the Quiapo fiesta every January in Manila; the Holy Week rituals in San Fernando, Pampanga— proof of the Filipino's and Philippine culture's deep Catholic roots; and the displays (giant Christmas lanterns), rituals (dawn masses) and traditions (noche buena feasts) that mark the Filipinos' celebration of Christmas.
There is an abundance of places to go to and enjoy a night out in the Philippines. Every major city of the country has a number of nightlife activity hubs with restaurants, cafes, bars, clubs and karaoke bars all promising a good time of fun and entertainment. In the country's financial district Makati, there is the Greenbelt, Glorietta, The Fort, Jupiter St. and J. P. Rizal Street. In the city's capital, Manila, nightlife is diverse. There is something for everybody in Malate, and in the newly revitalized Roxas Boulevard and its Baywalk. Quezon City is a popular destination of locals as the club prices are a little lower than those in Makati. Most clubs are close to each other so common to bar hop. Try the establishments along Timog & Tomas Morato Avenues and Quezon Boulevard, and in Eastwood City in Libis. Outside of Metro Manila, there are a number of popular places to go to. The nightlife of Subic in the province of Zambales, is known all over the world because of its history as a former rest and recreation center of the US Navy. The city is still teeming with nightlife activities as the Subic Free Trade Port is home to a lot of expatriates from other foreign countries as well and it is now a major Tourist hub. Foreign Navies still use the port as a rest and recreation spot every now and then. Check out Subic International Hotel and the Magsaysay Blvd. Angeles City in Pampanga, formerly the home of the US Air force in the Pacific, is also known for its Angeles City nightlife stayed almost the same as a lot of retired US and Australian citizens decided to make Angeles City their second home. Establishments in Balibago are still popular. The central Philippine city of Cebu is a popular destination among tourists because its nightlife is at par if not better than in Metro-Manila. Big development companies have opened up operations in the city as well as major club chain operators have set up their presence. Be sure to go to Ayala Mall and in the different establishments that abound Osmena Blvd. The ultimate island-nightlife location in the Philippines is Boracay Island in the province of Aklan. The island is known for its carefree attitude, and the island is home to a lot of clubs and bars on the beach: Bazzura, Hey Jude, D' Mall, and the Station 2 establishments.
The Philippines is home to a number of world-class artists. Occasionally, the Cultural Center of the Philippines, show performances by the Ballet Philippines, the Philippine Madrigal Singers, and the Bayanihan Dance Troupe. World-renowned artists Lea Salonga and Cecile Licad, from time to time, give performances in big concert halls in Manila. The Center of Arts in San Antonio (CASA) in San Miguel, Zambales features violinist Alfonso "Coke" Bolipata and his Pundaquit talents. Other groups that showcase the Filipino performing talents are Repertory Philippines, the Loboc Children's Choir, and the Amazing Philippines Theatre.
In the Visual Arts, works of world-class Filipino masters Juan Luna, Felix Resurrection Hidalgo and Fabian de la Rosa, National Artists Fernando Amorsolo, Carlos Francisco, Victor Edades, Vicente Manansala, other Philippine painting greats and contemporary visual artists can be viewed at the Philippine National Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Manila, the Ayala Museum and in some galleries and University museums around Metro Manila.
Colleges and universities in the Philippines are home to award-wining performance groups that have been recognized internationally for their artistry and excellence in the performing arts: Dulaang UP (student theatre group), the UP Concert Chorus, UP Singing Ambassadors of the University of the Philippines; Ateneo College Glee Club and the Ateneo Chamber Singers of the Ateneo de Manila University; the UST Chorale and the Salinggawi Dance Troupe of the University of Santo Tomas.
Banaue of Painterly Dreams
Banaue is a place for nature adventures and cultural immersion. Days are for indulging in such activities as strolling, biking, and trekking. Evenings are for campfire chats at a village or warm indoor cosseting at the lodges and inns.
A leading tourism destination in Asia, the Banaue rice terraces start from the base of the Cordilleras and reach up to several thousand feet high. Its length, if stretched from end to end, could encircle half of the globe.
The rice paddies are fed by mountain springs and streams that are channeled into an irrigation canal that runs downhill through the terraces.
In the village of Batad, the terraces take the shape of an amphitheater and can be reached by a 12-kilometer ride from Banaue Hotel and a 2-hour hike through mountain trails.
After trekking through the terraces, cool retreats indeed are the spring-fed stream of Guihob and the magnificent Tappiya Waterfalls which has an enormous basin for swimming.
Shopping takes a different twist in Banaue. While souvenir items are offered by curio stores, the more exciting way to shop, however, is to go on a village visit, watch a family demonstrate their native craft and then haggle for a better price on their product.
Chocolate Hills is a series of 1,268 perfectly symmetrical, haycock-shaped hills that rise some 30 meters above the ground. A National Geologic Monument, these unique, rock formations were cast after million years of evolution.
Spread out in the towns of Carmen, Batuan and Sagbayan, the hills are so-called because they resemble chocolate bonbons when their grass cover turns to brown at the onset of summer. Two of the hills have been developed and provided with facilities, including a viewdeck, a youth hostel and a restaurant.
Other hills with a commanding view of the surrounding islands include Banat-I and Elly in the capital city of Tagbilaran, Himontagon in the town of Loay, Sampoangan in Calape and Ilihan in Jagna.
Barefoot in the Beach
There is an undeniable easy atmosphere in Boracay where walking barefoot than shod is the rule rather than the exception. White Beach is so, soooo fine, it feels like treading on miles of baby powder! No wonder, even swinging discos have the beach for a floor, giving dance a new twist.
There are no hang-ups either in this island. At daytime, tourists having a soothing massage under the shade of a coconut tree beside the shoreline is a common sight. And from dusk to dawn, Boracay turns into one big party place where everyone is welcome to join in…But first, let's toast that sunset cocktail!
Diversions are certainly no problem in this tropical eden with leisure activities calendared throughout the year and amenities offered by some 350 tourist establishments.
The Isle of Your Tropical Dreams
The island-province of Cebu was where the Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan planted the Cross of Christianity in the name of Spain in 1521. But even before Cebu became the Occidental gateway to the Orient, it was already a popular entry point among Asian merchants.
Cebu has since blossomed into a choice tourist destination, with many leisure establishments taking full advantage of its sea-valley-and-mountain location.
Metropolitan Cebu, the country's second biggest metropolis, is the political, economic, educational and cultural center of the Visayas. Hotels, shopping malls, entertainment halls, casinos and golf fairways are ever present in the metro to cater to every tourist's whim.
The rest of Cebu's 166 islands and islets are fringed with sandy beaches and sapphire-clear waters teeming with marine life, perfect for divers.
Land of Plenty
A movable feast in August, the week-long merrymaking highlights the manifold tribal cultures of the region which are vividly expressed in traditional songs, dances, games and crafts. It is also on this occasion when a lively trade fair, capped by a flower-and-fruit float parade, takes place. Street dancing and popular entertainment complete the celebration.
Agriculture-based industries thrive in the Davao region. A major exporter of bananas, citrus, mangosteen and other tropical fruits, it is also the biggest producer of cultured flowers in the country. Its surrounding waters are rich sources for commercial fishing.
The world's largest city in terms of land area, Davao covers all of 244,000 hectares.
The capital of the Philippines - its heart and soul -- is Manila. It sets the rhythm of life in this archipelago and is a pulsating hub that blends the Oriental with the Occidental, the quaint with the modern, the mundane with the extraordinary.
Manila was born out of the ashes of a once flourishing Malay settlement by the banks of the Pasig River. In 1571, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi established the Ever Loyal City of Manila which, until 1898, was the seat of Spanish colonial rule in Asia. He built the city within walls and called it Intramuros.
An anchor tourist destination, Manila is the very core of the 7,000 times more islands that make up the Philippines. It is a center for the performing arts in Asia.
The Last Frontier
For a long time, Palawan's bountiful resources, abundant wildlife and extraordinary natural beauty are known only to the many ethnic communities that thrive in these islands and a few other daring settlers who wanted to live in unpolluted surroundings.
The island-province first attracted foreign attention in the 1970's when it became a United Nations Vietnamese Refugee Center. At this time, a disturbance in Kenya also saw the transport of endangered animals from its savannas to the plains of Calauit Island.
However, it was only a sea accident in 1979 that eventually led to the opening of Palawan into tourism big time.
As the story goes, a tuna line disabled a dive boat's propeller in the middle of the night forcing it to drop anchor in an inlet. The following morning, the divers woke up to an amazing scenery of skyscraping dark cliffs, thick green forest, white-sand beach, sparkling water and, rising above it, a series of magnificently sculpted jade islands. And thus was how El Nido was discovered.
Ecology awareness is at a high level throughout the province. Puerto Princesa prides itself as the cleanest city in the Philippines. To protect its megadiversity, only eco-friendly programs are adhered to by tourist establishments. And there are strict ordinances against dynamite fishing, with only net and line fishing allowed.
Palawan may have opened itself to tourism but it has also taken serious efforts to preserve this last frontier.
Old World City
Immigration and Customs
If you are coming from America, Asia or Europe with a valid passport, and either a return ticket or a ticket to another destination outside the Philippines you may enter without a formal visa and stay for 21 days. If you wish to stay longer you must obtain a Visa Extension either before your trip from a Philippine Consulate or Embassy. Or, once here, you may obtain it from the Bureau of Immigration.
Upon Arriving: Visitors are allowed to bring in duty free personal belongings, two cartons of cigarettes or two tins of pipe tobacco and up to one liter of alcohol. Balikbayans have separate rules and should check with the Embassy or Consulate in their home city.
You may bring in unlimited amount of foreign currency.
Upon Leaving: Any antiques you may have acquired during your stay must be accompanied by a certificate from the National Museum. You may also not take more than PhP5,000.00 (five thousand Philippine pesos) out of the country.
The currency in the Philippines is the Peso (PhP) and the Centavo. 100 centavos = P1. Coin denominations are: 1, 5, 10, and 25 centavos, P1, and P5. Bill denominations are : 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1, 000 pesos.
Foreign currency may be exchanged at your hotel, and in most of the large department stores, banks and authorized money changing shops. Exchanging money anywhere else is illegal and the laws are strictly enforced.
Most large stores, restaurants , hotels and resorts accept major credit cards including American Express , Visas and MasterCard. Traveller' s checks preferably American Express are accepted at hotels and large department stores. Personal checks drawn on foreign banks are generally not accepted.
Excerpt from http://www.asiatravel.com/philinfo.html
Traveling around the Philippines
Manila, Cebu, Davao, Clark, Subic, and Laoag are the international gateways, with the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila as the premier gateway. It is served by more than 30 airlines, which fly to different cities around the world. The Mactan International Airport (MIA) in Cebu handles regular flights from Japan, Singapore, and Australia as well as chartered flights from Hong Kong, the United States, and other major travel capitals. Davao International Airport handles regular flights from Indonesia and Singapore. The Diosdado Macapagal International Airport and Subic Airfield in Central Luzon service both chartered and cargo planes. Laoag International Airport in Ilocos Norte services regular flights from Taiwan and Macau. Website: www.philippineairlines.com
Philippine Airlines (PAL), the national flag carrier and considered "Asia's First Airline," remains the country's biggest airline company. It has the largest number of international flights to the Philippines as well as domestic flights. PAL links Manila to 14 cities in 8 countries, and flies regularly to 41 domestic destinations outside Manila.
Cebu Pacific Air (5J), the low fare leader in the Philippines, is the country's leading domestic airline with the lowest year-round fares, most number of destinations, most number of routes, most number of flights, most number of passengers flown in its domestic network and newest fleet of brand new Airbus A320s, Airbus A319s and ATR 72-100s. It links Manila to 21 domestic destinations and the Philippines to 12 international destinations with its direct flights. It also makes its international and domestic destinations virtually accessible to each other through its extensive connecting flight network. The airline currently operates hubs in Manila, Cebu, Davao and soon, in Clark. Website: www.cebupacificair.com
Other airlines that presently fly the Philippine skies are Air Philippines, South East Asian Airlines, Laoag International Airlines, Zest Air (formerly Asian Spirit Airlines), and Pacific Airways – each serving popular tourist destinations at pocket-easy prices. For a more personal experience, chartered flights are available via small air companies such as Airspan Corporation (helicopters), A. Soriano Aviation, and Aerolift Philippines (small-to-medium-sized planes).
As the islands of the Philippines are separated by different bodies of water, the sea plays an integral part in travel. A range of seafarers are available, from huge cargo ships to small ferry boats; take long trips that last for a day or two with regular ship lines or take shorter ones with ferries. Major cruise liners call on the port of Manila.
WG&A Lines, a partnership between William Lines and the Aboitiz Group, has launched its SuperFerry Program, an affordable but convenient alternative to the usually crowded vessels of other ship lines.
Moving around the country by land is easy with national highways connecting the major islands and an extensive public transportation sytem, which includes the exotic Philippine jeepney. Trains, taxis, buses, jeepneys, and trikes are the main modes of public transportation. The calesa, a more elegant means of traveling in most major cities, is more commonly offered as a "fun ride" in many public parks across the country.
A land railway system operated by the Philippine National Railways, called the Metrotren, is recommended for long distance traveling. It reaches as far south as Carmona and Cavite, or as far north as Meycauayan, Bulacan. Within Metro Manila, the Light Railway Transit (LRT), which stretches from Caloocan to Baclaran, provides a fast alternative from the regular jeepney. LRT 2 traverses five cities in Metro Manila namely Pasig, Marikina, Quezon City, San Juan and Manila) along the major thoroughfares of Marcos Highway, Aurora Boulevard, Ramon Magsaysay Boulevard, Legarda and Recto Avenue. The Metro Railway Transit (MRT) traverses the length of EDSA and connects North Avenue in Quezon City to Taft Avenue in Pasay City, passing through the major arteries of Makati's financial district.
Taxis provide the best means of transportation around the city, with a flag-down fare of PhP20 on the meter. For the steel-hearted, buses also tread the roads. A vast majority of city buses travel via Epifanio delos Santo Avenue (EDSA) while provincial bus lines have put up various terminals all across the country. The best means of short distance travel is the trike: the motorized version is called a tricycle, and the pedal-powered one is called a pedicab. Trike terminals are often found near a "palengke" or marketplace.
The undisputed "King of the Philippine Roads" is the jeepney. Since it first emerged after the Japanese occupation of the Philippines, it has become a fixture in roads all over the country – so much so that it is now considered a symbol of national pride. Jeepneys are adorned with colorful designs that distinguish them from one another, with themes ranging from the serious to the outright silly, but all uniquely Filipino.
WHAT IS A WORLD HERITAGE SITE?
The World Heritage Convention defines types of natural, cultural, or mixed properties that may be inscribed on the World Heritage List. Natural properties are sites of intense beauty that maintain the environmental balance of a region or of the world, or sites that show a unique geological origin that was made from the formation of the earth. Cultural properties are man-made and demonstrate the highest achievements of human thought and creativity. There are also mixed properties, called "cultural landscapes" on the World Heritage List, that combine outstanding natural and cultural values resulting from constant interaction between people and the natural environment.
The World Heritage List includes five Philippines properties: Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park, the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras, the Historic Town of Vigan, the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, and the Baroque Churches of the Philippines – Santo Tomàs de Villanueva in Miag-ao, Iloilo; San Agustin in Paoay, Ilocos Norte; Nuestra Señora dela Asunción in Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur; and San Agustin in Intramuros, Manila. These World Heritage properties relate a chapter of the Filipino story. They confirm the abundance of nature in the country and illustrate how Filipino creativity blossomed into a unique national architectural style. Philippine cultural landscapes in the Cordilleras demonstrate the resourcefulness of man in adapting to nature and establishing a sustainable method of coexistence.
All the properties in the World Heritage List represent milestones in the development of life in the universe. Natural properties record stages in the evolution of the world. Cultural heritage records the progression of man's ideas in terms of the built environment. Cultural landscapes demonstrate how the hand of man can coexist with and enhance its natural surroundings. Properties on the World Heritage List are the shared patrimony of the world.
1. Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park, South Sulu Sea, Palawan
The country's first inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1993 was the Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park in Palawan, a distinction so appropriate for an island nation that traditionally looks towards the sea as a life-giving force, the traditional center of people's lives.
UNESCO recognized the site primarily for its importance to regional diversity, an outstanding distinction for the marine diversity known to exist in the Philippines. The UNESCO World Heritage Committee cited Tubbataha Reef as one of the most outstanding coral reefs in Southeast Asia, noting that in the 33,200 hectares of the Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park lies an atoll reef with a very high density of marine species, a phenomenon unique in the world and a site of irreplaceable universal value.
"Tubbataha" derives from two Samal words meaning "a long reef exposed only at low tide." Tubbataha Reef, the only national marine park in the Philippines, is an underwater site consisting of two coral atolls with a 100-meter perpendicular wall covering an area of 10,000 hectares situated at the center of the Sulu Sea, about 150 kilometers southeast of Puerto Princesa City, and located in Cagayancillo. The Reef harbours a diversity of marine life greater than any other similar area in the world. The underwater abundance of Tubbataha is staggering. Marine biologists believe that its underwater gardens harbour a diversity of marine life that surpasses reefs of the same size in any other part of the world.
2. Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, Palawan
Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park lies in the Saint Paul Mountain Range, 81 kilometers from the center of Puerto Princesa City, but is still within the city boundaries. The Park is a natural wonder. Its geological features are unique and the Subterranean River is said to be among the longest in the world measuring up to 8.2 kilometers.
Puerto Princesa Subterranean River is one of the few in the world that flow out into the sea from an inland source. It has been the focus of much curiosity and scientific investigation. The level of the freshwater river rises and falls with the tide up to a point of 4.3 kilometers.
Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park consists of various landforms. The most impressive are the mountainous limestone plateaus, geologically called karsts, that form the rugged landscape of the Saint Paul Mountain Range with elevations ranging from sea level to a maximum height of 1,028 meters. The topography of the property varies from flat plains to rolling hinterlands and hills to mountain peaks.
The extensive rainforest of the Park is the habitat of diverse endemic and endangered species of flora and fauna. The mouse deer, calamian deer, Palawan bearcat, porcupines, skunks, wild pigs, flying squirrels, rats, bats, and monkeys are among the animals that inhabit the Park. Cave-inhabiting forms of reptiles, birds, and mammals dominate the animals. All of these endemic to Palawan: they exist nowhere else on earth.
3. Ifugao or Banawe Rice Terraces in Ifugao
Among the world heritage sites in the Philippines, the Rice Terraces of the Philippines Cordilleras have such a powerful presence that makes them one of the most outstanding places in the country. Lying high in the Cordillera mountain range, their setting cannot be replicated anywhere in the lowland tropical landscape of the Philippines – or even anywhere in the world, for that matter.
High in the remote areas of the Philippine Cordillera mountain range, scholars believe, slopes have been terraced and planted with rice as far back as 2,000 years. Mountains terraced into paddies that still survive in varying states of conservation are spread over most of the 20,000 square-kilometer land area (7 percent of the total land mass of the Philippine Archipelago) that is in the Northern Luzon provinces of Kalinga-Apayao, Abra, Benguet and Ifugao. The improbable site is found at altitudes varying from 700 to 1,500 meters above sea level, where terraces are sliced into mountain slopes with contours that rise steeply.
Existence in the Cordillera unites man with nature, and the unparalleled view shows how man has shaped the landscape to allow him to grow rice. The sheer majesty of the terraces communicates uniqueness and strength. Besides wind and rustling leaves, there is also the constant sound of water flowing downhill on the canals that irrigate the terraces. And there is nobleness in culture and environment expressed by the timeless tranquillity of the terraces. Most Filipinos regard the terraces as their greatest national symbol.
4. Historic City of Vigan in Ilocos Sur
During the height of the Spanish colonial era in the 18th and 19th centuries, Vigan or Ciudad Fernandina de Vigan was the third most important city after Manila and Cebu. It was the center of Spanish colonial power in northern Luzon. The range of structures along the plazas and streets reveals the story of the town. Large and imposing buildings evoke political or religious power. Grand homes speak of wealth, while others speak of more modest means. The architectural ensemble shows that Vigan was the political, economic, religious, and artistic center of the region. The town is a living testament to the Spanish colonial era, a place that exerts a strong cultural influence to the modern Philippine nation.
More importantly, the architecture of Vigan relates the story of the Filipino, of how his constant exposure to foreign influences endowed him with the ability to adapt foreign ideas and combine them into a style that is uniquely his own. Vigan Survives as a unique representation of the adaptation process that the multi-cultural Filipino is so good at.
Notable Vigan urban spaces and architecture includes its town plaza, Plaza Salcedo; Saint Paul's Cathedral; The Arzopispado, an excellent example of a priest's residence in an urban area; Saint Paul's College; the Provincial Capitol Building; Simbaan a Bassit (Catholic Cemetery Chapel); Calle Crisologo, an impressive row of houses lining each side of a cobbled stone street; Burgos Museum; and the numerous Vigan Houses, undoubtedly Vigan's treasures.
5. Church of San Agustin in Paoay, Ilocos Norte
The San Agustin Church in Paoay began its construction in 1604 and finally completed n 1710. This is one of the most outstanding "earthquake baroque" structure in the Philippines where the primary concern was to design the church for earthquake protection.
The coral stone bell tower, standing at some distance from the church for earthquake protection, was finished in the second half of the 18th century. Philippine bell towers were constructed at a distance from the main church structure to avoid its falling on the church during earthquakes.
The most outstanding feature of the church is the phalanx of buttresses that just out perpendicularly from the sides to strengthen the walls against earthquake damage. It has the most massive buttressing in any church in the Philippines. Fourteen S-shaped buttresses rise in rhythmic cadence from the ground reaching almost to the roof line. A pyramidal finial triumphantly tops each buttress. The visual impact of the San Agustin church in Paoay is unforgettable.
6. Nuestra Señora dela Asunción in Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur
Not following fully the traditional Spanish urban town plan of situating the church as the focus of the central town plaza, the location of the Nuesta Señora De La Asunción church and convent in Sta. Maria, Ilocos Sur standing alone on the crown of a freestanding hill encircled by a stone retaining wall gives it a citadel appearance. Its appearance evokes a Mediterranean hill town, the only example of such in the Philippines.
Evoking a Chinese pagoda, the squat and massive bell tower of stacked octagonal shapes of decreasing diameter is crowned by a small dome. From any angle, the approach to the Santa Maria ensemble is magnificent. A stairway of 85 stone steps rises form the town to the small courtyard at the top of the citadel. On the opposite side of the courtyard, another equally grand stairway descends to a causeway built up over rice fields leading to a circular cemetery.
Built of brick, the church has a monumental façade. The thick side walls are without ornamentation, but have delicately carved side entrances which are bolstered regularly by huge quadrangular buttresses, these are necessary structural reinforcements for earthquake protection. The power and simplicity of its geometric forms, and its location, make this an outstanding example of Peripheral Baroque architecture.
7. San Agustin Church in Intramuros, Manila
The San Agustin church is located in nostalgic Intramuros, Manila. During the 350 years of Spanish rule, Intramuros was the nerve center of the country. Even if Intramuros today is a ghost of what it originally was, the aura of Spain still lingers in its ruins.
The interior of the San Agustin church is superb. Traces of the original wall painting done in the Mexican style can still be seen. The existing trompe l'oeil interior painting was done in the late 19th century that influenced the interior painting of many Philippine churches. The structural design of the church is extraordinary. It is said that the structure is supported by a raft type foundation that permits the entire structure to sway during earthquakes. San Agustin church also boasts of the only examples in the country of a barrel vault, dome, and arched vestibules supporting its choir loft, all made of stone.
A monastery complex was once linked to the church by a series of cloisters, arcades, courtyards and gardens. Today the monastery and church are the repository of what is considered to be the most priceless Philippine collection of religious art, including the earliest dated retablo, wall paintings, pulpit, choir lectern, choir stalls and an important archive of books.
8. Santo Tomas de Villanueva Church in Miag-ao, Iloilo
Built of local yellow-orange sandstone, the large fortress-church was completed in 1797. The church withstood typhoons and earthquakes, but it burned twice: first was during the revolution against Spain in 1898 and the second was during the Philippine-American War a few years later.
The church of Santo Tomàs de Villanueva in Miag-ao is among the best examples in the Philippines of the "fortress baroque" style. The church stands on the highest elevation of the town. The squatness of the church, the massive pair of bell towers and the angled buttresses strengthen its fortress image.
The façade of the church is a Filipino masterpiece. Unknown master carvers incised its entire surface in the high relief. The sumptuous carving on the facade is probably the pinnacle of Filipino naïf where local craftsmen abandon all restraint to reinterpret western decorative styles in the local folk idiom. The church of Santo Tomàs de Villanueva is one of the best examples of the fusion of the western Baroque style embellished with Filipino folk motifs.