Manila is the capital city of the Philippines. Aside from being a melting pot of various races and cultures, Manila is home to various attractions that make it worth visiting – either as your primary destination or as your gateway to the other islands of the country.
One of the most famous destinations in Manila is Rizal Park, also called Luneta, located at the northern end of Roxas Boulevard. It is here where the country’s national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal, was executed. A monument now stands in the center of the park, which also serves as the point of origin, or kilometer zero, for all other cities in the Philippines.
Intramuros is a district surrounded by a three-mile stone wall. (Intramuros literally means “within the walls.”) Stepping into this district is like stepping back in time, as many of the buildings are preserved in their original Spanish style from the 18th century, and horse carriages are available to transport travelers around the area.
Nearby is Manila Bay, considered one of the finest harbors in the Far East. The breathtaking sunset is always something to behold, no matter how many times you’ve seen it.
Subic is another popular vacation destination in the country, for locals and foreigners alike.
Formerly a U.S. naval base, Subic has been converted into a busy vacation headquarters. At Zoobic Safari, you can walk with wild animals as the park’s caretakers tell you all you need to know about the animals you see. At Ocean Adventure, you can literally swim with the dolphins, as well as be amazed at the aquatic life that are protected by the park. At Tree Top Adventure, you can fly through the trees, through various zip lines and cables, or leisurely glide on top of them in caravans and roped benches. At El Kabayo Equestrian Center, share your time with horses as they prance or gallop about in their play area. You could either ride them or simply walk beside them.
Bohol is an island in the Visayas region of the Philippines. It is home to the world-famous Chocolate Hills, a collection of thousands of small hills (1,268, to be exact) that are all roughly between 30 to 50 meters in height.
At first look, it is hard to believe that these hills are not man-made – their uniformity in shape and size is a true natural wonder. They are all covered in grass which, at the end of the dry season, turns into a deep shade of chocolate brown, from which they got their name.
The Chocolate Hills isn’t the only tourist attraction that Bohol can offer. You may also opt to visit the Loboc River, a river that cuts through the whole Bohol province. The riverbanks are filled with lush greeneries and placid sceneries. Tourists can take cruises in riverboats complete with hearty buffets and local entertainment to take in the beauty of the river.
This province is also a spelunker’s paradise, with around 1,400 caves that you can explore.
Palawan is home to some of the most exotic flora and fauna that can be found in the Philippines. In this province, we find the El Nido Marine Reserve, which is a nesting site of hawksbill turtles; the Malampaya Sound Land and Seascape Protected Area, habitat of the bottle-nosed and Irrawaddy dolphins; and Ursula Island, a migratory and wintering ground for seabirds and shorebirds.
It is the jump off point to Tubbataha Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that holds 10,000 hectares of atoll reef densely populated with a wide variety of marine species.
It is also the site of the Puerto Princesa Underground River – the world’s longest navigable subterranean river, and a finalist in the New 7 Wonders of Nature.
The Underground River is five miles of natural beauty that is a truly unique experience for those who choose to take a boat ride through its length. It is not a mere body of water inside a cave, as the river exposes you to breathtaking stalactite and stalagmite structures and wondrous cave formations. The river courses through these caves before pouring out into the South China Sea.
The mouth of the river, on the other hand, is home to a multitude of wildlife species. Ancient trees grow right up to the water’s edge, serving as a home to a variety of monkeys, lizards, and other animals.
Mt. Pinatubo is located in Luzon, spanning the boundaries of Zambales, Tarlac, and Pampanga. Its eruption in 1991, where it released 10 cubic kilometers (2.5 cubic miles) of material into the atmosphere, is considered as one of the worst volcanic disasters in recent times.
Today, however, Mt. Pinatubo has been transformed into a tourist destination. You can use 4×4’s to travel to the volcano’s base, and then hike by foot to its peak.
The physical demand of the hike might be too much for some, but for those who have the stamina and good health to make the climb, the immensely serene view of the deep-blue lake in the volcano’s once-fiery caldera makes the hike well worth it.
Cebu is one of the major islands at the center of the Visayas; Cebu City is known as the Queen City of the South. The island of Cebu is known for its food and festivities, as its people are always finding reasons for celebration. Because of the sheer number of festivals in Cebu, it has been dubbed as the Island of Festivals.
Cebu has a very long coast line, which translates into a lot of beach spots where you can relax away from the hustle and bustle of the city. For the more adventurous, you can visit one of the multiple diving sites all over the island in Santander, Sumilon Island, Moalboal and Malapascua, to name just a few.
You can also visit Magellan’s Cross, a Christian cross planted in Cebu City by Ferdinand Magellan upon his arrival in Cebu in 1521. The cross is one of the most recognizable landmarks of Cebu, both for its historical and religious significance to the country.
Banaue Rice Terraces
The Rice Terraces of Banaue can be found in the Cordilleras region, and for the longest time have been described as the eighth wonder of the world – and for good reason: these stair-like structures handcarved into the face of several mountains are considered one of the greatest engineering feats of mankind.
The Banaue Rice Terraces were created between 2000 to 3000 years ago, when Ifugao tribes people carved out these level steps for them to be able to plant rice on the sides of the mountain – all without the use of modern machinery. These rice terraces are still in use today by modern Ifugaos.
The terraces stretch up into the sky, with some of them reaching heights of 1500m (4920ft). If all the terraces were laid out side by side, their total length would reach halfway around the world.
Boracay is arguably the best-known tourist destination in the country. Blessed with miles upon miles of powdery white sand beaches set upon clear, cool waters of the sea, Boracay is a popular venue for various beach activities, which include beach sports and night parties along the beach.
The locals are very supportive of Boracay tourism. They are very friendly to visitors and take extra efforts to make sure that their guests are all contented and happy with their Boracay trip. Resorts and beach houses are situated along the coast line, so tourists can be at the beach as soon as they step out the front door.
Cagayan De Oro
Cagayan De Oro is best known for the Cagayan De Oro River, a river that cuts through the province, providing those who traverse it with an unobstructed view of the untouched vegetation and rocky banks surrounding the river. You would feel a sense of calmness as you travel along – until you reach the rapids.
Adrenaline junkies travel to Cagayan De Oro for their fill of white water rafting, which you can do in the rapids of Cagayan De Oro River. The 10 to 15 minute intervals between the rapid sections of the river translate to action that would keep your senses at their heights all throughout the ride.
For those who would admit needing assistance in conquering the white waters, there are guides who can instruct you on proper technique and safety measures, and if you wish, they can also join you on the raft.
For those who would do anything at least once, white water rafting at Cagayan De Oro should definitely be on your list.
Corregidor Island is a small island that guards the mouth of Manila Bay. Now a shell of its former self, this island was once the site of fierce battles between the Allied Forces of the Filipinos and Americans against the Japanese Imperial Army.
The island was named from the Spanish word corregir, which means “to correct,” as ships entering Manila Bay had to pass by Corregidor first to be checked. Another story claims that the island was also used as a penitentiary, earning it the nickname “The Rock,” reminiscent of Alcatraz.
Corregidor is a place for historical tourism. It was a key bastion of the Allied Forces. Many Filipino and American soldiers died here during the Second World War. Littered around the island are ruins and artifacts from the war times, which include the headquarters, barracks, guns, and cannons.
Corregidor serves as a painful reminder of the destructive effects of war – something that the current world should always find ways to avert.
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