September 11, 2012

Travel Tuesday: The Philippines

The Philippine archipelago consists of 7,107 islands with a total land area of 300,000 square kilometers or 115,830.60 square miles (about the same size as Italy). The 11 largest islands contain 94% of the total land area. The largest of these islands is Luzon at about 105,000 km². It is where the capital city of Manila is located. The next largest island is Mindanao at about 94,600 km². The Philippines is approximately 800 km from the Asian mainland and is located between Taiwan and Borneo.
 The Philippine islands are divided into three groups: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. The Luzon islands include Luzon itself, Mindoro, Palawan, Masbate, and other smaller islands. The Visayas is a group of several small islands, the largest of which are: Panay, Bohol, Negros, Cebu, Leyte, and Samar. Mindanao Island includes Mindanao Island itself and the Sulu Archipelago, composed of Tawi-Tawi, Basilan and Sulu. Each island group has a Philippine destination worth visiting. C climate in the Philippines is hot, humid, and tropical. The average yearly temperature is around 26.5° Celsius. The islands of the Philippine archipelago are volcanic in origin and are mountainous. The islands are part of the Pacific Ring of Fire. Mt. Apo (2,954 meters above sea level) in Mindanao is the highest peak, while the second highest peak is Mt. Pulog in Luzon. It rises 2,842 meters above sea level. The Philippines have numerous rivers, volcanoes, streams, narrow coastal plains and beautiful sandy beaches which foreign and local tourist enjoy. The country has a total of 36,289 kilometers of coastline.
 Travel within the Philippines not difficult, if you don't mind riding the sometimes rickety public transportation. There are all kinds of transportation available to tourist and locals: Airplanes and ferries for inter-island transfers, buses & taxis ply in major cities all over the Philippines and the ubiquitous jeepney can be found everywhere. In Metro Manila, modern light rail transit is available on main roads. In tertiary roads & small rural towns the tricycle is the transport of choice.
 The official languages in the Philippines are Filipino and English. Filipino which is based on the Tagalog dialect (the dialect of national capital region), is the national language. English is also widely used and is the medium of instruction in higher education in the Philippines. There are also 76 major local languages and more than 500 different minor dialects throughout the archipelago. 83% of Filipinos are Roman Catholic. The rest are made up of smaller Christian denominations, Moslems and Buddhist.
The City of Manila

 Manila is the capital of the Philippines and is a hodgepodge of old and new buildings, despite pockets of poverty, Manila is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world and its metropolitan area is the country's economic, cultural, educational, and industrial center.
Manila is almost synonymous to Metro Manila, which actually comprises 17 cities and municipalities with over 10 million residents. It is considered one of the mega-metropolis of the world. The traffic, heat and pedestrians are chaotic, but there are little secrets of the city and the people are very friendly. Shopping in Manila is a way of life. Almost everywhere you go are stores, shops, boutiques from the small corner store to the giant malls that you can find almost everywhere you go in Metro Manila. The walled city of Intramuros is a must see. Within its walls are the centuries old Manila Cathedral and San Agustin Church & Museum. Also inside its walls is Fort Santiago, a Spanish fortress and garrison -now a park. Located at the mouth of Pasig River, Intramuros was built to defend Manila from invaders. Today, inside the walled city are houses from the Spanish times that have survived. Some have been converted into cozy restaurants, museums, dorms, and shops. Manila Ocean Park, located at the back of Quirino Grand Stand in Rizal Park, Manila. It is a multi-million, state-of-the-art oceanarium complex with an open water marine habitat, restaurants, function rooms and marine research facilities. Malacañang Palace - The official residence of the president of Philippines. It also houses some government offices, the Malacañang Museum and the Presidential Museum. The palace is an 18th century villa along the Pasig River located in the center of Manila. It was purchased by the Spanish government in 1825 and has been renovated and expanded through the decades. Malacanang Palace was first used as the Spanish Governor-General's summer residence. In 1937 became the official residence of the Philippine President. Manuel L. Quezon was the first Filipino chief executive to live in Malacañang Palace. Manila's nightlife is vibrant and filled with bars, resteraunts, discos, karaoke lounges, piano bars, cafes and casinos.

The Baguio City

 Baguio City is the summer capital of the Philippines. Located in northern Luzon, Baguio City was established by the Americans in 1909, it is sited about 1,500 meters above sea level, high in the Cordillera mountain range giving the city an almost temperate climate.
Baguio is a favorite vacation destination of Filipinos & foreign tourist especially during summer because of its year-round cool climate. It is also known as an educational center with its 4 universities and several colleges and institutes in Baguio City’s 49 square kilometer area. The centerpiece of Baguio City is the Burnham Park which features a rectangular lagoon and open fields. The eastern part of the city is dominated by high-class residential areas surrounding the Camp John Hay, a former American military recreation zone now turned into a tourist residential-commercial area.

The Banaue Rice Terraces

 Banaue rice terraces have been described as the eighth wonder of the world. Carved out of the hillside by Ifugao tribe’s people 2000 to 3000 years ago without the aid of machinery to provide level steps where the natives plant rice. And they are still in use today. Banaue rice terraces stretch like stepping stones to the sky - some reaching an altitude of 1500m (4920ft). It is considered as one of mankind's greatest engineering feat. If the terraces were laid end to end, they would stretch half way around the world. One of the major appeal of Banaue rice terraces to the local and international tourist are the many hiking trails in the area. There are many young locals, mostly college students who serve as guides. But with or without a guide, you will find the friendliness and warmth of the Ifugao people endearing. The Banaue Rice Terraces are now showing signs of erosion.

Boracay Island

 The beaches of the Boracay Island are located off the north-western tip of Panay Island, Philippines. The island of Boracay is 7.5 kilometers long and 2 kilometers wide. The popular powdery White Sand Beach takes up most of the western side of the island. Boracay Island has electricity and piped water and has grown into an international tourist hub with 20 dive sites, scores of bars and restaurants, native tattoo parlors, banks, a fire department, and a police station. There is also a Tourist Center that also serves as a souvenir shop and an airline reservation center. You can sail Boracay Island on slender hulled boats called Paraw. Passengers occasionally seat on a webbing area between the outrigger supports. The Paraw is exceptionally fast off the wind, but difficult to maneuver, requiring the foresail to be backed. They can be hired for trips round the island. There are three classes of Paraw with size limits on each. Races are regularly staged each year with the winning boat getting a considerable prize. Boracay is filled with clubs and bars spanning the whole stretch of the beach. There are also Bat Caves to explore on the northeast coast of Yapak and at the southern end of Bulabug Beach, there is Sunken Forest.

Cebu City

 About an hour’s flight away from Manila is Cebu. It is an island in central Philippines with Cebu City as its capital. The island is long and thin with a few smaller islands off-shore. The airport is located on the flat island of Mactan which is separated from the main island by the narrow Mactan Channel. Cebu City is one of the main centers of commerce, trade and industry in the Visayas and Mindanao region of the country. Because of this and other important aspects that Cebu City was given the moniker Queen City of the South. For local and foreign tourist, there are many places of interest in Cebu. One is “Magellan's Cross” which was named after Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese explorer who came to Cebu in the early 1500s. Pieces of the original cross are believed to be encased in the present cross. The monument is just across the street from the Sto. Niño Basilica in downtown Cebu City. It used to be the only Catholic Basilica in East Asia. The basilica houses the famous “Santo Niño” the patron saint of the Cebuanos. Another place to see is the Spanish “Fort San Pedro” which is where the Lapu-lapu shrine is (Punta Engaño) it is also where the Battle of Mactan took place. There is a small park on top of a mountain where you can see the entire city.


Corregidor is a tadpole shaped island on the mouth of Manila Bay. When the Philippines were yet a colony of Spain, Corregidor served as a fortress; an early warning outpost to warn Manila of any hostile ships; a customs outpost; and a correctional (prison). Because of the corrective effect of hard labor on prisoners, the island was named Corregidor, from the Spanish word "corregir" meaning the corrector. Corregidor is also known as "the rock" because of its rocky landscape and heavy fortifications. Corregidor Island is approximately 4 kilometers long, 1.5 kilometers at its widest and a total area of approximately 3 square miles. At the tip of the tail, 2 kilometers south, lies Caballo Island. Both Corregidor and Caballo islands are part of the province of Cavite.

Corregidor History

In 1898, after almost 400 years of colonization, the Philippines were ceded by Spain to the United States after payment of US$20 million. Soon after, the Americans used Corregidor as an army post and named the it, Fort Mills in honor of Brig. Gen. Samuel M. Mills. The Americans built bomb-shelters, concrete emplacements, a hospital and trails around the island. In 1922, construction of the Malinta Tunnel started to protect military installations and wares in case of war. In addition, 56 Coastal guns, 13 anti-aircraft artillery batteries and 10 searchlights were installed. In 1941, hours after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, the Japanese invaded the Philippines. Corregidor served as the last resistance point of the retreating Filipino and American forces fighting the Japanese. Gen. Douglas MacArthur used Corregidor Island as a base for the Allied forces from 1941 to 1942. Corregidor also served as the temporary shelter for the government of President Manuel L. Quezon and his family for two months (December 24, 1941 to February 19, 1942) prior to the eventual exile of the Philippine Commonwealth government to the United States. After the fall of Bataan to on April 9, 1942 to the Japanese, Corregidor surrendered after holding out for 27 days.

Corregidor Today

Today, Corregidor is a historical site and a tourist destination. The island is divided into sections; the "head" is called the "Topside". This is the main part of Corregidor where the headquarters, barracks, war memorial, lighthouse, Eternal Flame, parade grounds, golf course and all the major emplacements are located here. Then there is the "Middleside", where the campsite, aviary, Bird Park and some ruins are located. And the tail end of Corregidor Island is called the "Bottomside". The hotel, administrative building, Gen. MacArthur Park, Gen. Wainwright Park and San Jose Chapel can be found here. Many of the war ruined buildings have never been reconstructed, and instead were left as is, so as to serve as a memorial to the Filipino & American soldiers who died here in World War II.

Davao City

 Davao is a region in south eastern Mindanao, Philippines that boast of its natural beauty and resources. Davao is composed of four provinces namely: Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Davao Oriental, Compostela Valley and the City of Davao. Collectively, they are designated as Region XI of the Philippines. Davao is a major producer of gold, and its mining resources include silica, silver, copper and elemental sulfur. It is where the highest peak (10,311 feet) in the Philippines is located – Mt. Apo, where only the brave dare climb. Davao City is the most important city in Mindanao and the largest city in Asia in terms of land area - occupying more than 244,000 hectares. Its population according to the 2000 Census is 1,147,116. It's international airport and seaport is one of the busiest cargo hubs in the southern Philippines. Davao City is also one of several cities in the Philippines that are independent of any province. The city is also the regional center for the Davao Region.  Some other places to see in the Davao region are:
 Samal Island – unspoiled and pristine, the island prides itself for its white sand beaches with vacation facilities for different kinds of water sports.
 Pearl Farm Beach Resort is the most famous tourist destination in Davao. The Pearl Farm is located on Samal Island just a short boat ride from Davao City. The 11-hectare resort was once a real pearl farm that cultivated oysters imported from the Sulu Sea, and produces some of the best pearls in the country. Now the white sand beach resort is a top tourist attraction in Davao with cottages inspired by the Isamal native design.
 Philippine Eagle National Center, where the endangered Philippine eagle is bred in captivity. The Center provides shelter to some 19 Philippine eagles as well as other birds, animals. Tourist interested in local handicrafts will find artwork and various handmade products made by indigenous ethnic tribes of Davao namely the Bagobos, the Atas, the Mansakas, the Mandayas, the Kalagans, the Mangguangans and the Tagakaolos. Their crafts can be found in local stores and museums in the city. One can get to Davao City from Manila by land (by bus via the Pan-Philippine highway), by sea (daily ferry boats) or Air.

Palawan Island

Palawan is the most well preserved major island group in the Philippines. It is also the largest province in the Philippines in terms of land area. The rain forest, caves, coral reefs, mangroves, beaches and clear blue waters are its best assets. One has to go around the islands of Palawan to see how its people and the local government’s conservation efforts have borne fruit. With almost 2,000 kilometers of coastline, Palawan is known as having one of the most beautiful seascapes in the world. Sprawled beneath the seas are nearly 11,000 square kilometers of coral reefs. Palawan was proclaimed as a fish and wildlife sanctuary in 1967 and to this day, this group of islands is probably the most protected province in the whole Philippines. The Calauit Wildlife Sanctuary in the northern Calamianes islands is home to exotic and endemic species of animals that roam freely in its verdant hills and plains. Palawan is the home of Palawan Monkeys, Palawan Parrots, Palawan Bear cats, Palawan Peacock, Mongoose, Scaly Ant Eater, Porcupine, and mouse deer. A must see is the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park (also known as Sabang’s St. Paul Subterranean National Park). It is a wonder to behold; carved by nature for millions of years; the length of cave and river network is unknown up to this day. The cavern stretches away in an almost perfect rectangle with walls and ceiling decorated with natural carvings in many colors. Stalactite and stalagmites seem like they have been intentionally crafted to awe the visitors. Further inside, one reaches a grand chamber, decorated with multi faceted colored stones. 

Pangasinan's Hundred Islands

 Pangasinan is a province 250 kilometers north of Manila. The province is bordered by the provinces of Zambales and Tarlac on the south, Nueva Vizcaya and Nueva Ecija to the east, La Union on the north and the Lingayen Gulf to the west. The name Pangasinan was derived from the word "asin" or salt due to Pangasinan's vast salt making industry. The province is also a major producer of mangoes, rice, milkfish and bamboo handicrafts. Today, Pangasinan is more known for its most popular tourist attraction which is the Hundred Islands National Park. A cluster of more than a hundred islands off the town of Alaminos on the Lingayen Gulf. Of which, the biggest island is named Quezon. Most of the islands are small and uninhabited and are only occasionally visited during the day by local and foreign tourist. Most of the bigger islands have beaches where visitors can spend the day or camp out for a picnic. However, only a few of these islands have facilities.

Puerto Galera Beach

 About 4 to 5 hours away from Manila is Puerto Galera. It is a string of beaches located on the northwest side Mindoro Island. Composed of Coco Beach, White Beach, Sabang Beach, Big & Small Lalaguna & Tamaraw Beach.  Tamaraw Falls is also located in Puerto Galera, and it is  just take a jeepney ride towards San Teodoro town, and just meters from the road.

Bohol Islands: Chocolate Hills

Chocolate Hills is the most famous tourist attraction in Bohol. This popular tourist spot is currently ranked number 6 in the list of New Seven Wonders of the world. Chocolate Hills consist of around 1,268 perfectly cone-shaped haycock hills with heights ranging from 40 to 120 meters. The Chocolate Hills is a wonder of nature The Hills are considered as a Philippine National Geological Monument. During the summer, the dome-shaped, grass-covered limestone hills dry up and turn brown transforming the areas into rows and rows of chocolate “kisses,” hence the name. There is no natural formation like these in the world. From a distance, they look like half a ball grown out of the ground. The molehill-shaped and almost uniformly sized hills dot the landscape with green and brown.

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