Things to Do in Philippines
Arguably the most famous tourist attraction in all of Bohol, the Chocolate Hills are featured on the provincial flag and draw thousands of travelers to their unique and breathtaking wonder each year. An estimated 1,300 individual hills cover a span of some 50 square kilometers in what is, without a doubt, one of the most stunning natural landscapes in the nation. These rolling green wonders change to brown in drier months, and appear like chocolate kisses, giving them their namesake. Several local legends seek to explain the creation of this geological formation, including stories of feuding giants and star-crossed lovers. But experts say these hills were formed by coral deposits and underwater reefs that shifted with erosion and ancient seismic activity, creating one of the Philippines most incredible natural landscapes.
One of the most important historical sites in Manila, Fort Santiago was built by the Spanish conquistador Miguel López de Legazpi as a defensive fortress designed to protect the newly formed city of Manila. It is a key feature of the famous Walled City of Manila, which is referred to as Intramuros.
José Rizal, considered a national hero in the Philippines, was imprisoned at Fort Santiago before his execution in 1896, as were countless others. It played a role in the city’s penal and defense system all the way up to World War II, and has been occupied by: the Spanish, free Filipinos, the US (the Stars and Stripes were raised there in 1898), and the Japanese Imperial Army.
Today, this beautiful, 16th century structure is home to a shrine dedicated to Rizal, which includes an eerie set of footprints painted onto the street outlining the great man’s final steps as he was led to his death.
More Things to Do in Philippines
The historic heart of Manila, Intramuros (literally meaning "within the walls") is the oldest district in the capital city. The three-mile-long stone wall completely surrounds the district (with the exception of a small stretch near the River Pasig) and despite the fact that the district was nearly entirely obliterated by US bombers, it remains for visitors a rich cultural experience.
Historical attractions within Intramuros include Fort Santiago, Postigo del Palacio, Baluarte de San Diego, Puerta de Isabel II, Plaza de Roma, San Agustin Church, and Ayuntamiento. The church, which was the sole structure left unmarred by the bombers, has been declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site There are also multiple museums and other points of cultural interest, many ruins, and a few tasty eateries. Intramuros is also a great locus for buying souvenirs and local wares. There are also a few choices for overnight stays.
Cebu's Basilica del Santo Niño (Basilica of Santo Nino, Basilica Minore de Sto Nino) was literally born from fire. In 1565, the church was built on the site where one of conquistador Legazpi's men supposedly found a miraculous statue of Jesus in the burning ruins of a hostile native village. The statue -- considered the oldest religious artifact in the country -- was completely unharmed. The building still houses the statue, even after burning down three times since its initial construction.
The basilica you see today dates back to 1737, and you can see the miraculous "Santo Niño," or Holy Child, within the aptly named Santo Niño Chapel inside the basilica. Each year, the Basilica del Santo Niño celebrates Cebu's largest annual event, the Cebuano festival of Sinulog, centered on this small Flemish statue of Jesus. The festival features a street parade with performances by brightly costumed dancers from all over the Philippines.
Located in the historic Intramuros district of Manila (the oldest district and historic core of Manila, otherwise known as the "Walled City"), the Church of San Agustin was designated an UNESCO World Heritage Site as an example of the Baroque architecture that was specific to the Philippines. A Roman Catholic Church, it was constructed by the Spanish in the sixteenth century, but was not consecrated until 1607. Its beautiful architecture is worth the visit all by itself, though it also houses the tombs of several historical figures, including several conquistadors, statesmen and artists.
The accompanying San Agustin Museum is housed in the adjacent San Agustin Monastery, and exhibits art and artifacts from the Philippines, Spain, Mexico and other cultural centers. The original Augustinians arrived in the Philippines in 1565 just a few decades after Magellan explored the islands, meaning that the aforementioned museum is no slouch.
Hinagdanan Cave can be found on Panglao Island in the Philippines’ Bohol Province. Made from limestone, Hinagdanan Cave is naturally lit by sunlight filtering in through holes in its rocky ceiling, which in turn creates some interesting lighting effects. Concrete steps lead down into the cave from the entrance. The stalactites and stalagmites here are particularly impressive, protruding from both the ground and the ceiling, and surrounding an underground lagoon, which is warm enough to swim in (although costs extra). The cave is also a place for nesting swallows, which sweep into the cave and sleep in the tiny holes in the ceiling. Hinagdanan Cave has become a popular attraction since its accidental discovery by the land’s owner some years ago, and there is now a firm holding of souvenir shops and stalls that need to be navigated before visitors can reach the cave’s entrance.
In the middle of the Philippines’ third-largest lake lies Taal Volcano, one of the most active volcanoes in the country. Sitting on the Pacific Ring of Fire, Taal has had 33 eruptions in its history; even the lake it sits on was created by volcanic eruptions more than 500,000 years ago. To get to the volcano, head to the little town of Talisay 2.5 miles (4 km) southeast of Tagaytay, where you can catch a boat. The 30-minute ride across sulfuric Taal Lake will bring you to the shores of Volcano Island from where you can hike or ride a horse to the top of Taal Volcano. Horse rides are popular because of the heat, but if you’d rather hike, there are many routes around the volcano, the most popular being the Spanish Trail, which goes to the very top. From here, enjoy views from the rim of Main Crater Lake to Vulcan Point, the world’s largest island that’s in a lake on an island in a lake on an island. Yes, you read that right!
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