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Things to Do in Philippines

An enchanting archipelago of more than 7,000 islands, the Philippines serves up mist-shrouded mountains, white-sand beaches, and jewel-toned water in Southeast Asia. Often lesser-known than its Indonesian, Malaysian, and Thai neighbors, the Philippines attracts travelers looking to stray from the beaten path. Both cities and less populated areas beckon: Get a healthy dose of colonial history and metropolitan chaos on a tour of Manila; hike amid staggering natural scenery on guided trips to the Taal volcano and Tagaytay Ridge; marvel at Bohol’s Chocolate Hills, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; or escape from the madness of modern life in Palawan, where Coron Island and Kayangan Lake provide a serene retreat on an ecotour. The caves of Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park provide ample wildlife watching opportunities; while Cebu City, the thriving port capital of the Cebu province, serves as an excellent jumping-off point for Moalboal, where backpackers flock to dive, drink, and dine. From Manila, tours of Fort Santiago (built by a Spanish conquistador) and Corregidor Island (long fortified against attack) reveal the Philippines’ rich history. From Oslob, strong swimmers can snorkel alongside whale sharks in crystal-clear waters. And from Malay, sun-worshippers can spend the day hopping between the islets surrounding Boracay island, the epitome of a coastal paradise.
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Magellan's Cross
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23 Tours and Activities
In April 1521, Catholic explorer Ferdinand Magellan arrived on the shores of Cebu and ordered a wooden cross planted there. According to local legend, the very same cross still resides in Cebu today, housed within an eight-sided stone chapel built over 300 years later near Cebu City Hall. A large mural on the ceiling of the building depicts Magellan in the act of planting the cross. You'll see a similar painting at Fort San Pedro.
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Fort San Pedro
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The first Spanish settlements in the Philippines were in Cebu City, called the Queen City of the South. After Magellan first landed in Cebu, the Spanish under orders from Miguel Lopez de Legazpi erected Fort San Pedro on what is now Cebu's pier. The first, smallest and oldest fort in the Philippines was originally built as an army garrison to defend against Muslim pirates.
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Cebu Heritage Monument
20 Tours and Activities
Conceptualized by local award-winning sculptor Eduardo Castillo and unveiled in 2000, Cebu Heritage Monument is a brass, bronze, and steel monolith that showcases the country’s history in giant form. Telling a story of colonization and occupation, visit the monument to learn about the Philippines’ centuries-long struggle for freedom.
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Chocolate Hills
42 Tours and Activities

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.

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Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park
44 Tours and Activities
A new Seven Wonders of Nature, the UNESCO World Heritage–listed Puerto Princesa Underground River flows through a limestone cave system before spilling into the South China Sea. A paddle through this eerie ecosystem, filled with otherworldly cave formations and chattering bats, is one of the Philippines’ most unforgettable experiences.
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Fort Santiago
31 Tours and Activities

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.

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More Things to Do in Philippines

Intramuros

Intramuros

24 Tours and Activities

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.

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Santo Niño Basilica (Basílica del Santo Niño)

Santo Niño Basilica (Basílica del Santo Niño)

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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.

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Villa Escudero Plantations

Villa Escudero Plantations

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13 Tours and Activities
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San Agustin Church and Museum

San Agustin Church and Museum

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26 Tours and Activities

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.

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Baclayon Church

Baclayon Church

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Casa Manila

Casa Manila

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Step back in time and see how upper-class Filipinos lived during the colonial era at Casa Manila, a beautifully reconstructed traditional Spanish colonial home within the walls of Intramuros, in the heart of Manila. Casa Manila is filled with period furniture, furnishings, decorative objects, and artwork from the colonial era.
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Mactan Island

Mactan Island

6 Tours and Activities
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Mt Pinatubo Crater

Mt Pinatubo Crater

6 Tours and Activities
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Small Lagoon

Small Lagoon

4 Tours and Activities
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Hinagdanan Cave

Hinagdanan Cave

9 Tours and Activities

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.

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Blood Compact Monument

Blood Compact Monument

23 Tours and Activities
A bronze statue on a hilltop fronting the sea commemorates The Sandugo, a traditional tribal trust ceremony shared by regional chief Datu Skiatuna and Captain General Miguel López de Legazpi of Spain shortly after his arrival in Bohol in 1565. The symbolic gesture formed the foundation for lasting peace between the Spaniards and the Island residents.
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Taal Volcano

Taal Volcano

9 Tours and Activities

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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National Museum of the Philippines

National Museum of the Philippines

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Established in 1901, the National Museum of the Philippines is a vast complex of museums and a planetarium located next to Rizal Park. Immerse yourself in the artistic, historical, and cultural heritage of the Philippines through the museum’s expansive collections covering fine art, ethnography, anthropology, archaeology, and natural history.
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Pagsanjan Falls

Pagsanjan Falls

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