The Philippines is home to lovely beaches and picturesque mountain vistas but the city life is another attraction the travellers can enjoy. The cities of the Philippines offer fun and unique activities that can be toured in a single day, with a cosmopolitan vibe that is complemented perfectly by the warmth of the Filipino hospitality.
As the world prepares to open up, The Philippines Department of Tourism is readying its urban destinations for a fun city tour that highlights interesting destinations to showcase modern Filipino culture that has historical influences. Aside from preparing new travel products through initiatives like food mapping, it is developing “green corridors.” These will link destinations through tourism clusters that will offer the best of the regions while maintaining biodiversity and improving environmental quality, protecting and promoting heritage and culture, and supporting the economic activities of the communities. Infrastructure gateways such as road linkages and direct flights to tourist destinations such as Cebu, Davao, Bohol, Puerto Princesa, and the new world-class Clark International Airport have also been readied for the reopening of borders.
With more activities and more access to adventures in the different cities in the country, there are definitely more reasons to visit the Philippines. Here are some cities to visit for your next urban explorations.
The capital city of the Philippines is alive with sights and sounds of urban life at its busiest. It is also a contrast of the old and the new, with a mix of skyscrapers and heritage houses, and cars share the road with colourful jeepneys and horse-drawn calesas.
One tourist stop should be the Walled City of Intramuros, built by the Spanish colonizers 500 years ago. Its stone ramparts are still intact, along with the other defences such as its moats and cannons that protected the fort from both natural disasters and invaders. Visit the Casa Manila Museum to get a feel of life during the Spanish era and take a walking tour to the centuries-old churches Manila Cathedral and San Agustin Church to appreciate their architecture. Fort Santiago holds historic significance as the prison where the Philippine National Hero Dr. Jose Rizal was held before his execution in Bagumbayan.
Other structures to check out nearby are the Manila Central Post Office, a neoclassical building that has been declared as an Important Cultural Property by the National Museum, the Cultural Center of the Philippines which is home to world-class performances by Filipino artists. Immerse yourself in art at the National Museum of the Philippines that houses the country’s largest and perhaps most iconic painting, the Spoliarium by Juan Luna, the National Museum of Natural History that showcases Philippine flora and fauna, and the National Museum of Anthropology which houses artifacts from the ancient Filipino cultures.
To catch these sights from a different point of view, travelers can also take a boat ride along the rehabilitated Pasig River that takes its passengers through 12 stations with photo opportunities of the different bridges and roads along the way. For more water fun, a cruise on the Manila Bay to catch its beautiful sunset reflecting off the water should be on the itinerary.
Souvenir shopping is fun in Manila, with several must-visit sites for handcrafted and unique items. The Greenhills Shopping Center in San Juan is known for its stalls that sell a sundry of South Sea Pearl jewelry. For other native items, one can shop around at the Balikbayan Handicraft Center and Go Lokal Store in Makati City for textiles, food items, and other products made by artisans in the provinces and those looking for Filipino-style home furnishings can browse through the stalls of Tiendesitas in Pasig City.
Up North, Ilocandia is vibrant with local color and culture. Amid the modern developments of the city are agricultural and historical sites and natural attractions that will awaken any traveler’s spirit of adventure. The largest dragonfruit farm in Burgos Ilocos Norte is an agri-tourist attraction that showcases how farming is a viable a livelihood source in the province.
While the term Bahay na Bato or house made of stone is used in many places of the Philippines to denote the homes of the upper class during the Spanish times. The Bahay na Bato in the Ilocos region has a distinct architectural style, using bricks up to the second levels of the house. One such example is the Juan Luna Shrine in Badoc, the ancestral home of the Spoliarium painter and his brother, Antonio who is known for his exploits during the Philippine- American War.
For attractions that bring travellers closer to nature, there’s the Kapurpurawan Rock Formation that juts out magnificently against the sky with limestone that was carved through time by wind and waves. This wind is harnessed by the turbines at the Bangui Wind Farm, where a line of windmills pose an impressive sight as well as supply power to the province. The Paoay Sand Dunes are perfect for those looking for an adrenaline rush, with activities such as sandboarding and thrilling 4×4 rides.
Another impressive site is the Poro Point Lighthouse in La Union, the original structure, no longer in use, was lit by a kerosene lamp. A modern lighthouse that uses solar energy now stands guard near a cliff that overlooks a beautiful coastline.
Cool Baguio City
The cool mountain climate of Baguio and the warmth of the local communities make this destination an ideal place for relaxed sightseeing. Among the places to visit to get a feel for the local Cordilleran culture is the Tam-Awan Village, which showcases the art and life of the upland tribes through their dwellings and their traditional crafts and rituals. The Bencab Museum of National Artist Ben Cabrera in Tuba, Benguet combines modern art with traditional tribal pieces in its galleries.
While Baguio’s Burnham and Wright parks are perfect for a cool stroll, the Mines View Park offers a breathtaking view as it overlooks the mountainous area of Itogon and its abandoned mines. Here, tourists can also have photos taken with locals in their native attire, or shop for silver souvenir items.
Benguet Province is also known for its fresh produce, and the Strawberry Farms in La Trinidad offer a pick-and pay experience, and the chance to try strawberry flavoured products such as wine and taho or silken tofu flavoured with strawberry syrup. The Baguio Public Market is a delight for those looking to buy fresh produce and souvenirs to take back home. Among the items on sale are strawberry preserves, highland coffee, handwoven rugs and wood carvings.
Bohol beckons with its natural wonders and infinite adventures. The Danao Adventure Park is an eco-tourism escape that is a favorite tourist spot for its sea of clouds that greet each morning and the exciting activities such as rappelling, wall-climbing, bungee-jumping, ziplining, and riding on a sky bike. Take a ride through the Bilar Manmade forest and marvel at the tall mahogany trees that offer shade, sanctuary and serenity. For a sweet side trip, tour the Bohol Bee Farm and try out its homemade organic ice cream with flavors like coconut, nipa fruit and avocado. Try a memorable meal that comes with music and scenic views: book a Loboc River Cruise, where travellers can eat with their hands while being serenaded by local musicians as you enjoy the natural scenery along the jade green waters.
Cebu Province is a cultural center with a rich heritage as the first landing point of Ferdinand Magellan’s expedition and a focal point of the first circumnavigation of the world. There are new circuits being developed to highlight the Cebuano attractions such as the Kulinarya sa Norte Culinary Tour that runs through the towns of Catmon-Tabogon- Bogo City-San Remegio and the Southern Cebu Jubilee Churches Tour which takes travelers on a historic pilgrimage that begins at the Sto. Niño Basilica where the image of the Child Jesus that was gifted by Magellan to Rajah Humabon’s wife Reyna Juana on the occasion of her baptism into the Christian faith. Other churches on the circuit are the centuries-old structures in the towns of Argao, Dalaguete, Boljoon, and Barili.
Safe city travels
More fun awaits in the Philippines as the Department of Tourism (DOT) highlights these regional tourist sites that are accessible through city travel. The destinations serve to highlight the country’s rich culture among the abundance of nature. The Department is likewise strengthening its safety standards and protocols across different channels to ensure a safe visit to the country.
The DOT has been awarded a SafeTravels Stamp by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) in recognition of its adoption of “health and hygiene global standardized protocols” that will ensure safe travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, conducts thorough inspection and assessment, to ensure that only those who are accredited are allowed to open and receive guests.
The Philippine government through its Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) is constantly updating its protocols to safeguard Filipinos and foreign nationals who are traveling to the Philippines.
To learn more about the Philippines’ new and exciting adventures, as well as safety and travel updates, visit www.morefunawaits.com, and https://wisatafilipina.com/ (for Indonesia), https://www.facebook.com/philippinetourismvietnam (for Vietnam), and https://www.facebook.com/PhilippineTourismThailand (for Thailand) or download the Travel Philippines app at the Google Play Store and Apple App Store.