Well, you don’t have to drink the whole drum, to know if the beer tastes just right. With thousands of islands Philippines has to offer, visiting each one might be a daunting task – if not outright impossible. On the other hand, visiting 10 of the best may be wise.
Off-hand, anybody can tell you, Philippines is one beautiful country. And nobody in his right mind will doubt that. Seriously. But perceptions can be tricky, you know. Think: Three blind men surveying an elephant. The wonder of the 7,107 islands. The fine tropical weather. The beautiful people. Truly, Philippines is all these – and more. Only when we look at the big picture, piecing each detail into one giant tapestry can we begin to give the Philippines justice. To do that we must take a hard look at its glorious past while at the same time try to get a glimpse of its future – however bleak it maybe. Yes, that sounds like it’s written in Yiddish. It’s because that journey is as endless as the clear blue sky on a hot summer day.
Get your itineraries set, every Juan, here’s 10 Must-visit Places in the Islands of the Philippines:
Must-visit #10:Tubbataha Reef
Tubbataha Reef, CNN travel’s one of the best dives of the world, represents the beautiful Philippines -amazing inland and underwater flora and fauna unrivalled in the world. Covering a wide area of 97,030 hectares, the underwater paradise in the middle of Sulu Sea is home to such a diverse ecosystem that is has been declared as a World Heritage by the UNESCO. To date, over 1000 species of marine life – including endangered species – inhabit this must-see destination.
Directions: Reach drop-off point Puerto Princesa, Palawan province via daily flights from Manila or Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday flights from Cebu
Best Season: April to June
Must-visit #9:Basilica del Sto. Niño – Cebu
Experience first-hand the only Christian nation in the whole of Asia. Immerse in the religious fervor and see the Basilica del Sto. Niño, home to the oldest religious statue in the Philippines dated way back April 14, 1521. A gift bythe great explorer Ferdinand Magellan to Rajah Humabon upon the latter’s baptism to Christianity, ushering in the religion to this side of the planet.
And much more: Witness Sinulog, the yearly street dance-celebration in honor of the child Christ which attracts millions of people from the region and from the world.
Directions: from anywhere in the country, proceed to Cebu City via air or sea.
Best season: December to January, Sinulog on 3rd week of January
Must-visit #8:Mayon Volcano
Another must-see spectacular tourist attraction. Prepare to be amazed at the perfectly-symmetrical cone shaped volcano that rivalsthe best in the world – including Mt. Fuji of Japan in the rankings of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. And if that were not to send your adrenaline shooting up know that out of about 37 volcanoes in the archipelago Mt. Mayon is the most active, erupting almost 50 times in the past 400 years. Yes, the smoke at the top and that half-destroyed belfry is standing proof.
Directions: Via land for scenic views, take the bus from Manila for about 400-kilometer ride, a half-day ride tops to Legazpi City Albay. Or fly from the Metro.
Best season: For best tours, please refer to PHIVOLCS latest announcements.
Must-visit #7:Fort Santiago
A remnant of the over 300-year occupation of the Spaniards, Fort Santiago is the oldest fortress in the Philippines. And it’s so well-preserved you can actually breath history there, starting with the places Dr. Jose Rizal, our national hero, spent his last days before being executed.
Directions: At the heart of Manila, a PUJ with signboard Quiapo/Pier should be your best shot. Request the drive to drop you off walking distance to Fort Santiago. Or taxi (if you dare to pay)
Best season: all-year
Must-visit #6:Malapascua Island
Now, here’s another diver’s paradise with sandy white beaches and crystal clear waters that’s going to make even the most aquaphobic citizens of the world say wow! To boot, the diminutive Malapascua Island provides the perfect send-off to arguably the only underwater spot in the whole wide world where you see tresher sharks visiting on a regular basis.
Directions: Take the bus from Cebu City, for a cheaper ride. You can catch a ride from the North Bus Terminal near SM City Cebu. Ask for the port of Maya. From there you can take a boat to the island.
Best season: April to May, with less people on rainy season
Corregidor is also dubbed as “The Rock” a lone sentinel guarding the entrance to Manila. The historic site holds an important part of the American-Filipino joint effort to hold off the Japanese invaders shedding hundreds of lives in the process. Amongst the ruins are big guns and various structures honoring the memory of the ill-fated brave soldiers who despite their courage succumbed to the overpowering might of the enemy.
Directions: You can be adventurous and put up a trip on your own via Bataan and hire a jeepney. For safety purposes, however, take the Sun Cruises, which should come out cheaper as a whole.
Best season: end of November to May
Must-visit #4:Puerto Galera (Oriental Mindoro)
Puerto Galera is a lethal combination of gorgeous beaches, excellent dive spots and an extremely-wide diversity of marine species – a sweet, sweet spot for many tourists. Take your pick from a series of fine beaches (e.g., White Beach, Sabang Beach) and cap your visit with an underwater adventure: swim through old shipwrecks and discover Asia’s best coral reefs – including 180+ species of nudibranchs – only Philippines can offer.
Directions: Take the bus from Metro Manila. Destination: Batangas pier via CALABARZON Expressway. From the pier take a ferry to Puerto Galera.
Best season: best dives on summer, starting April to May
Must-visit #3:Banaue Rice Terraces
Considered the 8th Wonder of the World, the Banaue Rice Terraces is a testament of the ingenuity of the idigenousIfugaos who over 2,000 years ago started carving the steps by hand to irrigate their crops. Today, the man-made structures still stands, a perfect example of Filipino perseverance and inner strength to develop what many see as close to impossible. In accordance, it has been designated as a part of the elite UNESCO World Heritage List.
Directions: Land trip, 9-hours tops. If driving, take the eastern highway from Manila, via San Jose. Or via bus. Go to UST Terminal (Sampaloc). Look for Ohayami and Florida buses Destination: Banaue.
Best season: all-year
Welcome to the beach party of international proportions: Boracay! Where the fun never stops, from award-winning beaches, volcanic caves to great adventures (e.g., cliff diving, parasailing, horse riding, snorkeling, kite surfing, scuba diving), Boracay pulsates a beat so inviting the world just can’t help but look. In 2012, Boracay was awarded the Best Island in the World by travel magazine Travel + Leisure.
Directions: By air, daily flights from either Cebu or Manila to Caticlan airport. From there, bus ride to Caticlan jetty port, then a final boat ride to Boracay Islands Cagban Port.
Best season: Amihan season, September to June
Must-visit #1:Edsa Shrine
Now for a place that has changed the history of the Philippines twice, you must see Edsa Shrine. The site of the outstretched hands of “Our Lady of Peace” represents the best the Filipino can offer as a people: People Power Revolution. It was in EDSA that over 2 million Filipinos took their aspirations to the streets braving the tanks and all the might of the Marcos regime and eventually ousting the dictator without bloodshed. This peaceful revolution was repeated in EDSA II ousting then President Erap Estrada.
Directions: PUJ or taxi from anywhere in Manila. EDSA is a national shrine located at Ugong Norte, Quezon City, Metro Manila. The towering statue of “Our Lady of Peace” should prove easy target.
Best season: February of each year
There you have it, folks. Baked just right for you. Should it leave a bad taste in your mouth, please let me know. You don’t have to go out of your way just drop us a piece of your mind in the comments section below. Or share this little tryst of ours with your BFF’s. Just to set things straight.
As a parting shot, let me quote a good friend, Bart Simpson talking to Judge Harm. And he says: “Your Honor, it’s not easy being my parents. I’m always screwing up in school and getting in trouble with the law. But if I grow up to be a halfway-decent person, I know it’ll be because of my mom and dad. Everyone else might give up on me, but my parents never will.”
Bart is half-Filipino, you know. At least in his dedication to his parents. (I wonder why he hasn’t grown a bit. He’s celebrating his 25 years in TV.)
Ain’t that right, esse!