The Pearl of The Orient
When God showered color upon the world, he must have looked with particular favor at the Philippines. Here is a country that is as amazingly intricate as an artist’s canvas. The emerald fields, ochre earth and sapphire seas frame the vibrant and joyous life that courses through the nation’s veins. It is a land of the overt and the subtle, of bustling mega-cities and tranquil barrios, of rowdy festivals and quiet devotion. Its 7,107 islands (now actually 7641 due to the discovery of previously unknown islands) house an endless list of beaches, mountains, forests, and various attractions. It is a melting pot of several cultures, an Asian treasure with a global outlook.
And that’s just the beginning.
Take Your Pick
You are guaranteed this: once you set foot in the Philippines, it will be hard to leave. The country is not simply a tropical paradise, with its many beaches and vacation spots. It is also a cultural frontier with its many indigenous civilizations. Those seeking adventure will find their fill, set against the backdrop of both urban tourist areas and natural wonders. Nature trekkers will be impressed by the staggering biodiversity. Those looking to escape from the harried pace of modern living will also find a serene spot for contemplation and reflection.
Life’s a Beach
For many, the Philippines has built much of its tourist identity on its world-class beaches. No wonder — we have the fifth longest coastline in the world!
Of course, there’s the top-notch white sands of Boracay and the secret enclaves of El Nido to top the list. But beaches can be found almost anywhere in the country, and you don’t have to travel to remote regions just to have your fill of sun and sand. Pagudpud and Bolinao headline the beaches of the north, with notable mentions from many other provinces such as Zambales and Batangas. All the way to the south, Samal and Dakak lead the run along with other amazing sites in Surigao, Davao, and Zamboanga.
Aside from offering a fine view of the sunset while sipping your favorite beverage, several beaches also offer world-class activities such as diving and surfing. The Tubbataha Reef in Palawan is globally recognized for its bountiful marine life, and Surigao’s Siargao Island is a surfer’s dream with its inimitable “Cloud 9” waves!
A Feast in Every Way
Filipinos are deeply passionate people, and this is exhibited in almost everything they do. This quality is distilled and crystallized in the many hundreds of festivals held around the country all year long! Every single locality has its own feast, celebrating everything from historic events to their local produce. Religion also plays a big role here, with many of the largest celebrations inspired by religious fervor. Examples include the yearly Traslacion of Quiapo, Sinulog of Cebu, Ati-Atihan of Aklan, and the Fluvial Procession of Our Lady of Penafrancia held in Bicol. Culture is also keenly celebrated with the likes of Iloilo’s Dinagyang, Bacolod’s Masskara, Davao’s Kadayawan, and Baguio’s Panagbenga.
And of course, when there’s a feast, there’s food! This is the perfect opportunity to sample the country’s culinary treasures.
Where Man and Nature Meet
Despite continuous infrastructure development, Filipinos do their best to protect bastions of nature. This is evident in the various ecotourism drives that showcase not only the natural beauty of the country but also engages its audience in ways on how to protect it. An abundance of protected areas stand as testaments to these, such as Davao’s Mt. Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary (a UNESCO World Heritage site) and Romblon’s Looc Fish Sanctuary. There are also those that raise awareness of environmental issues and their effect on biodiversity, such as the Bataan Sea Turtle Conservation Center.
There are also various tours that showcase the value of sustainable living, like Bulacan’s Gawad Kalinga Enchanted Farm. Even large-scale properties are getting into the ecotourism game, with more and more green hotels and resorts that strive to leave minimal impact on the surrounding environment. From building the structures out of recycled materials and using organic products to help reduce wastes, these ecofriendly estates help ensure that the gems of nature are preserved.
Hidden Jewels Abound
One of the main draws of Philippine tourism is the fact that there are several hidden gems away from the oft-frequented locations. Discover many of these for yourself! Bask in the Grecian expanse of Fortune Island in Batangas, or lose yourself in the magic of Hinatuan River in Surigao. Have a surreal Kawa Hot Bath experience in Antique, and find the hidden oases of Siquijor. These places may not always be in the itineraries of tourists, but they are among the dozens of hidden getaways that define the country’s richness.
Photo: Kenneth Paige