The Philippines, things to do and see
As an island nation, the Republic of the Philippines isn’t messing around. The country counts 7,107 islands in the western Pacific and a population of 91 million. If those islands were one contiguous landmass, it would be about two-thirds the size of California—with about three times the population. Getting around the archipelago, however, is no easy feat: To see the highlights of the Philippines, you’d better develop a good set of sea legs, an intrepid attitude toward dodgy-looking airplanes, and a whole lot of patience for the Filipino stance on punctuality (that is, that it’s overrated).
Most travelers will start in Manila, the country’s capital. Manila is a crazy, throbbing city with plenty of culture—it has some of the hottest nightlife in Asia and a wealth of historical sights from the country’s Spanish colonial past in the walled district of Intramuros. But chances are, you’re coming to the Philippines not for its urban chaos but for its natural wonders.
From Manila, take a day trip to Mount Pinatubo, the 1,485m (4,872-ft.) volcano that made headlines in 1991 when it erupted in colossal, spectacular fashion.
The crater is now a lake, and courageous travelers can even swim inside it. The greatest treasure of this area, however, is the Banaue Rice Terraces, what many rightly call the eighth wonder of the world.
Covering a massive 10,000 sq. km (3,860 sq. miles) of undulating topography, the terraces were carved thousands of years ago and employ highly sophisticated irrigation and engineering techniques.
When you want to swim, sunbathe, or snorkel along the archipelago, the Philippines have a number of resort areas.
Boracay island, which has 4km (21⁄2 miles) of pristine white-sand beach that squeaks underfoot, is justly celebrated as the country’s single best beach area, with luxury hotels and happening nightlife. At the northern tip of Palawan island (across the Sulu Sea to the west), El Nido is a tropical paradise with staggering limestone formations in the water offshore. World-class dive spots abound in the archipelago: Go to Sorsogon to see whale sharks, or Subic Bay or Busuanga island for submerged World War II wrecks.
The island of Bohol, in the central Visaya cluster of islands, isn’t so much a beach place as it is a trove of land-based treasures, like the famed Chocolate Hills (the limestone turns from beige to deep brown depending on the season) and Sikayuna National Park, the endemic home of one of the world’s smallest monkeys, the tarsier, which is no bigger than your fist.
The Philippines were a Spanish territory from the 16th to the 19th century, and the legacy of that occupation is everywhere. Ninety percent of the population is Roman Catholic, and nearly all citizens most of whom are ethnically descended from Taiwan have a Spanish surname.
And then there’s the food: Filipino cuisine is famously cross-cultural, with lumpia (vegetable-stuffed rolls) of the Southeast Asian tradition and pansit noodles derived from Chinese cooking, alongsidemany dishes with a European or Hispanic flair. The de facto national dish is lechon (suckling pig roasted on a spit).
For more information visit
www.philtourism.com or http://tourism-philippines.com
Manila-Ninoy Aquino International is the main airport.