With over 7,000 islands composing the Philippine archipelago, travelers can be sure there’s at least one to suit their tastes. So whether you enjoy spending your days sipping fresh coconuts by the sea or exhausting every nook and cranny of the biggest shopping malls in the world, you can’t go wrong with travelling to the Philippines.
For those who need a regular dose of excitement in their system, several adrenaline-packed activities await in the province of Cebu. Battle the rapids of Matutinao river down to Kawasan falls and try canyoneering in the municipality of Badian. Prepare to conquer great heights with jumps from as high as 30 ft., though the quest yields greater rewards, with water a gorgeous shade of aqua and stunning falls at the finish line. If 30 ft. is nothing to you, why not try a 10,000-foot jump from a soaring aircraft at Bantayan Island? With their certified instructors coming along for the jump, their tandem skydive requires no prior experience. And finally, in the province’s eponymous capital, there’s the Edge Coaster around the Crown Regency Hotel and Towers’ 38th floor. Hop on this coaster (the first of its kind), that will take you around the building, tilted down at a 55 degree angle. It gives the fearless a thrilling ride and a fantastic view of the city.
For those on the opposite end of the spectrum—those who never tire of spending days laying on the sand, taking in the sun, and listening to the waves—head straight for the island of Palawan. This world-renowned island in the southwestern part of the country boasts some of the most stunning beaches on the planet. Head north to the municipalities of El Nido and Coron for the beautiful landscapes tourists aim to tick off their travel bucket list. For those who prefer things a little more low key, explore San Vicente—and Port Barton in particular—for beautiful and much less-congested beaches. And for those willing to journey to untouched tropical paradises, make arrangements for a trip to the south, to the islands of Balabac, which boast pristine beaches and secluded waters.
Pampanga, a province found in Central Luzon and just a few hours drive from Metro Manila, is known as the country’s culinary capital. As the origin of numerous Filipino favorites like sisig and tocino, Pampanga is also known to be home to the country’s best and most innovative cooks. Today, Kapampangan cuisine is further brought into the limelight by creative chefs who reinvent local dishes and serve them in intimate settings that highlight the ingredients, flavors, and dining experience. Savor this kind of gastronomy in Claude Tayag’s Bale Dutung and Dennis Lim’s Denlim’s Kitchen.
For a taste of adventure unlike any elsewhere in the country, grab your backpack and head for the mountains of Northern Luzon. The rugged region of the Cordilleras is made of six provinces: Mountain Province, Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga, Abra, and Apayao. The region is home to the Igorot people, who thanks to the region’s difficult terrain, were able to strongly resist the colonial government during the Spanish regime. Head to Sagada in the Mountain Province and go spelunking in Sumaguing Cave. Don’t miss the the interesting hanging coffins or the jaw-dropping sunrise and sea of clouds at Kiltepan Viewpoint either. The region is also studded with gorgeous rice terraces, the Banaue Rice Terraces being the grandest and most popular. For those interested in getting inked the traditional way (hand-tapped) by hundred-year old living legend Whang Od, travel to Buscalan in Kalinga, where the celebrated artist keeps the craft alive.
For the history-loving travelers, don’t be fazed by busy, modern-day Metro Manila, because historical sites still sit close by. Intramuros, also known as the “walled city” is found within the Metro’s eponymous capital. Its preserved Spanish-era architecture and cobblestone streets are a sharp contrast from the bustling Metro just outside. Delve into the country’s history through a walking tour of the premises with the vibrant and engaging Carlos Celdran. If opting to walk your own way, don’t forget to stop by Fort Santiago and San Agustin Church or perhaps let a kalesa take you. The island of Corregidor, a quick boat ride from the Metro, is located right at the gateway of Manila Bay. Manila, already an important city hundreds of years back, had to be protected from enemy attacks. Thus, Corregidor was fortified and made a harbor defense along with three other neighboring islands. Today, ruins of the islands’ years of service remain, and day and overnight tours can be booked.
For travelers who think a place is only as good as its shopping, then Metro Manila is the hub to see. With some of the biggest malls in the world studding the Metro, shopping ’til you drop might actually be a possibility here. Exploring the expanse of the Mall of Asia can easily take a whole day. In the city of Makati, Rockwell’s Power Plant Mall and the Greenbelt compound (composed of Greenbelt buildings one through five) are home to several luxury brand stores and a long list of international brands brought in from all over the world. But while these world-famous names are enticing, don’t forget to take a piece of the country home too by shopping local. Filipinos are skilled artisans and the market for unique, quality local goods has been growing in recent years. Head to SM Megamall and its large Kultura branch for local Filipino products—from packed treats and basic souvenirs to traditional clothing and beautifully crafted homeware. Keep an eye out for leather footwear created in Marikina (a city long-known for its quality shoe industry) and for pearls (widely cultured in the country or harvested through deep-sea diving in nearby waters, hence affordability).
The province of Rizal, not more than a few hours’ drive (at most) from Metro Manila, is one for travelers who are happiest when close to nature. For one, hiking trails are spread out all across the province—the most famous of which is perhaps Mt. Daraitan, with crystal clear Tinipak River along the way. For mountain biking enthusiasts, head over to San Mateo, Rizal, where The Great Wall of Timberland—challenging two-kilometer climb—is located. Another cool stop would be Daranak Falls, though try to visit on a weekday, when the crowds are not too big. For a one-stop love affair with nature, book a visit at the Masungi Georeserve, a one-of-a-kind trail within a well-protected nature reserve.