Banaue of Painterly Dreams
Because of its high altitude, Banaue is often
described as "where land merges with the clouds to meet
the heavens" with the rice terraces as "the stairway to
Banaue is a place for nature adventures and cultural
immersion. Days are for indulging in such activities as
strolling, biking, and trekking. Evenings are for
campfire chats at a village or warm indoor cosseting at
the lodges and inns.
A leading tourism destination in Asia, the Banaue rice
terraces start from the base of the Cordilleras and
reach up to several thousand feet high. Its length, if
stretched from end to end, could encircle half of the
The rice paddies are fed by mountain springs and streams
that are channeled into an irrigation canal that runs
downhill through the terraces.
In the village of Batad, the terraces take the shape of
an amphitheater and can be reached by a 12-kilometer
ride from Banaue Hotel and a 2-hour hike through
After trekking through the terraces, cool retreats indeed are the
spring-fed stream of Guihob and the magnificent Tappiya
Waterfalls which has an enormous basin for swimming.
Shopping takes a different twist in Banaue. While
souvenir items are offered by curio stores, the more
exciting way to shop, however, is to go on a village
visit, watch a family demonstrate their native craft and
then haggle for a better price on their product.
Chocolate Hills is a series of 1,268 perfectly
symmetrical, haycock-shaped hills that rise some 30 meters
above the ground. A National Geologic Monument, these
unique, rock formations were cast after million years of
Spread out in the towns of Carmen, Batuan and Sagbayan, the
hills are so-called because they resemble chocolate bonbons
when their grass cover turns to brown at the onset of
summer. Two of the hills have been developed and provided
with facilities, including a viewdeck, a youth hostel and a
Other hills with a commanding view of the surrounding
islands include Banat-I and Elly in the capital city of
Tagbilaran, Himontagon in the town of Loay, Sampoangan in
Calape and Ilihan in Jagna.
Barefoot in the Beach
The code in Boracay is strictly informal.
There is an undeniable easy atmosphere in Boracay where walking
barefoot than shod is the rule rather than the exception. White
Beach is so, soooo fine, it feels like treading on miles of baby
powder! No wonder, even swinging discos have the beach for a
floor, giving dance a new twist.
There are no hang-ups either in this island. At daytime,
tourists having a soothing massage under the shade of a coconut
tree beside the shoreline is a common sight. And from dusk to
dawn, Boracay turns into one big party place where everyone is
welcome to join in…But first, let's toast that sunset cocktail!
Diversions are certainly no problem in this tropical eden with
leisure activities calendared throughout the year and amenities
offered by some 350 tourist establishments.
The Isle of Your Tropical Dreams
Cebu is the traveler's fantasy of a tropical island come
true - balmy weather, pristine beaches, crystalline waters,
and luxurious resorts with all the frills of modern living.
The island-province of Cebu was where the Portuguese
navigator Ferdinand Magellan planted the Cross of
Christianity in the name of Spain in 1521. But even before
Cebu became the Occidental gateway to the Orient, it was
already a popular entry point among Asian merchants.
Cebu has since blossomed into a choice tourist
destination, with many leisure establishments taking full
advantage of its sea-valley-and-mountain location.
Metropolitan Cebu, the country's second biggest metropolis,
is the political, economic, educational and cultural center
of the Visayas. Hotels, shopping malls, entertainment halls,
casinos and golf fairways are ever present in the metro to
cater to every tourist's whim.
The rest of Cebu's 166 islands and islets are fringed
with sandy beaches and sapphire-clear waters teeming with
marine life, perfect for divers.
Land of Plenty
"Kadayawan sa Dabaw" is Davao City's premier festival and
showcases the natural and cultural bounty of the land.
A movable feast in August, the week-long merrymaking
highlights the manifold tribal cultures of the region which
are vividly expressed in traditional songs, dances, games
and crafts. It is also on this occasion when a lively trade
fair, capped by a flower-and-fruit float parade, takes
place. Street dancing and popular entertainment complete the
Agriculture-based industries thrive in the Davao region. A
major exporter of bananas, citrus, mangosteen and other
tropical fruits, it is also the biggest producer of cultured
flowers in the country. Its surrounding waters are rich
sources for commercial fishing.
The world's largest city in terms of land area, Davao covers
all of 244,000 hectares.
The capital of the Philippines - its heart and soul -- is
Manila. It sets the rhythm of life in this archipelago and
is a pulsating hub that blends the Oriental with the
Occidental, the quaint with the modern, the mundane with the
Manila was born out of the ashes of a once flourishing
Malay settlement by the banks of the Pasig River. In 1571,
Miguel Lopez de Legazpi established the Ever Loyal City of
Manila which, until 1898, was the seat of Spanish colonial
rule in Asia. He built the city within walls and called it
An anchor tourist destination, Manila is the very core of
the 7,000 times more islands that make up the Philippines.
It is a center for the performing arts in Asia.
The Last Frontier
Unique to Palawan is its megadiversity.
For a long time, Palawan's bountiful resources, abundant wildlife and
extraordinary natural beauty are known only to the many ethnic
communities that thrive in these islands and a few other daring settlers
who wanted to live in unpolluted surroundings.
The island-province first attracted foreign attention in the 1970's when
it became a United Nations Vietnamese Refugee Center. At this time, a
disturbance in Kenya also saw the transport of endangered animals from
its savannas to the plains of Calauit Island.
However, it was only a sea accident in 1979 that eventually led to the
opening of Palawan into tourism big time.
As the story goes, a tuna line disabled a dive boat's propeller in the
middle of the night forcing it to drop anchor in an inlet. The following
morning, the divers woke up to an amazing scenery of skyscraping dark
cliffs, thick green forest, white-sand beach, sparkling water and,
rising above it, a series of magnificently sculpted jade islands. And
thus was how El Nido was discovered.
Ecology awareness is at a high level throughout the province. Puerto
Princesa prides itself as the cleanest city in the Philippines. To
protect its megadiversity, only eco-friendly programs are adhered to by
tourist establishments. And there are strict ordinances against dynamite
fishing, with only net and line fishing allowed.
Palawan may have opened itself to tourism but it has also taken serious
efforts to preserve this last frontier.
Old World City
Vigan, with its centuries-old edifices, is a breathing
reminder of what was once a royal city.
One of the earliest Spanish settlements in the country,
Vigan was founded in 1572 by Juan de Salcedo who patterned
its design to that of Intramuros (Old Manila). It became the
seat of the Archdiocese of Nueva Segovia and was called
Ciudad Fernandina in honor of King Ferdinand.
Today, Vigan retains much of the patina of 18th century
Castillan architecture as seen in some 150 stone houses
which stand in the town's Mestizo District, notably Mena
Crisologo Street. Many of these ancestral homes are still in
good condition and some have been turned into cozy inns,
museums, and souvenir shops.
Along with the homes are other vestiges of the town's
The majestic St. Paul's Cathedral was built by the
Augustinian friars along the distinct "Earthquake Baroque"
style of the Ilocos region and features Neo-Gothic and
pseudo Romanesque motifs. Standing on an elevation west of
the cathedral is Plaza Salcedo, the oldest monument in
Northern Luzon. The Archbishop's Palace is a rich repository
of religious artifacts from the Ilocos region. Plaza Burgos
was built in honor of Fr. Jose Burgos, one of three Filipino
priests who were garroted by the Spaniards for espousing
But it is not only edifices which are preserved in this town
inscribed in the World Heritage List. Viganos also remain
steadfast in their traditional crafts, notably pottery
(burnay) and handloom weaving (inabel).
The horse-drawn calesa (rig) is as much a presence in the
streets as motor vehicles.