The Philippines is a vibrant and lush nation, comprised of over 7,000 islands. It is home to abundant marine life, verdant landscapes, some of the warmest and amicable locals one will ever meet, and crystal clear blue water. In short, it is a huge beautiful world with plenty of people to meet, delicacies to savor, and cultures to discover.
There is no doubt that the Philippines is an exotic and popular holiday destination in Southeast Asia, known for its pristine beaches and tropical climate, making it a country of perpetual summer. At present, the Philippines has six UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Read on to know more about these UNESCO sites in the Philippines.
1. Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras
The Rice Terraces of the Cordilleras are located on an island called Luzon and were the first such property to become a part of the UNESCO World Heritage List, in 1995, in the category of cultural landscape. This unique landscape was developed by the Ifugao cultivators some two thousand years ago. The terraces are in use even today and are maintained with great care by the current generation of Ifugao farmers.
While Asia has many other rice terraces, the ones in the Philippine Cordilleras are truly remarkable because of their steep slopes and high altitude. An intricate system of bamboo pipes, channels, sluices, and dams ensures that these outstanding terraces are properly flooded. The World Heritage Site is comprised of four well-maintained rice terraces.
Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras
Address: Ifugao, Cordillera Administrative Region, Luzon, Philippines
2. Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park
Located around 50 km (31.1 miles) north of a city called Puerto Princesa in the Philippines, the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park is situated on the northern coast of the island, in the mountain range of Saint Paul. This park is world-famous for its spectacular limestone landscape and its underground river. A distinguishing feature of this river is its direct emergence into the sea, while its lower portion is affected by tidal influences.
The area is also famous for its conservation and boasts a lovely ‘mountain-to-sea’ ecosystem and is home to some major Asian forests. The site has a spectacular cave system and is well maintained. The popularity of the site has led to an increasing number of tourists and tourist development and was included on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites on December 4, 1999.
Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park
Address: Palawan, Philippines
3. Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary
As the name indicates, the Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary consists of Mount Hamiguitan, as well as its surrounded area. The sanctuary is located on Mindanao Island and is the biodiversity hotspot of the Philippines. The sanctuary offers a much-needed habitat for a wide variety of animal and plant species and exhibits a number of aquatic and terrestrial habitats at varying elevations, including endemic and threatened fauna and flora species, eight of which are found solely on Mount Hamiguitan. These include the Philippine cockatoo, the critically endangered tropical pitcher plant, and the Philippine eagle.
As far as flora is concerned, the highlights here are its truly unique pygmy forest and abundant carnivorous plants. Mati is the closest city and it is about 40 km (24.9 miles) from the sanctuary.
Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary
Address: Mindanao, Philippines
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4. Historic City of Vigan
The historic city of Vigan is situated in the northern part of the country and is famous for its unique heritage village. It boasts well-preserved colonial buildings influenced by Spanish architecture. These buildings make you feel as if you have traveled back in time. This historic city was set up in the 16th century and is a great example of a planned Spanish colonial town in Asia.
The architecture here showcases a fusion of cultural elements from Europe, China, and other places in the Philippines. In fact, Vigan is a quaint town and you will realize how distinct it is from many other cities in the country the moment you arrive. Most roads in the city’s central area do not permit automobiles.
Historic City of Vigan
Address: Ilocos Sur, Philippines
Website: Historic City of Vigan
5. Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park
It was in the late 70s that divers discovered Tubbataha and today it is acknowledged as one of the planet’s most outstanding coral reefs. Tubbataha Reef Marine Park is comprised of the South and the North Reef and contains an extremely high density of marine species. The North Isle serves as a home for marine turtles and a variety of birds.
As Tubbataha is in an isolated location, you can only visit the site on a boat. If you go diving here, it will be an experience of a lifetime where you can enjoy the dramatic underwater terrain of the reef, explore its amazing biodiversity, and encounter large marine animals, like manta rays, turtles, and sharks.
Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park
Website: Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park
6. Baroque Churches of the Philippines: San Agustin Church, Santa Maria Church, Paoay Church, and Miagao Church
The Baroque Churches of the Philippines refer to a collection of four different churches and are included as UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Philippines. The first of these churches was constructed in the late 16th century by the Spanish. The churches sport a distinct architectural style and are regarded as outstanding instances of the Philippine reinterpretation of the Baroque style. They represent a unique blend of decorative motifs and local building materials to create a new tradition of church-building.
Baroque Churches of the Philippines
Website: Baroque Churches of the Philippines
Miagao Church, officially known as the Church of Santo Tomas de Villanueva, stands as a remarkable testament to history and unique architectural beauty.
Constructed between 1787 and 1797 under the guidance of Spanish friar Augustin Alonzo, the church is a tangible representation of the Spanish colonial influence in the Philippines. Its historic significance is enriched by its massive stone façade, carved from local coral rock, and adorned with intricate relief work that weaves Christian and indigenous Filipino influences together.
I had the privilege of witnessing the stunning frescoes that adorn the ceilings and the intricately carved woodwork of the altar. Among the historical treasures, the antique pipe organ stands out, a testament to the musical heritage of the region.
Tip from tour guide
The Philippines boasts four Baroque churches collectively declared as UNESCO World Heritage sites. Notably, three of these churches are situated on Luzon Island, with two of them in close proximity to each other. Santa Maria is a mere 42 minutes away from the colonial-styled city of Vigan, itself recognized as another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Moreover, Vigan is just one hour and 14 minutes away from Paoay Church, located further north. This proximity is something to consider when aiming to explore multiple UNESCO World Heritage Sites in a short period. The specific church discussed here is the one in Paoay.
Enjoy your vacation in the Philippines
If you are already planning to visit the country for your upcoming vacation, you have made a wonderful choice. While the country has so much to offer for all, do not miss the opportunity to visit these six wonderful UNESCO World Heritage Sites In the Philippines to enjoy an experience of a lifetime.
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