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Philippines Tours and Vacations
The Philippines is the third largest English speaking country in the world. It has a rich history combining Asian, European, and American influences. Prior to Spanish colonization in 1521, the Filipinos had a rich culture and were trading with the Chinese and the Japanese. Spain’s colonization brought about the construction of Intramuros in 1571, a “Walled City” comprised of European buildings and churches, replicated in different parts of the archipelago. In 1898, after 350 years and 300 rebellions, the Filipinos, with leaders like Jose Rizal and Emilio Aguinaldo, succeeded in winning their independence.
In 1898, the Philippines became the first and only colony of the United States. Following the Philippine-American War, the United States brought widespread education to the islands. Filipinos fought alongside Americans during World War II, particularly at the famous battle of Bataan and Corregidor which delayed Japanese advance and saved Australia. They then waged a guerrilla war against the Japanese from 1941 to 1945. The Philippines regained its independence in 1946.
Filipinos are a fun-loving people. Throughout the islands, there are fiestas celebrated everyday and foreign guests are always welcome to their homes.
Tourists can visit the Philippines without a visa if staying in the country for 21 days or less; provided tourists have a passport that is valid for at least 6 months and a return ticket or a ticket to another destination outside the Philippines. If you wish to stay longer you must obtain a Visa Extension either before your trip from a Philippine Consulate or Embassy. Or, once in the country, you may obtain it from the Bureau of Immigration.
Nationals from countries (click list) who are travelling to the Philippines for business and tourism purposes are allowed to enter the Philippines without visas for a stay not exceeding twenty-one (21) days, provided they hold valid tickets for their return journey to port of origin or next port of destination and their passports valid for a period of at least six (6) months beyond the contemplated period of stay. However, Immigration Officers at ports of entry may exercise their discretion to admit holders of passports valid for at least sixty (60) days beyond the intended period of stay.
Upon Arriving: Visitors are allowed to bring in duty free personal belongings, two cartons of cigarettes or two tins of pipe tobacco and up to one liter of alcohol. Balikbayans have separate rules and should check with the Embassy or Consulate in their home city.
The currency in the Philippines is the Peso (PhP) and the Centavo. 100 centavos = P1. Coin denominations are: 1, 5, 10, and 25 centavos, P1, and P5. Bill denominations are : 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1, 000 pesos.
Foreign currency may be exchanged at your hotel, and in most of the large department stores, banks and authorized money changing shops. Exchanging money anywhere else is illegal and the laws are strictly enforced.
Most large stores, restaurants , hotels and resorts accept major credit cards including American Express , Visas and MasterCard. Traveler’s checks preferably American Express are accepted at hotels and large department stores. Personal checks drawn on foreign banks are generally not accepted.
Things to Know about The Philippines
About the Philippines (Quick Facts)
- The exotic jeepney is a post-war creation inspired by the GI jeeps that the American soldiers brought to the country in the 1940s. Enterprising Filipinos salvaged the surplus engines and came out unique vehicles of art.
- Short distance and feeder trips could not be more exciting than via Philippine quick transports – the tricycle, a motorcycle with a sidecar, and the pedicab, a bicycle with a sidecar.
- The world’s longest underground river system accessible to man can be found at the St. Paul National Park in the province of Palawan.
- The largest Philippine wild animal, the tamaraw, is a species of the buffalo that is similar to the carabao. It is found only in the island of Mindoro.
- The highest mountain in the Philippines is Mt. Apo, a dormant volcano found in Mindanao, at 2,954 meters (9,689 feet). Mt. Pulag in Luzon is the second highest at 2,928 meters (9604 feet).
- Filipino bowler Rafael “Paeng” Nepomuceno was the first bowler to be elevated to the International Bowling Hall of Fame based in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. The Philippine Congress has named him “Greatest Filipino Athlete of All Time.”
- Philippine National Hero and writer Jose Rizal could read and write at age 2. He grew up to speak more than 20 languages, including Latin, Greek, German, French, and Chinese. What were his last words? “Consummatum est!” (“It is done!”).
- The largest city in the Philippines is Davao City. With an area of 2,211 sq. km., it is about three times the size of the national capital, Metro Manila.
- Cebu is the oldest Philippine city.
- Negros Occidental has the most cities among Philippine provinces.
- Filipinos celebrate the world’s longest religious holiday. The Christmas season begins on September 1st, as chillier winds and Christmas carols start filling the air, and ends on the first week of January, during the Feast of the Three Kings.
- Paskuhan Village in the province of Pampanga is Asia’s only Christmas theme park and the third of its kind in the world.
- The great Christmans lanterns of San Fernando, Pampanga can reach as big as 40 feet in diameter, using as many as 16,000 glowing bulbs.
- The exotic jeepney is the Filipino version of the jitney, the taxi/minibus that travels along a fixed route, found in many countries.
- The popular toy, the yoyo, was invented by 16th century hunters in the Philippines.
- The word “boondocks,” which is now a part of the English language, dictionary, and vocabulary, comes from the Tagalog word “bundok,” meaning “mountain.”
- The Philippines became the first Asian country to win FIVE major international beauty pageant crowns — three for Miss Universe, in 1969, 1973 and 2015, and three for Miss International, in 1965, 1970, and 1979.
- Diving paradise Anilao, in the province of Batangas, is the theme of a picture book that bagged the International Prize for Underwater Images at the 27th World Festival of Underwater Images in France in November 2000. “Anilao” book creators and Filipino scuba divers Scott Tuason and Eduardo Cu Unjieng defeated big names in underwater photography such as Jacques Mayol, Pascal Kobeh, Monique Walker, and Alessandro Tommasi.
With 7,107 islands, and a coastline twice the length of that of the United States, the Philippines can claim to be Asia’s Beach Capital. Enjoy the warm crystal blue waters of both the China Sea and the Pacific Ocean. Mention the Philippines and images of long, white sand beaches and bodies of water blessed with a variety of marine life come to mind.
BORACAY — AKLAN
Boracay Island, with its sugary white sand beaches and azure blue waters, is located on the northwestern tip of Panay, Western Visayas. The best of the island is the 4 km. White Beach, touted as the “finest beach in the world.” The water surrounding the island is shallow and the sand is finer and brighter than most beaches in the archipelago.
PAGUDPUD — ILOCOS NORTE
In the Northern part of the Philippines is a beach reputed to have the longest contiguous white sand with mighty waves and strong winds that can compare to Hawaii. Wind and wave surfing are the outstanding activities that Pagudpud beach offers its very discriminating clientele. Not to mention the inviting views, clear blue waters, and white sand. Pagudpud promises its visitors a magnificent experience in a secluded paradise.
MACTAN ISLAND — CEBU
Lying in the heart of Cebu is the island of Mactan. This tropical-island getaway endowed with a variety of colors – from its beach, hotels, resorts, nightlife, music, food, drinks – will guarantee to spice up every tourist.
PANGLAO — BOHOL
Panglao is a perfect for a great dive and beach holiday. It is a small island on the Philippines southwest of the bigger island, Bohol. On the southern beach of Panglao there are several resorts that line up on the beach.
CAMIGUIN — CAMIGUIN ISLAND
Camiguin, which rhymes with “come again,” has been regarded as the most beautiful island in the country. As such, it is also referred to as the Philippines’ “Garden of Eden.” The presence of a number of majestic waterfalls that create both hot and cold springs is only one of the many attractions of this island-paradise. The topography is unmistakably tropical but the ambiance is uniquely occidental. A study in contrast, Camiguin is sure to mesmerize anyone who visits with the itch to be back again soon.
EL NIDO — PALAWAN
Dominated by towering marble cliffs that are homes to a number of tropical birds, El Nido is the source of one of the most delectable soups specially found in Chinese restaurants – the Nido Soup. This soup consists mainly of the bird nests that abound in the area. But El Nido is more than this. It prides itself in having the most beautiful seascapes in the province of Palawan, known as the country’s last frontier. Because of its utter splendor, it has also been called the island of the gods – heaven on earth, that is El Nido.
PEARL FARM — DAVAO
Pearl Farm is located in the Samal Island off the coast of Davao City, Southern Philippines. The premier beach resort, which lies in the pristine island of Samal, used to be a pearl farm. There thousands of white-lipped oysters, transported form the Sulu Sea, were once cultivated for their pink, white, and gold pearls. Today, beach lovers all over the world visit this world-class beach resort for its white sand and panoramic landscape and seascape, bringing with them the memory of a lifetime – a relaxing private retreat in a tropical paradise.
Top Philippine Destinations
Banaue Rice Terraces — Ifugao Province, Cordillera
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 the sky.” 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 globe.
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 mountain trails.
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 — Province of Bohol
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 evolution.
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 view deck, a youth hostel and a restaurant.
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.
Boracay — Aklan
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, so 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.
Cebu — The Gateway to a Thousand Journeys
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.
Davao — 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 celebration.
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..
Manila — Capital of the Philippines
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 extraordinary.
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 Intramuros.
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.
Palawan — The Last Frontier
Unique to Palawan is its mega-diversity. 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 sky scraping 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 mega-diversity, 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.
Vigan — 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 colonial past:
- 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 church reforms.
- 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.