Things to Do in Philippines
Arguably the most famous tourist attraction in all of Bohol, the Chocolate Hills are featured on the provincial flag and draw thousands of travelers to their unique and breathtaking wonder each year. An estimated 1,300 individual hills cover a span of some 50 square kilometers in what is, without a doubt, one of the most stunning natural landscapes in the nation. These rolling green wonders change to brown in drier months, and appear like chocolate kisses, giving them their namesake. Several local legends seek to explain the creation of this geological formation, including stories of feuding giants and star-crossed lovers. But experts say these hills were formed by coral deposits and underwater reefs that shifted with erosion and ancient seismic activity, creating one of the Philippines most incredible natural landscapes.
One of the most important historical sites in Manila, Fort Santiago was built by the Spanish conquistador Miguel López de Legazpi as a defensive fortress designed to protect the newly formed city of Manila. It is a key feature of the famous Walled City of Manila, which is referred to as Intramuros.
José Rizal, considered a national hero in the Philippines, was imprisoned at Fort Santiago before his execution in 1896, as were countless others. It played a role in the city’s penal and defense system all the way up to World War II, and has been occupied by: the Spanish, free Filipinos, the US (the Stars and Stripes were raised there in 1898), and the Japanese Imperial Army.
Today, this beautiful, 16th century structure is home to a shrine dedicated to Rizal, which includes an eerie set of footprints painted onto the street outlining the great man’s final steps as he was led to his death.
The historic heart of Manila, Intramuros (literally meaning "within the walls") is the oldest district in the capital city. The three-mile-long stone wall completely surrounds the district (with the exception of a small stretch near the River Pasig) and despite the fact that the district was nearly entirely obliterated by US bombers, it remains for visitors a rich cultural experience.
Historical attractions within Intramuros include Fort Santiago, Postigo del Palacio, Baluarte de San Diego, Puerta de Isabel II, Plaza de Roma, San Agustin Church, and Ayuntamiento. The church, which was the sole structure left unmarred by the bombers, has been declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site There are also multiple museums and other points of cultural interest, many ruins, and a few tasty eateries. Intramuros is also a great locus for buying souvenirs and local wares. There are also a few choices for overnight stays.
Located in the historic Intramuros district of Manila (the oldest district and historic core of Manila, otherwise known as the "Walled City"), the Church of San Agustin was designated an UNESCO World Heritage Site as an example of the Baroque architecture that was specific to the Philippines. A Roman Catholic Church, it was constructed by the Spanish in the sixteenth century, but was not consecrated until 1607. Its beautiful architecture is worth the visit all by itself, though it also houses the tombs of several historical figures, including several conquistadors, statesmen and artists.
The accompanying San Agustin Museum is housed in the adjacent San Agustin Monastery, and exhibits art and artifacts from the Philippines, Spain, Mexico and other cultural centers. The original Augustinians arrived in the Philippines in 1565 just a few decades after Magellan explored the islands, meaning that the aforementioned museum is no slouch.
More Things to Do in Philippines
Cebu's Basilica del Santo Niño (Basilica of Santo Nino, Basilica Minore de Sto Nino) was literally born from fire. In 1565, the church was built on the site where one of conquistador Legazpi's men supposedly found a miraculous statue of Jesus in the burning ruins of a hostile native village. The statue -- considered the oldest religious artifact in the country -- was completely unharmed. The building still houses the statue, even after burning down three times since its initial construction.
The basilica you see today dates back to 1737, and you can see the miraculous "Santo Niño," or Holy Child, within the aptly named Santo Niño Chapel inside the basilica. Each year, the Basilica del Santo Niño celebrates Cebu's largest annual event, the Cebuano festival of Sinulog, centered on this small Flemish statue of Jesus. The festival features a street parade with performances by brightly costumed dancers from all over the Philippines.
The Casa Gorordo Museum, located in downtown Cebu, was originally a private home built in the 1850s Alejandro Reynes Y Rosales and later owned by Juan Isidro de Gorordo, a wealthy Spanish Merchant. The residence was passed down through the Gorordo family, with a total of four generations living there, including the first Filipino bishop of Cebu, Juan Gorordo.
Today, the recently renovated house serves as a public museum and national historic landmark filled with antique furnishings, historic books and documents, decorative arts, household items, period costumes and memorabilia from the Spanish colonial period. As one of only three remaining houses from the colonial period, Casa Gorordo offers an insight into what life was like during Cebu’s early days.
The structure of the house itself is a fascinating study in architecture, as it draws from Spanish, native and Chinese influences.
One of the best family destinations in the Philippines, Manila Ocean Park is as fruitful a journey through the aquatic that one can imagine. A tour through the oceanarium reveals an astounding variety of fish and marine life: over 5,000 kinds in all. The viewing tunnel is the biggest in the region, spanning 82 feet (25 meters), and contains stingrays, colorful seahorses, sharks and loads of attractive reefs. The experience of passing through the tunnel is like walking along the ocean floor.
Another recommended feature at the Ocean Park is its newest attraction: the marine life habitat and sea lion show. Open daily, the show features five new South American Sea Lions - with names like Isabel and Sandra - which are a dazzling addition to the park as they talk and clap their way into visitors' hearts.
For a more interactive experience, you can make an appointment at the fish spa where you submerge your hands and feet into a pool filled with dozens of little fish.
Covering several blocks near Manila Bay, the Rizal Park and Shrine is considered one of the best ways to relax in Manila. A shinning tribute to national hero and icon Dr. Jose Rizal, a patriot for reform during the Spanish Colonial Era, the park is a historical landmark as well as a beautiful stroll, with several well-manicured ponds, gardens and statues.
Scattered throughout the park are the affects and literature of Dr. Rizal, including one poem carved into a stone, called "Mi Ultimo Adios." It is a moving, yet tragic account of his feelings written in the moments leading up to his execution.
At the shrine itself, located on Santa Clara Street, are several pieces of memorabilia, including Dr. Rizal's collected artwork, his manuscripts, books and even seashells that he accumulated over the years. Rizal Park is also home to a number of great attractions including the national library, a butterfly pavilion, a museum of Philippine history, and a planetarium.
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