2. Imagine a place where everything you want for a brief escape from your daily routine is available in one place! Welcome to the land where possibilities are endless and fulfilment in every way required for an awesome retreat is yours to take advantage of! Oh yes, dont forget to take snapshots of gorgeous views, cosmopolitan sights, traditional fanfare, delicious cuisine and colourful people with your memory. Money Matter Philippine Peso (PHP). English, Tagalog and other local dialects. A hot and humid tropical climate with an average temperature of 2634 degrees Celsius. Everything from planes to trishaws is available for you to travel between locations within the archipelago. This is available at any telecommunications outlet in Philippines with very cheap start-up packs. Popular telco providers are Globe and Smart. Language Weather Pre-paid SIM card Getting around 2 3. Did you know? Its made up of 7,100 islands, the largest being Luzon where its capital city, Manila is located. The Philippines is the second largest archipelago in the world. Its the largest Catholic nation in Asia. There are a few gorgeous UNESCO World Heritage Site locations of nature and heritage value. One of the worlds top island destinations is Boracay in the Philippines. 3 4. Rich Culture and Stunning Architecture Youll be rendered speechless while marvelling at the sheer sight of imposing cathedrals, fusions of architectural designs and quaint remnants of the good old colonial era! This unique mix of influences stems from centuries of being occupied by the Spanish, Americans, Japanese and other ethnic races who came to call this splendid land home. Be part of its amazing cultural heritage and youll feel richer than King Midas. Local Filipino You know whats interesting? The pre-war, pre-colonisation traditional Filipino house or bahay kubo and its architecture. Its all made from natural local resources! For example, the roof is made from Nipa leaves; and the structure and flooring from bamboo and wood. These evolved to sturdier homes made of stone or bahay na bato with certain interior arrangements preserved such as elevated apartments and open ventilation. The newer homes also come with tiled roofs, wide windows and arcades with a mix of Spanish, Filipino and Chinese architectural designs. Great examples of these structures can still be found in abundance at Vigan, Ilocos Sur and Taal. Remember to bring your camera and an empty memory card! 4 5. Historical Towns When you venture to the north of Luzon, guide yourself to Ilocos Sur province where the very well preserved Historic Town of Vigan is one of Philippines UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Its really a throwback to the colonial era! Calesa horse-drawn carriages trotting along cobblestone streets with preserved Spanish- style buildings dotting the rustic landscape makes this a cool way to spend your vacation time. Each island in this vast archipelago has awe-inspiring buildings and towns like Intramuros in Manila and Taal in Batangas that have survived the test of time, so do try to explore every interesting nook and cranny. American Footprint Basketball, hotdogs, suburban-style buildings and countless others, all post-American colonisation influences which are very much embedded in the Filipino culture and structural design today. You can expect bustling cities like Manila to have the latest in architectural designs influenced by modern America, although during the American colonial era the designs were very much Neoclassical and some have been restored to their former glory. So, go ahead. Explore! Spanish Legacy Heres something you cant miss while walking along any street in the Philippines - the magnificent Baroque architecture. Its everywhere! On cathedrals that look more like massive fortresses such as the imposing, made-of- pure-steel Basilica of San Sebastian, on every possible Spanish-era building survivor and even on the exclusive Forbes Park houses. Marvel at other architectural wonders listed on the UNESCO World Heritage Sitethe overwhelming Baroque facade at the Church of the Immaculate Conception of San Agustin in Manila, the Church of Nuestra Seora de la Asuncion in Santa Maria, the Church of Santo Tomas de Villanueva in Miag-ao and the Church of San Agustn in Paoay. 5 6. SCENIC NATURE AND THRILLING ADVENTURE Eco-lovers and adventurers, take heed. Beware of completely falling head over heels with the Philippines while viewing awe-inspiring landscapes, exploring tough terrains, discovering exotic flora and fauna and being mesmerised by its deep blue abyss. Yes, this rippling archipelago is Mother Natures playground and youll be surprised at how this piece of paradise is unknown to many. So read on and get acquainted with euphoria. Enchanting nature Rainforests carpet most of the Philippines so exploring such thriving greenery is normally part of anyones itinerary. Theres the option of cruising along the mangroves at Bakhawan Eco-Park in Kalibo, where nature trails await you within an arboretum cocoon of tranquillity. Or head over to places of nature, historical and preservation value all in one place if you choose to marvel at the Tabon Cave Complex in Palawan in which remains of 50,000 year-old Homo sapiens were discovered. See turtles at the laidback Tawi-Tawi Turtle Island Sanctuary and be stumped speechless when the rolling Chocolate Hills (therere more than one thousand of these hills!) in Bohol come into view. Not to be left out is the man-made wonder of the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras in northern Luzon. Dating back to more than a thousand years, it is a picture of human resilience and amazing beauty. On the other hand, the purely natural Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park at Palawan has water formations and dense forests that have a huge biodiversity in terms of plants and animals. Both of these locations of indescribable splendour are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. 6 7. Challenging mountains with spectacular lakes You may have heard of Mount Pinatubo in Pampanga, where calderas are filled with the bluest colour of water forming one of the most astonishing volcanic lakes in the Philippines. Or maybe its the geological wonder of the volcano- within-a-lake-within-a-volcano of Taal in Batangas that sets your heart racing whenever the name is mentioned. These occasionally antsy giants (active volcanos) are both popular with those who desire refuge with nature and with the adrenaline- seekers as youll be completely bewildered when youre surrounded by clusters of emerald and pools of sapphire. Add the extinct Mount Arayat volcano in Pampanga to this equation and youre all set! Sea Havens Be it under water or on its surface, shimmering cerulean seas of the Philippines bring about spectacular islands and an endless foray of splashing good times. The most phenomenal of them all is the Tubbataha Reefs National Park in the Central Sulu Sea. Atolls, magnificent reefs, lagoons, marine and animal- related ocean life are at their prime here, as evident in its listing as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. For a taste of everything island, Boracay (off the coast of Kalibo), IGaCos (The Island Garden City of Samal, off the coast of Davao), Bacuit Bay (off El Nido) and Apo Reef National Park in the Occidental Mindoro waters have it in droves! Its time for that long-overdue parasailing, getting that perfectly bronzed body, absorbing in that Ive- always-wanted-to-read-it book or exploring Neptunes vast marine kingdom. Bring out your inner daredevil and skim the waters surface in Aurora. Its surfs up as this surfers paradise becomes home to literally a sea of six- pack torsos, colourful surf boards, dude in every sentence and hip-hanging board shorts during October to February. 7 8. Glorious Food Indigenous Food Travellers have claimed that you can never say youve been to a country until youve tried the traditional, local fare. How true this is! Some may seem bizarre, even to the point of churning your stomach but generally nothing is how it seems. But once the emulsion of flavours hits your palate, mmmmmis the only thing you can say. Sample the yummy Halo-Halo (a dessert made of shaved ice and sweet condiments), Sinigang (tamarind- based meat stew), Chicken Tinola (chicken stew), Kare-Kare (stewed oxtail in thick peanut sauce) and of course, Balut (fertilised duck embryo). Go on, try them all! Spanish Cuisine and Influences What the Spanish conquistadors left behind after more than 300 years of rule is their aromatic, rich and intensely flavourful cuisine. Its cuisine that has been notably acknowledged to be the best in Asia and youd be remiss in your tummy-indulging duties if you didnt at least dig into a Paella (saffron rice with seafood and chicken), Chicken Relleno (stuffed chicken) or those delicious sugared Ensaymadas (brioches). Not to be left out are Spanish-influenced dishes which are household staples such as Adobo (vinegar-infused stew) that will make your day complete. Halal Food Looking for a halal (kosher) meal or restaurant can sometimes be daunting but worry not, there are some of these eateries scattered in and around Metro Manila. Most Muslim-dominated areas like Mindanao will have loads of restaurants with halal fare, although its recommended for you to ask around just to be sure. 8 9. Well, that says a lot about the mouth watering, deeply- flavoured cuisine of multi-cultural Philippines. The heavenly scents that waft from restaurants and street vendors will sure to entice your taste buds till you drool. There are also exotic forms of food types that will take you on a wondrous gastronomic adventure, so hop on! American Fast-food, steaks and every hearty American dish imaginable can be found everywhere even when youre not looking. Juicy burgers, hot dogs, crunchy salads and how-my-mama- used-to-make pies are food legacies which some locals just cant do without!