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Tourist Spots in the Philippines

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Explore the Philippines. Take a peek at Filipinos' history and culture mirrored by century-old churches, ancient forts and modern museums. See the best of nature in our white-sand beaches and three-layered virgin forests.

Discover the Philippine islands. Blessed with an extensive coastline, the Philippines is ringed with unspoiled beaches and first-class resort facilities. Its deep-blue, crystal-clear waters offer about 40,000 square kilometers of coral reefs teeming with a wide variety of marine life.

Endowed with a temperate climate, the Philippines offers a perfect treat to enjoy the sunlight. Lying in southeast Asia and surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, the Philippines boasts of unsullied beaches, spectacular sunsets, luxuriant pastoral lands, cool mountain weather, brilliant man-made resorts and dazzling islands.

The Philippines boasts some of the best beaches and scuba diving waters in the world, supported by golf and an increasingly-impressive inter-island tour and transport system.

Witness the vast expanse of nature's splendor under the spell of cool mountain breeze. A perfect setting for romance or nature tripping, the country's mountain villages serve as a perfect hideaway from the lowlands' summer heat.

If you have yet to see the Philippines, then embark now to what promises to be a trip to paradise!

Feel the breeze of summer at white-sand beaches deemed as among the world's finest; be fascinated at the spectacular view of Baguio and Tagaytay; and take a dip in the refreshing waters of modern resort facilities.

White-Sand Beaches

Boracay Island

Widely known as one of the finest swimming destinations in the world, Boracay is blessed with unsullied fine talcum powder-sand beaches. Its tranquil crystal clear waters are perfect for swimming, sailing, fishing and sunbathing. Boracay also boasts of sapphire seas and spectacular sunsets. Countless hidden coves dot the island and tall coconut trees line up along the beaches.

Boracay lies at the northwest tip of Panay, in the west Visayas region, off the Sibuyan Sea. The island is made up of little communities: Yapak in the north, Balabag in the middle, and Manocmanoc in the south. Hilly elevations up to 100 meters above sea level characterize Yapak and Manocmanoc. Intertwining trails link the small villages together but many sometimes lead to lush tropical jungles.

To get to Boracay, one has to book a flight to Kalibo, the capital of Aklan province. Air-conditioned coasters or public buses offer one-hour-and-a-half drive to Caticlan where one can board a motorized banca for a 30-minute trip to Boracay.

Siargao Island

This newly discovered island boasts of white-sand beaches and surfing waves compared to that of Hawaii. Lying 800 kilometers southeast of Manila, the tear-shaped Siargao Island is a perfect haven for the sun, sea, and surf buffs. It lies on the eastern portion of Surigao del Norte and on the southeastern tip of Mindanao. The island is a mass of tropical land with scores of reefs, points and white beaches.

Its promise as a surfing mecca in the making was discovered in 1993 by American surf photographer John Callahan who went to investigate the rumors of spectacular waves in a little known Mindanao town. He came back from his trip armed with stories about the lovely sun-drenched island and documented his find with beautiful photographs.

Siargao opened itself to the international surfing community by playing host to the Siargao Surfing Cup in the municipality of General Luna. Siargao's Cloud Nine break is said to be among the best in the world and foreign sportsmen view "the unparalleled surf of Siargao as a magnet for deep sea fishing, sailing, wind-surfing, kayaking, and sunbathing on miles of white sandy beaches that the reef-ringed island and its rich waters afford the visitor.

Samal Island

Samal Island offers unending fascination with its white-sand beaches, thick mangroves, coral reefs, rolling hills and rock formations.It is an archipelago of nine islands located in the Davao Gulf about 700 meters south of Davao City. An ideal model for resort and development, Samal Island provides a fabulous site for sunrise and sunset.

Samal Island, like the rest of Mindanao, is outside of the typhoon belt, and enjoys relatively calm weather. Its coastline is characterized by tall, swaying coconut trees, white sand beaches, rock formations, mangroves, coral reefs, and small fishing villages, all suggestive of a tropical island paradise.

Almost all of the beach areas have white sand, with widths varying from only a few meters to more than 10 meters. It provides ample space for picnic huts, reclining chairs for sun bathing, or for simply relaxing and enjoying the tropical scenery.

The water is crystal clear throughout the coastline, which varies in terrain from gently sloping sand beaches to steep cliffs and rock formations. The colors of the coastline at the beach areas transforms itself from the green lush vegetation of coconut trees, to the white sandy beaches, to the dark blue color of the sea, with its deep waters and coral reefs.

Among its popular attractions are the Aguinaldo Pearl Farm, the caves of Talikud Island, the White Stone Mountain, and the San Jose Muslim Fishing Village.

Bohol's Springs and Beaches

Bohol is one of the loveliest islands in southern Philippines. It is situated at the heart of Visayas and with coastline skimmed by gentle coves and white-sand beaches. Many highways snake along sparkling beaches or leafy rivers where one can stop at any point and jump in.

With its rolling hills and plateaus, crystal springs and beaches, the province of Bohol is a picturesque province replete with ancestral homes and centuries-old churches. Bohol is composed of numerous isles -Panglao, Pamilacan, Cabilao, Jao, Mahanay and Lapinin, which are excellent dive spots.

The Chocolate Hills is but one of the many natural wonders to be found in Bohol. The province is the home of the world's smallest monkey, the tarsier. The size of a fist, the tarsier lives on the hills of Corella, some ten kilometers from Tagbilaran. Other exotic flora and fauna may also be found amongst the forest of Bohol.

Bohol's various mountainous and water formations also serve as a natural playground for the adventurous tourist. One can cruise its rivers, hike up the hills, swim the deep waters, or just stroll down the avenues. Bohol is just waiting to surprise you.

Tagbilaran, Bohol's capital town can be reached by plane or boat from Cebu and Manila. Numerous tourist inns and excellent resorts are found in Tagbilaran and Panglao island.

The Beaches of Palawan

The exotic beauty of Palawan remains undefiled. Branded as the country's last frontier, Palawan is a sanctuary to an amazing variety of exotic flora and fauna that are found nowhere else. Palawan is also home to Tubbataha Reef, the only national marine park that made it to the World Heritage List and whose grandeur is comparable to the Great Barrier Reef of Australia.

With more than a thousand islands and islets, Palawan boasts of white-sand beaches, scenic rock formations, underwater rivers and magnificent caves. Other well-known attractions include Saint Paul's National Park which boasts of caves that nestle an underground river; El Nido, a world-class resort famous for its awe-inspiring seascape and limestone cliffs; and Calauit island, home of Philippine and African wildlife.

Also in Palawan is the primordial island of Busuanga, a perfect starting point for sorties to other nearby islands.In Palawan, each day is promising. The sun rises over the South China Sea and soon everything else sparkles, including the smiles of its people.

The Beaches of Glan, Sarangani

Glan, the largest town in the Sarangani province, boasts of world-class beach resorts and rich fishing grounds. The terrain of Glan is characterized by flatlands, rolling hills and mountains. Most land areas have been converted to agriculture and fishponds.

The town of Glan is bounded on the east by Davao Del Sur, on the north by Malapatan town, on the west by the South China Sea, and on the south by Sarangani Bay.

Many foreign and local tourists flock to the area during summer because of its splendid beach resorts. The sorrounding waters, particularly in Gumasa, Baliton and Margus areas are rich fishing grounds. As many as 2,400 species of marine animals have been found in the bay. The dominant catch include yellow-fin tuna, shipjack, and mackerel.

Glan can be reached from Manila and Cebu by airplane going to General Santos City and a 45-minute drive from the airport.

Subic Bay

Subic, the former US naval base in the Philippines, is now a hub for commerce and tourism. Just two-and-a-half hour drive north from Manila, Subic offers a full view of the blue mountain and sea and of the green background of a three-layered virgin forest.

Points of interest include the 18-hole Binictican Golf Course and Clubhouse, a white-sand beach, bowling and arcade center,a ship wharf past a restricted forested area, firing ranges, fishing grounds and an area for bungee jumping.

Visitors to Subic can take a 12-hour jungle survival course, visit an Aeta tribal village, take a bay cruise, explore the coves, end up at the white-sand beach of Grande Island, engage in water sports, go horseback riding or simply enjoy the scenic view of the sea.

Subic Bay is complete with tourism-support facilities that include a marina, a yacht club, hotels, shopping arcades and food shops. It also boasts of an international airport.

Anilao

Anilao, a resort village in Mabini, Batangas is considered the summer mecca of diving fanatics. The resort offers accommodations and diving facilities, plus the services of training clubs that provide courses on diving.

Situated in the southeast area of Batangas province, Anilao may be reached within three hours from Manila through public buses or jeepneys. From Anilao, one can start diving from the shore or go in bancas to nearby islands. Among them is Sombrero (Hat) Island, a marine preserve where sports activities are regulated.

Other dive spots in this side of Batangas are Mapating Rock at Maricaban Island, Caban Cove and Layag Layag Point.

Puerto Galera

Puerto Galera (which means Galleon Port) is one of the most popular beach resorts in the Philippines. A marine reserve, it is endowed with coves, fine sandy beaches and shallow coral reefs ideal for snorkeling.

The place can be reached from the port of Batangas City where a ferry service to Mindoro awaits the tourists. Bancas may be hired to go to Escarceo Point, the best dive spot in Puerto Galera. The area offers positive thrills and guaranteed excitement, with its sudden rushes of strong currents and steep slopes which are a favorite gathering place for large pelagic fish.Diving expeditions are usually organized by certified masters on specific dive spots.

Hundred Islands

Northern Philippines boasts of white-sand beaches in Pangasinan and Ilocandia. Among the best tourist destinations is the Hundred Islands which can be reached from the Pangasinan town of Alaminos, where the lodging accommodations and restaurants are situated.

At Hundred Islands, the visitor may rent an island for one's own private beach for a day. Short boat rides take off from the village of Lucap to the Hundred Islands.

Beaches stretch along the western coast of Ilocos region. Among the popular beach resorts are Cresta del Mar, Bali Hai, Cabana and the Coconut Grove in La Union province.

Ilocos Norte also has fine resorts such as D'Coral Beach Resort and Fort Ilocandia.

Pools and Resorts

Aside from beaches and diving spots, the Philippines also has other beautiful places. You can either take a dip in the refreshing waters of modern resort facilities, feel the gush of volcanic hot springs or just have fun under the waterfalls.

Pagsanjan Falls

A popular tourist destination, Pagsanjan Rapids and Falls is a series of 14 rapids punctuated by mini-waterfalls on the way to the main falls. Pagsanjan is a small Laguna town which served as the setting for Fracis Ford Coppola's film "Apocalypse Now."

The terrain towards the main falls offers a lot of exitement. As one negotiates the waterway, the trips becomes wilder, with the river flanked by towering cliffs lush with vegetation. Waters from the Cavinti and Luisiana dams cascade down Pagsanjan Falls and into a segregated part of the river which is about 150 feet deep. Here, one can rent a raft and enjoy riding under the falls.

Laguna Resorts

Aside from Pagsanjan Falls, Laguna has a lot more to offer. Laguna has one of the Philippines' incredibly beautiful countryside sceneries. The province offers a scenic view of a bay, considered as the largest in the country. The towns of Calamba and Los Baños abound with swimming pools and resorts. Many residents of Metro Manila head for these towns during summer.

In Calamba, one can proceed to the ancestral house of National Hero Dr. Jose Rizal. The house now serves as a museum and is a repository of Philippine history and culture.

Los Baños, on the other hand, is famous for its numerous hot springs. Considered as a flower basket in Luzon, Los Baños produces a wide variety of flowers and other ornamentals. Mt. Makiling, an extinct volcano, stands guard over the town.

Hidden Valley Springs

Hidden Valley Springs is one of the most popular resorts in Alaminos, Laguna. The valley nestles at the foot of Mt. Makiling, a mystical mountain associated with local myths.

A number of springs with hot, cold and soda water, lace a forest of huge fruit trees, tropical shrubs and flowering plants. A concrete path connects the pools and leads to the jungle's interior where a waterfall has cut a gorge down the mountainside.

The resort has cottages for overnight stay and restaurants. It is an ideal base for visiting the surrounding provincial towns of Laguna and Quezon.

Bulacan Resorts

Bulacan, a progressive province just north of Manila, offers resort facilities that are generally clean and complete in amenities.

The towns of San Jose del Monte, Sta. Maria, Balagtas, Pandi, Malolos, Plaridel and San Miguel boast of resort facilities that draw visitors from Metro Manila and nearby provinces. The rural setting provides a perfect blend of countryside nature and modern facilities for fun and recreation.

Among the well known resorts in the province are DJ Paradise Resort in Malolos; Sibul Spring Resort in San Miguel; Grotto Vista in San Jose del Monte; 4k Garden and Lanesca Resort; Latian in Marilao and Villa Christina in Balagtas.

Bulacan is just a 30-minute drive from Manila via the North Luzon Tollway or through the Mac Arthur Highway.

Villa Escudero

Villa Escudero, a coconut plantation village in San Pablo City, was developed by its owners into a tourist destination complete with swimming pools, picnic area, fishing grounds, and modern amenities. Special packages can be arranged to include overnight stay with food and accommodation.

The village offers a glimpse of plantation living. The whole area is surrounded by coconut trees and flowering plants. The estate also houses a museum whose collection ranges from fabulous antiquities to kitsch. Bamboo cottages grid a river that flows to a dam where picnickers gather around the tables set up on the water.

The village is a one-and-a-half hour drive south from Manila.

Puerto Azul

Situated on the southern entrance to Manila Bay and opposite Corregidor Island is Puerto Azul, a beach resort that offers a breathtaking sight with all its elegance and mystique.

Puerto Azul, a tourists' paradise in the outskirts of Ternate town in Cavite, boasts of flowery bushes, verdant hills and forests, blue sea, and fine sand beaches. Here, one can imagine one's self in the Biblical Garden of Eden (a little bit in the modern era, though).

The resort complex, which nestles within a 3,300-hectare nature reserve, houses two entities: the Puerto Azul Beach Hotel and the Puerto Azul Beach and Country Club. The club manages a world-class golf course designed by Gary Player and Ron Kirby and completed in 1978. It is now a popular venue for many prestigious championship tournaments.

Though Puerto Azul has always been synonymous with golf and the beach, now there are other things that one can do within the complex. Puerto Azul Beach Hotel has, in fact, prepared 30 fun-filled activities which can be done on one's own or with family.

Camiguin Island

Camiguin Island, known for its lanzones festival, offers white-sand beaches, spring resorts and magnificent caves untouched by industrial development. The island lies off the north coast of Mindanao. Aside from its beaches, Camiguin boasts of spring resorts and waterfalls.

The 62-square kilometer island-province has more volcanoes per square kilometer than any other island on Earth. Most famous of the island's seven volcanoes is Mt. Hibok-Hibok whose last eruption was recorded in 1951.

Among its popular attractions are the Ardent Spring Resort run by the Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA), the Mt. Hibok-Hibok itself, Santo Niño Cold Spring, Medano Islet, Mantigue Island and the lanzones festival.

There are local flights to Camuigin island.

Cool Mountains

Witness the vast expanse of nature's splendor under the spell of cool mountain breeze. A perfect setting for romance or nature tripping, the country's mountain villages serve as a perfect hideaway from the lowlands' summer heat.

Baguio City

Rising 1,500 meters above the sea, Baguio City enjoys a relatively cool weather throughout the year. On the average, Baguio is at least eight degrees cooler than any place in the lowlands. Not surprisingly, Baguio has become the "summer capital" of the country.

It is awarded with a variety of cultural, historical and scenic attractions which make it an important and interesting destination. As early as March, tourists and locals take the six-hour trek up the zigzagging Kennon Road. Within a mile of the city, the sweet scent of pine trees and flowers already permeate the air.

Designed by Daniel Burnham during the American occupation, Baguio City is situated in the midst of pine-covered hills and valleys at the southern end of the Cordillera. Among its popular attractions are the well-manicured lawns of Club John Hay, the Mansion House and the Burnham Park.

From Baguio City, one can proceed to the Banaue Rice Terraces, also considered as the eighth wonder of the world. An engineering marvel, this "Stairways to the Sky" was constructed by hand by the Ifugaos.

Tagaytay

With an altitude of 2,250 feet above sea level, Tagaytay City enjoys a cool climate all year round.

This city perched on a ridge is located in the province of Cavite, some 56 kilometers south of Manila. It overlooks Manila Bay on the north, Taal Lake and Taal Volcano on the south, Laguna Bay on the east and the China Sea on the west. The city is linked to the Metropolitan Manila and the province of Batangas by the Aguinaldo Highway.

Among its attractions is the Tagaytay Picnic Grove where one can get an unobstructed view of Taal Volcano, which lies within a lake. Taal Volcano, which rises 406 meters from the lake, is reputedly the world's smallest volcano.

Taal Lake itself is an immense body of water formed when the old crater collapsed and the walls of the larger volcano caved in and sank.

A visit to the Volcano Island can be arranged through the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology in Quezon City which maintains a monitoring station on the island.

For visiting tourists, support facilities are readily available in this idyllic city. Tagaytay is the "sister" city of Las Vegas and Nevada, U.S.A; Tainan City, Taiwan; and Bankstown City, New South Wales, Australia.

Sagada

This Mountain Province town, situated west of Bontoc, boasts of its cool weather and spectacular sceneries. A pastoral upland valley, Sagada provides an endless expanse of mountain ranges which are clothed by fogs in the early morning.

Among its attractions are towering limestone cliffs, subterranean caves and unexplored forests. Some of Sagada's caves remain unconquered. Because of their length and depth, Sagada's natives believe that these caves lead to the center of the Earth.

Other sites to visit in Sagada are the Kitongan bottomless pit and underground river, Calvary Hill, Bukong Falls and Alipine Lake Banao. Sagada has accommodation facilities and can be reached by public buses from Banaue in Ifugao province or from Baguio City.

Banahaw

Another popular destination, specially during the Lent period, is Mount Banahaw, an extinct volcano which rises 2,100 meters above sea level.

Banahaw towers over the southeastern towns of Laguna and Quezon. Revered as a mystical mountain, Banahaw has become a sanctuary for different religious cults. Up on Banahaw's leafy slopes live members of various religious sects who adhere to what seems to be a mixture of Catholicism, Buddhism, the cabala, animism and other forms of pagan worship. Down below, in the foothill towns, dwell amulet-makers, soothsayers, faith healers, diviners and dedicated UFO watchers.

Banahaw comes alive during the Lent when various religious sects re-enact the passion of Jesus Christ.

People ascend to Mount Banahaw to experience its cool weather, bathe in its hot springs or simply stand amazed at the sight of nature's beauty.

Mount Banahaw can be reached from both east and west. From the east, the ascent starts in Lucban, Quezon, while from the west, in Dolores, Laguna. For both climbs, it is advisable to have a guide to ensure a safe trip.

Urban Wonders

Enchanted Kingdom

Thousands of people head south of Manila to spend a day of fun-filled relaxation and adventurous excitement within the American-style walls of Enchanted Kingdom, a 17-hectare world class theme park conveniently located in the outskirts of Sta. Rosa, Laguna.

Enchanted Kingdom, a short five-minute ride from the Sta. Rosa Tollgate of South Luzon Expressway, brings the closest version of Disney-type leisure in the country. The theme park, managed and operated by Amtrust Leisure Corporation (ALC), offers educational entertainment tours to students and "gastronomic treats" to families.

The P1.2-billion park, which has been operating since July 28, 1995 was conceptualized by Landmark Entertainment Group and designed after the Knott's Berry Farm, America's first amusement theme park located in Buena Park, California. It is a member of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA). As such, it provides visitors with thrilling rides, stunning sights, and wondrous experience.

In the words of the Enchanted Kingdom operators, "the place is an active mix of thrills, attractions, entertainment, food service, celebrations and shopping set amidst an enthralling place that presents the past and the future, the quaint and the sophisticated, the picturesque and the dazzling in one unique package."

Enchanted Kingdom is an aggregate of seven theme zones: Victoria Park, Portabello, Brooklyn Place, Spaceport, Jungle Outpost, Midway Boardwalk, and Boulderville. These zones serve as enclaves to 21 thrilling rides and attractions meant to provide daring visitors with a sense of flight, twist, twirl, and other acrobatic stunts.

The rides include the Grand Carousel, Flying Fiesta, Rialto, Space Shuttle, Log Jam, Wheel of Fate, Condor, Up Up and Away, Roller Coaster, Anchors Away, Dodgem, Stone Eggs, Air Pterodactyl, Swan boats, and Bump n Splash. In the near future, the park is set to introduce other exciting rides such as the Kiddie Train Ride and the Rio Loco River Rapid Ride.

Aside from the rides, Enchanted Kingdom also charms its visitors with various treats such as the fireworks show every weekend, dance presentation by the park's in-house talents, theater shows, seasonal shows, well-manicured gardens, classic American brownstone facades and establishments, and a variety of characters and mascots led by the Wizard.

Manila

Rediscover Manila like you've never seen it before. Be charmed by the city's glorious past mirrored by its century-old churches, gallant forts, classic plazas, ancestral edifices, stately museums, and historic monuments. At the same time, relish the beauty of a modern city rising from the ruins of yesteryears. Beyond Manila's busy streets and crowded commercial centers lie festive joints that celebrate life.

The Old City

Manila, which was named after a white-flowered mangrove plant called nilad, was a tiny Malay settlement along the Pasig River ruled by Rajah Sulayman in the 16th century. The Spanish colonizers moved the capital of the Philippines from Cebu to Manila in 1571. They built the walled city of Intramuros, which for the next 300 years, was to become the nerve center of the Spanish rule.

Intramuros was the political and commercial center of the Spanish regime. From this walled city, the Spaniards extended their cultural and religious influences to the different parts of the country. They built churches, Catholic-run schools and universities, government buildings, and magnificent artifices, which reflect the Castilian architecture.

At the turn of the century, the Americans came and ruled the Philippines for 50 years. They introduced their own architecture, language, education and system of governance. During this period, Manila underwent a facelift. A blend of American and Spanish influences gave way to a new Manila, which was to evolve into a giant urban area known as Metro Manila.

Today, Metro Manila is an aggregate of 10 cities and seven municipalities.

Intramuros

Among the popular attractions in Metro Manila are Intramuros, Rizal Park, Binondo, Malacañang, Malate, the CCP Complex, Nayong Pilipino, Ayala Avenue, the Fort, Ortigas Center, Quezon Memorial Circle, and countless bars and restaurants scattered around the metropolis.

Traces of the Spanish influence still loom in Intramuros. A tour of this landmark will provide the visitors a deeper understanding of Manila's rich heritage. Intramuros protects within its walls a number of national treasures like the Fort Santiago (once a prison for revolutionary Filipinos, now a peaceful park-cum-museum), San Agustin Church (the oldest structure in the country with its Baroque interiors and trompe l'oeil murals), Manila Cathedral (a magnificent architectural feat with its intricate stone carvings, stained glass mosaics, and rosette windows), Casa Manila (a former colonial house and now a museum of national relics), and San Juan de Letran school.

Intramuros has been restored for the tourists. Today, it houses a museum, art galleries, an open-air theatre, fine restaurants, craft shops and souvenir stalls. It also keeps a park lush with tropical flora and homing pigeons. The park, Puerto Real, is the venue of Saturday musical performances during dry months.

Rizal Park

Just beside Intramuros is Rizal Park, a 60-hectare conglomerate of gardens, historical markers, plazas, an artist's sanctuary, a 1913 bronze monument of Jose Rizal, a grand stadium, an observatory, an open-air concert hall, a light-and-sound theatre, restaurants, food kiosks and playgrounds, with dozens of fountains. Fronting the northwest side of the park is Manila Hotel, whose lobby is one of the most imposing in the world. Along the park's bayside, tourists can have an unobstructed view of the fabled Manila Bay sunset.

A five-minute walk from Rizal Park is the National Museum, the official keeper and guardian of the country's cultural, historical and natural heritage. It houses the representative works of the National Artists, as well as the renowned paintings of Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo and Juan Luna. It puts on display some prehistoric finds, including the Tabon skullcap, pottery, ceramics and other artifacts from China and Indochina and remnants of pre-Hispanic boats that brought Malay immigrants to the Philippines dating to about 1250. Other establishments worth visiting in the area are the Metropolitan Theater and the National Library.

Binondo Area

Across the Pasig River from Intramuros is the Binondo area, home of Chinatown. The district is filled with all things Chinese from Peking duck and Buddhist temples to gold watches, snake soup, and wonder herbs. The high chords of Chinese songs and the permeating smell of incense complete the uniquely Chinese ambiance. It is said that this quaint district was already a hub of Chinese commerce even before the Spaniards came in 1571.

In particular, Ongpin offers a lot of variety: restaurants, pet shops, bakeries, grocery stores, jewelers, traditional medicine shops, acupuncture clinics, kung-fu schools, and mahjong parlors. Ongpin leads to Plaza Santa Cruz, which is where Rizal Avenue curves to meet the MacArthur Bridge. Escolta, now a shadow of its former self, leads off from here. The plaza is dominated by Santa Cruz Church.

Malacañang

From Escolta, one can proceed to the San Miguel district, known for its Spanish-style houses and the Malacañang Palace, seat of the Philippine government. This ornate Spanish colonial palace, with its arches and balconies, was built as a private country house in the late 18th century and purchased by the government in 1825. At first the governor-general's summer residence, it became his permanent residence in 1863, after the Palacio Real in Intramuros was destroyed by an earthquake. In 1986, the palace museum was opened for the public. Visitors are advised to call first. The telephone number is 521-2307.

The CCP Complex

The Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Complex is the arts center of the country. Located along Roxas Boulevard in Pasay City, this is the premier venue for ballet presentations, concerts, stage plays, performances, exhibits and trade fairs. Inaugurated in 1969, the CCP comprises a fine concert hall seating 2,000 plus an intimate 400-seat theater as well as a library, museum, art gallery, and an upscale restaurant. The lobby is opulent, with marble floors, curving staircases, and glass and kapis-shell chandeliers.

Also within the complex is the Coconut Palace, an architectural wonder made from the coconut tree mixed with other indigenous material. The Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), the Product Design and Development Center, the Folk Arts Theater, Philippine Center for International Trade and Exhibitions (PHILCITE), Westin Philippine Plaza Hotel and Manila Film Center are also found here.

Beside the CCP Complex is the World Trade Center, while fronting it is the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) building. The BSP houses two museums: the Money Museum, which showcases excavated antique gold jewelry and the Metropolitan Museum, a repository of classic Filipino paintings and a host of rotating international art exhibitions.

Roxas Boulevard is also lined up by de-luxe and standard hotels, lively nightclubs, and the Cuneta Sport Center, home of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).

Parks and Zoos

From the CCP complex, one can proceed to Nayong Pilipino. This 32-acre theme park is also just a 10-minute drive from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). The park features scaled-down replicas of the country's top tourist destinations such as Mayon Volcano, the Banaue Rice Terraces and the Chocolate Hills.

A smaller park, which offers a venue for relaxation is also within close distance. The Paco Park, which was built as a cemetery in 1820, is now a frequent site of mini-concerts and musical performance by the country's finest artists.

The park is surrounded by trees and plants, which are properly identified. Behind the park is the Paco Hong Giarn Taoist Temple. Nearby are the New Swiss Inn, with bar, restaurant, and delicatessen, and the Park Hotel, with lounge, restaurant, and swimming pool.

Not far from the area is the Manila Zoo on Adriatico street. Manila Zoo, the country's largest and oldest, hosts international and indigenous animal species such as the Tamaraw and Philippine crocodile. It is open everyday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The northern part of Metro Manila takes pride in maintaining two animal sanctuaries, Parks and Wildlife Nature Center and the Malabon Zoo. The former, located at the corner of Quezon Ave. and the Elliptical Road in Quezon City serves as the protection center for exotic animals confiscated from smugglers and illegal collectors.

A stone's throw away is the Quezon Memorial Circle, a park noted for its 30-meter-high monument of former President Manuel Quezon. Its underground chambers house the Quezon City Museum and Art Gallery. The Malabon Zoo and Aquarium, located along Gov. Pascual Avenue in Potrero, Malabon also has a collection of interesting fish and animals. It is open everyday from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

In Makati City, an air-conditioned zoo at the Glorietta mall is frequently visited by parents and their small children. The area also has a small playground.

Commercial Districts

South of Manila is Makati City, considered as the financial capital of the country. Along Ayala Avenue rise modern skyscrapers, which are home to multinational companies, foreign embassies and local banks. The trendiest leisure spots - hotels, restaurants, bars, music lounges, fashion boutiques and department stores - converge around the sleek Ayala Center. Across EDSA is the posh subdivision of Forbes Park, home of the country's rich and famous. One area that now competes with Makati in terms of its modern architectural landscape is the Ortigas Center between Mandaluyong City and Pasig City. Home to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), it is also the site of three of the country's richest shopping malls - SM Megamall, Robinson's Galleria, and Shangri-la EDSA Plaza.Also within Ortigas is the striking leisure enclave, Saint Francis Square, with its fine restaurants and fashionable music lounges.

Suburbs

The town of San Juan, just next to Manila, boasts of its large mansions and modern houses. It is home to some of the richest Filipinos, including the present president. Quezon City is the site of many government installations, leading universities, and television stations. Marikina City, on the other hand, is considered as the shoe capital of the Philippines. It takes pride in having maintained a clean river, planked by greens.

Las Piñas City in the southern part of Metro Manila has retained much of its provincial appeal. Its main attraction, however, is the world-famous bamboo organ, found in the town's picturesque Catholic church. The centuries-old musical instrument was constructed between 1792 and 1819. It has 174 bamboo pipes, 122 horizontal reeds of soft metal, a five-octave keyboard, and 22 stops arranged in vertical rows. The church is open daily except Sunday morning.

Best Buys

As a shopping haven, Metro Manila offers almost all kinds of products, from the most fashionable to the rarest items. And they can be found almost anywhere, in the most luxurious department stores as well as in small bargain shops. Depending on the traveler's budget, there is always a place where one can find the best buys. The giant shopping malls, SM, Robinson's, Glorietta, Shangri-la, and Rustan's, carry most of the well-known international labels. They also have stores, which sell the best of Filipino products.

Unique souvenirs are being sold at Silahis in Intramuros, and SM Department Store, Makati Commercial Center and Landmark in Makati City. The best place to search for Philippine handicrafts are "Ilalim ng Tulay Market" on Carlos Palanca Street, and the handicraft stalls at Nayong Pilipino. For antique collectors, the best spots to visit are Padre Paura, Ermita and Intramuros.

Attractive buys are also available in the metro's flea markets, such as Quiapo, Tutuban and Divisoria in Manila and Baclaran in Parañaque. Bargain-hunters will surely have a feast while picking from the widest collection of fabrics, RTWs, home furnishings, bags, shoes, watches, handicrafts, office supplies and other interesting items.

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