Memos from Asia

Top Cultural Experiences In The Philippines

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Baguio City, Philippines: Street dancing participants nearing the entrance of the Athletic Bowl for the dance finale during the “Panagbenga Festival”, an annual flower festival held in the summer capital in the Philippines

The Philippines has 7,641 islands and is rich with natural wonders. From pure white shores to vast mountain peaks, this archipelago’s wonder and beauty have made it a popular and affordable destination for tourists exploring Southeast Asia. But where do you go if you only have a few days to see the country?

If you want to get as much sightseeing and adventuring done in a short period of time, these eight things are must-dos that will make for an unforgettable vacation. Whether you want to explore Filipino culture through cuisine, history, or ecotourism, there’s something for every kind of traveler here. Who knows? You may enjoy yourself so much that you’ll want to cross these all off your traveling bucket list!

Hike Up The Banaue Rice Terraces

The 2000-year-old World Heritage Ifugao rice terraces in Batad, northern Luzon, Philippines.

Considered the “Eighth Wonder of The World”, the Banaue Rice Terraces are definitely a must-see if you want to see some lush greenery. They’re 2,000 years old and a great choice for a quick heritage tour. You can get a panoramic view of the village from Banaue Viewpoint, visit the nearby hot springs, and fall for a relaxing soak in the middle of nature.

If you’re not afraid of heights, you can walk across the Hanging Bridge, which connects Banaue to the nearby village of Batad. The Batad Rice Terraces are a UNESCO World Heritage site that is well worth the hike!

Join A Ukelele-Making Workshop In Cebu

Cebu City is famous for generations of artisans who have hand-crafted guitars and ukeleles. It is one of the island’s major industries, and the present makers still use traditional techniques to make these beautiful stringed instruments.

If you want to take a piece of Cebu home with you, you can sign up for a workshop to make your own ukelele out of native wood like acacia or mango wood. Learn how to shape your own ukelele from scratch, using materials provided during the workshop and with the guidance of experienced artisans!

Stay For A Spell At Mt. Purro Nature Reserve

Built by the tireless work of the Dumagat tribe, this nature sanctuary in Rizal is the perfect place to get in touch with nature and reconnect with yourself. Inspired by the tribe’s dream of preserving the environment, the reserve has many activities where you can learn more about their heritage and traditions.

Watch a cooking demo using bamboo and fire, hike up the trail to Malvar’s Peak, or ride a zipline amid lush greenery. You may not have the best phone reception while you’re there, but this is truly a chance to get away from it all and immerse yourself without any distractions!

Go On A Bamboo Bicycle Eco Tour Of Intramuros

Manila Cathedral, Intramuros, Manila, Philippines

Intramuros is one of the most historic districts in Manila, having survived World War II ravages. Join a small guided group and learn more about how the Spanish and Chinese influenced Manila’s city, all while getting a little light exercise on an eco-friendly bamboo bike.
Biking around Intramuros will allow you to see all of its walled fortifications and nearby famous landmarks. Take a short ride to Fort Santiago, visit the famous Manila Cathedral and find out about the country’s national hero, Jose Rizal. It’s right in the heart of Metro Manila, so it’s a very accessible cultural tour for those who are staying in the city.

Embark On A Trip To Villa Escudero

July 15, 2017 ride on a raft at the river in villa Escudero, Laguna, Philippines

A coconut plantation located in the nearby province of Quezon, Villa Escudero, is one of the country’s oldest and most well-known resorts. Even a day trip to this former hacienda will help you learn more about the history of Luzon. The villa has museums full of artifacts, and you can ride a cart pulled by a carabao (local water buffalo) while you look at the villa’s collection of planes and cannons—dating all the way back to World War II.

Take A Street Food Tour In Cebu

While Manila is famous for its street food, the bustling metropolis of Cebu City has just as many delicious treats that you can sample. Book a tour with Backstreet Academy and get to ask knowledgeable local guides all your questions about Cebuano culture.

While learning more about Cebu, you can look forward to some unique dishes during your tour: nilarang, a tangy fish soup; tuslob buwa and puso, a dish where you dip hanging rice into bubbling pig’s brain; and of course, the sweet and crunchy turon (banana fritter).

Flock To Bacolod For The Masskara Festival

(Credit: Herbert Kikoy, CC BY-SA 4.0)

Bacolod gets packed with tourists from all over the world on the fourth Sunday of October. This is when the capital city of the sugar-producing region of Negros Occidental celebrates Masskara, a festival where the crowds don masks and dance in the streets.

A festival which started as a celebration of the city’s reputation as “The City of Smiles”, Masskara is an excellent time to sample the local beer, fall in love with Philippine music and join contests for mask making. Watch the parade of festival dancers, grab some chicken inasal, and join the party on this merry day—you may not be able to help getting swept away by the crowd’s high spirits!

Visit Las Casas Filipinas De Azucar

Go on a road trip to the province of Bataan to this beautiful property, which houses lovingly restored Spanish-Filipino houses that are a true testament to this country’s architectural heritage. Made possible by Filipino craftsmen’s labor, every restored home once belonged to a different family and has its own special story to tell.

Start your cultural journey by riding a horse-drawn calesa or walking along the brick pavements, and take a little trip back in time with your tour guide, who will give you a wealth of information about the years of Spanish colonial rule. When you’re done with your tour, you can relax in the beach area and get some refreshments.

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