By: Gerelyn Terzo of Sharemoney
The Philippines is a country with a great deal of history attached to it. Now that it is reopening its borders to tourists, it is time to start planning your itinerary. While the task to whittle down the list might seem too difficult, given the number of historic landmarks that the Southeast Asian nation has to offer, we’re here to help and have come up with a list of a dozen must-see places in the Philippines for your next trip.
Leyte Landing Memorial Park: The Leyte Landing Memorial, which is also known as Memorial Park, is where General Douglas MacArthur landed in 1944. That is when he famously returned to the Philippines to avenge losses suffered in WWII and reclaim the Philippine Islands from the Japanese army. Located outside of Tacloban City in Red Beach, Palo, Leyte, this memorial can be visited by tricycle.
Corregidor Island: If you’re after breathtaking views, look no further than Corregidor Island. Strategically situated at the entrance of Manila Bay and about 23 nautical miles outside of Manila, this tiny rock island famously served as a fortress for American and Filipino forces after the Japanese overtook Bataan during WWII.
Calle Crisologo: Stroll down the 15th century cobblestone street called Calle Crisologo to get a feel for life in Vigan City, or go by horse and carriage. This historic street is bustling day and night and is where you can observe wealthy-owned Spanish houses as well as restaurants and antique shops.
Fort San Pedro: If you are headed to Cebu, you might want to make a stop at Fort San Pedro, the country’s oldest fort. In place of the military camp from the 17th century, you will find a park of sorts with an open gateway, garden and museum, though there are still some canons around. Situated within walking distance of the port, Fort San Pedro is the perfect place to end your sightseeing (we hear it is especially stunning at sunset.)
Binondo, Manila: If it is Chinatown that you desire, then you don’t want to miss Binondo, Manila. This was a commerce hub during WWII. Visit the Binondo Church or Buddhist temple Kuang Kong and then shop on the crowded Ongpin and Carvajal Streets, a well-kept secret for local vendors, or the Arranque Market for fresh and exotic seafood. Explore with a horse-drawn carriage, taxi or jeepney.
Rizal Park: Rizal Park, which also goes by Luneta, is a massive square covering 58 hectares of lawns, gardens, ponds, woods, and more. It is a popular spot for a picnic or to enjoy entertainment and vendor food around the fountain. Located in the Manila Bay, Rizal Park was named after patriot José Rizal, whose execution here in 1896 fuelled the Philippine Revolution against Spanish rule. A bronze monument in Rizal’s honor is guarded by soldiers around the clock. This park is also where the Philippines declared its independence from the U.S.
MacArthur Landing Memorial National Park: If smaller parks are more your speed and visiting the province of Leyte is on your agenda, you might want to check out MacArthur Landing, also known as MacArthur Park. Situated in the town of Palo, this national historic landmark spans 0.026 square miles, giving it the distinction as one of the tiniest national parks anywhere on the globe. What the park lacks in size it makes up for in historical significance. MacArthur Landing boasts more than half-a-dozen larger than life bronze statues led by General Douglas MacArthur, who kept his promise and returned to the island of Leyte in 1944.
Magellan’s Cross: If you are near Cebu City, then you won’t want to miss out on one of its most historic sites. Magellan’s Cross is an actual cross made of Tindalo Wood that is said to be the very one left by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan. Housed in a gazebo-like red-tile roof chapel and encased for protection, the cross was planted by Magellan in 1834 to signify the official start of Christianity in the Philippines. Some believe that the original cross was destroyed when Magellan died and all that is left is a replica. You can at least join the many local and foreign tourists who enjoy the paintings on the ceiling of the chapel that tell the story of Magellan’s Cross.
Intramuros, Manila: Intramuros is one of the oldest districts in the capital city of Manila. Known as the Walled City, it was constructed by the Spaniards in the 1500s on a stretch of land between the Manila Bay and the Pasig River. It was built to serve as a military fortress for the Spanish military but was heavily damaged during WWII. Some of the original infrastructure stood the test of time. Intramuros is said to tell the tale of the Philippines amid its resilience and restoration. Tourists can feel like they are time traveling while visiting old churches, Fort Santiago, the Rizal Shrine, a museum, plazas, and historic buildings.
Malacañang Palace: The Malacañang Palace has served as the residence of the Philippines president since the mid-1930s. While access to the Palace may be limited, tourists can visit Museo ng Malacañang. Here they can view the legacies left behind by presidencies spanning more than a century, including the original document through which President Ferdinand Marcos placed the country under martial law. If you want to view the famous shoe collection of former first lady Imelda Marcos, you’ll have to visit the Shoe Museum in Marikina, the shoe capital of the Philippines.
The Ruins in Talisay City: If it is a tragic love story you want, the Ruins in Talisay City in the Negros Occidental province won’t let you down. This former mansion was built by Mariano Ledesma Lacson, a 20th century sugar tycoon, in tribute to his wife who died during childbirth. Situated on a sugar plantation, the home was set ablaze during WWII by the American forces to block the Japanese from finding refuge there. Despite the fire, the walls and foundation stayed intact and today it stands as a monument for tourists and a wedding venue. Also known simply as The Ruins, this site boasts breathtaking orange, pink and purple sunsets as well as blue and golden sundowns.
Tabon Caves: Before you hit the Philippine beaches, you might want to see the Tabon Caves. These are a cohort of caves situated on Lipuun Point in Palawan, the country’s largest province. Known as the Philippines’ Cradle of Civilization, these caves comprise a collection of artifacts left behind the early settlers of Palawan, including burial jars, wooden tools, and wall drawings.