5 Historical Places To Visit In The Philippines

From the magical old street of Calle Crisologo to the tadpole-shaped island of Corregidor, explore the top five historical places in Philippines
Mayon Volcano, Philippines
Mayon Volcano, PhilippinesShutterstock

The Philippines is an archipelago of more than 7,000 Southeast Asian islands and was discovered in 1521. It was named after King Philip II of Spain after the Spanish conquered it in the 16th century. The country is divided into three island groups: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, with Luzon and Mindanao being the two largest islands that make up two-thirds of the total land area. Only about one-third of the islands are inhabited.

You can journey through time and immerse yourself in the rich historical sites scattered across this archipelago. From the weather-beaten walls of Intramuros in Manila, echoing with echoes of Spanish colonial rule, to the awe-inspiring Banaue Rice Terraces, a testament to ancient indigenous engineering marvels, each location unfolds a unique chapter in the Philippines' vibrant past.

Unravel the stories etched into the landscapes of five historical treasures in the Philippines. Explore the country's cultural roots and appreciate its captivating history.

Intramuros, Manila

Manila Cathedral, Intramuros
Manila Cathedral, IntramurosShutterstock

Intramuros is a historic walled area located in the heart of Manila. It was the centre of political, religious, and military power during the Spanish colonial period. The word "Intramuros", which means "within the walls" in Latin, was built around 1571 by the Spanish conquistador Miguel López de Legazpi. The area spans 0.26 square miles and features cobblestone streets, horse-drawn carriages, and restored or rebuilt examples of Philippine and Spanish architecture. In 1951, Intramuros was designated a National Historical Landmark, having withstood wars and natural disasters. It was pivotal during World War II and has since been restored to preserve its historical significance. The National Museum of the Philippines has declared the fortifications of Intramuros as National Cultural Treasures.

Major Attractions

The facade of Fort Santiago
The facade of Fort SantiagoShutterstock

As a historical site, Intramuros has many interesting attractions. Fort Santiago, a citadel that served as a defence fortress, and San Agustin Church, the oldest stone church in the Philippines, are some of its main highlights. Visitors can wander along cobblestone streets, visit museums, and experience a fusion of Spanish colonial architecture and Filipino culture. The place functions daily from 8 am to 6 pm. The entry fee INR 112 (PHP 75).

Banaue Rice Terraces, Ifugao

Banaue Rice Terraces
Banaue Rice TerracesShutterstock

The Banaue Rice Terraces were created over 2,000 years ago by the ancestors of the Ifugao people. These terraces in the mountains are known as the "Eighth Wonder of the World". They are an impressive system of irrigated rice terraces and a top tourist destination in the Philippines. Situated 1,500 metres up on the side of the Cordillera mountains, there are over 48 rice terrace clusters. However, UNESCO lists only five of these clusters as World Heritage Sites.

Major Attractions

Rice terraces at Ifugao region
Rice terraces at Ifugao regionShutterstock

The terraces offer breathtaking views of tiered fields that make for a stunning landscape. Visitors can trek through the terraces, interact with the Ifugao people, and learn about their traditional farming techniques. Built without modern tools, these terraces are a testament to the engineering and agricultural prowess of the Ifugao people. They reflect sustainable farming practices that have been passed down through generations.

Rizal Park, Manila

Rizal Park, Manila
Rizal Park, ManilaShutterstock

Rizal Park, also known as Luneta Park, is a historical urban park named after Dr. Jose Rizal, the national hero of the Philippines. The park played a significant role in shaping the history of the Philippines, as Dr. Jose Rizal was executed in the park in 1896, making it a symbolic site for Philippine independence. Since then, the park has become a place of reflection and patriotism. It is one of the largest urban parks in the Philippines, covering an area of 140 acres. The park is situated on the site originally known as Bagumbayan during the Spanish colonial period and is adjacent to the historic Walled City of Intramuros.

Major Attractions

Gomburza Light and Sound Complex
Gomburza Light and Sound ComplexShutterstock

It is a safe and spacious area where you can learn about The Philippines, exercise, or enjoy people-watching. The park boasts several attractions, including the Gomburza Light and Sound Complex, the National Planetarium, the Luneta Seafarers Center, a library, the National Museum of Anthropology, and several tropical gardens and monuments. The park also features a beautiful Filipino-Chinese and Japanese garden, perfect for a peaceful walk or a picnic. The park opens daily and runs from 5 am to 9 pm

Corregidor Island, Cavite

A view from the Corregidor Island
A view from the Corregidor IslandShutterstock

Corregidor Island is a rocky island located at the entrance to Manila Bay in the southwestern part of Luzon, Philippines. It covers an area of 5.49 square kilometres and was named "Island of the Corrector" by the Spaniards in the 16th century. They recognized its strategic importance as all ships entering Manila would stop there for inspection. During World War II, it became a battleground between the U.S. and Filipino forces against the Japanese troops. Today, the island serves as a national shrine commemorating the battle there.

Major Attractions

Mile-Long Barracks
Mile-Long BarracksShutterstock

Corregidor Island is home to several attractions that draw visitors from all over the world. One of the key attractions is the Malinta Tunnel, which was used as a bombproof storage and personnel bunker. In addition, there is the Pacific War Memorial Museum that honours the American, Filipino, and Japanese soldiers who lost their lives in the war. The Filipino Heroes Memorial, the Japanese Garden of Peace, a 10-foot Buddha statue, and Mile-Long Barracks are popular attractions. These attractions are in addition to the natural beauty of the tadpole-shaped island, which features sloping hills, white sand beaches, rocky cliffs, and a rich marine life.

Calle Crisologo, Vigan

Calle Crisologo
Calle CrisologoShutterstock

Calle Crisologo is a charming cobblestone street that is a captivating step back in time. It features well-preserved ancestral houses and horse-drawn carriages, with Spanish-Filipino design architecture that exudes a nostalgic charm. This historic street has a rich history dating back to the Spanish colonial period and is named after a respected Ilocano poet and politician. Its preservation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site is a testament to Vigan's commitment to maintaining its unique cultural heritage. Today, Calle Crisologo stands as a living museum inviting visitors to experience the grandeur of colonial Vigan.

Major Attractions

Calle Crisologo at night
Calle Crisologo at nightShutterstock

Calle Crisologo is a 500-metre-long street full of cultural and historical gems. It's lined with well-preserved ancestral houses, tungsten lamps, and antique cobblestone. Visitors can explore these ancestral houses, some of which have been converted into museums like the Syquia Mansion, which offers a glimpse into the lives of the Filipino elite during the Spanish period. The street is also adorned with quaint shops offering local crafts, antiques, and traditional delicacies. Other attractions visitors can look forward to include the Bantay Bell Tower, Baluarte, Crisologo Museum, and Pagburnayan. As the sun sets, Calle Crisologo transforms into a magical spectacle with the warm glow of antique street lamps, creating an enchanting atmosphere for an evening stroll.

Getting There

Direct flights from India to the Philippines are unavailable. You can fly via Singapore, Bangkok, or Kuala Lumpur to reach Manila. Bengaluru, Chennai, and Kolkata offer lower prices. For sea travel, start from nearby Asian countries. EPA Shipping Line operates the biggest ferry from Bitung, Indonesia, taking 36 hours. Aleson Line departs from Zamboanga, Philippines to Sandakan, Malaysia, twice a week, taking 16 hours. SRN's fastcrafts take 8 hours.

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