The Philippines currently has five Philippine Tourist Attraction sites that is recognized and confirmed by UNESCO (United Nation Educational Scientific Cultural Organization) as part of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list. These sites are thus treasures not only of our country but also of the world, and they are something that we can truly be proud of. And not surprisingly these sites are among the most visited tourists spots and attractions in the country 🙂
Before you proceed let me tell you that this post is more like my experience including reactions when i visited these places and not on the ‘whys’ they were listed as UNESCO world heritage sites. Neither is this a dissection on their architectural uniqueness. You have google for that 🙂 Alrighty?!
Anyhow, to be more accurate the Philippines actually have a total of eight sites in the UNESCO list, namely:
1. Baroque Churches of The Philippines
1.1 The Church of Sto Tomas de Villanueva in Miag-ao, Ilo-ilo
1.2 The Church of St Augustine in Paoay, Ilocos Norte
1.3 The Church of La Asuncion de la Nuestra Senora in Sta Maria, Ilocos Sur
1.4 San Agustin Church in Manila
2. Banaue Rice Terraces
3. The Historic City of Vigan, Ilocos Sur
4. Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, Palawan
5. Tubbataha Reef Marine Park
I have been to all UNESCO sites in the PH except two, the Banaue Rice Terraces and Tubbataha Reef Marine Park 🙁
The Banaue is easy enough to visit compared to Tubbataha which is under the sea. I am not sure if I can ever be in this protected marine park because I’m a bit wary of waters. I don’t know how to swim despite the fact that our house is just a few minutes walk to the Mactan Channel and a few kilometers to world class beaches. I don’t know.. maybe I will someday, who knows I can complete this list, right?. Though I am not really sure if I can plus I still don’t have an underwater camera and funds for it lol.
The first world heritage site I’ve been to is Sto Tomas de Villanueva Church in Miag-ao Ilo-ilo. What I remembered from that trip is that its a few hours from Ilo-ilo City. At that time the church caretaker was very lenient, he let us climb to the belltower where you can see the various sizes gold plated bells, these bells also functions as a carillion! Cool!
Notice the Miag-ao Church structure and design is really awesome considering that heavy equipment were not yet in vogue at the time of its construction 🙂 Local builders and artisan build this magnificent church which was later on inscribed into the UNESCO list of World Heritage Site. Marvelous!
Miag-ao Church, Ilo-Ilo
Miag-ao Church Belltower & Carillion
San Agustin Church, Intramuros, Manila
San Agustin Church facade is not as impressive as the the other listed churches but go inside, enter its door, you’d be left speechless. On a historical point of view, this church is very important for inside lay the remains of Miguel Lopez De Legazpi who claimed the entire Philippines for Spain and the country’s first Governor-General under the Spanish Colonial Period.
Inside San Agustin Church in Intramuros
See more pictures of the Church including the tomb of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi here –> Manila’s Walled City and Attractions Inside Its Wall
UNESCO Sites: St Agustine Church (Paoay Church) & Sta Maria Church, Ilocos
It was like hitting two birds with one stone when we took to the road and travelled up north to Ilocandia land. Finally I have a picture of the icon pic of Ilocos, this is it! Paoay Church, formally known as St Augustine Church. Of all the churches I’ve been too including the centuries old beautiful churches of South Luzon where there are many, Paoay Church has the most awe-inspiring structure.
I also love its picture perfect location, wide expanse of open area, no other building that can hamper your view,long paved lane to its massive door plus a clear day…. Perfect day to visit a church that is considered world heritage site!
Sta Maria Church (La Asuncion de la Nuestra Senora Church) in Ilocos Sur
We have to leave the car in the street and climb up close to one hundred stairs to get to Sta Maria Church. Nahh im not sure about that hehehe but with the sun shining brightly , the day so humid, and we were hungry, it felt like dragging our feet. Was it worth it? Of course! We actually have lots of pictures in the church and its vicinity.
Palawan Underground River!
I’ve been there twice, it’s a three long hours of roadtrip from Puerto Princesa to Sabang, Palawan the gateway to this world famous site, then you hop onto an outrigger boat and finally transfer to a smaller canoe that will take you inside the cave. On retrospect I wish i had a good camera back then for there were really impressive looking stalagmites and stalactites that resembles everyday things like the melting candle, the cathedral, the vegetable highway etc. Also, the guides/boatmen are well verse in what to say during the entire canoe ride inside the Puerto Princesa Underground River.
The Palawan Subterranean River is considered the world’s longest underground navigational river at 8.2km, although regular tourist like us can only go as far as 1.5 kms inside because according to the guides there is a part along the way that is hampered by a huge stalagmite that almost kiss the floor, hence, to navigate that part you have to swim underwater and emerge on the other side of the stalagmite, a bit dangerous and thus public access is prohibited.
Banaue Rice Terraces in the Philippines Cordillera
The Philippine Rice Terraces that dots the Philippine Cordillera Mountain Range is included in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, specifically the rice terraces in Batad. It is really impressive, it is ancient engineering at its best and the most wonderful part is that these rice terraces are functional even to this day! Most of North/Central Luzon are mountainous area, people need to eat, the locals specifically the Igorots of the north turn this mountainous obstacle to their advantage and created what we now know as rice terraces. The most popular of these rice terraces can be found in Banaue, particularly Batad.
I haven’t been to the Hagdang Hagdan Palayan yet but hopefully soon. But for now I am content that I have walked one of its distant cousins in Mountain Province, the Aguid Rice Terraces.
Rice fields and terraces!
Aguid Rice Terraces, Sagada
The Historic City Of Vigan – UNESCO World Heritage Site
Vigan is one of the best example of Spanish colonial town in the country, Vigan may be the only town in the Philippines that has retained most of its old world charm because all others were pulverized, partly or fully destroyed during world war 2. To this date some streets like Calle Crisologo are off limits to motorized vehicles and no construction of modern buildings allowed inside the perimeter of the Vigan Heritage Village.
Story goes that Vigan was spared from the war because of love. During the last stages of the Japanese occupation of the Philippines, it is said that the Japanese military officers were given the order to burn/destroy the towns as they withdraw their forces. The commanding officer of Vigan has a child with a native girl whom he may have loved. The officer went to Vigan’s parish priest to implore the priest to protect his child and the mother from any harm when he is gone. The priest agreed on the conditioned that the officer will withdraw his forces without destroying the town. And so to this day the historic city of Vigan lives.
Want to see more pictures of Vigan? Why not check out this ILOCOS LINK.
Thank you for reading! It’s a long, long post I know but well I am proud and happy to have visited these UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Philippines. Our country not only offers natural wonders but also man-made treasures.
Tubbataha Reef be ready for Penfires! hehe
What UNESCO Site in the Philippines do you plan to visit first or next? Please share your answer with us by leaving a comment below. 🙂