Lying between the Philippine and South China seas, the Philippines is a south-east Asian archipelago of more than 7,000 sun-kissed tropical islands, blending pristine beaches and active volcanoes with cosmopolitan cities. After centuries of Arabian, Chinese and Spanish colonisation, the country is now a democracy and predominantly Catholic, with a culture influenced by its colonial past. Tagalog and English are the official languages, but you’ll hear a mixture of dialects spoken on holidays in the Philippines.
What to See?
There’s plenty to see in the Philippines, from the sculptured green rice terraces of Banaue to the sugar-fine, white sand beaches of the Visayan Islands and the stark cone of volcanic Mount Pinatubo. The laid-back charm of inland cities such as Baguio and Tagaytay contrast sharply with the ultra-modern skyscrapers of the capital city, Manila, which wraps around a vast bay on the island of Luzon.
The 16th-century Spanish Intramuros walled district lies at Manila’s heart and the Metropolitan and National museums both shine a light on the colonial history of the Philippines. In Manila’s flourishing financial hub of Makati, gleaming skyscrapers rise above upmarket shopping malls and fine-dining restaurants.
Cradled in the Cordillera mountains north of Manila, Baguio is a popular Philippines holiday destination known for its fresh climate and hilly landscapes. Boasting botanical gardens and a rose-coloured, Spanish-style cathedral, the city is fringed with pine forests.
What to Do?
Things to do in the Philippines include haggling for bargains in Manila’s chaotic Divisoria flea market, scouring the world’s oldest Chinatown for jade and catching the Luneta dancing fountains in Rizal Park after dark. Inland, immerse yourself in indigenous Ifugao culture in Tam-awan Village and learn about gold mining with a subterranean tour of Balatoc Mines. If you’re looking for active holidays, burn off energy hiking in the swathes of pine around Baguio or scale Mount Cabuyao for panoramas over the city from the viewing platform.
Where to Eat?
Filipino cuisine is a subtle blend of Chinese, Malay and Spanish influences, reflecting its multicultural past. Dining options in the cities cover the full panoply of international cuisines, but make sure you also try popular local dishes. Start the day with the country’s staple breakfast dish tapsilog, consisting of cured beef and fried rice topped with a fried egg. Later on, tuck into lechon, roast suckling pig, and adobo, chicken or pork marinated in soy sauce.