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Six World Heritage sites to see in The Philippines

Did you know that the Philippines are home to some of the highest numbers of UNESCO World Heritage ‘cultural sites’ in Southeast Asia?  The Philippines has three such sites in addition to three ‘natural sites’, offering travellers an exceptional holiday destination.


Banaue (Image Marc Go)




Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras


An outstanding example of a system of high, agriculturalrice terraces carved into the contours of the Cordillera Mountains on the northern island of Luzon. Often referred to as the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’, they were named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.


Built between 2,000 and 6,000 years ago, the rice paddies were created by the Ifugao tribe in the pre-colonial Philippines and even predate some of the world’s acclaimed historic constructions, such as the Colosseum of Rome and Hadrian’s Wall in the UK. 


The rice fields are widely considered a marvel of engineering, which showcases the Ifugao people’s agricultural engineering, passed on and handed down from one generation to the next. It is the expression of their sacred traditions and reveals a delicate social balance. 


“The Ifugao helped to create a landscape of great beauty that expresses the harmony between humankind and the environment,” says Norjamin Delos Reyes, Tourism Attaché at Philippine Department of Tourism Australia and New Zealand.


“If laid out side by side, the terraces would reach 22,400 kilometres –enough to encircle half the globe –and they rise to a height of 1,525 metres above sea level. They are unique and distinctiveto the Philippines.”


Historic city of Vigan


Established in the 16th century, Vigan is one of the best preserved and most intact examples of a planned Spanish colonial town in Asia.  


Vigan has been carefully conserved and reflects the fusion of Asian and Spanish architecture, creating a unique culture and townscape that is not paralleled anywhere in East and Southeast Asia.  


An important trading post before the colonial era, Vigan is located at the river delta of the Abra River, along the north western coastline of the main island of Luzon in the Province of Ilocos Sur, Philippine Archipelago. 


Date of inscription –1999.


Vigan (Image Francis Guerrero)


Baroque Churches of the Philippines


Theseconsist of four Roman Catholic churches, constructed between the 16th and the 18th centuries in the Spanish period.  


Santo Tomas de Villanueva Church in Miagao in Iloilo was built in 1797 by the Augustinian Missionaries and was designed to serve as a fortress for Christians.  


Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion or the ‘Church of the Assumption’ was built on top of a hill in Santa Maria in Ilocos Sur and can only be reached by climbing a flight of 82 steps.  


San Agustin Church is the oldest existing church in the Philippines and lies inside the walled city of Intramuros in Manila.  


The Church of San Agustin in Paoay was built by Augustinian friars in 1694 andwas finished after 200 years. 


The churches include important attributes that comprise architectural uniqueness. 


Date of inscription – 1993.




Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park


The parkencompasses one of the world’s most impressive cave systems, featuring limestone karst landscapes and pristine natural beauty.  


One of the river’s distinguishing features is that it emerges directly into the seaand its lower portion is subject to tidal influences.  


The area represents a significant habitat for biodiversity conservation, containing a full ‘mountain to sea’ eco-system and has some of the most important forests in Asia. 


The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River was also listed in 2007 in the ‘New 7 Wonders of Nature’. 


Date of inscription – 1999. 


Palawan's 'Underground River' (Image Eric Beltran)


Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park


Positioned in the centre of the Sulu Sea, this national park includes the Tubbataha and Jessie Beazley Reefs. It protects anarea of almost 100,000 hectares of qualitymarine habitats containing three atolls and a large area of deep sea.  


The property is home to a great diversity of marine life; whales, dolphins, sharks, turtlesand Napoleon wrasse are among the key species found here. 


The reef eco-systems support more than 350 species of coral and almost 500 species of fish.  


The reserve also protects one of the few remaining colonies of breeding seabirds in the region. 


Date of inscription – 1993.


Mount HamiguitanRange Wildlife Sanctuary


Forming a mountain ridge running north-south along the Pujada Peninsula in the south-eastern part of the Eastern Mindanao Biodiversity Corridor, the Sanctuary provides critical habitat for a range of plant and animal species.  


The property showcases terrestrial and aquatic habitats at different elevationsand includes threatened and endemic flora and fauna species, eight of which are found only at Mount Hamiguitan.  


These include critically endangered trees, plants and the iconicPhilippine eagle and Philippine cockatoo.


“The Philippines offers a hugely diverse range of attractions for a wide variety of travellers, from backpackers to luxury, discerning travellers,” Ms Delos Reyes says.


“We encourage everyone to visit the Philippines and look beyond our world-renowned beaches to discover some of our tourism gems.  


“The Philippines is teeming with exotic wildlife, quaint fishing villages and also UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which provides a truly unique holiday option, all located only eight hours’flight time from the east coast of Australia.


“In addition to our UNESCO World Heritage sites, visitors can choose to stay at luxurious award winning resorts, or more novel accommodation such as their very own cottage on stilts above the ocean.”


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Written by: Traveltalk Magazine
Published: 11 March 2019

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