Philippines Travel Guides
The well-built tourism infrastructure in the Philippines does an excellent job catering for families with children. Larger cities like Manila have workshops and play areas set aside especially for younger visitors. In addition, theme parks and beaches are popular with children. No matter where you travel, local travel agents can help arrange kid-friendly activities.
Children’s Play Centres
Kids’ Station in Robinson’s Galleria and Kids at Work in Mega Mall (both located in Manila) are great places to take the kids when bad weather bars outdoor activities. Here children can have fun mingling with other children from around the world, and regularly planned activities are held throughout the day. Pixie Land in Festival Mall is another good place to entertain children indoors. With a two-storey merry-go-round, small children’s cars, and an indoor train, children can pass an entire afternoon inside.
Manila’s Enchanted Kingdom theme park opened in 1995 and is divided into several themed zones ranging from the Jungle Outpost to Spaceport. The park is home to a variety of rides and attractions including log flume rides, bumper cars, Ferris wheels, water rafting, paintball and 3D theatres. Families can find the park on 41 acres just over 16 miles from Manila in Santa Rosa, Laguna.
There is a variety of things to do in the former US-operated Clark Air Force base turned ‘Special Economic Zone’. Go-karting is just one of many activities for children here. The kart-hire package includes everything you’ll need for the ride, such as fuel, helmet and access to a mechanic. Children drivers have to be at least nine years old. A similar kart track exists outside of Manila in Barrio Bangkal, Carmona Cavite. Phone: +63 45 599 2252.
Little Gym in Manila hosts lessons for children aged nine to 12 years old. Classes are taught in English and last 45 minutes. Even if your children don’t have any background in gymnastics, these lessons are designed to help children learn and anticipate the next moves in a set routine. The facilities are vibrantly-coloured and are fully equipped with everything your children need to learn and stay safe in the process.
The sheer diversity of Filipino culture is perhaps the country's greatest attribute. The UNESCO World Heritage site of Vigan is one of the best places to explore the archipelago's Spanish-colonial history. Further colonial architecture lines the old town streets of Intramuros and Cebu City, while remote inland villages have preserved the long-standing local culture. Meanwhile, thousands of islands wait to be explored, each with their own unique heritage and natural beauty.Visit this website for photographs and further information about Vigan City in the Philippines
This museum is housed in a new building on Manila’s Makati avenue. The exhibitions are split between contemporary art displays and historic dioramas that follow the Filipino quest for independence. This core of 60 handmade dioramas is accompanied by archaeological artefacts and scale models of old maritime vessels that played a vital role in the history of the Philippines. Highlights among the fine art exhibits include works by Fernando Amorsolo, Juan Luna and Fernando Zobel.
This is the second-oldest cemetery in the country, and its opulent mausoleums are open to the public, some of which contain beautiful furnishings and even chandeliers. The wealthy Chinese entombed here refused burial in Catholic cemeteries during colonial times. On cemetery grounds, the Chong Hock Tong Temple is the oldest of its kind in Manila, dating to the 1850s. Martyrs Hall was built to commemorate Chinese leaders who fell in the Japanese invasion during WWII. In order to find the most exquisite mausoleums, it’s a good idea to hire a guide at the entrance to the cemetery.
Cutting through Cebu City, the Filipino centre of many ‘oldest’ and ‘first’ claims, Colon Street is reputedly the oldest street in the Philippines. Named in honour of Christopher Columbus, plans for the street were first proposed in the 16th century. This was the former centre of commerce, which still boasts plenty of upscale shops and entertainment venues. Today, there’s talk of converting Colon into a pedestrian centre of tourism, though its historic significance alone draws plenty of visitors throughout the year.
Manila’s cultural centrepiece is Spanish-colonial Intramuros. This walled section of town is characterised by broad avenues and expansive, well-planned plazas. While a great deal of Intramuros was destroyed during a series of WWII bombings, there is still a scattering of historic landmarks throughout the area. The Rizal Museum, Manila Cathedral and the Monastery of San Agustin are among the highlights. Fort Santiago is the biggest draw card, and visitors can peruse exhibits in the small on-site museum which deals mostly in Manila’s Spanish-colonial heritage. A great deal of the stonework in and around the fort dates to the late 16th century.
Ferdinand Magellan first planted this icon at Cebu in 1521. The cross is kept in a tiny chapel that sits next to the Basilica Minore del Santo Niño. The authenticity of the cross is in question, and a sign inside claims that the actual artefact is hidden inside the wooden exterior shown to visitors (a response to ancient pilgrims chipping off souvenirs). Even if the cross is a fake, it has been in place for centuries and is a potent symbol for Filipino Christians, the first of who were baptised here.
Today, this palace serves as residence to the Filipino head of state. Its name is literally derived from a colloquial expression that means ‘a noble man lives here’. The palace has stood here in Manila along the Pasig River since the 1700s, when it was originally constructed for an aristocrat from Spain. By the early 19th century, the property had been purchased by Spain and was used as residence for the Governor General. Beyond its external and historic appeal, the palace houses a museum with several exhibits related to Filipino presidents.
Plaza Luna Complex
Characterised by beautiful gardens and several boutiques and restaurants, this barrio in Manila is rich in culture and architecture. Casa Manila, a restored colonial-era mansion, in the highlight here, with three storeys filled with antique exhibits. Individual rooms are dedicated to a particular period in history, and the furnishings, artwork and accessories reflect this time period. Visitors leave with a pronounced understanding of day-to-day life in an upper-class (illustrado) household. Four other period houses, Casa Blanca, Los Hidalgos, Casa Urdaneta and El Hogar Filipino, are also on display here. Phone: +63 2 527 4084.
Dining & Shopping
Shopping in the Philippines mainly takes place at major markets, where handicrafts are a favourite item among tourists and visitors. Additionally, the country is overflowing with shopping centres, many of which operate comprehensive facilities and offer impressive discounts.
The Araneta Shopping Complex is a popular venue. Located in Cubao, this complex houses in excess of 2,000 shops and an endless variety of goods. Robinson’s Galleria and Greenhills Shopping Centre are both found in San Juan on Ortigas avenue. Greenhills is a massive facility complete with banks, restaurants, cinemas and, of course, numerous boutiques. The Makati Commercial Centre deals heavily in imported goods.
Half the fun of purchasing unique handicrafts is dealing directly with the artisans that make them. The ethnic minority villages in Sinawilan, Binaton and Matanao are good places to seek out unique crafts and artworks. If you don’t have an opportunity to travel to these remote outposts, the T’boli arts and crafts centre in Ermita is a good place to shop for authentic handicrafts.
There is a selection of shops in Intramuros selling antiques and handicrafts. This is a good place to pick up souvenirs and other memorabilia while shopping in Manila. Even if you don’t have a particular item in mind, just perusing the streets of Intramuros is a nice pastime.
An outstanding array of eateries is available all over the Philippines, from quaint little cafés to upscale restaurants specialising in international cuisine. Of course, the highest concentration of restaurants can be found in the touristy areas, but that isn’t to say you won’t find plenty to eat no matter where you venture. Some of the best and most authentic food can be found at little cafeteria-style turo turo restaurants throughout the islands.
The staple of Filipino cuisine is white rice, which is typically served on the side. Coconut milk is often paired with rice to make a rich and lightly sweetened combination. Dipping sauces are an important addition, especially with fried dishes with which you may be served a side dish of vinegar. A mixture of fresh-squeezed lime juice and fish sauce is often served with seafood.
Filipino cuisine blends influences from multiple continents, along with flavours and aromas that emanate from the archipelago. Colonists from Spain brought distinctly different cuisines that drew from both Spanish and Mexican variations. Paprika, saffron and olive oil were introduced to the Philippines as local subjects learned to cook for their colonisers.
Chinese fare has also played an influential role in crafting local cuisine. Tamarind, ginger and soy sauce contribute heavily to the flavour of Filipino dishes. Local favourites worth seeking out include torta, eggplant fried with egg; arroz caldo, a heavy rice soup seasoned with ginger and garlic; and pancit, stir-fried noodles with vegetables. Menudo stew and spring rolls are also favourites with visitors.
The Philippines’ volcanic landscape, unspoilt jungles and expansive coastline facilitate an ideal environment in which to enjoy nature. Hiking and mountain-biking trails are common across the country. Other popular sports include kayaking, with the views afforded while kayaking between islets typically being breathtaking. For the more adventurous traveller, the surf in certain places is on par with surfing strongholds like Hawaii, and travellers regularly show up to ride the waves.
With its more than 7,000 islands, it’s no surprise that the Philippines are an important destination for international scuba divers. You’ll find sunken WWII-era ships off the shoreline of Busuanga Island, where divers are permitted to have a look around. Puerta Galeria is best-known for its sand beaches, but the offshore coral reefs are equally enticing. There are countless dive sites that stretch across the archipelago, each with its own appeal. Wherever divers venture, there is ample equipment for hire as well as lessons for the inexperienced. If you’re not certified, local diving agencies can help you arrange the proper credentials.
The Philippine Islands are rich in hiking trails that steer clear of civilisation. Some of the most spectacular waterfalls and panoramic views are only available to those who hike there. Mount Apo and Mount Pinatubo are two popular destinations for trekkers; but travelling into remote villages is just as popular. Here, visitors are granted a candid view of life in the ethnic hill tribes of the Philippines, where indigenous customs and rituals are still largely preserved. Other groups of trekkers join guided tours to the top of volcanic peaks, where the climate is considerably cooler.
Playing in the surf is popular anywhere in the Philippines where there’s a stretch of sandy coastline. The resorts offer all sorts of equipment for hire, ranging from snorkelling gear to sea kayaks. Surfing is also popular in the Philippines, and boarding enthusiasts typically head to Siargao Island just north of Mindanao. Meanwhile, windsurfers pack their gear to Boracay Island, where surf conditions are best on the east coast. Even if you don’t have any experience windsurfing, hotels and travel agents can enrol visitors in windsurfing lessons.