Exploring the Philippines in One Week

30th Jan 2014
Photo of Exploring the Philippines in One Week 1/11 by Ashna Rawat
Majestic rice terrace in Banaue
Photo of Exploring the Philippines in One Week 2/11 by Ashna Rawat
Hospitable local tribe
Photo of Exploring the Philippines in One Week 3/11 by Ashna Rawat
Iconic view of the rice fields in Banaue
Photo of Exploring the Philippines in One Week 4/11 by Ashna Rawat
Remains of the barracks of the USSAFE
Photo of Exploring the Philippines in One Week 5/11 by Ashna Rawat
Coastal roads of Corregidor Island
Photo of Exploring the Philippines in One Week 6/11 by Ashna Rawat
Eerily hanging coffins of Sagada
Photo of Exploring the Philippines in One Week 7/11 by Ashna Rawat
Close look at the coffins hanging by the clif
Photo of Exploring the Philippines in One Week 8/11 by Ashna Rawat
The breathtaking view of Taal Lake
Photo of Exploring the Philippines in One Week 9/11 by Ashna Rawat
World's smallest volcano- Taal volcano
Photo of Exploring the Philippines in One Week 10/11 by Ashna Rawat
Impact of Spanish colonization in Vigan city
Photo of Exploring the Philippines in One Week 11/11 by Ashna Rawat
Artifacts market in Vigan city

People make claims about knowing Philippines. Sure you know the history, who doesn’t? The few pages in history books acquainted us with the arduous events that this country has faced right from revolts during Spanish colonization to Philippine revolution, from its role in World War II and Vietnam War to the more recent Iraq war. But is that all? The shadows of the tumultuous past can be seen even today when this country barely makes it to any traveler’s wish list. Let’s not forget, this is the country that made its presence felt in history by becoming the first Democracy in Asia.

The colorful and dynamic culture makes the Filipinos who they are. Festivals and celebrations is something you can’t separate from the Filipinos. Whatever the situation is, ignoring a fiesta is an unpardonable peccadillo. Being Asia’s largest Catholic country, Christmas is one festival that is celebrated with great zest. Officially known as the Republic of Philippines, this island country is located in Southeast Asia. This unexplored country nestles away from prying eyes between the Philippine Sea and the South China Sea. The tropical island offers a never-ending shoreline along with crystal white sand and alluring clear turquoise waters. The diverse culture has some influence from Japan, China, India, Arabia, and Borneo. This enchantingly bijou country is still host to some Spanish colonial towns. History is deeply etched in every corner of this place. Sometimes, painfully unavoidable.

Sure Philippines has its set of critical adversaries in forms of natural disasters and political turmoil. In spite of this, the locals live with an attitude of not worrying about the present as this too shall pass soon. The Filipino ethos echoes in bahala na which roughly translates as ‘come what may’. They have surrendered to their fate. Their unwavering optimism helps them in respecting the life that one is gifted with and living it to the fullest every moment, every day.

Some websites have travel warnings against visiting certain parts of Philippines. It is said to be unsafe due to cited terrorist activities. And that is why there is a long way before it becomes a traveler’s favorite. So to ensure your safety, make sure you read about the current discrepancies if any in the areas you wish to visit. Brushing up your knowledge on the political situation is prerequisite as it will aid in not offending any native sentiments.

My trip to Philippines was greatly restricted to the northernmost island group- Luzon. Philippines will definitely be a completely new experience from any of the places you have travelled previously. Respect their culture and lifestyle and this country won’t cease to surprise you. The hospitality and the way they blend a foreigner with their traditional customs will be an unforgettable piece when you pen down this sojourn. The Filipino race is one which has stood strong without wiping the smile off its face. You remember some countries for their ostentatious beauty but Philippines would be reminisced for its sheer humility. The sun sets and another testing day of struggling life is over in a greatly underrated country. 

It is a town in the north of the island of Luzon and is situated in remotes areas on the Cordillera mountain range. It is famous for its scenic wide view of the massive 2000 years old rice fields and is listed as UNESCO World Heritage site. It is not surprising that this place is also called “The Eighth Wonder of the World”. This place stands as a key example of harmony between humankind and nature. The landscape qualifies for unparalleled beauty through which one can observe living cultures which is well maintained through traditions and valued by generations together. The maintenance of the Ifugao rice terraces is an unanimous effort by the whole community. The magnificent landscape is called “Stairs to Heaven” by the local tribes because of the ascending stairs of rice fields. It is difficult to get to this isolated place but it in the end it will be worth every effort. Hiking among the terraces is a common activity by the visitors.
Photo of Banaue Rice Terraces, Nueva Vizcaya - Ifugao - Mountain Province Road, Banaue, Cordillera Administrative Region, Philippines by Ashna Rawat
Sagada is 62.1 km away from Banaue. This is the perfect destination in Philippines for relaxing and spending some time surrounded by the serene mountains. The most popular thing to see here are the hanging coffins. They couldn't get more literal. The coffins are hanging by the cliff. It is a unique ancient funeral custom of some minority groups and is even found in southern China. The coffins hang 20-50 feet high and are made of wood. According to Igorot tradition, only those people who died of natural death are allowed to be buried in the cliff. It is intriguing to know how they put the coffins on the cliffs. You can take the very steep path down the cliff to view the coffins up close and personal. Be sure before you start the hike as this doesn't qualify as an attractive activity for many. As this traditional burial ritual is not followed anymore, it makes for a historical site of the once practiced tradition. Travel Tip - I would recommend you hire a guide to hear about the history of this place and to reach here safely.
Photo of Sagada, Cordillera Administrative Region, Philippines by Ashna Rawat
Vigan, a small town 203.1 km away from Sagada, is a wonder. This is the most charming city of Philippines due to the rustic old architecture influenced by Spanish colonization. The Spanish captured and settled in Vigan in 1572, and it soon became a centre of Spanish political and religious power in the north of Luzon. The Mestizo District offers a peek into the Philippines' colonial past. The ancestral houses were mostly built by blending local, Asian and Spanish architectural styles. The old houses and cobblestone streets are not something you get to see each day. The horse carriages add to the feeling of being transferred to an old era in time. You can learn to mold pots or visit St. Paul's Metropolitan Cathedral, an earthquake baroque styled cathedral. As the name suggests, the design is intended to minimize earthquake damage. You can also see Plaza Salcedo, some city buildings and beautiful fountain in this area.
Photo of Vigan City, Ilocos Region, Philippines by Ashna Rawat
If you are finding paradise on Earth, Tagaytay is the answer to your quest. The city overlooks Taal Lake and provides an iconic view of the Taal volcano. This geographical wonder has a volcano within a lake within a volcano. Though Taal is world’s smallest active volcano, the iconic view along the lake is breathtaking. It is a perfect place for rejuvenating. Palace In The Sky acts as a vantage area for viewing the Taal Volcano. Don’t miss the five-hectare Flower Farm which has many varieties of flowers, such as chrysanthemums, gerberas, carnations, roses, etc.
Photo of Tagaytay City, Calabarzon, Philippines by Ashna Rawat
Corregidor Island is a small island located at the entrance of Manila Bay in southwestern part of Luzon Island. This island offers stunning landscapes which can be further explored by hiking along the woodland trails of Corregidor or capture the historical spots or ruins from World War II by biking across the well paved tracks. Don't miss the eeriness of death, struggle and deafening silence of the ruins of the barracks of the USSAFE (United States Armed Forces in the Far East) which was stationed here before and during the first few months of second World War. From sunrise to sunset overlooking some hills, you can stand witness to the awe inspiring concealed beauty of this island. Surrounded by rich tall trees, camping is one of the best ways to explore the outdoors here.
Photo of Corregidor, Cavite City, Calabarzon, Philippines by Ashna Rawat