Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Top 50 Philippine cities to see in your lifetime [Part 2]

I've created a bucket list of fifty Philippine cities (and towns) with a rich history, an abundance of built heritage, delicious food, and a colorful local culture, which you must see during your lifetime. Make sure to check out Part 1. Below is Part 2 of the list.

26. Boac, Marinduque
We all know Marinduque because of the Moriones Festival every Good Friday. But its capital town Boac is a heritage town too! Aside from the Boac Cathedral, the town still has a lot of heritage houses. Nearby Santa Cruz Church is the best-preserved colonial church in the province. Read more on Boac.

Aguinaldo Shrine, Kawit, Cavite27. Kawit, Cavite
The birthplace of the Republic of the Philippines, Kawit has three major heritage sites — Emilio Aguinaldo Shrine (where the declaration of Philippine independence was made on June 12, 1898), Baldomero Aguinaldo Shrine and the Kawit Church. Aside from those three important sites, there's nothing much to see in Kawit. But most people stop by Kawit as part of any Cavite historical tour or day-trip which goes all the way to Maragondon.

28. Paoay, Ilocos Norte (plus Batac City)
Of the many colonial churches in the Philippines, the Paoay Church stands out. It is a World Heritage Site, and rightfully so. The town also has interesting ancestral homes. There are interesting local restaurants around. And neighboring Batac City serves the best empanada and miki in Ilocos Norte! Read more on Paoay.

29. Roxas City, Capiz (plus Pan-ay)
The Roxas City Plaza is pretty with the Capiz Provincial CapitolMetropolitan Cathedral of Capiz, and a beautiful fountain in the center. The Manuel Acuña Roxas House, the birthplace of President Roxas, is a National Historical Landmark. The city also calls itself the Seafood Capital of the Philippines. So head on over to Baybay Beach for some of the cheapest seafood in the Philippines! Pan-ay Church in the neighboring town is a National Cultural Treasure.

30. Daraga, Albay (plus Legazpi City and Camalig)
Iconic images of Mayon Volcano are usually taken from Daraga. There are the Cagsawa Ruins, which has adorned Philippine postcards for decades. But another favorite view is that of the volcano with the Daraga Church, a National Cultural Treasure. Bicolano cuisine is abundant in Daraga, Legazpi and Camalig. I'm craving for coconut milk dishes right now! Pinangat anyone? Read more on Daraga.

31. Baclayon, Bohol (plus Tagbilaran City, Dauis and Panglao)
Of all the towns of Bohol, Baclayon has preserved much of its character. Aside from the Baclayaon Church, which is both a National Cultural Treasure and National Historical Landmark, the town has many old houses that were saved from a demolition spree due to a proposed DPWH road-widening project. Good thing the project fizzled out after protests. Even its Spanish colonial period market is still standing! Lucky for us, the interior of Baclayon Church is still intact. Read more on Baclayon.

32. Angono, Rizal (plus Tanay, Morong, Baras and Antipolo)
Angono is known as the Art Capital of the Philippines. The town is a one large art gallery and hosts quite a number of them too such as the Blanco Family Museum and Nemiranda Art House. Nearby are the Angono Petroglyphs (which are actually in Binangonan), the oldest known works of art in the Philippines, dating back to 3000BC. Want to try local and exotic fare? Look for Balaw-Balaw Restaurant. In the neighboring town of Tanay is the Tanay Church, a National Cultural Treasure. The churches in Morong and Baras are interesting too! Read more on Angono.

33. Majayjay, Laguna (plus Nagcarlan, Liliw, Magdalena, Pagsanjan, Paete and Pakil)
The main landmark of Majayjay is the towering Majayjay Church, a National Cultural Treasure. Many people also visit Majayjay to swim in its cold rivers and springs. But Majayjay is not the only town in this side of Laguna you should be visiting. Make sure you visit the Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery Historical LandmarkNagcarlan ChurchLiliw Church (and buy slippers and sandals while you are in the town), Magdalena ChurchPagsanjan Town GatePakil ChurchPaete Church, and buy piña and jusi cloth in Lumban.

34. Quezon City
It's common knowledge that Quezon City also has landmarks worth visiting. We just take them for granted because we see them everyday but may not have taken time to appreciate them. The Quezon Memorial ShrineUniversity of the Philippines – Diliman (with the many works of National Artists and renowned architects all over the campus), Balara Filtration PlantsTandang Sora Shrine, and Himlayang Pilipino are just a few of the landmarks you can visit.

35. Naga City, Camarines Sur
When you hear Naga, the Peñafrancia image always comes to mind. The Naga CathedralPeñafrancia Basilica and Old Peñafrancia Church are landmarks connected to the venerated image.

Maragondon, Cavite36. Maragondon, Cavite
Another town on the Cavite historical trail, Maragondon has three important sites — Maragondon ChurchBonifacio Trial House and the Execution Site of Andres Bonifacio. The Maragondon Church is a National Cultural Treasure. While the Bonifacio Trial House is a National Historical Landmark. Read more on Maragondon.

37. Lingayen, Pangasinan (plus Alaminos City)
Lingayen has the Pangasinan Provincial Capitol, historic Lingayen Beach, and several ancestral houses. Read more on Lingayen.

I'd have to add Alaminos City to the list since it also has many heritage homes!

38. San Miguel, Bulacan (plus Bustos, Plaridel, Angat and Baliuag)
San Miguel is a charming old town with beautiful ancestral mansions. But the charm is fast disappearing because the not much has been done to ensure the protection of the local heritage. Part of the Biak na Bato National Park is also in San Miguel. If you are in the area, you should visit the towns of Bustos, Plaridel, Angat, and Baliuag which have interesting churches and old houses too. The Old Baliuag Municipal Hall is now a museum.

39. Los Baños, Laguna (plus Calamba City)
There are two major historical attractions in Los Baños – the University of the Philippines, Los Baños and the Gen. Paciano Rizal Shrine. And since there is a large student population, you are correct to expect a lot of great and affordable restaurants too! Buko pie, espasol anyone?

Neighboring Calamba has the Rizal Shrine and the Calamba Church Historical Landmark.

40. Corregidor Island, Cavite City
Cavite City is in this list because of Corregidor Island. Visit the various war memorials and the surviving gun batteries which formed part of the Harbor Defenses of Manila and Subic Bays. You can also opt to stay for the night and explore the Malinta Tunnel in the evening and do a morning trek among the less-visited batteries the next day. Read more on Corregidor.

41. San Juan, Batangas
San Juan is a town with many Art Deco mansions. Few people pass through the town's historic center on the way to Laiya Beach not realizing its hidden treasure. None of the houses in San Juan have been declared. Hopefully the local government has the vision to create a heritage tourism program that will complement Laiya Beach.

Binan Heritage Street, Laguna42. Biñan City, Laguna (plus Santa Rosa City and Cabuyao City)
For those who love heritage houses, Biñan is a welcome surprise. If you want to see more, continue on to neighboring Sta. Rosa City and Cabuyao City. I was pleasantly surprised to see grand old houses still standing along this route.

43. Jimenez, Misamis Occidental (plus Ozamiz City and Oroquieta City)
The major attraction of the town is the Jimenez Church, a National Cultural Treasure. The town also has interesting ancestral houses and remnants of a coral stone road built during the Spanish colonial period. Just a few kilometers north, in Oroquieta City, is the Misamis Occidental Provincial Capitol by Architect Juan Arellano. While to the south is Ozamiz City with the Fuerte de la Concepcion y del Triunfo Historical Landmark.

44. Tuguegarao City, Cagayan
It's major landmarks are the Tuguegarao Metropolitan Cathedral and the Cagayan Provincial Capitol. When is the city, try out pancit batil-patung and the local longganisa. Neighboring Peñablanca has the famous Callao Caves. Read more on Tuguegarao.

45. Malabon City, Metro Manila
Malabon used to be an island. Then they reclaimed all the areas around it. Then it started to flood! But the grand old houses remind us of the beauty of Malabon. And while you are there, try the Pancit Malabon, puto bumbong, puto sulot, broas, sapin-sapin, kikiam, sumpia and camatchile cookies. Did I miss anything?

46. Cagayan de Oro City, Misamis Oriental (plus Jasaan and Balingasag)
CDO is most popular for whitewater rafting. But it does have a few landmarks including Cagayan de Oro City Hall, the Misamis Oriental Provincial Capitol, the Cagayan de Oro Metropolitan Cathedral, and Plaza Divisoria that remind us we are in the city. The local food scene is also worth exploring. Here are some food suggestionsJasaan Church, a few kilometers away, is a National Cultural Treasure. While Balingasag has several ancestral houses worth seeing. I hope they preserve the heritage houses in CDO. Read more on CDO.

47. Butuan City, Agusan del Norte (plus Cabadbaran City)
Butuan City has its balangays. The Balangays in the Vicinity of Butuan, are National Cultural Treasures. While Cabadbaran City has elegant ancestral homes. If Butuan plays its cards right, it should position itself as an archeological city and invest in digging up its rich history. The Butuan Archeological Sites are in the Tentative List for World Heritage inscription.

Also, the city should promote itself as a gateway to the Agusan Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary. Even if the marsh is in Agusan del Sur, Butuan will benefit immensely if it supports the bid for the Agusan Marsh to be a World Heritage Site. So imagine if the local community puts its act together, there will be two World Heritage Sites in the Agusan provinces.

48. Sagada, Mountain Province
Mountain town meets Bohemian culture, Sagada is supposed to be your laid-back picturesque Cordillera community. Tourism caught up with it though and crowds continue to change its unique character. I hope the local government realizes that it needs to preserve the mountain town architecture before it's too late. But for now, let's enjoy Sagada as it should be, a quiet retreat with delicious food for the stomach and soul.

49. Victorias City, Negros Occidental
This sugar milling city is also a cultural attraction. Check out the Chapel of the Angry Christ inside the compound of the Victorias Milling Corporation. Did you know that the UP Chapel was originally designed for the Ossorio family? But I guess it doesn't matter now since the current chapel is itself a work of art. Read more on Victorias.

50. Iligan City, Lanao del Norte (plus Marawi City, Lanao del Sur)
Rounding up this list are Iligan, together with Marawi City, Lanao del Sur. Iligan has the Macaraeg Heritage House and Maria Cristina Falls. The downtown are has some interesting architecture which I hope the city restores. The city is known for its lechon manok and baboy, and roasted peanuts. Marawi City has the Mindanao State University and its Aga Khan Museum, and Lake Lanao. Try to look for torogans if you have time.

You might be asking what criteria landed cities and towns on this list? First would be character of the city, that includes large concentrations of built heritage (old architecture, especially those that are declared), cultural icons, museums and galleries, or the existence of cultural landscapes. Second is the variety of local cuisine which should be readily available to visitors, or existence of markets with local products and handicrafts. Finally, nearby towns and cities with interesting cultural attractions also count.

We selected fifty interesting places. But other towns and cities that should be in this list are: Baler, Aurora; Capul, Northern Samar; Davao City (if it had preserved more of its built heritage, but do visit Aldevinco Market); Glan, Sarangani; San Juan City, Metro Manila; Daet, Camarines Norte; Tabaco City, AlbayBatangas City; Cuyo, Taytay and Culion in Palawan; San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte; Lazi, Siquijor; Santa Cruz, Zambales; and Bantayan, Cebu. Maybe I should bring the list up to 100?

Part 1: Top 50 Philippine cities to see in your lifetime [No. 1 to 25]

Thank you to Bernie Arellano for this map!
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