7 Must-See Churches in the Philippines: Plan an Easter Experience

Lent, Holy Week, and Easter Sunday are celebrated by Christians around the world, but in the Philippines, it’s different. More than 80 percent of Filipinos are Catholic. Their traditions have influenced the culture and whole communities celebrate together.

For travelers interested in observing these holy days, it’s an ideal time to visit the Philippines. Plan a spiritual experience with your family or with close friends. It’s important to start planning this trip early–booking both travel and accommodations–as many guests visit for the Easter holiday and Filipinos travel to be with family and friends.

Must See Churches

Enhance your journey through the Philippines during the Easter holidays by visiting some of the oldest and most beautiful churches on the islands.

Church of Santo Tomas de Villanueva – Ming-ao, Iloilo

Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993, the Ming-ao Church has an extensive history. It’s thick walls and mismatched bell towers helped protect the area from invaders during the 18th and 19th centuries. The belfries were commissioned by two different parish priests and the west tower is both older and taller. While visiting this church, don’t forget to go inside and see the solid gold retablo also known as a sanctuary.

St. Matias Parish Church – Tuamauini, Isabela

Built entirely of red bricks in 1783, the church, commonly known as the Tumauini Church, has been under consideration as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2006. It was built in the style of Late Baroque or Early Rococo and its bell tower stands four stories tall.

Nuestra Señora del Patrocinio de Maria Parish Church – Boljoon, Cebu

While this parish dates back to the 1690s, the church building, which is commonly known as Boljoon Church, was first built in 1783. It was listed as a National Cultural Treasure by the National Museum of the Philippines in 2001 and continues to be a candidate to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is well-known for its special ceilings which are made of “tag-ut” which means “coming from trees” and are beautifully painted. They date back to at least 1883.

Archdiocesan Shrine and Parish of Saint Michael the Archangel – Argao, Cebu

Completed in 1788, the church commonly known as the Argao Church is a two-level structure built of coral stone. The beautifully painted ceiling tiles are made of wood. The paintings themselves were completed by two artists, one being the renowned Cebuano painter Raymundo Francia. Sadly, the other half was completed by an unknown Boholano artist. As the name suggests, the church was dedicated to the archangel Saint Michael.

Saint Augustine Church – Paoay, Ilocos Norte

Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1993, the church, commonly known as the Paoay Church, began construction in 1694. It is known as a prime example of the Spanish Colonial Baroque Architecture-style which was adapted for the Philippines due to the frequency of earthquakes. You’ll see larger than normal buttresses and stair-style buttresses. The facade is made up of two materials, brick on the lower part and coral on the upper.

The Camarin de la Virgen at the Sta. Ana Church

Commonly known as the Santa Ana Church, it was established by the Franciscan Order in 1577. The first cornerstone for the larger stone church and convent was laid on September 12, 1720. The image of the patron saint, Nstra. Sra. De los Desamparados – or Our Lady of the Abandoned – was carved in Spain and brought to Santa Ana by Fr. Vicente Ingles, OFM, who was the parish priest at the time.

Minor Basilica of Saint Martin of Tours – Taal, Batangas

Within the Archdiocese of Lipa you’ll find this church, commonly known as Taal Basilica. It is considered the single largest church in the Philippines, as well as in all of Asia. First established in 1575, the church was severely damaged by the largest recorded eruption of the local volcano in 1754. The church was then moved to its current location on top.

Tips for What to Expect

If you’ve never been in the Philippines for Holy Week and Easter, you will need to keep a few things in mind.

  • Heavy traffic and crowded streets cause problems getting anywhere quickly. Processions involving people, carts, floats, and crowds around the churches are common. Plan to become part of the celebrations and immerse yourself in the experience.
  • Many businesses are closed during Holy Week or have shortened working hours. Once you know where you’ll be staying, learn what will be open and be prepared for stores and services to be shut down, including grocery stores and restaurants.
  • Some television and radio stations feature reruns or pre-recorded shows during parts of Holy Week, while others play seasonal content to join in the spirit of the holiday.

 Plan Your Trip to the Philippines

Spending the holiday living like a Filipino local creates one-of-a-kind, spiritual memories.

The time to plan your trip to the Philippines is now if you want to be a part of this immersive religious experience before it’s gone. If you’re ready, our partnersare ready to help you discover the Philippines.

Don’t Let Hurricanes Delay Your Vacation: Come to the Philippines

Your bags aren’t packed yet, but your boss already approved your vacation time, right? Even if Hurricane Irma didn’t care about your vacation destination, your much-needed vacation shouldn’t have to be postponed.

Hurricanes and tropical storms are devastating bringing destruction and grief to many island destinations. We are optimistic that the Caribbean Islands will rebuild better than ever. In the meantime, the Philippines can offer you all the amenities and similar exciting attractions for a vacation you’ll never forget.

Beautiful Diving Destinations

With new resorts and diving tours popping up across the islands, the Philippines is a perfect destination for both beginners and experienced divers. Filipinos have a history of helping divers experience the underwater beauty of the Philippines through Scuba Diving since 1966. Pick your favorite spot and get to diving today!

Shipwreck exploration in Coron

Below the surface, there are several sunken  Japanese warships leftover from World War II when the U.S. Navy attacked on September 24, 1944. The ships serve as a host to marine life and are a unique memorial from the war. You can visit the ocean floor to see the damage done to the ships by the 96 American planes, preserved by their home at the bottom of the sea and only available to SCUBA divers.

Hole in the Wall at Puerto Galera

At slack tide, this is a a perfect diving spot for inexperienced divers. Sitting at a depth of only 40 feet, thousands of divers have visited this big rock with a hole only large enough for one person to fit through. You’ll have a good chance of seeing snappers, scorpion fish, and turtles. Also, you’ll be hypnotized by the different soft corals, gorgonian fans, and sponges.

Apo Island Diving

There are dives sites circling Apo Island which offer beautiful seascapes and tons of marine life. The Apo Island Marine Sanctuary and Protected Seascape has been under rehabilitation and is currently prohibited from diving, however, you’ll still be blown away by diving at Coconut Point, Chapel’s Point, Rock Point, and Mamsa Point. Reef sharks, jacks, barracudas, Vlaming Unicornfish, tuna, snappers, eels and many more types of fish can be seen.

Sweet Surfing Spots

Peak surfing season happens in the Philippines September through March. However, in some areas, it is said to be possible to surf all year long.

Cloud 9 on Siargao Island
Often the first place Filipinos mention when asked where to go surfing, Cloud 9 landed in the No. 9 spot on the CNN Travel blog, “World’s 50 Best Surf Spots.” This is one spot surfers can catch a great wave all year long and is dubbed the “Surfing Capital of the Philippines”. Each year, surfers from around the globe meet in Siargao for the annual Siargao Cup, a surfing competition sponsored by the Surigao del Norte provincial government.

Charlie’s Point near Baler, Aurora

The movie Apocalypse Now changed life forever for the once-small fishing village of Baler. During filming in 1979, local Filipinos watched as the beach became scenes from the Vietnam war. They also watched the actors surfing, and when the actors left their boards, the locals taught themselves to surf. Each year, tourism grows at Charlie’s Point and the locals will gladly show you where the movie was filmed, teach you to surf, or join you in the waves.

Bagasbas Beach in Daet, Camarines Norte

Bagasbas Beach is known for being both long and wide with fine sand. The Pacific Ocean provides big waves that are known to become barrel waves between July and November. Waves break both to the right and left, providing a good learning spot for inexperienced surfers. The sandy bottom below the waves also helps beginners keep from scraping themselves up as they learn to surf.

Wildlife Swimming Companions

Have you ever wanted to swim with dolphins? Have you dreamed about a dive with sea lions and sea turtles? You can do it all in the Philippines!

Swim with the Sharks in Oslob

The largest fish in the world, the whale shark, can be seen in the water at Oslob, Cebu. Tourists gather along the beach and catch boats out into the water to get a closer view. Those who have paid to swim with the sharks must remove all sunscreen and agree to stay at least four feet from the sharks. There are fines for anyone who touches the beautifully-massive creatures. From 6 a.m. until noon, groups of people called “feeders” drop krill, small fish, and sea plants to keep the whale sharks in the area. You can set up tours and even combine the experience with a trip to the turquoise pools at Tumalog Falls.

Experience an Animal Encounter at Ocean Adventure
In just one place, you can swim with sea lions and dolphins or dive with sea turtles, blacktip reef sharks, and giant jackfish. At Ocean Adventure, you can even get a fish spa pedicure where live fish tickle your feet as they nibble away all the dead skin. You can tailor each part of your day to fulfill your every expectation. Spend the day as an animal trainer, see the shows, and even dine by the bay.

Unique Catches for Fisherman

With more than 2,000 species of fish living in or around the islands of the Philippines, there is no shortage of places to fish. You can hire guided tours and boats, which also have rental fishing equipment. Take your chance at fishing for a record in the Philippines.

Go sport fishing in Cagayan

Fishing is one of the most popular pastimes in Cagayan. While you can productive fishing all year, the best times to catch fish are from March to June. During that time you can find fishing tournaments, or arrange for your trip to avoid the tournaments if you don’t want to fish with a crowd.

Fish for Largemouth Bass

Both Lake Lumot and Caliraya Lake on the island of Luzon are known for their bass fishing. Even though the American Largemouth Bass is not native to these waters, they thrive there. You might even be able to find bass larger than 10 pounds!

See How It’s Made

Spend more time getting to know the people of the Philippines and how they live through tours of local farms. Experience a day in the life on a Filipino farm and you’ll find something delicious to take home with you.

La Huerta de Rosario – Baao, Camarines Sur

La Huerta de Rosario is a privately-owned farm and tourist stop where visitors can experience harvesting fresh, local produce. In addition, guests are then served food–freshly harvested and cooked in the local style. La Huerta de Rosario is also a haven for local artists and their work is displayed throughout the buildings on the farm.

The Coffee Farmhouse, Cavite

From coffee to bean, serious coffee connoisseurs can enjoy a stay at the Coffee Farmhouse. About two hours away from Manila on the outskirts of Tagatay, you can escape the bustle of the city and learn about how coffee is raised, processed, and served on a family farm in the Philippines. In addition to the tour, you can play games, enjoy a bonfire, or schedule a relaxing massage.

Malagos Chocolate Cacao Farm, Davao City
Known for their excellent quality, the Malagos Farms’ chocolate bars start from cacao beans grown, harvested, and processed on their farm in Davao City. Chocolate lovers can take a half-day tour of the farm to get an idea of how the chocolates are made. For serious chocoholics, a three-day cacao farming seminar is also an option.

Sneak a Peek at Nature

The list of flora and fauna you can only see in the Philippines is extensive, both on land and underwater. Even if you aren’t a hiker or a diver, the people of the Philippines have found ways to share their unique landscape with you.

Bird Watching at Olango Wildlife Sanctuary

The first preserved wetland of international importance for waterfowl, the Olango Wildlife Sanctuary offers trekking tours with knowledgeable guides. Vulnerable and threatened species like the Chinese Egret and the Asian Dowitcher are protected here and can be seen while taking the tour. The amenities of the sanctuary are minimal, but guides will help you see the natural aviary on this important migratory route as well as arrange for your group to have fresh coconut juice.

Watch Whales and Dolphins at Pamilacan Island

The Pamilacan Island Dolphin and Whale Watching Tours began with one man’s dream to provide an eco-tourism adventure for the people living on Pamilacan Island, as an alternative to hunting whales and dolphins. Now, you can create a tour to satisfy your need for adventure, see dolphins and whales at play, swim and snorkel on white sandy beaches, tour the Bohol countryside, or visit the village on Pamilacan Island.

Create the Vacation of Your Dreams in the Philippines

When you come to the Philippines, people will make you feel at home. You can enjoy adventures of all sorts, lay on white sand beaches, or get treated like royalty at the spas and resorts. Don’t let mother nature steal your vacation plans, let us help you craft the most memorable vacation of your life today.

Take a Jeepney to a Pineapple Farm: A Bucket List for Traveling the Philippines

Have you been saving and searching for a dream vacation? Well, stop searching, because we’ve got a bucket list full of the best things to do in the Philippines that’ll have you booking your flight in no time.

For the Avid Hiker

The Philippines consists of 7,641 islands with a tropical maritime climate–which means it’s warm and humid the majority of the year. The extensive coastlines and rainforests on the islands provide a perfect habitat for plant and animal life to flourish. Hiking expeditions through this exotic wildlife offer unique experiences at sites that are inaccessible by car.

Explore the Banaue and Batad Rice Terraces

Carved into the mountainside more than 2,000 years ago, the rice terraces created–by the ancestors of indigenous Filipinos–are a sight to behold. The rainforests above the terraces provide water to the ancient irrigation system, which is still used today.

Catching a ride in a Jeepney–which provides local transportation across the Philippines–is the suggested way to start your hike. Guided hikes can be negotiated and purchased when you arrive in Banaue or before leaving for the Philippines.

Learn more about Lotte, a travel blogger from the Netherlands, and her hike through the rice terraces on her blog, Phenomenal Globe.

Backpack Mount Apo

Backpack to the top of Mount Apo, the tallest peak in the Philippines archipelago. The best known starting point originates in the national park located in Kidapawan City, the capital of Cotabato Province. The hike is expected to take three to four days and is considered a seven out of nine-difficulty rating, according to the local mountaineering guide.

Go Spelunking in Cantabon Cave

Described by some as an experience much like an obstacle course, you can try spelunking into one of the least corrupted caves in the Philippines when you visit Siquijor. The professionally guided caving experience at Cantabon Cave may leave you wet, dirty, and tired–but it’s unlike anything else you will see while visiting the islands.

The 800-meter hike into the cave is expected to take around two hours to complete. Watch this video of one group’s experience in the cave.

For the Divers and Swimmers

Under the clear blue water, the flora and fauna of the Philippines provide a spectacle any diver would enjoy. In fact, you can find more than 500 types of coral and 2,400 species of fish. Beyond the natural wonders of the area, you’ll find sunken ships to discover, special swimming classes, and friendly boat captains.

Attend the Philippine Mermaid Swimming Academy

Photo used courtesy of the Philippine Mermaid Swimming Academy[/caption]

Have you dreamed of swimming through the seas with one fin like a mermaid? The Philippine Mermaid Swimming Academy will teach you how! Start your introduction to a mermaid’s life in Boracay, Cebu, or Manila. For more in-depth courses, you’ll have to visit Boracay.

Initial intro classes include tail measurements and fittings, safety and photo training, and free swim time in shallow water. Advanced classes further teach safety, methods for swimming in deeper water, and lessons on how to act more like a mermaid by doing handstands and blowing mermaid bubbles.

Discover the Coron Bay Reefs and Wrecks

With more than 1,000 types of marine life to discover among the reefs and a dozen wrecked World War II ships, the area around Coron Bay is a diver’s paradise. It has been named among Forbes Traveler Magazine’s Top 10 Dive sites. Rock formations in the area also provide a lively snorkeling experience for those who like to stay near the top of the water.
One famous dive site is known as Gunter’s Cave, where you can visit a naturally lit, underwater cave. At certain times of the day a beam of light shines through the opening in the cave and illuminates the entire space.

Scuba at Tubbataha Natural Park

While visiting the sites at Tubbataha Natural Park, you must schedule a boat and stay on board during your trip. Its location in the middle of the Sulu Sea, with no human-inhabited land, makes visiting without a boat impossible.

Experienced divers, as well as newcomers to the hobby, will be impressed with no less than 360 coral species, 600 types of fish, 11 different shark species, and 13 whale and dolphin species that call the area home. Since December of 1993, the area has been considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is protected and loved by those who Scuba dive there.

For the Natural Wonder Enthusiasts

The climate and location of the Philippines creates natural wonders you won’t find anywhere else. Some of the natural wonders require boat rentals and some you might want a guided tour to enjoy. Either way, these are experiences you don’t want to miss.

Tour the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River and National Park

Copyright by Eric Beltran[/caption]

Under the island of Palawan, you’ll find an exciting experience. The Puerto Princesa subterranean river flows directly beneath the St. Paul Mountain Range, weaving through cave-like structures beneath the mountains for 8.2 km. Getting to the starting point of the underground trip at Sabang is only about a 40km trip from Puerto Princesa. Once you’re there, this “New 7 Wonders of Nature” site will amaze you with waterfalls flowing from cave walls, ancient fossils, and creatures that live nowhere else in the world.

Don’t forget to get a permit to travel there, or else you won’t be allowed in. If you book a guided tour, your permit, boat, guide, lunch, and transport are usually all included. If you are staying in Sabang, you can opt to buy everything separately and use your negotiation skills to save some pesos.

Soak in the Hinatuan Enchanted River

Copyright Dennis Onashi[/caption]

The Hinatuan River is a deep spring, saltwater river on the island of Mindanao, which flows directly into the Philippine Sea and onto the Pacific Ocean. Catching a ride on a habal-habal motorcycle is the preferred way to get to the river once you arrive in Hinatuan.

The enchanting color of the water has long left local people to believe the water holds secrets. Whether the water itself has healing powers or if spirits keep the place safe, no one knows for sure. However, novice adventurers or advanced swimmers alike can find an area of the river they enjoy.

For the History Buffs

The history of the Philippine Islands is diverse. Different regions have unique stories and not all the islands have the same background. Travel the islands and sample cultures from around the world without having to get additional stamps in your passport.

Step Back in Time on Corregidor Island

Corregidor is an island found at the mouth of Manila Bay, in the southwestern part of Luzon Island. It has long been fortified by the reigning military forces to protect the most important seaport located in Manila. During World War II, the area was of great importance to both the Japanese military and the Allied Forces.

Today, the ruins of the fortifications from that time serve as a memorial and reminder to visitors about the cost of war. Families from around the world visit the site to remember loved ones and learn more about the history of the Philippines during WWII.

Hanging Coffins of Sagada

The practice of burying the dead in hanging coffins predates the Spanish colonization of the Philippines. Hoping to get the dead closer to the spirits of their ancestors, Filipinos hung or nailed the coffins to the sides of cliffs. However, the tradition is practiced today on a much smaller scale than in the past.

Today, the burial ceremonies are only held by the elders of Sagada, as the younger generation have adopted more modern burial traditions and enjoy being able to visit their ancestors on All Saints Day.

Walk the Cobblestone Streets of Vigan

Vigan is one of the oldest cities in the Philippines, but its structures have mostly been preserved and restored. The cobblestone streets and unique architecture–which marry the Philippines’ traditional Filipino structures with those of the Spanish-colonial era–make it a popular vacation destination.

One can visit preserved houses near the central park, known as Plaza Salcedo, which surrounds Plaza Burgos. You’ll also find a museum along Crisologo Street with unique antique collections of memorabilia and vehicles. When your feet tire of walking along the cobblestones, snag a ride in a kalesa and complete your journey back in time.

For the Nature Lovers

The unique land, as well as the special plants and animals that call the Philippines home, often require protection. Unfortunately, it would be easy for these unique plant and animal species to be endangered without formal conservation efforts. While you’re there, visit a few of the reservations dedicated to protecting the Philippines’ natural wonders.

Experience Everything El Nido Marine Reserve Park Has to Offer

Located on the northernmost tip of the Palawan mainland, El Nido Marine Reserve Park is a perfect example of the diversity you’ll see when traveling through the Philippines. You can fly into the airport at Puerto Princesa or travel by boat. When you arrive, you’ll see white sand beaches and limestone cliffs, high-end resorts, endemic and endangered species of birds, and lush forests.

With more than 30 dive sites, there’s more to see while diving than you’ll be able to fit in during most trips. The resorts on nearby islands offer snorkeling, kayaking, hiking, and spa treatments in addition to the diving expeditions. You can even find a secret beach hidden among rocks if you’re brave enough to swim through a hole in the limestone.

Visit the Tarsier Sanctuary

The Tarsier, one of the world’s smallest primates, is indigenous to the Philippines. You can visit the Tarsier Sanctuary while you are in Bohol and, for a small price, you can pay for a guide to help you trek through the sanctuary and spot the Tarsiers in their natural habitat. Your guide will be glad to help with taking videos and photos along the way. The tour lasts about 30 minutes and culminates on a viewing deck over the sanctuary.

See the Ruins at Mount Mayon Active Volcano Natural Park

Mount Mayon is the most active volcano in the Philippines and is located on the island of Luzon. The most destructive eruption happened in 1814. Five towns were destroyed in that eruption, but each one was rebuilt, demonstrating the resilience of the locals.

The Cagsawa Ruins are the remnants of a Franciscan church destroyed in the 1814 eruption and are one of the most visited areas of the Natural Park. Near the ruins, you will find the Cagsawa National Museum, which helps the local government care for the park and ruins.

Live Like a Local

One of the greatest treasures you will find while traveling the Philippines are the people who live there. Learn about how they live while doing things the Filipino way. Get to know them, make friends, and let them show you the best ways to enjoy your time in the Philippines.

For more information on how to eat like a local or see what the locals see, check out our blog. Don’t hesitate to send us your questions. We can’t wait to help you visit the Philippines!

Top 3 Honeymoon Destinations in the Philippines

Preparing for a wedding can be too arduous and time-consuming which makes newlyweds crave for the events to follow the wedding itself. Still overwhelmed with so many options? Listed below are three destinations you can spend that sweet honeymoon like no other.

Cebu

Cebu, the Queen City of the South is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Philippines. In fact, back in 2010, Cebu was chosen as the best honeymoon destination at the World Travel Fair Awards which makes Cebu’s strong foundation as a honeymoon destination recognized worldwide.

Taking a boat tour around dusk would give couples that unparalleled moment of watching the sun fall while holding hands. The night breeze and atmosphere might even join in the fun which would create nothing but memories for the two of you.

If you and your partner are inclined more towards attaining adrenaline, then fret not as Cebu is also known for water activities. You can either visit Moalboal to get a glimpse of the rich marine life underwater which cannot be seen in other places besides Cebu or Kawasan Falls, listed in Travel + Leisure’s beautiful waterfalls around the world where you can raft through the three levels for a cascading massage. You can certainly never run out of things to do together in Cebu.


Bohol

Not too far from Cebu, another famed tourist spot known as Bohol sits by. Newlyweds can witness majestic landscapes such as the awe-inspiring Chocolate hills or drop by the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary, home to one of the smallest known primates, where a couple of Tarsiers are carefully taken care of without destroying their niche. At the sanctuary, the lovely wide-eyed tarsiers are trained to roost in during the day but are active and hunting at night which makes them free to roam around the area which is several hectares large.

One cannot leave Bohol without the fireflies encounter experience. Fireflies can be found in Loboc River in which you would have to rent a boat to visit. Five minutes in and you’ll be guaranteed with small blinking lights swarming in and around the mangroves. The surreal atmosphere and gentle breeze while traveling along Loboc River will leave you and your partner reminiscing the day you met.


Palawan

Certainly not what you have expected, Palawan makes its mark as the last one on our list. Sometimes referred to as Asia’s Garden of Eden, Palawan will be able to give you and your spouse-to-be the once-in-a-lifetime honeymoon both of you have always been dreaming of. Unlike the crowd favorite that is Boracay, Palawan provides the much-needed privacy to create lasting moments with only the two of you.

Known as the Philippines’ last frontier, the well- preserved Palawan offers so many couple activities you are encouraged to do. Kayaking your way to the amazing turquoise-green Big and Small Lagoons of Palawan where you could seclude yourselves and be astonished by the beauty of untouched nature. Explore the overwhelming Honda Bay and tunnel through the ravishing underground river of Palawan and leave nothing but priceless moments that you’ll cherish for your life as one.

Want to make your honeymoon struggle-free? Leave it to our travel experts and they’ll make your dreamy honeymoon come true.