The Philippines has garnered numerous titles related to tourism, namely, the traditional capital of the world’s festivities, the capital of the western Pacific, the centre of Hispanic Asia, the Pearl of the Orient Seas, center of the Coral Triangle, and the capital of fun. The country is also a biodiversity hotspot, having the world's highest endemism rate for bird species, and one of the highest for mammals and flora. It is also the largest bastion for Roman Catholicism in all of Asia. The country is also home to one of the New7Wonders of Nature, the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, and one of the New7Wonders Cities, the Heritage City of Vigan. It is also home to 6 UNESCO world heritage sites scattered in 9 different locations, 3 UNESCO biosphere reserves, 3 UNESCO intangible cultural heritage, 4 UNESCO memory of the world documentary heritage, 1 UNESCO creative city, 2 UNESCO world heritage cities, 7 Ramsar wetland sites, and 8 ASEAN Heritage Parks. More than 90% of all Filipinos can understand and speak English, as many are multilingual.
The Philippines' rainforests and its extensive coastlines make it home to a diverse range of birds, plants, animals, and sea creatures. It is one of the ten most biologically megadiverse countries. Around 1,100 land vertebrate species can be found in the Philippines including over 100 mammal species and 170 bird species not thought to exist elsewhere. The Philippines has among the highest rates of discovery in the world with sixteen new species of mammals discovered in the last ten years. Native mammals include the palm civet cat, the dugong, the cloud rat and the Philippine tarsier associated with Bohol.
Philippine maritime waters encompass as much as 2,200,000 square kilometers (849,425 sq mi) producing unique and diverse marine life, an important part of the Coral Triangle. The total number of corals and marine fish species was estimated at 500 and 2,400 respectively. New records and species discoveries continuously increase these numbers, underlining the uniqueness of the marine resources in the Philippines. The Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea was declared a World Heritage Site in 1993. Philippine waters also sustain the cultivation of pearls, crabs, and seaweeds.
With an estimated 13,500 plant species in the country, 3,200 of which are unique to the islands, Philippine rainforests boast an array of flora, including many rare types of orchids and rafflesia.
Most of the mountainous islands are covered in tropical rainforest and volcanic in origin. The highest mountain is Mount Apo. It measures up to 2,954 meters (9,692 ft) above sea level and is located on the island of Mindanao. The Galathea Depth in the Philippine Trench is the deepest point in the country and the third deepest in the world. The trench is located in the Philippine Sea.
The longest river is the Cagayan River in northern Luzon. Manila Bay, upon the shore of which the capital city of Manila lies, is connected to Laguna de Bay, the largest lake in the Philippines, by the Pasig River. Subic Bay, the Davao Gulf, and the Moro Gulf are other important bays. The San Juanico Strait separates the islands of Samar and Leyte but it is traversed by the San Juanico Bridge.
The Philippines has at least 144 distinct ethno-linguistic groups (all are classified as Filipinos, both mainstream and indigenous, by the government), each having their own distinct cultures. Each region of the Philippines has different traditions, honed and conserved by numerous ethnic groups distinct from each other. Currently, there are six UNESCO World Heritage Sites scattered in nine different locations (Vigan, Santa Maria Church, Paoay Church, San Agustin Church, Miagao Church, Rice Terraces of the Cordilleras, Tubbataha Reefs, Underground River of Puerto Princesa, and Mount Hamiguitan), two UNESCO World Heritage Cities (Vigan and Miagao), one UNESCO Creative City (Baguio), three UNESCO Biosphere Reserves (Palawan, Albay, and Puerto Galera), seven Ramsar Wetland Sites (Las Piñas-Parañaque, Lake Naujan, Puerto Princesa, Tubbataha Reefs, Olango, Agusan Marsh, and Negros Occidental Coastal Wetlands) , and eight ASEAN Heritage Parks (Mount Apo, Mounts Iglit-Baco, Mount kitanglad, Mount Makiling, Tubbataha Reefs, Mount Hamiguitan, and Timpoong-Hibok-Hibok) in the Philippines. The last three lists reinforces the title of the Philippines as one of the biodiversity hotspots declared by Conservation International.
Consists of about 7,641 islands, The Philippines are categorized broadly under three main geographical divisions from north to south: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.
- The island of Luzon is considered the political and economic center of the Philippines. Several outlying islands near mainland Luzon are considered part of the Luzon island group. The largest include Palawan, Mindoro, Masbate, Catanduanes, Marinduque, Romblon and Polillo. One of the most popular destination in Luzon is Palawan: the only Philippine island cited, is rated by the Condé Nast Traveler Readers as the most beautiful island in the world and is also rated by the National Geographic Traveler Magazine as the best island destination in East and Southeast Asia region, and the equal 27th best island in the world having "incredibly beautiful natural seascapes and landscapes. One of the most biodiverse (terrestrial and marine) islands in the Philippines.
- The Visayas, the central island group of the Philippines, is the heart of the country's biodiversity. The most popular beach destination in Visayas is Boracay: the island is popular for its pure white sand beaches and has been a favorite island destination for local and foreign visitors. Boracay received the "best island" award from the international travel magazine Travel + Leisure. Aside from its white sand beaches, Boracay is also a popular destination for relaxation, tranquility and an exciting nightlife.
- Mindanao, the southernmost island of the Philippines, is known for its mountain ranges; it is one of the best climbing destinations in the Philippines. Mindanao is home to the country's highest mountain, Mount Apo. On average, it takes two days to reach the summit. The mountain has a wide range of flora and fauna, including over 272 bird species, 111 of which are endemic to the area, including the national bird, the Philippine eagle. Mount Apo has become a popular hiking destination for mountain climbers.
Tourism Activities in the Philippines
Beach and Diving Tourism
- Beach tourism is currently the major tourist draw of the Philippines. Various beaches in the Philippines have landed in multiple magazines, ranking them anywhere between 1st place to 8th place. Among the most popular beach and diving choices in the country includes Boracay, El Nido, Coron, Cebu, and Siargao. Other common beach places are in Samal, Cagayan, La Union, Pangasinan, Zambales, Batangas, Iloilo, Dumaguete, Camarines Sur and Zamboanga.
- Hiking is a rising form of tourism in the Philippines, especially among locals and foreigners. Among the most famous hiking areas in the country are Mount Apo, Mount Pinatubo, Mount Halcon, Mount Banahaw, Mount Makiling, and Mount Pulag.
Arts and Crafts Tourism
- Arts and crafts tourism in the Philippines has recently expanded following several attempts to establish a cultural renaissance. The numbers of art museums, galleries, exhibitions, festivals, and town fairs throughout the country has doubled in the past 10 years. The country was conferred its first UNESCO Creative City through Baguio. Other arts and crafts centers are in Manila, Quezon City, San Fernando City, Iloilo City, Angono, Santiago City, Cebu City, Basey, Davao City, Lake Sebu, Angeles City, Vigan, Basco, Zamboanga City, Marawi, Tugaya, Cotabato City, Sariaya, Tagbilaran, and Dumaguete.
Research and Education Tourism
- Due to the diverse number of flora and fauna of the country, researchers from around the world have flocked various biodiversity sites in Philippine environmental corridors. Among the big draws for environmental researchers include Mount Mantalingajan, Sibuyan Island, Dinagat Islands, Mount Hamiguitan, Central Panay Mountain Range, Verde Island Passage, Tubbataha Reef, Mount Malindang, Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park, and Turtle Islands, Tawi-Tawi. Local and foreign archaeologists and anthropologists have also flocked the country's archaeological sites, such as Cagayan Valley, Butuan, Tabon Cave, Callao Cave, Banton, Ifugao, Cebu, Lanao del Sur, and many others.
- Various festivals in the country are flocked annually by both locals and foreigners. The country has been known as the traditional capital of the world's festivities and the capital of fun due to the thousands of festivals which happen in the country, most of which are annual spectacles. Among the most famous of these events are the Sinulog Festival of Cebu, the Kadayawan Festival of Davao, the Ati-Atihan Festival of Aklan, the Dinagyang Festival of Iloilo, the Panagbenga Festival of Baguio, the Moriones Festival of Marinduque, the Pahiyas Festival of Quezon province, the Obando Fertility Rites Festival of Bulacan, the Pintados Festival of Leyte, the Sandugo Festival of Bohol, the Ibalong Festival of Bicol, the MassKara Festival of Bacolod, and the Giant Lantern Festival of Pampanga. Each of the festivals, or locally known as fiesta, have different traditions at play. The festivals may be indigenous, Hindu, Buddhist, Catholic, Muslim, or a mixture of religions in origin. Some festivals, however, are not interlaced with any form of religion.
- Wellness tourism has recently doubled its contribution to Philippine tourism due to the rise of hilot (ancient Filipino art of healing) practices in spas, bath houses, and hotels. Surges in patriotism for whole-body firewood pot bathing and indigenous herbal usage have also helped the industry to prosper in the village-level. Staycation, or staying in hotels for relaxation purposes, has also become a trend, along with the increase of yoga, as rooted to the Indian roots of many indigenous Filipino cultures. Hilot havens include Camiguin, Siquijor, and Antique, while staycation destinations include the hotels of Manila, Bataan, Batanes, Tagaytay, Baguio, and Bukidnon.
- The Philippines is the Catholic pilgrimage capital of Asia, possessing hundreds of olden churches, most of which were established between the 15th to 19th centuries through the earthquake baroque architecture. Historic mosques, temples, and indigenous places of worship such as dambanas are also present throughout the country. Among the most popular pilgrimage sites in the Philippines are Paoay Church, Manila Cathedral, Maragondon Church, Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, Baclayon Church, Panay Church, Loboc Church, Daraga Church, Boljoon Church, Guiuan Church, Calasiao Church, Manaoag Church, Tumauini Church, Naga Cathedral, San Sebastian Church of Bacolod, Betis Church, Quiapo Church, Taal Basilica, Miagao Church, Caraga Church, Paete Church, Lucban Church, San Sebastian Church of Manila, Jimenez Church, Barasoain Church, Seng Guan Temple, Sheik Karimol Makhdum Mosque, Taluksangay Mosque, Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Masjid, Masjid Dimaukom, Mount Banahaw, Kabayan Mummy Burial Caves, Limestone tombs of Kamhantik, Bud Bongao, Mount Apo, Mount Bulusan, Mount Pulag, Callao Cave, Mount Kalatungan, Mount Matutum, Mount Makiling, Kanlaon, Mount Arayat, Mayon Volcano, Mount Pinatubo, and Mount Kitanglad.
Filipino cuisine is the polymerization of 144 distinct cuisines in the Philippines, coming from separate ethno-linguistic groups. The style of cooking and the food associated with it have evolved over many centuries from their Austronesian origins (shared with Malaysian and Indonesian cuisines) to a mixed cuisine of Indian, Chinese, Spanish, and American influences, in line with the major waves of influence that had enriched the cultures of the archipelago, as well as others adapted to indigenous ingredients and the local palate. Examples of Filipino food include kare-kare, lumpia, pancit, lechon, kaldereta, inasal, pinakbet, sisig, leche flan, halo-halo, pandesal, champorado, kinilaw, tocino, ensaymada, pitsi-pitsi, sapin-sapin, adobo, puto, chicharrón, bibingka, hopia, ube, gulaman, pinangat, satti, rendang, tinola, sambal, mami, lugaw, dinengdeng, atchara, nata de coco, kutsinta, suman, isaw, polvoron, pinikpikan, puto, and balut. Adobo and ube are the most internationally known.