Spread across 7,641 islands, with about 5,000 still yet to be named, the Philippines will be love at first sight. Home to some of the most pristine beaches and upcoming surf spots, this country, also dubbed The Pearl of the Orient Seas, is a treasure chest for beach lovers, water activity enthusiasts, and explorers. However, in spite of being an archipelago, the Philippines is filled with varied landscapes from coastal areas, rainforests to sand dunes, and even volcanoes— a lot of active volcanoes. Hence, there is something for everyone here.
Up the hills of Tinglayan, surrounded by the rice terraces of Kalinga, lives the 102-year-old, also known as the oldest, and probably, last tattoo artist of the headhunting tribe, the Butbuts. Using the traditional method of hand-tapped tattooing, locally known as Batok, Whang-od Oggay has been practicing since she was 15 on Butbut warriors who earned their tattoos because of their bravery and the wars they’ve won.
Consequently, as the tradition of protecting the villages and killing their enemies ceased to exist, so did the art of pagbabatok.
The Batok is a thousand-year if not more, tattooing tradition of celebrating the victories of men and women by tattooing, chanting, and fortune-telling. Nevertheless, due to the long line of people waiting to meet Whang-od, and her age, she no longer does complicated intricate Kalinga designs.
The Philippines, sitting right on top of the Pacific Ring of Fire, has about 23 active volcanoes, the more famous ones being Mt. Mayon, for its perfect cone shape; Mt. Pinatubo, for having the 2nd largest eruption during the 20th century; and Taal Volcano, considered as the smallest and one of the deadliest volcanoes in the world.
A rare geographical formation, the Taal volcano, is home to an island— Vulcan Point Island—within a lake, in a volcano, on an island, in another lake! Though being one of the most active volcanoes, Taal still has a thriving town at its banks. It is also open for visitors to hike to the crater, either on foot or on a horse, but it is only a 35-minute walk and better enjoyed on foot. You can even choose to go down the trail and take a quick dip in the Crater Lake if you want to!
One of the most fascinating provinces in the Philippines is Bohol. Not only does it have pristine beaches, but it is also home to the Chocolate Hills, and the Tarsiers.
Exclusively found in the Philippines, the endangered Tarsiers, and a primate that is no bigger than your palms. These tiny cute species are known for their big round eyes and their ability to turn heads around 360 degrees, to compensate for their inability to move their eyes. However, due to deforestation, hunting, and ignorance, the Tarsiers have been endangered for a while. These insect-eating primates are very territorial and sensitive to noise and touch— when stressed; they fall into depression and commit suicide. For this very reason, only one hectare of the Philippine Tarsier and Wildlife Sanctuary is open to the public.
A UNESCO Heritage site, the Banaue Rice Terraces, not to be confused with the ones in Kalinga, are sometimes called the Eighth Wonder of the World. Built at 4,900 feet above sea level, over 2000 years ago, by the Ifugaos, the indigenous ancestors of the Filipinos, it is quite surprising how its irrigation system works to date.
Located in the central region of the Philippines, Siquijor Island is not only beautiful but also filled with stories of magic and mysticism. Once known for its community of witches and healers, it is now one of the most popular spots amongst the locals who want a break from their busy city life. From chasing waterfalls to crystal clear waterholes and beaches, Siquijor is dreamy from all angles.
They say it’s more fun in the Philippines.
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