With over 7,000 islands and hundreds of interesting and unusual sites to see in the Philippines it is difficult to decide where to start, but you obviously won't be able to see everything so here is a short list of the top 10 things to see in the Philippines which are really unique to the Philippines.
1. Intramuros, Manila
This is what remains of the Spanish colonial capital of the Philippines, the walled settlement is also the site of other interesting Philippine attractions like the Manila Cathedral so you really get more than one Philippine attraction for the price of one! The historic center is within the thick fortified stone walls and includes the Fort Santiago, Postigo del Palacio and the stone fort of Baluarte de San Diego as well as other plazas, monuments and museums. Take a whole day to see this complex.
2. Rizal Park, Manila
This enormous park in Manila is also called Luneta and contains restaurants, an amphitheatre, statues and much, much more. The park takes it's name from the national hero Jose Rizal who was executed here is 1896, his statue in the park has been the site of many important rallies, declarations and events throughout history. Take advantage of the free concerts in the park, visit the Japanese gardens, the Manila Ocean Park is also in the park as well as a planetarium, the Museum of the Filipino People, the National Library and an exquisite Orchidarium and Butterfly Pavilion.
3. Taal Volcano
On the island of Luzon in Lake Taal just an hour outside of Manila the city of Tagaytay is built on the rim of this active volcano and there is a park conveniently on a ridge overlooking the crater of the volcano. Not everyone has been up close to a volcano before and this is a perfect opportunity.
4. Hanging coffins, Kabayan, Luzon
As recently as 2007 people were still buried here in coffins hanging off the side of limestone cliffs. The oldest of the coffins is dated 100 years ago and this ancient tradition which was also practiced in China. The bodies were hung in this way to protect them from wild animals and to bless the soul eternally. The bodies were wrapped in a cloth in the fetal position and placed in coffins cut from one piece of wood. This sight is truly unique and can be seen in several places in the Philippines including Echo Valley, Ambasing and Sagada as well as Luzon.
5. Chocolate hills, Carmen, Bohol
This unusual geographical wonder looks like a field of giant mole hills, there are over a thousand of these half meter high mounds which get their name from the brown color they get in the dry season making them look like hills of chocolate. The rest of the year the Chocolate Hills are covered with green grass. Geologists are uncertain as to how the mounds came about, but this is another sight you won't see anywhere else.
6. Vigan, Luzon
This UNESCO city has retained all the charm of the Spanish era and can be seen in the architecture of the old merchant homes. Visit the Mestizo district and see the Asian influence mixed with the local and Spanish. There are also several beautiful Plazas and St. Paul's Metropolitan Cathedral. While there you could also pop into the Cristologo Museum which was once the home of the former Congressman of Ilocos Sur and his wife Carmeling.
7. Underground River, Palawan
The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park consists of an 8km underground river which you can travel on by pumpboats from Sabang Beach for about 1.5 hours. The natural wonder is a UNESCO world heritage site and another unique Philippine tourist attraction.
8. Rice terraces, Banaue, Luzon
Yet another UNESCO site the rice terraces are only partially in use today and cover about 200 meters. They were originally created by the local Ifugao people they are slowly decaying. The terraces are irrigated by mountain streams which have been manipulated to run down the terraces watering the crop.
9. Jumalon Butterfly Sanctuary, Cebu
Here you can visit the gardens which have been planted with plant which butterflies are drawn to for their food, and you can wander among the flowers and plants together with over 50 species of butterflies. Indoors are art exhibits relating to butterflies and specimens of rare butterflies, and even mosaics made out of butterfly wings!
10. Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene
Christians particularly will be fascinated by the life size figure of Jesus which is carved from charred black wood, it depicts Jesus carrying the cross. The Black Nazarene is believed by some of the Filipinos to have miraculous powers and it is often carried through the streets in processions on special days. If you are Christian try to attend one of the Friday prayers at the church.