ExecutiveChronicles.com | When it comes to touring the Philippines, many would focus on natural attractions like mountains and forests, as well bodies of water like majestic waterfalls and (of course!) seas and their beautiful beaches. But the Philippines is not just for nature enthusiasts. It’s also for history buffs. With the country being steeped in cultural and historical heritage, there’s a lot to discover about the Philippines’ roots.
Check out these historical destinations in the Philippines that the history buff in you would certainly appreciate.
During the Spanish colonial era, Corregidor was a fortress, a prison, and a customs point. When the Americans occupied the Philippines, it served as a military reservation, with army posts in Fort Mills, Fort Hughes, Fort Drum, and Fort Frank. Corregidor was also the last stronghold of the American and Philippine armies against the Japanese during the Second World War. The island is also the site of the Malinta Tunnel. It was designed to store food, munitions, and other war supplies, then became a refuge for both military men and civilians during the siege of Corregidor. The tunnel now features a light and sound show dubbed the “Malinta Experience,” which depicts the dire situations during that period. The reenactments are made more dramatic by contributions from National Artists: a script by Lamberto Avellana and sculptures by Napoleon Abueva.
WHERE TO STAY: Corregidor Inn. If you’re looking for a simple but comfortable place to stay, with a charming rustic ambiance, this quaint hotel and resort is a perfect choice. It only has 31 rooms, which is definitely ideal if you’re looking for a peaceful atmosphere.
The Luna House, Ilocos Norte
When people flock to Ilocos Norte, they often visit the sand dunes in Paoay, the beaches in Pagudpud, and the windmills in Bangui. Most people don’t know or forget about the Luna House, located in Barangay Garreta in Badoc. Often called the Juan Luna Shrine, this two-story ancestral house and museum holds collections that immortalize the lives of the Luna brothers: Juan, the famed painter, and Antonio, the young general.
WHERE TO STAY: Gabut Beach Resort. This small seaside resort is the perfect escape for those looking for a tranquil retreat. The beach is just a few feet away from the hotel building, which means you can hear the waves and feel the breeze even while you’re in your room.
Casa Real de Iloilo, Iloilo City
This National Historical Site used to be the old capitol building of Iloilo. It serves as the “Kilometer Zero” of the province, which stands in front of the Arroyo Fountain. This building served as a Japanese garrison during World War II, and was also the official residence of the provincial governor during the Spanish colonial period. The building caught fire in 1998 and was finally restored to its old splendor in 2015.
WHERE TO STAY: Ong Bun Pension House. Ong Bun Pension House is located in Iloilo’s business district, keeping you close to various business establishments and tourist hotspots alike. This pension house is surprisingly posh, with a hotel-like ambiance but without the exorbitant price.
Plaza Cuartel, Palawan
Puerto Princesa is perhaps most famous for the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, a protected area in the Philippines and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. What it’s not well-known for is its historical sites, like Plaza Cuartel, which is located in the heart of the city. Now a leisure park, Plaza Cuartel was a former garrison where more than a hundred prisoners of war got burned alive by the Japanese in 1944. Only 11 survived in the horrific massacre. The location has a simple bronze historical marker, letting people know the grim story of the plaza.
WHERE TO STAY: By the Bay Jacana Bed and Breakfast. If you’re looking for an affordable but beautiful place to stay in Puerto Princesa, this small B&B is a great choice. It’s close to the beach, surrounded by greenery, and, best of all, there are only 7 rooms in total so you can expect a peaceful experience.
Rizal Park and Shrine, Zamboanga del Norte
The Rizal Park and Shrine in Dapitan City, Zamboanga Del Norte, offers a different glimpse into Jose Rizal’s life in exile. Purchased using his lottery winnings (you probably didn’t know that, did you?), Rizal used the 16-hectare land to build a few structures like the Casa Cuadrada (his residence) and Casa Redonda (the student’s dormitory). There’s also a chicken house and an aqueduct, which Rizal built himself to help farmers irrigate their farms. Both showcase Rizal’s skill in construction.
Another famous attraction within the shrine and park is the Mi Retiro Rock. This heart-shaped rock is where Rizal wrote his poem, Mi Retiro (My Retreat), which his admirers often say is one of his most profound works.
WHERE TO STAY: Travelbee Heritage Inn. The Travelbee Heritage Inn is an ancestral house converted into modest lodgings that cater to budget-conscious travelers. It’s located close to various tourist spots, as well as the local market. Travelbee also has a bike rental service at very affordable rates so you can explore the city at your own pace.
Sheik Karim al Makdum Mosque, Tawi-Tawi
If you want to know more about the Muslim faith in the country, the best place to go is where it all begain: the Sheik Karim al Makdum Mosque in Simunul, Tawi-Tawi. It’s the oldest mosque in the Philippines, originally built in 1380. Its four original pillars remain standing even today, as several attempts to remove them for renovations or otherwise have failed. This is said to symbolize how Islam has become deeply rooted in Mindanao and its inhabitants.
WHERE TO STAY: Sandbar Lepa Beach Hotel and Restaurant. The restaurant has been around for quite a while, but the hotel is a new addition. They have cottage-style rooms that are clean, spacious, with a bright and airy feel. Located in Bongao, the hotel is boat ride away from Simunul where the Sheik Karim al Makdum Mosque is located.
Biak-na-Bato National Park, Bulacan
Biak-na-Bato National Park is famous for its sprawling cave networks, which thrill-seekers enjoy to explore. However, these caves are also quite historic. One served as a refuge for Filipino forces during the revolution against Spain. Another became the venue of the signing of the Malolos Constitution, which was drafted in Barasoain Church in Malolos, another historical site in Bulacan. The Malolos Constitution became the backbone of Emilio Aguinaldo’s short-lived Biak-na-Bato Republic.
WHERE TO STAY: BESM Traveler’s Inn. There are no hotels in the immediate vicinity of the park, so you have to settle for those located in surrounding areas. BESM Traveler’s Inn is a favorite of tourists, with its budget-friendly and spacious rooms, relaxing environment, and delicious food.
These are but a few of the historical sites in the Philippines. Hopefully, visiting these destinations will inspire you to travel and discover more about the country’s bygone days and how they influenced the present.