Zambales is fast becoming a favorite of photo enthusiasts and for good reason – the province is rich in subjects and destinations to choose from in creating that one awe-inspiring shot that will create a mark in your portfolio. With its untainted forests, the mountain range of the Sierra Madres, beautiful beaches and resorts that cater to a traveler’s desires, it is no wonder that it is has attracted many a traveler to visit and relax among its natural wonders.
Having just recently touched on Mt. Pinatubo, one of the attractions that are bringing in tourists to Zambales in droves, I shall no longer delve into it at this point. Subic which is also a tourist destination in Zambales does not need further introduction. I would rather touch on the other attractions of the province that is yet to be discovered by avid travelers and wanderers.
With 107 miles of pure beach, needless to say that Zambales is another go-to place for beach lovers. It also has, tucked in its belt of natural wonders, a bevy of beautiful islands and shoals that are perfect camping sites and day tours, you’ll only need to get the right equipment online like the best family tent, you can find more information here. It is also the home of the Aetas, the Philippines foremost indigenous tribe and the earliest Filipinos. Aeta guides hold jungle survival classes in Subic and are also willing guides for hikers who visit the province. And if you happen to be a hiker, then there are many places for you to choose from in Zambales such as Mt. Tapulao, Mt. Cinco Picos and Mt. Balingkilat, to name a few. In some parts of the area hunting is allowed for a few people, if you are interestred then make sure to check out these rifles for sale.
Hiking in Zambales
Mt. Tapulao is the highest peak in the Zambales mountain range and is a popular destination for hikers. Hikers’ jump-off point is located in Sitio Dampay in Brgy. Dampay-Salaza, Palauig. Travelers will enjoy hiking amidst the pine trees and enjoy the semi-temperate climate of the mountain. Tapulao means pine trees which abound in the area. Perhaps 85% of the trail is rocky as you go through a forest of pines into a mossy forest that is simply unforgettable. Starting early is recommended so that by the time it gets hot at midday, you will already have reached the higher peaks where the temperatures are bound to be cooler. The ‘Bunkhouse’ is the main base for campers where you will find a steep ascent leading to a mini-campsite where you will find, adjacent to it, a forest line which gives you a view of the most amazing flora and fauna from numerous insect species, birds, flowers and exotic plants. The view from the peak will not allow you to see much as trees still abound and this makes the experience unique in that the mountain still has trees, something that is sadly no longer true for most of the mountains in the Philippines. Nevertheless, the hike is not done for the view alone but for the experience and hiking in Mt. Tapulao is definitely an experience.
A view of the peaks and the Silanguin Cove from Mt. Cinco Picos campsite
Another mountain fast gaining the interest of mountaineers is Mt. Cinco Picos. It was once the training ground of US servicemen stationed in Subic and is now home to the Aetas who call it the “Tatlong Tirad” where they sought refuge after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo. Cinco Picos is Spanish and refers to the five peaks of the mountain. You start your climb at an Aeta settlement in Sitio Cawag which will take you past the first and second peak before reaching camp at peak 3. At the campsite you will be able to take a glimpse of the fourth and fifth peak. The trails are mostly grassy and rocky and you will have to cross a few streams. The first peak can be reached within two hours into the trek. Rest stations dotting the trail have huts in place. In six hours, the third peak will be reached. From there you will be afforded a view of Mt. Balingkilat, the third mountain that we will hike. The trek is a worthwhile experience and the views are too beautiful to describe.
The view of Silanguin Cove
The descent was shifted to the lesser known Silanguin Cove instead of the more popular Anawangin. The first half of the trail will take you through the same grassy slopes but this time you are travelling westward. But the highlight of the trail occurs during the second half where you will be required to go through a river trekking experience that will lead you to the Silanguin Cove where you will find a bevy of pine trees, white sands presumably volcanic, and a coastline that is rumored to be twice the size of its sister cove, Anawangin. The way through the river crossings afford you breathtaking views and a totally unique experience that is truly unforgettable. And the views of Silanguin Cove are just as spectacular as those you will find at Anawangin.
Mt. Balingkilat painted a rosy glow by the hues of the setting sun
Mt. Balingkilat which translates to “Mountain of Thunder” in the Aeta dialect is a moderately challenging trail for the expert mountaineer and is one of the highest peaks in the Zambales Coastal Mountains and Coves area. The scenic views it provides in addition to the trails that connect to different peaks and coves make it a favorite destination of hikers. The jump off point is an open grassy field where you begin the long tiring trek through a bevy of breathtaking scenes of the neighboring Cinco Picos and Subic Bay while the cool mountain breeze flows through the trail. We stopped over at Kawayanan for lunch, a stopover site where bamboos abound and is a perfect spot to take a breather and fill up on your water supply. A couple more hours will bring you to the summit where the view is simply majestic and picturesque.
The traverse down from the slopes to Anawangin was a bit more challenging than most of our group could take as we were inexperienced climbers so our guide took us through the Talisain traverse instead. This was a less traveled trail so had to stop frequently. It was almost nightfall when we reached Anawangin so there was little time to enjoy the benefits of the famous Cove but there is time enough for that on the morrow but that is for the next part of my journey through Zambales.
P.S. Don’t forget about quality hiking gear!
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Isn’t it simply amazing that so much beauty can come from the destruction, devastation and broken lives that the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo brought to a large part of Central Luzon, Philippines in 1991? The transformation is simply breathtaking! Now the notorious volcano has become a must-see destination for hiking and trekking aficionados and generally for those who just have adventurous spirits. It even elicited the interest of the National Geographic such that the Pinatubo experience is included in an article for this month’s edition of the magazine.
We were told that it is best to leave Manila around 3 to 4 in the morning so that we can get to the jump-off point at the Pinatubo Spa Town in Capas, Tarlac before the mad crowds start to arrive. Arriving before 6am, we rode a 4 x 4 which, fortunately, had closed windows since we found that the nearly hour ride went through Crow Valley with its moon-like terrain of vast ash-covered fields dotted with lava rocks, canyons and past an Aeta village where we had the opportunity to interact with one of the oldest indigenous tribes in the Philippines. There were uphill drives across rocky trails and muddy streams which sprayed the vehicles with water and sand. Of course, there were plenty of opportunities to take pictures along the way as well.
Amazing rock formations surround you as you drive through the vast expanse of lahar fields all the way to the jump-off point for the trek.
The view of the breathtaking formations from the Zambales side of Mt. Pinatubo
After a rough hour drive we reached the jump-off point for the trek to the crater of Mt. Pinatubo. Surrounded by towering pinnacles of lahar and large boulders, the jump-off point leads to a steep downward slope leading through a wide path lined with towering boulders and volcanic rocks. The view of the rock formations and the amazing landscape carved out of the destructive ash flows from the eruption is an experience of a lifetime. The nearly an hour trek will take you through some streams, some of them bronze in color due to the high sulfuric content in the water. Finally, one last uphill climb brings you to a concrete stairway that leads to a ridge where you will be afforded the most breathtaking view of the crater-lake below. Climbing down another flight of stairs, you will reach the lake’s edge. The waters of the lake were ice cold and our guide told us that the middle of the lake was roughly 5000 ft deep. Unfortunately, swimming in the lake was prohibited by the local government beginning January of this year so we could not take even a short dip. You can take a boat ride to the other end of the lake before trekking back to the jump-off point where the 4 x 4s are parked to take you back to the Pinatubo Spa Town in Capas where you can enjoy spa amenities and a much-needed shower.
The trek to the crater
An aerial view of the Pinatubo crater lake
Views of the lake
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The islands of Romblon have something for everyone. I previously described the multifarious dive sites of the islands and the unspoiled beauty in its waters. It is time to discover the islands’ other hidden attractions, unspoiled and undiscovered and away from the busloads of tourists that you find in more popular destinations in the country.
The municipality of Alcantara is called the Gateway to exotic Romblon with its pebbled beaches and clear springs. The major springs are located in Camili, Calogonsao, Bonlao, San Isidro and Madalag. Isolated coves and beaches are aplenty among which is Calagonsao Beach just off the national highway. It has a pebble-covered shoreline and a sandy ocean floor that dips abruptly about six meters off the shoreline. Tugdan Beach offers the same attractions as Calagonsao with calm waters and a deep ocean floor. Partly shielded from prying eyes is Binay-we Beach because of big boulders that surround the area. A small cove surrounded by white sand beaches is the perfect swimming spot for travelers. There are two major beach resorts in the municipality, Aglicay and Dranville where one can simply enjoy the inviting blue waters and relax in the palm-fringed beaches of the resorts. Mountains and forests in the area are good for hiking while enjoying the beautiful sights all around.
Aglicay Beach Resort in Alcantara
Banton is home to world-class diving sites, hot springs, caves and unspoiled beaches. It is home to historic forts, libraries and museums that please the mind. One of the oldest bastions of Christianity in the region is Fort San Nicholas and the San Nicholas Church built by the famous Recollect friar, Fr. Agustin San Pedro, also known as El Padre Capitan in 1621. The Ugat-Faigao Museum houses the social and cultural heritage of Banton. The building itself is of historical and cultural significance. The Spanish house of wood and limestone was the former residence of Rufo Faigao, the very first municipal head of Banton as well as the famous Bantoanon poet, Cornelio Faigao. The Fabella Library is housed in one of the oldest houses in the island which was built during the Spanish regime. It was the former residence of Faustino Fabella, Sr., one of the most illustrious sons of Banton High School, the earliest high school outside the provincial capital.
The Fort of San Jose in Banton
Guyangan Cave is burial cave where some of the famous Banton treasures were excavated. It is believed to be the site of ancient burial ceremonies and the famous “Ikat” or “Banton Burial Cloth” was found in the cave. It is said to be the oldest burial cloth in existence in Southeast Asia and is now housed in the National Museum of the Philippines. Centuries-old coffins were also found in the cave made of logs that were hollowed-out. Ancient artwork can also be viewed in the cave which was discovered in 1936. Needless to say, the cave is of cultural and historical significance, not just to Bantoanons but to the rest of the Philippines.
Two beaches in Banton are a favorite of locals and tourists from nearby towns and provinces. Togbongan Rocky Beach, as its name implies, is a long beach littered with stones and rocks providing visitors a unique experience. It is located adjacent to one of the best diving sites in the area and provides a convenient gateway to another cave, the Silak Cave which makes for an interesting trekking and climbing experience. The fine sands of Macat-ang Beach and the hot springs in the area are enough reasons to visit this place, not to mention the exquisite sunsets one can view for their pleasure.
The name of this municipality is derived from the word “jidioc” which is the word for palm in the local dialect. Palms abound in the area thus its name. It is one of three municipalities that lay claim to the popular trekking destination, Mt. Guiting-Guiting. Found in the western side of the municipality, the mountain claims 60% of the land area of Cajidiocan.
Aside from Mt. Guiting-Guiting, the Cawa-Cawa Falls is a popular destination of tourists around the area. It is a kettle-shaped pool carved out of the solid rocks by the cascading waters of the falls. It is located deep within the forest of Lumbang Este and the deep waters of the pool teem with native river shrimps called “uyang.” The Little Baguio Falls is yet another attraction with the cooling waters from the falls and the serenity provided by the towering trees and large boulders which screens the visitors from the rest of the world. Alibagon Beach is the most popular beach strip in the municipality which is ideal for swimming, picnics, hiking and the ever-popular sail boat rides.
Relaxation is what this quaint municipality offers with its little coves and quiet beaches that dot the area. An inland body of water aptly named Tinagong Dagat which translates to Hidden Sea in English is found about 10m from the sea. The waters rise when the tide is low and subsides when the tide is high, defying the laws of science. Guindawahan Island is a favorite destination where goats roam freely and colorful fish and corals abound in the surrounding waters. At the entrance to Romblon Pass stand two boulders standing guard and is called Oregon Rock. The bigger rock stands at 20m high and in between them are small patches of white sand where tourists can spend a whole day undisturbed.
The inland body of water known as Tinagong Dagat
A view from the sea surrounding Calatrava
Concepcion is known as the island of enchanted coves and was the setting of an aerial and naval battle during World War II. The proud Japanese warship, the Yamato, sunk in its seas after a furious battle between Japanese and American forces in the Second World War. The entire island is ideal for swimming and scuba diving as all of its nine barangays have its own expanse of white sand beachfronts and small coves. The most notable beaches are found in Tongo Point and Banderahan Point. Quebrada beach which faces the town of Concepcion offers rock formations and a scalloping cove plus the proverbial white sands of Romblon.
The island is also a trekker’s paradise due in large part to the presence of Mt. Banderahan which, aside from its lush vegetation, is also historically significant because American forces climbed the mountain in the early part of the 20th century and planted the American flag there. A big stone where the flagpole of the American flag was hewed is a popular landmark sought by tourists. The interior hills that stretch from five to nine kilometers are also trekkers’ destinations. Bikers also find the hills perfect for the sport. Matudtod Cave is found hidden in the lush vegetation of the island and is particularly significant because ancient skeletal remains and artifacts were excavated in them.
The municipality is located in a bay that is rich with fish, making it a center of trade and commerce in the area. The Looc Bay Marine Refuge and Sanctuary located at the center of the bay is host to a diverse species of tropical reef fishes, hard and soft corals, sea grass beds, marine turtles, octopus, eels and a variety of seabirds. Snorkeling, diving and fishing are allowed in the area under the supervision of rangers that roam the area. The Buenavista Marine Reserve and Sanctuary is located at the western portion of the bay and offers a place of tranquility and privacy to travelers. The islet is a 10-15 minute hike from the seashore and hopping from one beach to the next can be an amazing experience.
Located in the lush hills of the municipality is a lush garden refuge which is a butterfly garden at the same time. In Limon Norte is located the Bungan-Bungan Cave which is home to hundreds of bats and swallows. Stalagmites and stalactites have formed in the caves and provide travelers an amazing experience that they will cherish. The Lumbia Waterfalls just a kilometer and a half from the town proper leads to a subterranean river just 300 meters from the waterfalls. A breathtaking trek through the green-capped hills of the area can be enjoyed by travelers for less than hour as they take in the sights and pleasures to be had in the area.
The Looc Fish Sanctuary
Snorkeling in the waters around the Looc Fish Sanctuary
Magdiwang is the official home of Mt. Guiting-Guiting, the highest peak in Sibuyan. It has a series of jagged peaks which is how the mountain got its name as “guiting-guiting” means “saw tooth” in English. Mountaineers would enjoy the challenge of the rugged terrain of the mountain. A romantic getaway is provided by the Lambingan Falls where the water cascades down to a natural pool where swimming and picnics can be enjoyed.
The jagged peaks of Mt. Guiting-Guiting
The municipality of Odiongan is famous for its waterfalls, namely: Mainit, Garing and Tuburan. Located in Barangay Pato-o, Mainit Falls has three tiers where water cascades onto a pool where one can swim undisturbed. The lush greenery surrounding the falls provides a tranquil place for relaxation to the erstwhile visitor. Garing Falls is in Barangay Progreso Weste where one will find two lakes formed by the cascading waters of the falls. The first pool is small and shallow while the second is three fathoms deep and has a width-span of 15 meters. Tuburan Falls forms a natural resort with its seven major and minor falls in total. Limestone caves can be found within the four rock walls surrounding the area. Mineral springs and a cool breeze permeate and locals believe that a cave hidden near the falls will lead to “Cayatong” which legend says is the land of the fairies.
The Mainit Falls of Odiongan
The provincial capital of Romblon is the Island of Romblon located between Tablas and Sibuyan Islands. It is an island rich in history, with its highest peak standing at 444 meters and is called Mt. Lagting. Of historical and cultural significance is the St. Joseph Cathedral and Belfry. It is the oldest Roman Catholic Church built by the Recollect fathers out of coral blocks and bricks in the 15th century. The twin forts of San Andres and Santiago were constructed between 1644 and 1573 by the Spanish conquistadores. The marble factories and quarries are also main attractions in the island as Romblon’s marble is said to be comparable to those of Italy’s Carrara because of the range in colors that can be found in the province. The municipality is also home to several beaches that are popular tourist destinations: Tiamban Beach, Bonbon Beach, Cobrador Beach, and the beach resorts Talipasak and Marble Beach.
The waters and rock formations found in the waters of Bonbon Beach
On the shores of Bonbon Beach
St. Joseph Cathedral and Belfry is a cultural and historical landmark of Romblon located in the municipality of San Andres
Canggumba Waterfalls, just another one of the falls located in Sibuyan Island in the municipality of San Fernando
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While Boracay stands as the most famous tourist attraction in the Philippines, it is by no means the only place worth visiting in this country of 7,100 or so islands. There are still a lot of attractions in the country that are not as famous but equally beautiful and yet undiscovered by tourists from the rest of the world and even to most Filipinos. A wealth of beautiful beaches and undiscovered attractions are found in the little known province of Romblon, the Marble country of the Philippines. Composed of three major islands, Romblon, Tablas and Sibuyan, the province can boast of white sand beaches and caves, more than 20 dive sites and Mt. Guiting-guiting which is a challenge for mountaineers with its steep slopes and unspoiled forests. The province also has various man-made attractions of historical and religious significance. There is something for everyone in Romblon. But first, let us talk about the dive sites of Romblon province.
Romblon has good virgin reef systems with an unusual abundance of fish. The bottomless walls of the area contain ample amounts of pelagic and characterized by pristine coral gardens and exotic marine life. An interesting dive site is one wherein you enter a blue hole on top of the reef at six meters and exit around the middle of a wall at 40 meters. The best dive sites in the province include Times Square, Sunken Island, Sasaigang Point, the Logbon Sanctuary and Naguso’s Wall.
The Dive Sites of Romblon Island
In Romblon Island alone, there are 13 known dive sites and one dive center, the Three P Holiday and Dive Resort. Turtles’ Feeding Place is a site known for beautiful coral formations at a depth of five to 25 meters. Turtles are spotted in the dive site thus its name and you will find many shoals of fusiliers around the area as well. Another place where turtles abound is the San Pedro Sanctuary where large amounts of turtles actually live. The site also boasts of some of the best coral formations and marine life to be seen in Romblon Island. Whale sharks have been spotted in the area as well.
Also known as the Three P’s house reef, Salvar Beach is a shallow shore dive with excellent visibility and very interesting underwater landscapes. The abundant marine life in the site includes different moray eels, among other sea creatures. Steep vertical walls and boulders characterize the San Pedro Cliff dive site. The presence of currents makes it ideal for drift dives. It presents a host of large field garden eels which is a good opportunity for macro photographers.
Two dive sites can be found along the shores of Bonbon Beach. The first is the Bonbon Sea Grass Valley dive site where are series of large rock formations are set in a sea of plain grass. Smaller animals abound in the area. The Bonbon Beach dive site, on the other hand, is a spectacular and colorful dive site which starts from a shallow three meters to a depth of 25 meters. Hard and soft coral displays and the teeming marine life are some of the attractions of the site. It is also ideal for snorkeling.
Likewise, there are two dive sites in Agpanabat. The Agpanabat Sanctuary consists of various rock formations and small marine life such as clownfish, scorpion fish, boxfish and many more. The Agpanabat Caves and Canyons also reach a depth of 25 meters where you can swim through caves and canyons that teem with interesting marine life. Telsie’s Garden is a muck site situated right in front of the village of Agpanabat with its rich sandy slope and scattered corals. A host of cephalopods, nudibranchs and different fish species abound in the area.
Other dive sites in Romblon Island include the Agnay Sanctuary, the Giant Clam Sanctuary, Phil’s Fan Coral Collection and Sammar Sanctuary. Eagle rays and frogfish abound in Agnay Sanctuary with beautiful coral-decorated reefs and abundant marine life that is situated in a protected bay area. The Giant Clam Sanctuary is also situated in a protected bay area next to Tiamban Beach. Its sandy bottom is home to giant clams in abundance. Phil’s Fan Coral Collection is a much deeper dive with a depth of up to 35 meters. Big Gorgonias, spectacular rock formations, abundant marine and coral life are just some of the attractions of the site which is better left to intermediate and advanced level divers only.
The Dive Sites of Tablas Island
There are five major dive sites in the island of Sibuyan. Most popular is the Blue Hole where the dive consists of a chimney within the reef that leads to a cave that is 27 meters deep. Sharks are often found resting in the nooks and crevices of the cave. Interesting fish species such as stonefish and the humpback scorpion fish can be found taking refuge in the amazing coral features of the dive site.
Origon Rocks is described as a divers’ paradise where the spectacular reef is covered in table, tube and soft coral. Hidden among the tableau of corals are exotic marine life which provide photo opportunities for the divers. It begins at a depth of 10 meters and reaches 25 meters. The clean sandy bottom is a beautiful sight to behold!
Peter’s Pinnacles consist of three amazing pinnacles which begin at 15 meters up to a depth of 39 meters. Eagle rays, mantas, sharks and whale sharks have been known to show up in the dive site. Guindauahan Island is a large reef which displays interesting rock formations and corals plus marine life that include turtles, rays, scorpion fish and so much more. The many photo opportunities it provides the enthusiast is quite extensive. Carmen’s Cliff is unique in that it is a site situated next to a huge rock in the middle of the ocean. A wide variety of marine life and diverse coral communities attached to a large vertical wall characterizes this dive site. You can swim among swarms of fish, sharks, mantas and eagle rays in the site.
Dive Sites in the Other Islands of Romblon
In the island of Sibuyan, one of the three major islands of Romblon, you will find a unique dive site, the Cresta de Gallo which is actually an islet. Located in San Fernando town, this kidney-shaped islet has a terrain that slopes downward to the powdery white sand beaches. The large reef situated in the waters of Cresta de Gallo Island contains interesting outcrops and shelves. Beginning at around five meters, the reef slopes down to very interesting coral features hidden among which you will see lobsters, sweetlips, turtles and so much more. Sharks, mantas and eagle rays are among the larger sea creatures you will likely encounter in the dive.
Times Square, also called Patrick’s Times Square is a rather remote dive site situated in Banton Island. It is one of the most beautiful dive sites in Romblon, despite its location, where there is lots of snorkeling opportunities in its pristine and undisturbed reefs. There is abundant marine life in the area which provides a lot of photo opportunities to the enthusiast. It is one dive spot that is truly rich in swarm fish like fusiliers and surgeon fish. There are lots of great coral formations, nudibranchs, moray eels and so much more.
The Sunken Island is better known to the natives as Takot Reef. As its name suggests, it is a beautiful island that is submerged in water and covered in thick coral formations. Starting at 10 meters, the reef slopes to a depth of up to 30 meters. Different species of fish can be found swimming among the corals as well as nudibranchs and cuttlefish.
At the tip of Logbon Island, the rocky island just off the coast of Romblon is Sasaigang Point, a popular dive site which starts at a depth of three meters and drops off to a depth of 15 meters. The reef is prolific with corals and an ideal dive site for beginners to explore. Again, the opportunities for the photo enthusiast are plenty and varied. The Logbon Sanctuary is another dive site situated around Logbon Island. Several reef sections in the site teem with colorful marine life including big lobsters and cuttlefish. A third dive site in the waters of Logbon Island is the Logbon Coral Canyon. The site shows off an outstanding display of corals and a variety of marine life presented in the valleys and colorful slopes of the reef. It is an amazingly scenic dive site with plenty of photo opportunities for the enthusiast. Snorkeling around the site is well worth the effort.
In Cobrador Island, the largest island in the region, are several dive sites, most popular of which is Naguso’s Wall. It is a spectacular wall covered with an amazing array of colorful sponge and coral displays. A large school of fusilier fish inhabits the area, along with frogfish and stonefish. After diving around the wall, you get to turn a corner where you will come to an amazing coral field that is breathtakingly beautiful to behold. Coral Garden West is another dive site found in the waters of Cobrador Island where beautiful anemones and coral formations outline the amazing reef system. It reaches up to a depth of 30 meters in calm waters and is great for all levels of divers. The Cobrador Sanctuary is a third dive site that consists of a sandy bottom, interesting coral formations and a variety of sea life. Coral Garden East is a fourth site that also abounds in beautiful coral formations. Smaller marine creatures such as ghost pipefish, a variety of shrimps, nudibranchs and scorpion fish abound in the area. If you are lucky, you may also encounter sea snakes, turtles and frogfish.
The Alad Islet has several stretches of beach and its waters are home to several dive sites. The Channel of Alad is one dive site with a sandy bottom and coral formations. Strong currents are known to pass in the area making it a perfect site for drift dives. Lobsters and moray eels abound in the area. Alad South is a dive site that is sandy and contains interesting sea life and colorful corals as well as a variety of reef fishes. It also plays home to a large field of garden eels. The Alad Sanctuary Slope is covered in soft corals making it perfect for scuba diving. The amazing marine life in the area includes puffers, groupers, lobsters, and cuttlefish and ribbon eels to name a few. The Alad Sanctuary Garden is a fish sanctuary known for endless coral fields, barrel sponges and a large variety of marine animals. The slope reaches a depth of 35 meters and is a popular divers’ paradise. The underwater landscape teems with dense coral formations that are simply breathtaking to behold. The site also provides perfect opportunities for snorkeling.
Next time, we will take a visit to the other attractions of this beautiful province of Romblon.
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As a Filipino Catholic, I was raised to follow the practices associated with Holy Week. One of the traditions is called the “Visita Iglesia” wherein Filipino Catholics embark on a day-long pilgrimage of churches. Most would visit churches on their way to resorts and tourist destinations but those of us, who are staying in the country’s capital, Manila, will have plenty of choices. They are noted for their architectural value as well as for their historical importance. A few of them are included in a guided tour being offered by the century old Manila Hotel while tourists ride on horse-drawn carriages to give the whole experience a more cultural feel. Here is a list of beautiful churches in the country’s leading metropolis that are historical and notable landmarks as well.
The Manila Cathedral
Officially called the Cathedral-Basilica of Immaculate Conception, this architectural wonder is located within the walls of Intramuros, the Spanish bastion of Spanish-colonial Philippines. It was built in honor of the Philippines’ patroness, the Virgin Mary as Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. The parish started out as part of the diocese of Mexico in 1571 and became a separate diocese on February 6, 1579. It serves as the Prime Basilica of the Philippines and as the highest seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese in the country.
The San Agustin Church
Founded in 1571 and built in 1589, the San Agustin Church is the oldest stone church in the Philippines. Administered by the Order of St. Augustine, it was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1993, one of the four churches under the collective title Baroque Churches of the Philippines. It was also designated a historical landmark of the Philippines in 1976. It is the first religious structure built by the Spaniards on the island of Luzon. It has been witness to several historical events the country has gone through and the only one among seven churches built within the walls of Intramuros that has withstood the test of time and the elements.
Minor Basilica of San Lorenzo Ruiz
More commonly known as the Binondo Church, the Minor Basilica of San Lorenzo Ruiz is located in Binondo, Manila. It was founded by Dominican priests in 1596 to serve the Chinese converts to Christianity which set up residence in the area. Called a Basilica since it was built in the 1600s, it got its name from the first Filipino saint, Lorenzo Ruiz, a resident of Binondo who was born of a Chinese father and a Filipino mother. It has suffered damages over time, the worst one on September 22, 1944 when the Americans advanced to reclaim Manila from the Japanese. Nothing was left of the beautiful structure except the stone walls and the octagonal bell tower. The present church was rebuilt in 1946 and renovations continued intermittently until 1971.
The Santa Cruz Church
A popular choice for weddings, this peach-colored church was built and administered by the Jesuits up to 1768. It was erected in 1608 by the Society of Jesus also to cater to Chinese converts to the Catholic faith. They enshrined the image of Our Lady of the Pillar in the church in the year 1643. The edifice was destroyed during World War II and the present structure was erected in 1957.
The Basilica Minore de San Sebastian
Also known as the San Sebastian Church, this beautiful and breathtaking edifice is a revival of Gothic architecture. It is the only all-steel church in Asia and is also reputed to be the first pre-fabricated building in the world. Its pre-fabricated steel sections were manufactured in Binche, Belgium. It is also said that Gustave Eiffel, the French engineer who built the Eiffel Tower was involved in the design and construction of the church. It was completed in 1891 and is the seat of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. In 2006, it was included in the Tentative List for possible inclusion as a World Heritage Site. It was also designated as a National Historical Landmark in 1973.
The Redemptorist Church
More popularly known as Baclaran Church, the Redemptorist Church is one of the largest Marian Churches in the Philippines. It is the National Shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. The Redemptorists brought the image of the Perpetual Help to the church in 1906. The novena to Our Lady was begun 40 years later. Construction of the present edifice begun on January 11, 1953 and was declared the National Shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in 1958. The completed church was consecrated on December 1, 1958 and the official opening happened on December 5, four days later. Since its opening, the church has never been closed, day or night and thousands of devotees come to hear the novena masses at the church every Wednesday.
Our Lady of Remedios Parish Church
One of the oldest churches in Manila, outside the walls of Intramuros is the Our Lady of Remedios Parish Church more popularly known as Malate Church. The Baroque-style church was originally built in the 16th century by Augustinian friars. Dedicated to Nuestra Señora de Remedios (“Our Lady of Remedies”) who is the patroness of childbirth, the original structure was destroyed by a typhoon in 1868 and was immediately rebuilt. It was damaged during World War II like most churches in Manila but was restored. An aerial view of its rooftop will allow one to see that it is shaped like a cross. It is currently being restored by Escuela Taller Intramuros. It fronts the Manila Bay.
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