- Written by Brian Letwin
The Philippines’ “Double Your Fun” continues on into the summer, this time featuring the volcanic beauty of Tagaytay and the urban decadence of Manila.
While there are plenty of urban centers in Asia packed with culture and rich history, in recent years Manila has distanced itself from the crowd. From historic buildings to incredible shopping options, there’s plenty to explore and experience in this former colonial capital.
First up is one of Manila’s most popular green spaces. Located along Roxas Boulevard, Manila, adjacent to the old walled city of Intramuros, Rizal Park is one of the largest urban parks in Asia. The park serves as an oasis and reprieve from the city’s hustle and bustle and has played an important role in Manila’s storied history.
Another historical thread stands a few meters from the Manila Cathedral - Fort Santiago. Built by the Spanish to defend their new colonial capital, today, the fort, its bastions, and the prison dungeons for criminals used by the Spanish officials, is now part of a historical park which also includes the Plaza Moriones and several ruins.
Though the Manila Cathedral is well worth a visit, San Agustin Church is impressive in its own right and is one of four Philippine churches constructed during the Spanish colonial period to be designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
No visit to Manila is complete without a stop to its cultural crown jewel - Manila’s National Museum. The sprawling colonial structure is home to wings dedicated to fine arts, anthropology, natural history and astronomy.
Following up this sightseeing with the city’s famous malls is the perfect Manila experience and it all starts at the Mall of Asia.
The Mall of Asia or MOA as it is popularly known is Asia’s biggest and largest mall, welcoming over 200,000 visitors per day. It carries high quality, trendy and fashionable local and international products at very affordable prizes.
The Main Mall includes shopping and dining establishments and food courts. The Entertainment Mall is a two-story complex, most of which is open-air, and faces the historic Manila Bay.
From IMAX theatres and ice skating rinks to an open-air music hall, the Mall of Asia leaves little to be desired.
If you’re still in shopping mode, turn your sights to the Greenbelt Malls, a must-visit as they contain many of the world’s major brands, all under one roof. Since it opened in 1989, the mall has received a slew of awards.
With plenty to do in town, it’s hard to leave Manila. But given the plethora of incredible destinations only hours from the capital, it would be a mistake not to take advantage of some relaxing island time. At the top of the list is Tagaytay, one of the country's most popular tourist destinations because of its outstanding scenery and cooler climate provided by its high altitude. Tagaytay overlooks Taal Lake in Batangas and provides one of the iconic views of the Philippines.
What makes this region special is the Taal Volcano, the smallest active volcano in the world. Its unexplained shape and location on an island within a lake within an island, positions it a unique geologic wonder, enthralling thousands of tourists and geologists yearly. This island covers an area of about 23 km², and consists of forty-seven different overlapping cones and craters. It is one of the active volcanoes in the Philippines and part of the ‘Pacific Ring of Fire’.
Since 1572, the volcano has 33 recorded eruptions, the most devastating eruption occurred in the year 1911. The most recent volcanic activity happened in 1977, although the volcano has remained quiet since.
Taal Volcano is also home to Taal Lake which has long been a lifeline for locals. In recent years, it has become a tourism hub due to spectacular views, top-flight kite boarding and boat tours.
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