9 Jaw-Dropping UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Philippines

9 Jaw-Dropping UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Philippines
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Philippines
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It’s no surprise that the Philippines is on everyone’s bucket list of must-visit countries. The country has so much to offer from pristine beaches and natural wonders to historical and cultural sites. Whether its century-old structures, breathtaking mountains, thriving coral reefs, or the UNESCO World Heritage Sites Philippines, indeed, is full of places everyone just has to see. 

The recognition greatly helps identify Philippine sites that highlight our culture and wonders of nature. But more than giving an identity, it also helps in the preservation and protection of these man-made structures and natural wonders. 

Here’s a list of heritage sites in the Philippines that every traveler must visit!

9. Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary 

Location: Davao Oriental

Year inscribed in UNESCO: 2014

Type: Natural

landscape view of Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary
Photo source

This mountain in Davao Oriental is home to 1,380 threatened and endemic species of animals and plants. One exciting thing about visiting Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary is the sightings of rare animals such as the Philippine eagle, the flying fox, tarsier, and civet. 

Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary is an important environmental treasure and the only heritage site in the region.

According to UNESCO, among the top reasons for Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary’s inclusion in the list of heritage sites in the Philippines is because it represents a complete, substantially intact and highly diverse mountain ecosystem, in a significant biogeographic region of the Philippines.

8. Church of Santo Tomas de Villanueva – Miag-ao, Iloilo

Location: Miag-ao, Iloilo

Year inscribed in UNESCO: 1993

Type: Cultural

facade of Church of Santo Tomas de Villanueva
Photo source

One of the UNESCO Heritage Sites in the Philippines is the church of Santo Tomas de Villanueva in Miag-ao. It is among the best examples of the “fortress baroque” style in the country. Built of local yellow-orange sandstone, the church stands on the highest elevation of the town and was completed in 1797.  The church withstood typhoons and earthquakes, and was burned twice: first was during the revolution against Spain in 1898 and the second was during the Philippine-American War.

Filipino master carvers incised the church’s entire surface. The church of Santo Tomas de Villanueva is one of the best examples of the fusion of the western Baroque style embellished with Filipino folk motifs.

7. Church of Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion – Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur

Location: Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur

Year inscribed in UNESCO: 1993

Type: Cultural

facade of the brick church
Photo source

Another baroque church that’s recognized as one of the UNESCO Heritage Sites in the Philippines is the Church of Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion in Ilocos Sur.

Built in 1765, the church of Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion exhibits a monumental brick facade and reinforced walls to protect it against earthquakes. Its appearance evokes a Mediterranean hill town, the only example of such in the Philippines.

Its key features include an 85-step stairway that leads to a carving of the Virgin Mary atop a tree, and a bell tower which was added in 1810. The power and simplicity of its geometric forms, and its location, make this an outstanding example of Peripheral Baroque architecture.

6. Paoay Church (Church of San Agustin) – Paoay, Ilocos Norte

Location: Paoay, Ilocos Norte

Year inscribed in UNESCO: 1993

Type: Cultural

facade of paoay church

Church of San Agustin or Paoay Church is known for its extravagant coral-block buttresses and ornate stone finials. Its construction began in 1604 and was completed in 1710. Its coral stone bell tower, standing at some distance from the church, was finished in the second half of the 18th century. For your information, Philippine bell towers were constructed at a distance from the main church structure to avoid its falling on the church during earthquakes.

This is one of the most notable “earthquake baroque” structures in the country where the primary concern was to design the church for earthquake protection. 

Paoay Church’s bell tower was said to have been used as a Filipino watchtower during the 1898 uprising against the Spaniards.

Being one of UNESCO world heritage sites in the Philippines, Paoay Church has become a top tourist destination in the region.

5. Church of San Agustin in Manila – Intramuros, Manila

Location: Intramuros, Manila

Year inscribed in UNESCO: 1993

Type: Cultural

interior of san agustin church in manila

Like the other baroque churches that are cultural heritage sites in the Philippines, San Agustin Church in Intramuros, Manila exhibits its remarkable features such as retablos (altars) of high Baroque style and wall buttresses separating cripto collateral chapels. What makes it unique is its ceiling paintings in the tromp l’oeil style.

The San Agustin Church, built between 1587 and 1606, is considered the oldest and longest standing church in the country. The church was the only structure left intact in Intramuros during World War II.

4. Historic City of Vigan 

Location: Ilocos Sur

Year inscribed in UNESCO: 1999

Type: Cultural

a kalesa passing through the cobblestone streets of vigan

Established in the 16th century, Vigan is the best-preserved example of a planned Spanish colonial town in Asia according to UNESCO. One of the reasons for its inclusions in the cultural heritage sites in the Philippines is that its architecture reflects the coming together of cultural elements from elsewhere in the Philippines, from China and from Europe, resulting in a culture and townscape that have no parallel anywhere in East and Southeast Asia.

Next to Manila and Cebu, Vigan was the third most important city during the height of the Spanish colonial era in the 18th and 19th centuries. Vigan was the center of Spanish colonial power in northern Luzon. The range of structures along the plazas and streets reveals the story of the town. The large buildings evoke political or religious power; grand homes speak of wealth, while others show of more modest means; and cobblestones streets speak of history. This town is a living testament to the Spanish colonial era that exerts a strong cultural influence to the modern Philippine nation.

3. Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park 

Location: Puerto Princesa, Palawan

Year inscribed in UNESCO: 1999

Type: Natural

a group of tourists in the boat exploring puerto princesa underground river

Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park is one of the world’s most impressive cave systems. What makes it to the UNESCO World Heritage Sites Philippines is its uniquely and impressive features of spectacular limestone karst landscapes, pristine natural beauty, and intact old-growth forests and distinctive wildlife.

With an underground river measuring to up to 8.2 kilometers, it is said to be among the longest in the world. The highlight of Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park is that it flows directly into the sea, with its brackish lower half subjected to tidal influence, distinguishing it as a significant natural global phenomenon. 

2. Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park 

Location: Palawan

Year inscribed in UNESCO: 1993, 2009

Type: Natural

divers with schools of fish in tubbataha reef

One of the most remarkable heritage sites in the Philippines is the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park. Most people consider this as every diver’s dream as it covers 130,028 hectares, including the North and South Reefs. 

Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is one of the Philippines’ best diving spots where you can see over 350 species of coral and almost 500 species of fish. The reserve also protects one of the few remaining colonies of breeding seabirds in the region.

1. Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras

Location: Ifugao Province

Year inscribed in UNESCO: 1995

Type: Cultural

majestic view of banaue rice terraces

Topping the list of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites Philippines is the Cordillera Rice Terraces. It is an outstanding example of an evolved, living cultural landscape that can be traced as far back as 2,000 years ago.

While it was built a thousand years ago, the traditional farming technique is still practiced to this day. That’s why the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras are an important part of the Philippine culture and identity. It is also a living testament to the sophistication of pre-colonial Filipinos because the Cordilleras were hardly affected by colonization.

Its beauty continues to draw attention, even the international film industry has noticed, making it a setting for the blockbuster Marvel film Avengers: Infinity War

Among the world heritage sites in the Philippines, the Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras have such a powerful presence that makes them one of the most outstanding places in the country. It also shows the harmony between humankind and the environment.

If you’re planning to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Sites Philippines, we’ve got budget hotels near these areas. Make sure to book at www.zenrooms.com to enjoy a comfortable and hassle-free trip!

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