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Luzon, where Metro Manila is situated, is the largest island in the Philippines and many of the provinces are just a few hours drive away from Manila making it easy to do day trips or get away for the weekend. Northern Luzon is rich in panoramic views, green landscapes and old Spanish houses.
Baguio City is unusual and unlike the rest of the country because of its pine trees and cool temperatures which average 20 degrees centigrate all year round. Located in the Cordillera Mountains, five hours from Manila by land, it is the nearest thing the Philippine has to a mountain retreat, making it easy to understand why the city was chosen as the summer capital.
There are many tourist attractions here including numerous religious landmarks such as Baguio Cathedral which add to the citys charm. There is good Shepherd Convent which sells items from wood carving to jams.
Camp John Hay was formerly a rest and recreation station for US troops and has the best recreational facilities in Baguio. The Philippine Military Academy puts on a spectacle every Saturday morning with a parade of uniformed cadets. Mansion House is the official summer residence of Philippine presidents and nearby Wright Park is popular with equestrian riders. Baguios Botanical Garden has been converted into an open air museum displaying the architectural styles of tribal dwellings of the Cordilleras.
Recommended day trips from Baguio include strawberry picking in the Trinidad Valley and a visit to Asin, a wood carving village located 3,000 ft bellow Baguio and 2,000 ft above sea level. Nearby Asin Hot Springs has a swimming hole, natural streams and a relaxing steam bath.
A side trip to Sagada is recommended for it is dotted with caves, many
of which are burial sites of the Ifugao. There are also lakes and waterfalls
to visitsand swim in.
Hugging the north western slopes of Luzon are the provincial towns of Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur. Nowhere is the Spanish influence more evident in the north than in these two places. Laoagis the capital city of Ilocos Norte and boasts a number of world class resorts. Churches worth a visit are the Cathedral of Saint William, Paoay Church, Currimao, Batac, Dingras and Samat are other places worth investigating in this province.
The Spanish influence is even stronger in Vigan Ilocos Sur. There are Spanish houses built in the 16th century lining the streets of the old section and a trip to the museums will yield a Spanish treasure trove.
Coming from or going to Baguio or Ilocos, you will pass through La Union. This province is a favourite destination for beach lovers and is a jumping off point for scuba diving in the Lingayen Gulf.
The provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon are close to Metro Manila and make ideal day trips. In Cavite, Tagaytay City offers panoramic views for it is located along a ridge and overlooks the countrys smallest volcano, Mt Taal which has a lake within its cone, plus an island. Laguna is noted for its volcanic hot springs and intricate woodworks found in the towns of Paete and Pakil. Hidden Valley in Alaminos at the foot of Mt Makiling has a series of mineral spring baths set amidst a lush green forest filled with wild orchids and tropical ferns.
Batangas has a magnifient beach and there are dive resortssprinkled throughout the province. Anilao is popular among windsufers, while the outlying islands of Ligpo, Bonito, Sombrero and Maricaban are perpect for snorkelling and diving.
Rizal has the sacred shrine for the Miraculous Image of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage and plays host to a number of visitors seeking blessings before making long voyages. May is fiesta month and thousands of devotees form a long procession to Antipolo. In November, gigantic paper mache figures of men and women are marched down the streets of Angono during the Gigantes Festival.
Quezon is famous for its Pahiyas Festival celebrated in the towns of Lucban and Sariaya. In May every year, the facades of the houses in both towns are adorned with coloured leaf shaped rice wafers called Kiping which are artistically arranged with fruits and vegetables. The festivals honours San Isidro Larador, the patron saint of farmers and is a thanksgiving for a bountiful harvest.
Palawan is known as the last frontier and is a mini archipelago of virgin islands situated between Mindoro Island and North Borneo. The capital of the province is Puerto Princesa which is a jumping off point to other islands.
The Saint Pauls Subterranean National Park, also in this province
is an eight kilometer long underground river with caves studded with
stalactite and stalagmite formations.
Worth a visit is the Tabon Caves in Southern Palawan, nestled in the mountainous cape of Lipuon Point. The 29 cave complex is a treasure of archaeological artefacts and fossilised bones of the Tabon man. The skull is carbon dated back 22,000 years. For divers the Tubbataha Reefs offer a unique array of marine life.
West of Palawan, the Spratley Islands in the South China Sea comprises 53 tiny coral islands scattered over an area of 61,876 square miles. Said to be rich in minerals, these islands are being claimed by several Asian nations and the Philippines occupies eight, collectively known as the Kalayaan Group.