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The 7,500 is­lands in the Philip­pines are widely recog­nised for their world-renowned, far flung, award win­ning beaches, how­ever did you know that this picturesque desti­na­tion is also home to some of the high­est num­bers of UNESCO World Her­itage ‘cul­tural sites’ in South East Asia?

The Philip­pines has three ‘cul­tural sites’ in ad­di­tion to three ‘nat­u­ral sites’, of­fer­ing trav­ellers a unique and ex­cep­tional hol­i­day desti­na­tion in this stun­ning part of the world.

Nor­jamin De­los Reyes, Tourism At­taché at Philip­pine De­part­ment of Tourism Aus­tralia and New Zealand says, “The Philip­pines of­fers a hugely di­verse range of at­trac­tions for a wide va­ri­ety of trav­ellers, from back­pack­ers to lux­ury, dis­cern­ing trav­ellers. It is a desti­na­tion that has some­thing for ev­ery­one. We en­cour­age ev­ery­one to visit The Philip­pines and look be­yond our world-renowned beaches to dis­cover some of our tourism gems. The Philip­pines is teem­ing with ex­otic wildlife, quaint fish­ing vil­lages and UNESCO World Her­itage Sites, which pro­vide a truly unique hol­i­day op­tion.” Cul­tural Sites: 1 Rice Pad­dies of the Philip­pine Cordilleras

The Rice Ter­races of the Philip­pine Cordilleras is an out­stand­ing ex­am­ple of a sys­tem of high, agri­cul­tural rice ter­races carved into the con­tours of the Cordillera Moun­tains on the north­ern is­land of Lu­zon.

Built be­tween 2,000 and 6,000 years ago, the rice pad­dies were cre­ated by the Ifu­gao tribe in the pre-colo­nial Philip­pines and even pre­date some of the world’s ac­claimed his­toric con­struc­tions, such as the Colos­seum of Rome and Hadrian’s Wall in the UK.

The rice fields are widely con­sid­ered a marvel of engi­neer­ing, which show­cases the Ifu­gao peo­ple’s agri­cul­tural engi­neer­ing, passed on and handed down from one gen­er­a­tion to the next. It is the ex­pres­sion of their sa­cred tra­di­tions and re­veals a del­i­cate so­cial bal­ance.

“The Ifu­gao helped to cre­ate a land­scape of great beauty that ex­presses the har­mony be­tween hu­mans and the en­vi­ron­ment. The rice ter­races are of­ten re­ferred to as the ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’ and were named as a UNESCO World Her­itage Site in 1995. If laid out side by side, the ter­races would reach 22,400 kms…enough to cir­cle half the globe and they rise to a height of 1,525 me­tres above sea level – they are unique and dis­tinc­tive to the Philip­pines,” says Nor­jamin. 2 His­toric City of Vi­gan

Es­tab­lished in the 16th cen­tury, Vi­gan is one of the best-pre­served and most in­tact ex­am­ples of a planned Span­ish colo­nial town in Asia. Vi­gan has been care­fully con­served and re­flects the fu­sion of Asian and Span­ish ar­chi­tec­ture, cre­at­ing a unique cul­ture and town­scape that is un­par­al­lelled any­where in East and South East Asia. An im­por­tant trad­ing post be­fore the colo­nial era, Vi­gan is lo­cated at the river delta of the Abra River, along the north­west­ern coast­line of the main is­land of Lu­zon in the Province of Ilo­cos Sur. 3 Baroque Churches of the Philip­pines The Baroque Churches of the Philip­pines con­sist of four Ro­man Catholic churches, con­structed be­tween the 16th and the 18th cen­turies in the Span­ish pe­riod. Santo To­mas de Vil­lanueva Church in Miag-ao in Iloilo was built in 1797 by the Au­gus­tinian Mis­sion­ar­ies and was de­signed to serve as a fortress for Chris­tians. Nues­tra Senora de la Asun­cion or the ‘Church of the As­sump­tion’ was built on top of a

hill in Santa Maria in Ilo­cos Sur and can only be reached by climb­ing a flight of 82 steps. San Agustin Church is the old­est ex­ist­ing church in the Philip­pines and lies in­side the walled city of In­tra­muros in Manila. The Church of San Agustin in Paoay was built by Au­gus­tinian fri­ars in 1694 and was fin­ished 200 years later. The churches in­clude im­por­tant at­tributes that com­prise ar­chi­tec­tural unique­ness. Nat­u­ral sites: 1 Puerto-Princesa Subter­ranean River Na­tional Park The Puerto-Princesa Subter­ranean River Na­tional Park en­com­passes one of the worlds most im­pres­sive cave sys­tems, fea­tur­ing lime­stone karst land­scapes and pris­tine nat­u­ral beauty. One of the river’s dis­tin­guish­ing fea­tures is that it emerges di­rectly into the sea, and its lower por­tion is sub­ject to tidal in­flu­ences. The area rep­re­sents a sig­nif­i­cant habi­tat for bio­di­ver­sity con­ser­va­tion, con­tain­ing a full ‘moun­tain to sea’ ecosys­tem and has some of the most im­por­tant forests in Asia. The Puerto-Princesa Subter­ranean River was also recog­nised listed in 2007 in the New 7 Won­ders of Na­ture. 2 Tub­bataha Reefs Nat­u­ral Park

Tub­bataha Reefs Nat­u­ral Park is po­si­tioned in the cen­tre of the Sulu Sea and in­cludes the Tub­bataha and Jessie Bea­z­ley Reefs. It pro­tects an area of al­most 100,000 hectares of qual­ity, marine habi­tats con­tain­ing three atolls and a large area of deep sea. The prop­erty is home to a great di­ver­sity of marine life… whales, dol­phins, sharks, tur­tles and Napoleon wrasse are amongst the key species found here. The reef ecosys­tems sup­port 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. 3 Mount Hami­gu­i­tan Range Wildlife Sanc­tu­ary

Form­ing a moun­tain ridge run­ning north/south along the Pu­jada Penin­sula in the south­east­ern part of the Eastern Min­danao Bio­di­ver­sity Cor­ri­dor, the Mount Hami­gu­i­tan Range Wildlife Sanc­tu­ary has an el­e­va­tion range of 75m to 1,637m above sea level and pro­vides crit­i­cal habi­tat for a range of plant and animal species. The prop­erty show­cases ter­res­trial and aquatic habi­tats at dif­fer­ent el­e­va­tions, and in­cludes threat­ened and en­demic flora and fauna species, eight of which are only found at Mount Hami­gu­i­tan. These in­clude crit­i­cally en­dan­gered trees, plants and the iconic Philip­pine ea­gle and Philip­pine cock­a­too.

“Most peo­ple now know that our is­lands in the Philip­pines of­fer some of the most stun­ning, far flung and un­ex­plored beaches on the planet – they re­ally do con­vey the per­fect back­drop and a ‘desert is­land’ feel how­ever, in many ways, the Philip­pines is still a largely myth­i­cal and undis­cov­ered mys­tery. In ad­di­tion to our UNESCO World Her­itage sites, visitors can choose to stay at lux­u­ri­ous award win­ning re­sorts, or more novel ac­com­mo­da­tion such as their very own cot­tage on stilts above the ocean,” said Nor­jamin.

Vi­gan's cob­ble­stone streets and horse-drawn fran­cis guer­rero

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