Seven of the most Instagram-worthy heritage sites in the Philippines |
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Seven of the most Instagram-worthy heritage sites in the Philippines

by Jillian CariolaPublished: August 24, 2017Updated: August 29, 2017

Walk down memory lane as you take in the sights of these famous Philippine heritage sites.

If you wanted to take a trip back to the past, you wouldn’t need an eccentric scientist and a rigged-out DeLorean to take you there, thanks to the many heritage cities and towns of the Philippines. These sites are worth a visit not just for their historical significance, but also for their aesthetic value—a fact that social media fans take advantage of as they entice their followers with photo after photo of baroque churches, heritage houses, and various other landmarks that represent the country’s bygone days.

If your friends’ Instagram or Facebook vacation posts have inspired you to go out of town for an immersive historical and cultural experience, don’t forget to bring your camera when you tour these spectacularly picturesque old-world locations.

Vigan City

As one of the New7Wonders Cities, Vigan has been able to preserve much of its architectural integrity, which dates back to the Spanish colonial times. Up and down its cobblestoned streets, particularly along the famous Calle Crisologo, are colonial structures melding Filipino, Asian, and Spanish architecture. It is also considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site for having preserved “much of its Hispanic colonial character, particularly its grid street pattern and historic urban layout.”

Heritage towns, municipalities, and cities in the Philippines MyProperty Vigan City Ilocos
Calle Crisologo in Vigan City. Photo by Obra19-Jojo Deladia (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Some of its most popular structures are the Archbishop’s Palace, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the Crisologo Museum, where more of the city’s history is open for the public to explore. To top off the genuine old-world feel, calesas march through the streets to take tourists on a trip through the city and catch sightings of plazas, antique shops, empanada and longganisa stores, and basically everything that represents the history and culture of Vigan.

Malolos City

Widely recognized as the premier heritage centers of Bulacan, Malolos is primarily recognizable to school children for its relevance during the Spanish colonization, particularly for housing the First Philippine Republic and the forming of the constitution. But more to that, the highly urbanized city is also aesthetically awe-inspiring for the numerous religious structures and landmarks that frame the history of the city, especially within the Malolos Historic Town Center, a National Historical Landmark.

Heritage towns, municipalities, and cities in the Philippines MyProperty Barasoain Church Malolos Bulacan
Barasoain Church. Photo via Depositphotos

One of the most iconic structures in the town center is the Barasoain Church, a Roman Catholic church declared a National Shrine by former president Ferdinand Marcos for its significance as the First Philippine Congress. Several heritage houses can also be found in the site, such as the Alberta Uitangcoy-Santos House, named after its owner and leader of the famed 20 Women of Malolos; the Casa Real Shrine, built in 1580 as the official residence and office of the Gobernadorcillo; the Tampoy Bridge built in 1817; and the post-war movie house Eden Cinema.

Taal, Batangas

While Taal is only approximately two hours away from Metro Manila, its proximity is not the only reason why it is a popular destination for quick getaways. Aside from being home to the world-renowned Taal Volcano, this Batangas municipality’s poblacion area is a designated National Historical Landmark for its many beautiful ancestral houses and historic landmarks.

Heritage towns, municipalities, and cities in the Philippines MyProperty Taal Batangas Agoncillo Mariño House
Inside the Agoncillo-Mariño House. Photo by IJVelas (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The Leon Apacible Mansion—now known as Museo ni Leon Apacible—is the ancestral home of Leon Apacible, who fought against Spanish forces to take back Batangas. The Agoncillo–Mariño House has been declared a national shrine to honor Marcela Mariño de Agoncillo for creating the national flag and her husband, Felipe Agoncillo, the first Filipino diplomat. The heritage home Villa Tortuga has been restored by fashion designer Lito Perez and now houses overnight accommodations, a photo studio, and a gift shop.

City of Dapitan

There are several reasons why the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) declared a certain section of Dapitan as the country’s first heritage zone, including the fact that the city is one of the oldest settlements in Northern Mindanao and that its foundation was the result of a mission by Jesuit priests in 1629. But the most prominent rationale is that national hero Dr. Jose Rizal lived in exile in Dapitan for sedition until his execution in 1896.

Heritage towns, municipalities, and cities in the Philippines MyProperty Zamboanga del Norte Dapitan Casa Redonda Rizal Shrine
Casa Redonda in Rizal Shrine in the City of Dapitan. Photo by Ric Canizares (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

During the last four years of his life, he purchased a 16-hectare land in Barangay Talisay and transformed it into a sanctuary where he could live and carry out his many practices, including teaching, medicine, farming, art, and writing. The entire site, now recognized as the José Rizal Memorial Protected Landscape or the Rizal Park and Shrine, has since been enlarged to 439 hectares and declared a protected landscape under Proclamation No. 279.

Other sites covered by the Dapitan Heritage Zone include Casa Real, where Rizal was held before moving to Talisay; Dapitan City Plaza, which Rizal developed with the help of the city’s Spanish politico-military governor Ricardo Carnicero; and the St. James the Great Church built in 1871.

Silay City

Referred to as the “Paris of Negros,” Silay is considered as one of the top Philippine tourism destinations for those who seek artistic and cultural enrichment. It is said that local pianist Jose “Pitong” Ledesma was one of the people responsible for getting operetta and zarzuela performers from Europe to the city, which cultivated Silay’s reputation.

But the city is not just known for hosting colorful and enlightening shows; there are also a total of 31 preserved heritage houses that have been identified by the National Historical Institute (NHI) as cultural landmarks. One of the most popular is the Balay Negrense or the Victor Fernandez Gaston House, an ancestral-house-turned-museum where visitors can learn of life in a sugar plantation at the beginning of the 19th century. Standing out for its pink exterior is the Bernardino Jalandoni Museum, another heritage house and the first in Silay to be recognized as a national historical landmark by the NHI. The Hofileña Ancestral House, now a museum that showcases the family’s private art collection, is being cared for by one of the heirs, Ramon Hofileña.

Heritage towns, municipalities, and cities in the Philippines MyProperty Silay Negros Occidental Balay Negrense
Balay Negrense in Silay City. Photo by Ninya Regalado (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Another attraction Silaynons proudly claim are the Hawaiian Philippines Co. steam locomotives (also known as the “Iron Dinosaurs”), which are among the oldest in the world. The San Diego Pro-cathedral, the only pro-cathedral outside Metro Manila, was built in 1920 and designed by Italian architect Antonio Bernasconi. And Silay City Park, which was named “The Most Beautiful Park in the Philippines” back in 1951, is a garden complex comprising a children’s park and a fountain, among other features.

Pila, Laguna

Due to the presence of American-era architecture contained in the town's Spanish colonial town planning system (one of the few still existing in the Philippines), a specific area within Pila’s Barangay Santa Clara Norte was declared a national historical landmark by the NHI. Within the historic district is the Baroque-style Roman Catholic church San Antonio De Padua Parish Church. Founded in 1578 and dedicated in 1581, it is the first Antonine parish church in the country. Pinagbayanan Crematorium, also within the historic district, is the Philippines’ oldest crematorium.

Heritage towns, municipalities, and cities in the Philippines MyProperty Pila Municipal Hall Laguna
The Pila Municipal Hall. Photo by JJ Carpio (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Pila’s well-preserved Spanish period houses and buildings are among the tourist attractions of the municipality. The Corazon Rivera House is the residence of Cora Relova, granddaughter of the house’s owner and co-founder of the Pila Historical Society Foundation. The brightly painted Pila Municipal Hall, built in 1931, features a monument to Dr. Jose Rizal and houses the local post office, the assessor’s office, the local internal revenue office, and health center.

Significant archaeological findings have also been made in Pila when Esso Standard Philippines and Elizalde Family Project conducted a series of excavations along Laguna de Bay between May and October 1967. Archaeological digs in the area revealed, among others, clay potteries from the late Tang Dynasty, ancient horse bones, and the aforementioned crematorium itself. The artifacts discovered are now on display at the Pila Museum.

City of Carcar

Aside from its lechon and special chicharon, Metro Cebu’s Carcar is also known for being populated with Spanish and American structures that lend the city its old-world feel. St. Catherine of Alexandria Church, for one, was built between 1860 and 1875 and is the second oldest church in Cebu. The Roman Catholic church boasts design elements like a Greco-Truscan façade, as well as twin bell towers topped by onion-shaped domes.

Heritage towns, municipalities, and cities in the Philippines MyProperty Carcar Mercado Mansion
The Mercado Mansion. Photo by Suzelfaith (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Several of the heritage homes in the city have been declared as heritage houses by the NHCP for both their cultural significance and as examples of the architecture that was dominant in 19th century Carcar. The Mercado Mansion, for one, is owned by an old political clan of the city and has hosted several prominent personalities, such as President Marcos and American senator Key Pittman. Balay na Tisa, constructed in 1859, is representative of the typical bahay na bato in those days. Ang Dakong Balay or the Don Florencio Noel House hosted Governor-General William Cameron Forbes and his party during a visit in 1911. And Silva House, built between 1883 and 1898, is a patchwork house of sorts, constructed by Benito Silva and Father Anastacio del Coro using materials gathered from an old house in Naga, Cebu, and the Old Coro house.


Main photo by inya Regalado (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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