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Guide to the Philippines: What to see and do, plus where to stay

With 7,107 islands to explore, a coastline extending for more than 36,000 kilometres, more than 3,000 beaches and a nation renowned for its cheerful and hospitable nature, the Philippines is not a place where you’re likely to get bored. Add into that mix the highest number of volcanoes per square kilometre, the more species of mangrove species than anywhere else in the world, the most bio-diverse reef system, a rich and varied cuisine and award-winning accommodation. The question is: how do you fit everything you want to do into the time that you have?

Here are some suggestions on what to see and do, and where to stay in the Philippines to make the most out of your visit. Plus check out a selection of gorgeous photos from the Philippines below….

 Eat

In comparison to Thai, Japanese and Indonesian cuisine, Filipino food registers minimally in Singapore, so make up for this when you visit the Philippines. Savouring some of the country’s traditional dishes is a must.

Sometimes considered the unofficial national dish of the Philippines, adobo is a popular dish: meat, seafood or vegetables marinated in vinegar, soy sauce and garlic, browned in oil and then simmered in the marinade. Try the lamb adobo at Abe, in Taguig City, or the two-way adobo at Café Juanita in Bonifacio Global City, Taguig, both in Metro Manila.

Bagnet is another must-try, albeit fairly sinful, Filipino recipe. It is made from any cut of pork, most commonly pork loin or pork belly, and is deep fried twice for crispiness. Head down to La Preciosa in Laoag City, Ilocos Norte, and try their bagnet and pinakbet (stewed vegetables seasoned with fish paste).

Round off dinner with a halo-halo (translation: jumble jumble). This is a refreshing concoction of shaved ice and condensed milk, topped with any combination of sweetened beans, candied fruit, syrup and jelly (not unlike an ice kachang).

Play

Clark, located in the region of Luzon and almost the size of Singapore, is a popular leisure and entertainment hub. Check out Mimosa Leisure Park for its nightlife and casino, splash around in one of Fontana Hot Springs Leisure Parks’ many pools and slides, or ride a horse in the old American stables of El Kabayo.

The Philippines has an amazingly rich history, and one city to put on your culture trail should be Iloilo. Known as the Queen City of the South in its glory days, it was the last Spanish-colonial capital of the Philippines when Manila surrendered to the US. Remnants of its past include the American-period customs building, the Aduana, as well as stunning churches such as The Parish of St Anne, the only gothic church outside Manila.

Looking for a taste of action and adventure? Cebu’s varied terrain is ideal for a range of activities including hiking and jeep tours, rock climbing and mountain biking. A trip to Olanga Island by bike is more sedate and ideal for the whole family, but there are plenty of trails for more hardcore bikers to follow.

Any night is party night in the Philippines, and there’s much more to the nightlife than just karaoke bars. Within the gaming and entertainment cluster of Resorts World Manila you’ll find Opus Lounge, where visitors can drink and dine to the sound of funky music, while surrounded by Renaissance-style murals. Next-door is Republiq, where international DJs can be found playing to a well-dressed crowd ready to party hard.

For something more eclectic, head to Quezon City, again in Metro Manila, to check out some of the bars juxtaposed against the church on the same street. Stop by comedy club Klownz, where volunteers are allowed to get up on stage and belt out a tune.

Sleep

The country boasts a plethora of award-winning hotels, including Discovery Shores Boracay, voted one of the Top 20 Best Hotels by Travel + Leisure readers in 2013. The hotel, with a spa and wellness centre, sits on Boracay’s renowned White Beach, and is listed in the Small Luxury Hotels of the World Collection.

Cebu’s Shangri-La Mactan Resort & Spa has its very own marine sanctuary, offering an underwater snorkelling adventure where you’ll encounter diverse species of fish, clams and coral. Then relax with one of a vast range of treatments at CHI, the hotel spa.

For a truly detoxifying retreat, visit The Farm at San Benito, the Philippines’ only five-star health and wellness retreat. There are six styles of accommodation, from tree houses to suites and villas, and, of course, lots of treatments including colon hydrotherapy, ionising footbaths, and guided nutrition and medical advice for those who need it.

We’ve barely scratched the surface here. To discover more, go to itsmorefuninthephilippines.com.

Did you know?

Karaoke was invented by Filipino Roberto Del Rosario, who called it the Sing Along System. The name “karaoke” came later, translated from the Japanese for “singing without accompaniment”.

There are 175 languages and dialects in the Philippines and 171 of these are in active use.

The Philippines is divided into three island groups, 17 regions, 80 provinces, 138 cities and 1,496 municipalities.

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