1) For those constrained with time (like cruise passengers), a quick tour of Manila is a must – but with a local you discover a more raw Manila – not the Manila you read about in tour books. A visit to the old medieval Spanish city of Intramuros (with its old churches and Fort Santiago, the Spanish fort used as a prison camp by the British, Spaniards and Japanese); come by the monument of our national hero Jose Rizal; a brief tour of Manila’s Chinatown (and grab some lunch with its Filipino and Chinese food stalls and restaurants); also visit the famous Manila Chinese Cemetery (a must see for Westerners since it really is one of a kind); go to the American Memorial Cemetery and end your whirlwind tour with some shopping at the Mall of Asia (the largest in the Philippines and the 2nd largest in Asia).
2) Take a trip to the majestic Rice Terraces in Banaue, Ifugao then have a relaxing and adventure-filled day or two at Sagada, Mountain Province. Don’t forget to visit Baguio City and learn about its American heritage.
3) Vigan, the UNESCO heritage-listed city, is the best representation of a Spanish colonial city in the Far East. Also make a trip to the northern-most reaches of Luzon by going to the sand dunes; the old majestic Baroque churches like Saint Augustine in Paoay and Saint William in Laoag with its sinking Bell Tower; visit the remains of Ferdinand Marcos and if she is in office get to chat with Madam Imelda Marcos (don’t ask about the widow’s infamous shoes though!)
4) The southern part of Luzon offers the best in Philippine rural scenery. Combine a visit to the city of Tagaytay with its view of Taal Volcano (and for the more adventurous, a trek to the crater is an experience worth having), a trip to the art town of Angono and the wood carving town of Paete will delight travelers who prefer painting and sculpture, a relaxing day at Villa Escudero with its rustic Philippine village ambiance (and have lunch beside a waterfall and your feet dipping in the water), or go whale shark watching from November to May at Donsol in Sorsogon. Even some Filipinos miss these attractions due to the hectic and busy schedule so many maintain in the city.
There is a lot that the Philippines have to offer besides Boracay. Let us show you the culture, have a taste of the food, chat with the locals (Filipinos are an English-speaking people) and experience the Philippines without the hassle of being late for the tour bus.
To chat with JB about some of his ideas for discovering Luzon (and to read about what other travelers have to say about his tours), go to JB’s guide profile page.