5 Heritage Towns In The Philippines That Will Take You Back In Time

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History and culture junkies as well as travelers will surely delight in the fact that located all over the Philippines are heritage towns that still retain the vibe of centuries past.

Listing all would take a long time — so for starters, here are 5 towns in the Philippines where well-preserved relics still exist and are beckoning us to cherish and conserve them for many years to come.

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Iloilo City, Iloilo

As one of the oldest cities in the Philippines, Iloilo still boasts of many footprints of our storied past. A morning walk in the city’s historic center and downtown area, Calle Real, will take you through rows of establishments, mostly art-deco and neoclassical architecture such as Casa de Aduana de Iloilo, Muelle Loney, Fuente Arroyo, Nelly Garden, and Casa Real de Iloilo just to name a few.

In the neighboring towns, a string of centuries-old churches will transform your trip into a heritage-laden Visita Iglesia.

How to get to Iloilo City: One can take one of the many 1-hour flights from Manila or Cebu to Iloilo. Iloilo is also reachable by bus from any part of Panay Island and via passenger boat from other provinces like Cebu and Bacolod.

Savidug and Chavayan, Sabtang Island, Batanes

Seemingly untouched by modernity, the towns of Savidug and Chavayan still retain that olden charm as seen through the many centuries-old stone houses adorned with cogon-covered roofs and thick walls.

These houses, where most of the locals still live, blend perfectly with the magnificent setting of the rolling hills and picturesque long stretches of coastlines that depict an isolated world unaffected by the passage of time.

Chavayan Village

This beautiful stone-house in Chavayan is just one of the many that still exist today.

How to get to Sabtang Island, Batanes: Flights are available mostly from Manila to Basco, Batanes. From Basco, go to Ivana port and take a 45-minute passenger boat ride to Sabtang Island.

Boljoon, Cebu

This quaint coastal municipality in the southern part of Cebu province dishes a charming set of heritage edifices housing colorful stories that date back to the Spanish Era.

The El Gran Baluarte Watchtower illustrates a time when Boljoon served as a fortress town meant to shield southern Cebu from sea marauders and invaders. Do not miss walking the steps of Escuela Catolica which was built by the Americans, meant for children about to receive their first communion to stay and study for a month.

Escuela Catolica, Boljoon, Cebu

Escuela Catolica in Boljoon.

Of course, one mustn’t miss the 18th century baroque Patrocinio de Maria Church Complex -– where the beautiful facade takes a backseat to its marvelous interior. Also worth visiting are Plaza Bermejo, the Ili Rock wall, and a few other old houses of both the Spanish and American colonial years.

How to get to Boljoon: Take one of the many daily flights to Cebu and from the airport, go to South Bus Terminal and hop in a bus going South (board the one passing through Boljoon, Oslob or Badian) and get off at Boljoon.

Paoay, Ilocos Norte

Cultural researcher, writer, and Tourism Officer of Paoay, Bernard Joseph Esposo Guerrero lists down Paoay and Tugaya as among his favorite heritage towns in the country.

Paoay Church, Ilocos

Paoay Church – one of the four UNESCO World Heritage Baroque Churches of the Philippines.

“Paoay is a cultural town in its true sense as it is also home to two unique century-old traditions that cannot be found elsewhere: Guling-Guling (the only Fat Tuesday re-interpretation in the country) and Tumba (the Day of the Dead celebration).”

How to get to Paoay: Buses from Cubao and Pasay offer multiple daily trips to Paoay and Laoag, Ilocos Norte.

Paoay Heritage Walk: Visitors can easily arrange a free heritage tour at the Paoay Tourism Office located inside the municipal building.

Tugaya, Lanao del Sur

In describing Tugaya, Guerrero adds, “As colorful as their Sarimanok, the remote town of Tugaya is considered as the most artistic of all Muslim communities in the south. The Maranao is a multi-layer culture as is synchronizes Muslim executions with Hindi-Malay principles, making their various crafts and literature of the highest artistic orders.

This quaint Muslim town beside the Lake Lanao, one of the 16 ancient lakes in the world, is known for its master woodcarvers and furniture makers (shell inlays), brass and silversmiths – using traditional Indo-Malay techniques, ina-ol weavers and painters.”

Tugaya Artists

An all-women workshop.

How to get to Tugaya: Take a passenger van from Marawi City to go to Lake Lanao and Tugaya.

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About Author

Mark Go

Marky Ramone Go is a travel-junkie, writer, and photographer based in the Philippines. Aside from contributing articles to various publications and websites, he narrates his experiences wandering the tropical paradise of the Philippines, the culturally rich regions of South East Asia, Sri Lanka, and India on his travel blog Nomadic Experiences. After Asia, he is keen on exploring South America and eventually hoping to trace Jack Kerouac's "On the Road" trail in the United States to Mexico.