NEAR MANILA

NEAR MANILA

South of Manila is Laguna de Bay (Old Spanish, "Lake of Bay town"), the largest lake in the country. The 949-square-kilometer (366 square mile) lake is drained into Manila Bay by the Pasig River, one of the most important rivers in the country due to its historical significance and because it runs through the center of Metro Manila. Located 20 kilometers (12 miles) southwest of Laguna de Bay is Taal Lake, a crater lake containing the Taal Volcano, the smallest in the country. The environs of the lake form the upland Tagaytay Ridge, which was once part of a massive prehistoric volcano that covered the southern portion of the province of Cavite, Tagaytay City and the whole of Batangas province. South of Laguna Lake are two solitary mountains, Mount Makiling in Laguna province, and Mount Banahaw, the highest in the region of CALABARZON. It is nice to sit back with a cup of native Barako and enjoy the view of Mount Banahaw and the flowing Alitao River.

Philippine Village (10 minutes from Ninoy airport) is a 32-acre theme park with 1/20th scale miniature replicas of the Philippines most famous tourist areas, including Mayon volcano, the Banue Rice terraces, the Chocolate Hills of Bohol and Magellan's Cross. There is also a cluster of houses reflecting the architectural styles of many of the Philippines' 13 major regions.

Villa Escudero (outside Manila) is a 2,000-acre complex with a pink two-story replica of a Spanish Church and a bizarre and eclectic private museum, containing an ancient amphora from a sunken Corinthian ship, fossils, burial jars, tools and bones from prehistoric Filipino people, pinned insects, antique weapons, World War II relics, and mannequins with clothes owned by the Marcoses. Villa Escudero also boasts a man-made waterfall, folk statues of E.T., water buffalos and other subjects, and a picture of Jesus made from all the words from the New testament printed in teeny tiny type.

Tagaytay Ridge (55 kilometers south of Manila) is a 650-meter-high ridge with comfortable temperatures and cool breezes throughout the year. It offers terrific views of rugged mountains and valleys, as well as of the ocean and Lake Taal and Taal Volcano. Overnight accommodations and meals are available at Taal Vista Lodge. Nearby is a jeepney factory that many tourist visit and the famed bamboo organ at Las Pinas Church.

The Bamboo Organ at Las Pinas (30-minute drive from Manila) is remarkable and unique organ, made of over 100 dry bamboo tubes in 1814. It still has flute tones which have remained virtually unchanged in close to two centuries. The organ was completely renovated in Germany in 1975. Las Pinas Church, also renovated, is a perfect setting for this unique organ. An organist provides demonstrations. The annual Bamboo Organ Festival, held in February, features musicians from around the world.

Bataan and Corregidor , evoke memories of the gallant, but futile, stand of Philippine-American forces against the Japanese during World War II. Bataan is a peninsula jutting out to the China Sea, and can be visited by car in a day's outing. Corregidor, an island at the mouth of Manila Bay, can be reached by tour boat. Mimosa Resort (70 miles north of Manila) is a new 462-acre resort with a golf course, casino, and 300-room Holiday Inn. Cavite is a beach resort area.

SLEX: The Major Highway in Southern Luzon

The South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) is main road in southern Luzon. According to ASIRT: 1) Transport corridor linking Metro Manila and CALABARZON region (CAvite, LAguna, BAtangas, Rizal and provinces). Major cities linked: Metro Manila, Calamba in Laguna Province, Santo Tomas, Lipe and Batangas. 2) SLEX consists of a network of two expressways: Metro Manila Skyway System and South Luzon Tollway (also known as Alabang-Calamba-SantoTomas Expressway or ACTEX). The corridor parallels National Route 1. [Source: Association for Safe International Road Travel (ASIRT), PDF, 2012]

3) Speed limits on SLEX: minimum, 60 kph and maximum, 100 kph. Number of lanes varies:
6-lane divided highway from Paco, Manila to Alabang, Muntinlupa City.
8-lane divided highway from Alabang, Muntinlupa City to Santa Rosa City in Laguna Province.
6-lane divided highway from Santa Rosa City to Calamba City in Laguna Province.
2-lane divided highway from Calamba City to Santo Tomas, Batangas in Province.

“Cameras monitor traffic flow. Warnings of congested traffic are posted on SLEX's website: http://www.mtdsltc.com/. Teams provided roadside assistance. EMS teams provide medical assistance. Upgrading of SLEX roads, bridges and tollbooths is completed. Improvements reduced travel time from Manila to Batangas City from four hours to about one and a half hours. Metro Manila Skyway System, part of the South Luzon Expressway, is a multi-lane expressway linking Makati City, Pasay City, Parañaque City and Muntinlupa City in Metro Manila. Ends in Barangay Alabang in Muntinlupa City. The Skyway has reduced congestion on the South Luzon Expressway. The elevated section of the Skyway passes over much of Metro Manila's section of South Luzon Expressway. Skyway continues as an at-grade expressway, ending in Barangay Alabang in Muntinlupa City.

Corregidor

Corregidor (reached by boat, an hour away from Manila across Manila Bay) is a rocky four-mile-long island with an important Spanish-era and World-War-II-era fortress also known Corregidor and known locally as the “Rock.” . Guarding one of two channel entrances to Manila Bay, the fortress is where American and Filipino soldiers made a "valiant but vain attempt" to halt a Japanese invasion of the Philippines at the beginning of World War II, and where the Japanese hung on almost until the last man died at the end of the war.

Corregidor is a tadpole-shaped island in Manila Bay. Used during World War II, it was as much as network of tunnels as it was a fortress. Inaugurated by the Spanish and later built up the Americans, it consisted of two major underground passageways: the Malinta tunnel which contained Gen Douglas MacArthur's headquarters and 1000-bed hospital; and the Navy Command Tunnel. Some 13,000 people were holed up Corregidor and several thousand more were at three smaller fortresses in Manila Bay. [Source: William Graves, National Geographic, July 1986]

Spain built the first fort in the 1500s and added to it over the years and taken over by the Americans in 1898. When the Japanese attacked the Philippines in 1941, MacArthur's moved his headquarters into the fortress at Corregidor and remained holed up there with the American and Filipino armies during a five month Japanese siege before escaping in a submarine and leaving the soldiers to the Bataan Death March. The Japanese occupied Corregidor for nearly three years until it was retaken in a bloody battle by American paratroopers in 1945.

Tourists today can see the tunnels where 13,000 Americans and Filipinos hid during the Japanese bombardment; the remains of the "Mile Long" barracks near the house where MacArthur stayed; and several 72-ton cannons capable of hurling 1,000-pound projectiles eight miles in any direction. In 1986, after scarp metal scavengers were observed dismantling the cannons with blow torches, security was upgraded and some restoration work was done. There is also a small memorial and a museum. Corregidor sometimes hosts a sound-and-light show that depicts the 1942 seige. Generally, more Japanese witness the show than Americans.

Battle at Corregidor

The battle at Corregidor was the only place that Allies put up a fierce resistance during Japan's initial sweep through the Philippines and Southeast Asia. A force of 12,000 Americans and 40,000 Filipinos, lacking air support and cut from supplies and reinforcements, held off a superior and better-equipped Japanese invasion force for six months before MacArthur escaped to Australia. It is estimated that 100,000 Filipinos were killed. Supplies promised the men at Corregidor never arrived. On the matter, Secretary of war Henry Stimson said privately "There are times when men have to die."

Describing the first week of fighting, journalist William Graves, who was 14 a at the time, wrote: "I don't think anybody on Corregidor will ever go to hell, because we had our share today...We could see [Japanese] planes being thrown around when the shells exploded. One plane was hit and it broke formation...After that we got into the car and got down the tunnel. A little while later the bombing started topside. They were using a bunch of dive bombers and down in the tunnel we felt big vibrations. The raid ended about 2:15 and during the whole time they were bringing in the wounded and dying. One fellow they carried in [had] no feet, just bloody stumps. The wounded guys are the worst part of war. Almost 50 percent of the injuries have been limbs blown off by shrapnel. 16 guys died after they got here and they're all out in the hall. One guy was a friend of mine. Just before the raid he offered to take me for a ride in his little Crosmobile." [Source: William Graves, National Geographic, July 1986]

The Japanese lost one third of their soldiers on the landing of Corregidor due to heavy equipment that dragged them underwater and unpredictable currents that brought them in range of the U.S.'s seven- ton cannons that hurled 1,000 pound projectiles eight miles in any direction.

The Japanese bombed Corregidor for five months. By the time they were finished the entire island was pockmarked with bomb craters: an average of one every square 25 yards. Shelling often went all day. "Shells have an eerie scream or whistle," Graves wrote, "but if you hear the whistle it means the shell has gone by and it won't hit you...This firing is not so effective. It is merely a nuisance. It has only killed one and wounded four so far." Once a donkey was hit. "Dinner the next afternoon was a unique occasion," Graves wrote later, "featuring tough but unmistakably fresh meat."

MacArthur's Escape and the Last Stand at Corregidor

On March 11, 1942, after holding out for nearly three months, MacArthur left Corregidor while ordering the men that stayed behind to fight. MacArthur maneuvered through a Japanese blockade in a PT boat during his escape. One general described MacArthur choice to escape from Corregidor in a PT boat instead of a submarine as "a stroke of genius." Before he left he took a gift of a half million dollars from the president of the Philippines. Dwight D. Eisenhower received a similar offer but refused the money "explaining that it was against army regulations."

By all accounts MacArthur's performance at the Philippines was a disaster. He never received an official reprimand for his failure to free his men on Bataan, which MacArthur only visited once during the retreat, but was instead called the "Lion of Luzon" by one newspaper.

After MacArthur's departure, U.S. and Filipino forces held on for a few weeks at Corregidor but they were weakened from malaria and the decision to share their food with civilians. To save food the people at Corregidor ate only two meals a day, and often these consisted of only Vienna sausages and sauerkraut. To keep their spirits up rumors were circulated about hundred-mile-long convoys coming to their rescue. Graves and his family escaped from the fortress on a converted yacht that delivered them to a submarine waiting in Manila Bay, which took them to Freemantle Australia.

On May 6, 1942, Corregidor was overrun by Japanese. The Battle of Corregidor was not at total loss. It slowed the Japanese "timetable of conquest" and gave the Allies precious weeks to organize their forces and prevent, among other things, a sweep into Australia. MacArthur told the people of the Philippines from Australia, "I shall return." The men that remained in Corregidor were taken prisoner by the Japanese and sent north of Manila to the Japanese-run prisons at Cabanatuan. They generally had it less bad than the soldiers on Bataan. They had better food and living conditions and lower rates of malaria and other disease than those that endured the Bataan Death March.

Ordered to maintain a 'holding action', MacArthur's other abandoned troops soon fell to the Japanese with the unconditional surrender of around 76, 000 people — 66, 000 of them Filipinos. Those still able to walk began the 120 kilometers 'Bataan death march' from Bataan to San Fernando, and on to prison camps in Capas, Tarlac. As many as 20, 000 people died along the way and another 25, 000 died while imprisoned. This event is honoured with the annual Araw ng Kagitingan (Bataan Day) public holiday on 9 April.

American Cemetery at Corregidor

American Cemetery (at Corregidor) contains the bodies of 17,206 American and Filipino soldiers who died fighting the Japanese. Covering over 152 acres, it is the second largest American military graveyard after Arlington National Cemetery outside of Washington D.C.

At the center the graveyard is the Pacific War Memorial, a limestone wall inscribed with the names of 36,000american troops missing after the war. The memorial at Corregidor was restored by the United Sates government in 1988 after it had been enveloped by jungle. Money for the project came from the Disabled American Veterans and most of the work was done by Navy Seabees.

Bataan Death March Hike

The Bataan Death March Hike is 103-kilometer (65-mile) trek across the Bataan Peninsula from Mariveles to Camp O'Donnell in Palpanga Province covering the route taken by captured American and Filipino soldiers in April 1942. Much of the route is along busy roads. Places of historic interest have been covered with ash form Mount Pantubu and development. Locals are suspicious of foreigners because in the 1980s the CIA and rebel groups were active here.

A monument in Mariveles marks the starting point. A plaque read: “Filipino and American troops were marched...under blistering sun or cold night sky.” There use to be markers that marked every kilometer but most are gone. From Mariveles the road switchbacks up hill with a view of Manila Bay. About 16 kilometers northwest of Limay, a 30-story-high cross sits on Mount Samat, where fierce fighting took place in April 1942. A small museum and monument honors those who “spilled their blood on every rock”. It is possible t take an elevator inside the cross to a 242-foot-high observation deck for a 360 degrees vista and views of Manila and the 4,000-foot-high volcanos Mount Mariveles and Mount Natib.

The railway line between San Fernando and Capaias is gone, displaced by urban sprawl from Manila, 100 kilometers away. The MacArthur Highway covers much of the old railway route. At Capas there a small monument pays tribute to those that lost their life on the train, Nearby is a weed-surrounded, graffiti-marred shaped marble structure with a carving of emaciated, staggering men. At Camp O’Donnell there is a sign that reads: “Caution: Tank Crossing.” It is now used as an army training camp, Nothing is left from the Death March era.

Rizal Province

Rizal Province (east of Manila) is named in honor of the Philippines’ National Hero, Dr. Jose Rizal and is regarded as the “Cradle of Philippine Art.” Home to artists’ communities and folk festivals, Rizal also offers diverse natural and man-made attractions. Breathtaking views of Laguna de Bay, the rugged Sierra Madre mountains, swimming spots, and picnic grounds stand side by side with burgeoning industrial parks, convention halls, and commercial centers.

Rizal province is Metro Manila’s closest eastern neighbor. It is bounded on the north by Bulacan, on the east by Laguna and Quezon Province, and on the south by Laguna de Bay. It has a total land area of 1303 square kilometers, 27 percent of which is suitable for intensive agriculture, pastures, and forest, 62 percent, for high-density urban development, and 70 percent, for fish, farming, and wildlife conservation. Rizal is composed of 13 municipalities and one city. The First District consists of Antipolo City, Angono, Binangonan, Cainta, and Taytay. The Second District consists of Baras, Cardona, Morong, Jalajala, Pililla, Rodriguez, San Mateo, Tanay, and Teresa.

Rizal province is home to about 2.8 million people and has 2,400 people per square kilometer, making it most densely populated of the Philippines’ 81 provinces. The predominant language is Tagalog while English is used as the medium of communication in business and education. Rizal has two seasons: the wet and dry. It is relatively dry from December to May, and wet during the rest of the year. Northeast winds prevail in the province. It is not directly hit by typhoons, low-pressure systems, and strong winds.

Petroglyphs and Petrographs of the Philippines

Petroglyphs and Petrographs of the Philippines (three kilometers from the town of Angono, which 1½ hours southeast from Manila) were nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2006. According to UNESCO: “These petroglyphs are of animate figures interpreted as representing juveniles or infants on a rock face in a rock shelter. The shelter is located southeast of the city of Manila, three , and some 235 meters above sea level. The shelter if formed by quaternary volcanics, located on the eastern limb of an anticline. The cave faces 305 degrees west and measures 632.84 meters, 4.68 meters in height and 8.2 meters in depth. The cave was formed at the close of the Pleistocene, early part of the Holocene, at a period when the quaternary alluvium was not yet extensive. [Source: UNESCO]

“The petroglyphs occupy 25 meters of the rockwall with a height of 3.7 meters from the floor level. The engravings are executed into all the available space on the wall with no orientation nor association with one another. There are no relationships in scale and size, and no baseline. The engravings are made on the tuff layer of the wall with "v" and "u" cross sections, depending on the sizes of the images, the largest of which is 63 centimeters. There is no attempt at making relieves. The general typology of the images is a rounded head on a narrow neck, rectangular body with a lower taper, linear flexed limb with three digits each. There is a total of 127 still discernable figures. There are non-cognitive incisions. There are 51 distinct types. The engravings are not decorative but are symbolic representations, executed by different individuals using a single mental template, apparently with the same cultural persuasion. Associated with healing and sympathetic magic.

“The dating of the petroglyphs is probably late Neolithic Age. Only highly fragmented low-fired pottery was recovered, a number of Paleolithic cobble and flaked tools, and Neolithic Age polished adzes. The Philippine Neolithic ranges from 6000 B.C. to 2000 B.C. The other set of Petroglyphs are those found in Alab, Mountain province carved on boulders on top of promontories. The configurations are those of pudenda. The dating is relatively later and placed at not earlier than 1500 B.C. or even later.

The Petrographs are of two kinds: a) Charcoal drawings on cave walls in Penablanca, Cagayan Province, and the Singnapan Caves in southern Palawan; b) red hematite prints in Anda Peninsula, Bohol province. The dating of these is still undetermined.

Laguna

Laguna (30 kilometers south of Manila) and has a total area of 1759.73 square kilometers. Laguna is bounded on the north by the province of Rizal, on the east by the Sierra Madre Mountain Ranges, on the south by the Quezon province, on the west by Laguna de Bay, and the provinces of Batangas and Cavite.

Laguna has no pronounced seasons. However, it is relatively dry from November to April and wet from May to October. Climate is generally cool and gentle, even during the summer months. Rainfall is evenly distributed throughout the year in the eastern and southern portions of the province, giving rise to an abundance and variety of flora and fauna.

Laguna has a total registered population of 1,747,000 based on the May, 2000 National Statistics Official Survey. The people of Laguna are known to be hardworking, highly motivated, good-natured, and friendly.

Languages and Dialects: Laguna being part of the Southern Tagalog Region, approximately 99.22 percent of the population speak Tagalog. A minority of the population also speak Ilokano, Bicolano, and Waray. A significant portion of the working population can read and speak English and Filipino.

Owing to its nearness to Manila, Laguna is presently becoming the center of economic activity in the Southern Tagalog Region and the CALABARZON area. Business in the area is bustling as shown by the presence of several industrial estates designed for handling large scale firms engaged in textile manufacturing, electronics, food processing, industrial machines, and car assembly.

Places in Laguna

Laguna (30 kilometers south of Manila) has been called the Resort Province of the Philippines, because of its hot springs, lakes, and waterfalls. Most notable is Pagsanjan Falls, formerly called Magdapio Falls, referred to as “shooting rapids.” It is found in Cavinti, starting from Pagsanjan town. Another is Lake Caliraya, which is located between Cavinti and Lumban. The strong mountain breeze that blows from the Sierra Madre Mountain Ranges and the distant Mount Banahaw makes the lake an ideal place for aqua sports like wind surfing, water skiing, sailing as well as game fishing. Laguna de Bay, Southeast Asia’s largest fresh water lake, stays pristine throughout the year due to regular rain showers.

Innumerable hot springs abound in the province, including the famous Hidden Valley Springs which is located in a secluded part of Alaminos town. A trip to Dalitiwan River, located in Botocan, Majayjay, is an exciting adventure because the terrain is rugged, as mountain lands go, and the cool water or river gushes through the rocks and boulders along the watercourse in sweeping currents. The mystical Mt. Makiling in Los Baños is an inactive volcano, rising to about 1,109 meters above sea level. It is indeed endowed with nature’s beauty, making it ideal for all types of nature tripping, from trekking to bird and butterfly watching and even camping.

Laguna is not only endowed with natural wonders. It also plays an important role in the country’s history as the birthplace of Dr. Jose Rizal, the country’s national hero, whose infancy and early manhood were spent in the towns of Calamba and Biñan. A number of churches of Spanish-influenced architecture in intricate Romanesque and Baroque design, mostly restored to their original elegance, are also found in the province.

The province is one huge showcase of Southern Tagalog craftsmanship. The town of Paete is famous for its woodcarvings, papier mache, and handmade paper products.Tree seedlings, sampaguita flowers, orchids, and exotic plants are big business.Cut flower farms are found mostly in towns of Calamba, Los Baños, and Bay. Sweet tropical fruits abound, such as the lanzones from Paete, pineapple from Calauan, chico, banana, mango, rambutan, and avocado. Add to these Laguna’s embroidered garments. Jusi cloth made from banana fiber is painstakingly, albeit deftly, transformed into beautiful pieces of clothing worthy of being tailored into the Philippine national costume, the Barong Tagalog. Shoes made from abaca hemp is a growing industry in the town of Liliw.

Los Baños

Los Baños (a one-hour drive from Manila), and famous for its hot springs. The University of the Philippines' Colleges of Agriculture and Forestry and Forest Products Laboratory, and the International Rice Research Institute—the only such institute in Southeast Asia—are located here. Outside the town there are many flower farms are found mostly in towns of Calamba, Los Baños. Mt. Makiling in Los Baños is an inactive volcano, rising to about 1,109 meters above sea level. It is good place for hiking to bird and butterfly watching and even camping.

Most new strains of rice have been developed at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Los Banos. Founded in 1967, the IRRI has produced 300 different varsities of rice. One strain, called IR36, is resistant to 15 insect, disease and environmental stresses and is currently planted on about 27 million acres worldwide. The IRRI Genetics Research Center houses samples from over 80,000 varieties of rice, which are cross bred to produce new strains. Strains with desirable characteristics are saved and breed again. Usually, it takes at least six generations for these characteristics to actually become a reproducible trait of the plant.

The Center for the Philippine Raptors in Los Baños is a rescue and rehabilitation center for confiscated or donated raptorial birds, and a captive breeding facility for Philippine birds of prey, especially the highly endangered Philippine Eagle, the national bird of the Philippines and one of the largest flying birds in the world.. Amidst a dense second-growth forest, endemic bird species are treated, studied, and cared for. For enthusiasts, the CPR conducts lectures, and film showings on biodiversity conservation, with Philippine Birds of Prey as the primary concern. A volunteer program is also available, enabling interested parties to take part in ongoing research on the captive birds. Check to make sure it is still open.

Pagsanjan Gorge and Waterfall: Where"Apocalypse Now" was Shot

Pagsanjan(2½ hour drive southeast from Manila) is where the final scenes of "Apocalypse Now" were shot. It is well know for its waterfalls, canoe trips and swimming holes, all with a rain forest backdrop. The trip up-river is made in a small native dugout canoe called a banca to 100-meter-high Pagsanjan Falls through a gorge. The walls rise straight up to a height of 100 meters and are topped rain forest and rich tropical growth. There are sections where the boatsman carries the boat overland to avoid the rapids. On the return trip you get to shoot the rapids in the small boat. The entire journey takes up a day and include a picnic lunch at the falls. There are several numerous lodges and restaurants along the river.

Apocalypse Now, shot around Pagsanjan and other locations in the Philippines, is regarded the classic Vietnam War film despite its flaws. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, the director of the Godfather, and based on Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, it is about a young army intelligence officer, Captain Willard (Martin Sheen), who is sent on a mission to find and “terminate with extreme prejudice” the renegade Colonel Walter Kurtz (Marlon Brando) who had established himself as the leader of a army of Montagnard headhunters in Cambodia. A rough cut of the film took the top award at Cannes in 1979. Many critics panned the film when it came out.

Captain Willard first has to a get a boat, which he does with help of surf-loving Colonel named Kilgore (Robert Duvall) and then embarks on a journey up the Mekong River, accompanied by another surfer, a wannabe cook and a Bronx teenager (Lawrence Fishburne), to find Kurtz. Along the way they have a number of scrapes and misadventures while Willard muses on the “conflict in every human heart between rational and irrational, good and evil.” Some of the most memorable quotes (“I like the smell of napalm in the morning”) and scenes (helicopters blasting Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries) are associated with Kilgore.

The story of the making of Apocalypse Now is almost as interesting as the film itself. The filming took an exhausting 238 days over 16 months and used up 375 hours of film, with the film opening up years behind schedule. The project was plagued by troubles from beginning to end. Expensive sets were destroyed by a typhoon. Brando showed up on the set overweight. The first leading actor (Harvey Keitel) was fired. The second (Martin Sheen) suffered a heart attack. The film was so over budget Coppola had to take a second mortgage on his home to raise more money. The film's release was postponed several times while Coppola edited millions of feet of footage. At one point Coppola told his wife, “I’m thinking of shooting myself.” The story is brilliantly told in the 1991 documentary Hearts of Darkness.

The final scene was filmed at Pagsanjan and involved constructing a huge set that the Philippine government destroyed with firebombs (shown during the closing credits). Real bombs and real bullets were used in the filming of some of the battle scenes. Real heads from some real corpses, thought to have been supplied by a morgue, but really robbed from graves, were scattered around Kurtz’s jungle compound. The helicopters were provided by the Marcos government. Coppola had an affair with one of the Playboy Playmates in the film.

Batangas Province

Batangas (110 kilometers south of Manila) is province known for excellent dive sites, the world’s lowest volcano, open beaches, sheltered coves, subterranean caves, deep harbors, a preserved heritage and brave men in history. The seaport of Batangas is the capital of the province. Situated in southwestern Luzon, it is near the mouth of the Calumpan River, on the northwest coast of Batangas Bay. The city is connected with Manilaby road and coastal shipping. Batangas trades in corn, sugar, and coconuts. The population of the province is about 2.7 million people; the town has a population of around 300,000.

The province of Batangas is bounded on the north by the provinces of Cavite and Laguna, on the south by the Verde Island passage, on the east by the provinces of Quezon and Laguna, and on the west by the South China Sea. It has a total land area of 316,580 hectares, 50 percent of which has a grade of less than 15 degrees. The terrain is generally rolling while the rest are mountainous and hilly.

Batangas has a naturally cool climate. It experiences two types of seasons: dry from November to April and wet for the rest of the year. Mean annual rainfall is at its maximum in July, at 1.5 to 2.5 meters. March is the driest month. Mean monthly temperature is 82 degrees Fahrenheit. February is the coldest month, averaging 69 degrees Fahrenheit, while May is the hottest, at 96.1 degrees Fahrenheit.

Batangueños are bilingual, with Tagalog and English as the basic languages used in business, government, schools, and everyday communication. The province is composed of 32 municipalities. Capital is Batangas City. Tourism Office: CALABARZON Office, Dencris Business Center, Halang, National Highway, Tel:(6349) 508 0731 to 34, Fax: (6349) 508 0741 / 508 0760, E-Mail: lcjurilla@tourism.gov.ph

Sights in Bantangas

Among the multitude of popular tourism activities that can be enjoyed in Bantangas Province are heritage tours, pilgrimage tours, scuba diving, shopping, mountain climbing and trekking, swimming, and snorkeling. Batangas is only 110 kilometers south of Metropolitan Manila, and is very accessible from the national capital by land.

Found in the province is world-known Anilao and its many dive sites that are ideal for poking around and observing marine life, and outstanding for macro photography. Multi-hued crinoids are prolific. The variety of nudibranchs is unmatched. Night dives are especially nice and often reveal unusual creatures like sea hares, sea goblins, catfish eels, ghost pipe fishes, blue-ringed octopuses, mandarin fishes, and snake eels. The area’s best known dive site, coral-covered Cathedral is spectacular at night. One of the prettiest dives in the area, Sepok has nice coral gardens and a vertical wall.

Taal Lake and Volcano in Batangas is Southern Luzon’s centerpiece attraction. Known to be the smallest in the world, it is a volcano within an islet within a lake within a crater within a volcano. The town of Taal reigns as one of the two most culturally preserved sites of the Spanish colonial era; the other is Vigan in Ilocos Sur. The village in Taal conforms to the old town layout combining the municipal hall, school, church, and houses.

The Farm at San Benito was awarded Best Medical Spa Worldwide by senses Awards in 2012 A promotional blurb reads: “When you’re done with hedonistic traveling, best you head out here and detoxify in style. Their treatments and holistic retreats are done so artistically that you’ll forget you’re here to flush out all the bad stuff from your body.”

Taal Volcano: the World Shortest Volcano

Taal Volcano (2½ hours from Manila) has the unusual distinction of being the world's only volcano within a lake within a volcano within a lake within a volcano. The largest lake is inside a large volcanic caldera that was produced hundreds of thousands of years ago. Inside the lake is a smaller volcano and lake with a small island topped by a relatively new volcano.

Taal Volcano has called the shortest volcano in the world. It is only 300 meters tall but don't let its small size deceive you. It has a deadly history. The worst of its numerous eruptions killed thousands of people was in 1754. But as devastating as this eruption was it also provided nutrients for the region's fertile soil which today is ideal for raising sugar cane, coffee and cattle.

The main lake at Taal is 30 kilometers across and is filled with dugout canoes, small boats, and motor-powered outriggers. Once part of an the ocean channel in Balayan Bay in the South China Sea, the lake was created during the 1754 eruption, when a huge lava flow surged into the sea and transformed the channel into a lake.

As the water in the lake rose entire towns were submerged and the water became less and less salty. Today it is a fresh water lake, even though it contains salt water species, such as sardines and highly venomous sea snakes that have adapted to the fresh water. Up until 50 years ago, there were even freshwater sharks in the lake.

Inside the small crater lake within Taal volcano is a tiny volcanic island that emits sulfur and steam. This island was immortalized by "Ripley's Believe It or Not" as the "amazing island in a lake on an island in a lake on an island." Steam and sulfur also rise from yellow furmoles on the slopes of Taal volcano and the cliffs on the interior of the crater.

Taal is also the name of a pretty town on the shores of the lake. Sights include lovely Spanish-style stone houses, and the Basilica of St. Martin. Built in 1858 and once the largest church in Southeast Asia, the basilica is a little run down these days—the bell is covered by guano left by bats in the belfry—but still worth a visit. The Taal neighborhood of Balisong is famous for its switchblade-like "butterfly knives."

Wells of Saint Lucia

Wells of Saint Lucia (in the town of Taal) are two ancient cistern where a famous miracle reportedly took place. In 1603, a fishermen pulled up a statue of the Virgin in his net. People figured the statue must have fallen off a passing Spanish ship and didn't give the find much thought. A religious woman brought the statue home, but it kept on disappearing.

One day two women were collecting water at the cisterns when an image of the virgin appeared in the well. The women looked up and saw the statue in a tree, guarded by a kingfisher. A shrine was built at the site and the water in the cisterns is now believed to have healing powers.

The Well of Saint Lucia is located near the base of the San Lorenzo Ruiz Steps near the Caysasay Shrine. The sacred well, whose waters always remain at same levels, is where the original image of the Lady of Caysasay was mysteriously found in 1611 after it disappeared from the church. Situated in mysterious Aztec-like ruins, the mysterious wells have several legends about the miraculous healing powers of its sacred waters

Anilao: the Birthplace of Scuba Diving the Philippines

Anilao (three hours south of Manila is the coastal town of Mabini) is said to be birthplace of scuba diving in the Philippines. Anilao doesn’t have white sandy beaches but it does have nuumerous dive sites scattered on its water and around the nearby islands and is close to Verde Passage, dubbed as the “Center of the Center of World’s Marine Shorefish Biodiversity” Multi-hued crinoids are prolific. The variety of nudibranchs is unmatched. Night dives are especially nice and often reveal unusual creatures like sea hares, sea goblins, catfish eels, ghost pipe fishes, blue-ringed octopuses, mandarin fishes, and snake eels.

The area’s best known dive site, Cathedral, is two large mounds with a cross in between at 50’. It is a well established fish feeding station. Covered with corals, the site is spectacular at night. Sombrero has a shallow wall of about 60’ with some good coral growth; offshore but nearby are Beatrice Rock and Bajura. Schools of triggerfishes and sometimes jacks and surgeons swim by, and they appear to have the market on anthias. One of the prettiest dives in the area, Sepok has nice coral gardens and a vertical wall. Devil’s Point Twin Rocks, Coral Gardens, and Mainit are shallow dives with a wide array of invertebrates, especially nudibranchs. Bonete, Arthur’s, and Koala offer good dives for novices, with most to see above 50’. There is a good selection of hard and soft corals, anemones, and clownfishes, and goblinfishes at Arthur’s.

Anilao’s proximity to Manila makes it a great weekend dive destination or even a day tour visit. 1) To get to Anilao from Manila via public transport: Catch a Batangas City bound bus in Buendia, Cubao or Alabang (Jam Liner, JAC, Alps, Tritran, etc), fare ranges from P140 to P160 and travel time is at least 1.5 hours during off-peak hours. Buses bound to Batangas City leave almost every hour, 24 hours a day. Avoid Batangas City via Lipa as travel time takes longer. Get off at Batangas City Bus Terminal and transfer to a Mabini bound jeep to take you to Anilao Port, fare is P40 per pax and travel time is around 45 minutes. At Anilao Port, catch a tricycle to your resort, fare starts at P60 per trike to P100 and travel time takes at least 10 minutes.

There are numerous dive resorts catering primarily to scuba divers although non divers are also welcome. Most resorts have their own swimming pools used for scuba diving lessons but can be used for recreation of non-divers as well. Among the resorts are Aqua Reef Venture, Pier Uno, Acacia Dive Resort and Vistamar. Planet Dive and Anilao Outrigger are known for their cheap diving packages. Dive & Trek and Portulano Dive Resort are good places for non-divers and

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Philippines Tourism websites, Philippines government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Japan News, Yomiuri Shimbun, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Updated in August 2020


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