Philippine Natural Wonders
Third Longest Coastline
The Philippines, one of the world’s largest archipelagos, also has one of the longest combined coastlines in the planet. The total length of the country’s coastlines is 36,289 kilometers or almost twice that of the United States. It is said to be the third country with the longest combined coastlines, after Canada and Indonesia. With 7,107 islands, the Philippines lies between two great bodies of water, namely: on the east by Pacific Ocean, the world’s largest ocean and on the west by South China Sea, the world’s second largest sea after Caribbean Sea.
Eighth Wonder of the World
The Banaue Rice Terraces in Ifugao province has been dubbed as the “Eighth Wonder of the World”. The Ifugaos carved the terraces from the rocky mountain of Banaue, about 4,000 feet above the sea level, hundreds of years ago. The total outline of this architectural wonder, otherwise known as the “stairways to the sky” is about 13,500 miles long, or about half the globe’s circumference and ten times the length of the Great Wall of China.
To preserve the natural beauty of the spot, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared it as a world heritage site. “For 2,000 years, the high rice fields of the Ifugao have followed the contours of the mountain. The fruit of knowledge passed on from one generation to the next, of sacred traditions and a delicate social balance, they helped form a landscape of great beauty that expresses conquered and conserved harmony between humankind and the environment,” the UNESCO said.
World’s Deepest Spots
The world’s second deepest spot underwater is in the Philippines. This spot, about 34,440 feet (10,497 meters) below the sea level, is known as the Philippine Deep or the Mindanao Trench. The Philippine Deep is in the floor of the Philippine Sea. The German ship Emden first plumbed the trench in 1927. The world’s deepest part of the ocean is the Marianas Trench, which is over 11,000 meters below the seal level.
Nearly Perfect Cone
Mayon Volcano in Albay province has the distinction of having a nearly perfect cone. Towering at a height of 2,462 meters above the sea level, Mount Mayon overlooks Legaspi City. Its name, derived from the Bicolano term Magayon, means beautiful and is associated with a folk legend. The volcano has a base circumference of 62.8 kilometers. Geologists claimed that the stratovolcano developed its cone shape from a pile around the vent of volcanic materials composed of lava, rock and ash. Its first eruption was recorded in 1616, and there were at least 47 more eruptions since then, the last one in February, 2000. In 1911, its eruption killed 1,300 people and buried the town of Cagsawa.
World’s Smallest Volcano
Taal Volcano, a 406-meter-high crater, is said to be the world’s smallest volcano. It is described as “a crater within an island within a lake” because it stands as an island at Taal Lake. The lake was formed after the volcano, which used to be much larger, collapsed. The ridges around Tagaytay City, which overlooks the lake, are believed to be part of the crater of the old volcano. These ridges now serve as the border of the 18-mile-diameter Taal Lake and stretch 32 kilometers from Mount Batulao to Mount Sungay. Also considered as one of the world’s most active volcanoes, Taal Volcano has erupted over 20 times since 1572.
Located northwest off Palawan mainland is Calauit Island, a 3,700-hectare wildlife sanctuary that serves as a host to African and Philippine wildlife. The Philippine government developed the sanctuary in response to an appeal by the International Union of Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to save the endangered animals. The only one of its kind in the Philippines, Calauit is home to over 600 species of giraffe, impala, topi, gazelles, eland, and zebra and to Philippine endangered species such as the Calamian deer, Palawan bearcat, Philippine mouse deer, tarsier, pheasant peacock, scaly ant-eater and monitor lizard. The island also provides a refuge to sea turtles (pawikan), giant clams and the rare seacow or dugong.
Largest Natural Park
The Sierra Madre national park in northern Luzon is the country’s largest natural park. The 359,000-hectare park is the home of endangered species such as pawikan (Chelonia mytas), bayakan or giant bat, Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi), wild boar (Sus philippinesis), Philippine brown dear (Cervus marianus), cloud rat (Ratus mindorensis), flame-breasted fruit dove, kalaw (Philippine hornbill), bukarot (Philippine crocodile), and native owl.
Richest Marine Park
The Tubbataha Reefs in Sulu Sea is considered as the world’s richest bio-geographic area. Derived from two Samal words meaning, “long reef exposed at a low tide”, Tubbataha was declared as the country’s first national marine park in 1988. The marine park covers 33,200 hectares and contains what is believed to be the world’s largest grouping of marine life, per unit area. Scientists claimed that more than 300 coral species, and at least 40 families and 379 species of fish were recorded in the area. Among the species identified in the area were manta rays, sea turtles, sharks, tuna, dolphins and jackfish. In 1993, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) listed Tubbataha Reefs as a world heritage site.
Finest Beach Resort
Widely known as one of the world’s finest beach resorts, Boracay Island has unsullied fine talcum powder-sand beaches. Its tranquil crystal clear waters are perfect for swimming, sailing, fishing and sunbathing. The island also affords visitor a magnificent view of sapphire seas and golden sunsets. The island lies at the northwest tip of Panay, in the west Visayas region, off the Sibuyan Sea.
Siargao Island, lying east of Surigao del Norte province, boasts of white-sand beaches and surfing waves comparable to that of Hawaii. The island is a mass of tropical land with scores of reefs, points and white beaches. American surf photographer John Callahan discovered the remarkable waves of the island in 1993. He came back from his trip armed with stories about the lovely sun-drenched island and documented his find with beautiful photographs. Siargao’s Cloud Nine break is said to be among the best in the world.
The 15-kilometer St. Paul Cave in Palawan province is considered as the longest natural cave in the country. Other notable caves in the Philippines are the 8.9-kilometer Odloman Cave in Mabinay, Negros Oriental; and the 7.7-kilometer Odessa Tumbali Cave in Penablanca, Cagayan. In terms of vertical range, the deepest cave is the Sumaging-Latipan-Lomyang Crystal Cave in Sagada Mountain Province. Its deepest point is 163 meters from its mouth.
World’s Longest Underground River
Palawan’s St. Paul’s underground river is said to be the world’s longest underground river. The navigable part of the river inside the cave of the 4000-acre St. Paul Subterranean River stretches 8.2 kilometers in length (5 miles). However, this title is being disputed in Vietnam where an underground river known as Son Trach River reportedly extends 7 miles in length. Filipino explorers, however, claimed that once fully measured, St. Paul total length would reach 15 kilometers.
Cagayan River or Rio Grande de Cagayan, with a total length of 353 kilometers, is the longest and widest river in the Philippines. It bisects the Cagayan Valley from north to south. Also considered as the mightiest watercourse, Cagayan River sources its water from smaller rivers and streams in the mountain ranges of Sierra Madre, Caraballo, Cordillera, and Balete Pass. This river meets the South China Sea in an impressive expanse known as Aparri Delta. The other notable rivers in Luzon are Chico, Abra, Pampanga, and Bicol. In the south, the principal rivers are Mindanao (known in its upper course as the Pulangi) and Agusan. Meanwhile, the underground river of St. Paul’s Natural Park in Palawan is considered as one of the world’s longest subterranean rivers. The world’s longest rivers are the Nile River in Egypt and Amazon River in South America. Also worth mentioning are the Yangtze River in China, Mekong River in Vietnam, and Euphrates River in Iraq.
Towering at a height of 2,954 meters (9,692 feets), Mount Apo is the highest peak in the country. Located 25 kilometers south of Davao City, the mountain which forms part of the Mount Apo National Park is blessed with hot springs, sulfur pillars, geysers, lakes, rivers and waterfalls. It is home to a number of endemic animals such as the Philippine eagle, falconet and mynah. Its peak can be reached on a four-day hiking trip. Apo means “grandfather of all mountains”. Scientists classify it as a semi-active volcano. Materials from previous eruptions have made the soil around the mountain extremely fertile. The mountain’s base covers 72,796 hectares of mountain ranges that extend from Davao del Sur to Misamis Oriental. While the mountain’s peak looks snow-capped, the white appearance is actually caused by the presence of sulfur.
Longest Mountain Range
The longest mountain range in the country is Sierra Madre, which stretches from Cagayan province in northeastern Luzon to Aurora province in southern Tagalog.
The highest waterfall in the country is the 388-meter-high Aliwagwag Falls, in Cateel town, Davao Oriental province. The cascade has 13 rapids and looks like a stairway with 84 steps of varying heights.
The second highest waterfall is located in Barangay Rogongon, 54 kilometers from Iligan City. Limunsudan Falls, a two-tiered fall, has a combined height of 870 feet. Its lower cascade alone measures 400 feet, higher than the entire height of Maria Cristiana Falls.
Maria Cristina Falls, also in Iligan City (Lanao del Norte), towers at 320 feet. Also known as the “Mother of Industry”, Maria Cristina Falls supplies 80 percent of the total energy requirement of the Mindanao region. Another breathtaking waterfall in Iligan City is the Tinago Falls, located 13 kilometers from the city proper. As its name implies, this 420-foot waterfall lies hidden in a deep ravine. The world’s highest waterfall is the Angel Falls in Venezuela. As a tributary of Caroni River, this waterfall has a total elevation of 3,281 feet.
Laguna de Bay, an inland body of water covering 900 square kilometers, is the country’s largest lake. Located between the provinces of Rizal and Laguna, the lake receives its water from 21 river systems. In the middle of the lake lies the island of Talim, a heavily populated settlement of mostly fishermen. The second largest lake in the country is Lake Sultan-Alonto in Mindanao. Commonly known as Lake Lanao, the lake covers an area of 355 square kilometers. Meanwhile, the world’s largest inland body of water is the Caspian Sea, which is actually a lake in the boundary of Europe and Asia and covering an area of 143,240 square miles. Lake Superior (North America), Lake Victoria (Africa), the Aral Sea (Russia) and Lake Huron (North America) are also among the world’s largest lakes.
The towering limestone cliffs of El Nido that rise magnificently from the crystal clear waters of South China Sea amidst verdant backdrop are among the most astonishing pictures one can see in the Philippines. El Nido, a secluded group of islands west off Palawan province, is also known as a sanctuary of endangered birds and marine animals.
World Heritage Sites
The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) has included four places and four Catholic churches in the Philippines in the list of world heritage sites. These include the historic town of Vigan in Ilocos Sur province, which is known for its Spanish colonial houses; the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park in Palawan province, which boasts of the world’s longest underground river; the Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park also in Palawan, which is home to over 300 coral species and 400 species of fish; and the rice terraces in Ifugao province, which cover about 20,000 hectares of the Cordillera mountain range.
The four Catholic churches also included in the list of world heritage sites are the Santo Tomas de Villanueva Church in Miag-ao, Iloilo, which the Agustinians built as a fortress-church in Baroque-Romanesque style on a hill in 1786; the Nuestra Se? dela Asuncion in Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur, which is located on a hill surrounded by a stone wall; the San Agustin Church in Intramuros, Manila, which was built as early as 1587; and the Church of San Agustin in Paoay, Ilocos Norte, which was made of coral stone and was adorned like an Asian temple.
Signatory to Environmental Pacts
The Philippines is a signatory to the following international environmental agreements: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, and Wetlands (Source: US Central Intelligence Agency)
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