World Heritage Sites

Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras in Ifugao

For 2,000 years, the high rice fields of the Ifugao have followed the contours of the mountains. The fruit of knowledge handed down from one generation to the next, and the expression of sacred traditions form delicate social balance, help create a landscape of great beauty that expresses the harmony between humankind and the environment. The rice terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras are living cultural landscapes devoted to the production of one of the world’s most important staple crops: rice. They preserve traditional techniques and forms dating back many centuries, still viable today. At the same time, they illustrate a remarkable degree of harmony and aesthetic appeal between humankind and the natural environment, as well as demonstrating sustainable farming systems in mountainous terrain, based on a careful use of natural resources. They are one of the only monuments in the Philippines that show no evidence of having been influenced by colonial cultures. Owing to the difficult terrain, the Cordillera tribes are among the few peoples of the Philippines who have successfully resisted foreign domination and preserved their authentic tribal culture. The history of the terraces is intertwined with that of its people, their culture, and their traditional practices

  • Batad and Banga-an in Banaue
  • Nagacadan in Kiangan
  • Hapao in Hungduan
  • Mayoyao

Historic Vigan City in Ilocos Sur

Established in the 16th century, Vigan is the best-preserved example of a planned Spanish colonial town in Asia. Its architecture reflects the coming together of cultural elements from elsewhere in the Philippines, from China and from Europe, resulting in a culture and townscape that have no parallel anywhere in East and South-East Asia. Vigan is an exceptionally intact and well-preserved example of a European and Asian trading town in East and South-East Asia. The architecture is truly reflective of its roots in both materials and design, in its fusion of Asian building design and construction with European colonial architecture and planning. The town is located in the delta of the Abra River, off the coastal plain of the China Sea, close to the north-east tip of the island of Luzon. The present-day municipality is divided into nine urban districts and thirty rural villages. Almost half the total area is still in use for agriculture. The Historic Core Zone is defined on two sides by the Govantes and Mestizo rivers.

Baroque Churches of the Philippines

These four churches, the first of which was built by the Spanish in the late 16th century, are located in Manila, Santa Maria, Paoay and Miag-ao. Their unique architectural style is a reinterpretation of European Baroque by Chinese and Philippine craftsmen.

San Agustin Church in Manila

The Church of the Immaculate Conception of San Agustín was the first church built on the island of Luzon in 1571, immediately after the Spanish conquest of Manila. A site within the district of Intramuros was assigned to the Augustinian Order, the first to evangelize in the Philippines. In 1587 the impermanent earliest building in wood and palm fronds was replaced by a stone church and monastery in stone, the latter becoming the Augustinian mother house in the Philippines. It was the only structure in Intramuros to survive the liberation of Manila in 1945. Miag-ao became an independent parish in 1731, when a simple church and convento were built. However, destruction of the town by Muslim pirates in 1741 and 1754 led to the town being rebuilt in a more secure location. The new church, constructed in 1787–97, was built as a fortress, to withstand further incursions. It was, however, damaged severely by fire during the revolution against Spain in 1898 and in the Second World War. Two bell towers were added in 1854, but the northern one cracked in the 1880 earthquake and had to be demolished. In the interior of the church the wall paintings date from the 19th century, but they overlie the original tempera murals. As a result, the church was richly endowed, with a fine retablo, pulpit, lectern and choir-stalls. Of special interest is the series of crypto-collateral chapels lining both sides of the nave. The walls separating them act as buttresses. The stone barrel vault, dome, and arched vestibule are all unique in the Philippines. A monastery complex was formerly linked to the church by a series of cloisters, arcades, courtyards and gardens, but all except one building were destroyed in 1945.

Paoay Church in Ilocos Norte

The Church of San Agustín at Paoay is the most outstanding example in the Philippines of ‘Earthquake Baroque’. Fourteen buttresses are ranged along the lines of a giant volute supporting a smaller one and surmounted by pyramidal finials. A pair of buttresses at the midpoint of each nave wall have stairways for access to the roof. The lower part of the apse and most of the walls are constructed of coral stone blocks, the upper levels being finished in brick, but this order is reversed on the façade. The massive coral stone bell tower, which was added half a century after the church was completed, stands at some distance from the church, again as a protection against damage during earthquakes.

Santa Maria Church in Ilocos Sur

Unlike other town churches in the Philippines, which conform to the Spanish tradition of sitting them on the central plaza, the Church of Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion in Santa Maria with its convento are on a hill surrounded by a defensive wall. Also unusual are the sitting of the convento parallel to the façade of the church and that of the separate bell tower (characteristic of Philippine-Hispanic architecture) at the midpoint of the nave wall. This was dictated by the hill on which it is located. The brick church follows the standard Philippine layout, with a monumental façade masking a straight roof-line covering a long rectangular building. It is alleged to be built on a solid raft as a precaution against earthquake damage. The walls are devoid of ornament but have delicately carved side entrances and strong buttresses.

Miag-ao Church in Iloilo

The Church of Santo Tomas de Villanueva stands on the highest point of Miagao, its towers serving as lookouts against Muslim raids. It is the finest surviving example of ‘Fortress Baroque’. The sumptuous façade epitomizes the Filipino transfiguration of western decorative elements, with the figure of Saint Christopher on the pediment dressed in native clothes, carrying the Christ Child on his back, and holding on to a coconut palm for support. The entire riotously decorated façade is flanked by massive tapering bell towers of unequal heights.

Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park, Puerto Princesa, Palawan

Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park lies in a unique position in the center of the Sulu Sea, and includes the Tubbataha and Jessie Beazley Reefs. It protects an area of almost 100,000 hectares of high quality marine habitats containing three atolls and a large area of deep sea. The property is home to a great diversity of marine life. Whales, dolphins, sharks, turtles and Napoleon wrasse are amongst the key species found here. The reef ecosystems support over 350 species of coral and almost 500 species of fish. The reserve also protects one of the few remaining colonies of breeding seabirds in the region.

Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, Palawan

Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park encompasses one of the world’s most impressive cave systems, featuring spectacular limestone karst landscapes, pristine natural beauty, and intact old-growth forests and distinctive wildlife. It is located in the south-western part of the Philippine Archipelago on the mid-western coast of Palawan, approximately 76 kilometers northwest of Puerto Princesa and 360 kilometers southwest of Manila. The property, comprising an area of approximately 22,202 hectares, contains an 8.2 kilometers long underground river. The highlight of this subterranean river system is that it flows directly into the sea, with its brackish lower half subjected to tidal influence, distinguishing it as a significant natural global phenomenon. The river’s cavern presents remarkable, eye catching rock formations. The property contains a full mountain-to- sea ecosystem which provides significant habitat for biodiversity conservation and protects the most intact and noteworthy forests within the Palawan biogeographic province. Holding the distinction of being the first national park devolved and successfully managed by a local government unit, the park’s effective management system is a symbol of commitment by the Filipino people to the protection and conservation of their natural heritage.

Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary, Davao Oriental

Forming a north-south running mountain ridge along the Pujada Peninsula in the southeastern part of the Eastern Mindanao Biodiversity Corridor, the Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary has an elevation range of 75-1,637 meters above sea level, and provides critical habitat for a range of plant and animal species. The property showcases terrestrial and aquatic habitats and the species that they host at a series of different elevations are responding to highly dissimilar soil and climate conditions. The Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary provides a sanctuary to a host of globally threatened and endemic flora and fauna species, eight of which are found nowhere else except Mount Hamiguitan. These include critically endangered trees, plants and the Philippine Cockatoo and the iconic Philippine Eagle.

Apo Reef Natural Park

Apo Reef is the second largest contiguous coral reef in the world and the largest in the Philippines. Apo Reef Natural Park consists of the three islands. Apo Reef is the largest among the three islands. It has a shallow lagoon with a depth of 2 meters to 10 meters surrounded by a mangrove forest, which serves as source of food, nursery and spawning ground of several coastal and marine species, and a sanctuary of birds. Its diverse corals are approximately 34 square kilometers (13 square miles) of reef where different species of fish, marine mammals and invertebrates thrive. Apo Reef, the largest atoll-like reef in the Philippines, is a platform that is submerged 34 square kilometers (13 square miles) with sub triangular northern and southern atoll-like reefs separated by a 30-meter (98 feet) deep channel that is open to the west. The channel runs east to west from 1.8 meters to 30 meters deep with a fine white sand bottom, numerous mounds and patches of branching corals under the deep blue water.

Batanes Protected landscapes and seascapes

Characterized by a complex of terrestrial, wetland and marine ecosystem, the Batanes group of islands consist of 10 small islands bounded by the Bashi Channel in the north, the Philippine Sea in the east, the South China Sea in the west and the Balintang Channel in the south. It is one of the last remaining areas in the Philippines having unique natural physiographic features (wave-cut cliffs, cave-like outcrops, secluded white sand beaches) resulting from its position where strong winds and fast currents have etched out its distinct morphology. It is an important flyaway for many migratory bird species, and the deeper portions of the marine environment are the few remaining sites where pink and red corals are found.

Butuan Archeological Sites

In 1975, as a result of the construction of an extensive network of large drainage channels, or esteros, to relieve Butuan City from destructive annual floods, significant amounts of archaeological artifacts were discovered that dated back to the Age of Contact with the great traditions of Asia, not unlike with the Yueh type wares to Ming Dynasties of ancient China from the 10th to the 16th Century AD. The major finds in various areas is the appearance of the remains of large open-water- going boats, the “balanghai” of historical records. The same type of boats and construction has been recovered in Sumatra and Pontian in Malaysia, apparently of the same period. There are eleven of these boats: three were fully excavated, two preserved, and the rest still unexcavated. The boats are of Neolithic architecture using a planking edge-peg technology. They range in age from the 10th to the 13th century AD.

Chocolate Hills Natural Monument

Chocolate Hills and its immediate environs are relatively flat to rolling topography with elevation ranges from 100 meters to 500 meters above sea level. It was declared the country’s 3rd National Geological Monument on June 18, 1988 in recognition of its scientific value and geomorphic uniqueness. Similar to the formations found in Java, the conical, almost symmetrical and same-sized hills known as the “Chocolate Hills” are more aesthetically extensive. These were the uplift of coral deposits and the result of the action of rainwater and erosion. The hills are located throughout the towns of Carmen, Batuan and Sagbayan and consist of about 1,776 mounds of the same general shape. During the dry season when precipitation is inadequate, the grass-covered hills turn chocolate brown, hence the name.

Coron Island Natural Biotic Area

Coron Island is roughly equidistant from Manila and Puerto Princesa City. The island has a rugged topography, generally mountainous and its terrain marked by steep rock and ravines. Almost 70% of the area made up of rocky cliffs, 25% rolling hills and 5% relatively flat. Out of the total area, approximately 18% is occupied by the Tagbanwa as residential and agricultural lands, as rock formations almost dominate the entire area. Large area is composed of karst formations where swiftlets dwell and build their nests. There are vertical limestone cliffs that reach up to 600 meters (2,000 feet) above sea level and eight brackish lakes and three smaller ones that have underground connections to the sea. Coron Island comprises two barangays, Banuang Daan and Cabugao, all of them belong to Indigenous Cultural Communities.

El Nido-Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area

The El Nido-Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area is located on the north-western tip of the mainland of Palawan. In 1991, the Government of the Philippines proclaimed Bacuit Bay as a marine reserve. In 1998, the protected area was expanded to include terrestrial ecosystems and portions of the municipality of Taytay. It is now known as El Nido-Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area, which covers over 36,000 hectares (89,000 acres) of land and 54,000 hectares (130,000 acres) of marine waters. It contains towering limestone cliffs, beaches, mangroves, clear waters, unique forests over limestone and neat farmlands. It is home to five species of mammals, including the Malayan pangolin and 16 bird species endemic to Palawan, including the threatened peacock-pheasant, the hornbill and scops owl.

Kabayan Mummy Burial Caves

Kabayan is one of the municipalities of Benguet Province in the Cordillera Mountain Range of northern Luzon. The municipality is recognized as a center of Ibaloi Culture. The Ibaloi, the dominant ethno-linguistic group of Kabayan, have a long traditional practice of mummifying their dead. Mummification began prior to Spanish colonization. Individuals from higher social strata among the Ibaloi of Kabayan used to be mummified through a long ritual process over a long period of time. The process of mummification using salt and herbs and set under fire may take up to two years. When the body is finally rid of body fluids, the mummy is placed inside a pinewood coffin and laid to rest in a man-made cave or in niches dug-out from solid rock.

Mayon Volcano Natural Park

The Mayon Volcano is situated in the southern part of the main island of Luzon, 500 kilometers (310 miles) south of Manila. Towering at a height of 2,462 meters (8,077 feet) above sea level, it is known for its perfectly conical shape whose natural beauty has inspired myth, legends and art. The most active volcano in the Philippines and one of the most active in the world, having erupted over 51 times in the past four centuries, the most destructive of which was in 1814 when five towns in its periphery were destroyed. Nevertheless, it has developed a culture of resiliency among the inhabitants of its vicinity, who always rebuilt their towns and cultivated their fields after each destructive eruption.

Mounts Iglit-Baco National Park

The Mts. Iglit-Baco National Park (MIBNP) was proclaimed a national park through Republic Act No. 6148 on Nov. 11, 1970. It encompasses at least eight major river systems and has a rugged terrain composed of slopes, river gorges and plateaus. Portions of the Park are covered by upland hardwoods, such as Anthocephalus chinensis, Artocarpus blancoi, Ficus nota, Hawili, Alibangbang and Balinghasai. The larger plants indigenous to the site which are rarely seen in some other regions are Kalantas tree, Tindalo, Almaciga and Kamagong. The Park also harbors the endangered Jade vine (Strongylodon macrobotrys). It is the habitat of the endemic Tamaraw (Bubalus mindorensis), which is one of the most seriously endangered large mammals in the Philippines. Because of the endangered Tamaraw, it was initially established as a “game refuge and bird sanctuary.” It has since been declared an ASEAN Heritage site.

Mount Malindang Range Natural Park

Mt. Malindang is a mountain range rising from 600 meters (2,000 feet) to 2,404 meters (7,887 feet) above the mean sea level. The range covers 53,262 hectares (131,610 acres), of which about 33,000 hectares (82,000 acres), is still covered with forest vegetation, while more than 20,000 hectares (49,000 acres) is cultivated and inhabited by forest occupants, mostly members of the Subanen Tribe. The forest vegetation is composed of highly diverse species and plants dominated by dipterocarps. It is inhabited by diverse species of fauna including the Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi), Rufous Hornbill (Buceros hydrocorax), Tarsier (Tarsius philippinensis) and Flying Lemur (Cynocephalus volans). The mountain range was believed to have been formed through a series of volcanic activities. Several indicators of such activities are found in the site. These include six hectares of Crater Lake (Lake Duminagat) and two big sunken areas (more than 20 hectares or 49 acres each) surrounded by high rock walls, cinder cones, dome volcanic plugs, amphitheater structures, extensive distribution of volcanic rocks, carbonized wood found in pyroclastic deposits, and two sulfuric hot springs.

Mount Mantalingajan Protected Landscape

Nestled in the southern part of the Palawan Man and Biosphere Reserve is the Mt. Mantalingahan Protected Landscape (MMPL), a protected area through Presidential Proclamation 1815 signed on June 23, 2009. It covers a total area of 120,457 hectares (297,660 acres) within the territorial jurisdiction of the municipalities of Bataraza, Brooke’s Point, Quezon, Rizal, and Sofronio Española. The peak of Mt. Mantalingahan towers at 2,085 meters (6,841 feet) above sea level. It is the highest peak in the province, and is considered to be sacred by the indigenous Palawan people.

Mount Pulag National Park

Mt. Pulag National Park lies on the north and south spine of the Grand Cordillera Central that stretches from Pasaleng, Ilocos Norte to the Cordillera Provinces. It falls within the administrative jurisdiction of two Regions: Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) and Cagayan Valley (R2). The whole park is located within the Philippine Cordillera Mountain Range and is very rugged, characterized by steep to very steep slopes at the mountainsides and generally rolling areas at the mountain peak. Mt. Pulag is the highest peak in Luzon and is the second highest mountain in the Philippines with an elevation of 2,922 meters (9,587 feet) above sea level. The summit of Mt. Pulag is covered by grass and dwarf bamboo plants.

Neolithic Shell Midden Sites in Lal-lo and Gattaran Municipalities

Neolithic shell midden sites are located along the banks of the Cagayan River in the municipalities of Lal-lo and Gattaran, about 500 kilometers (310 miles) northeast of Manila. The shell middens are in varying sizes and extent; and made up mostly of one type of freshwater clam, the Batissa children. The biggest deposits of shells are found in Magapit and Bangag in Lal-lo. The thickest is more than 6 feet (1.8 miles). Associated with these shell middens are polished stone tools, chert flakes, bones and teeth, and red slipped earthenware with incised and impressed designs. Most of the stone tools are ground, polished with a trapezoidal cross-section; and made of sandstone, claystone and shale. In Magapit, Lal-lo, the shell middens are centrally or strategically located on top of the highest hill, panoramic views downstream in the north and upstream in the south can be seen. In some areas, burial grounds are found associated with earthenware in varying forms and designs. Carbon dating indicates first and second millennium BC activity for limestone shell midden and circa 100 AD for the river banks shell midden.

Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park and outlying areas inclusive of the buffer zone

The Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park (NSMNP) is within the Sierra Madre Biogeographic Zone (SMBGZ), which lies along the eastern side of Central Luzon. The Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park (NSMNP) is one of the ten priority protected areas in the country, and is considered to be one of the most important protected areas in the Philippines. It is one of the richest in terms of genetic, species and habitat diversity. The importance of the park is underscored by the wide range of rare and endangered flora and fauna it supports. These include the Philippine eagle (Pithecophaga jefferyi), giant golden-crowned flying fox (Acerodon jubatus), Philippine eagle-owl (Bubo philippensis), Isabela oriole (Oriolus isabellae), green sea turtle (Chelonia mydas), Loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta), Hawksbill turtle (Erethmochelys imbricata), Philippine crocodile (Crocodylus mindorensis) and dugong (Dugong dugon).

Paleolithic Archaeological Sites in Cagayan Valley

  • Awidon Mesa Formation Paleolithic Sites of Solana in Cagayan Province
  • Callao Limestone Formation Paleolithic Sites of Peñablanca in Cagayan Province 

Paleolithic sites are located within the Cagayan Valley Basin, which is bordered by the Sierra Mountain range in the East; the Caraballo in the South; the Cordillera Central in the west; and the Babuyan Channel in the north. It is found in the municipalities of Solana and Peñablanca. Archaeological excavations undertaken in Solana and other vicinities resulted in the discovery of more than 68 Paleolithic sites in the Awidon Mesa formation. These sites yielded stone tools and fossils of extinct animals that include stegodons, elephants, rhinoceroses, and large tortoises. The sites tended to confirm previous reports by prominent paleontologists and archaeologists from Europe that both Pleistocene mega-fauna fossils and chopper-chopping stone tools were present in the valley, suggesting a mid-Pleistocene date for tool technology.

Petroglyphs and Petrographs of the Philippines

  • Angono Petroglyphs of Rizal
  • Alab Petroglyphs of Mountain Province
  • Penablanca Petrographs of Cagayan Province
  • Singnapan Caves Petrographs of Southern Palawan
  • Anda Peninsula Petrographs of Eastern Bohol

These petroglyphs are of animate figures interpreted as representing infants and children on a rock face in a rock shelter. The shelter is in the southeastern part of the city of Manila, three kilometers from the town of Angono, and some 235 meters above sea level. The shelter is 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 era and early part of the Holocene era, at a period when the quaternary alluvium was not yet extensive.

The petroglyphs occupy 25 meters of the rockwall with a height of 3.7 meters from the floor level. 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 51 distinct types of incisions. The engravings are not decorative but are symbolic representations, executed by different individuals using a single mental template, associated with healing and 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 BC to 2000 BC. 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 BC or even later. The Petrographs are of two kinds: a) charcoal drawings on cave walls in Peñablanca, 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. Petroglyphs are more rare in Southeast Asia where most rupestrine art is done through hand prints or paintings. Often petroglyphs are translated into petrographs, e.g., the Angono ones are found drawn with charcoal. The petrographs in terms of handprints are very rare in the Philippines compared to those found in Sarawak, Sulawesi, Java, Pontian Malaysia, and the very extensive red hematite rock art found in the banks of the Mekong River between Thailand and Cambodia. Other major rupestrine art are found in the Pacific World done by Polynesians, Australia, Spain and France. All these New and Old World sites are well-documented.

The Tabon Cave Complex and all of Lipuun

The Tabon Cave Complex and all of Lipuun Point is located on the west coast of Palawan. It is located on a limestone promontory, which is visible from any direction for many kilometers and honeycombed with at least 200 caves and rock shelters. This point is called Lipuun by the local people but marked “Abion Head” on charts made from British surveys in 1851. The point is about 104 hectares (260 acres) in area and is formed by a number of rounded limestone domes separated by deep chasms. The 200 caves located in the limestone formation are collectively known as the “Tabon Caves,” after the main cave, called “Tabon”, so named after a megapode bird that digs its nest into the ground. This was the site to first establish the presence of humans in the Philippines during the Pleistocene. The different cave sites document through a corpus of C-14 dates a virtually continuous occupation between at least 50,000 years ago and ca. 9,000 BP, which have been widely cited (Bellwood 1997, Bulbeck 1981, Galipaud and Semah 1993) because the Tabon Cave is one of the very few sites in Southeast Asia to have yielded Pleistocene fossil Homo sapiens. The data provide new chronological data on the questions of Pleistocene Homo sapiens settlement on the margins of Sundaland.

Turtle Islands Wildlife Sanctuary

Turtle Islands is part of the Sulu Archipelago, which comprises approximately 400 islands of varying shapes and sizes. It is located at the southwestern tip of the Philippines, about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) southwest of Manila. The Protected Area is situated between coordinates 4° 30′ and 5° 20′ north latitude and 199° 25′ and 121° 52′ east longitude. In the west and north, it is bounded by the Sulu and Mindanao Seas, and in the east and south, by the Celebes Sea. The group of islands includes Boan, Lihiman, Langaan, Great Bakkungan, Taganak, and Baguan. It has a total aggregate area of 241,495.92 hectares (596,749.4 acres), of which 298.27 hectares (737.0 acres) correspond to the land portions of the sanctuary. The smallest island, Langaan, measures about 7 hectares (17 acres), while the largest, Taganak Island, is about 124 hectares (310 acres). Generally, the TIWS topography ranges from flat, low hills, and plateau, to features reaching as high as 150 meters (490 feet) above sea level.

Intangible Cultural Heritage

PH NatCom also supports the 2003 Convention on the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) — a mainspring of cultural diversity and a guarantee of sustainable development.

To date, the Philippines has inscribed the following elements in the UNESCO Representative List of the ICH of Humanity:

  • Hudhud chants of the Ifugao;
  • Darangen epic of the Maranao people of Lake Lanao; and
  • Tugging rituals and games (shared with South Korea, Viet Nam, and Cambodia).