Beyond the Usual Asia

The country’s renowned attractions like the powdery white sands of Boracay, the diving sites of Coron in Palawan, the adventure paradise of Siargao, and the variety of other experiences are comparable, if not better, than what the rest of the world has to offer. But what is it about the Philippines that really makes it a “must visit” for travelers?

Little known facts about the Philippines

Here are some interesting “beyond the usual” trivia, as lifted from the Philippine Department of Tourism’s travel sales manual, that even Filipino migrants in America and Canada might not be aware of.

The largest fish in the world, the Whale Shark, regularly swims to Philippine waters. Donsol, a fishing town in Sorsogon province, serves as a sanctuary to a group of 40 whale sharks (Rhincodon typus), which are considered as the largest fish in the world, measuring between 18 to 35 feet in length and weighing about 20 tons. Locally known as “butanding“, whale sharks visit the waters of Donsol from November to May. They travel across the oceans but nowhere else have they been sighted in a larger group than in the waters of Sorsogon.

The world’s longest underground river system accessible to man can be found at the St. Paul National Parkin the province of Palawan. It is 8 kilometers long.

The biggest game preserve and wildlife sanctuary in the Philippines is located on Calauit Island in Palawan, which has the largest land area among the Philippine provinces.

The world’s shortest and lightest freshwater fish is the dwarf pygmy goby (Pandaka Pygmaea), a colorless and nearly transparent species found in the streams and lakes of Luzon. Males have an average length of 8.7 mm. and weigh 4-5 mg.

There are 12,000 or so species of seashells in the Philippines. The Conus Gloriamaris or “Glory of the Sea” is the rarest and most expensive in the world.

Of the 500 known coral species in the world, 488 are found in the Philippines.

Of the eight species of marine turtles worldwide, five are reported to be found in the Philippines: the Green Turtle, Hawkbill, Leatherback, Olive Ridley, and Loggerhead.

Of the eight known species of giant clams in the world, seven are found in the Philippines.

The world’s largest pearl was discovered by a Filipino diver in a giant Tridacna (mollusk) under the Palawan Sea in 1934. Known as the “Pearl of Lao-Tzu”, the gem weighs 14 pounds and measures 9 1/2 inches long and 5 1/2 inches in diameter. As of May 1984, it was valued at US$42 million. It is believed to be 600 years old.

The world’s second deepest spot underwater is in the Philippines. This spot,  known as the Philippine Deep or the Mindanao Trench, is about 10,497meters or 34,440 feet below sea level. The Philippine Deep is in the floor of the Philippine Sea. The German ship Emden first plumbed the trench in 1927.

Both Tridacna gigas, one of the world’s largest shells, and Pisidum, the world’s tiniest shell, can be found under Philippine waters. Tridacna gigas grows as large as one meter in length and weighs 600 pounds whilePisidum is less than 1 millimeter long.

Lake Lanao is the second largest lake in the Philippines, probably the deepest in the country and is considered one of the major tropical lakes in Southeastern Asia. The lake is home to the endemic cryprinids, the species found only in the lake and nowhere else in the world.

Calbiga Cave – The Philippines’ biggest karst formations and one of the largest in Asia, the 2,968-hectare cave system is composed of 12 caves with wide underground spaces, unique rock formations and subterranean watercourse.

The Cagayan River or Rio Grande de Cagayan is the Philippines’ mightiest watercourse – the longest and widest river in the country. Small streams originating from Balete Pass, Cordillera, Caraballo and Sierra Madre Mountains meet other streams and rivers and flow to the Cagayan River.

The Philippines is home to some of the world’s most exotic birds.

One of the most endangered species is the exotic Kalangay or the Philippine cockatoo (Cacatuahaematuropygia), which belongs to Psittacidae or the family of parrots. Some cockatoos can live up to 50 years. They are known for mimicking human voices. Most of them measure 33 centimeters in length and weigh 0.29 kilogram.

Palawan bearcat is neither a bear nor a cat. Known in Southeast Asia as binturong, the bearcat is a species of its own, with population in the forests of Palawan, Borneo, Burma and Vietnam. It belongs to the family ofViverridae (civets). The Palawan bearcat has a long body and a pointed face leading to the nose. Its head and body measure 61 to 96 centimeters in combined length while its tail is almost as long. It weighs 9 to 14 kilograms and lives up to 20 years.

Calamian Islands, north of Palawan province, keep a species of deer that cannot be found elsewhere.Scientists referred to the hog deer in the islands as Calamian deer in order to distinguish them from other hog deer in the world. An ordinary Calamian deer measures 105 to 115 centimeters in length and 60 to 65 centimeters high at the shoulder and weighs about 36 to 50 kilograms. It is said to have longer and darker legs, compared with other hog deer.

The Philippine mouse deer, the world’s smallest hoofed mammal, is found only in the Balabac Islands, south of Palawan. Locally known as Pilandok (Tragalus nigricans), this ruminant stands only about 40 centimeters at the shoulder level.

Flying Lemur, one of the most distinct creatures on Earth lives in the Philippines. It doesn’t have wings but it can glide across 100 meters of space in a single leap. Like the lemurs of Asia, it moves around at night. Its head resembles that of a dog while its body has similarities with the flying squirrel of Canada. In Mindanao, people call it “kagwang“. Around the world, it is known as colugo or the flying lemur.

The Philippine Eagle is the second largest bird on the planet (next only to the American Condor).

Angono Petroglyphs – This cultural heritage site dates back to circa 3000 B.C. and is the most ancient Filipino, or more aptly, prehistoric Filipino work of art. Besides being the country’s oldest “work of art” it also offers an evocative glimpse into the life of our ancestors. The site has been included in the World Inventory of Rock Art under the auspices of UNESCO, ICCROM and ICOMOS and nominated as one of the “100 Most Endangered Sites of the World.”

Camiguin province holds the distinction of having the most number of volcanoes per square kilometer than any other island on earth. It is also the only place in the Philippines which has more volcanoes (7) than towns (5).

Magapit Suspension Bridge is the first of its kind in Asia. It spans the Cagayan River at Lallo and is 0.76 kilometers long. The hanging bridge links the first and second districts of Cagayan going towards the Ilocos Region via the scenic Patapat Road on the Ilocos Norte-Cagayan Inter-Provincial national highway.

The Basilica of San Sebastian is the only steel church in Asia and was the second building to be made out of steel, next to the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

The largest bell in Asia hangs at the belfry of the 221-year old Panay Church. It is 7 feet in diameter and 7 feet in height, and weighs 10.4 tons. Its tolling can be heard as far as 8 km. away. It was casted from 70 sacks of coins donated by the townspeople as a manifestation of faith and thanksgiving.

At the Immaculate Conception Cathedral can be found the only existing pipe organ in Mindanao. The second largest pipe organ in the Philippines, the huge instrument took 2 years to built and was brought over by sea from Germany in 23 crates.

Lipa City in Batangas is dubbed as the “Rome of the Philippines” because of the number of seminaries, convents, monasteries, retreat houses, and a famous cathedral located in it.

Basilica of St. Martin de Tours in Taal, Batangas built by Augustinian Missionaries in 1572, is reputed to be thebiggest catholic church in East Asia. It is so huge that it can house another big church.

Filipinos celebrate the world’s longest religious holiday. The Christmas season begins on September 1st, as chillier winds and Christmas carols start filling the air, and ends on the first week of January, during the Feast of the Three Kings.

Paskuhan Village in the province of Pampanga is Asia’s only Christmas theme park and the third of its kind in the world.

A smiling and caring people

Even if we still add on to this long list of reasons for tourists to visit the Philippines … nothing would be more compelling and worthwhile than to meet our people of 90 million smiling and caring Filipinos and be pampered by our homegrown hospitality right in our own backyard.

In a world that has become one small global village yet separated by indifference and self-centeredness, people from highly developed countries that live the rat race on a daily basis discover the smiles and affection of our kind and compassionate people refreshing and infectious.

Follow your heart and visit the Philippines. Be touched and rejuvenated by our beyond the usual warmth and share it with your loved ones back home.

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