World Heritage sites

The World Heritage Convention defines types of natural, cultural or mixed properties that may be inscribed on the World Heritage List. The Philippines has five properties – some natural and some cultural – that have made it on this international list.

Rice Terraces of the Cordilleras

For over 2,000 years the high rice fields of the Ifugao have followed the contours of the mountains. These hand-carved terraces still survive in varying states of conservation and are spread over 20,000sq kilometres of land. The sites are found in altitudes varying from 700 to 1,500 metres above sea level and are a testament to the tenacity of the Ifugao people who shaped the mountains so they could grow rice.

Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park

The country’s first addition into the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1993 was the Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park in Palawan. This marine park includes a north and south reef which are unique examples of atoll reefs with a high density of marine species. The north islet serves as a nesting site for birds and marine turtles. The site is an excellent example of a pristine coral reef with a spectacular 100-metre perpendicular wall, extensive lagoons and two coral islands.

Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park

This park features a spectacular limestone landscape with an underground river. One of the river’s distinguishing features is that it emerges directly into the sea, and its lower portion is subject to tidal influences. The area also represents a significant habitat for biodiversity conservation. The site contains a full “mountain to sea” ecosystem and has some of the most important forests in Asia.

Historic town of Vigan

Established in the 16th century, the town of Vigan in Ilocos Sur is the best preserved example of a planned Spanish colonial town in Asia. Its architecture reflects the coming together of cultural elements from the Philippines, China and Europe, resulting in culture and townscape that has no parallel anywhere in Asia.

Baroque Churches of the Philippines

There are four Baroque churches in the Philippines that have been included into the World Heritage list:

  • San Agustin Church in Paoay: Built in 1604, the church is considered to be one of the most outstanding variants of a Baroque structure built to withstand earthquakes.
  • Nuestra Senora De La Asunción Church: With its monumental façade and thick side walls, this church is most unique because it sits atop a freestanding and is encircled with a stone retaining wall – giving it a unique citadel appearance.
  • Santo Tomas De Villanueva Church: This church is a wonderful example of the Philippine interpretation of a Western architecture style.
  • San Agustin Church: The nerve of 350 years of Spanish rules was the Intramuros and this church is located within this historical site. Considered to be one of the best examples of an urban church complex, this church also serves as a repository of the most important works of Philippine religious art and literature during the period.
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