5 Cultural Spots Near Metro Manila
Contrary to initial belief, the Philippines is a country abounding with culture and heritage that is often overlooked in favor of our South East Asian neighbors. Thanks to the resurgence of conservation groups and the various programs of the Department of Tourism, culture trips are quickly gaining traction in attracting travelers. Near Metro Manila alone, one can list down a variety of landmarks and destinations featuring and preserving our rich set of culture and traditions. For those looking to bring their balikbayan relatives and friends to a place that best epitomizes the Philippines’ character, check out this partial list of must-see cultural laden places near Metro Manila.
1. Villa Escudero (Quezon)
Heaps of national treasure can be found inside the Villa Escudero Museum. Photo courtesy of Marky Ramone Go
A favorite among balikbayans particularly because of the food and the dining vibe by the famous ‘waterfalls’, Villa Escudero, unbeknownst to many, has a vast collection of cultural and historical trove housed in the Villa Escudero museum. The Escudero family’s collection are a sure-fire source of abundant knowledge about our country’s colorful history. Not only that, Villa Escudero regularly presents cultural shows showcasing traditional dances from all over the country.
2. Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar (Bataan)
Pretty architectural sights at every turn. Photo courtesy of Nomadic Experiences
Located in a scenic seaside in Bagac, Bataan – Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar covers a large property that is built like a visual time travel machine to the past. Composed of ancestral houses rebuilt from original materials collected from various locations in the country. While it remains as a controversial topic among heritage conservationists, one can’t deny the fact that it beautifully presents the old charming vibe of the Philippines – through the many restored 17th-19th century Spanish inspired houses.
Globetrotting travel writer Karla Ramos describes her experience visiting Las Casas: “Back in the day I used to be able to ride a Kalesa from outside my gate in Ilocos. Now, I can no longer do that. A lot has changed in the Philippines especially in terms of architecture. Everything seems to be more modern. Every now and then it would be nice to visit places that remind us of our heritage. That’s exactly what I got from visiting Las Casas de Acuzar. I love riding the Kalesa while witnessing all the pretty historical houses, each, having their own history and purpose. I would actually love to get the chance to stay in one of those. It’s amazing to see the intricate decors and the style that influenced the architecture of our ancestors. Filipinos have always been rich in design and in culture. It’s good to remind ourselves of that. We have a lot to be proud of.”
3. Nayong Pilipino (Clark, Pampanga)
Some of the cultural performers at Nayong Pilipino. Photo courtesy of Wolverine
Heritage, arts, history and even replicas of famous landmarks in the country, proliferates inside Nayong Pilipino – thus making this a one-stop destination for anybody wanting to reintegrate themselves with Filipino culture. This five hectare lush property houses various representation of Philippine arts and culture through mockups of a Spanish-era church, traditional houses and even the famed rice terraces of Banaue. An entertaining cultural show featuring folk dancers and singers adorned in colorful traditional costumes are held daily.
4. Taal Town (Batangas)
Beautiful houses with visually enticing interiors are aplenty in Taal Town. Photo courtesy of Nomadic Experiences
The rustic Taal town in Batangas takes you back in time by letting you peek inside some of the century-old houses in the area. There’s quite a few Spanish era residences open for visitors such as; the Don Leon Apacible house, Doña Gliceria Marella Villavicencio Residence, the Agoncillo Mansion, Doña Marcela Marino Agoncillo and Casa Punzalan. Nearby, one can also visit the Shrine of the Virgin Caysasay and the Taal Basilica or otherwise known as Basilica de San Martin. The interiors of these old houses were already redecorated, repainted and reworked to improve its conditions which have taken a beating in its more than a hundred years of existence. However, amidst all these improvements done in its restoration – one can still appreciate the unique appeal of its colonial architecture, the brick walls and floors, colorful tiles and antique furniture such as chandeliers, lamps, bedpost, accessories and many more.
5. Angono Artist Village (Rizal)
National Artist Carlos “Botong” Francisco’s “Pageant of Commerce”. Photo Courtesy of Celineism
Angono’s resident poet and artist Celine Reyes validates the worthiness of her hometown, when it comes to cultural and art immersion trips. “While its neighbors boast hiking trails and scenic views, Angono’s strength lies in its character. Steeped in art and creativity, the town’s thoroughfares double as galleries. There is art basically everywhere you look. Art enthusiasts would surely enjoy a visit to this lakeside town.”