Tourism in the Philippines
Tourism plays an important role in Philippine economy. Philippine tourism started to flourish in 1970's up to 1980’s, but in the mid 1980’s, the growth of Philippine tourism started to slow down. Signs of a faster growth showed up in the early 1990's. In 2000, the Philippines’ tourist arrivals totaled 2.2 million. In the period of January to September 2009 alone, the government recorded 5.2 million tourists visiting the country.
The Philippine calendar overflows with festivals the whole year round. Participating in these festivals provide tourists a better understanding of Filipino culture – modern, traditional, religious and mythical - and its roots.
The Ati-Atihan Festival celebrated every January in Aklan is considered as the “Mother of all Philippine Festivals.” The people paint their faces and body with black soot and wear bright costumes as they dance to the rhythm of drums. Other versions of the festival are held in various parts of the country like the Sinulog Festivals of Cebu and Kabankalan as well as the Dinagyang Festival of Iloilo also celebrated every January.
The Moriones Festival is an annual festival held every Holy Week in the island of Marinduque. The “Moriones” are men and women in costumes and masks imitating Roman soldiers. Other festivals in the country are the Pahiyas Festival of Lucban, Quezon celebrated every month of May; Flores de Mayo held in the month of May; Pagoda-Sa-Wawa Festival of Bocaue in Bulacan Province; Masskara Festival of Bacolod City and the Panagbenga Festival of Baguio City.
The Philippines is also home to famous tourist spots. The Chocolate Hills are found in the island province of Bohol, which is also the home of one of the smallest primates in the world – the Philippine Tarsier. The Hanging Coffins of Sagada and the Banaue Rice Terraces are worth a visit in the Northern Philippines. Taal Volcano, one of the smallest active volcanoes in the world, sits on a lake and is just an hour away from Manila. Mt. Apo, the highest mountain in the country, is one of the most popular climbing destinations. The Hundred Islands, also located in the Northern Philippines, is a group of more than 400 islets with coral reefs surrounding the islets.
Palawan Island is home to the spectacular Tubbataha Reef and the breathtaking Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park; both are UNESCO World Heritage sites. Boracay Island is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. The island boasts a 4-kilometer stretch of white sand beach, considered to be the best beach in Asia and one of the top ten beaches in the world. Other destinations in the country are the dive sites in Anilao, Siargao, Apo Island, Balicasag, La Union and Zambales.
Shopping is one of the things tourists love about the Philippines. Three of the biggest shopping malls in the world, SM Mall of Asia, SM Megamall, SM City North EDSA, are all located in the Philippines. Prices of the goods in Philippine bargains are comparable to those in Thailand and China.