Photograph by Harel Gur, My Shot
A tropical archipelago of more than 7,000 islands splashed between China and Indonesia, the Philippines is known as one of the world’s 25 biodiversity hot spots, hosting endemic plants and animals and coral reefs teeming with life. With a history of colonization by Spain and the United States, the heavily Roman Catholic nation has retained a unique blend of cultures and traditions.
On Cebu Island, bright colors and ritual dances distinguish the popular Sinulog festival, a celebration of the child Jesus, patron of Cebu City.
Photograph by Per-Andre Hoffmann, Aurora
Glassy water and coral reefs surround Palawan, the westernmost province of the Philippine Islands. Called one of the last unspoiled frontiers in the nation, Palawan shelters a multitude of endangered endemic animals, including the glorious Palawan peacock pheasant.
Calle Crisologo, Vigan
Photograph by Laurie Noble/Getty Images
Streetlamps illuminate historic Calle Crisologo in the 16th-century town of Vigan. Located in the province of Ilocos Sur, Vigan’s well-preserved mix of Spanish colonial planning and Asian architectural influences earned it a spot on UNESCO’s World Heritage list in 1999.
Banaue Rice Terraces
Photograph by Jerry Alexander, Getty Images
Productive for centuries, the irrigated rice terraces of Banaue are still harvested by hand. The Banaue terraces are part of the rice terraces of the Philippine cordilleras, some 2,000 to 6,000 years old and listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Christmas Tree Worms
Photograph by Craig Starger, My Shot
More than 500 coral species and 34 kinds of endemic fish—not to mention this Christmas tree worm—thrive on pristine Philippine reefs, "rain forests of the sea." The Philippines is often called the hottest of biodiversity hotspots, with the loss of many species all but inevitable.
Mambukal Mudpack Festival
Photograph by Alfonso Lizares, My Shot
Held at the height of monsoon season, the Mambukal Mudpack Festival in Murcia, Negros Occidental, celebrates the harmony of man and nature and encourages environmentalism among young people. To get in the spirit, participants cover themselves with the rich soil known as Mambukal clay.
University of Santo Tomas, Manila
Photograph by Pidolpis, Flickr
Located on the campus of the historic University of Santo Tomas—a large Catholic institution in Manila—the Fountain of Wisdom depicts a woman holding a globe, while the statue on the nearby Fountain of Knowledge holds a book.
Photograph by Tim Laman
A coconut sprouts on a beach in Palawan. The Philippine Islands are incubators of life, soaked by both southwest and northeast monsoons, wind-whipped by as many as 33 typhoons each year, and beset by earthquakes and at least 17 active volcanoes.
Photograph by Keren Su, Getty Images
The colorful buildings of downtown Manila—the densely populated capital of the Philippines—straddle the Pasig River connecting Laguna de Bay to Manila Bay. Located on the eastern shore of Manila Bay, the port city is home to around 10.6 million inhabitants.
Rice Harvesting, Banaue
Photograph by John Stanmeyer
Continuing a 2,000-year-old tradition, women harvest rice by hand on the Banaue terraces. Even record harvests haven't been able to support the nation's 90 million people, forcing it to become the leading rice importer.
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