In recognition of the country’s great potential to compete with the world’s established ecotourism sites, Executive Order No. 111 was issued calling for the formulation of the National Ecotourism Strategy (NES)1, in order to provide an integrated management plan for the development of ecotourism in the Philippines. The NES identified key sites for ecotourism development classified as banner, emerging or potential sites (Figure 1, in bold are the banner sites). Banner key sites are envisioned to serve as models for developing ecotourism. On the other hand, emerging key sites are those that are already in the initial phase of development while potential key sites are those that have not yet undergone any development and are not suitable for promotion. Brushing off the conceptual discussion of ecotourism, let us look into what the Pearl of the Orient Seas has to offer by exploring these under-explored key sites.
|Ruins in Barangay Savidug, Sabtang, Batanes. Photo by R.A.Natanauan|
The Batanes group of islands  (click here for a video)—a jagged, rocky home to the kind Ivatans—is the northernmost tip of Luzon lying some 180 kilometers from the mainland. Being isolated from the mainland is its most endearing quality. Batanes has its share of old Spanish churches and villages strewn with traditional stone houses well-adapted to its windy climate and an abundance of beautiful sceneries.
|Basco Lighthouse and the Rolling Hills of Batanes. Photo by R.A.Natanauan|
|Crisologo Street, Vigan.|
Vigan  (click here for the video), being a remnant of all that was Spanish in the north, is a perfect epitome of an enduring cultural heritage earning the UNESCO’s World Heritage City title. Getting there is like a back-to-the-past experience, a culture-shock in 18th century Spanish Philippines. Vigan’s most popular attractions are, of course, its centuries-old houses, antiques, stone-paved streets, clippety-clop calesas and baroque churches, which have survived the ups and down of Philippine history. It is eight hours, 400 kilometers away from its walled version—the Intramuros.