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Smart digital tools to boost Antique tourism, communication efforts

With its cerulean waters surrounding stretches of white sandbars, majestic nature trails harboring rare flower species, and sites honoring a not too distant historical event, Antique has piqued the interest…

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Anini-y

There is a simple explanation as to why this town is called Anini-y. Back when it was newly settled in the mid-15th century, people saw that the place was irrigated…

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Experience Antique, where mountains meet sea

Welcome to Antique! The homeland of the Antiqueños is a rustic idyll of pristine islands, hot and cold springs, ancient churches and ruins, scenic beaches, and wooded mountain trails. It…

Continue Reading

Taiwan Guide: Places, food, experiences in the ‘beautiful island’

Taiwan wasn’t high in my list of must-visit places, but two trips later and it had become one of my favorite destinations. The capital Taipei was bustling without being chaotic,…

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Dapitan celebrates Kinabayo Festival

Street dancing, a music festival, and a motocross with live band are just among the activities lined up by the Dapitan City Government for the Kinabayo Festival 2017. Held annually…

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Casa Real

Patterned after the traditional Filipino bahay na bato, this historic building has assumed many names and roles throughout the years. It had been known at one time or another as…

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Patterned after the traditional Filipino bahay na bato, this historic building has assumed many names and roles throughout the years.

It had been known at one time or another as Casa Gobierno de Iloilo, Palacio del Gobernador, Casa Real, Provincial Building, President Garcia Hall, and Iloilo Provincial Capitol. Renamed Casa Real de Iloilo in October 2016, it is now considered a National Historical Site by the National Historical Institute (NHI).

When it was the seat of power of the Provincial Government of Iloilo, the old Capitol building had been described as an anachronism in Iloilo City because it is located in a highly urbanized city that has become totally independent from the province under the 1937 Iloilo City Charter (Commonwealth Act No. 158) and the Local Government Code of 1991 (Republic Act No. 7160).

A new and modern building beside the Casa Real now houses the Iloilo Provincial Government.

Best in its class

Construction of the Casa Real or old Capitol building was initiated by then Governor Jose Maria Carles who served from 1862 to 1867. After being suspended for a few years, work resumed in 1870 during the time of Governor Eduardo Caballero.

Engraving of the Casa Gobierno de Iloilo published in page 236 of La Ilustracion Española y Americana (Madrid), 15 October 1875 issue.

The Spanish newspaper La Ilustración Española y Americana reported in its October 15, 1875 issue published in Madrid that the Casa Gobierno de Iloilo was completed in 1873 during the time of Governor Enrique Fajardo. It was described as “the most comfortable and the most spacious in the Philippines“ during that time.

“The design of the building is similar to what is commonly used in that country for important structures: the ground floor, where the offices and agencies of the provincial government are found, is made of excellent ashlar; the second floor, where the governor resides, is built of wood and trusses and its roof is made of galvanized iron, “La Ilustracion noted.

Casa Real de Iloilo, circa 1900s. (Iloilo, The Book. Hong Kong, 1992. Page 23)

“With a floor area of 1,225 square meters, the building has compartments with fine lighting and ventilation and is surrounded by excellent porches and galleries. Its features make the Government House of Iloilo one of the best in its class…,” it added.

Built of wood and stone

El Porvenir de Visayas, in its February 1895 issue, took note of the building’s large and magnificent staircase with its fine and varnished wood and spacious meeting hall.

John Foreman, in his book The Philippine Islands, described the Casa Real as “built of wood and stone, of good style and in a fair condition, with quite the appearance of an official residence.”

Provincial Building of Iloilo, circa 1910s.

“Before it is a semicircular garden, and in front of this there is a round fenced-in plot, in the middle of which stands a flag-staff,“ he added.

On December 27, 1907, Governor Benito Lopez was shot four times in his office at the left wing of the Provincial Building of Iloilo. He died 24 days later at the Iloilo Mission Hospital. The suspected assailant, Joaquin Gil, was a supporter of Francisco Jalandoni whom Lopez, father of business tycoons Eugenio and Fernando, defeated in the elections two months earlier.

Renovation works

Casa Real underwent renovation by the Insular Government in 1910. The building’s second level was reconstructed using concrete.

The Quarterly Bulletin of the Bureau of Public Works reported in 1913 that further improvements were made on the building using a P50,000 loan acquired by the Provincial Government of Iloilo.

Delegates of the Taft Mission to Asia greet the crowd from the balcony of the Provincial Building of Iloilo, August 1905. [Smithsonian Institution Research Information System]

The flag-staff in front of the building gave way to the Arroyo Fountain in 1927, when then Governor Jose Ledesma had it built in honor of Senator Jose Maria Arroyo who authored the law creating the Iloilo Metropolitan Water Works.

Japanese headquarters

During World War II, the Provincial Building of Iloilo was also used as the seat of the puppet government as it was where Dr. Fermin Caram, the Japanese-appointed governor, held office.

In 1960, then Governor Jose Zulueta remodelled the building, providing a canopy-like structure in its facade and an extension at the back to house courtrooms. The next year, he issued Executive Order No. 4-z that changed the building’s name to Provincial Capitol of Iloilo.

Prior to this, Zulueta came out with Executive Order No. 3-z which named the Session Hall of the provincial building as “President Garcia Hall.” The name was “to be placed at the back portion of the aforesaid Session Hall facing Iznart Street, Iloilo City.”

Arroyo Fountain, circa 1930s.

Renaming mistake

A mix-up in the execution of Zulueta’s orders resulted in the President Garcia Hall sign instead of Provincial Capitol of Iloilo getting placed at the provincial building’s facade instead.

On April 5, 1961, former Iloilo City chief of police Captain Patricio Miguel instituted mandamus proceedings in the lower court against Zulueta and then district engineer Ricardo Tancinco, alleging that the naming of the provincial building after a living person was not only prohibited by Republic Act 1059 but was also prejudicial to his rights, dignity, and self-respect as a taxpayer and a law-abiding citizen.

President Garcia Hall, c. 1960s

Carlos Garcia, who was president from March 17, 1957 to December 30, 1960, was still alive then, and the lower court ruled in favor of Miguel. (Garcia passed away on June 14, 1971 at the age of 74 in Tagbilaran City).

The case reached the Supreme Court, which affirmed the decision of the lower court on April 30, 1966. The SC noted that the lower court did not rule on the legality of EO 3-z but in its implementation.

Provincial Building of Iloilo (far right) as seen from Iznart Street, circa 1920s

American-era architecture

On November 4, 1998, a fire of unknown origin hit the Provincial Capitol of Iloilo, damaging its extension at the back leaving only the main building. This resulted in the construction of a new six-storey Provincial Capitol of Iloilo initiated by Gov. Arthur D. Defensor, Sr. that now stands behind the historic building.

The Provincial Capitol of Iloilo on fire, 4 November 1998.

On April 11, 2010, the National Historical Institute (NHI) declared the Provincial Capitol of Iloilo a historical landmark.

The restoration of the Provincial Capitol of Iloilo to its American-era architecture started in 2012, making it the provincial government’s major contribution to tourism and its resounding answer to the call for cultural heritage conservation.

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Smart digital tools to boost Antique tourism, communication efforts

With its cerulean waters surrounding stretches of white sandbars, majestic nature trails harboring rare flower species, and sites honoring a not too distant historical event, Antique has piqued the interest…

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With its cerulean waters surrounding stretches of white sandbars, majestic nature trails harboring rare flower species, and sites honoring a not too distant historical event, Antique has piqued the interest of travelers who prefer the off the beaten path.

Antiqueños are proud of their province and are spreading the word about it further by tapping into the digital space with the help of mobile innovations.

PLDT wireless unit Smart Communications and InnoPub Media recently released the Antique Guide app, bringing the digital tourism program to the province. The app contains information useful to visitors and students, such as historical background, local folklore and other interesting cultural trivia. It also lists things to do and places to see.

Antique Guide

ANTIQUE GUIDE. The app is a comprehensive guide to the province.

Improve tourism, communications

Did you know that Rafflesia speciosa, one of the world’s largest flowers, can be found in Antique? Or that the first Malay inhabitants in the Philippines established their permanent settlement in the province? Facts and other details such as these are available on the app.

“We hope more people will discover what our place has to offer,” said Gov. Rhodora Cadiao. “We thank Smart for helping to improve our tourism and communication efforts by making these services available and accessible through mobile phones.”

The digital tourism program also includes the installation of markers with quick response (QR) codes and near field communication (NFC) chips in popular tourist spots and heritage sites. Through an NFC chip or QR code reader, mobile users will get on their phones detailed information about the said landmark.

The app is now available as a free download for both Android and iOS devices. The guide may also be accessed at ‪myguide.ph/antique‬.‬‬

Digital Tourism Antique

INTERACTIVE MARKERS. Tourism officers with SMART and InnoPub representatives hold interactive tourism markers during the launch of Digital Tourism in Antique.

Mobile innovations

“Our technology for development initiatives aim to use mobile innovations to help improve lives in our communities. We are pleased that Antique will now benefit from digital technologies,” said PLDT and Smart public affairs head Ramon R. Isberto.

The initial batch of QR code markers will be deployed to the following sites: Anini-y town and its Spanish-era church; Hamtic, home to the Malandog marker commemorating the establishment of the first Malaysian settlement in the Philippines; Antique provincial capitol; the Evelio B. Javier Freedom Park, named after the former governor whose heroism was seen as catalyst in the downfall of the Marcos dictatorship; and the capital town of San Jose de Buenavista.

More QR code markers will be deployed in other areas within the province, according to InnoPub cofounder Max Limpag. “We hope to showcase more of Antique into the digital space, and the best way to do that is to bring the information straight to users’ mobile phones,” Limpag said.

Digital Tourism

DIGITAL TOURISM. InnoPub Media co-founder Max Limpag talks about Digital Tourism during the launch.

To help enhance efforts in communication, as well as disaster preparedness, Smart also turned over to Antique its Infocast system. Smart Infocast is a short message service (SMS) broadcast platform that will enable the provincial government to send news updates, weather alerts, and other important information to its constituents through text message.

With the Smart Infocast, provincial authorities can send relevant updates to subscribers, who, in turn, can also send reports and feedback by replying to the message.

Deliver tourism, cultural, historical information

In partnership with government units, the digital tourism program of Smart and InnoPub is a nationwide initiative that harnesses technology to deliver tourism, cultural, and historical information to more mobile users. The program was launched in 2012 and has since been implemented in Cebu, Iloilo, Davao, Baguio City, and Metro Manila, among other areas. It involves the creation of tourism apps and e-guides, and the installation of interactive markers in selected landmarks to trigger the download of more information.

Smart Infocast, for its part, has boosted the communication efforts of the institutions where it has been implemented, among them government units and agencies, and other organizations. It is part of Smart’s #SafePH advocacy, which promotes the use of technology to help mitigate disaster risk in communities.

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San Jose de Buenavista

Antique’s capital town of San Jose de Buenavista grew from settlements that started out as a visita. Small communities that were visited by the priest of the parishes they were…

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Antique’s capital town of San Jose de Buenavista grew from settlements that started out as a visita.

Small communities that were visited by the priest of the parishes they were attached to were called visitas during Spanish colonial rule in the Philippines.

In the case of San Jose, it was once attached to the town of Antique that was founded in 1745.

It was called Malaiba when it became a sitio of what was then the town of Antique. Sometime from 1787 to 1790, Governor General Berenguer de Marquina granted the whole Mailaba estate to Agustin Sumandi.

San Jose de Buenavista is teh capital of Antique.

Not long after that, in 1972, Malaiba was turned into a town and Sumandi became the first gobernadorcillo.

Since the place was dedicated to San Jose, it was decided the town should adopt the name of its patron saint. During the ceremonies creating it into a township, government officials and dignitaries were so taken in by the view of the place from the sea that they added “de Buenavista” to its name of San Jose.

Upon a petition from the people, San Jose became the capital of Antique in 1802. It started out with the pueblos of Guintas, Hamtic, and San Pedro.

Hamtic was later separated from San Jose through an executive order issued by President Ramon Magsaysay in 1945.

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Hamtic

A sleepy community located close to the provincial capital, Hamtic plays a considerable significance in Antique’s history. This town is home to the Malandog Marker that commemorates the first Malaysian…

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A sleepy community located close to the provincial capital, Hamtic plays a considerable significance in Antique’s history.

This town is home to the Malandog Marker that commemorates the first Malaysian settlement in the Philippines and the first Filipino governor of Antique who was a local hero during the Spanish revolution.

A local epic on Panay history called the Maragtas tells of 10 Bornean datus who sailed northward with their families and first settled in what is now the village of Malandog in Hamtic.

The Malandog Marker that commemorates the first Malaysian settlement in the Philippines.

The Province of Antique commemorates this arrival with an annual celebration called the Binirayan Festival.

Historical shrines

Hamtic used to be the provincial capital before it was moved to San Jose de Buenavista. Antique also used to be called Hamtic way back in the 13th century when the island of Panay was divided into three sakups (jurisdictions): Hamtik or Hantik (now Antique), Aklan, and Irong-Irong (Iloilo).

Gen. Leandro Fullon Shrine.

The name Hantik comes from the large black ants called “hantik-hantik” that were plentiful in the area.

The town of Hamtic is eight kilometers from San Jose. Some of the historical and cultural shrines in the town include the Campo Santo (old stone church in Hamtic Cemetery), Gen. Leandro Fullon Shrine that depicts the birth of the Republic, and the Evelio B. Javier statue at Barangay EBJ.

The first Malay settlement. (Photo provided by Antique Provincial Tourism Office)

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Anini-y

There is a simple explanation as to why this town is called Anini-y. Back when it was newly settled in the mid-15th century, people saw that the place was irrigated…

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There is a simple explanation as to why this town is called Anini-y. Back when it was newly settled in the mid-15th century, people saw that the place was irrigated by small rivers flowing down from adjacent mountains.

Historical writings will tell you they named the town “anini” after a local word that means “a place of small rivers.”

A storied version passed down through the years tells of a love true and forbidden between a native princess, Anini, and brave and dashing warrior Nogas who was unfortunately descended from a family of slaves.

ANINI AND NOGAS. A mural of the love story between princess Anini and brave and dashing warrior Nogas.

Star-crossed lovers

In the tradition of such tragedies, their love was never meant to be. Nogas was killed and thrown out to sea while Anini pined for him and died of loneliness. From her burial spot on a rocky spot by the Anini-y coast, her tears continue to flow and has become the hot spring of Siraan. A short distance away is the body of her beloved that has been turned into Nogas Island.

Town myths aside, church historian Fr. Pedro Galende described the first settlers of Anini-y as wandering fishermen who reached the place by following the sea coast from one of the villages up north.

In 1714, it only had a population of 660. Anini-y was a visita of Antique and visited by its parish priest at least once a year. Its patron saint is San Juan de Nepomuceno.

The old Balete tree on Nogas Island.

Great man of Anini-y

Citing one of the reports of Fr. Hipolito Casiano dated 1705, who was named parish priest of Antique and Cagayancillo in 1690 and again in 1714, Fr. Galende said many of the 3,000 people from Cagayancillo who had been converted to Christianity were asked to settle in Anini-y against their wishes.

According to Galende, a decree issued on Dec. 20, 1861 turned Anini-y into an independent parish. The declaration only became official the following year when Governor General Jose Lemery followed it up with an order of separation dated March 22, 1862.

Considered the great man of Anini-y, Fr. Jeronimo Vaquerin was credited with completing the restored Spanish era San Juan Nepomuceno Parish Church.

The Anini-y church.

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Evelio B. Javier Freedom Park

He was young and idealistic, and his heroism was seen as a crucial catalyst in the downfall of the Marcos dictatorship. Antiqueños gather yearly here at the Evelio B. Javier…

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He was young and idealistic, and his heroism was seen as a crucial catalyst in the downfall of the Marcos dictatorship.

Antiqueños gather yearly here at the Evelio B. Javier Freedom Park to remember the former governor who was gunned down at the peak of the snap presidential elections on February 11, 1986.

Javier was a staunch supporter of former President Corazon Aquino. He was martyred on the very spot where a bronze statue of him created by the late national artist Napoleon Abueva now stands.

Evelio B. Javier Freedom Park

Evelio B. Javier Freedom Park

Many in Panay Island consider Attorney Evelio Bellaflor Javier as their “Ninoy Aquino.” His death further added fuel to the growing anger towards the regime of the late strongman Ferdinand E. Marcos Sr.

Born in Hamtic, Antique on October 14, 1942, Javier took up Bachelor of Arts and majored in History and Government at the Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU). He went on to finish his Bachelor of Laws in the same university.

Evelio B. Javier Freedom Park

Javier was married and had two sons. He was only 28 when he ran and won the gubernatorial seat of Antique in 1971. Memorabilia of his life are now on display at the Museo Antiqueño inside the Old Capitol.

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Experience Antique, where mountains meet sea

Welcome to Antique! The homeland of the Antiqueños is a rustic idyll of pristine islands, hot and cold springs, ancient churches and ruins, scenic beaches, and wooded mountain trails. It…

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Welcome to Antique!

The homeland of the Antiqueños is a rustic idyll of pristine islands, hot and cold springs, ancient churches and ruins, scenic beaches, and wooded mountain trails.

It is a paradise of picturesque spots and exciting experiences. Going from one place to another is to bask in the sight of majestic mountain ranges or the cerulean blue sea peeking out from behind roadside trees.

A walk along our highland trails is a chance to encounter such rare flora as “corpse flowers” and carnivorous plants.

A journey through the 18 towns in the province can lead to rare parasitic or carnivorous flowers, open up to a vista of valleys and peaks, or end in the sight of red-tinted or clear waterfalls, terraces carved on the mountainside, a running spring with the coldest water, and gushing rivers or quiet lakes.

Antique Provincial Capitol.

History

Before it became Antique, the province was called Hamtic way back in the 13th century. The legendary datus who came to the Philippines from Borneo created the first Malay settlement in a town that now bears the province’s old name of Hamtic.

Of the legendary datus who went on to occupy Panay Island, Datu Sumakwel chose to remain and live in Antique.

The town of Hamtic used to be the provincial capital but it was transferred to San Jose de Buenavista in 1802, wrote Fr. Pedro Galende in his book “Angels of Stone.”

Another Catholic Church historian, Fr. Juan Fernandez, said early on that progress and modernization came slowly to Antique because of its isolated location.

Historical landmark commemorating the first settlement.

Geography

Antique today takes pride in its unspoiled islands and preserved forests.

Narrow and long, and bordered by the Cuyo East Pass of the Sulu to the west and tall mountain ranges to the east, Antiqueños can rightly claim that Antique is where the mountains meet the sea.

Viewed from a map, Antique is shaped like a seahorse on the western border of Panay in Western Visayas. It is one of four provinces that make up the island mass.

Those who liken Panay Island to a three-cornered scarf see Antique as an oversized jagged hemline. Its unique location gives it one of the longest coastlines in the country.

A view of Nogas Island.

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Anini-y Church

Dedicated to San Juan Nepomuceno, the Church of Anini-y in Antique dates back to the Spanish colonial era in the Philippines. It is believed the first town church was built…

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Dedicated to San Juan Nepomuceno, the Church of Anini-y in Antique dates back to the Spanish colonial era in the Philippines.

It is believed the first town church was built way back between 1630 and 1638, when Anini-y was still a visita first of Antique and then Dao, by priests assigned to minister to the small local population.

Although the foundations of the first structure still existed when the second church was erected close by around 1845, there were no records as who built it, according to Fr. Pedro Galende in his book Angels of Stone.

It is believed the first town church was built way back between 1630 and 1638, when Anini-y was still a visita first of Antique and then Dao, by priests assigned to minister to the small local population.

The second church was destroyed during World War II.

Galende said the current one is a full restoration of the Anini-y Church made of masonry that Fr. Jeronimo Vaquerin started building close to 1900.

Except for a large arch near the main altar, the third Anini-y Church was basically finished in 1898. Galende described it as being made of coral stones, with one main nave and transept, and complemented by a three-story belltower that rose 25 meters high.

Anini-y became an independent parish through a decree issued on December 20, 1861 but took effect only on March 22, 1862 when Gov. Gen. Jose Lemery signed the order of separation. It had been administered by Augustinians since 1581.

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Dakak adds posh suites, facilities in exclusive zone

Huge high-ceilinged rooms that open out to a lanai and wide vista of sea and sky from their perch atop a cliff, the luxury suites of Dakak Park and Beach…

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Huge high-ceilinged rooms that open out to a lanai and wide vista of sea and sky from their perch atop a cliff, the luxury suites of Dakak Park and Beach Resort deliver on their promise of opulent accommodations.

Dakak luxury suites

The entrance to the luxury suites of Villa Angelina, a super exclusive zone on the clifftop of Dakak Park and Beach Resort.

The resort adds another exclusive zone to Villa Angelina, this time on the clifftop, for guests who desire a getaway that’s far from the crush of holiday goers but without relinquishing ultimate luxuries.

A typical Villa Angelina cliffside casita is enormous and leaves more than enough breathing space even with the king-size bed in the middle plus the day bed and plush recliners by one side and mini work area on the other.

Dakak sunset

View from the almost finished sunset bar at Dakak’s exclusive clifftop zone.

Cliffside casitas

One whole wall facing the sea is made of glass to allow guests an uninterrupted view of the panorama of deep blue and lush greens that make up the Dapitan City coast.

Villa Angelina private veranda

Each cliffside casita comes with its own private veranda that overlooks Dapitan City’s coastline.

Each luxury suite, also called a cliffside casita, has its own private veranda with a jacuzzi for those times when you just want to take it easy and relax in your very own hot tub while you take in the view.

The well-appointed room is complemented by a spacious and lavish en suite.

Villa Angelina infinity pool

The cliffside zone of Dakak Park and Beach Resort has its own infinity pool that is exclusive for Villa Angelina overnight guests. Soon, the area will have its restaurant and bar that makes the most of the spectacular views from the top.

Dakak infinity pool

Only guests staying at the Villa Angelina luxury suites have access to the infinity pool built atop the cliff.

Dakak’s luxury zone is serviced regularly by resort vans.

A cliffside casita is just a brief ride away from the resort’s stretch of fine white sand and warm sea. It is also only a short walk down to the beach.

Cliffside casita jacuzzi

Each Villa Angelina cliffside casita also comes with its own jacuzzi.

Dakak accommodations

Outside of Villa Angelina, Dakak Park and Beach Resort has affordable deluxe, family, and big group rooms. It also has overnight packages that come bundled with city tours and complimentary entrance to Gloria de Dapitan’s Fantasyland.

Cliffside casita interior

A cliffside casita has more than enough space for a king-size bed, enormous closet, couch and recliners, and mini work area.

Check out the Dakak website for the updated room rates and offers.

Dakak Park and Beach Resort is also currently building a world-class golf course of Greg Norman design that is scheduled to partly open in July.

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Taiwan Guide: Places, food, experiences in the ‘beautiful island’

Taiwan wasn’t high in my list of must-visit places, but two trips later and it had become one of my favorite destinations. The capital Taipei was bustling without being chaotic,…

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Taiwan wasn’t high in my list of must-visit places, but two trips later and it had become one of my favorite destinations.

Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall

CHIANG KAI-SHEK MEMORIAL HALL. This octagon-shaped building was built as a memorial to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek.

The capital Taipei was bustling without being chaotic, food was plentiful and inexpensive, it was so clean we had no qualms eating along alleyways and in markets, and efficient public transport allowed us to move around with ease.

When it comes to tourist attractions, Taiwan has mountains and woodland trails, parks and gardens, grand structures and temples, old-world places and modern cities.

The sun sets in a sea of clouds at the Alishan National Scenic Area.

The island nation is so close to the Philippines that tribes in Taiwan’s Lanyu Island share similarities in language and culture with the Ivatans of Batanes.

Taiwan attractions

Whether it’s a lengthy stay or brief getaway, any trip to a new place should always include time for the busy capital and Taipei hosts more than enough interesting places of cultural, historical, and natural value to keep one occupied.

If your trip is only for two nights and limited to Taiwan’s metropolis, don’t despair. You can still tally up quite a list of spectacular experiences without having to go far.

Taipei, after all, is home to:

Taipei 101

This engineering feat has a high-speed elevator that takes guests from the fifth floor to the Observatory in the 89th floor at a record breaking time of 37 seconds.

Taipei 101

View of the Taipei skyline from nearby Elephant Mountain.

The change in air pressure for such a swift ascent can be a little bit unpleasant but they distract you by dimming the elevator lights and showing a replica of the night sky complete with constellations and shooting stars on the ceiling. Fortunately, the ride takes less than a minute.

One floor down from the indoor observatory is the engineering marvel that is the wind damper so don’t miss it. The outdoor observatory in the 91st floor may be off limits depending on weather conditions.

National Palace Museum

The local guide in my first trip to Taipei, Jane Fan, shared an interesting fact about the National Palace Museum. Majority of the museum’s treasures are Chinese cultural relics and artifacts passed down by the imperial courts. These were shipped to Taiwan due to fears they would be destroyed following the rise of communism in China.

Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall

Chiang Kai-shek, the first president of Taiwan, was largely credited with its economic development.

Archway entrance

Archway entrance of Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall.

In honor of his contributions, the Taiwanese built the two-level Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall within a large complex that also features Liberty Square with its manicured gardens as well as the National Concert Hall and National Theatre.

Presidential Office Building

Taiwan’s current president holds office in a sprawling Baroque structure designed by a Japanese architect and built during the Japanese occupation.

Visitors are allowed in some parts of the Presidential Office Building at specific times. Visits are allowed from 9 a.m.-12 noon on weekdays and up to 5 p.m. on Saturdays. Check the facility’s website for the visitor schedules and guidelines.

Longshan Temple of Manka

The Longshan or Lungshan Temple of Manka is a Buddhist temple founded in Taipei in 1738.

Taiwan is generally tolerant when it comes to worship practices, and there are minority religions like Christianity, Mormonism, Islam, Hinduism as well as native sects aside from the three main ones of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism.

The Longshan Temple of Manka in Taipei dates back to 1738 and is one of the oldest and largest Buddhist temples in Taiwan. This religious structure was built in honor of Guanyin or Goddess of Mercy and is used by Tao and Buddhism followers.

Elephant Mountain

While the Taipei 101 Observatory allows visitors a bird’s eye view of the metropolitan, Elephant Mountain gives them a panorama of the skyline with Taiwan’s tallest building as main feature.

Elephant Mountain

These steps lead all the way to the top of the Elephant Mountain in Xiangshan District.

The best time to climb up through is late in the afternoon leading up to nighttime. The trail is made of stone steps and really goes all the way up to the top of Elephant Mountain. Some measure of fitness is required in the climb. Wear good footwear and bear in mind that the top of the mountain is several degrees colder than the downtown area.

Ximending District

For shopping in Taipei, no place beats the neighborhood of Ximending when it comes to quality and value for money. There might be cheaper clothes, shirts, bags, souvenirs and other goods sold in the night markets but the Ximending retail shops carry the quality local and global brands.

Din Tai Fung

The capital Taipei hosts the first Din Tai Fung, the original xiao long bao house that spawned a chain of restaurants.

There is a long line of locals and tourists eager to dine at Din Tai Fung so make sure you set aside 40 minutes to an hour for the wait to get a table.

Shilin Night Market

Shilin Night Market

If there’s one thing that the Shilin Night Market is known for, it’s authentic and scrumptious Taiwan dishes.

One of the biggest night markets in Taiwan, the Shilin Night Market combines cheap, delicious eats with inexpensive retail goods like shirts, bags, shoes, and souvenirs like ref magnets or key chains. A whole floor (basement area) is devoted to food and features many of Taiwan’s must-try treats.

Other places

If your schedule allows it still, a few more nearby attractions are absolutely worth your time.

Shifen

A walk along the train tracks of Shifen Old Street is like a trip down a bygone world. Shifen evokes memories of olden times with its nostalgic ambiance and people going about their everyday chores along the railway of the Pingxi line.

Tourists fly lanterns in Shifen Old Street, a community by the railroad tracks in Pingxi District of New Taipei City.

These houses sell souvenirs, other knick knacks, and the sky lanterns that tourists release into the sky with their hopes and wishes.

Jiufen

Whenever I think of the former gold mining town of Jiufen in the mountain area of Ruifang District in New Taipei City, I think of food. It’s hard not too since this once prosperous and booming town nicknamed “Little Hongkong” during its heyday is packed full to the edge of narrow lanes and alleyways with restaurants, teahouses, and cafes. During the two times that I’ve been, I never missed having some of the ice cream and peanut roll served to perfection in Jiufen.

Peanut ice cream roll

Peanut ice cream roll is popular fare in Taiwan and they make it exceptionally well in Jiufen.

Yangmingshan

Yangmingshan National Park is a nature spot that’s very accessible from downtown Taipei. It covers a hundred square meters of gardens, woodland, wildlife, hiking trails, and hot springs.

Formosa

While a brief visit is already fulfilling, a longer trip is even better because it gives you more time to check out this place that the Portuguese once called Formosa or “beautiful island.”

Alishan National Scenic Area

Alishan walking trails

The Alishan National Scenic Area has scenic trails that lead to ancient trees, temples, ponds, and spectacular views.

One side trip we highly recommend is to the Alishan National Scenic Area. The most popular attractions in this mountain preserve is the sunrise and sunset. Alishan sunrise and sunset viewing, however, requires staying overnight. Getting to Alishan from Taipei requires spending at least half of your day on the road.

Staying two or more nights is even better as you get to fully enjoy all that Alishan has to offer, which include hectares of woodland, uphill and downhill hiking trails, ponds, waterfalls and temples.

Taroko National Park

Another attraction that’s worth a visit is Taroko National Park. It is so big, it traverses three areas in Taiwan: Taichung Municipality and the counties of Nantou and Hualien.

Taroko features spectacular views: ravines and rivers, foot bridges, tribal settlements, temples, hiking trails through rocky and forested landscapes.

More photos of Taiwan destinations:

strawberry glaze

Strawberry and cherry tomatoes glazed with syrup and served on sticks  are popular treats at Shilin Night Market.

Ximending shopping

The Ximending District is one of the top shopping areas in Taipei.

Jiufen alley

An alley in Jiufen brims on both sides with food and souvenir shops.

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