The Philippines has a colorful past, particularly during World War II. The country witnessed many of the war’s turning points, such as the Battle of Manila, the fall of both Bataan and Corregidor, and the Leyte landing.
While these sites are popular tourist attractions today, there are many others that commemorate the country’s role during the war.
History lovers should set aside time to visit Cagayan. Its capital city, Tuguegarao, was under the control of the Japanese Forces and was repeatedly bombed and attacked by guerrillas. Today, remnants linger at some tourist spots.
If you want to know more about the role the Philippines played during the war, check out these places:
Today, Balete Pass serves as a road that connects Nueva Ecija and Nueva Vizcaya. During the war, however, this plot of land was the site of one of the bloodiest battles with 17,000 casualties.
Toward the end of the war, General Tomoyuki Yamashita resisted and built defenses in the mountain, with the ultimate goal of a delaying retreat. U.S. Col. James Dalton of the 161st Infantry Regiment led an attack at Balete Pass, in what would become one of the significant battles that ushered the Philippines’ liberation from the Japanese occupation.
Three memorials now stand to honor the American, Japanese, and Chinese soldiers who lost their lives during the bloody encounter. Beyond the memorials stand Perez Park, which has a 150mm Japanese Howitzer, a cave, and picnic sheds. Balete Pass is also surrounded by views of mountains and forests, with an 800-meter zip line cutting through.
- Balete Pass, Santa Fe, Nueva Vizcaya
- Opening hours: 8AM-5PM
- Entrance fee: FREE
- Facebook: facebook.com/tourismsantafenvphils
Cape Engaño is the northern point of Palaui Island. It is known for its landscape and its 360-degree view of the Babuyan and Dos Hermanas Islands, the Pacific Ocean, and Engaño Cove. The Spaniards who first set foot on the cape were so captivated that they named it after the Spanish word for “entice.”
The sweeping view is best enjoyed on the Cape Engaño Lighthouse, which sits atop a hill. The lighthouse is one of 27 built during the Spanish colonial period. Construction began in 1888 and was completed in 1892. Even then, it was considered an attraction because it was the only place in the area to have electricity.
For many years, it served as a guide for fishermen and sailors, as well as Chinese and Spanish merchants, who crossed the Batanes and Babuyan Claro seas.
During the war, it became the site of the Battle of Cape Engaño, which ended with Admiral William F. Halsey, USN sinking four Japanese aircraft carriers. The encounter is part of the bigger Battle of Leyte Gulf, considered the greatest naval conflict of World War II. The victory weakened the Imperial Japanese Navy, leading to the country’s defeat in 1945.
- Cape Engaño, Palaui Island, Sta. Ana, Cagayan
- Entrance fee: A visit to Cape Engaño is part of tour packages to Palaui Island and Punta Verde
- How to get there: Tuguegarao is accessible by plane from Manila and other local airports.
Ilagan Japanese Tunnel
Lying beneath Ilagan is a network of caves built by the Japanese for defensive purposes during the war. The Ilagan Japanese Tunnel spans 40 meters in length and 3.66 meters in height, but there is a theory that it connects to other passageways discovered around the city. The tunnel was used by the Japanese as headquarters and to imprison Filipinos who did not follow orders.
Just outside are a Japanese bridge, a koi pond, and a kamikaze plane. For a complete experience, there is a food court serving ramen, sushi, takoyaki, and more. Guests can have their hair styled like Japanese women and pose for photos in a kimono. They can also purchase furin bells, which supposedly grant wishes, and hang them in a dedicated area.
- Ilagan Japanese Tunnel, Ilagan, Isabela
- Opening hours: 8AM to 5PM
- Entrance fee: PHP 50 (USD 0.99), which comes with a free tour
- Facebook: facebook.com/ilaganjapanesetunnel/
- Contact number: +63 906 787 0091
St. Dominic Cathedral and the People’s Museum and Library
Since the Philippines is a largely Catholic country, it’s no surprise that it is filled with beautiful churches that are centuries old. A good example is the St. Dominic Cathedral in Nueva Vizcaya, which dates back to 1739.
The church held its first Eucharistic Celebration on April 12, and has since seen disasters such as earthquakes and fires. It has been continuously reconstructed and today stands tall with its tower, convent, and cemetery.
Down the road is the People’s Museum and Library, which highlights the history of the province through culturally important, ethnographic, and historical artifacts. Here, you can see rituals that ancestors practiced, weaponry, textiles, and even relics from World War II.
- St. Dominic Cathedral and the People’s Museum and Library, Bayombong, Nueva Vizcaya
- Opening hours: 8AM to 5PM (People’s Museum and Library)
- Entrance fee: FREE (People’s Museum and Library)
- Facebook: facebook.com/nuevavizcayatourism/
- Contact number: +63 917 102 5409 (Nueva Vizcaya Tourism)
San Jacinto Chapel
Another house of worship worth visiting is the San Jacinto Chapel. This elevated chapel dates back to 1604, or more than 400 years ago.
Like the St. Dominic Cathedral, San Jacinto Chapel faced natural disasters but it was continuously rebuilt, including in 1724, 1892, and after World War II.
Fortunately, the chapel was not heavily damaged during the war, which means its original wooden retablo (devotional painting) dating back to the 18th century has been retained.
In 1899, the chapel played an important role during the Philippine-American War when American soldiers used it as their headquarters.
Today, the chapel is more peaceful as it holds masses, but a visit here highlights its place in history.
Tourist destinations in Cagayan are ready for local travelers! Guests are required to wear a face mask and shield, practice social distancing, and regularly wash hands before dining in. These places have sanitary and contact tracing procedures such as registration and temperature check at the reception and using alcohol to sanitize hands before entering the premises. To know more about Cagayan, visit http://www.cagayan.gov.ph/.
To check out up-to-date information regarding local destinations that are open and the safety protocols and requirements needed for each location, you may visit philippines.travel/safetrip or download the Travel Philippines app at app.philippines.travel or the Google Playstore.