13 November 2019

Culture and Heritage in ASEAN: The Philippines and Singapore, Part 2

Hello from the Philippines and Singapore! Join us as we dive into the culture and heritage of Southeast Asia, where you’ll experience the rich fusion of the Filipino culture where east meets west and meet the Singaporean, who rejoice in its diversity. Buckle up for a sensational ride and accompany us on this journey.



The Philippines boasts of beautiful islands, rare wildlife, clear waters, and so much more! As a melting pot of Filipino traditions with influences from neighboring Asian countries and its Spanish and American colonial past, this cultural kaleidoscope fostered the fascinating nation we see today.


Come with us to island-hop in Central Visayas, consisting of numerous islands, each with spectacular beauty and history. Against a backdrop of white sandy beaches, marine life, spectacular diving, the fascinating stories of colonization, and the indomitable Filipino spirit that has evolved since!


Mactan Island

People come from far and wide to see the majestic bronze Lapu-Lapu Monument located on Mactan Island. Lapu-Lapu is regarded as the first Filipino hero because he led the first successful resistance against Spanish colonization. His victory over Portuguese Ferdinand Magellan delayed Spanish colonization by forty years until Miquel Lopez de Legazpi arrived. In the same memorial complex is a statue paying tribute to Magellan, the Portuguese explorer who died in the battle against Lapu-Lapu. How rare to see rivals side by side! It shows and honors the shaping influences of Filipino culture.


Statue of the Sentinel of Freedom (Statue of Lapu-Lapu) / Shutterstock


Cebu Island

As the oldest city in the Philippines, Cebu boasts many firsts: the first Spanish settlement, the oldest Catholic Church, Basilica del Santo Nino, and the oldest street, Colon Street, named after Christopher Colombus known as “Cristóbal Colón.” Rich with history beyond historical churches and monuments, Cebu has the must-see Sirao Flower Garden with its array of luminous red, purple, yellow and orange celosia, or ‘Burlas’ by locals. The spectacular flowers have earned the garden the moniker “Little Amsterdam”!


With its Chinese-style architecture, distinctive height, design and bright colors, and an entrance that resembles the Great Wall of China, the Cebu Taoist Temple is a popular destination. In keeping with Taoist symbolism, devotees and visitors must climb 81 steps to the temple, representing the 81 chapters of Taoism scriptures. For an unforgettable view, the climb is well worth it!


Taoist Temple in Cebu, Philippines / Shutterstock


Bohol Island

A ferry boat ride away from Cebu, ascend up the famous Chocolate Hills for views across these iconic mountains.


To see a geologically rare site, visit Chocolate Hills, a breathtaking dome-shaped landscape on Bohol. Designated as a National Monument, the grass-covered limestone hills turn a brownish hue, resembling endless rows of Hershey chocolate kisses. Hence, the name Chocolate Hills. Enjoy the view from either the Chocolate Hills Complex or Sagbayan Park, both known to be great vantage points.


As to how the hills were formed remains a mystery, but Filipino folklore offers a few mythical explanations. Learn more about the different legends when you visit and get a real sense of local life and culture on the island!


Chocolate Hills / @explorer.philippines / Instagram


Now we make our way south to Singapore to learn more about the fascinating neighborhoods and places of worship.



Singapore, renowned for its harmonious diversity, fascinating architecture, and abundant wildlife - the City in a Garden is a vibrant must-see! With its strong influence of Chinese, Malay, and Indian cultures, it’s befitting that Singapore has many

picturesque neighborhoods that reflect its diverse population.


Little India

Home to a vibrant buzzing Indian culture, Little India is a district worth seeing. Walk down Serangoon Road and nearby streets, and you’ll find a mix of temples, mosques, and churches. This neighborhood, rich in history, has many intriguing stories of colonial Singapore to share. It’s hard to believe it was once home to cattle traders and a racecourse.


Little India, Singapore / Shutterstock


There are many breathtaking places of worship in Little India. Each temple is different and holds some importance in the history of Singapore. Boasting incredible architecture and history, step into Sri Vadapathira Kaliamman Temple, a Hindu Temple dedicated to the Mother Goddess Kaliamman. Believed to be started by a woman placing a picture of Kaliamman under a banyan tree, over time this temple has been transformed into the magnificent temple seen today. The recently refurbished statues and reliefs, along with the intricately designed Hindu relics and the temple’s vibrant colors make for rare and eye-catching beauty.


Sri Vadapathira Kaliamman Temple / @explore_dream_discover_travel / Instagram



After touring the dramatic and historic temple, walk through the 200-year enclave, taking in traditional sights, sounds, and scents. Soak in more of the spiritual majesty and visit Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple, one of the oldest Hindu temples in Singapore. Savor some of the delicious food by indulging in one of many restaurants. Try the Tekka Centre with a range of local food options. Wander around Little India and discover imaginative murals, artwork, and a colorful “wet” market that as its name implies has wet floors from washing and cleaning fresh produce for sale. Stop by the Indian Heritage Centre, a modern glass museum, dedicated to sharing the rich heritage of the Indian community.


Jalan Besar

Experience old and new Singapore simultaneously by taking a walk through Jalan Besar. Adjacent to Little India and centrally located is Jalan Besar, where one is able to find hip establishments as well as traditional businesses and old-school fares. Its name, which translates to “big or wide road” in Malay, is where history meets modern day. Discover hip cafes, eateries, and lots of coee shops. Art galleries and cool shops add another dimension, making it a wonderful area to spend time meandering. The varied streets, some of which were named after key personalities and battle sites of WWI, are lined with beautifully restored shops, flanked by an impressive and inviting mosque, located in next-door Little India, and church.


Women in Jalan Besar / @lovebellavida / Instagram


Be sure to visit Little India during your trip to Singapore!


We hope you feel motivated to see the Philippines and Singapore! To truly enjoy the legend, history, and culture of a country you must see it for yourself. With both countries displaying an homage to their roots, immersing yourself into the heritage and culture enriches the enjoyment of their natural beauty. Tune in next time to learn more about the culture and heritage of Thailand and Vietnam.


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12 - 16 January 2020
Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei

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