Traveling the Philippines: More Common Geography Mistakes!

It has been more than two years since I wrote an article on Philippine geography mistakes and there was an overwhelming feedback among the readers.

Speaking of geography errors, the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority or NAMRIA recently confirmed there are 7,641 islands in the Philippines instead of the known 7,107, citing advanced counting techniques and new islet formation for the increase. These motivated me to write five more misconceptions and less-known changes in our geography. Let’s get our GPS set!

1. THERE ARE TWO SUBICS IN CENTRAL LUZON.

It is not widely known, but there are indeed two Subics in Luzon with two distinct boundaries. One Subic (above) is a first-class municipality in Zambales located north of Olongapo City, while another Subic (below) is a special economic zone formally known as the Subic Bay Freeport Zone or SBFZ. The SBFZ shares borders, not only with the town of Subic but also with Olongapo City and the towns of Hermosa and Morong in Bataan.

Subic Bay (Photo by John Hernandez on Unsplash)

Where to go in Subic:
Be it Subic town or SBFZ, both are known to be tourist hotspots. The town of Subic is popular for both beachgoers and hikers alike, while SBFZ is home to several theme parks, private resorts, and duty-free shops.

2. CLARK IS NOT ONLY IN PAMPANGA.

Photo courtesy of: Hariboneagle927, based from Hellerick’s map (Philippines_location_map_(square).svg) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=69418489

First of all, there is no municipality or city in Pampanga named Clark. Like the SBFZ, the Clark Freeport and Special Economic Zone, or simply Clark, is an area that spans portions, not only of Angeles City, Mabalacat, and Porac in Pampanga, but of Bamban and Capas towns in Tarlac as well.

Some people might also confuse Subic (SBFZ) from Clark, as the former was a US Naval Base in the past while the latter was a US Air Force Base.

Clark Field, Pampanga (Photo by Ian Valerio on Unsplash)

Where to go in Clark:
The Pampanga side of Clark is a continuously growing industrial hub, with plenty of hotels, restaurants, and duty-free shops to choose from. It is also where the Clark International Airport is located, offering some of the cheapest flights in Asia.

Meanwhile, the Tarlac side of Clark is the special economic zone which covers the New Clark City, a modern green city and one of the venues for the 30th Southeast Asian Games.

3. BORACAY IS NEITHER A CITY NOR A MUNICIPALITY NOR A BARANGAY.

Boracay is a world-renowned tourist destination in Northwestern Visayas famous for its white sand beaches. Some may have mistaken Boracay as a specific government unit in Aklan, but it is merely a separated portion of the town of Malay. In fact, Boracay Island is made up of Malay’s three barangays: Yapak, Balabag, and Manoc-Manoc.

On the other hand, Caticlan, the world’s gateway to Boracay, is also neither a city nor a municipality but is one of the barangays of Malay in the mainland. A boat ride from Caticlan Jetty to the island only takes 10 to 15 minutes.

White Sand Beach, Boracay (Photo by Laurentiu Morario on Unsplash)

When is the best time to go to Boracay:
There is no question that Boracay is worth visiting – it only goes down to knowing when is the best time to go.

Boracay is warm and sunny from March to May but is also considered the peak season when the island is crowded and fully-booked. From October to February, the island is generally fair and slightly cool but comes with a higher risk of a passing tropical cyclone. Boracay is mostly rainy and windy from June to September but sees fewer visitors.

4. AUTONOMOUS REGION IN MUSLIM MINDANAO OR ARMM NO LONGER EXISTS.

Map courtesy of: Benarnews.org

After the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law and a voter plebiscite on 9 January 2019, ARMM is now replaced with the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

Interestingly, BARMM comprises not just the whole of ARMM – Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Basilan minus Isabela City, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi; the new region now extends to a small portion of SOCCSKSARGEN. BARMM now includes the City of Cotabato and the 63 of 67 barangays of the province of North Cotabato.

Lanao Lake, Maguindanao (Photo by MyMindanao)

Some trivia on Bangsamoro:
The word “Bangsamoro” was derived from the Malay word “bansa’ meaning nation and the old Spanish word “moro” meaning Muslim. Also, the southernmost island of the Philippines is in Bangsamoro: the Saluag Island in the municipality of Sibutu in Tawi-Tawi.

5. COMPOSTELA VALLEY ALSO HAS A NEW NAME – FOR NOW.

On 17 April 2019, Pres. Duterte signed Republic Act No. 11297, which renames the province of Compostela Valley or ComVal into Davao de Oro. This will be finalized once ComVal voters approve of Davao de Oro in a plebiscite on 7 December 2019.

Davao de Oro is the second richest province in 2017 and is considered the gold capital of the Philippines, thus the name (oro in Spanish means gold). The province separated itself from Davao del Norte in 1998.

Awao Falls, Davao de Oro (Photo by Amie Valencia on Choose Philippines)

Where to go in Davao de Oro:
Davao de Oro is the perfect place for local and foreign tourists in Metropolitan Davao in search of nature trippings.

The province is best known for its rich gold deposits in Mount Diwalwal and a pristine virginal cave in Laak called Bangloy. You can also take a dip in Awao Falls in Monkayo, Tagbibinta Falls in Maragusan, and Marangig Falls in Mount Candalaba, all just a few hours away from Davao City.

Know other misconceptions in our Philippine geography? Let us know in the comments below! 🙂

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