Quezon Province largely exemplifies the quintessential sceneries of a bucolic countryside: sprawling rice paddies framed against towering mountain ranges, unspoiled beaches dotted with clumps of mangroves, inconspicuous trails that lead to unexplored caves and hidden waterfalls. The province boasts of its own versions of sausage (longganisang Lucban), liquor (lambanog), noodle dish (chami), and cassava cake (budin). If you’re looking to eat, drink, and explore obscure trails in quiet little towns, Quezon won’t disappoint.
Where to stay
Notes and itineraries
Drawing thousands of pilgrims each year, Quezon is rife with religious sects, cults, towering sacred structures, healing waterfalls, and mystical sites. Its cultural destinations are expressions of Filipino hospitality, countryside elegance, antique art-deco mansions, archaeological sites, and some of the oldest Spanish churches in the Philippines. Because 34 out of its 42 towns are coastal, Quezon is fringed with plenty of popular white beaches and exquisite remote islands.
Visiting the mystic volcano of Mt. Banahaw is an exploration to steep trails, holy caves, blessed waterfalls, dense foliage, and mountain folks who tell stories of heavenly spirits, supernatural elements, and even alien encounters. Other unique pilgrim sites include Kamay ni Hesus, which features a 50-foot statue of Jesus on a steep hill, and Luminous Cross of Grace Sanctuary, a 12-storey chalice-shaped church featuring biblical wax sculptures and 360-degree views of Agdangan town.
Sariaya and Tayabas are some of the towns that benefited from the coconut products exported around the globe in the early 20th century. Once home to wealthy coconut tycoons, Sariaya flourished with many art-deco mansions and hectares upon hectares of coconut plantations. The most visited is the two-storey mansion Villa Sariaya, which covers an entire block, and is surrounded by other antique mansions worth visiting. Meanwhile, Villa Escudero is carved out of a vast coconut plantation, replicating a scenic Filipino compound with guided tours of nipa houses, plaza, church, museum, and river. The river rolls off a dam, and cascades like a waterfall towards a restaurant, where guests eat while their feet are delightfully submerged in flowing water.
Other significant heritage sites include the 10-century-old village excavated at the peak of Mt. Kamhantik Forest Park in Malunay; the three-storey San Diego de Alcala Fortress, known as the only surviving Spanish fortress in Gumaca; and Casa Communidad de Tayabas, a major historical landmark that served various functions since 1776. Like the rest of the Philippines, Quezon is speckled with Spanish churches, with some of the oldest built in the 16th century. They find their imposing structures in the likes of Gumaca Cathedral, Sariaya Church, and Tayabas Church, the last being most famous for its wedding-worthy 103-meter-long isle and its Baroque-style paintings and murals. Not to be missed are Quezon’s hallmark products, which include longganisa de Lucban, budin, pancit habhab, coconut oil, and throat-scorching coconut vodka called lambanog.
While it is an assemblage of many intriguing religious and cultural destinations, Quezon’s natural attractions are just as pilgrim-worthy, some even taking many hours of voyage in the sea. Its eastern waters are resplendent with exotic white beaches in the towns of Polillo, Panukulan, Burdeos, and Patnanungan, as well as in the luxury island of Balesin. Taking at least six hours of sea travel, the towns are best known for its fine, gold-sanded, two-kilometer long Compra Beach; the three sunset-fired beaches that make up White Beach; and the long stretch of pristine orange sand Salibungot Beach. Bato Beach’s craggy coastline is dramatic with the ruins of an old Japanese pier. Sanctuaries and protected areas also abound, such as Minawasa Island, Canaway Islets, Manlanat Islets, and Jomalig Mangrove Sanctuary.
The more popular and accessible cream white shores are found in the towns of Padre Burgos, Pagbilao, San Andres, Unisan, and Catanauan. Borawan Beach and Kuwebang Lampas make for the most traveled sites, often coupled with side trips to Dampalitan Island, Balugbog Baboy Sandbar, and the three caves Kuwebang Lampasan, Kwebang Mahangin, and Kwebang Dapa in Lipata Island. Cagbalete Island is just as popular, a backpackers’ island featuring an astonishing 10-kilometer long stretch of white sand. Other gorgeous beaches and islands include Malatandang Beach, Punta Beach, the 20-kilometer long Gatasan Beach, and the stunning Alibijaban Island with its extensive cream-white beaches and whale shark encounters between April and September.
With 168 religious sects, Quezon is steeped in rituals, superstition, and mysticism. Several popularly known sects are composed of Rizalistas, who revere the Philippines’ national hero Jose Rizal as a reincarnation of Christ, the second son of God, or God himself. Religion aside, rural Quezon plays the role of a typical Filipino barrio, its people engaged in crop planting, especially coconuts, and reveling in the luxury of simple living.
With about 2.2 million people as of 2017, Quezon’s inhabitants are mostly Tagalogs, with migrants from its nearby provinces such as Laguna, Batangas, Manila, Bicol, and Marinduque. Residents of the province are characterized as friendly, welcoming, and hardworking. A majority of its people is engaged in coconut production, fishing, and agriculture of other major crops such as rice, corn, banana, and coffee.
Held every May 11 to 15, Pahiyas Festival is the Philippines’ most extensive and colorful harvest festival. Covering six towns, processions as well as residential houses and establishments are elaborately decorated with food and crops from local delicacies, fruits, and vegetables, to rice grains and stalks, vibrant flowers, coconuts, and bamboo. Other distinctive celebrations to look out for include Niyogyugan Festival (August), Pasayahan sa Lucena (May), and Hambujan Festival (March or April).
The most predominant language in Quezon is Tagalog. Its migrants from the neighboring provinces are also mostly Tagalog. Other languages in the province include Bikol, Batanguenyo, and Marinduqe Tagalog. As one of the Philippines’ official languages, English is observed in schools, universities, governments, and some businesses.
Ideal for a relaxed vacation experience, Quezon relishes in mild tropical climate. Its heavy rainfall is concentrated between October and January. The province does not have any pronounced dry season. Areas in and around Mt. Banahaw experience cool climate during daytime and can be chillingly cold at night.
Because there is no pronounced dry season in Quezon, travelers can visit any time of the year. Just make sure to bring flip-flops and an umbrella during the rainy season between October and January. The best time to visit is during Pahiyas Festival in May, and during whale shark season between April and September. The worst times to visit are during Christmas Season (December) and Holy Week (March or April).
The eighth largest province in the Philippines, Quezon is a major bridge between Bicol Peninsula and the greater part of Luzon. Just three hours away from Metro Manila, Quezon is directly connected to six other provinces while still maintaining many coastal towns. 34 out of its 42 towns have direct sea access, with two major island groups, Polillo Islands and Alabat Island. At 2,169 meters, its highest point is the dormant volcano Mt. Banahaw.
Getting to Quezon
If you’re coming from outside the Philippines, the fastest way to Quezon province is by first taking a flight to its nearest airport, Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Metro Manila. In Metro Manila, take a taxi to Taft Avenue corner Buendia, where you can get onto a bus bound for Quezon. Other bus terminals bound for Quezon can be found in Cubao, Sampaloc, Sta. Mesa, and Alabang.
Getting around Quezon
Because the province is made up of more than 40 towns, getting from one town to another can be tricky. Travelers are encouraged to take a bus for long distance travels within the province, and take a jeepney to neighboring towns. Within each town, travelers can easily get from one point to another by getting onto a tricycle or jeepney. Just be sure to agree on the cost of fare before heading to the destination.