If you’re looking for a nostalgically noisy, fast-paced, hustler-filled city in the Philippines, Caloocan is it. Located just to the north of the Metro Manilla province, Caloocan borders with the capitol of Manila on the island of Luzon. And with over 1.5 million residents, Caloocan is the definition of an urban city.
To get around, you may choose the freeways and highways on buses, motorbike taxis or Jeepneys but you’ll likely be stuck in quite the traffic jam. Instead, opt for the railway systems that transport locals around the city.
Between the sky rise buildings, traffic jams, and crowded neighborhoods, there are an abundance of cultural gems to be discovered here But you’ll need a heads up on where to start looking in this concrete jungle.
Let’s explore the best things to do in Caloocan:
1. Bonifacio Circle Monumento
Where it all began, the Philippine Revolution in 1933 started right here in Caloocan. The sculptures of Bonifacio Circle Monumento are the work of National Artist, Guillermo Tolentino, who is respected and revered in the Philippines not only as an artist but also as a progressive voice to be heard.
The sculpture incorporates several Filipino soldiers fiercely pointing swords towards their opposition and waving a flag in the air. It stands as a reminder that the Filipino people did not back down when their country was in need. It is an emotional and thought-provoking piece that this city is wildly proud of.
2. Gubat sa Ciudad Resort
Coming to Caloocan with a group? Consider staying at a resort with all the bells and whistles.
Outside of the standard air conditioned rooms and pavilion spaces, there are lots of opportunities for entertainment at Gubat sa Ciudad Resort.
This resorts offers 7 different pools of varying depths for all swimming levels. These swimming pools have waterslides, fountains, and are big enough where you won’t be swimming next to some random stranger. For the kids, there are tree houses and a child’s play place. There is also a basketball court and volleyball courts for a little family-fun competition.
3. La Mesa Watershed
The city limits of Caloocan borders La Mesa Watershed- 2,659 hectares of protected wetlands and Manila’s main source of water.
Visitors can come to take a tour of park paths where you’ll see fishermen with their polls in the water hoping to catch dinner. There are 50 miles of park paths within the watershed waiting to be explored; some of which are easily tackled wearing a pair of flip-flops.
Keep an eye out for exquisite wildlife with 4,400 acres of forest. La Mesa Watershed is a bird watcher’s heaven with a vast collection of colorful birds, big birds, and even some endangered birds.
A trip to Caloocan without visiting the watershed is not complete!
4. San Roque Cathedral
Visit the very first Catholic Church in Caloocan City. San Roque Cathdral has been blessed by Pope John Paul II, which is a huge deal in the Philippines! He apparently granted that the San Rouque Cathedral to attain the level & dignity of a Cathedral Church. As you can imagine, this has made San Roque Cathedral the pride and joy of Caloocan.
Sunday mass here is grand with locals piling into the pews for hours of worship. You don’t have to be Catholic to come and witness this principal practice in Philippine culture. The cathedral, itself, is a beautiful sight to be seen with a grand ceiling and intricate statues of Jesus on the cross. A visit here will make for quite the memorable experience.
5. University Of Santo Tomas Museum
To promote Filipino culture and heritage, the University Of Santo Tomas Museum is open to the public. The pieces in this museum, not only serve to educate the public, but they also serve as learning tools for the University’s currently enrolled students.
The main exhibit, which the museum refers to as its “nucleus,” is the collection of gabinete de fisica. In laymen’s terms, this is a collection of natural specimen including plants, animals, minerals, and vegetables that are used by the students belonging to the pharmacy and medicine programs.
There are a variety of exhibits always on display and always changing. After the museum, have a walk around the exquisite campus.
6. La Loma Cemetery
This plot of land was dedicated as a cemetery in 1884 and is now 130 acres of ancient tombstones. La Loma Cemetery has been a holy ground for catholic burials since the Spanish occupation.
While most of the city was destroyed or compromised during the Battle of Manilla in 1945, La Loma Cemetery was one of the few areas that escaped the warpath. This sets La Loma Cemetery apart from much of the city as it carries some of the oldest heritage and artifacts for native people in Caloocan.
Wander around the cemetery, respectfully reading the tombstones belonging to people born in the early 1800s. It’s spooky and fascinating at the same time.
7. The Chinese Cemetery
Since La Loma Cemetery was a holy ground declared by the Spaniards as only fit for proper Catholic burials, the Chinese were not allowed to rest there. The alternative was a separate plot of land.
The Chinese Cemetery is much like you’d see in Mainland China with a red brick archway to greet you and a spectacular Buddhist temple called Chong Hock Tong Temple. You are welcome inside the temple to pay respects to Buddha or to simply marvel at its beauty.
There are monuments and memorials on site paying tribute to Chinese Martyrs who didn’t back down during WWII and the Ruby Tower Memorial in remembrance of the Chinese-Filipinos who perished in the 1968 earthquake.
8. Younger St
If you’d like a leisurely day of exploring the city, hit Younger St. This street is lined with museums, cultural monuments, shopping opportunities, churches, places to eat, and more.
Keep a lookout for Bencab Museum with 3D art pieces, Good Shepherd Convent where there is a food store run by nuns, an early 1900s mansion previously used as a summer home for US military generals and governors, and Burnham Park to rest your feet.
Take in the sights and sounds of this chaotic city and enjoy the little interactions with people and intersections as you go along.
9. SM Center Sangandaan
Every big city needs a mall. In this case, this big city got a super big 3-level mall to match. SM Center Sangandaan has everything you’d expect to find in a western mall and then some.
For entertainment, there is an IMAX theatre, motorized mini cars for kids, and cartoon meet and greets on designated days.
You’ll find a variety of clothing stores, grocery stores, and even the American-branded Ace Hardware store. They’ve got all of the food options you could ever want such as Dairy Queen, coffee shops, Panini joints, and more.
Parking is quite decent but you can also get there easily by public transport.
10. Aliwan Fiesta
For almost two decades, Caloocan has been celebrating the Aliwan Fiesta in late April! This festival celebrates the vast diversity of Filipino cultural heritage in the Manila Metro area. So, expect to see native outfits, hear indigenous songs and chants, and witness traditional dances performed by various cultural groups.
The streets fill with parades of performers dressed in intricate costumes that take your breath away. Music fills the air as the performers beat handmade drums and shake beads like maracas. There is also a beauty pageant with girls wearing intricate dresses and stunning accessories.
11. Sto. Niño De Pajotan Festival
This religious festival is a chance for Filipino people to come together and celebrate the perceived good grace that their savior, Jesus Christ, has bestowed upon them. What separates this festival from the traditional Sunday Mass gatherings?
Well, food and fireworks, of course!
Attendees make large batches of traditional Filipino dishes to share with the community. Eating always brings people together in the Philippines! And at the end of the night, right over the church pavilion, a spectacular firework display commences.
You can catch this festival during the last weekend of January.
12. Luzviminda Resort
This fun and quirky resort might remind you of the circus at times with its colorful décor, castle-towers that light up at night, and balloon paintings everywhere. If you’re looking to switch things up a bit on this vacation, this is the place to stay.
Undoubtedly, you’ll spend most of your time in the pool. There are colorful mushroom like fountains in the pool to play under, rocky waterfalls that you can climb on, and gazebos perfect for an afternoon picnic! There are even waterslides long enough to entice the adults to act like little kids.
13. Green Paddle
Why not brush up on your table tennis skills or take your skills to the next level? Green Paddle is a top-tier table tennis training facility filled with professionals and experts who take this came seriously.
You can have one-on-one training sessions with a table tennis coach or just come here with your friends. Experience what it’s like to play the game using some of the best table tennis equipment around.
Green Paddle is also the store to visit if you need table tennis supplies in Caloocan. Their on-site store is fully stocked.
14. Taoist Temple
Located near the 5th Ave LRT station, you’ll find a Taoist temple over 100 years old. This is no ordinary Taoist temple, however. The architects of this temple went all out to create a 3-story masterpiece.
This temple has been a place of worship for the Chinese and the Chinese-Filipino residents of Caloocan for almost a century.
You can certainly see how this temple has aged with paint that has begun to ware off and the cement walls could use a good power wash. This slight dilapidation, however, contributes to the intrigue of such an ancient building.
15. Mister Kabab
Had your fill of Filipino dishes? Treat your palate to something a little more Middle Eastern at Mister Kebab.
Come in for dinner and you’ll be delightfully surprised to see such a spot on replication of the Middle East reflected in this restaurant’s décor. They’ve got bright turmeric yellow and cumin brown accents everywhere you look, set with clean white wooden tables.
Shwarma, jasmine rice, and of course, kebabs- all of the dishes are on point and totally hit the spot.
Mister Kebab is also on FoodPanda if you can’t make it to their restaurant location.