While its world-class beaches in Boracay and Palawan put them on the map, the Philippines offers much more than natural wonders. After being a Spanish colony for more than 300 years, the country is now one of the emerging markets in the Asia Pacific region, driven by its booming construction, service, and tourism industries. Its people are its biggest asset – hardworking in contributing remittances to the economy, and warm-hearted as evidenced through their rich culture and traditions.

The country’s melting pot of cultures and proficiency in English makes it a prime choice for international students, especially those looking for affordable education. With its 7,100+ islands, the Philippines makes an international study an adventure in itself. Because of its archipelagic nature, each island is like a whole other country. With different dialects, cultural intricacies, and personalities, exploring what the country has to offer will be as long and rewarding as lessons in the classroom. But what binds them together are their classic Filipino hospitality and smiles.

Find out all that the Philippines has to offer through its top cities for international students:

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Top Cities to Study in The Philippines

1. Metro Manila

Don’t let the name fool you – there’s more to Metro Manila than what meets the eye. From central business districts to lifestyle and recreational hubs, this area stands as the country’s political, economic, and lifestyle center of the Philippines. Seats of government lie in the areas of Manila and Quezon City, while central business districts cluster in Makati, Pasig, and Quezon City areas. Also known as the National Capital Region, Metro Manila is composed of 16 cities and 1 municipality, all functioning as one megacity in itself.

There’s always something to do in Metro Manila. As a shopper’s paradise, it is home to some of the biggest malls in Asia. Shop ‘til you drop from luxurious malls to bargain finds – all without breaking the bank. It is also a hub for affordable eats from its melting pot of cultures. Explore Manila’s colonial past, from the ruins of the walled city Intramuros, preserved cathedrals, to taking a small ferry boat to military museums in Corregidor island.

True to form, Metro Manila is a top city to study for aspiring international students in the Philippines as it is the place to be for top educational institutions, clustering in Quezon City and the University Belt in Manila proper. Some top-rated universities locally and internationally include:

  • University of the Philippines
  • Ateneo De Manila University
  • De La Salle University
  • University of Santo Tomas

2. Baguio

Nicknamed the Summer Capital of the Philippines, Baguio is the locals’ best-kept secret for a cool reprieve all year round. A stark contrast to the rest of the country’s sweltering heat, Baguio’s hilly landscape enjoys lower than average temperatures of around 20 degrees. Baguio is also home for international students who wish to study in the Philippines. It is also famously known as the City of Pines for its iconic flora of pine trees and flowers which only thrive in temperate countries.

Today, the city has evolved into one of the most urbanized cities in the country and a prime destination in the North Luzon region. Spend your weekends relaxing with nature at Burnham Park or Camp John Hay, or visit a strawberry farm and pick out some fresh fruits. You can also take a cultural trip and immerse yourself in the Cordillera tribes in the region. A few hours’ drive away from Manila, Baguio offers a beautiful environment close to modern comforts.

As an intersection of neighboring highland places in Northern Luzon and a key tourist destination, Baguio has developed into an educational center for the region as well. Some of its top institutions include:

  • University of Baguio
  • Saint Louis University
  • UP-Baguio
  • University of the Cordilleras

3. Cebu

Many people flock to Cebu City for its idyllic coastline and urban attractions. The city is the second-largest in the country with a population of 2.8 million and is deemed the center of the Central Visayas region. This maritime city is also the port of choice, receiving the majority of the country’s goods by sea.

Known as the Queen City of the South, Cebu is also regarded as a top tourist destination and among the best city to study for international students in the Philippines. As the oldest city in the country, Cebu is filled with historical landmarks going back to the Spanish era ranging from colonial buildings, Basilicas, and museums. Its natural beaches in Moalboal and Bantayan Island are some of the best in the country – taking a weekend to relax here would only be a short drive or boat ride away. If you’re lucky, you can even catch Cebu during its iconic Sinulog festival, celebrating the arrival of the Santo Nino on Philippine shores.

Cebu’s heritage explains why this city also houses some of the country’s long-running and high-ranking universities, such as:

  • University of San Carlos
  • Cebu Normal University
  • University of Cebu
  • University of San Jose-Recoletos

4. Iloilo

Iloilo City is a fast-developing regional hub of Western Visayas – a center of government, finance, and culture. Similar to Cebu City, this port city combines scenic beaches with modern comforts found in developed urban cities. The city is known for being a gastronomical destination, featuring hearty fares such as La Paz Batchoy and Kansi, and is also known as an excellent city for international students who want to study in the Philippines. Visitors can stay tuned for the oldest sailing event in Asia called the Paraw Regatta, and the iconic Dinagyang Festival, a well-known religious and cultural event every January.

Iloilo’s standards of education have also improved alongside the rest of the city’s development, producing satellites of top universities as well as state universities as follows:

  • University of the Philippines in the Visayas
  • Central Philippine University
  • West Visayas State University

5. Davao

In Mindanao, Davao City is the place to be. This regional center in Southern Philippines is the most populous city in Mindanao and the third-largest city in the country. Similar to its Luzon and Visayas counterparts, Davao is one of the best cities to study for international students in the Philippines and is an economic hub in the south – a producer and exporter of agricultural products such as timber, copra, and world-famous bananas, and responsible for the majority of the city’s trade, commerce, and industry.

While the Mindanao area has had some issues with peace and order, Davao is a clear exception which makes this area safe for international students. Davaoenos’ discipline is unmatched – it is the first city to be 100% smoke-free among ASEAN nations. Enjoy your weekends shopping in metro Davao, or go out of town and visit its various nature parks.

Davao is a strong gateway to the Philippine South, as reflected in its top-quality universities:

  • Ateneo de Davao University
  • University of Southeastern Philippines
  • University of the Philippines-Mindanao
  • University of Mindanao


I hope that this article on Best Cities to Study in the Philippines was helpful. To know more information on how you can study in Asia, visit the Asia Scholarships Page.