Most of the fatalities from the 7.2 magnitude quake occurred on the island of Bohol, known for its “Chocolate Hills.”
More than a dozen other fatalities were reported in Cebu, which is the country’s second most important city.
The ground heaved near the epicenter at 8:12 a.m. local time, toppling historic buildings and causing huge buckles to appear in roadways.
Cebu’s Basilica Minore del Santo Nino, the oldest in the Philippines and first constructed during the 1500s, was severely damaged.
Four bridges collapsed and many roads were made impassable by landslides, which hampered rescue efforts.
Tuesday’s temblor was followed by at least four aftershocks that registered more than magnitude 5.
The most deadly natural disaster in Philippine history was a 7.9 magnitude quake in 1976 that killed between 5,000 and 8,000 people when a resulting tsunami devastated areas around the Moro Gulf on the southern island of Mindanao.