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Republic of the Philippines
Republika ng Pilipinas
Flag Coat of arms
MottoMaka-Diyos, Maka-Tao, Makakalikasan, at Makabansa[1]
("For God, People, Nature, and Country")
AnthemLupang Hinirang
("Chosen Land")
Location of  Philippines  (green)

in ASEAN  (dark grey)  —  [Legend]

Capital Manila
14°35′N 121°0′E / 14.583°N 121°E / 14.583; 121
Largest city Quezon City
Official language(s) Filipino (based on Tagalog) , English
Recognised regional languages Bikol, Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Ilokano, Kapampangan, Kinaray-a, Maguindanao, Maranao, Pangasinan, Tagalog, Tausug, Waray-Waray[2]
Optional languages Spanish and Arabic[3]
National language Filipino
Demonym Filipino or Pinoy
Government Unitary presidential constitutional republic
 -  President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
 -  Vice President Noli de Castro
 -  Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile
 -  House Speaker Prospero C. Nograles
 -  Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno
Independence from Spain1
from United States 
 -  Established April 27, 1565 
 -  Declared June 12, 1898 
 -  Self-government March 24, 1934 
 -  Recognized July 4, 1946 
 -  Current constitution February 2, 1987 
Area
 -  Land 299,764 km2 [4](72nd)
115,831 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 0.61%[5]
Population
 -  2009 estimate 91,983,000[6] (12th)
 -  2007 census 88,574,614[7] 
 -  Density 306.6/km2 (44th)
794.1/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2008 estimate
 -  Total $317.964 billion[8] (36th)
 -  Per capita $3,515[8] (123rd)
GDP (nominal) 2008 estimate
 -  Total $166.909 billion[8] (47th)
 -  Per capita $1,845[8] (121st)
Gini (2006) 45.8[5] (medium) 
HDI (2007) 0.751[9] (medium) (105th)
Currency Peso (Filipino: piso PhilippinePeso.svg) (PHP)
Time zone PST (UTC+8)
 -  Summer (DST) not observed (UTC+8)
Drives on the right[10]
Internet TLD .ph
Calling code +63
1 Philippine revolutionaries declared independence from Spain on June 12, 1898, but the Spanish claim of sovereignty was passed from Spain to the United States in the Treaty of Paris. This led to the Philippine-American War.
2 Rankings above were taken from associated Wikipedia pages as of December 2007 and may be based on data or data sources other than those appearing here.

The Philippines (Filipino: Pilipinas [pɪlɪˈpinɐs]), officially known as the Republic of the Philippines (Filipino: Republika ng Pilipinas), is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. Taiwan lies north across the Luzon Strait. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam. The Sulu Sea to the southwest separates it from the island of Borneo and to the south the Celebes Sea from other islands of Indonesia. It is bounded on the east by the Philippine Sea. An archipelago comprising 7,107 islands, the Philippines is categorized broadly into three main geographical divisions: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. The capital city is Manila.

With an estimated population of about 92 million people, the Philippines is the world's 12th most populous country. It is estimated that there are an additional 11 million overseas Filipinos worldwide. Multiple ethnicities and cultures are found throughout the islands. Its tropical climate sustains one of the richest areas in terms of biodiversity in the world.

In prehistoric times, Negritos became some of the archipelago's earliest inhabitants. They were followed by successive waves of Austronesian peoples who brought with them influences from Malay, Hindu, and Islamic cultures. Trade introduced Chinese cultural influences. The arrival of Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 marked the beginning of an era of Spanish interest and eventually dominance. The Philippines became the Asian hub of the Manila-Acapulco galleon treasure fleet. Christianity became widespread. As the 19th century gave way to the 20th, there followed in quick succession the short-lived Philippine Revolution, the Spanish-American War, and the Philippine-American War. In the aftermath, the United States replaced Spain as the dominant power. Aside from the period of Japanese occupation, the United States retained sovereignty over the islands until the end of World War II when the Philippines gained independence. The United States bequeathed to the Philippines the English language and an affinity for Western culture. Since independence the Philippines has had an often tumultuous experience with democracy, with popular "People Power" movements overthrowing a dictatorship in one instance but also underlining the institutional weaknesses of its constitutional republic in others.

Contents

Etymology

The name Philippines is derived from that of King Philip II of Spain. Spanish explorer Ruy López de Villalobos during his expedition in 1542 named the islands of Leyte and Samar Felipinas after the then Prince of Asturias (Spain). Eventually the name Las Islas Filipinas would be used to cover all the islands of the archipelago. before it became commonplace, however, other names such as Islas del Poniente (Islands of the West) and Magellan's name for the islands San Lázaro were also used by the Spanish to refer to the islands.[11][12][13][14]

The official name of the Philippines has changed several times in the course of the country's history. During the Philippine Revolution, the country was officially called República Filipina or the Philippine Republic. From the period of the Spanish-American War and the Philippine-American War until the Commonwealth period, American colonial authorities referred to the country as the Philippine Islands, a translation of the Spanish name. It was during the American period that the name Philippines began to appear and has since become the country's common name.[15] The official name of the country is now Republic of the Philippines.

History

An Ifugao (Malayo-Polynesian) sculpture.

The earliest known human remains found in the Philippines are those of the pre-Mongoloid Tabon Man of Palawan, carbon dated to around 24,000 years ago.[16][17] Negritos were another group of early inhabitants but their appearance in the Philippines has not been reliably dated.[18] They were followed by speakers of Malayo-Polynesian languages who began to arrive beginning around 4000 BCE, displacing the earlier arrivals.[19] By 1000 BCE the inhabitants of the archipelago had developed into four kinds of social groups: hunter-gathering tribes, warrior societies, petty plutocracies, and maritime centered harbor principalities.[20]

The maritime oriented peoples traded with other Asian countries during the subsequent period bringing influences from Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam. There was no unifying political state encompassing the entire Philippine Archipelago. Instead, the islands were divided among competing thalassocracies ruled by various datus, rajahs, or sultans. Among these were the kingdoms of Maynila, Namayan, and Tondo, the rajahnates of Butuan and Cebu, and the sultanates of Maguindanao and Sulu.[21][22][23][24] Some of these societies were part of the Malayan empires of Srivijaya, Majapahit, and Brunei.[25][26] Islam was brought to the Philippines by traders and proselytizers from Malaysia and Indonesia.[27] By the 15th century, Islam was established in the Sulu Archipelago and by 1565 had reached Mindanao, the Visayas, and Luzon.[28]

An elaborate border frames a full length illustration one would associate with a manuscript of a man and woman. The dark-skinned man dressed in red tunic, breeches, and bandanna and wearing a gold chain is looking pleasantly over his shoulder in the direction of the fair woman who, garbed in a dark gold-fringed dress that covers the length of her body except her bare feet, has the faintest hints of a smile.
A page from the Boxer Codex showing Classical Philippine nobility. Left, is a general from the Rajahnate of Butuan and to the right is a princess of Tondo.

In 1521, Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan arrived in the Philippines and claimed the islands for Spain.[29] Colonization began when Spanish explorer Miguel López de Legazpi arrived from Mexico in 1565 and formed the first European settlements in Cebu. In 1571, after dealing with the local royal families in the wake of the Tondo Conspiracy and defeating the Chinese pirate warlord Limahong, the Spanish established Manila as the capital of the Spanish East Indies.[30][31]

Spanish rule contributed significantly to bringing political unity to the archipelago. From 1565 to 1821, the Philippines was governed as a territory of the Viceroyalty of New Spain and then was administered directly from Madrid after the Mexican War of Independence. The Manila galleons linking Manila to Acapulco traveled once or twice a year between the 16th and 19th century. Trade introduced foods such as corn, tomatoes, potatoes, chili peppers, and pineapples from the Americas.[31] Roman Catholic missionaries converted most of the lowland inhabitants to Christianity and founded schools, a university, and hospitals. While a Spanish decree introduced free public schooling in 1863, efforts in mass public education mainly came to fruition during the American period.[32]

During its rule, the Spanish fought off various indigenous revolts and several external colonial challenges from Chinese pirates, the Dutch, and the Portuguese. In an extension of the fighting of the Seven Years' War, British forces under the command of Brigadier General William Draper and Rear-Admiral Samuel Cornish briefly occupied the Philippines. They found local allies like Diego and Gabriela Silang who took the opportunity to lead a revolt against the Mexican-born acting Governor-General and Archbishop of Manila Manuel Rojo del Rio y Vieyra, but Spanish rule was eventually restored following the 1763 Treaty of Paris.[27][33][34]

A black and white sketched map of Philippine islands and nearby locations identified in Spanish in long hand script and dots depicting 10 degrees north latitude and a route from Manila towards Guam.
A map found on board the Na SA de Covadonga in 1743, showing the route of the Manila-Acapulco galleon sailing through the Philippine Islands.

In the 1800s, Philippine ports were opened to world trade. Many criollos and mestizos became wealthy. The influx of Spanish and Latino settlers secularized churches and government positions traditionally held by the peninsulares. The ideals of the French Revolution also began to spread through the islands. Criollo dissatisfaction resulted in the revolt in Cavite El Viejo in 1872 that was a precursor to the Philippine Revolution.[27][35][36][37][38]

Revolutionary sentiments were stoked after colonial authorities executed the three priests, Mariano Gómez, José Burgos and Jacinto Zamora (collectively known as Gomburza), who were accused of sedition, in 1872.[35][36] This would inspire a propaganda movement in Spain, organized by Marcelo H. del Pilar, José Rizal, and Mariano Ponce, lobbying for political reforms in the Philippines. Rizal was eventually executed on December 30, 1896 on charges of rebellion.[39] As attempts at reform were meeting with resistance, Andrés Bonifacio in 1892 established the secret society called the Katipunan, a society along the lines of the freemasons, which sought independence from Spain through armed revolt.[37] Bonifacio and the Katipunan started the Philippine Revolution in 1896. A faction of the Katipunan, the Magdalo of Cavite province, eventually came to challenge Bonifacio's position as the leader of the revolution and Emilio Aguinaldo took over. In 1898, the Spanish-American War began in Cuba and reached the Philippines. Aguinaldo declared Philippine independence from Spain in Kawit, Cavite on June 12, 1898 and the First Philippine Republic was established the following year. Meanwhile, the islands were ceded by Spain to the United States for $20 million dollars in the 1898 Treaty of Paris.[40] As it became increasingly clear the United States would not recognize the First Philippine Republic, the Philippine-American War broke out. It ended with American control over the islands.[41]

A sepia photo of a dignified debonair man on a decorated balcony who with the many microphones in front of him is about to make an address. Large columns of a building are in the background and a wizened official stands at a distance behind.
Manuel L. Quezon in his inauguration as President of the Commonwealth of the Philippines during the American period.

In 1935, the Philippines was granted Commonwealth status. Plans for independence over the next decade were interrupted by World War II when the Japanese Empire invaded and established a puppet government. Many atrocities and war crimes were committed during the war such as the Bataan Death March and the Manila massacre that culminated during the Battle of Manila.[42] Allied troops defeated the Japanese in 1945. By the end of the war it is estimated over a million Filipinos had died. On July 4, 1946, the Philippines attained its independence.[5]

Immediately after World War II, the Philippines faced a number of challenges. The country had to be rebuilt from the ravages of war. It also had to come to terms with Japanese collaborators. Meanwhile, disgruntled remnants of the Hukbalahap communist rebel army that had previously fought against and resisted the Japanese continued to roam the rural regions. Eventually this threat was dealt with by Secretary of National Defense and later President Ramon Magsaysay but sporadic cases of communist insurgency continued to flare up long afterward.[43][44]

A metal statute of a woman wearing a hooded cloak with a kindly expression whose shoulder and outstretched hand are perched on by stylized birds
A statue of the Virgin Mary was built on the EDSA Shrine, after the People Power Revolution.

In 1965, Ferdinand Marcos was elected president, his wife Imelda Marcos at his side. Nearing the end of his second term and constitutionally barred from seeking a third, he declared martial law on September 21, 1972. By using political divisions, the tension of the Cold War, and the specter of communist rebellion and Islamic insurgency as justifications, he was able to govern by decree.[45] On August 21, 1983, Marcos' chief rival opposition leader Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr. ignored warnings and returned from exile in the United States. He was assassinated as he was taken off the plane at the Manila International Airport (now called the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in his memory). With political pressure building Marcos eventually called for snap presidential elections in 1986.[43] Corazon Aquino, Benigno's widow, was convinced into becoming the presidential candidate and standard bearer of the opposition. The elections were widely thought of as rigged when Marcos was proclaimed the winner. This led to the People Power Revolution, instigated when two long-time Marcos allies—Armed Forces of the Philippines Vice Chief-of-Staff Fidel V. Ramos and Secretary of National Defense Juan Ponce Enrile—resigned and barricaded themselves in Camp Aguinaldo and Camp Crame. Exhorted on by the Archbishop of Manila Jaime Cardinal Sin, people gathered in support of the rebel leaders and protested on EDSA. In the face of mass protests and military defections, Marcos and his allies fled to Hawaii and into exile. Corazon Aquino was recognized as president.[44][46]

The return of democracy and government reforms after the events of 1986 were hampered by national debt, government corruption, coup attempts, a persistent communist insurgency, and Islamic separatists. The economy improved during the administration of Fidel V. Ramos, who was elected in 1992.[47] However, the economic improvements were negated with the onset of the East Asian financial crisis in 1997. In 2001, amid charges of corruption and a stalled impeachment process, Ramos' successor Joseph Ejercito Estrada was ousted from the presidency by the 2001 EDSA Revolution and replaced by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Politics and government

The Malacañang Palace is the official residence of the President of the Philippines

The Philippines has a presidential, unitary form of government (with some modification, there is one autonomous region largely free from the national government), where the President functions as both head of state and head of government and is commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The president is elected by popular vote to a single six-year term, during which time she or he appoints and presides over the cabinet.[2]

The bicameral Congress is composed of a Senate, serving as the upper house, with members elected to a six-year term, and a House of Representatives, serving as the lower house, with members elected to a three-year term. The senators are elected at large while the representatives are elected from both legislative districts and through sectoral representation.[2]

The judicial power is vested in the Supreme Court, composed of a Chief Justice as its presiding officer and fourteen associate justices, all appointed by the Philippine President from nominations submitted by the Judicial and Bar Council.[2]

There have been attempts to change the government to a federal, unicameral or parliamentary government beginning in the term of Ramos up to the present administration.[48][49]

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Security and defense

The BRP Rajah Humabon (PF-11) is the current flagship of the Philippine Navy

Philippine defense is handled by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, which is modeled after the United States armed forces[citation needed] and is composed of three branches: the Air Force, the Army, and the Navy (including the Marine Corps). Civilian security is handled by Philippine National Police under the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

In the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, the largest separatist organization, the Moro National Liberation Front, is now engaging the government politically. Other more militant groups like the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the communist New People's Army, and the Abu Sayyaf still roam the provinces, but their presence has decreased in recent years due to successful security provided by the Philippine government.[50][51]

The Philippines has been an ally of the United States since World War II. It supported American policies during the Cold War and participated in the Korean and Vietnam wars. It was a member of the now dissolved SEATO, a group that was intended to serve a role similar to NATO and that included Australia, France, New Zealand, Pakistan, Thailand, the United Kingdom, and the United States.[52] After the start of the War on Terror, the Philippines was part of the coalition that gave support to the United States in Iraq.[53] The Philippines is currently working with the United States with the intention of ending its domestic insurgency.

International relations

The Philippine Embassy in Washington D.C., United States.

The Philippines' international relations are based on its ideals of democracy, peace, and trade with other nations as well as the well-being of the 11 million overseas Filipinos living outside the country.[54]

As a founding and active member of the United Nations, the Philippines has been elected several times into the Security Council. Carlos P. Romulo was a former President of the United Nations General Assembly. The country is an active participant in the Human Rights Council as well as in peacekeeping missions, particularly in East Timor.[55][56][57][58][59] Aside from the United Nations, the country is also a founding and active member of ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) an organization designed to strengthen relations and promote economic and cultural growth among states in the Southeast Asian region.[60] It has hosted several summits and is an active contributor to the direction and policies of the bloc.[61] The current relations it enjoys with other Southeast Asian states is in contrast with its relations with them before the 1970s when it was at war with Vietnam and was heavily disputing Sabah with Malaysia, although misunderstandings between these states continue to exist due to the Spratly Islands.[62]

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the current President of the Philippines.

The Philippines values its relations with the United States.[54] It supported the United States during the Cold War and the War on Terror and is a major non-NATO ally. Despite this history of goodwill, controversies related to the presence of the now former U.S. military bases in Subic Bay and Clark and the current Visiting Forces Agreement have flared up from time to time.[54] Japan, the biggest contributor of official development assistance to the country,[63] is thought of as a friend. Although historical tensions still exist on issues such as the plight of comfort women much of the animosity inspired by memories of World War II have faded.[64]

Relations with other nations are generally positive. Shared democratic values ease relations with Western and European countries while similar economic concerns help in relations with other developing countries. Historical ties and cultural similarities also serve as a bridge in relations with Spain and Latin America. Despite issues such as domestic abuse and war affecting overseas Filipino workers and obstacles posed by Islamic insurgency in Mindanao, relations with Middle Eastern countries (including Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates) are friendly as seen in the continuous employment of more than two million overseas Filipinos living there. With communism no longer the threat it once was, once hostile relations in the 1950s between the Philippines and the People's Republic of China have improved greatly. Issues involving Taiwan, the Spratly Islands, and concerns of expanding Chinese influence, however, still encourage a degree of carefulness.[64] Recent foreign policy has been mostly about economic relations with its Southeast Asian and Asia-Pacific neighbors.[54]

International groups the Philippines is a member of include the East Asia Summit (EAS), the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Latin Union, the Group of 24, and the Non-Aligned Movement.[2] It is also seeking to strengthen relations with Islamic countries by campaigning for observer status in the Organization of Islamic Conference.[65][66]

Administrative divisions

Provinces and regions of the Philippines.

The Philippines is divided into three island groups: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. These are divided into 17 regions, 80 provinces, 120 cities, 1,511 municipalities, and 42,008 barangays.[67] In addition, Section 2 of Republic Act No. 5446 asserts that the country has acquired islands from Sabah (formerly North Borneo).[68]

Region Designation Regional center
Ilocos Region Region I San Fernando, La Union
Cagayan Valley Region II Tuguegarao, Cagayan
Central Luzon Region III San Fernando, Pampanga
CALABARZON Region IV-A Calamba City, Laguna
MIMAROPA Region IV-B Calapan, Oriental Mindoro
Bicol Region Region V Legazpi, Albay
Western Visayas Region VI Iloilo City
Central Visayas Region VII Cebu City
Eastern Visayas Region VIII Tacloban
Zamboanga Peninsula Region IX Pagadian, Zamboanga del Sur
Northern Mindanao Region X Cagayan de Oro City
Davao Region Region XI Davao City
SOCCSKSARGEN Region XII Koronadal, South Cotabato
Caraga Region XIII Butuan
Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao ARMM Cotabato City
Cordillera Administrative Region CAR Baguio
National Capital Region NCR Manila

Geography

The Philippines is an archipelago of 7,107 islands[2] with a total land area of approximately 300,000 square kilometers (116,000 square miles). Its 36,289 kilometers of coastline makes it the country with the 5th longest coastline in the world.[2][69] It is located between 116° 40', and 126° 34' E. longitude and 4° 40' and 21° 10' N. latitude and borders the Philippine Sea on the east, the South China Sea on the west, and the Celebes Sea on the south. The island of Borneo is located a few hundred kilometres southwest and Taiwan is located directly to the north. The Moluccas and Sulawesi are located to the south-southwest and Palau is located to the east of the islands.[2]

Most of the mountainous islands are covered in tropical rainforest and volcanic in origin. The highest mountain is Mount Apo. It measures up to 2,954 metres (9,692 ft) above sea level and is located on the island of Mindanao. The longest river is the Cagayan River in northern Luzon. Manila Bay, upon the shore of which the capital city of Manila lies, is connected to Laguna de Bay, the largest lake in the Philippines, by the Pasig River. Subic Bay, the Davao Gulf, and the Moro Gulf are other important bays. The San Juanico Strait separates the islands of Samar and Leyte but it is traversed by the San Juanico Bridge.[70]

Ancient Filipinos utilized terrace farming to grow crops in the steep mountainous regions of northern Philippines.

Situated on the northwestern fringes of the Pacific Ring of Fire, the Philippines experiences frequent seismic and volcanic activity. The Benham Plateau to the east in the Philippine Sea is an undersea region active in tectonic subduction.[71] Around 20 earthquakes are registered daily, though most are too weak to be felt. The last major earthquake was the 1990 Luzon earthquake.[72] There are many active volcanoes such as the Mayon Volcano, Mount Pinatubo, and Taal Volcano. The eruption of Mount Pinatubo in June 1991 produced the second largest terrestrial eruption of the 20th century.[73] Not all notable geographic features are so violent or destructive. A more serene legacy of the geological disturbances is the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River.

Due to the volcanic nature of the islands, mineral deposits are abundant. The country is estimated to have the second-largest gold deposits after South Africa and one of the largest copper deposits in the world.[74] It is also rich in nickel, chromite, and zinc.[74] Despite this, poor management, high population density, and environmental consciousness have resulted in these mineral resources remaining largely untapped. Geothermal energy, however, is another product of volcanic activity that the country has harnessed more successfully. The Philippines is the world's second-biggest geothermal producer behind the United States, with 18% of the country's electricity needs being met by geothermal power.[75]

Flora and fauna

The Philippine Eagle is a bird of prey found in the rainforests of the islands.

The Philippines' rainforests and its extensive coastlines make it home to a diverse range of birds, plants, animals, and sea creatures.[76] It is one of the ten most biologically mega-diverse countries and is at or near the top in terms of biodiversity per unit area.[77][78][79] Around 1,100 land vertebrate species can be found in the Philippines including over 100 mammal species and 170 bird species not thought to exist elsewhere.[80] Endemic species include the tamaraw of Mindoro and the Philippine tarsier associated with Bohol. The Philippines lacks predators, with the exception of snakes, such as pythons and cobras, and birds of prey, such as the national bird, known as the Philippine eagle.[81] Other native animals include the palm civet cat,[82] the mouse deer, the Visayan warty pig, and several species of bats. With an estimated 13,500 plant species in the country, 3,200 of which are unique to the islands,[80] Philippine rainforests boast an array of flora, including many rare types of orchids and rafflesia.[83][84] The narra is considered as the most important type of hardwood.[85] Philippine territorial waters encompass as much as 1.67 million square kilometers producing unique and diverse marine life and is an important part of the Coral Triangle. There are 2,400 fish species and over 500 species of coral.[76][80] Philippine waters also sustain the cultivation of pearls, crabs, and seaweeds.[76][86]

Deforestation, often the result of illegal logging, is an acute problem in the Philippines. Forest cover declined from 70% of the country's total land area in 1900 to about 18.3% in 1999.[87][88] Many species are endangered and scientists say that South East Asia, which the Philippines is part of, faces a catastrophic extinction rate of 20% by the end of the century.[89] According to Conservation International, "the country is one of the few nations that is, in its entirety, both a hotspot and a megadiversity country, placing it among the top priority hotspots for global conservation."[83]

Climate

The Philippines has a tropical climate and is usually hot and humid. The average yearly temperature is around 26.6°C (79.88°F).[90] There are three recognized seasons: tag-init or tag-araw (the hot season or summer from March to May), tag-ulan (the rainy season from June to November), and tag-lamig (the cold season from December to February). The southwest monsoon (from May to October) is known as the Habagat and the dry winds of the northeast monsoon (from November to April) as the Amihan.[90] The coolest month is January, and the warmest is May. Both temperature and humidity levels reach the maximum in April and May.[2] Manila and most of the lowland areas are hot and dusty from March to May.[91] Even during this period, the temperatures rarely rise above 37°C and sea-level temperatures rarely fall below 27°C. Annual rainfall measures as much as 5,000 millimeters in the mountainous east coast section but less than 1,000 millimetres in some of the sheltered valleys. Sitting astride the typhoon belt, most of the islands experience annual torrential rains and thunderstorms from July to October,[92] with on average approximately 19 typhoons per year entering the Philippine area of responsibility and 8 to 9 making landfall.[93][94]

Economy

The Makati City skyline

The national economy of the Philippines is the 47th largest in the world, with an estimated 2008 gross domestic product (GDP nominal) of over US$166.9 billion (nominal).[95] Primary exports include semiconductors and electronic products, transport equipment, garments, copper products, petroleum products, coconut oil, and fruits.[5] Major trading partners include China, Japan, the United States, Singapore, Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Thailand, and Malaysia.[5] Its unit of currency is the Philippine peso (PHP).

A newly industrialized country, the Philippine economy has been transitioning from one based on agriculture to one based more on services and manufacturing. Of the country's total labor force of around 38.1 million,[5] the agricultural sector employs close to 32% but contributes to only about 13.8% of GDP. The industrial sector employs around 13.7% of the workforce and accounts for 30% of GDP. Meanwhile the 46.5% of workers involved in the services sector are responsible for 56.2% of GDP.[96][97]

The unemployment rate as of July 2009 stands at around 7.6% and due to the global economic slowdown inflation as of September 2009 reads 0.70%.[97] Foreign currency reserves as of October 2009 are US$36.13 billion.[98] In 2004, public debt as a percentage of GDP was estimated to be 74.2%; in 2008, 56.9%.[5] Gross external debt has risen to US$66.27 billion.[5] The country is a net importer.[97]

The Philippine Stock Exchange with the statue of martyred Filipino opposition leader during the Marcos dictatorship, Benigno S. Aquino, Jr.

In the 1960s, the country was regarded as the second wealthiest in Asia, next to Japan.[54][99][100] However, the leadership of Ferdinand Marcos proved disastrous by gradually transforming the market economy into one with aspects of a centrally planned economy.[54][100] The country suffered from slow economic growth and bouts of economic recession. Only in the 1990s with a program of economic liberalization did the economy begin to recover.[54][100]

The Asian Financial Crisis affected the economy, resulting in a lingering decline of the value of the peso and falls in the stock market. The extent to which it was affected initially, however, was not as severe as that of some of its Asian neighbors. This was largely due to the fiscal conservatism of the government, partly as a result of decades of monitoring and fiscal supervision from the International Monetary Fund, in comparison to the massive spending of its neighbors on the rapid acceleration of economic growth.[47] There have been signs of progress since. In 2004, the economy experienced 6% GDP growth and 7.3% in 2007, its fastest pace of growth in three decades.[5][101] Yet average annual GDP growth per capita for the period 1966-2007 still stands at 1.45% in comparison to an average of 5.96% for the East Asia and the Pacific region as a whole and the daily income for 45% of the population of the Philippines remains less than US$2.[9][102]

Other incongruities and challenges exist. The economy is heavily reliant on remittances which surpass foreign direct investment as a source of foreign currency. Regional development is uneven with Luzon—Metro Manila in particular—gaining most of the new economic growth at the expense of the other regions,[103] although the government has taken steps to distribute economic growth by promoting investment in other areas of the country. Despite constraints, service industries such as tourism and business process outsourcing have been identified as areas with some of the best opportunities for growth for the country.[97][104] Goldman Sachs includes the country in its list of the "Next Eleven" economies.[105] However, China and India have emerged as major economic competitors.[106]

The Philippines is a member of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Asian Development Bank which is headquartered in Mandaluyong City, the Colombo Plan, and the G-77 among other groups and institutions.[5]

Demographics

Population growth of the Philippines.

The first official census in the Philippines was carried out in 1877 and recorded a population of 5,567,685.[107] By 2009, the Philippines has become the world's 12th most populous nation, with a population of over 92 million.[8][108] It is estimated that half of the population resides on the island of Luzon. Manila, the capital city, is the eleventh most populous metropolitan area in the world. The population of the Greater Manila Area is around 20 million.[109][110] Life expectancy is 71.09 years, with 74.15 years for females and 68.17 years for males.[111] Population growth rate between 1995 to 2000 was 3.21% but has decreased to an estimated 1.95% for the 2005 to 2010 period.[7]

Map of the dominant ethnicities of the Philippines by province.

There are about 11 million Filipinos outside the Philippines.[112] Since the liberalization of United States immigration laws in 1965,[113] the number of people in the United States having Filipino ancestry had grown substantially to 3.1 million according to the 2007 estimates by the United States Census Bureau.[114] According to the US Census Bureau, immigrants from the Philippines made up the second largest group after Mexico that sought family reunification.[115] Some 2 million Filipinos work in the Middle East, with nearly a million in Saudi Arabia alone.[116]

Ethnicity

According to the 2000 census 28.1% of Filipinos are Tagalog, 13.1% Cebuano, 9% Ilocano, 7.6% Bisaya/Binisaya, 7.5% Hiligaynon Ilonggo, 6% Bikol, 3.4% Waray, and 25.3% are classified as other.[5][117] These general headings can be broken down further to yield more distinct non-tribal groups like the Moro, the Kapampangan, the Pangasinense, the Ibanag, and the Ivatan.[118] There are also indigenous peoples like the Igorot, the Lumad, the Mangyan, the Badjao, and the tribes of Palawan.[119] Negritos, such as the Aeta and the Ati, are considered the original aboriginal inhabitants of the islands.

Filipinos generally belong to several Asian ethnic groups classified linguistically as part of the Austronesian or Malayo-Polynesian speaking people.[119] It's believed that thousands of years ago Taiwanese aborigines migrated to the Philippines from Taiwan, bringing with them knowledge of agriculture and ocean-sailing, and displacing the earlier Negrito groups of the islands. Eventually Chinese, Spanish, and American arrivals intermarried with the various indigenous ethnic groups that had evolved.[120] Their descendants are known as mestizos.[121] Chinese Filipinos number about 2 million.[122] Other migrant ethnic groups who have settled in the country from elsewhere include Arabs, Britons, other Europeans, Indonesians, Japanese, Koreans, and South Asians.

Cities

The figure below shows the top twenty largest cities in the Philippines.[123]

Largest cities in the Philippines

Manila
Manila
Pasig
Pasig

Rank City Region Population Rank City Region Population

Makati
Makati
Pasig
Marikina

1 Quezon City National Capital 2,679,450 11 Dasmariñas Region IV-A 556,330
2 Manila National Capital 1,660,714 12 Cagayan de Oro Region X 553,966
3 Caloocan National Capital 1,378,856 13 Parañaque National Capital 552,660
4 Davao City Region XI 1,363,337 14 Las Piñas National Capital 532,330
5 Cebu City Region VII 798,809 15 General Santos Region XII 529,542
6 Zamboanga City Region IX 774,407 16 Makati National Capital 510,383
7 Antipolo Region IV-A 633,971 17 Bacolod Region VI 499,497
8 Pasig National Capital 617,301 18 Muntinlupa National Capital 452,493
9 Taguig National Capital 613,343 19 San Jose del Monte Region III 439,090
10 Valenzuela National Capital 568,928 20 Marikina National Capital 424,610
Philippines 2007 Census

Language

Native Languages (2000)[124]
Tagalog 22 million
Cebuano 20 million
Ilokano 7.7 million
Hiligaynon 7 million
Waray-Waray 3.1 million
Kapampangan 2.9 million
Bicol Central 2.5 million
Chavacano creoles 2.5 million
Pangasinan 2.4 million
Bicol Albay 1.2 million
Maranao 1.2 million
Maguindanao 1.1 million
Kinaray-A 1.1 million
Tausug 1 million
Surigaonon 0.6 million
Masbateño 0.5 million
Aklanon 0.5 million
Ibanag 0.3 million

Ethnologue lists 175 individual languages in the Philippines, 171 of which are living languages while 4 have no known speakers. They are part of the Borneo-Philippines group of the Malayo-Polynesian languages, which is itself a branch of the Austronesian language family.[119]

According to the 1987 Philippine Constitution, Filipino and English are the official languages. Filipino is a de facto version of Tagalog, spoken mainly in Metro Manila and other urban regions. Both Tagalog and English are used in government, education, print, broadcast media, and business. Major languages recognized in the constitution include Bicolano, Cebuano, Ilocano, Hiligaynon or Ilonggo, Kapampangan, Pangasinan, Tagalog, and Waray-Waray. Spanish and Arabic are recognized as voluntary and optional languages.[3]

Other languages such as Aklanon, Boholano, Chavacano, Zamboangueño, Cuyonon, Ifugao, Itbayat, Ivatan, Kalinga, Kamayo, Kankana-ey, Kinaray-a, Maguindanao, Maranao, Masbatenyo, Romblomanon, Surigaonon, Tausug, Yakan, and several Visayan languages are prevalent in their respective provinces.

Religion

The Philippines is one of two predominantly Roman Catholic countries in Asia, the other being East Timor. It is composed of several diocese and archdiocese. More than 90% of the population are Christians. About 80% belong to the Roman Catholic Church while the remaining 10% belong to other Christian denominations, such as the Philippine Independent Church, Iglesia ni Cristo, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Seventh-day Adventist Church, United Church of Christ and the Orthodox Church.[125]

Between 5% to 10% of the population are Muslim, most of whom live in parts of Mindanao, Palawan, and the Sulu Archipelago, an area known as Bangsamoro or the Moro region.[126][127] Some have migrated into urban and rural areas in different parts of the country. Most Muslim Filipinos practice Shafi'i, a form of Sunni Islam, while some tribal groups such as the Bajau practice a form mixed with animism.[125]

Philippine traditional religions are still practiced by many aboriginal and tribal groups, often syncretized with Christianity and Islam. Animism, folk religion, and shamanism remain present as undercurrents of mainstream religion, through the albularyo, the babaylan, and the manghihilot.[125] Meanwhile, Buddhism, Taoism, and Chinese folk religion, are dominant in Chinese communities.[127]

Education

The University of Santo Tomas, founded in 1611 is one of the Philippines' oldest universities.

The National Statistics Office reports a simple literacy rate of 93.4% and a functional literacy rate of 84.1% for 2003.[5][9][97] Literacy is about equal for males and females.[5] Spending for education is around 2.5% of GDP.[5] According to the Department of Education, or DepEd, there were 42,152 elementary schools and 8,455 high schools registered for the school year 2006–2007[128] while the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) lists 2,060 higher education institutions, 537 of which are public and 1,523 private.[129] Classes start in June and end in March. The majority of colleges and universities follow a semester calendar from June to October and November to March. There are a number of foreign schools with study programs.[2] Republic Act No. 9155 gives the framework of basic education in the Philippines and provides for compulsory elementary education and free high school education.[130]

The Department of Education covers elementary, secondary, and nonformal education; the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) administers the post-secondary middle-level education training and development; while the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) supervises the college and graduate academic programs and degrees as well as regulates standards in higher education.[131]

Health

Most of the national burden of health care is taken up by private health providers. In 2006, total expenditures on health represented 3.8% of GDP. 67.1% of that came from private expenditures while 32.9% was from government. External resources accounted for 2.9% of the total. Health expenditures represented about 6.1% of total government spending. Per capita total expenditure at average exchange rate was US$ 52.[132] The proposed National Health Budget for 2010 is P28 billion, about US$597 million, or about 310 pesos (US$7) per person in the Philippines.[133] The government share of total spending on health has declined steadily, and with more people, there has been less to spend per person.

There are an estimated 90,370 physicians or 1 per every 833 people, 480,910 nurses, 43,220 dentists, and 1 hospital bed per every 769 people.[132] Retention of skilled practitioners is a problem. 70% of nursing graduates go abroad to work overseas. The country is the biggest supplier of nurses.[134]

In 2001 there were about 1,700 hospitals, of which about 40 percent were government run and 60 percent private. Cardiovascular diseases account for more than 25 percent of all deaths. According to official estimates, 1,965 cases of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) were reported in 2003, of which 636 had developed acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). Other estimates state that there may have been as many as 9,400 people living with HIV/AIDS in 2001.[92]

Infrastructure

Transportation

Jeepneys were originally made from U.S. military jeeps left over from World War II.

The transportation infrastructure in the country is relatively underdeveloped. Partly this is due to the mountainous terrain and the scattered geography of the islands, but it is also the result of the government's persistent underinvestment in infrastructure. In 2003, only 3.6% of GDP went to infrastructure development which was significantly lower than that of some of its neighbors.[92] Consequently, while there are 203,025 kilometers (126,154 miles) of roads in the country, only around 20 percent of the total is paved.[135]

Nevertheless there are many ways to get around, especially in urban areas. Buses, jeepneys, taxis, and motorized tricycles are commonly available in major cities and towns. In 2007, there were about 5.53 million registered motor vehicles with registration increasing at an average annual rate of 4.55%.[136] Train services are provided by three main railway networks that serve different areas of Metro Manila and parts of Luzon: the Manila Light Rail Transit System (LRT), the Manila Metro Rail Transit System (MRT), and the Philippine National Railways (PNR).

Philippine Airlines is the first commercial airline in Asia.

As an archipelago, inter-island travel via watercraft is often necessary. The busiest seaports are Manila, Cebu, Iloilo, Davao, Cagayan de Oro, and Zamboanga.[137] Passenger ships and other sea vessels such as those operated by Superferry, Negros Navigation, and Sulpicio Lines serve Manila, with links to various cities and towns. In 2003, the 919-kilometer Strong Republic Nautical Highway (SRNH), an integrated set of highway segments and ferry routes covering 17 cities was established.[138]

Some rivers that pass through metropolitan areas, such as the Pasig River and Marikina River, have air-conditioned commuter ferries. The Pasig River Ferry Service has numerous stops in Manila, Makati City, Mandaluyong City, Pasig City, and Marikina City.[139] There are 3,219 kilometers of navigable inland waterways.[5]

There are 85 public airports in the country, and around 111 more that are private.[135] The Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) is the main international airport. Other important airports include the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport, Mactan-Cebu International Airport, and Francisco Bangoy International Airport. Philippine Airlines, Asia's oldest commercial airline still operating under its original name, and Cebu Pacific, the leading low-cost airline, are the major airlines serving most domestic and international destinations.[140][141][142]

Communications

The Philippines has a sophisticated cellular phone industry and a high concentration of users.[143] It is estimated that there are over 57 million cellular phone subscribers[117] and the ownership rate is increasing.[143] Text messaging has fostered a culture of quick greetings and forwarded jokes among Filipinos. In 2007, the nation sent an average of 1 billion SMS messages per day a reason that the Philippines has been called the "Texting Capital of the World".[144] Out of this growing number of avid text message senders, over 5 million of them use their cellular phones as virtual wallets, making it a leader among developing nations in providing financial transactions over cellular networks.[145]

The Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company commonly known as PLDT is the leading telecommunications provider. It is also the largest company in the country.[143][146] Its wholly owned subsidiaries Smart Communications and Piltel, along with Globe Telecom of the Ayala Group, BayanTel, and Sun Cellular are the major cellular service providers in the country.

There are approximately 383 AM and 659 FM radio stations and 297 television and 873 cable television stations.[147] Estimates for internet penetration in the Philippines vary widely ranging from a low of 2.5 million to a high of 24 million people.[148][149] Social networking and MMORPGs are among the most frequent internet activities.[150][151]

Culture and society

Islamic instruments of gongs and a drum that make up the Philippine kulintang ensemble, an example of pre-Hispanic musical tradition.

Philippine culture is a combination of Eastern and Western cultures. The Philippines shares many aspects with other Asian countries, with a traditional Malay[152] heritage, yet its culture also displays a significant amount of Spanish and American influences. These influences are evident in literature, folk music, folk dance, language, food, art, and religion.

Traditional festivities known as barrio fiestas (district festivals) to commemorate the feast days of patron saints are common. The Moriones Festival and Sinulog Festival are a couple of the most well-known. These community celebrations are times for feasting, music, and dancing. Some traditions, however, are changing or gradually being forgotten due to modernization. The Bayanihan Philippine National Folk Dance Company has been lauded for preserving many of the various traditional folk dances found throughout the Philippines. They are famed for their iconic performances of Philippine dances such as the tinikling and singkil that both feature the use of clashing bamboo poles.[153]

One of the most visible Hispanic legacies is the prevalence of Spanish surnames and names among Filipinos. A Spanish name and surname among the majority of Filipinos does not always denote Spanish ancestry. This peculiarity, unique among the people of Asia, came as a result of a colonial decree, the Clavería edict, for the systematic distribution of family names and implementation of the Spanish naming system on the population.[154] The names of many streets, towns, and provinces are also in Spanish. Spanish architecture has left an imprint in the Philippines in the way many towns were designed around a central square or plaza mayor, but many of the buildings bearing its influence were demolished during World War II.[21] Some examples remain, however, mainly among the country's churches, government buildings, and universities. Four Philippine baroque churches are included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the San Agustín Church in Manila, the Paoay Church in Ilocos Norte, the Nuestra Señora de la Asunción (Santa María) Church in Ilocos Sur, and the Santo Tomás de Villanueva Church in Iloilo.[155] Vigan in Ilocos Sur is also known for the many Hispanic-styled houses and buildings preserved there.[156]

The common use of the English language is an example of the American impact on Philippine society. It has contributed to the ready acceptance and influence of American pop cultural trends. This affinity is seen in Filipinos' love of fast food, film, and music. Fast food outlets are found on many street corners. American global fast food chain stalwarts have entered the market, but local fast food chains like Goldilocks and most notably Jollibee, the leading fast food chain in the country, have emerged and compete successfully against their foreign rivals.[157][158] Modern day Filipinos also listen and watch contemporary American and European music and film. However, Original Pilipino Music (also known as OPM) and local films are also enjoyed.

Cuisine

The Halo-halo is a dessert made of ice, milk, various fruits and ice cream.

Filipino cuisine has evolved over several centuries from its Malayo-Polynesian origins to become a mixed cuisine with many Hispanic, Chinese, American, and other Asian influences that have been adapted to local ingredients and the Filipino palate to create distinctively Filipino dishes. Dishes range from the very simple, like a meal of fried salted fish and rice, to the elaborate, such as the paellas and cocidos created for fiestas. Popular dishes include lechón, adobo, sinigang, kare-kare, tapa, crispy pata, pancit, lumpia, and halo-halo. Some common local ingredients used in cooking are calamondins, coconuts, saba (a kind of short wide plantain), mangoes, milkfish, and fish sauce. Filipino taste buds tend to favor robust flavors but the cuisine is not as spicy as those of its neighbors.[158][159]

Furthermore, unlike many of their Asian counterparts, Filipinos do not eat with chopsticks. They use western cutlery. However, possibly due to rice being the primary staple food and the popularity of a large number of stews or broth based main dishes in Filipino cuisine, the main pairing of utensils seen at the Filipino dining table is that of spoon and fork, not knife and fork.[160] The traditional way of eating with the hands known as kamayan is seen more often in less urbanized areas.[161]

Mythology and literature

Philippine mythology has been handed down primarily through the traditional oral folk literature of the Filipino people. While each unique ethnic group has its own stories and myths to tell Hindu and Spanish influence can nonetheless be detected in many cases. Many of the myths are creation stories or stories about supernatural creatures, such as the aswang (vampire), the diwata (fairy), and Nature. Some popular figures from Philippine mythologies are Maria Makiling, Lam-Ang, and the sarimanok.[162]

Philippine literature comprises works usually written in Filipino, Spanish, or English. Some of the most widely known were created in the 19th century. Francisco Balagtas the poet and playwright who wrote Florante at Laura is recognized as a preeminent writer in the Filipino language. José Rizal wrote the novels Noli Me Tangere (Touch Me Not), and El Filibusterismo (The Reign of Greed) and is considered a national hero. His depiction of the injustices of Spanish rule and death by firing squad inspired other Philippine revolutionaries to seek independence. In the 20th century, among those officially recognized as National Artists of the Philippines in literature are N.V.M. Gonzalez, Nick Joaquin, F. Sionil Jose, and Alejandro Roces.[163]

Media

The GMA Network broadcasting center

Philippine media uses mainly Filipino and English. Other Philippine languages, including various Visayan languages are also used, especially in radio due to its ability to reach remote rural locations that might otherwise not be serviced by other kinds of media. The dominant television networks ABS-CBN and GMA also have extensive radio presence.[164]

The entertainment industry is vibrant and feeds broadsheets and tabloids with an unending supply of details about celebrities and sensationalist scandals du jour. Drama and fantasy shows are anticipated as are Latin telenovelas, Asianovelas, and anime. Daytime television is dominated by game shows, variety shows, and talk shows such as Eat Bulaga, Game KNB? and Wowowee. Philippine cinema has a long history and is widely appreciated, but has faced increasing competition from American and European films. Critically acclaimed directors and actors include Lino Brocka and Nora Aunor for films like Maynila: Sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag (Manila: In the Claws of Light) and Himala (Miracle). In recent years it has become common to see celebrities flitting between television and movies and then moving into politics provoking concerns.[165]

Sports and recreation

A professional basketball game being played between the Purefoods Tender Juicy Giants and Barako Bull Energy Boosters.

Various sports and pastimes are popular in the Philippines including basketball, boxing, volleyball, football, badminton, taekwondo, billiards, ten-pin bowling, chess, and sipa. Motocross, cycling, and mountaineering are also becoming popular.[166] Basketball is played at both amateur and professional levels and is considered to be the most popular sport in the Philippines.[167][168] In almost every corner of the cities, there is a basketball court.[153][166]

Some Filipinos widely recognized for their achievements include Francisco Guilledo, Flash Elorde, and Manny Pacquiao in boxing,[166] Paulino Alcántara in football (soccer), Carlos Loyzaga, Robert Jaworski and Ramon Fernandez in basketball, Efren Reyes in billiards,[169] Eugene Torre in chess, and Rafael Nepomuceno in bowling.[170]

Traditional Filipino games such as luksung baka, patintero, piko, and tumbang preso are still played primarily as children's games among the youth.[171][172] Sungka is a traditional native Filipino board game. Card games are popular during festivities, with some, including pusoy and tong-its, being used as a form of illegal gambling. Mahjong is played in some Filipino communities. The yo-yo, a popular toy in the Philippines, was introduced in its modern form by Pedro Flores with its name from the Ilokano language.[173][174] Arnis is the national martial art and sport.[175]

See also

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Asia : Southeast Asia : Philippines
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Location
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Flag
Image:rp-flag.png
Quick Facts
Capital Manila
Government Republic
Currency Philippine peso (PHP)
Area total: 300,000 km2
water: 1,830 km2
land: 298,170 km2
Population 87,857,473 (July 2006 est.)
Language English and Filipino (based on the Tagalog language) are the two official languages. There are about 8 major languages, 76 to 78 major language groups, with more than 170 distinct languages.
Religion Christianity 91% (Roman Catholic 82%, Protestant 9%), Islam 5%, Buddhism 3% and other 1%.
Electricity 220V 60Hz (in Baguio or in some homes 110V with transformers)
Calling Code +63
Internet TLD .ph

Title

Info

Time Zone UTC +8

The Republic of the Philippines [1] (Filipino: Republika ng Pilipinas) is an archipelago in South-East Asia consisting of 7,107 islands located between the Philippine Sea and the South China Sea, east of Vietnam, and north of Sabah and Borneo.

The Philippines is an archipelago abundant in nature, rich in culture, and filled with pleasant discoveries. Experience the Philippines, its 7,107 islands, its natural wonders, colorful history and warm, engaging people. Over a hundred ethnic groups, a mixture of foreign influences and a fusion of culture and arts have enhanced the uniqueness of the Filipino race and the wonder that is the Philippines.

The Chocolate Hills of Bohol
The Chocolate Hills of Bohol
Hawksbill Turtle in Sabang
Hawksbill Turtle in Sabang

Several thousand years ago, the first settlers in the Philippines crossed shallow seas and land bridges from the Asian mainland to arrive in this group of islands. These were the Negritos or Aetas. Direct descendants of these people can still be found in Zambales province to the North of Manila. Several thousand years later, they were then followed by Austronesian settlers travelling the same route as the Negritos but this time over sea in their impressive Balangay boats. This word is where the basic form of political institution, the baranggay, came from.

After settling the islands, they traveled further and settled the islands of Indonesia, Malaysia as well as the whole Pacific. The early Austronesians of the Philippines simultaneously traded with each other as well as with the Chinese, Japanese, Okinawans, Indians, Thais, Arabs and other Austronesians of present-day Malaysia and Indonesia. An interesting mix of cultures developed in the islands, and a writing system called baybayin or alibata, as well as a social structure developed quickly. Hinduism and Buddhism was introduced by traders from India, Sumatra and Java. These two religions syncretized with the various indigenous animistic beliefs. Later, Arab, Malay and Javanese traders converted the natives, mainly in the island of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago to Islam.

When the explorer Ferdinand Magellan set foot on Philippine soil through the island of Homonhon in 1521, the Philippines was predominantly animist, with some Muslim and Hindu inhabitants mainly in the southern part of the country. Famished, Magellan's crew were treated to a feast by the welcoming islanders who wore elaborate gold jewelry. Magellan was Portuguese but it was a Spanish Expedition which he led to the islands which were eventually claimed by Spain as its colony. The Philippines was later on named for Crown Prince Philip II of Spain and most of the natives converted to Catholicism. The Muslims in the south and various animistic mountain tribes, however, resisted Spanish conquest and Catholic conversion.

The longest revolt against Spanish colonization was led by Francisco Dagohoy in Bohol which lasted for 85 years covering the period of 1744-1829. As a cabeza de barangay or barangay captain, Dagohoy opposed the Spanish colonizers which were represented by priests and civil leaders, which require payment of excessive taxes, tributes. They also oppresed the Philippines' natives by not subjecting them as slaves and sending them to prison for disobeying rules.

The Philippines remained a Spanish colony for over 300 years until 1899 when it was ceded by Spain to the United States following the Spanish-American War. The Filipinos declared independence on June 12, 1898 and resisted the American occupation and colonization and fought the Americans for seven years until the Filipinos surrendered which completed the colonization of the Philippines. The American presence remained until World War II when Japan invaded the Philippines. The Japanese occupation lasted from 1941 to 1945 when Gen. Douglas McArthur fulfilled his promise and liberated the country from the Japanese.

In 1946, the Philippines was granted full independence by the U.S., although they maintained a military presence in the country through the Subic Naval Base in Zambales and Clark Air Base in Angeles City. These facilities were ultimately returned to the Philippines in the early 1990's.

Up until the 1960's, the Philippines was second only to Japan in terms of development in Asia. Several decades of corrupt rule by Ferdinand Marcos plunged the country into debt and the Philippines ultimately became known as the sick man of Asia. Poverty was widespread and infrastructure for development was severely lacking. In 1986, the People Power uprising finally overthrew the Marcos government and he was replaced by Corazon Aquino, widow of slain opposition leader, Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, Jr.

A couple of decades more have passed and somehow the Philippines are still lagging in comparison to its South East Asian neighbors Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam. Development is still slow but the country is at least moving in the right direction in recent times.

Luneta Park
Luneta Park

As of 2008, the Philippines has a population estimated at 96 million. From its long history of Western occupation, 300 years by the Spaniards and 30 years by the Americans, its people have evolved as a unique blend of East and West in both appearance and culture. But Filipinos are largely Malay in terms of ethnic origin (Austronesian or Malayo-Polynesian). However, many, particularly in the cities of Luzon and the Visayas, have heavy Chinese, Spanish, and American mixtures, whereas those living in the provinces are mostly of pure Austronesian origin (known as "native"). Many Muslims in Mindanao have Arab, Indian and Chinese mixtures. The four largest foreign minorities in the country are as follows: Chinese, Koreans, and Indian, and the Japanese. Also of significance are the Americans, Indonesians, and Arabs. Pure Spaniards, and other Europeans, form a very small proportion in the country's population.

Needless to say, the Filipino trait is a confluence of many cultures put together. Filipinos are famous for the bayanihan or spirit of kinship and camaraderie taken from Malay forefathers. They observe very close family ties which is said to have been passed on by the Chinese. Religion comes from the Spaniards who were responsible for spreading the Christian faith across the archipelago. The Spaniards introduced Christianity (Roman Catholicism) and succeeded in converting the overwhelming majority of Filipinos. At least 83% of the total population belongs to the Roman Catholic faith.

The genuine and pure expression of hospitality is an inherent trait in Filipinos, especially those who reside in the countryside who may appear very shy at first, but have a generous spirit, as seen in their smiles. Hospitality, a trait displayed by every Filipino, makes these people legendary in Southeast Asia. Guests will often be treated like royalty in Philippine households. This is most evident during fiestas when even virtual strangers are welcomed and allowed to partake in the feast that most, if not all, households have during the occasion. At times, this hospitality is taken to a fault. Some households spend their entire savings on their fiesta offerings and sometimes even run into debt just to have lavish food on their table. They spend the next year paying for these debts and preparing for the next fiesta. At any rate, seldom can you find such hospitable people who enjoy the company of their Western visitors. Perhaps due to their long association with Spain, Filipinos are emotional and passionate about life in a way that seems more Latin than Asian.

Filipinos lead the bunch of English-proficient Asian people today. The American occupation was responsible for teaching the Filipino people the English language. While the official language is Filipino (which many incorrectly equate to Tagalog) and whereas 76-78 languages and 170 dialects exist in this archipelago, still English is the second most widely spoken language in the country.

The geographical and cultural grouping of Filipinos is defined by region, where each group has a set of distinct traits and dialects - the sturdy and frugal Ilocanos of the north, the industrious Tagalogs of the central plains, the loving and sweet Visayans from the central islands, and the colorful tribesmen and religious Muslims of Mindanao. Tribal communities or minorities are likewise scattered across the archipelago.

Also, it may seem peculiar for tourists to notice the Latin flair in Filipino culture. Mainstream Philippine culture compared to the rest of Asia is quite Hispanic and westernized at the surface level. But still, Filipinos are essentially Southeast Asians and many indigenous and pre-Hispanic attitudes and ways of thinking are still noticeable underneath a seemingly westernized veneer. Muslim Filipinos and indigenous groups, who have retained a fully Malayo-Polynesian culture unaffected by Spanish-influence, are also visible in cities like Manila, Baguio, Davao or Cebu, and can remind a visitor of the amazing diversity and multiculturalism present in the country.

San Agustin Church, Intramuros, Manila
San Agustin Church, Intramuros, Manila

The Philippines is not only the largest Christian country in Asia, but also it is the world's third largest Catholic Nation. The Catholic faith remains the single biggest legacy of three hundred years of Spanish colonial rule. Catholicism is still taken quite seriously in the Philippines. Masses still draw crowds from the biggest cathedrals in the metropolis to the smallest parish chapels in the countryside. During Holy Week, most broadcast TV stations close down or operate only on limited hours and those that do operate broadcast religious programs. The Catholic Church also still exerts quite a bit of influence even on non-religious affairs such as affairs of state. Mores are changing slowly, however; Filipinos are now slowly accepting what were previously taboo issues in as far as Catholic doctrine is concerned, such as artificial birth control, premarital sex, and the dissolution of marriage vows. 

The biggest religious minority are Muslim Filipinos who primarily live in Mindanao and Sulu, but also increasingly in cities such as Manila, Baguio or Cebu in the north and central parts of the country. They account for around 5% of the population. Islam is the oldest continually practiced organized religion in the Philippines, with the first conversions made in the 12th century AD. Islam became such an important force that Manila at the time of the Spanish arrival in the 16th century was a Muslim city. Many aspects of this Islamic past are seen in certain cultural traits many mainstream Christian Filipinos still exhibit (such as eating and hygiene etiquette) and has added to the melting pot of Filipino culture in general. Sadly, Terrorist attacks and violent confrontations between the Filipino army and splinter militant Islamic organizations such as the Abu Sayyaf and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have strained relations between Muslim and the non-Muslim Filipinos in rural areas in the south. Yet, the Muslim Filipinos are much more liberal in their interpretations of Islam, and like the Muslims of Indonesia, are generally more relaxed regarding such topics as gender-segregation or the hijab (veil) than South Asians or Middle Eastern Muslims.

Indian Filipinos, Chinese Filipinos, and Japanese Filipinos are mostly Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Shinto, and Taoist which all accounts 3% of the population of the Philippines. These populations have been in the country for centuries preceding Spanish rule, and many aspects of Buddhist and Hindu belief and culture are seen in the mainstream culture of Christian or Muslim Filipinos as well. As with many things in the Philippines, religion statistics are never clear-cut and defined, and many Christians and Muslims also practice and believe in indigenous spiritual aspects (such as honoring natural deities and ancestor-worship, as well as the existence of magic and healers) that may in some cases contradict the orthodox rules of their religions.

Climate

The climate is tropical, with March to May (summer) being the hottest months. The rainy season starts in June and extends through October with strong typhoons possible. The coolest months are from November to February, with mid-January to end of February considered the best for cooler and dryer weather. Locations exposed directly to the Pacific Ocean have frequent rainfall all year. This includes the popular Pagsanjan Falls southeast of Manila (though the falls will get you wet regardless). The average temperatures range from 78°F / 25°C to 90°F / 32°C, and humidity is around 77 percent. Baguio, which is branded as the summer capital of the Philippines, tends to be cooler due to its being located in mountainous regions with temperatures at night going below 20°C (68°F).

Public Holidays

  • New Year's Day - January 1
  • Maundy Thursday - Varies
  • Good Friday - Varies
  • Easter Sunday - Varies
  • Araw Ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor) - April 9
  • Labor Day - May 1
  • Independence Day - June 12
  • Ninoy Aquino Day - August 21
  • National Heroes Day - Last Monday of August
  • All Saints Day - November 1
  • All Souls Day - November 2
  • Eid Ul Fitr (Hari Raya Puasa) - Varies according to lunar calendar
  • Eid Ul Adha - Varies according to lunar calendar
  • Bonifacio Day - November 30
  • Christmas Day - December 25
  • Rizal Day - December 30
  • Last Day of the Year - December 31

Being a predominantly Catholic country means observing the traditional Catholic holidays of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday during Lent. Christmas and New Year's Day are also observed as non-working holidays along with All Saints Day on November 1 and All Souls Day on November 2. In recognition of the Muslim Filipino, the Islamic feast of Eid-Al-Fitr (known in the Philippines as Hari Raya Puasa), held after Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting, is also a national holiday. This day changes year by year, as it follows the Lunar Calendar. Chinese New Year is also celebrated by the Chinese Community but dates vary according to the lunar calendar.

Secular holidays include Labor Day (May 1) and Independence Day (June 12). August 30 is declared National Heroes Day. Some holidays also commemorate national heroes such as Jose Rizal (Dec. 30) and Andres Bonifacio (Nov. 30) as well as Ninoy Aquino (August 21).

Metro Manila is less congested during Holy Week as people tend to go to their hometowns to spend the holidays there. Holy week is also considered part of the super peak season for most beach resorts such as Boracay and the most popular ones tend to get overcrowded at this time. Due to its cool mountain weather, Baguio is also where a lot of people spend the Holy Week break.

Culture

The Philippines is a diverse country just like its neighboring countries; Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, making the country more of a Salad bowl. Filipino Culture is influenced by Asian, European, American and Islamic culture. Filipino culture can be seen in the Tinikling dance which also shows distinctive influence from the Indonesians, the dance is mistakenly known as the national dance because of its popularity, the dance is demonstrated by two or more people holding two or more bamboo sticks known as Kawayan, then they start moving the bamboo sticks as the dancers put their foot in between the bamboo sticks quickly out and in. Hispanic, European and American influence can be seen in all fields of a modern Filipino's life. Watch the award-winning movie Himala(1982) (Himala means Miracle in Tagalog), by Ricky Lee and was starred by award-winning actress Nora Aunor, the movie was acclaimed Best Film of All Time by CNN APSA Viewers Choice Award as well as Asia-Pacific Film Festival Special Achievement for Best Depiction of Socially Involved Religion. Read Jose Rizal's two novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo both which were written during the Spanish occupation, Jose Rizal considered as a National Hero in the Philippines after fearlessly speaking out against the Spanish. Try Kamayan, a literal meaning for eating with hands, while in the Philippines, it would make the Filipino experience better.

  • Manila - the national capital and is part of what is called the greater Metropolitan Manila area (Metro Manila).
  • Bacolod - the city of smiles and land of the sweet tooth.
  • Baguio - the country's summer capital (cool weather), well-maintained parks and views and home of the indigenous "Igorot" peoples
  • Cebu - known as the Queen City of the South, Cebu is the first established indigenous settlement discovered by the west in the Philippines
  • Cagayan de Oro - known as the City of Golden Friendship, it is popular for whitewater rafting and is the gateway to Northern Mindanao.
  • Davao - one of the largest cities in the world in terms of land area
  • Tagbilaran City, Bohol - site of the Blood Compact Treaty between Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and Rajah Sikatuna representing the Bohol-anon people (of Bohol).
  • Vigan - historic Spanish town, north of the Philippines and about 5 hours drive or bus ride from Manila. A UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Zamboanga City- also known as the Asia's Latin City which comes alive during the Fiesta Pilar

Regions

There are a total of 79 provinces in the Philippines that can be divided among three main island groups:

Regions of the Philippines
Regions of the Philippines
Luzon (Luzon, Palawan, Mindoro, Marinduque, Masbate)
The northernmost island group, center of government, history and economy and home to the capital
Visayas (Negros, Cebu (island), Bohol, Leyte)
The central island group, heart of the country’s antiquity, nature and biodiversity
Mindanao (Mindanao, Basilan)
the southernmost island group, which showcases the Philippines’ indigenous and rich cultures
The Mayon volcano, near Bicol
The Mayon volcano, near Bicol

On entering the Philippines foreigners from most countries [2] automatically get a free 3-week tourist visa. If intending on staying longer you should apply for a visa extension. Each visa extension is valid for 59 days, except the first which is 38 days (i.e 59-21). Effective 27 May 2009, all passengers regardless of citizenship or residence must fill-out the new machine-readable arrival-departure card which is issued by the airline. Unlike the previous scheme where arrival and departure cards are filled-out separately and independently from each other, the new card has a portion for arriving passengers, which will be given to the passport control officer and another part to be retained in the passport until departure.

You can pay on departure a fine of PhP1000 per month of overstay plus the PhP2020 fee.

To avoid all the hassle, before traveling get the longer visa from the embassy (or a consulate), as this saves you a couple of days hassle during your holiday. Contact the Philippine embassy of your country about the exact requirements for a visa application and opening hours of the consular section. When you arrive with a visa, show it to the immigration official, so that he will actually give you the 59 days, instead of the normal 21 days, on your arrival stamp.

Bureau of Immigration offices are as follows:

-Bureau of Immigration Main Office. Magallanes Drive, Intramuros, Manila. Tel (011-63-2)527-5657.

-Bureau of Immigration Regional Office. P Burgos Street, Tribunal, Mandaue City, Cebu. Tel (011-63-32)345-6442/6443/6444.

-Bureau of Immigration Regional Office - Davao. BI Building, JP Laurel Ave., Bajada, Davao City, Tel (011-63-82)300-7258.

-Bureau of Immigration offices in other locations: [3]

By plane

Since the Philippines is an archipelago, most visitors will arrive by plane. International travelers can fly into airports in Manila, Cebu, Davao, Clark (Angeles), Kalibo, Laoag, Subic (Zambales), and Zamboanga. The Philippines, being an archipelago and therefore not connected by land to any of its neighboring countries is the usual reason why this paradise destination is skipped by many uninformed travelers. But below you will read about different options to reach the Philippine islands.

NAIA Centennial Terminal (Terminal 2)
NAIA Centennial Terminal (Terminal 2)

If you plan to travel around the various islands, it is best to get an open jaw ticket. This can save much time back-tracking. Most common open jaw combination fly into Manila and out of Cebu.

The cheapest option when coming from Europe or South America is transitting into Singapore (via Tiger Airways) or Hong Kong (via Cebu Pacific or Philippine Airlines) or fairly recently Kuala Lumpur (via Air Asia). In fact, the Air Asia trip from London to KL can be as low as €200 if you book a flight during off-peak season or well in advance. From KL, Cebu Pacific airlines can take you direct to Manila or you can pass by Singapore before your trip to this beautiful archipelago. From North America, use Philippine Airlines which has direct service from Vancouver and a stopover in Guam from San Francisco and Los Angeles. But there are many regional carriers that can give excellent open jaw ticket options Silkair with Singapore Airlines being one.

Most visitors will fly in through the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila. NAIA has three terminals. Terminal 2 is exclusively used by Philippine Airlines for its International and Domestic flight networks. Terminal 1 is used by airlines that fly to international destinations. The Manila Domestic Passenger Terminal is used by airlines that fly to domestic destinations. Terminal 3, the largest and most modern of the terminals , is open to Cebu Pacific, PAL Express and AirPhilippines operations.

Major airlines that fly to Manila include KLM, which have daily connections from Amsterdam coming from Europe; Northwest Airlines, which has various connections from the United States via Japan; Singapore Airlines with multiple connections each day to Singapore, and Cathay Pacific which offers multiple flights a day to Hong Kong and further into the the Chinese Mainland. Budget carrier Jet Air Asia operates flights from Singapore to Manila unlike other low cost carriers which fly to Clark (see below).

Major airlines that fly into Manila include (as of January 2010):

From either international airport, passengers can connect to domestic flights. Philippine Airlines domestic flights leave from the same airport (Terminal 2), Cebu Pacific, PAL Express and Air Philippines fly out of Terminal 3 while other domestic airlines fly out of the old domestic airport.

The Diosdado Macapagal International Airport in Clark, Angeles City is where budget airlines like Air Asia (from Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu) and Tiger Airways (from Singapore and Macau) fly to, aside from that it also receives direct flights from Hong Kong and Korea. Clark is located to the north of Metro Manila, about 1 to 2 hours by bus. Currently Cebu Pacific operates domestic flights to Cebu-Mactan airport, and South East Asian Airlines operates flights to Boracay's Caticlan airport. Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific are currently awaiting approval to open up new hubs/focus cities at Diosdado Macapagal International Airport. It is set to replace the Ninoy Aquino International Airport as the country's premier gateway in 10 years time.

The Mactan-Cebu International Airport in Cebu on the island of Mactan, is the second busiest airport with various domestic and international connections.

Major airlines that have regular flights in and out of Cebu include (as of August 2007):

Domestic

  • Air Philippines (Bacolod, Davao, General Santos, Iloilo, Manila)
  • Asian Spirit (Cagayan de Oro, Malay, Manila)
  • Cebu Pacific (Bacolod, Cagayan de Oro, Davao, Iloilo, Kalibo, Manila, Manila-Clark, Puerto Princesa, Zamboanga)
  • Philippine Airlines (Manila)
  • South East Asian Airlines (Bislig, Cotabato, Malay, Mambajao, Manila-Clark, Siargao, Tagbilaran and Zamboanga City)
  • Zest Airways ( Zamboanga City to Malaysia and Bandar Seri Bengawan )

International

  • Asian Spirit (Koror-Palau)
  • Asiana Airlines (Seoul-Incheon)
  • Cathay Pacific (Hong Kong)
  • Cebu Pacific (Busan, Hong Kong, Seoul-Incheon, Singapore, Taipei-Taiwan Taoyuan)
  • Mandarin Airlines (Kaoshiung, Taipei-Taiwan Taoyuan)
  • China Eastern Airlines (Shanghai-Pudong)
  • Korean Air (Seoul-Incheon)
  • Malaysia Airlines (Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur)
  • Philippine Airlines (Seoul-Incheon, Tokyo-Narita)
  • Qatar Airways (Doha)
  • Silk Air (Singapore)

Most visitors usually fly in through the Mactan-Cebu airport if their intended destination is within the Visayas (for Boracay and Bohol) and Mindanao regions.

The Francisco Bangoy International Airport in Davao City on the island of Mindanao receives direct flights from Seoul in South Korea, Singapore, Manado and Gorontalo in Indonesia, and Palau in Micronesia and seasonal flights from Macau. Flights operated by Air Asia are to begin next year, from Kuala Lumpur.

The Kalibo Airport in Kalibo in the province of Aklan, a gateway to Boracay, receives direct flights from Seoul in South Korea and Shanghai in China.

The Laoag International Airport in Laoag City in the province of Ilocos Norte receives direct flights from Guangzhou in China.

The Subic Bay International Airport in Subic in the province of Zambales receives direct flights from Taipei in Taiwan, Pacific Pearl Airways, a Charter Airline currently offers flights to Kalibo, Cebu, Puerto Princesa and parts of South Korea.

The Zamboanga International Airport in Zamboanga City on the Zamboanga Peninsula will soon receive direct flights from Sandakan in Malaysia beginning in April 23, 2007.

Get around

By plane

Philippine Airlines [18] and Air Philippines [19], Cebu Pacific [20], SEAIR [21], Asian Spirit [22] and Interisland Airlines [23] are some of the airlines that operate domestic flights. Philippine Airlines, Air Philippines and Cebu Pacific serve most large cities, while smaller operators like SEAIR, Asian Spirit and Interisland Airlines typically fly to popular resort destinations.

By train

Within Metro Manila, there is a network of light railway systems that connect various portions of the metropolis. LRT1 Line covers Taft Avenue in Manila to Monumento in Caloocan. LRT2 Line, meanwhile covers Manggahan, Pasig to Recto Avenue in Manila. Third train system is the MRT1 which spans EDSA starting from North Ave. in Quezon City to Taft Avenue in Manila. This mode of transport is top choice among travelers for they are cheaper and faster compared to other land-based transportation. It operates from 6am to 12midnight daily.

The Philippine National Railways network in the south is currently under rehabilitation.

By car

There are major car rental companies such as Avis, Hertz and Budget have offices in Metro Manila, notably at the airport. These companies have chauffeur driven rentals available and prices are bound to be reasonable.

Due to heavy traffic in Metro Manila, certain areas of the city have laws that restrict certain vehicles based on the day of the week and the ending number of your vehicle's license plate (this plan is called "Color Coding", though it has nothing to do with the color of your vehicle). For example: Cars with license plates ending in 1 or 2 cannot drive between the hours of 7AM and 7PM on Mondays on most main roads. Be sure to check with a local contact or the car rental agency/hotel concierge about whether these rules will apply to your vehicle, especially as foreigners driving can become targets for less scrupulous traffic aides.

Travel from Metro Manila to various provinces in Luzon will typically start off from either the North(NLEX) or South(SLEX) Expressways. These are tollways with good paved roads. Farthest tolls will not cost more than a few dollars from Metro Manila. From the expressways, national highways and provincial roads connect to the major cities and provinces. Another main highway system built in the northern part of Luzon is SCTEX or Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway which is a 94-kilometer 4-lane freeway.

Bridges and ferries connect the major islands together. Roads vary greatly in quality from the paved multi-lane highways to narrow dirt roads, which further complicates travel by car

By taxi

Taxis are generally available within the major cities but are usually not used for travel across the various provinces and regions. Some FX (shared taxis), however, usually ply provincial routes.

You can also call reputable Taxi companies that can arrange pickups and transfers as well as airport runs.

Basic Taxi Company Tel: 02 9001447 Tel: 02 6427777 Tel: 02 6437777

When hailing a taxi in the cities, ensure the meter is on and pay the metered fare. A tip of 10 pesos is acceptable. Also, make sure you have small denomination banknotes, as the drivers often claim not to have change in an effort to obtain a larger tip! Moreover, don't be surprised if drivers want to bypass the meter during rush hour.

By bus

Apart from flying, buses are usually the way to go when it comes to traveling across the Philippines, at least from within the major islands. Provincial bus companies have scheduled trips from Manila to provinces to the north and south.

  • Major Provincial Bus Companies:
    • ALPS The Bus, Inc.[24] -- Southern Tagalog Region. The bus company have daily departures from Batangas to Alabang; Batangas to Lawton; Batangas to Pasay; Batangas to Cubao/Kamias; Cubao to Iloilo; Cubao to Estancia and vise versa. You can travel safely and conveniently with the everyday low fares on ALPS. They can be contacted via web: www.alpsthebus.com; e-mail: info@alpsthebus.com; Telephone: +6343-7239033
    • JAM Bus Co -- Southern Tagalog Region
    • Five Star -- Ilocos Region
    • Victory Liner -- Ilocos Region, Baguio and Zambales
    • Saulog Transit -- Baguio, Olongapo, Cavite
    • Partas -- Ilocos Region
    • Farinas -- Ilocos Region
    • Dagupan Bus Co. -- Ilocos Region
    • Philtranco -- Bicol, Eastern Visayas, Northern, Eastern, and Southern Mindanao
    • Rural Transit -- Mindanao
    • Rural Tours -- Mindanao
    • Bachelor Tours -- Northern Mindanao
    • Super-5 -- Northern Mindanao

Roll-on, Roll-off ferries have also made inter-island travel by bus possible.

By boat

WG&A SuperFerry and a number of other companies operate interisland ferries. There is a convenient Friday overnight ferry trip to Coron, Palawan. This allows divers to spend the weekend in Coron and take the Sunday night ferry trip back to Manila, arriving around noon. You can also stay on a Cruise Ship that's exploring around the Coron area. The 7107 Island Cruise Ship takes passengers around Coron and some of its private islands.

Ferry trips to other islands can take over 24 hours, depending on distance.

Other major ferry companies include: Sulpicio Lines, Negros Navigation, Trans Asia Shipping Lines, and Cebu Ferries.

Oceanjet is a reliable company offering fast ferries throughout the Visayas at affordable prices.

Schedule Information is difficult to obtain - newspapers often contain pages with ads on certain days, but, believe it or not, most people rely on word-of-outh.

Warning: If the boat appears to be over capacity, do not board. Always check the latest weather reports before travel by ferry, as some captains are willing to sail even when a typhoon is approaching. Bringing your own life preserver is strongly recommended (but no substitute for common sense). Travel by boat should not be considered safer than air travel.

Jeepneys

Jeepneys are the most known transportation to all Filipinos. They are the most affordable transport in the Philippines. (Cost about 7 pesos per 4 km and additional 1 peso per km). They stop if you wave at them.

The jeepney is by far the most affordable way to get around most major urban areas. Remnants of the Jeep used by the American troops during World War II, the innovative Filipinos modified the jeep (by lengthening the body and adding horizontal seats) to seat as many as 20 people (10 per side). Within Manila, you will find multiple Jeepneys per route, for added convenience. In the provinces, Jeepneys also connect towns and cities. For longer distances, however, buses are more comfortable.

Also worthy of mention are the tricycles and the pedicabs or in other words Rickshaw; however, this may not be to the liking of most foreigners, as these are cramped and quite open to traffic. These means of transport are usually used for very short distances. Tricycles are different from Pedicabs, Tricycles use motor while pedicabs are manually used with the help of bicycles.

Travel Warning

WARNING: The jeepneys, tricycles and pedicabs are meant for small people. Seating is cramped, even for locals, who are, on average, smaller by Western standards. Jeepney drivers/operators often insist on seating the vehicle to full capacity (say, eight per side) even if there's a very large person seated. Consider this if you're overweight or 6 feet or taller. Watch your head when boarding as the roof is low (compared to a bus). Also, drivers often don't look to see if anyone is boarding before driving off. As you board, you need to evaluate every half second whether you're going to abort or hang on to the vehicle if it starts to move. If you're not in good physical shape, don't even try it.

Talk

The Philippines has two official languages: English and Filipino. Filipino is mainly based on the Tagalog language (a relative of Malay), with heavy Spanish, Cebuano, Malay, Chinese (Hokkien), Hindi, Tamil, Sanskrit, Arabic, and American English influences.

Filipino is the language spoken in the Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog regions as well as the National Capital Region (NCR) or Metro Manila. In the Northern Luzon provinces, Ilocano is the most common language spoken. The provinces of Pangasinan and Pampanga also have their own languages. Further south of Metro Manila lies the Bicol Region where Bikolano is used. In the Southern Islands of Visayas and Mindanao, Cebuano is the most common language spoken. Other minor languages in the south include Hiligaynon and Waray.

Although English is an official language of the Philippines and a compulsory subject in school, it is in practice used more often by the richer and better educated when making formal speeches and it would be awkward if a Filipino speaks English to a fellow Filipino in informal situations. Tourists however won't have problems using English when making inquiries from commercial and government establishments. A few simple phrases in Filipino will come in handy when traveling to rural places as English proficiency is limited there.

Many Spanish words survive in many of the local languages. Spanish is no longer widely understood. Nonetheless, Spanish is still spoken by a small Spanish ethnic minority, particularly older members who were educated when Spanish was used as the language of government and higher education. Younger Spanish-Filipinos tend to speak Filipino languages and/or English as their primary language.

There are some other ethnic groups who reside in the country, particularly in more urbanized areas like Manila. The biggest group is the Chinese, many of whom have assimilated with Filipino society. Take note however that since most of them come from Fujan province, they speak more Hokkien but learn Manadarin if sent to Chinese schools. Other groups include the Indians, Japanese, Arabs, Koreans, Americans and Europeans. In some cosmopolitan areas, there are establishments catering to Korean speakers.

  • Boracay. favorite tourist destination island - famous for its white beaches and all night parties.  edit
  • Rice Terraces. Ancient stone built terraces for rice in the mountain region (villages Sagada & Bontoc)  edit
  • El Nido. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is located in the northern part of Palawan island, and has a coastline of white sands and blue waters.  edit

Learn

Scuba diving is spectacular in the Philippines. There is a great variety of dive sites and most if not all of these would have at least a handful of PADI accredited diving schools where you can obtain your license. Costs (of both lessons and equipment) are likely to be cheaper here compared to places like Australia, the Caribbean or even in nearby Thailand and Malaysia.

Do

The Philippines has several places where you can do Whitewater Rafting. One of the best, if not the best, whitewater rafting experience can be had in Cagayan de Oro City, a city in the northern part of Mindanao. Also, Davao is emerging as the "true" Whitewater rafting capital in Mindanao, if not in the Philippines. Scuba Diving is an ideal activity in the Philippines, it is home to beautiful coral reefs such as the Tubbataha Reef located in the Sulu Sea. Go mountain hiking in the Philippines, mountains like Mt. Kanlaon and Mt. Pulag are good for hikers.

Feast

With 7,107 islands, each town, city, province and island has its own festivals mostly in honor of Patron saints or city holding the festival, it's difficult to know how many festivals are celebrated in the country where there are over 7,107 islands. Parades and processions, marching bands, floats and dance displays are usual activities. A number of important festivals include the following:

  • Black Nazarene - An annual festival held in Quiapo, Manila. Millions gather to witness the procession of the Black Nazarene; a wooden statue of Jesus of Nazarene, carrying a cross, called Black Nazarene due to its color. People walk in street barefoot and jam the streets of Manila and push against one another to reach the statue as believed that it would grant wishes, prayers and give miracles and blessings.
  • Sinulog - held in Cebu City on the 3rd Sunday of January. Celebrating Sto. Niño, the Sinulog Festival includes a week of dancing, parades and celebration.
  • Panagbenga - the flower festival held in Baguio every February.
  • Chinese New Year - celebrations coinciding with the coming of the Lunar new year, held in many urban areas, particularly in Chinatown in downtown Manila
  • Ati-Atihan - also held to commemorate the feast of the Sto. Niño, but this time in Kalibo on the island of Panay. The Queen of Philippine Festivals and said to be the Filipino version of Mardi Gras.
  • MassKara Festival - Annual festival held in Bacolod City, another Filipino version of Mardi Gras, people wear masks with smiles on it and dance on the street, people go to the streets and celebrate by drinking beer and eating Inasal. Dance competitions are held at the public plaza of the city.
  • Moriones - held during the Lenten Season in Marinduque. These are passion plays meant to depict the crucifixion and eventual resurrection of Jesus Christ.
  • Pahiyas - held every May in Lucban, Quezon to celebrate the feast day of San Isidro Labrador. There is a town-wide house decorating contest held during the festival. The colors and designs used are a feast for the eyes.
  • Flores de Mayo - flower festival held in every May. Many towns celebrate Flores De Mayo with the community congregating in the afternoons to pray the rosary, offer flowers to the Virgin Mary, and share homemade delicacies and snacks. Children and adults wearing their Sunday best sing and dance to welcome the rains that will water the new crops.
  • Kadayawan - held in Davao every August, Kadayawan means a Thanksgiving celebration for the good harvest, where most flowers and fruits are available during the season.
  • Bangus Festival - not as popular as the other festivals. It is held annually in Dagupan City, Pangasinan. The usual events are a parade and 101 Ways to Cook Bangus. A "Longest Barbeque" was also held during the festival one year.
  • Kagay-an Festival - held every August 26 to 28 in Cagayan de Oro in celebration of the feast day of Saint Augustine. Festivity highlight includes the Miss Kagay-an Tourism beauty pagent, Sakay-Sakay sa Lambago fluvial parade, street dancing in native costumes and the Golden Float parade.
  • Zamboanga Hermosa Festival (Fiesta Pilar): Held on October, the festival highlights the celebration of honoring the miraculous image of Our Lady of the Pillar. The festival features week-long novena masses, cultural shows, agricultural fairs, cutural exhibits, a two-day mardi gras parade, the bandoreal, a regatta, torch parades, fireworks, and carnivals. The festival commences with a solemn procession and a grand mass at the Fort. With thousands of pilgrims converging in Zamboanga City, this is the peninsula's biggest festival.
Puka Beach on Boracay
Puka Beach on Boracay

Beaches can be found aplenty on this nation of 7,107 islands. These beaches come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and fineness of sand. Some are in well-secluded islands while others are just a short ride across a causeway from the city. Among the most notable are the following:

  • Boracay - Boracay Island off the island of Panay has the White Beach. It is also one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. It has fine, powdery white sand stretching on for several kilometers and is an excellent spot for sun-worshippers. Boracay also has several other lesser-known beaches. Outrigger boats to Boracay depart from Caticlan Port, just a short flight from Manila.
  • Mactan Island - in Cebu, the Cebu airport is actually on Mactan Island
  • Pagudpud - in Ilocos Norte, several hours north of Metro Manila
  • Panglao - small island off the island of Bohol, a short ride from the capital of Tagbilaran, which in turn is a short fast ferry ride from Cebu City. From Panglao, you can easily schedule an excursion to the Chocolate Hills for which Bohol is most known.
  • Puerto Galera - on the island of Mindoro. Ferries to Puerto Galera depart from Batangas Port, a couple of hours drive south of Metro Manila
  • Samal Island - off the coast of Davao
  • Camiguin Island - an island-province north of Mindanao. Also known as the Lanzones Capital of the Philippines, it can be reached directly by plane or ferry.
  • Sta. Cruz Island - Zamboanga City Great Santa Cruz island is known for its pink sand beach and sand bar, while the Little sta. cruz island is a typical white beach, with pulverized-like sand. It is also a diving site and is host to a lagoon.
  • Negros Island - Negros Occidental (north-western half of the island, in the Western Visayas region) offers fine white sand beaches, and nearby Danjugan Island Marine Reserve. Danjugan Island is bursting with thousands of species of marine life and home to the endangered White Breasted Eagle. Negros Oriental (south-eastern half of the island, in the Central Visayas region) is home to Dumaguete and numerous beach resorts in Dauin that can take you to Apo Island, one of the most magnificent diving spots in the Philippines.

Work

It is possible for foreigners to earn casual money while staying in the Philippines, especially in Manila and other bigger cities in provinces. These may include temporary teaching in schools, colleges and other institutions; and working in bars and clubs. Temporary work may also be available as an "extra" on the set of a film or television series. Fluency in English is very important in jobs while knowledge of Filipino or Tagalog is considerably low.

Unlike other countries, there are no strict bureaucratic papers needed such as carte de sejours and NBI IDs, so some formal jobs are not hard to come by and get. Do not expect large sums of money even for formal jobs. Wages are displayed on a per day basis rather than a per hour basis.

Most establishments pay monthly but informal jobs pay out variably either cash on hand or weekly.

Buy

Money

The Philippine Peso(₱)(PHP) is the official currency. As of January 2010, one U.S. dollar trades at around 45 pesos.Peso bills come in denominations of 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000. One peso is equivalent to 100 centavos and coins come in 5, 10 and 25 centavo variants in addition to the 1, 5 and 10 peso coins. Money changers are not so common in the Philippines apart from some heavily touristed areas and most malls which usually have their own currency exchange stall. Banks on the other hand are widely available to exchange currency but usually impose a minimum amount and have limited hours of operation, usually from 9 AM to 3 PM on weekdays except Bank of the Philippine Islands(BPI) and Banco De Oro(BDO) which have longer hours of operation.

Visitors can also use the 6,000 ATMs nationwide to withdraw funds or ask for cash advances. The three major local ATM consortia are BancNet, MegaLink and Expressnet. International networks, like PLUS and Cirrus, are accessible with many ATMs, however Cirrus is more predominant than PLUS; however, withdrawals are often limited to 5,000 pesos. An exception is HSBC where up to 50,000 pesos is possible. Visitors who have a MasterCard/Maestro/Cirrus cards can withdraw funds or ask for cash advances at ATMs that display their logos. The most prominent MasterCard ATMs are the Express Tellers by BPI (Bank of the Philippine Islands) and the Smartellers by Banco de Oro. PLUS ATMs are not available locally as a complement by itself, but instead it is available along with Cirrus. Prominent examples include the Fasteller by Equitable PCI Bank and the Electronic Teller (ET) by Metrobank. Most MegaLink ATMs are linked to PLUS and Cirrus.

Credit card holders can use VISA, MasterCard, American Express and JCB cards in many locations in the Philippines but merchants would usually require a minimum purchase amount before you can use your card. Cardholders of China UnionPay credit cards can get cash advances at many BancNet ATMs (particularly of Metrobank) but cannot use their cards in point of sale transactions at the moment.

Exchange Rates

As of January 2010:

  • U.S. Dollar $1 - Philippine Peso ₱45
  • Euro €1 - Philippine Peso ₱66
  • Pound Sterling £1 - Philippine Peso ₱74
  • Saudi Rial SR1 - Philippine Peso ₱12
  • Japanese Yen ¥1 - Philippine Peso ₱0.50
  • Australian Dollar $1 - Philippine Peso ₱42
  • South African Rand R1 - Philippine Peso ₱6

Traveling in Philippines is cheap (one of the least expensive places to visit in Asia and as well in the rest of the world.) Some accomdation is pricy. , more so in some cases places to stay are cheaper in Thailand. For example a stay in a hotel would cost as low as $30 or ₱1400, a flight to Cebu from Manila and vice-versa will cost $35 or ₱1645. Transportation is low as ₱8.50 for the first 4km in a Jeepney. Using an internet for 1 hour in an internet cafe range from ₱20 to ₱50 depending on the Internet Cafe's prices, a can of coke costs as low was ₱16 and a Copy of the International Herald Tribune costs ₱70 and Economist as low was ₱160. In most restaurants, there is 12% Value Added Tax (VAT).

Eat

Filipino cuisine has developed from the different cultures that shaped its history. As such it is a melange of Chinese, Malay, Spanish and American influences. Though its cuisine is not as renowned as many of its neighbours, such as that of Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and lately Vietnam, Filipino cooking is nonetheless distinct in that it is possibly the least spicy of all South East Asian cuisines. Don't make the mistake to think of Filipino food as bland, though. It is just that instead of spices, Filipino food depends more on garlic, onions and ginger to add flavor to dishes. Painstaking preparation and prolonged cooking time is also a characteristic of most Filipino dishes, and when done properly is often what brings out the flavor of the food as, opposed to a healthy dose of spices.

Filipinos usually eat with a spoon and fork, with the spoon held in the right hand and the fork used for pushing food onto the spoon but sometimes, Filipinos eat with their hands, usually on provinces and remote areas or when they are on a picnic and using banana leaves as their plates.

Rice

As with the rest of Southeast Asia, rice is the staple food of the Philippines. Some areas in the Visayas prefer corn but elsewhere Filipinos would generally have rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Uncooked rice usually comes in 50kg sacks but can be bought by the kilogram at the wet market or at neighborhood rice dealers. Single servings of rice are readily available at fastfood restaurants or eateries.

Mains

Filipinos usually serve at least one main course accompanied by rice for lunch and dinner. At times you would have two with a vegetable dish accompanying a meat dish. On special occasions such as fiestas, several main dishes would be served. Soups are also often the main course apart from being a starter. It is not uncommon for Filipinos to douse their rice with the soup and eat the meat that came with the soup alongside. Here are a few typical Filipino dishes:

  • Adobo - chicken, pork or both served in a garlicky stew with vinegar and soy sauce as a base.
  • Pansit - chicken, pork or shrimp mixed with rice noodles with variety of vegetables i.e. carrots, cabbage, celery, peapods etc.
  • Tinola - chicken in ginger soup.
  • Sinigang - soup soured usually with tamarind (but can also be by guavas or kamias), can be served with pork, beef, chicken, fish or shrimp.
  • Lengua - roasted beef tongue marinated in savory sauce
  • Nilaga - literally means "boiled", can be beef which in certain places is served with its marrow (bulalo), pork or chicken.
  • Calamares - fried shrimp/squid wrapped in breading.
  • Kare-kare - peanuty stew of vegetables and meat simmered for hours on end, usually beef with tripe and tail and eaten with a side of shrimp paste (bagoong). There is also a seafood version of kare-kare with crabs, squid and shrimp instead of beef.
  • Camaron Rebusado - the Filipino version of tempura.
  • Lechon de leche - slow-roasted baby pork, usually served during larger occasions. The crispy skin is delicious and is often the first part that is consumed.
  • Daing na bangus - fried dried milkfish, usually served for breakfast with garlic fried rice and fried egg.
  • Pakbet - a traditional meal of mixed vegetables usually containing cut tomatoes, minced pork, lady finger, eggplant, etc.
  • Dinuguan - a dark stew of pig's blood mixed with its innards. Usually served with a big green chili and best eaten with puto.
  • Bopis - pork innards, usually served spicy.

Snacks

Filipinos love to snack. Merienda is what Filipinos call their mid-morning and mid-afternoon meals. Some favorite snack time meals include:

  • Bibingka - rice cake with cheese and salted egg.
  • Halo-halo - literally means "mixed", fruit, sweets, crushed ice, milk, beans, and sometimes ice cream. Similar to the ice kachang served in Malaysia and Singapore.
  • Balut - is a fertilized duck egg with a nearly-developed embryo inside that is boiled and eaten in the shell. Popularly believed to be an aphrodisiac and considered a high-protein, hearty snack, baluts are mostly sold by street vendors at night in the regions where they are available. Boiled and usually eaten with a sprinkle of salt and vinegar.
  • Penoy - same as balut, but without the embryo, just the yolk.
  • Buko pie - pie made with fresh coconut flesh. The province of Laguna has numerous roadside buko pie stores, with several of them claiming to be the home of the "original" buko pie.
  • Pandesal - small buns usually made fresh in the morning, usually an alternative to rice for breakfast. It is usually eaten with a cup of coffee. Some people prefer to dip their pandesal in coffee.
  • Banana cue - a popular street food made of saba bananas fried in very hot oil with caramelized sugar coating. The saba bananas can also be boiled instead of fried.
  • Fishballs - more popularly known to Filipinos as "fishballan" they usually come in vendor stands and are sold deep-fried along with squidballs, chickenballs and kikiam. Some stands also sell "isaw" (chicken innard), siomai (steamed dumpling), "kwekkwek" (boiled quail egg in orange coating), and "betamax" (dried and cubed pig's blood). A stick may sell from P5 to P10. Isaw sticks usually sell for P2.
  • Puto - a general term for rice cake, they usually come as soft white rice muffins or pie-shaped desserts. Other kinds include Biko, Cuchinta, Pichi-Pichi, Sapin-Sapin, etc. The towns of Calasiao in Pangasinan and Binan, Laguna are famous for their puto.
  • Chicharon - crunchy snacks made from deep-fried pig skin.

Kamayan

Kamayan, literally means Eating with Hands. The Filipinos have this most in their homes during mealtimes, they would raise their feet up and rest it up on the chair while the other hand rests on the knee and then they'd eat clumsily with their hands. Filipino people would often say that Kamayan makes food taste more better. Wash your hands clean before attempting this to avoid illnesses.

Fruits & Desserts

Tropical fruits abound in the Philippines. Most of the countryside produce finds its way to the metro areas and can be easily bought in supermarkets, such as:

  • Green, ripe, and dried mangoes - Philippine mangoes are among the best in the world.
  • Durian - smells like hell but supposedly tastes of heaven, most common in Davao but can usually also be bought in some supermarkets in Manila.
  • Coconut - Although it's familiar, you should try the coconut of the Philippines, the country is the largest exporter of the coconut industry in the world.

Desserts/Sweets

  • 'Sampaloc candy'- salted and sweetened tamarind fruit
  • 'Mais con Hielo'- a dessert of fresh sweet corn served in a glass mixed with crushed ice and milk.
  • 'Halo-Halo' - another refreshing dessert which is a mix of sweetened beans and fruits, such as sweetened bananas, red and white beans, sago, crushed ice and milk and topped off with leche flan and ube jam and/or ice cream
  • 'Leche Flan' - custard flan made from eggs, milk and sugar

McDonald's, Dairy Queen, Burger King, Wendy's, KFC, Shakey's, Pizza Hut, Kenny Roger's Roasters, Sbarro's, Starbucks, Seattle's Best, Subway and other multinational fast food chains have established themselves in the Philippines. The Philippine version of McDonald's, Jollibee, has a branch in almost every city and town in the country. Other popular Filipino food chains are Chow King, Goldilock's, and Greenwich.

Sunset during Happy Hour on Boracay
Sunset during Happy Hour on Boracay

Metro Manila is home to many bars, watering holes, and karaoke sites. Popular places include Makati (particularly the Glorietta and Greenbelt areas), Ortigas Metrowalk, and Eastwood in Libis. Other big cities such as Cebu City and Davao also have areas where the nightlife is centered. Establishments serve the usual hard and soft drinks typical of bars elsewhere. Note that Filipinos rarely consume alcohol by itself. They would normally have what is called as "pulutan" or bar chow alongside their drinks which is like the equivalent of tapas. At the least, this would consist of mixed nuts but selections of grilled meats and seafood are not uncommon food alongside the customary drinks. When having a party, Filipinos enjoy drinking round-robin style using a common glass. One is supposed to drink bottoms-up before passing the glass to the next person. This custom is known as "tagayan" and one person usually volunteers to pour the drink.

Beer is perhaps the most common form of alcohol consumed in bars. San Miguel Beer is the dominant local brand with several variants such as Light, Dry, Strong Ice and their flagship variant Pale Pilsen. Budweiser, Heineken and Corona can also be found in upscale bars. Rhum and "ginebra" which is the local form of gin are commonly available forms of hard liquor. Indigenous forms of liquor are lambanog and tuba which are both derived from coconut sap. Tuba is fermented from the coconut sap and though tuba itself can be drunk, it is also distilled to take the form of lambanog. Lambanog is now being marketed widely both locally and internationally in its base form as well as in several flavored variants such as mango, bubble gum and blueberry.

Alcohol is extremely cheap in the Philippines (and probably cheapest in the whole of Asia). For a bottle of San Miguel bought at a 7-11 or Mini-Stop, a bottle would costs about PhP20-PhP30 (About USD 0.50). For top-end bars and clubs, a bottle would costs about PhP100.00-PhP200 (about USD 2.50-5.00). A bottle of 750ml Absolut Vodka at the supermarket would fetch a price of around PhP750.00 and a popular local rhum (especially amongst knowledgeable expats) Tanduay would get you just below PhP70.00 at a 24 hour convenience store in Makati (The Financial District).

Of course non-alcoholic drinks are also widely available in bars and other establishments. Don't miss:

  • 'Calamansi Juice' - juice made from small, local limes called calamansi
  • 'Fresh Buko Juice'- juice extracted from young coconuts
  • 'Sago't Gulaman - a sweet drink of molasses, tapioca pearls and seaweed gelatin
  • 'Green mango shake- a fruit shake made of green or unripened mangoes, sugar, milk and ice (one of the best native drinks in the Philippines)
  • Taho - a sweet, warm soya snack usually served in the morning, with tapioca balls, soft tofu and caramelized syrup

Sleep

Housing options for tourists include hotels, condotels, apartelles, motels, inns/bed-and-breakfasts, and pension houses.

Hotels are usually for the higher-end traveller, although hotel rates--even for four-star establishments-- are not very high compared to other international destinations. Condotels are furnished condominium units rented out for long or short term stays, apartelles are set up for both short and long term stays, and a pension house is usually more basic and economical. These all vary in terms of cleanliness, availability of air conditioning, and hot water showers. Motels, inns, and lodges also serve lodging purposes but have a reputation as meeting places for illicit sex, a unit being usually a small room with a connected carport, hidden behind a high wall which provides for secret comings and goings. You can distinguish these by their hourly rates, while more reputable institutions usually have daily rates.

Stay safe

If you use your common sense, you must not flash your valuables (especially Apple iPods and iPhones) because they pose a pickpocketing threat. Pickpockets are really common in the big cities of the Philippines. Manila is not a place for violent robbery, but the ativan scam is common practice. Don't expect any reprisal from police. They have their own problems seeing as their government underpays them and thus they thrive on bribes. Althrough sometimes you could get something good out of them but don't expect any more.

See also common scams and pickpockets.

Prostitution

Prostitution is thriving but officially and nationally illegal in the Philippines, although hostess bars, massage parlors and other opportunities abound which offer this service. The age of consent is 18. Penalties for sex with minors are harsh, and offenders may also be prosecuted by their home country.

Gays and Lesbians

Gays and lesbians will slightly be fine here in the Philippines as some the younger tolerant generation are very accepting, but please note use common sense such as public kissing as you may get stares or even verbal profanity. Also, in the countryside and with the 50 year old and up generation chances are they will condemn it. But nevertheless, Filipinos have their warm hospitality. Violence against gays and lesbians is rare but don't expect this.

Stay healthy

Drink the readily available bottled water. Buko (young coconut) juice is also safe if they have not added local ice to it. Be wary also of Buko juice vendors, some usually just add sugar to water. Buy and eat fruit that has not already been cut up. Cooked food from a karenderia (outdoor canteen) is okay if there is a fire under the pots and the food has been kept hot.

If you must drink tap water (it is usually served/contained in a small to medium plastic bag), water in Manila, Cebu City, Subic, and Angeles may be ok, but it is recommended that you boil tap water for at least 5 minutes just to be safe. Elsewhere drink bottled water. There is always the risk of contracting amoebiasis when drinking tap water in the countryside. Also, this applies to ice that is usually put in beverages.

Bottled water is best purchased from within stores and sheltered eateries. Bottled waters sold outside (by the roads) are more than likely used bottles filled with tap water, sealed then cooled.

CDC [25] advises that risk of malaria exists in areas below 600 meters, except for the provinces of Aklan, Bilaran, Bohol, Camiguin, Capiz, Catanduanes, Cebu, Guimaras, Iloilo, Leyte, Masbate, northern Samar, Sequijor, and metropolitan Manila. Chloroquine is no longer a recommended malaria preventative for anywhere in the Philippines. In general malaria is not common in the Philippines compared to Africa and the rest of mainland Southeast Asia, and around half of the c. 40,000 annual cases are in a couple of discrete locations.

Also please note the tubercolosis is very common in the countryside, it is advisable not to stay in certain villages in areas you are not familiar with for a very long time. It is also higly advisable that if one coughs or looks weak in strength it is highly advisable to avoid contact with that person.

Bring anti-diarrheal drugs with you, as unsanitary conditions present a high risk for traveler's diarrhea.

Although the Philippines is a low HIV prevalence country, it still pays to take precaution. Other sexually transmitted diseases are more common than HIV.

Cope

Electricity

Most of the Philippines is 220 Volt 60 Hz with the older 2-prong plug formerly used in the USA (not polarized or grounded). This is not a common voltage-frequency combination, so nearly everyone will have to pay close attention to what they plug in to an electric outlet. Americans will need a step-down transformer, while Europeans and Australians cannot use electric clocks and heavy-duty 50 Hz motors. Also, they will need a passive plug adaptor intended for USA/Canada. Americans will need one too for any plug where one blade is wider than the other (polarized), or has a third round grounding pin. It's best also to bring such items that work universally such as those electronics marked with a 100V-240V 50/60hz compatibility to avoid voltage concerns.

Downtown Baguio (northern Luzon) uses 110 V @ 60 Hz like USA, but doesn't go very far beyond the city center. The airport, for example, is 220V. If staying in the Baguio area, always ask first! If your equipment is 110-125V, merely crossing a street corner can cause it to be damaged or even catch fire. There are no signs in Baguio indicating where 110V ends and 220V begins.

See also: Travel topics -- Electrical systems

Television and Video

Television and video in the Philippines use the PAL-M format. Region Coded DVDs are Region 3 (SE Asia), though virtually all Tagalog movies are region free. There are two major networks in the Philippines - ABS-CBN and GMA.

Cable and Satellite TV are widely available. SkyCable and Global Destiny Cable are the best-known cable operators in the country while Dream is the country's sole satellite TV operator. Almost all hotels and major commercial centres have cable or satellite TV.

Respect

A little courtesy goes a long way. Filipinos are a very friendly and hospitable people, sometimes even to a fault. Take the time to smile and say "thank you", and you'll receive much better responses. You will receive an even better response if you throw in a little Tagalog, such as "salamat", which means "thank you". When talking to the people who are usually old enough to be your parents or grandparents in Filipino, it is greatly appreciated to include "po" in your sentences such as "salamat po". If you are having a conflict, stay relaxed, make a joke and smile. Getting angry or standing on your stripes will not bring you far, and you will lose respect.

In the countryside and in some urban homes, footwear is removed when entering a home, though they may make an exception for foreigners. The key is to look around before entering any home. If you see footwear just outside the door, more than likely the family's practice is to remove footwear before entering. If you wear socks, you don't have to remove them.

Work

When working with people in the Philippines, it's important to remember that they often bring cultural influences into the workplace and that don't always match well with your business culture. When you first meet another business person, it's important that you address them with both their title and both their first and last name. Businesses in the Philippines are often structured as a hierarchy and it's important to note that most decisions are made from the top down. Additionally, the Filipino value of "social harmony" doesn't always allow for directness when approaching sensitive issues. [26]

Street Children

In many of the larger cities extreme poverty is prevalent. It is advised not to give money to beggars or the street children who run around at all hours. If you really want to give something, food is the better alternative.

Political topics

Keep in mind that the Marcos years (1965-1986) can be a polarizing topic within the Philippines. Visitors will find that the northern Ilokano Population view the regime as an era of stability, while the metropolitan areas in the south of Luzon take strong pride in the people's power or "EDSA" revolution that deposed the regime. Either way it is best to assess the speaker's opinion prior to approaching the topic.

Homosexuality

The Philippines is a predominant Roman Catholic country though a country many to Gays and Lesbians, respect is needed here, it is considered immoral for two people with the same sex kissing in the public.

Contact

The country code for the Philippines is 63. The area code for Metro Manila is 2.

The cheapest way to call to and from the Philippines is using Voice Over Internet Protocol, there are several licensed VoIP providers in the Philippines one of the most popular being Vodini Telecom [27] who has plans way under the traditional carriers as well as unlimited calling plans.

For cell phone calling there are three major cell phone companies, Globe [28], Smart [29] for mobile phones) and Sun [30]; each of them operates its own mobile network (GSM 900/1800). Pre-paid SIM cards of these networks are easy to acquire and cost as low as P30 (approximately 70 US cents) and provide a cheaper alternative to expensive roaming charges. If your unit is locked to your home service provider, cellphone repair shops in various malls have ways of unlocking. If you don't have a phone to begin with, a complete pre-paid kit with phone and SIM could be had for as low as 1,500 pesos (US$30). Note that the phones that come with these kits would usually be locked to the local network provider. You would also need to have it unlocked before leaving if you plan on using it back home.

GSM mobile phones are in wide use all over the country, however. 3G technology is also available through Globe and Smart but is poorly implemented and often not properly operational. In most urban locations and many resorts, cell phone service will be available. The usual cost of an international long-distance call to the United States, Europe and other major countries is 40 US cents per minute. Local calls range from 7.50 to 9 pesos (approximately 15 to 18 US cents) per minute. Text messages typically cost as low as 1 peso (a little over 2 US cents) and the Philippines is usually tagged as the "texting capital of the world". International SMS is charged at a higher rate 15-25 pesos.

Reloading pre-paid SIMs is a breeze. Electronic Load (E-Load) stations are everywhere from small corner stores to the large malls where you just give your mobile phone number and the amount you wish to load (Globe, Smart and Sun each have their load denominations to choose from for E-loading). If you have a friend using the same mobile operator as you, you can load as little as a few pesos by letting him/her pass on some of his/her load to you and if you need hundreds of pesos worth of load, you can purchase pre-paid cards which are available in denominations of 300 and 500 pesos (approximately US$7 and 12 respectively).

Due to the wide use of mobile phones, pay phones are increasingly becoming obsolete. Some malls and public places still do have them and they usually come in either the coin or card operated variety. Globe and PLDT are the usual operators. Phone cards are usually sold by shops which sell cellphone pre-paid loads and cards. Note that phone cards of one company can not be used with the other company's card operated phones.

Internet access areas of broadband speeds are plentiful in city malls, much less so outside the cities, but are growing at a rapid pace. Internet surfing rates depend primarily on where you surf and the medium used (e.g. WiFi or wired). Internet services offered by hotels and shopping malls are expensive and can go up to P200/hour (approximately US$5) but neighbourhood cafes can be as cheap as P15/hour (approximately US$0.35). Public place WiFi services in the Philippines is provided by Airborneaccess.net and WiZ is likely to cost P100 (approximately US$2) for up to an hour. Coffee shops like Starbucks and Seattle's Best as well as malls usually carry WiFi service some are free to use. Certain areas may also carry free WiFi.

Apart from the Philippine postal service, FedEx, UPS, and DHL courier services are also available. Local couriers such as LBC and Aboitiz are also available.

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