The Philippines is an island nation consisting of an archipelago of 7,107 islands and is roughly divided into three main areas: Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao.


Luzon, the largest island, is the most populated with Metro Manila lying on its western side. South of Luzon is an island network collectively called the Visayas with Leyte, Negros, Samar, Panay and Cebu as its main islands. Further south is the country's second largest island and the country's richest in terms of natural resources.




The Philippines lies in the tropical western Pacific Ocean about 100 km southeast of mainland Asia and between 116040' and 126034'E longitude and 4040' and 21010'N latitude. It is bordered on the east by the Philippine Sea, on the west by the South China Sea, and on the south by the Celebs Sea.




300,000 sq km




84.2 million






Luneta (Rizal Park) in Manila

                                                   Luneta (Rizal Park) in Manila



The people of the Philippines are usually categorized into three groups: the Christian lowlanders, the Muslims and native animists. Although the terms suggests religious groupings, these are based on cultural rather than racial or religious differences.


Almost 90% of Filipinos are Christians. The largest group, the Tagalogs, live in central and southern Luzon, especially in Manila. The Visayan-speaking group dominate central Philippines while a mixture of Luzon and Visayan migrants make up the Christian settlements in Mindanao.


Muslim Filipinos, sometimes called Moros, are found in southern Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago. The Tausugs and Samals live by the sea while the Maguindanaos and Maranaos live inland. The remaining people inhabit the more inaccessible parts of the country.




The Philippines has more than 70 languages and dialects. Filipino, which is Tagalog-based, is the national language of the Philippines. It is spoken by people in the Metro Manila area as well as the southern Luzon Tagalog provinces and is understood by 90% of the population while English is the widest used foreign language in Philippines.




Almost 93% of Philippines' population are Christians while Islam and Buddhism are being freely practised.




The government of the Philippines, which is loosely patterned after the American system, is organized as a representative republic, with the President functioning as both head of state and government, as well as being the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The president is elected by popular vote to a term of 6 years, during which he or she appoints and presides over the cabinet.


The bicameral Philippine legislature, the Congress, consists of the Senate and the House of Representative in which members of both are elected by popular vote. There are 24 senators serving six years in the Senate while the House of Representatives consists of no more than 250 congressmen with each serving a term of 3 years.


The judiciary branch of the government is headed by the Supreme Court, which has a Chief Justice as its head and fourteen Associates Justices appointed by the president.


The Philippines is divided into a hierarchy of local government units (LGU) with the province as the primary unit. There are 79 provinces in the country whereby the provinces are further subdivided into cities and municipalities, which are in turn, consists of barangays. The barangay is the smallest local government unit.


All provinces are grouped into 17 regions for administrative convenience. Most government offices establish regional offices to serve the the constituent provinces. The regions themselves do not possess a separate local government, with the exception of the Muslim Mindanao and Cordillera regions, which are autonomous.


The 17 regions are Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, CALABARZON, MIMAROPA, Bicol Region, Western Visayas, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula, Northern Mindanao, Davao Region, SOCCSKSARGEN, Caraga, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) and the National Capital Region (NCR)(Metro Manila).




The Philippines enjoys a tropical climate which is both hot and humid whereby the average yearly temperature is about 260C. The Philippines has three distinct seasons: Tag-init or Tag-araw which is the hot season from March to May, the Tag-ulan which is the rainy season from June to November and the cold season from December to February which is known as Tag-lamig.




It was believed that the short, dark-skinned, curly-haired Negrito (Aeta) was the Philippines Adam. Recent findings, however, showed that humans have been on the islands for 22,000 years. Waves of migrants from the Malay and Indonesian archipelagoes, and from Indochina and Taiwan, began to pour in around the turn of the first millennium, pushing the aboriginal population into the interior or absorbing them through intermarriage.


In the 8th century, Chinese merchants arrived and with the rise of the powerful Buddhist kingdoms, it precipitated trade with the Indonesian archipelago, India, Japan and Southeast Asia. However, their strength was weakened due to the factional infighting among the kingdoms of Southeast Asia. The spread of Islam through commerce brought Arab traders into the region and they first set foot in Mindanao in the 14th century.


When the first Europeans arrived in 16th March 1521, led by Ferdinand Magellan, they were rajahs as far north as Manila, who historically were tributaries of the kingdoms of Southeast Asia. Accompanied by priests, he started colonization by converting the locals and their families to Christianity. Five years later, Miguel Lopez de Legaspi succeeded in establishing a strong foothold in Luzon and the Visayas. Legaspi named the islands Philippines in honor of King Philip II of Spain and Roman Catholicism was introduced sparking deep resistance from tribal groups in the highlands and the Muslim separatism that raged on until today. Spain ruled the Philippines via New Spain (Mexico) and a growing galleon trade began in the 18th century.


The Spaniards were hard taskmasters and imposed forced labor and demanded unreasonable tributes from the natives, derogatorily called Indios. Philippines opened up during the 19th century and the rise of the middle class saw sons of rich families acquire European education, and consequently, liberal ideas. Enlightened by the Propaganda Movement to the injustices of the Spanish colonial government, they clamored for independence. Among them, Jose Rizal stood out. His arrest and execution fueled the fires of revolution which erupted in 1896. It was led by Andres Bonifacio, founder of a secret anti-Spanish organization called Katipunan (Brothehood). On the 12th June, 1898, the first Philippine republic was proclaimed.


The republic was short-lived. General Aguinaldo, head of the revolutionary forces, was exiled. In the meantime, the Spanish-American war broke out. In December 1898, Spain ceded the Philippines to the United States for twenty million dollars. The assertion of American control led to the Philippine-American War which officially ended in 1901.


On the 10th December 1941, the Japanese landed in the Philippines and overran both the Filipino and American forces. Forced to retreat, General Douglas MacArthur pledged 'I shall return', a promise that Filipinos never forgot and which he kept in October 1944. Independence was finally granted in 1946. The following period was marred by post-war problems such as the civil unrest during the unpopular dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, ousted in 1986 and the continuing problem of communist insurgency and Muslim separatism until today.


Philippines is marked by a true blend of cultures where east meets west. Filipinos are said to be Malay in family, Spanish in love, Chinese in business and American in ambition and are often regarded as the least Oriental of all Orientals. The unique blend of cultures gives the Pinoys (the Filipinos' nickname for themselves) a class of their own.


The Filipino character is actually a little bit of all the cultures put together. The bayanihan or spirit of kinship and camaraderie that Filipinos are famous for is said to be taken from Malay forefathers. The close family relations are said to have been inherited from the Chinese. The piousness comes, from the Spaniards who introduced Christianity.  




New Year's Day (January 1), Day of Valor (April 9), Good Friday (April 14), Labor Day (May 1), Independence Day (June 12), Manila Day (June 23), All Saint's Day (November 1), Bonifacio Day (November 30), Christmas Day (December 25), Rizal Day (December 30).




The Philippines is rich in minerals, especially copper, gold, iron chromite, nickel and coal. About half of the Philippines is covered with forests and 35% is agricultural land. Agriculture is the basis of economic life where sugarcane, coconut, abaca, tobacco and pineapples are grown for export. Forest products are also a main source of revenue while manufacturing, mainly processing raw materials for export and producing consumer goods for the local market, attracts foreign investment.





All visitors entering the Philippines must possess a valid passport.


Except for stateless persons and those from countries with which the Philippines has no diplomatic relations, all visitors may enter the country without visas and may stay for 21 days provided they have tickets for onward journeys.


Holders of Hong Kong and Taiwan passports must have special permits. Visas and special permits may be obtained from your nearest Philippine embassies or consulates.




The Philippines unit of currency is the Peso (P). One Peso is divided into 100 centavos. Notes are in the denominations of P10, P20, P50, P100, P500 and P1000. Coins consist of 5c, 10c, 25c, P1, P5 and P10.


Major foreign currencies are exchangeable at banks, hotels and authorized foreign exchange dealers.




Monday - Friday: 9.00am to 3.00pm except on public holidays with automated teller machines (ATM) operating 24 hours.




Philippines' mail service is reliable and efficient. Major hotels provide basic postal services on their premises. Provincial post offices are usually open from 8.00am to 5.00pm.



18. TIME

Eight hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)




Voltage is 220 volt AC at 60 cycles per second throughout the country. Most hotels have 110-volt outlets.




The Philippines follows the metric system in weight and measures.




The Philippines has international and national direct dial phone and facsimile service, mobile phone sites, internet and and e-mail facilities.






Manila, Cebu, Davao, Clark, Subic and Laoag are the international gateways.


The Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila is the premier gateway. It is served by more than 30 airlines which fly to different cities around the world.


The Mactan International Airport (MIA) in Cebu handles regular flights from Japan, Singapore and Australia as well as chartered flights from Hong Kong, the United States and other major travel capitals. Davao International Airport handles regular flights from Indonesia and Singapore.


The Diosdado Macapagal International Airport and Subic airfield in Central Luzon service both chartered and cargo planes. Laoag International Airport in Ilocos Norte services regular flights from Taiwan and Macau.


The country's flag carrier, the Philippine Airlines, connects Manila to fourteen cities in eight countries.



Major cruise liners call on the port of Manila 





Flying in the Philippines is easy as daily air services to major cities and towns are provided by the Philippine Airlines, Air Philippines and Cebu Pacific while Asian Spirit, Laoag International Airlines and Seair service the missionary routes. There are also scheduled chartered flights to major domestic destinations serviced by smaller commuter planes.



Philtranco connects Manila to Bicol in Southern Luzon to Samar and Leyte in the Visayas and Davao in Mindanao.


Widely available in key cities nationwide are metered and fixed rate taxis. Jeepneys, colorful and festive-looking jeep, and buses are inexpensive ways of getting around most places. There is a public bus service that links the north and south districts of Manila. The main route through which the buses run is the Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA).



The fastest way of commuting is via the railway system in Metro Manila. The Light Rail Transit (LRT) connects the northern district of Monumento to the southern district of Baclaran with stations situated at major intersections. MRT traverses the length of EDSA and connects North Avenue in Quezon City to Taft Avenue in Pasay City, passing through the major arteries of Makati's financial district.



There are many ferry services available from island to island.




A wide range of deluxe, standard, economy and pension-type accommodations is available in Metro Manila, key cities and towns. In island destinations, there is a range of resorts ranging from deluxe to special interest category.


A Homestay Program organized by the Department of Tourism is available in selected destinations outside Manila. The program offers visitors the comfort of modest homes and an insight into Philippine life.




It will be helpful to know that it is common for Filipinos to use their eyes, lips and hands to convey a wide range of messages. For example, raised eyebrows and a smile indicates a silent 'hello' or a 'yes' when answering a question. Fixed eye contact between men is considered an aggressive gesture while the proper way to call somebody is with a downward wave.


Do not raised your voice unnecessarily when talking to Filipinos and avoid asking direct questions as Filipinos place great emphasis on polite and gentle conversation.


Do not argue or criticized Filipinos publicly as they value their self-esteem.


Always be punctual for business meetings while it is better to arrive a little bit late for a dinner invitation.




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