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
300,000 sq km
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
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
Almost 93% of Philippines'
population are Christians while Islam and Buddhism are being
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
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
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
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
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.
12. MAJOR HOLIDAYS
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).
13. ECONOMIC PROFILE
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
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
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.
Eight hours ahead of Greenwich
Mean Time (GMT)
Voltage is 220 volt AC at 60
cycles per second throughout the country. Most hotels have
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.
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
The country's flag carrier, the
Philippine Airlines, connects Manila to fourteen cities in
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
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.
25. DO'S AND
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.