Sunday, December 23, 2007

About the Philippines

All About the Country

The Philippines is the third largest English speaking country in the world. It has a rich history combining Asian, European, and American influences. Prior to Spanish colonization in 1521, the Filipinos had a rich culture and were trading with the Chinese and the Japanese. Spain's colonization brought about the construction of Intramuros in 1571, a "Walled City" comprised of European buildings and churches, replicated in different parts of the archipelago. In 1898, after 350 years and 300 rebellions, the Filipinos, with leaders like Jose Rizal and Emilio Aguinaldo, succeeded in winning their independence.

In 1898, the Philippines became the first and only colony of the United States. Following the Philippine-American War, the United States brought widespread education to the islands. Filipinos fought alongside Americans during World War II, particularly at the famous battle of Bataan and Corregidor which delayed Japanese advance and saved Australia. They then waged a guerilla war against the Japanese from 1941 to 1945. The Philippines regained its independence in 1946.

Filipinos are a freedom-loving people, having waged two peaceful, bloodless revolutions against what were perceived as corrupt regimes. The Philippines is a vibrant democracy, as evidenced by 12 English national newspapers, 7 national television stations, hundreds of cable TV stations, and 2,000 radio stations.

Filipinos are a fun-loving people. Throughout the islands, there are fiestas celebrated everyday and foreign guests are always welcome to their homes.


The new Philippine Constitution was ratified in early 1987, signalling the country's return to democracy.

Executive Branch

Chief of state:
President Gloria MACAPAGAL-ARROYO and Vice President Noli de Castro; note: the president is both the chief of state and head of government

Cabinet appointed by the president with the consent of the Commission on Appointments

Elections: president and vice president elected on separate tickets for six-year terms; election last held 10 May 2004.

Legislative Branch

Bicameral Congress or Kongreso consists of the Senate or Senado (24 seats - one-half elected every three years; members elected to serve six-year terms) and the House of Representatives or Kapulungan Ng Mga Kinatawan ( members elected to serve three-year terms; note: additional members may be appointed by the president but the Constitution prohibits the House of Representatives from having more than 250 members)

Elections: Senate - last held 10 May 2004; House of Representatives - last held 10 May 2004.

Judicial Branch

Supreme Court (justices are appointed by the president on the recommendation of the Judicial and Bar Council and serve until 70 years of age)



The Philippines is made up of 7,107 islands covering a land area of 115,739 sq. m. (299,764 sq. km.). Main island groups are Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. Capital is Manila. Time Zone is GMT + 8 hours.

March to May is hot and dry. June to October is rainy, November to February is cool. Average temperatures: 78°F / 25°C to 90°F / 32°C; humidity is 77%.

There are a total of 76.5 million Filipinos as of the latest national census in May, 2000. Population growth is estimated at 2.36 percent annually. Luzon, the largest island group, accounts for more than half of the entire population.

Two official languages --- Filipino and English. Filipino which is based on Tagalog, is the national language. English is also widely used and is the medium of instruction in higher education.

Eight (8) major dialects spoken by majority of the Filipinos: Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilocano, Hiligaynon or Ilonggo, Bicol, Waray, Pampango, and Pangasinense.

Filipino is that native language which is used nationally as the language of communication among ethnic groups. Like any living language, Filipino is in a process of development through loans from Philippine languages and non-native languages for various situations, among speakers of different social backgrounds, and for topics for conversation and scholarly discourse. There are about 76 to 78 major language groups, with more than 500 dialects.

Some 83% of Filipinos are Catholic. About 5% are Moslem. The rest are made up of smaller Christian denominations and Buddhist.

The Metric System is used in most trade and legal transactions.

220 volts a/c is the common standard. 110 volts a/c is also used, especially in major hotels.

The Philippines' monetary unit is the peso, divided into 100 centavos. Foreign currency may be exchanged at any hotels, most large department stores, banks, and authorized money changing shops accredited by the Central Bank of the Philippines. International credit cards such as Visa, Diners Club, Bank Americard, Master Card, and American Express are accepted in major establishments.

Best of the Islands

THE PHILIPPINES stands at the crossroads of the developed western world and the Orient. It lies in the heart of Southeast Asia, stretching more than 1,840 kilometers. Composed of 7,107 islands, the Philippines is readily accessible to the different capitals of the world. Its three main islands are Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

The South China Sea washes its western shores. Taiwan, China and Hong Kong are northern neighbors and further north is Japan. To the west lie Southeast Asian countries such as Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. An arm of the archipelago reaches out towards Borneo and at its feet stands the chain of Indonesian islands. To the east and south, the waters of the Pacific Ocean sweep its headlands, looking out towards Micronesia and Polynesia.

Its unique location has made the Philippines the commercial, cultural and intellectual hub of Asia from the dawn of history.

8 Tourist Anchor Destinations

Manila is a microcosm of the rhythm of the islands, named after a delicate white mangrove plant, this charming city lives as a silent witness to the country's turbulent history. Once ruled by the Islamic Rajah Sulayman, the city was captured one after the other by the Spaniards, the Americans, and then the Japanese. Today, the city is the country's capital, a fast growing metropolis spurred by the country's robust economy. Given its fascinating history, Manila is a showcase of different cultures. The enterprising tourist might want to visit the ruins of Intramuros or Corregidor, the greens of Rizal Park, the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the mystique of Chinatown, or the urban veneer of Makati and Ortigas.

In the island of Cebu, the worlds of business and leisure go hand in hand. Called the "Queen City of the South", Cebu is the site of the new and exciting business ventures between local and foreign capital. But amidst such hectic commercial activity, Cebu's numerous beach resorts and exhilirating historicity beckon tourists of all races. The city is also blessed with numerous museums and churches. As for the shopping, Cebu offers a lot of souvenir ideas from export quality fashion accessories and furniture, handcrafted guitars and handicrafts, to dried mango preserves, sugar coated biscuits, and peanut wafers.

Known for its elegant orchids, exotic fruits and Muslim heritage, Davao is a bustling city teeming with cultural diversity. It is the industrial hub of Mindanao with corporate centers, manufacturing sites, shopping centers, hotels, and casinos. Davao also features various points of interest for the adventurous visitor. Mt. Apo, the highest peak in the country and home to the Philippine Eagle, is a close distance from Davao City. Caroland Farms, 13 kms from the city, is a bird and wild duck sanctuary. Samal island offers an array of beach resorts for serious unwinding.

The country's summer capital, Baguio City, stands amidst the mountainous region of the Cordillera. Situated 1,500 meters above the sea, Baguio is one of the few places in the country blessed with a cool climate. At any given time, it is eight degrees cooler in Baguio than the lowlands. Apart from the numerous sightseeing "musts": Burnham Park, Club John Hay, Lourdes Grotto and the Mines View Park, Baguio is also a great shopping place. Delight on freshest vegetables and strawberries, Baguio is also the jump-off point to the famous Banawe Rice Terraces.

Known far and wide as an island paradise, Boracay has charmed vacationers with its powder white sand, crystal blue waters and purposely laid-back pace. Located at the northern tip of Panay island, Boracay is about three hours away from Manila. Sun worshippers from all over the world visit Boracay yearly, and some have even made it their second home. It is no wonder, therefore, that French, German, Spanish and English can be heard spoken in the island. The culinary fare is equally exciting, featuring a wide range from Thai and Austrian to Belgian and Filipino. Numerous water sports facilities, including dive shops, are on hand as well as a sprinkling of bars and discos. Most visitors, however, prefer to sit back and enjoy the sun.

An island of peace and quiet, it seems time has stood still for Palawan. Situated between Mindoro Island and North Borneo, Palawan is the country's last frontier. It is the home of over 80 cultural minority groups.It is a sanctuary for the most exotic plant, animal and aquatic life in the country including the Calamian deer, the Palawan bearcat and the tarsier. As if these were not enough, Palawan also features white sand beaches, black marble caves, and breathtaking dive sites. Visit Calauit Island, Ursula Island, El Nido beach, and Saint Paul Park for an unforgettable Palawan sojourn.

The country's tenth largest island, Bohol is a veritable masterpiece of nature with its blend of pristine white beaches, wonderful dive sites, virgin forests and rolling hills. Situated in Central Visayas, Bohol is particularly popular for the Chocolate Hills. This natural wonder consists of hundreds of dome-shaped limestone hills covered with grass which dried up and turn brown under the sun. It is also in Bohol where the historic blood compact between the Boholano chieftain Sikatuna and Spanish explorer Miguel Lopez de Legaspi took place. Other points of interest include the Jesuit-built Baclayon Church and the underground watersprings of Hinagdanan Cave.

Time-locked Ilocos is a broad hardy country blessed with impressive wide highways and stretches of narrow cobblestoned roads, antiquated towns dominated by heavily-buttressed grand churches and Antillan ancestral homes, and a brave people who, by sheer industry, harnessed a formidable terrain into a source of sustenance. A seemingly tempestuous sea rimmed with uneven rock formations and ascetic mountains are the two scenic images that first impress the visitor to Ilocos. Wedged between the wild China Sea and the rugged Cordillera mountain range, the region presents a visual feast that is at once dazzling in its boldness. Divided into Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte, their capitals - Vigan and Laoag City - are anchor tourist destinations and part of the 7,000 times more islands that make up the Philippine archipelago.

Tourism Highway

BEING an archipelago of more than 7,000 islands scattered over 114,000 square kilometers is no obstacle to travel in the Philippines. The country's geographical structure and makeup has, in fact, proven to be an advantage to the traveler, particularly the adventurous, daring and enterprising.

Traveling overland the entire length of the Philippines is now possible through the Pan Philippine Highway. Also known as the Maharlika Highway, the road network runs from Manila to Laoag City via Cagayan Valley in northern Luzon and from Manila to Davao in Mindanao via Bicol in southern Luzon, and Samar and Leyte in eastern Visayas.

Twenty-six areas in Luzon and seven areas in the Bicol region, the Visayas and Mindanao have been designated as Scenic Highways, all with great amenities for the traveller.
The Philippines in the World

THE PHILIPPINES is readily accessible from the travel capitals of the world. Traveling time to Manila from Hong Kong is an hour and 50 minutes; Singapore, 3 hours and 10 minutes; Bangkok, 3 hours and 50 minutes; Tokyo, 4 hours and 15 minutes; Sydney, 10 hours and 20 minutes; London, 20 hours and 45 minutes; Paris, 21 hours and 15 minutes; Frankfurt, 19 hours and 40 minutes; San Francisco, 16 hours and 15 minutes; Los Angeles, 15 hours and 20 minutes; and New York, 25 hours and 20 minutes

Travel Asia

 Malaysia   •   Nepal   •   Philippines  •   Singapore   •   Thailand   •   Vietnam   •   Brunei   •   Cambodia   •   China  •  India  •  Indonesia •  Japan  •  Laos