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Philippines travel guide - Travel S helper

Philippines

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The Philippines, formally known as the Republic of the Philippines, is a sovereign island nation in Southeast Asia located in the western Pacific Ocean. It is made up of about 7,641 islands that are divided into three major geographical divisions from north to south: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. Manila is the capital city of the Philippines, while Quezon City is the most populated city, both of which are part of Metro Manila. The Philippines has maritime borders with Taiwan to the north, Palau to the east, and Malaysia and Indonesia to the south, and is bounded by the South China Sea to the west, the Philippine Sea to the east, and the Celebes Sea to the southwest.

Because of its position on the Pacific Ring of Fire and near to the equator, the Philippines is prone to earthquakes and typhoons, but it also has rich natural resources and some of the world’s greatest biodiversity. The Philippines has a land area of 300,000 square kilometers (115,831 square miles) with a population of around 100 million people. It is Asia’s seventh most populous nation and the world’s 12th most populous country. Another 10 million Filipinos reside in other countries, making up one of the world’s biggest diasporas. The islands are home to a diverse range of nationalities and civilizations. Negritos were among the archipelago’s first residents in ancient times. Following them came subsequent waves of Austronesian peoples. There were exchanges with Chinese, Malay, Indian, and Islamic nations. Then, different countries arose under the authority of Datus, Rajahs, Sultans, or Lakans.

Ferdinand Magellan’s landing at Homonhon, Eastern Samar in 1521 heralded the beginning of Hispanic colonialism. Ruy López de Villalobos, a Spanish adventurer, called the archipelago Las Islas Filipinas in honor of Philip II of Spain in 1543. The first Hispanic colony in the archipelago was founded in 1565, with the arrival of Miguel López de Legazpi from Mexico City. For more than 300 years, the Philippines were a part of the Spanish Empire. As a consequence, Roman Catholicism became the dominant religion. During this period, Manila served as the western center of the trans-Pacific commerce, linking Asia with Acapulco in the Americas through Manila galleons.

As the nineteenth century gave way to the twentieth, the Philippine Revolution, which gave birth to the short-lived First Philippine Republic, was quickly followed by the brutal Philippine–American War of conquest by US armed power. Aside from the time of Japanese occupation, the United States maintained authority over the islands until the Philippines was recognized as an independent country after World War II. Since then, the Philippines has had a turbulent relationship with democracy, including the toppling of a dictatorship via a nonviolent revolution.

Because of its huge population and economic potential, the country is classed as a medium power. It is a founding member of the United Nations, World Trade Organization, ASEAN, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference, and the East Asia Summit. It also serves as the Asian Development Bank’s headquarters. The Philippines is seen as an emerging market and a newly industrialized nation, with an economy moving from an agricultural to a service and manufacturing-based one.

Tourism in Philippines

The travel and tourism sector is the main contributor to the economy, accounting for 7.1 percent of Philippine GDP in 2013 and providing 1,226,500 jobs, or 3.2 percent of total employment. 2,433,428 international visitors arrived between January and June 2014, a 2.22 percent increase over the same period in 2013. South Korea, China and Japan accounted for 58.78 percent, while America accounted for 19.28 percent and Europe for 10.64 percent. The Department of Tourism is responsible for managing and promoting the tourism sector.

The country’s rich biodiversity is one of the main tourist attractions with its beaches, mountains, rainforests, islands and places for diving among the most popular tourist destinations. Philippines is an archipelago with approximately 7500 islands with numerous beaches, caves and various other rock formations. Boracay is famous for its magnificent white sandy beaches and was named the best island in the world. The rice terraces of Banaue in Ifugao, the historic city of Vigan in Ilokos Sur, Chocolate Hills in Bohol, Magellan’s Cross in Cebu and Tubbataha Reef in Vysayah are other attractions.

Geography of Philippines

The Philippines is an archipelago consisting of about 7500 islands with a total land area, including inland waters, about 300,000 square kilometers. With 36,289 kilometers of coast, it is the country with the fifth longest coast in the world. Philippines is bordered by the Philippine Sea to the east, by the South China Sea to the west and by the Celebes Sea to the south. Borneo is located a couple of hundred km to the southwest and the island of Taiwan is located directly to the north. The Moluccas and Sulawesi are in the southwest and Palau in the east of the islands.

Most mountainous islands are covered by tropical rainforest and are of volcanic origin. The highest mountain is Mount Apo. It reaches up to 2,954 meters above sea level and is situated on the island of Mindanao. The Galathea Depth in the Philippine Rift Valley is the deepest point in the country and the third deepest in the world.

The longest river is the Cagayan River in the north of Luzon. The bay of Manila, on whose shore the capital Manila is located, is connected by the Pasig with the Laguna de Bay, the largest lake of the Philippines. Subic Bay, the Gulf of Davao and the Gulf of Moro are other important bays. The Strait of San Juanico separates the islands of Samar and Leyte, but is crossed by the bridge of San Juanico.

The Philippines are located on the western edge of the Pacific ring of fire and are frequently exposed to seismic and volcanic activity. The Benham Plateau in the east of the Philippine Sea is an underwater region that is active in tectonic subduction. About 20 earthquakes are registered daily, but most of them are too weak to be felt. The last major earthquake was the Luzon earthquake of 1990.

There are many active volcanoes like the Mayon volcano, Mount Pinatubo and the Taal volcano. The eruption of Mount Pinatubo in June 1991 led to the second largest terrestrial eruption of the 20th century. Not all remarkable geographical features are so violent or destructive. A quieter legacy of geological disturbances is the underground river Puerto Princesa. The area represents a habitat for the conservation of biodiversity. The area also contains a complete ecosystem between mountain and sea and has some of the most important forests in Asia.

Due to the volcanic nature of the islands, there are abundant mineral deposits. After South Africa, the country is considered to have the 2nd largest gold reserves and one of the world’s largest copper resources. The country is also known for its rich reserves of nickel, chromite and zinc. Nevertheless, poor management, high population density and environmental awareness have resulted in these mineral resources remaining largely unused. Geothermal energy is a product of volcanic activity, which the Philippines has exploited more successfully. The Philippines is the second largest producer of geothermal energy in the world after the USA. 18% of the country’s electricity demand is covered by geothermal energy.

People in Philippines

As of 2012, the Philippines’ population is estimated at 103 million, making it the 12th largest country on Earth. As the Philippines’ population continues to grow rapidly and as Japan’s population shrinks, it is likely to soon catch up with its northern neighbors and make it one of the top ten.

Because of its long history of Western occupation – 300 years of Spain and 40 years of the United States – its inhabitants have become a unique combination of East and West in both appearance and culture. Philippians are mainly Austro-Polynesians (or Malay-Polynesians to be more precise) by ethnic origin. However, many people, especially in the cities of Luzon and Visaya, use mixtures of Chinese, Japanese, Indians, Spaniards and Americans. Those who live in the province are mostly of Austrian descent (known as ‘indigenous’). Many Muslims in the Sulu archipelago near Borneo have a mixture of Arabs, India and China. The four largest foreign minorities in the country: Chinese, Koreans, Indians and Japanese. Also important are the Americans, Indonesians and Arabs. Spaniards and other Europeans are a very small part of the country’s population.

Philippine character traits are a fusion of many cultures. The Philippians are famous for the bayanikhan or the spirit of kinship and camaraderie, borrowed from the Austro-Christian ancestors. They observe very close family ties. Roman Catholicism came from the Spaniards, who were responsible for spreading the Christian faith in the archipelago. The Spaniards introduced Christianity and succeeded in converting the vast majority of Filipinos; at least 80% today are Catholics. The Philippines is one of two countries in Asia with a predominantly Roman Catholic population (the second is East Timor).

A true and pure expression of hospitality is an essential feature of Filipinos, especially those living in rural areas, who at first may seem very shy but have a generous spirit, as can be seen from their smiles. The hospitality that every Philippine shows makes these people legendary in Southeast Asia. In Philippine families, guests are often treated as members of the royal family. This is most obvious during the holidays, when even virtual strangers are welcomed and allowed to participate in a holiday that is organized by most, if not all, households. Sometimes this hospitality is mistakenly accepted. Some households spend all their savings on holiday offers, and sometimes even get into debt just to have plenty of food on the table. Next year they spend paying off their debts and preparing for the next fiesta. In any case, it is rare to meet such hospitable people who enjoy the company of their visitors. Probably because of their close ties with Spain, the Philippinians may seem to be very emotional and passionate about life, something that is rather Latin than Asian.

Today, Filipinos lead a group of Asian people who speak English, and English is considered a second language. The American occupation was responsible for teaching Filipinos English. Although the official language is Filipino (which is mainly a Tagalog dialect), and although there are 76-78 languages and 170 dialects in this archipelago, English is still the second most widely spoken language in the country with varying degrees of understanding, but is the language studied. Some 3 million people still speak Spanish, including Creole Spanish, Chavacano, plus Spanish has been reintroduced as a language of instruction in schools.

The geographical and cultural grouping of Filipinos is determined by the region, where each group has a set of distinctive features and dialects – strong and thrifty Ilokans from the north, hard-working tagalogs from the central plains, loving and sweet Vichy from the central islands. As well as colorful tribesmen and religious Muslims of Mindanao. Tribal communities or minorities are also scattered throughout the archipelago.

Tourists may find it strange to notice the Latin flair in Philippine culture. The main Philippine culture, compared to the rest of Asia is quite Latin American and westernized on the surface. But still, the Filipinos are essentially Austro-Belarusians, and many views and ways of thinking of indigenous and pre-Hispanic peoples are still visible under the seemingly westernized shell. The indigenous groups that have preserved the entirely Malay-Polynesian culture, not affected by Spanish influence, are also visible in cities such as Manila, Bagio, Davao or Cebu, and may remind the visitor of the amazing diversity and multiculturalism present in the country.

Wildlife in Philippines

The Philippine rainforests and their extensive coastline are home to a diverse range of birds, plants, animals and marine life. It is one of the ten biologically most megadiverse countries. The Philippines is home to some 1,100 species of vertebrates, including over 100 species of mammals and 170 species of birds that are not believed to exist elsewhere. The Philippines has one of the highest discovery rates in the world with 16 new mammal species discovered in the last decade. For this reason, the endemism rate in the Philippines has increased and is likely to continue to increase.

In the Philippines, large predators are rare, other than snakes such as pythons and cobras, salt water crocodiles and raptors such as the national bird, the Philippine eagle, which scientists call the largest eagle in the world. The largest captive crocodile, locally known as Lolong, was captured on the southern island of Mindanao.

Other native animals include the civet cat, dugong, cloud rat and the Philippine tarsier associated with Bohol. With an estimated 13,500 plant species in the country, 3,200 of which are unique to the islands, the Philippine rainforests offer a wide variety of plants, including many rare species of orchids and prize pools.

Philippine marine waters cover up to 2,200,000 square kilometers (849,425 square miles) and produce a unique and diverse marine life, an important part of the Coral Triangle. Overall numbers of corals and marine fish species in these waters have been estimated to be 500 and 2,400 respectively. New records and species discoveries continue to increase this number and underline the uniqueness of the Philippines’ marine resources. The Tubbataha reef located in the Sulu Sea has been declared a World Heritage Site in 1993. Pearls, crabs and algae are also cultivated in the Philippine waters.

Deforestation, usually the product of unauthorized logging, is a serious problem in the Philippines. Forest cover has decreased from 70% of the total land area of the Philippines in 1900 to about 18.3% in 1999. A number of species are threatened with extinction, and researchers say that Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, is facing a catastrophic 20% extinction rate to the end of the 21st century.

Politics in Philippines

The Philippine government is largely based on the United States political system. The president of the Philippines is directly elected by the people as head of state and head of government.

The legislature consists of a bicameral Congress, which consists of a lower house known as Kapulungan ng mga Kinatawan (House of Representatives) and an upper house known as the Senate. Both chambers are directly elected by the people, although the country is divided into constituencies to elect the lower house, and the upper house is directly elected by the country on the basis of proportional representation.

Religion in Philippines

The Philippines is not only the largest Christian country in Asia, but also the third largest Roman Catholic country in the world. The Roman Catholic faith remains the greatest legacy of three hundred years of Spanish colonial rule. There is still quite a serious perception of Catholicism in the Philippines. The masses still gather crowds, from the largest cathedrals of the metropolis to the smallest parish chapels in the countryside. During Holy Week, most TV channels close down or work only during certain hours, and those that work broadcast religious programs.

The Catholic Church also continues to have a significant influence even on non-religious affairs, such as those of the state. However, morals are slowly changing; Filipinos are now gradually accepting what used to be taboo on Roman Catholic doctrine, such as artificial birth control, premarital sex and the dissolution of marriage vows.

The largest religious minority are Muslim Filipinos (Moros), who live mostly in Mindanao and the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARM), but also increasingly in cities such as Manila, Bagio or Cebu in the north and central part of the country. They account for about 5% of the population. Islam is the oldest continuously practised organized religion in the Philippines, the first transformations took place in the 12th century AD. Islam became such an important force that Manila was a Muslim city when the Spaniards arrived in the 16th century. Many aspects of this Islamic past can be seen in certain cultural traits that many major Christian Filipinos still demonstrate (such as food and hygiene etiquette), and they added to the melting pot of Philippine culture as a whole. Unfortunately, terrorist attacks and violent clashes between the Philippine army and splinter militant Islamic organizations such as Abu Sayyaf and Moro Islamic Liberation Front have strained relations between Muslims and non-Muslims of the Filipinos in the rural areas in the south. However, Filipino Muslims are much more liberal in their interpretations of Islam and, like Indonesian Muslims, tend to be more relaxed about topics such as gender segregation or the hijab (veil) than those of South Asian or Middle Eastern Muslims.

The Indian Filipinos, Japanese Filipinos and Chinese Filipinos are mainly Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Shinto and Taoist, comprising approximately 3% of the Philippine population. This population had lived in the country for centuries before Spanish rule, and many aspects of the Buddhist and Hindu faith and culture can also be traced back to the main culture of Christian or Muslim Filipinos. As in many cases in the Philippines, statistics on religion are never clear or definitive, and many Christians and Muslims also profess and believe in spiritual aspects of indigenous peoples (such as the veneration of natural deities and ancestor worship, as well as the existence of magic and healers), which in some cases may contradict the orthodox rules of their religion.

Ethnic groups in Philippines

In accordance with the census of 2000, 28.1% of all Filipinos are Tagalog, 13.1% are Cebuano, 9% is Ilocano, 7.6% are Visayans / Bisaya ( without Cebuano, Hiligaynon and Waray), 7.5% are Hiligaynon, 6% are Bikol, 3, 4% Waray and 25.3% as so called ”others”, that may be more widely split to give more distinct non-tribal communities including Moro, Kapampangan, Pangasinense, Ibanag and Ivatan. In addition, there are also indigenous groups such as the Igorot, the Lumad, the Mangyan, the Bajau and also the tribes of Palawan.

Filipinos generally belong to several Asian ethnic groups that are linguistically classified as part of the Austronesian or Malayo-Polynesian speaking population. It is assumed that Austronesian-speaking Taiwanese natives have been migrated from Taiwan to the Philippines thousands of years ago, bringing with them a knowledge of agriculture as well as deep-sea sailing and then eventually displacing the former Negrito ethnic groups of the islands. Negritos like the Aeta and the Ati are among the earliest inhabitants of the islands.

The Philippines, located at the crossroads of East and West, is also home to migrants from countries as diverse as China, Spain, Mexico, the United States, India, South Korea and Japan. Two important non-indigenous minorities are the Chinese and the Spanish.

The Chinese, mainly descendants of immigrants from Fujian, China after 1898, number 2 million, although there are an estimated 18 to 27 million Filipinos, some of whom have Chinese ancestors and are descended from pre-colonial and colonial Chinese migrants. Mixed marriage between the groups is evident in the major cities and urban areas.

At least one third of the population of Luzon and some old settlements in the city of Visayasand Zamboanga in Mindanao have partly Hispanic ancestors (from different places of origin via Latin America to Spain). Recent genetic studies confirm this partly European and Latin American ancestry.

Other important non-indigenous minorities are Indians, Anglo-Americans, British and Japanese. Offspring of mixed couples are known as mestizos.

Economy of Philippines

The Philippine economy is the 33rd largest in the world, with an estimated gross domestic product (nominal) in 2016 of $310.312 billion. The main trading partners are the USA, Japan, China, Singapore, South Korea, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Germany, Taiwan and Thailand. Their currency unit is the Philippine peso (₱ or PHP).

As a newly industrialized country, the Philippine economy is in the process of moving from an agriculture-based economy to one more focused on services and manufacturing. From the country’s total labor force of approximately 40.813 million, its agricultural industry employs 30% and accounts for 14% of GDP. The industrial sector employs about 14% of the labor force and accounts for 30% of GDP. Meanwhile, the 47% of workers involved in the service sector are responsible for 56% of GDP.

The unemployment rate as of December 14, 2014 was 6.0%. Meanwhile, due to lower expenses of basic necessities, the inflation rate fell to 3.7% in November Gross international reserves in October 2013 are 83.201 billion dollars. The debt-to-GDP ratio continues to decline to 38.1% in March 2014 from 78% in 2004. While the country is a net importer, at the same time it is also a creditor nation.

After the Second World War, the Philippines was for a time considered the second richest in East Asia, after Japan. In the 1960s, its economic performance began to be surpassed. The economy stagnated under the dictatorship of President Ferdinand Marcos, while the regime created economic mismanagement and political volatility. The country suffered from slow economic growth and periods of economic recession. It was only in the 1990s, with a program of economic liberalization, that the economy began to recover.

The Asian financial crisis of 1997 affected the economy, leading to a persistent decline in the value of the peso and a decline in the stock market. The magnitude of its initial impact was not as severe as that of some of its Asian neighbors. This was largely due to the government’s fiscal conservatism, partly as a result of decades of International Monetary Fund (IMF) surveillance and fiscal oversight, compared with the massive spending by its neighbors to rapidly accelerate economic growth. There were some indications of progress since that time. In 2004, the economy grew by 6.4 percent and by 7.1 percent in 2007, its fastest rate of growth in three decades. The average annual growth of GDP per capita over the period 1966-2007 is still 1.45%, compared to an average of 5.96% for the entire East Asia and Pacific region.The daily income of 45% of the Philippine population remains below $2.

The economy depends heavily on remittances from overseas Filipinos, which exceed foreign direct investment as a source of foreign exchange. Remittances peaked in 2010 at 10.4% of the national GDP, and were 8.6% in 2012 and by 2014, the total value of remittances to the Philippines was US$28 billion. Despite the constraints, service industries such as tourism and business process outsourcing have been identified as areas offering some of the best growth opportunities for the country.

Goldman Sachs includes the country in its “Next Eleven” list, but China and India have become major economic competitors. HSBC also projects that the Philippine economy will become the 16th largest economy in the world, the 5th largest economy in Asia and the largest economy in the Southeast Asian region by 2050. The Philippines is a member of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Mandaluyong-based Asian Development Bank, the Colombo Plan, the G-77 and the G-24 among other groups and institutions.

How To Travel To Philippines

By plane Although the Philippines is an archipelago, most visitors arrive by air. International airports are located in Manila, Angeles, Cebu, Davao, Iloilo and Kalibo. Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and Air Asia, are the three airlines that fly within the Philippines. If you plan to tour the different islands, it is best...

How To Travel Around Philippines

By plane Flight delaysFlight delays can occur due to technical problems at major airports in the Philippines (such as Ninoy Aquino International Airport). When bad weather or smog builds up during the day, flights also become congested and this can cause a 2-3 hour delay to your domestic flight.If you...

Visa & Passport Requirements for Philippines

Nationals of the vast majority of countries (147 at last count), including all ASEAN and EU countries, can enter the Philippines without a visa for a period not exceeding 30 days. Nationals of Brazil and Israel can enter the Philippines without a visa for an extended stay not exceeding...

Destinations in Philippines

Regions in Philippines Luzon (Metro Manila, Bicol, Cordillera Administrative Region, Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Mimaropa). The northernmost archipelago, centre of government, history, economy and home of the capital city.Visayas (Western Visayas, Central Visayas, Eastern Visayas)The central archipelago, heart of the country's antiquity, nature, biodiversity and the best...

Weather & Climate in Philippines

The climate can be described as tropical, where March to May (summer) are the hottest months. The rainy season begins in June and lasts until October with strong typhoons. The coolest months are from November to February, with mid-January to late February being the best for cooler and drier...

Accommodation & Hotels in Philippines

Tourist accommodation options include hotels, resorts, condotels, flats, motels, inns, bed-and-breakfasts and guesthouses.Hotels and resorts are usually for the upmarket traveller, although prices - even for four-star facilities - are not very high compared to other international destinations. Condotels are furnished condominiums rented for long or short-term stays, apartamentos...

Things To See in Philippines

Like some other countries in the world, the Philippines can offer you the tropical island experience of a lifetime. The beautiful sandy beaches, warm climate, centuries-old churches, magnificent mountain ranges, dense rainforests, rich culture and smiling people are just some of the attractions you must see and experience in...

Things To Do in Philippines

Air Sports - An annual hot air balloon festival is held in Clark, Angeles in Pampanga. Aside from the hot air balloons on display, people gather at this event to go skydiving, with many activities other than skydiving and hot air balloons also taking place. The festival takes place...

Food & Drinks in Philippines

Food in Philippines Filipino cuisine has evolved from the different cultures that have shaped its history; it is like Southeast Asian cuisine but with Spanish influences. Although Filipino cuisine is not as well known as many of its neighbours, such as those of Thailand and Vietnam, it still stands out...

Money & Shopping in Philippines

Money in Philippines Currency The Philippine peso (₱) is the official currency and in almost all cases the only currency used for normal transactions. In extreme cases, US dollars and euros are also accepted, and their daily exchange rate is widely known. In April 2015, one US dollar traded at 44.4...

Festivals & Events in Philippines

Holidays in Philippines The Philippines is a multicultural country with Christian, Muslim and Buddhist holidays alongside secular holidays. The year is welcomed with New Year's Day on 1 January. As the Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country, the traditional Catholic holidays of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday are celebrated during...

Internet & Communications in Philippines

Phone in Philippines Fire, medical and police emergencies: 117 by voice or text message. The National Emergency Network Philippines (ENP) is also called Patrol 117 and routes emergency calls originating anywhere in the Philippine archipelago to the appropriate one of the sixteen PSAPs located in various cities across the country. When a...

Language & Phrasebook in Philippines

The Philippines has two official languages: English and Filipino. Filipino is an artificial construct that no one actually speaks and is mainly based on the Tagalog language (a relative of Malay). It was originally intended to incorporate vocabulary and idioms from the many other indigenous languages in use in...

Traditions & Customs in Philippines

A little courtesy goes a long way. Filipinos are a very friendly and hospitable people, sometimes to a fault. Take the time to smile and say "thank you" and you will get much better responses. You will get an even better response if you throw in a little Tagalog,...

Culture Of Philippines

Filipino culture is a combination of Eastern and Western cultures. The Philippines has aspects found in other Asian countries with Malay heritage, but its culture also shows a significant number of Spanish and American influences. Traditional festivals known as barrio fiestas (neighbourhood festivals) to commemorate the feast days of patron...

History Of Philippines

Prehistory The Callao human metatarsal, reliably dated to 67,000 years ago by uranium series, is the oldest human remains discovered so far in the archipelago. This distinction previously belonged to the Tabon man of Palawan, carbon dated to about 26,500 years ago. The Negritos were also among the first inhabitants...

Stay Safe & Healthy in Philippines

Stay Safe in Philippines Use common sense when travelling in and around the Philippines, as you would when travelling to other developing countries. Although the people on these islands are generally friendly and accommodating, be aware of the widespread poverty (especially in the big cities) and the things that unfortunately...

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