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Philippines

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Travel Guide Asia Philippines

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Introduction

Pineapples

Pineapples

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Not quite an Asian country, but also not quite a Pacific island nation, the Philippines has had a hard time attracting tourists. Dodgy politicians keep the country in a state of political unrest, which is highly problematic when trying to draw overseas visitors.

Fortunately, however, the Philippines has enough islands (7,107) and beautiful beaches to make you forget about all its troubles. On Boracay are some of the finest beaches you're ever likely to find. Pristine waters and picturesque tropical scenery highlight the Philippines' rich potential to be a major tourist destination. Impressive but climbable peaks protrude from the country's landscape; many of these are active volcanoes, including the violently dangerous but scenic Taal Volcano. The experience of climbing these peaks is enthralling and rewarding. And at the end of the day you can unwind on the beach to the sight of a beautiful sunset with an ice-cold beer.

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Brief History

Main article: History of the Philippines

The Philippines had been inhabited 30,000 years ago when it was still part of the main continent of Asia. The last ice age 20,000 years later submerged most of Asia's southeast frontier that created higher grounds into islands. The first wave of migrants were the Aetas (aborigines) followed by Malays who came from the south. Early Malay settlers stayed on deltas and island shores where townships eventually developed. They further flourished on trade with the Chinese, Indians and Arabs as early as 100 BC.

Nearly each big island was ruled by a datu or chieftain, usually with the title Raja, Kaliph or Lakan. Islam was introduced by Arab traders to Southeast Asia in 700 AD. In the 15th century, European expeditions were sent by rivals Spain and Portugal for the lucrative spice trade with the Far East. The most famous was the western route taken by Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese explorer under the employ of Spanish King Charles I, whereupon he stumbled on the islands of the Philippines on March 17, 1521 but was eventually killed by the Muslim Malay Kaliph Pulaka (or Lapu-lapu), chieftain of Mactan island. The Europeans returned 44 years later led by the Adelantado, Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, to conquer the islands in the name of Spanish King Philip II. Thus, started the Spanish rule of the islands for the next 333 years.

The Spaniards “lost” to the Americans in the Battle of Manila Bay, amidst the successes of the Philippine Revolution of 1898. The islands were ceded to the USA in the Treaty of Paris. Americans colonized the country for the next 40 years, interrupted by four years of Japanese occupation during the Second World War. The Philippines finally gained its “sovereignty” in 1946 with the condition that the USA maintained its huge military bases in the country.

Since then, the Philippines has moved to become one of the leaders in Asia. But on September 21, 1972, then president Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law which lasted for 21 years. Those were trying years for Filipinos, suffering under a dictatorial regime that lasted until August of 1983, when Benigno 'Ninoy' Aquino, Marcos' rival, was shot dead at the tarmac of the old Manila International Airport after three years of exile. This started uprisings against the regime and then on February 25, 1986, Ferdinand Marcos and his family were ejected out of Malacañang Palace and exiled to Hawaii by the peaceful EDSA People Power revolution. Aquino's wife, Corazon Aquino was put to power and became the first Lady President.

After this, the Philippines became more industrialized and saw improvements in infrastructure. Even with the current political climate, the Philippines has tried to develop its economy and regain an influential position in the global market.

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Geography

The Philippines is an archipelago composed of 7,107 islands (could be a little less during high tide) that are clustered into three island groups: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. It lies in Southeast Asia bounded by the Philippine Sea to the east, West Philippine Sea to the west and the Celebes Sea to the south.

The archipelago lies in the region called the Ring of Fire, which is characterized by a number of active volcanoes found all over the country. Some of these notable volcanoes are Taal Volcano which is situated in the middle of Taal Lake, Mayon Volcano in Legazpi City which is considered to have the most perfect cone shape despite intermittent eruptions, and the dormant Mount Apo in Davao, the highest peak in the Philippines at 2,954 metres above sea level.

Islands, islets, reefs, atolls and shoals towards the western part of the archipelago, specifically those belonging to the Scarborough Shoal (about 220 kilometres west of Subic, Zambales province in Luzon island) and the Kalayaan Group of Islands (Spratly Islands), which is only 25 kilometres off the shore of Balabac town, Palawan island, are all part of the territory of the Philippines. But other neighboring countries such as China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei have aggressively laid claim to them, too, when US forces left their military bases in the Philippines in the 1990s. Ironically, these islands, islets, reefs and atolls being contested by other countries are all way too far from their own shores. Through geological research and studies, it is believed that these areas are rich in oil and gas deposits, estimated to contain 17 billion tons, compared to Kuwait’s 13 billion tons.

Sabah, located at the northern part of Borneo island, was a territory ceded to the Sultanate of Sulu by the Sultan of Brunei in 1658 as compensation for the former’s assistance in repelling a rebellion. The Philippines had never ceased its claim on Sabah, maintaining that it is a property of the Sultan of Sulu, a Filipino citizen, and whose heirs continue to receive "padjak" (term used in the original contract) or lease payments for their property from the Malaysian government.

To the east of the largest island Luzon is Benham Rise, an extinct volcanic ridge underwater, that the Philippines has lodged a claim with the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (UNCLCS) in 2009 and was finally approved by the same UN body in April 2012. Total area of Benham Rise is about 250 kilometres in diameter and rises to about 2,000 metres above the sea floor that is 5,000 metres deep.

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Regions

The islands of the Philippines are divided into three groups.

  • Luzon is a group of islands in the north of Philippines. It includes the island of Luzon, the Batanes and Babuyan groups and the main and outlying islands of Catanduanes, Marinduque, Masbate, Romblon, Mindoro, and Palawan in the south. The nation's capital, Manila, is located on the island of Luzon.
  • The Visayas includes the major islands of Panay, Negros, Boracay, Cebu, Bohol, Leyte and Samar. The main city is Cebu.
  • Mindanao is an island group in the south, taking in the large island of Mindanao itself and several smaller outlying islands.

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Major Cities

  • Manila is the nation's capital city and center to a massive metropolis of over 12 million residents.
  • Cebu is dubbed as the Queen City of the South and is the oldest city in the country which dates back to the 16th century.
  • Davao is the largest city in the country in terms of land size and is the center of commerce in the island of Mindanao.
  • Angeles is a city in Pampanga that played host to a US military air base, Clark Airfield, until their departure in the early '90s. Supplanting it is a network of highways linking Subic, Manila and Tarlac provinvce to the new Diosdado Macapagal International Airport inside Clark. A robust local economy is supported by relocators of big multinational companies housed within a new export processing zone.
  • Bacolod is known as the City of Smiles and the center for commerce in the island of Negros.
  • Baguio is the summer capital of the Philippines, dubbed as the city of Pines. This city is located on the mountaintops of the Cordillera mountains.
  • Batangas is an important port city south of Manila and is the center of commerce of the Batangas province that is known for its beautiful dive sites.
  • Cagayan De Oro
  • Iloilo
  • Laoag is a major city in the northwest coast of Luzon and the capital of the Ilocos Norte province which is home to some historic architectures that dates back the Spanish period.
  • Makati is the main financial capital of the country where major banks, international companies and embassies are located.
  • Naga is a key city in the Bicol peninsula which is home to the virgin of Penafrancia.
  • Puerto Princesa is the capital city of the island province of Palawan which is dubbed as the Philippines' Last Frontier for maintaining its flora and fauna from being spoiled by development.
  • Quezon City is the country's most populated city. It is located within Metro Manila and has once been the capital of the Philippines during its commonwealth era.
  • Tagaytay City is a popular tourist destination offering a spectacular view of the famous Taal Volcano.
  • Zamboanga is the center of the Zamboanga peninsula that is home to the colorful boats called Vinta.

Metro Areas

  • Metro Manila is the metropolitan region around the city of Manila which is also known as the National Capital Region.
  • Metro Cebu is the metropolitan region surrounding the city of Cebu in the Visayas.
  • Metro Bacolod is the metropolitan area comprising the city of Bacolod, Talisay and Silay in Negros Occidental.

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Sights and Activities

Historical Sites

  • Intramuros is the Walled City of Manila. It was built by the Spaniards in the 16th century and became the center of Spanish rule for over three centuries.
  • Fort Santiago is part of the walls of Intramuros. Located on the northwestern part of the perimeter walls, this battle fortress guarded the mouth of Pasig River and the outlying Manila Bay.
  • Malacañang Palace - The official residence of the President of the Republic of the Philippines. Malacañang comes from the Tagalog term "may lakan diyan" or "a chief (or nobleman) lives there". It is situated in the Manila district of San Miguel, along the north bank of the Pasig River. At the turn of the 18th century, the place was a fashionable area for setting up manor houses of the elite. Built by Don Luis Rocha in 1802 as his summer residence, he sold this property to Col. Jose Miguel Formento of the Spanish Army. Later, it was again sold to the Spanish government in 1825 when it was looking for a residence for the Governor-General whose official residence, the Palacio del Gobernador inside Intramuros, was razed by fire.
  • Corregidor - A tadpole shaped island near the mouth of Manila Bay. This served as the first line of defense from invading ships or galleons going into Manila Bay since the Spanish period. This has been a site of several battles during WWII.
  • Rizal Park is a large park named after the country's national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal. Rizal's monument marks the actual site where he was executed.
Banaue Rice Terraces

Banaue Rice Terraces

© All Rights Reserved pau_p1

  • Vigan's Calle Crisologo is considered to have the oldest and most preserved Spanish colonial town in the country. This street at the centre of the city is lined with 16th century ancestral houses and cobbled stones roads. Alltogether, the historic town of Vigan is a Unesco World Heritage Site.
  • Magellan's Cross belongs to the city of Cebu, this cross was erected by the explorers led by Ferdinand Magellan upon their arrival in the island of Cebu in the 16th Century.
  • Banaue Rice Terraces are 2,000-year old terraces of rice paddies carved out of the mountains in the province of Ifugao by the Ifugao people.
  • Baroque Churches from the Spanish era churches that are considered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site litter the country. These are San Agustin Church in Intramuros, Manila; Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion in Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur; San Agustin Church in Paoay, Ilocos Norte; and Sto. Tomas de Villanueva Church in Miag-ao, Iloilo.

Nature

Chocolate Hills

Chocolate Hills

© All Rights Reserved pau_p1

  • Mayon Volcano is the iconic volcano of the Bicol region near the southeast end of Luzon island. It is relatively active and despite numerous eruptions, Mayon volcano still exudes a majestic, perfect cone. In a recent explosion, its bowels rolled over several barangays (small towns). The most notorius eruption happened in 1814 where whole towns along the path of its flowing lava got buried. An attraction is the town of Cagsawa, where only the town's church belfry remained exposed aboveground. Mayon volcano is nestled on the province of Albay.
  • Taal Volcano is a low lying active volcano that has a unique land formation. It has a lake within the volcano, while the volcano is within a larger lake in the island of Luzon. Tagaytay city offers the most scenic view of this beautiful volcano.
  • Chocolate Hills make up more than 1,200 perfectly-coned hills clustered in the town of Carmen on the central part of the island of Bohol. The hills turn brown during the dry season, mimicking the likes of Hershey Kisses Chocolates.
  • Puerto Princesa Subterranean River is the longest underground river situated at the western shores of the city of Puerto Princesa in the island of Palawan and is on the Unesco World Heritage List.
  • Tubbataha Reef is situated in south of Palawan in the Sulu Sea, this large marine sanctuary is one of the best dive sites in the country and also a Unesco World Heritage Site.
  • Hundred Islands National Park is a colony of 123 vegetated islands and islets found off the coast of Alaminos town in Pangasinan province.
  • La Mesa Ecopark is a watershed northeast of the metropolis and serves as the primary source of drinking water to all of Metro-Manila’s 12 million residents. The reservoir occupies some 700 hectares, as 2,000 hectares of rainforest land protect and surround it. A vigorous campaign is now being drummed-up to protect the watershed from degradation. The ecopark is a popular picnic destination on weekends by the locals. Because of its romantic scenery, it is a frequent venue for photo shoots of would-be couples who will be tying the knot.
  • Mount Apo National Park Rising to 2,954 metres above sea level on the island of Mindanao, the peak of Mount Apo is the highest in the Philippines. It hosts the sanctuary of the near-extinct Philippine Eagle (or Monkey-eating Eagle). One meter in height and having a very large wing span area, it is the world’s largest eagle.
  • Makiling Botanical Garden is a forested reserve popular as a hiking destination. Found on Mount Makiling, an inactive volcano, in the town of Los Baños 50 kilometres south of Manila. Mount Makiling abounds with hot springs. It was the site of the 10th World Jamboree of Boy Scouts in 1959.
  • Mount Pinatubo, once a dormant volcano until its major eruption in 1991, which was considered to be the second strongest eruption in the century. Now its crater lake has become an attraction to tourists looking for adventure.
  • Caramoan is better known for its very rugged terrain and enchanting chain of white-sand islands. Located at the extreme southeastern tip of Camarines Peninsula.
  • Donsol in the extreme southeast of Luzon is the Philippine capital of meeting the giant but friendly whaleshark (Butanding in local language). You can go swimming and snorkelling with them and although they have been seen in most months, the best season is from December to June with a peak from February to April.
  • The Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras are a Unesco World Heritage Site in the central north of the island of Luzon.
  • Camiguin is a tiny island in between Mindanao and Bohol and has some stunning scenery with volcanos and beaches. It is said to be the island with the highest density of volcanoes in the world!

Theme Parks

  • Enchanted Kingdom is the first year-round theme park in the country that features different rides and thrill activities. Located in Sta. Rosa, Laguna province, about 36 kilometres south of the capital Manila. Weekend entry rates: P500 adult, P320 child. Weekdays: P400 adult, P250 child.
  • Zoobic Safari is a theme park inside the Subic Freeport that features encounters with Bengal tigers in secured enclosure. 120 kilometres northwest of Manila, Subic Freeport used to host the US Navy Pacific Fleet until 1991.
  • Ocean Adventure is a water theme park in Subic that features dolphin and whale performances in the open sea.
  • Manila Ocean Park - The first oceanarium in the country that features endemic marine creatures found in the archipelago. It is located at the back of Luneta Grandstand, Luneta Park. Entrance fee: 400 pesos for adults, 350 pesos for kids. Opened daily.

Other Activities

  • Beaches are stunning in Boracay, Puerto Galera, Cebu, Puerto Princesa, El Nido, Pagudpud, Camiguin, Bohol, Marinduque.
  • Scuba Diving that is some of the best in the world can be found in Anilao, Bohol, Boracay, Busuanga, Coron, Cebu, Malapascua, Puerto Galera, Tubbataha.
  • Surfing can be experienced on the island of Siargao in Surigao Province (Mindanao) and the coastal towns of La Union province in Luzon, 250 kilometres north of Manila.
  • White Water Rafting can be thrilling near to Cagayan De Oro, Pagsanjan, Kalinga.
  • Wakeboarding in CamSur Watersports Complex
  • Cultural Center of the Philippines - opened its doors in 1999. Located along Roxas Boulevard at the south end of Manila, it is a grand edifice that plays host to both local and international cultural performances, exhibitions, shows and concerts. It houses the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, Ballet Philippines, Philippine Folk Dance Company, and the world-known Madrigal Singers.
  • Museon Pambata - An interactive museum for children and the younger generation. Located on the southwest fringe of Rizal (Luneta) Park, beside the US Embassy. Entrance fees: P100 adult or child; open Tuesdays-Saturdays 8:00am-5:00pm and Sundays 1:00pm-5:00pm.

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Events and Festivals

Pahiyas Festival 2008

Pahiyas Festival 2008

© All Rights Reserved pau_p1

Main article: Events and Festivals in the Philippines

  • Sinulog Festival is held every third Sunday of January in Cebu City. Distinguished by signature shuffling dance performed along the streets of the city as they celebrate in honor of the image of the Holy Child, the Santo Niño.
  • Moriones Festival is held during the Holy Week, which normally fall on the month of April. This is one of the most famous festival in the country held in Boac, Marinduque where locals dressed in Roman warriors reenact the life of Longuinus, the centurion who stabbed Jesus' side.
  • Flores De Mayo or the Santacruzan is held nationwide within the festive month of May. It's a parade of a town's beautiful ladies on procession to commemorate St. Helena's search for Christ's cross.
  • Pintados Festival is held every June 29th in the city of Tacloban, this wild fiesta centers on the imitating pre-Hispanic tattooed warriors. Reveller join in the celebration in painting their bodies.
  • Masskara Festival is the biggest annual event in the city of Bacolod happening every third week of October. It is a carnival themed festival featuring masked participants in colorful costumes dancing in the streets.
  • Siargao surfing festival - Started in 2010 and was added on to the international billabong pro that has been held on Siargao for over a decade, it also runs as the same time as the annual fiesta in General Luna. Two weeks of surfing, livebands, padgents, parades and amazing party's. It usually starts mid September every year.
  • Ati-Atihan Festival - A colourful street party held over the 3rd weekend of January in Kalibo, Panay Island. Groups of locals dress up in colourful outfits and are led by a group of drummers. The whole parade goes on throughout most of Friday, Saturday & Sunday and lasts well into the evening.

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Weather

There are two seasons that characterize the country's year-round weather system: dry (December to May) and wet (June to November). During the wet or rainy season, the islands are frequently struck by typhoons (averaging 21 weather disturbances a year) from June to September and can extend up to the first week of December. The dry season is hot and humid and very balmy in coastal areas, ranging from 32 °C to a high 39 °C. It gets to be a gorgeous 20 °C to 28 °C from December until February. Elevated areas like the cities of Baguio and Tagaytay are 5 to 10 °C cooler than the lowlands year-round. The seasons on the Pacific side of Mindanao and Samar have a slightly different wet season, namely from January to March.

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Getting There

By Plane

The primary international airport serving travellers to the Philippines is the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL) in Manila. Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (CRK) in Clark is servicing nearby Angeles City currently services low-cost airlines, but is set to overtake Ninoy Aquino International Airport in the near future as the country's primary international gateway. Mactan-Cebu International Airport (CEB) is another major hub located in the island of Cebu which connects the southern islands to the rest of the region.

Smaller airports servicing international flights are located in Davao, General Santos, and Zamboanga in the island of Mindanao, Laoag in northern Luzon, and Kalibo, Bacolod, and Iloilo in the Visayan islands.

Philippine Airlines is the national flag-carrier of the Philippines and is Asia's oldest airlines. It has flights to and from destinations in Southeast Asia, East Asia, Australia, Canada and the United States. Cebu Pacific Air is the country's second flag carrier with flights to major cities in Southeast Asia and East Asia.

By Boat

There aren't many passengers ferries, so if you want to visit the Philippines without flying, try a cargoship or search for private yachts going there.
The only option are ferry services between Zamboanga Peninsula (Mindanao) in the southern Philippines and Sandakan in Sabah, Malaysia with Aleson Shipping Lines, taking about 13 hours completing the journey.

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Getting Around

By Plane

Here are some domestic airlines that serves the different islands. Most use Manila and Cebu as their hub of operation.

By Train

Currently the Philippine National Railways (PNR) line is the only operational railway system servicing the island of Luzon. This runs from the Manila to Legaspi City.

Within Metro Manila, 3 light rail transits service the metro.

  • LRT1 (yellow line) - Traversing south to north of Metro Manila on its western rim. 18 stations; starting with Baclaran on the south and ending at the Monumento station in the north. For one-time fare: P12 for first four stations, P15 for more than 4 stations. Stored Value tickets available. Service runs 6:00am till 11:00pm, weekdays. Till 9:30pm weekends and holidays.
  • LRT2 (purple line) - 13.8-kilometre-route distance traversing 5 cities of Metro Manila in a west-east direction. 11 stations, with Santolan station on the east-end, Recto station on the west-end. Fares start at P12, P15 for the whole stretch. Service runs 5:00am till 11:00pm.
  • MRT3 (blue line) - 13 stations traversing the length of the famous Epifanio delos Santos Avenue (EDSA). Fares start at P10, P15 for the whole length of the route. Service runs 5:30am till 10:00pm. Till 9:30pm weekends and holidays.

By Jeepney and Bus

Manila Jeepney

Manila Jeepney

© All Rights Reserved moutallica

The jeepney is the most popular public transportation around the country. Hundreds of US military jeeps were left behind by the Americans after WWII and some enterprising Filipinos converted them for public transport, adorning it as well with lots of colors, paintings, buntings and other native decors. Eventually, the chassis and bodies were extended to accomodate more passengers. Jeepneys run different routes in and between every city of the country. Routes are written on their bodies' side panels and the front. Buses ply the longer routes and wider roads and their fares are a tad higher than the jeepneys.

By Car

Car rental is available at least at the major international airports and bigger cities, with companies like Hertz and Avis having many offices throughout the country. You need a national driver's licence as well as an international driving permit. There are highways on the Mindanao, Visayas and Luzon island groups and many other roads are under construction. Driving can be a little chaotic, but apart from driving at night on minor and rural roads, it is not overly dangerous.

By Boat

Being an archipelago, ports for commuter ships, ferries and jetties are available on all over the country. An organized network of highways and vehicular ferry routes, called the Strong Republic Nautical Highway, is in place that interconnects each island from Luzon, to the smaller islands of Visayas up to the island of Mindanao.

Here are some of the major sea carriers that ferry passengers from island to island:

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Red Tape

Citizens from 151 countries are allowed to enter the Philippines without a Visa for a stay of up to 30 days. This includes all citizens of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries. These can be extended for 2 months during the next time(s).

Brazil and Israel passport holders are allowed to stay without a visa for up to 59 days. Holders of British National Overseas, Hong Kong (SAR) and Macau (SAR) passports may enter the country without a visa for a stay of no more than seven days.

For individuals interested in retiring in the Philippines, one can apply for a Special Resident Retiree's Visa (SRRV) which entitles foreigners and former Filipinos to hold multiple-entry privileges with rights to attain permanent residence in the country.

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Money

See also Money Matters

The local currency is called the Philippine Peso (PHP). Peso is spelled as Piso in Filipino language. One Peso is divided into 100 centavos (Filipino: sentimo).

  • Banknotes: P20, P50, P100, P200, P500, P1,000.
  • Coins: 1 centavo, 5 centavos, 10 centavos, 25 centavos, P1, P5, P10.

As at 2 March 2012, the exchange rates against world's major currencies are approximately USD1 = PHP42.80, EUR1 = PHP57.10, JPY100 = PHP52.80, AUD1 = PHP46.00.

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Work

All foreigners would need a permit from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Bureau of Immigration to be able to work in the country.

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Study

University of Santo Tomas

University of Santo Tomas

© All Rights Reserved pau_p1

A number of good quality colleges and universities may be found all over the country. Here are a few:

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Language

Filipino is the national language of the Philippines. It is mainly a derivative of the Malay language widely spoken in the region, comprising the Philippine Islands, Indonesia, Malaysia and Borneo.

Most of the Filipino vocabulary comprise of the Tagalog dialect and words hailed from its influences in Spanish, English, Chinese, Japanese and other local dialects.

There are about 170 different dialects that are spoken within the archipelago. Some of the major dialects include Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilocano, Kapampangan, Bicolano, Tboli, Tausog, Ivatan, Hiligaynon, Ibanag, Panggalatok. The dialect Chavacano, spoken in Zamboanga, is very close to the Spanish language.

English is considered the second language and is the medium of instruction in all schools.
Nearly 98% of Filipinos are bilinguial, and 60% trilingual. Follow the link for the Filipino (Tagalog) phrasebook.

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Eat

Common Dishes

  • Adobo - Using pork or chicken meat or both, simmered in soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, and black pepper, Adobo is one of the most common Filipino dishes. It is finished-off with the addition of laurel leaves.
  • Sinigang - A soup dish that contains fish or meat and a variety of vegetables and is generally simmered in tamarind broth. Sour but tasteful, this is also cooked using different meats, including pork, beef, chicken, fish, and shrimp. Some varieties use broths of guava, miso, or kamias which gives a different sour taste.
  • Lechon - Roasted pig on bamboo, gently roasted over low fire until its skin turns reddish-brown. Usually served in fiestas and parties. Leftovers are further cooked into another dish called pinaksiw na lechon, which is a caserole cooked in vinegar and liver sauce.
  • Pinakbet - A salty mixture of native vegetables boiled in a local fermented fish-sauce called bagoong, usually added with slices of dried pork called bagnet. This dish is native to the Ilocos region (northern part of Luzon island), although it is prepared in various ways in other parts of the country.
  • Bulalo - Another soup dish containing beef (with bone-in) mixed with local lettuce called Pechay Tagalog, black pepper and potatoes.
  • Kare-kare - A mixture of vegetables with ox tail, beef and tripe boiled to tenderness. Dish is dressed in thick peanut sause with herbs. Served with spicy shrimp paste.

Exotic Food

  • Balut - A common partner for beer, this delicacy is boiled duck egg with a still unfertilized chick inside was featured as one of the freakiest food in the world.
  • Ginataang Kuhol - Snails sautéed in garlic, onions, pepper and ginger with coconut milk. Hot chilis and a leafy swamp vegetable called kangkong are topped to finish the simmer.
  • Halo-halo - is a favorite local snack during summer. It is a mixture of purple yam, sweet potates, jackfruit, coconut meat, nata de coco, sugar palm, sweet beans, sago and gulaman in crushed ice, milk and sugar. Served in a tall glass. This is similar to the ice chi kang of Singapore and Malaysia, except that it has less ingredients and served in a bowl.
  • Sisig - Boiled pork ears, cheeks, snout, brains and liver - mixed with garlic, onions and pepper, marinated in a spacial sauce with vinegar, and finally grilled on a hot plate.

Fast Food

  • Jollibee Philippines' most famous hamburger food chain. Its menu includes its famous chickenjoy, hamburgers, local pasta, and rice meals.

Fruits

  • Mangoes - The Philippines produces some of the best, if not the best, mangoes in the world. Philippine mangoes come in different varieties, but the most popular is the Kalabaw variety. Attempts by some neighboring countries to duplicate its cultivation and production (more recently, Mexico), but none could approximate the taste and texture of those grown in the Philippines, specially the produce from Guimaras Island, Iloilo province.
  • Bananas - Several varieties abound. The Cavendish variety, long and nice yellow blemish-free peeling, is grown for export and mainly cultivated and produced in Bukidnon province in Mindanao. The Saba variety is popular for making local snacks, and to some extent, is included as an ingredient in some native dishes. The smallest variety, Senorita, which is as short as your fingers, are popularly grown in the uplands of Cavite province, esspecially in Tagaytay. Other varieties include Latundan, and Lakatan - a popular variety served in feasts.
  • Coconut - These are bountiful everywhere and the juice is at its prime taste when freshly harvested from the tree. Nata de coco is a chewy, transluscent food product produced by the bacterial fermentation of the coconut juice. This had been the latest food craze among yuppies in Japan. But locally, it is used as an ingredient in one of the favorites snack during summer: the halo-halo.
  • Pineapples - One of the best pineapples in the world is grown on the fields and hills of Bukidnon province in the island of Mindanao where Del Monte and Dole have huge plantations. Both produce nearly 2 million metric tons of pineapples annually.

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Sleep

Accommodations are available for all budget levels in major cities. Smaller towns and cities offer modest facilities and as the traveller goes farther to remote barrios and the outlying islands, he/she should expect to be a cowboy and enjoy the night under the starry sky if he did not bring along camping gear and provisions. There is a lot of choice regarding budget accommodation and Bed and Breakfasts and Guesthouses in the Philipines. You'll find some great luxurious hotels and 5-star places in the bigger cities and along the beautiful beaches of islands like Cebu.

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Drink

The main beer of choice all over the Philippines is San Miguel beer and costs from around 25 pesos and upwards, depending on the type of establishment you go. If you are after something stronger but still very cheap go for the local rum Tanduay. A small bottle cost called a JR cost around P27, senior P45 and the 700ml, also known as long neck cost around P65. So cheap you might wonder what it contains but it does the job.

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Health

See also Travel Health

There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to the Philippines. There is one exception though. You need a yellow fever vaccination if you have travelled to a country (7 days or less before entering the Philippines) where that disease is widely prevalent.

It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to the Philippines. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also a hepatitis A vaccination is recommended and when travelling longer than 2 weeks also typhoid.

If you are staying longer than 3 months or have a particular risk (travelling by bike, handling of animals, visits to caves) you might consider a rabies vaccination. Vaccination against Tuberculosis as well as hepatitis B are also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months.

Malaria is prevalent in some parts of the country. Don't underestimate this tropical disease and take precautions. Buy repellent (preferably with 50% DEET), and sleep under a net. Dengue sometimes occurs as well.

Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.

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Safety

See also Travel Safety

Manila

Like any other place, the traveller should always be mindful of his personal belongings, specially travel documents and cash. The crowds of downtown Manila, specifically the vicinity of Quiapo and Santa Cruz districts and those in Divisoria, are the favorites of pick-pockets. Know where you are headed in those areas or better be out with guides. Other areas of the city are relatively safe, like those of Chinatown (Binondo District) and Intramuros (the Walled City).

Mindanao

On Mindanao, mainly the northeastern coastline and surroundings of this southern Philippines island are safe and peaceful but not those of the provinces lying in its southwestern rim. There is a separatist Muslim rebellion going on and travel could be very dangerous to the unmindful traveller. Especially the islands in the Sulu Sea and the Zamboanga Pensinula are considered unsafe in general. This applies to a lesser extent to some central and southern parts of the main island though Davao City is also safe. This doesn't mean, however, that travelling around most parts of Mindanao is not possible. Just take the normal, and some extra, precautions, and avoid the most unsafe areas if possible.

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Keep Connected

Internet

There are a number of internet service providers nationwide: PLDT-Smart Communications, Globe Telecoms, BayanTel and Sun Cellular and each have their signal strengths in various locations. 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 ₱200/hour (approximately US$5) but neighbourhood cafes can be as cheap as ₱15/hour (approximately US$0.35).

Public place WiFi services in the Philippines is provided by Airborneaccess.net and WiZ is likely to cost ₱100 (approximately US$2) for up to an hour. But if you want cheaper, there is a internet cafe chain in SM malls called, "Netopia", that has a landline internet connection for around 20P an hour (about 0.46 US). Coffee shops as well as malls usually carry WiFi service some are free to use. Certain areas may also carry free WiFi. The SM chain of malls offer free wifi, so you can sit virtually anywhere in the mall and access free wireless.

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

The Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company commonly known as PLDT is the leading telecommunications provider. It is also the largest company in the country. There are three major companies operating GSM 900/1800 networks: Globe, Smart and Sun Cellular. Your home provider at home should have agreements with one of these providers so check with them before leaving home. Roaming may be quite expensive just as elsewhere however, pre-paid SIM cards of these networks are easy to acquire and cost as little as ₱30 and provide a cheaper alternative.
If you don't have a phone to begin with, a complete pre-paid kit with phone and SIM can be purchased for as little as ₱1,500.The usual cost of an international long-distance call to the United States, Europe or other major countries is $0.40 per minute. Local calls range from ₱ 6.50 per minute for prepaid calls.

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.

Post

The Philippine Postal Corporation, or PhilPost, is the provides the postal service throughout the Philippines. PhilPost is pretty reliable, but one can hardly call it fast services. It is fine for sending postcards and letters though, both domestically as well as internationally. Prices for sending postcards or letters within the country start at around P7, while most international post costs at least P20. For sending parcels to and from the Philippines it might be wise to use companies like FedEx or UPS. The opening hours of post offices in the Philippines differ from one place to another. Usually, post offices are open from 8:00am to 12 noon and from 1:00pm to 5:00pm on weekdays. And for those that operate on Saturdays, the business hours are from 8:00am to 1:00pm.

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References

  1. 1 August 2007 estimate, National Statistics Office, Philippines

Quick Facts

Philippines flag

Map of Philippines

[edit]

Local name
Pilipinas
Capital
Manila
Government
Republic
Nationality
Filipino
Population
88 570 000 [1]
Languages
Filipino, English, Spanish
Religions
Christianity (Spanish Catholicism-93%, Protestant-3%), Islam-2%, Buddhist-1%
Currency
Philippine Peso (PHP)
Calling Code
+63
Time Zone
UTC+8

Contributors

as well as Hien (5%), Lavafalls (4%), dr.pepper (3%), Peter (2%), Felipe66 (1%), sofe1978 (1%), reklund75 (1%), ijij0806 (<1%), Herr Bert (<1%)

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Philippines Travel Helpers

  • ParrotfishJ

    I dont just visit country , i actually move there and live there . Normally 3-6 months in the country .Sometimes even longer

    Ask ParrotfishJ a question about Philippines
  • smanros

    As a traveller, I detest rip-offs, having been a victim too many in the past, locally and internationally - specially China and Hong Kong. To avoid pitfalls, ask the experienced victim of rip-offs! ...or, the one who is very much familiar with rip-offs so you, the foreign traveller, could be a lot happier with an enjoyable visit to my country! If only being ripped-off could lead to a college degree, I could have earned a PhD! :-)

    Ask smanros a question about Philippines
  • Kate T.

    I live in Quezon City, Philippines (Luzon) and I pretty much travelled around the country. I can help travelers by giving them tips on where to go, what food to eat, where to stay, what to do and what places and things to avoid.

    Ask Kate T. a question about Philippines
  • fruitlups

    I can help you with information that is very different from the press releases or some postings claimed by travel sites.

    I have been to most of our major islands in the south and have travelled by land, air and sea and can help you plan by helping you with what to expect and how much.

    Ask fruitlups a question about Philippines
  • bethquimpo

    hi call me beth,a very adventures lady who cant wait to get her feet wet all the time.I'm a backpacker,a tour guide,a travel buddy,a tour organizer and an event planner.feel free to keep in touch! i've been around the Philippines and have explored most parts of it.

    Ask bethquimpo a question about Philippines

Accommodation in Philippines

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