Wherever you choose to go in the Philippines, it’s the Filipinos that will make your holiday unforgettable. Lonely Planet calls us, ‘among the most ebullient and easy going people anywhere.’
Don’t be shy about coming up to a Filipino and starting a conversation. We’re not just fun, we’re officially friendly too. Forbes.com ranked us the friendliest country in Asia – eight in the world!
Filipinos are pre-dominantly of Malay stock with a sprinkling of Chinese, Spanish, American and Arab blood. More than 100 cultural minority groups are scattered throughout the country.
Roman Catholicism is practiced by approximately 83% of the population. The rest of the religions are mostly Christian. There are Muslims and Buddhists too.
The Philippines is an archipelago bounded by
the Pacific Ocean to the east
the Bashi Channel to the north
the Sulu and the Celebes Seas to the south.
You can find us East of Vietnam, North of Indonesia.
The country is divided into the geographical areas of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. Its capital, the City of Manila, is in Luzon. You can also enter through the cities of Cebu in the Visayas, and Davao in Mindanao.
Welcome to our isles.
We are made up of 7,107 islands. Some have grown into cities. Some are the epitome of tropical dreams. Some are just long enough to lay down on and get a tan.
Big. Small. Sandy. Sunny. Relaxing. Exotic. Beautiful. Our little clutch of islands make for one long stretch of beach – more than 15,500 kilometers. Here, no one is more than two hours away from a beach-side lounge chair — which explains why everybody knows how to smile and have fun!
*The map above is only a tourist map of the Republic of the Philippines. This representation is only meant to provide basic information to travelers. It should not be used as an official reference.
- Capital City of Manila
- Land Area 300,780 square kilometers
- Population 96 Million
- Average temperature 78 degrees F/25 degrees C.
- Average humidity 77%
- Currency Philippine Peso (php)
- Government Democratic Republic
- Head of state President
- Religion Predominantly Catholic. Muslim, Christian, Buddhist.
- Electricity 220 volts, A.C. 60 cycles. Though most hotels have 110-volt outlets.
- Water Metropolitan Manila and many key cities and towns have ample supply of water. Bottled water is recommended for drinking purposes and is available pretty much anywhere.
Every so often, you might come across an article about a new species of owl, fish or even lizard that’s just been discovered in the Philippines. Our islands are hotbeds of life, with approximately 12,000 plant species, 1,100 land vertebrate species and at least 400 coral species. And more are being discovered as you read this!
We’re just shy of being 2,000 kilometers long from the tip of Luzon to the toe of Mindanao, but we are host to a lot of mosts. The island with the most volcanoes per square kilometer. The most mangrove species in the world. The most bio-diverse reef system.
We have extensive mountain ranges to hike through, underwater landscapes to dive in, flat plains to drive across, cave systems to explore, waterfalls, rock faces, rivers, lakes – and, of course, much more.
If you want the bright & sunny, tropical glory of the Philippines, plan your trip between the summer months of March and May. It will be hot and dry, but that’s what beaches, sunblock and straw hats are for!
Want things a little bit cooler? Then November to February are best for you.
We’d say avoid the rainy season from June to October, but a good traveler knows that off-peak season means lower rates in airfares, hotels, resorts — and maybe the beer too. Just be forewarned that the months between July and September are characterized by typhoons.
Some parts of the country such as Cebu and Davao, are warm and comfortable in all seasons and can be visited throughout the year.
For up-to-date weather information, visit the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Adminstration (PAGASA) website: www.pagasa.dost.gov.ph or call the PAGASA 24-hour hotline (632) 4338526.
WHAT TO WEAR
Welcome to island life! All you’ll need are light, casual clothes.
Typical outfit for the mall or sightseeing outdoors: Shorts, flip-flops & a shirt.
Typical outfit for watching movies or going to churches or museums: Jeans/pants, a shirt, closed shoes.
For formal occasions, men are encouraged to wear the Philippine barong tagalog. Quentin Tarantino and Jeremy Renner have! But dinner jackets and ties will still do. For women, a more traditional look would incorporate butterfly sleeves a la Imelda Marcos. But cocktail dresses or long gowns are accepted and more contemporary.
A lot of establishments refuse entry to people in slippers or “sando” (men’s undershirts).
Bring warming clothes if you’re traveling to the mountain regions. Quick-dry ones if you’re hitting the water or the beach.
Good to have: Mosquito repellent or long-sleeved tops against bites. And of course, sunscreen against sun burns!
Welcome to the global capital for SMS and social media. Here, keeping in touch is definitely not a problem.
Mobile phone sites are all over the country. We have 2 major mobile connectivity providers (Globe and Smart), plus three to four secondary ones. It’s fairly easy to pick up a new pre-paid SIM card and start texting or calling away. Top-ups are widely available from most anywhere, usually in places with signs saying “LOAD DITO” (top-up here). “Load” is the common term for mobile connectivity credit.
Internet & email services are widely available through most establishments, with more and more offering them for free. Free Wireless Fidelity (WIFI), in particular, is gaining popularity in commercial establishments, especially in Metro Manila and other cities. Just look for the Free WiFi sign on the door.
With a 3G+ network available, your own mobile phone can hook you into the web. Or you could do as most locals do and duck into an internet café. These are to be found in all shapes and sizes all over the country.
Of course, the country is wired with international and national direct dial phone and facsimile service. You can access them in malls, restaurants, hotels, internet cafés, business centers, PLDT, Globetel or Bayan offices.
Aside from the postal system, worldwide express delivery service is available. LBC, FedEx, DHL, 2Go, are just some of the active couriers.
Majority of national dailies are in English. You’ll find foreign publications at major hotels, malls and bookstores in Metro Manila and key cities.
Thanks to the Filipino love of food, visitors won’t run out of options for their meals. You get a buffet of options – first class restaurants with world-class chefs, world cuisine, family-style dining places, simple grilleries, “carinderias”, cafeterias and food court stalls. “Halal’ and kosher food are available.
Healthful, natural and organic food products have also increased considerably. As a result, major supermarkets including selected dining establishments now carry a wide array of organically-grown fruits, vegetables, condiments, and grains to cater to the health-conscious.
NIGHTLIFE AND GAMING
NIGHTLIFE. Whether you’re in a party-packed street or shoreline, refreshments here are served almost everywhere. DJs come from all over the world to party with us. And it’s probably because of our sunny weather and good nature that we know how to have a good time. Challenge a local to some karaoke and you’ll be singing till sunrise!
Manila’s nightlife is one of the most vibrant in Asia. Get a taste of it at the different hotspots around the metro: Malate, Manila; Greenbelt, Glorietta, and Rockwell Center, Makati City; The Fort at Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City; Resorts World Manila, Pasay City; Timog and Tomas Morato Avenues, and Eastwood in Libis, Quezon City; Ortigas Center, Pasig City.
Clubs, bars, music lounges, pubs and sing-along bars feature Filipino bands and singers known for their exceptional musical talents. De luxe hotels offer a variety of live musical entertainment. And there’s always a concert or stage play to score tickets to.
GAMING. For visitors who want to try their luck at the gaming tables, there are the large casino complexes at the Bay area or near NAIA Terminal 3. Apart from Metro Manila, you can try your luck in the cities of Angeles, Olongapo, Tagaytay, Cebu, Davao, Bacolod, and Laoag.
Filipinos, you’ll find, are crazy about shopping. In fact, every capital of the country has a shopping center. So whether you find yourself in the city, in the middle of a beautiful island resort, or even relaxing in an outrigger boat, you can always go for some casual retail therapy.
If you’re a professional shopper though, willing to spend whole days of “finding something to buy”, our malls are sure to keep you occupied. Try SM Mall of Asia or SM North, two of the biggest in the world.
For the more adventurous, try the Divisoria area and its 168 mall. This area is the backbone of Manila’s buy & sell trade — blocks and blocks of no-frills bargain-shopping. You will definitely find it hard to leave empty-handed.
If you enjoy the bargain-hunting but would like to avoid the heat, try Greenhills shopping center in Mandaluyong City or Market Market mall in Taguig City.
WHAT TO BUY. There’s an exciting selection of great buys in a country known for export-quality items at reasonable prices: South Sea pearls, hand-woven cloths, embroidered fineries, terracotta and porcelain, coral and mother-of-pearl accessories. Pineapple fiber, prehistoric jars, native handicrafts, and handmade footwear are interesting items, too.
The Philippines also produces fine furniture, basketry, exquisitely crafted jewelry, and gift items made of shell, wood, and stone.
Shop for handicrafts, antiques and souvenirs in Manila’s Quiapo district: ilalim ng tulay (literally, “under the bridge”). The Ermita and Malate districts in Manila, Tiendesitas in Pasig City. Market Market in Taguig, The Kultura shop in SM malls, and most department stores also stock up on a wide selection of excellent, local handicrafts and souvenirs.
Of course, don’t forget to check out the souvenir center or central dry market of the particular province or town you’re in. Every region has its own particular craft, material or delicacy. And some, like our dried mangoes, are deservedly world-famous.
For a start, you can browse some of our products at http://otopphilippines.org
Hospitals and clinics in the country are manned by highly skilled and competent doctors, nurses and health care workers, typically in demand all over the world. Together with modern equipment found in the best city hospitals, the Filipino brand of caring and compassion makes sure you’re well taken care of.
The country boasts of a wide variety of medical healthcare groups to choose from. There are private as well as government-run medical facilities, hospitals and clinics. Most hotels and resorts have medical assistance protocols ready. Towns and cities have health centers that provide emergency medical attention.
As a pioneer convention city in Asia, Manila has hosted its share of prestigious international events. The Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), the country’s convention showpiece, was built to accommodate 4,000 delegates in the Plenary Hall and 5,700 persons in the Reception Hall.
Other venues of varying sizes and facility grades can be found throughout Metro Manila, like the World Trade Center or the SMX Convention Center.
While Subic Bay, Cebu city, Davao City and Baguio city – with their own convention centers and large hotels – also regularly host large delegations.
We have two official languages – Filipino and English.
Filipino is based on Tagalog, the predominant dialect from the Luzon mainland, and is used nationally to communicate among the ethnic groups. There are seven (7) other widely used languages: Cebuano, Ilocano, Hiligaynon or Ilonggo, Bicolano, Waray, Pampango, and Pangasinense. Apart from these, there are more than 176 local dialects!
Like any living language, Filipino is in a process of development through loans from Philippine or foreign languages, as well as from inventions among different sub-cultures (ask someone about “becky speak” or “gay lingo”).
Thanks to the American Period, American English was and continues to be taught in schools. Filipinos get a healthy amount of Hollywood movies and American TV shows too. So if you speak English, feel free to ask for directions or strike up a conversation. If the Filipino you spoke to can’t speak English, he’ll happily pull in someone who does.
You’ll soon discover our love for color. You’ll see it in jeepneys, tricycles, bancas, and even our fiestas. While you’re here, you’re bound to see one – because they happen almost every day. There are a ton of festivals like the Masskara festival in Bacolod, the Pahiyas in Quezon, Sinulog in Cebu, Kadayawan in Davao and Panagbenga in Baguio.
Metro Manila is the center for entertainment and cultural activities. International acts are always flying in, while local acts are always on stage.
Visit museums in Metro Manila and other parts of the country to get a glimpse of Philippine history and culture.
At art galleries – in up-market neighborhoods, malls, urban hang-outs or heritage streets – you can feel the creative pulse of the country from leading and promising visual artists.
Check local event magazines given out free at restaurants, as well as online city guides, for the latest of these events, plus film festivals, dance parties, weekend classes, pop-up shopping venues and other fun things to do!
Check these sites for the latest events:
Food is a huge part of Filipino culture—in fact, the local word for ‘Hello,’ is ‘Have you eaten?’ And though little-known, you’ll find our cuisine as beautiful and surprising as the country. Esquire UK described dinner in Manila as a ‘growing flirtation that was turning into true love’.
Filipino food is an exotic, tasteful fusion of Oriental, European, and American culinary influences with a wide variety of fresh seafood and delectable fruits. These influences have been adapted to local ingredients and the Filipino palate to create distinctly Filipino dishes.
Take “kare-kare” — what started as a Filipino take on curry. Instead of curry paste, some ancient, resourceful cook ground peanuts to make a thick stew, then paired it with “bagoong” (fish paste). The dish now is so far from its inspiration, but has become its own kind of good.
Long ago, these islands were home to Indo-Malays and Chinese merchants. Then in 1521, Spanish explorers led by Portuguese Ferdinand Magellan discovered them. They named the archipelago “Felipinas” after Spain’s Philip II, and introduced Christianity to the people.
The explorers saw the islands’ potential for commerce, with Manila and Cebu as strategic trading ports. They established the seat of government in Cebu, later moving it to Manila in 1571. The islands were a colony of Spain from the 16th to the 19th century, for a total of 333 years.
The Filipinos waged Asia’s first nationalist revolution in 1896. On June 12, 1898, they won their independence from Spain.
After the Spaniards left, the Americans came, introducing their educational and legal systems, as well as their democratic form of government. They ruled for 48 years until World War II broke out in 1941.
Japanese troops invaded the country on December 8, 1941 and stayed for four years. The US forces returned to liberate the Filipinos and finally recognized Philippine independence on July 4, 1946.