The country known today as the Republic of the Philippines lies right in the heart of Southeast Asia, between the Pacific Ocean and the South China Sea. The Philippines has 7,107 islands extending more than 1,700 kilometers (1,056mi) in the direction of the Equator.
The Philippines were claimed in the name of Spain in 1521 by Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese explorer sailing for Spain, who named the islands after King Philip II of Spain. They were then called Las Felipinas. The Americans took control of the Philippines upon defeating Spain in the Spanish-American war of 1898. During World War II, the islands were occupied by the Japanese. Toward the end of the war, the Americans returned, and following the war, the Philippines were granted independence.
The islands are divided into three main areas: Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. Luzon is the major northern island; it is there that you will find the capital, Manila. The Visayas, is the middle cluster of islands featuring tropical beaches scattered throughout warm seas. Mindanao is the southernmost group of islands and has a diverse topography. There are five major mountain systems and the same number of peninsulas as well as valleys, lakes and regions of dense forests and swamps.
A visit to the Philippines is a travel bargain. Your expenses are relatively low, and the offerings are varied with good facilities. Take your pick from the hectic city life of Manila or the unspoiled natural beauty of the countryside. The bonus is that, unlike many other destinations in Asia, the country is not overrun by tourism.
The climate of the Philippines is tropical with an average year-round temperature of 32ºC (90ºF). Summer is from March to May and is always hot and dry. The average daily maximum in summer ranges from 92 to 94ºF (33 to 34ºC). June to October is the wet season with heavy monsoon rains and typhoons in most parts of the country. The coolest weather in the Philippines is from November to February, when the daily maximum is around 84 to 88ºF (29 to 31ºC).
Square Miles: Land area: 119,268 square miles (298,170 sq. km)
Borders: South China Sea to the west and north, Pacific Ocean to the east and south.
Coastline: 207,749 miles (334,539km)
Terrain: Many of the islands in the Philippines are extinct volcanoes and atolls. On the larger islands are many mountains, tropical rain forests, rich valleys and swamp regions. There are narrow to extensive coastal lowlands. The Philippines does still have thermal activity consisting of active volcanoes and hot springs.
The country is marked by a true blend of cultures; truly in the Philippines, East meets West. The background of the people is Indonesian and Malay. There are Chinese and Spanish elements as well. The history of American rule and contact with merchants and traders culminated in a unique blend of East and West, both in the appearance and culture of the people of the Filipinos, or people of the Philippines.
Hospitality, a trait displayed by every Filipino, makes these people legendary in Southeast Asia. Seldom can you find such hospitable people who enjoy the company of their Western visitors. Perhaps due to their long association with Spain, Filipinos are emotional and passionate about life in a way that seems more Latin than Asian.
The Spaniards introduced Christianity (the Roman Catholic faith) and succeeded in converting the overwhelming majority of Filipinos. At least 80% of the total population belongs to the Roman Catholic faith.
The American occupation was responsible for teaching the Filipino people the English language. The Philippines is currently the third-largest English speaking country in the world.
Ethnic Groups: 91.5% Christian Malay, 4% Muslim Malay ,1.5% Chinese and 3% other.
Languages: The national language is Pilipino, which is based on the language of Tagalog, although there are at least one or two dialects spoken in every region. English is both spoken and understood throughout the country, especially in business negotiations and in the government. Hokkien, Cantonese and Mandarin are spoken by older members of the Filipino-Chinese community.
Religion: 83% Roman Catholic, 9% Protestant, 5% Muslim, 3% Buddhist and other.
There are several ethnic groups and more than 65 so-called cultural minorities in the Philippines, which speak their own dialects or languages. Among these ethnic groups are the Tagalog, the Ilocano, the Pangasinanian, the Pampangueño, the Bicolano, the Cebuano, the Ilongo, and the Waray-Waray. They comprise more than 90 percent of all Filipinos and are the Christians. About 84 percent of Filipinos are Roman Catholics.
The Tagalogs live in Manila and in central and southern Luzon. Although they speak Tagalog, they have intonations of their own, as do the Batangueños from Batangas Province. The Tagalogs mostly live in such provinces as Nueva Ecija (the Ilocanos also live in some towns in the northern part of the province), Bulacan, Rizal, Batangas, Quezon, Laguna, and Mindoro (Oriental and Occidental). The Tagalogs dominate the people in Manila. There are, however, many people in the city who have come from different parts of the country, including Luzon, to live in the big city. Many also have come from the Bicol region and the Visayan islands.
The Ilocanos live in the Ilocos region in northern Luzon, particularly Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte, but many of them have migrated in large numbers to central Luzon, and, of course, to the United States. Most of the oldtimers in the United States in the late 1920s and early 1930s came from the Ilocos region. The Ilongos live in western Negros, in southern Mindoro, and on the island of Panay. The Cebuanos predominate in Cebu, western Leyte, Bohol, eastern Negros, and in some coastal areas of Mindanao.
The Bicolanos are in the southeastern Luzon and nearby islands, including the provinces of Albay, Camarines Norte, etc. The Pampangueños or Kapampangans live in central Luzon, particularly in Pampanga Province. The Pangasinanians live in the Lingayen Gulf region of Luzon, including Pangasinan Province; however, many Pangasinanians have migrated into other towns in central Luzon. The Waray-Warays are in the provinces of Samar and eastern Leyte.
Other Groups. Chinese and other groups also live in the Philippines. The Chinese comprise 1.5 percent of the population, and are active in business.
Cultural Minorities. There are more than 65 cultural minorities, similar to the Indian tribes in the United States, who live in reservations and in the mountains.
They include the Muslim groups, which are comprised of the Maranao, the Samal, the Maguindanao, the Tausug, etc. They live in the Sulu Archipelago and southern Mindanao.
There are also the so-called upland tribal groups who live in the mountain regions of the country, such as in the Mountain Province of Luzon. In northern Luzon, the other ethnic groups include the Bontoc, the Kalinga, the Ifugao, the Kankanay, the Ibaloi, the Isneg, the Ilongot, the Tinguian, and the Gadang.
The Mangyan group lives in Mindanao and the Batak and the Tagbanua live in Palawan. In Mindanao there are groups known as the Tiruray, the T. Boli, the Bagobo, the Mandaya, the Bukidnon, the Subanun, and the Manobo. The Negritoes, popularly known as the Agta or the Aeta live in the mountainous areas of Luzon, Negros, Panay, and Mindanao.
General: Filipinos often use their eyes, lips, and hands to convey a wide range of messages. Raised eyebrows and a smile indicate a silent “hello” or a “yes” in answer to a question. Fixed eye contact between men is considered an aggressive gesture. The proper method to summon somebody is with a downward wave.
Filipinos place great emphasis on polite language and gentle conversation. Voice tone is always soft and gentle, and direct questions should be avoided.
Filipinos value their self-esteem, so never criticize or argue with them publicly. Most men, when so provoked, will fight for the preservation of their pride or self-esteem.
Avoid topics such as politics, religion, corruption and foreign aid. Filipinos enjoy conversations about their families.
Business: English is the language used to conduct business.
Punctuality is expected for meetings, it is better to arrive a little late for a dinner invitation.
Greet business people with a handshake.
Women feel comfortable conducting business here, as sexual equality is more widespread in the Philippines than in other Asian countries.
Make sure you have your business cards, as Filipinos like to know who they are dealing with.
The unit of currency in the Philippines is the peso (P). Notes are issued by the Central Bank in denominations of P5, P10, P20, P50, P100, P500 and P1,000. Coins are issued for 5c (centavos), 10c, 25c, 50c, P1, P2 and P5.
Most foreign currencies can be exchanged at banks, hotels and authorized foreign exchange dealers. Outside of Manila, the use of the Philippine pesos for payments is preferred.
Travelers checks issued by American Express, Bank of Tokyo, Bank of America, Barclays and Citibank are widely accepted. Major credit cards such as Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Diners Club can be used to pay for most goods and services.
Flag: Two equal horizontal bands of blue (top) and red with a white equilateral triangle based on the hoist side. In the center of the triangle is a sun with eight primary rays, each containing three individual rays, and in each corner of the triangle is a small, yellow, five-pointed star.
Shop Hours: Most shops operate from 10am to 7:30pm daily and are closed on public holidays.
Bank Hours: Banks are open 9am to 3pm Monday to Friday and are closed on public holidays.
Time:Local time is GMT (Greenwich Mean Time) plus 8 hours.
Tipping: As in the U.S., tipping is expected for many services. When in doubt, do as you would at home.
Restaurants: Most upscale restaurants automatically add a 10% to 15% service charge to the total amount of the bill and a 4% to 10% sales tax for food and drinks. In restaurants, when no service charge has been added, at least 10% of the bill is expected as a tip.
Porters: In hotels, tip doormen and porters P10-P20.
Taxis: 10% of the final fare.
For most foreigners staying up to 21 days, visas are not required upon entering the country, provided visitors have valid passports and tickets to leave the Philippines. Visas are required only for stateless persons and citizens of countries with which the Philippines has no diplomatic relations. For visitors who are planning to stay up to 59 days, a temporary visitors visa is required, and registration with the Commission on Immigration and Deportation is necessary. Foreigners arriving from an area infected by plague, typhus or yellow fever are required to have valid vaccination and immunization certificates. Holders of Hong Kong and Taiwan passports need special entry permits. Visas and permits may be obtained from Philippine embassies and consulates.
Visitors are advised to fill in the Baggage and Currency Declaration Form before arrival to facilitate customs examination. For those with no currency or article to declare, BC Form 117, signed by the custom officer. serves as a gate pass.
Foreign currency more than US$3,000 must be declared at the Central Bank of the Philippines counter situated behind the customs examination area. Departing passengers are not allowed to take out foreign currency more than the amount that was brought in and declared. Local currency not exceeding P1,000 can be taken out of the country. Imported items brought in, and not to be taken out again upon leaving, are taxable.
Duty-Free Items: Two bottles (1 liter each) of alcoholic beverages, two reams (400 sticks) of cigarettes and two tins of smoking tobacco are allowed to be brought duty-free into the country.
Airports Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Located 7km, or 4mi, from the city center) Ninoy Aquino Avenue Manila Tel (02) 832-2938
Mactan International Airport Cebu Tel (032) 831-4006
Airlines: Air France: Tel (02)815-6970 British Airways: Tel (02)817-0361 Cathay Pacific: Tel (02) 815-9417 China Airlines: Tel (02) 590-086 Continental Air Micronesia: Tel (02) 818-8701 Egypt Air: Tel (02) 815-8476 Gulf Air: Tel (02) 817-6909 Japan Airlines: Tel (02) 810-9776 KLM Royal Dutch Airlines: Tel (02) 815-4790 Korean Air: Tel (02) 815-9261 Lufthansa German Airlines: Tel (02) 810-4596 or 810-5089 Malaysian Airline System: Tel (02) 571-596 Northwest Airlines: Tel (02) 819-7341 or (02) 819-7261 Pakistan International Airlines: Tel (02) 818-0502 Philippine Airlines (PAL): Tel (02) 816-6691 or (02) 819-1771 Qantas Airways: Tel (02) 815-9491 Royal Brunei: Tel (02) 817-1631 Saudia Airlines: Tel (02) 818-4722 Singapore Airlines: Tel (02) 810-4966 Swiss Air: Tel (02) 818-8351 Thai Airways: Tel (02) 815-8421 United Airlines: Tel (02) 818-5421
SHIP OR FERRY Sea travel is very slow but is considerably cheaper than flying. Touring the Philippines by boat is one of the pleasures of adventure travel in Southeast Asia. Your travel agent will have more details.
Cars Traveling by car can provide a great view of the scenery, and the roads are generally in good condition. Driving in Manila can be a little tricky, though, and chauffeurs are available. There are major car rental agencies around the town.
Trains The elevated Light Rail Transit (LRT) has a service from Baclaran Market in Pasay City to the Bonifacio Monument in Kalookan City and back. In between are 16 stations, with intervals at every kilometer (.621mi).
The state run Philippine National Railways (PNR) has a provincial line that runs north to San Fernando, La Unión and south to Legaspi City, Albay. The central station is in Tutuban along Claro M. Recto Avenue.
Buses There is a public bus service that links the north and south districts of Manila. The main route through which the buses run is Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA). Nearby provinces are serviced by smaller lines from the cities, but the major lines have extensive networks through Luzon.
Jeepneys The most popular method of transportation in Manila is the jeepney. The jeepney is a colorful and festive-looking jeep, designed after the American jeeps used in World War II. Jeepney travel is great for short trips. Jeepneys run through all major roads in Manila. Destinations are displayed on the windshields and the sides of the jeepneys.
Ships and Ferries There are many ferry services from island to island and quite a few companies offering regular services. Contact the tourist office for more details.
Casa Manila A replica of a mid-19th-century house, showcasing the Intramuros lifestyle among upper-class Filipinos at the turn of the century. (Intramuros was the Spanish walled settlement dating from the 16th century.) Corner Real and General Luna Street Intramuros Manila Luzon Tel (02) 487754
Chocolate Hills Bohol’s most famous attraction is the area called Chocolate Hills because the rich green grass covering them turns brown in summer. Carmen Town, Bohol Visayas Department of Tourism: Tel (02) 599031
Colón Street The oldest street in the Philippines located in the heart of Cebu. Cebu Visayas Department of Tourism: Tel (02) 599031
Crocodile Lake Formed in the crater of an extinct volcano, this lake offers fine swimming (and has no crocodiles!). Los Bãnos, Laguna Luzon Department of Tourism: Tel (02) 599031
Katibawasan Falls The spectacular 250-foot falls (76m) cascades down to a pool surrounded by orchids and ferns. Located 4 kilometers from Mambajao Camiguin Mindinao Department of Tourism: Tel (02) 599031
Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery The only underground cemetery in the Philippines; it served as a meeting place for the revolutionary leaders in Laguna. Laguna Luzon Tel (014) 509952
Magellan’s Cross The most famous landmark (historically) in Cebu. The cross planted by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 marks the spot where the first Christian Filipinos were baptized. Cebu Visayas Department of Tourism: Tel (02) 599031
Malacanang Palace This colonial mansion was the official residence of the President of the Republic of the Philippines, until president Aquino opened it as a museum (as part of her 1986 campaign promise). San Miguel Manila Luzon Tel (02) 521-2307
Maquinit Hot Springs One of the best hot spring sites in the Philippines, located on a scenic beach corner. Palawan Luzon Department of Tourism: Tel (02) 599031
Nayong Pilipino A 32-acre village with replicas of the country’s popular attractions. There are groups of houses forming miniature villages whose architecture represents each ethnically and culturally distinctive region. Ninoy Aquino Avenue Pasay City (Metro Manila) Luzon Tel (02) 832-3760
Pagsanjan Falls Laguna Luzon Tel (02) 834-0404
Pinaglabanan Memorial Shrine This memorial commemorates the first battle for political emancipation of the Filipino people from Spain, he Battle of San Juan del Monte. San Juan (Metro Manila) Luzon Tel (02) 509952
Villa Escudero This old, 800-acre coconut plantation offers a look at three generations of the Escudero family. The late Don Arsenio Escudero was a collector of ornaments and artifacts. The Museum is said to have one of the largest collections of Spanish, Filipino and Chinese treasures. San Pablo City Quezon City Luzon Tel (02) 521-8698
Hidden Valley Within this 300-foot-deep (91m) crater are lush jungle life, natural springs and pools, creating a popular retreat. Alaminos, Laguna Luzon Tel (02) 571872
Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Quezon Avenue Quezon City Luzon
Rizal Memorial Park A wide expanse of lawns and fountains. Within the park are monuments, a skating rink and a children’s playground. Free concerts are held every Sunday. Ermita, Manila Luzon
Archdiocesan Museum of Manila Established in 1987 by Cardinal Sin, this museum has as its theme the history of the Catholic Church in the Philippines. 121 Arzobispo Street Intramuros, Manila Luzon Tel (02) 492161
Ateneo Art Gallery Displays over 300 paintings, sculpture, drawings and prints by Filipino artists. Rizal Library Building Ateneo de Manila University Katipunan Road Loyola Heights Quezon City Luzon Tel (02) 998721
Central Bank Money Museum Features banknotes and coins of many countries including Philippine money dating back to the pre-Spanish period up to the present. Metropolitan Museum of Manila Building Central Bank Complex Roxas Blvd., Manila Luzon Tel (02)507551
Kalantiaw Shrine Exhibits the pictorial history of the Philippines from the pre-Hispanic period to the contemporary era. Batan, Aklan Visayas Tel (036) 509952
Metropolitan Museum of Manila This art museum is the venue for traveling international exhibitions. It houses three separate galleries. Central Bank Complex Roxas Boulevard Manila Luzon Tel (02) 832-3645
National Museum Displays items reflecting the cultural heritage and natural history of the Philippines. Padre Burgos St., Manila Luzon Tel (02) 494450
Philippine Museum of Ethnology This complex is a mini Philippines. Several small museums display the different tourist attractions and tourism products in the country. Nayong Pilipino Complex Ninoy Aquino International Airport Road Pasay City (metro Manila) Luzon Tel (02) 832-0539
SPORT Basketball is the country’s premier sport. Tournaments are held by the professional Philippine Basketball Association, the University Athletic Association of the Philippines, and the Philippine Amateur Basketball League. Major teams play 2 to 3 times a week and major courts are at the Ultra Center in Pasig and at the Rizal Coliseum in Malate. Tickets are inexpensive and can be bought at the coliseum in advance or at the day of the game. On championship games, reserve or buy your tickets ahead of time since they are always sold out a day or two before the game.
One of the Filipino people’s favorite pastime, especially in the provinces. is the cockfight. Cockfights are held every Sunday in several cockpits around Manila and are abundant in the provinces. The highly prized birds are fitted with sharpened blades and displayed to the highly emotional crowd before bets are verbally placed with the calador. This sport can get rather bloody and is offensive to many first time spectators.
The Philippine archipelago is reputed to have more sites for scuba diving than any other country in the world. With at least 28,000 square kilometers (10,808 sq.mi) of the best coral reefs, its undersea world has an incredible amount to offer a scuba diver. Warm, crystal-clear water in various shades of blue, with an amazing visibility to depths of up to 200 feet (61m). Beneath the waters are undiscovered reefs and mysterious shipwrecks waiting to be explored. There are many dive sites, diveshops, dive boat operators and dive tour operators; contact the tourist office for more detailed information.
Sportsfishing has become a very popular sport in the waters surrounding the Philippines. The country ranks 12th in the world for fish production, with almost two million square kilometers (770,000 sq.mi) of fishing grounds. Some 2,400 fish species inhabit these grounds, and many are perfect for sportsfishing. Big game fish such as the blue marlin and the giant tuna, as well as the smaller but very aggressive grouper, or lapu lapu, are also plentiful.
Imagine playing golf amid coconut palms, jungle foliage and deep gorges, or better yet, on a seaside golf course overlooking the South China Sea and Manila Bay. This is golf at its best – golf in the Philippines. Compared to other countries, green fees are unbelievably reasonable. In Metro Manila there are over 10 golf courses.
A wide choice of food establishments awaits visitors, whether they will be dining in Metro Manila or in the various provinces in the country. When in the Philippines, it is worth seeking out kamayan (eating with your hands) restaurants for a true cultural experience. Because of its coastline, the Philippines boasts of seafood galore. In fact, most restaurants offer seafood cooked one way or another. The most popular form of cooking, though, is broiling.
Filipino food is an intriguing blend of Malaysian, Chinese, Spanish and American cuisines. For instance, the use of coconut milk as an ingredient is a gastronomic legacy from the Filipinos’ Malay ancestors. Popular dishes such as lumpia (egg rolls) and pancit (noodles) are Chinese. Even the country’s most famous dish lechon (roast pig), originated in China. Some traditional dishes are still called by their Spanish names such as mechado (beef with pork fat), menudo (diced meat and potatoes stewed in tomato sauce) and pochero (pork, green beans, cabbage and other selected vegetables).
Within each region, you will find specialized dishes. Baguio is famous for serving the best in fruit and vegetables from the Trinidad Valley. Pamanga is known for tocino (sweet preserved meats), Bicol, the coconut-growing region, uses gata (coconut milk) in cooking, along with many spices. Don’t miss Zamboanga for its excellent prawns, crabs and lobsters.
Ordering in restaurants is easy since the menus are in English, although most of the dishes are simply described by their method of cooking. Remember, you’re not finished with your meal until you have had dessert. Choose from the wide variety of baked delights, Philippine-made ice-cream, or fresh fruits, since the Philippines offers one of Asia’s largest selection of tropical fruits.
Beer in the country is probably the finest and the cheapest in the East. Locally brewed San Miguel Beer is very good; it is now being challenged by several new brews such as the lighter Carlsberg and less expensive Manila Beer. Five-year-old Tanduay and locally produced gins and vodkas are all first-class spirits.
People who live outside the larger towns often drink tuba, a very strong coconut wine, rather than the more expensive beers or liquors. The alcohol content is not very high, but the effect is very similar to that of tequila. Lambanog is boiled tuba distilled in the true Kentucky monnshine manner. Tapey is an alcoholic beverage made from rice or corn, popular with the hill tribes of northern Luzon. Basi, a homemade wine from Ilocos Norte, is made from sugarcane juice to which barks and berries have been added.
Filipino musicians are among the best in Asia. Metro Manila bustles with nightlife and is often heralded as Asia’s entertainment capital. There is a wide variety of music to choose from: pop, rock, jazz or Broadway, as well as a wide range of bistros, nightclubs, pubs, bars and cafes at which you can hear it. Traditional Filipino music and dance are offered at theaters or hotel restaurants where cultural dance troups perform regularly. For the culturally inspired, the Cultural Center of the Philippines is your best bet.
Fire and Ambulance: 7575
24-Hour Tourist Assistance Hotlines: Tel 501728 or 501660
International Access Code: 00
Country Code: 63
City Codes: Angeles: 0455 Bacolod: 034 Baguio: 074 Metro Cebu: 032 Davao: 082 Iloilo: 033 Manila: 02 San Pablo: 93 Tarlac: 0452
Using Public Phones: To make a call from a pay phone, lift the receiver and deposit three 25-centavo coins. Wait for the dial tone, which is normally delayed by a few seconds. You can then dial the number of the party you need to call. There is no time limit for a phone call. Be prepared for bad connections and crossed lines.
Only a few hotels have international direct dial. Where it exists, dial 10511, wait for an outside line and speak directly to an AT&T USA direct operator. For less expensive calls, use a credit card or call collect instead of going through a hotel operator.
National Direct Dialing service is provided for major cities in the Philippines. Dial 112 for direct dialing assistance, 108 for operator assisted international calls and 109 for local calls.
For directory assistance, dial 114. All operators speak English.
Department of Tourism T.M. Kalaw Street Rizal Park Metro Manila P. O. Box 3451 Tel (02) 599031
Philippine Convention and Visitors Corporation 4th Floor, Suites 10-17 Legaspi Towers 300 Roxas Boulevard Metro Manila P. O. Box EA-459 Tel (02) 575031
Department of Tourism Ninoy Aquino International Airport Pasay City, Metro Manila Tel (02) 832-2964
DOT/PCVC (Department of Tourism/Philippine Convention and Visitors Corporation):
Highmount House, Level 6 122 Castleragh Street Sydney, NSW 2000 Australia Tel (02) 267-2695
Kaiserstrasse 15 6000 Frankfurt am Main 1 Frankfurt, Germany Tel (069) 893-9495
21/F, Regent Centre 88 Queen’s Road, Central HK Hong Kong Tel (05) 267592
2/F, Dainan Bldg. 2-19-23 Shinmachi Nishi-ku, Osaka 550 Japan Tel (06) 5355-07172
199 Piccadilly London W1V 9LE United Kingdom Tel (071) 439-3481
556 Fifth Ave. New York, NY 10036 USA Tel 212-575-7915
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