Backpacking Information on Philippines

  • Population: 82.8 million (UN, 2005)
  • Capital: Manila
  • Area: 300,000 sq km (115,831 sq miles)
  • Major languages: Filipino, English (both official)
  • Major religion: Christianity
  • Life expectancy: 68 years (men), 72 years (women) (UN)
  • Monetary unit: 1 Philippine peso = 100 centavos

Republic of the Philippines is an archipelago, said to be in the shape of an eagle, the national animal, poised in the Southeast well-known for its magnificent beaches and carefree people. The Philippines is an “island paradise to the 7,107th power”. There’s an island for everybody. Some say it’s located on the wrong side of the Pacific, looking ever-ready to be engulfed by the sea, but its location, in fact, is what saved it from the tsunami of 2004. Afloat massive bodies of water on all sides, the archipelago forms one of the world’s longest coastlines, meaning non-stop beach fun, each coast appropriate for certain wind and water sports.

The country is an epitome of what is a melting pot quite apparent on the faces and on the table. The Visayan Islands, one of the major islands, was the pit stop of Southeast Asian Trade Routes where the Chinese, Arabs, Indians, and other Asian nations traded pre-hispanic times. Americans, Germans, and Hispanics are also some of the modern Visayans’ ancestors. A modern Filipino would likely manifest multi-racial features causing some to look Latino, Chinese, Malay, Polynesian or Thai, but one of the original settlers of the Philippines recorded dates back from 20,000-22,000 B.C.E, the Tabon Man, who is in more ways “Australian” in physical type than Malay.

Also tagged the novelty of being the “World’s Text Capital”, there are about 1 billion text messages sent across the country every day. The nation possesses an advanced sophisticated mobile telecommunications system that even allows mobile banking, shopping, and reloading of all things prepaid from train passes, internet games, to cable TV. However, modernization and progress are unequal and concentrated in the cities, while tourism mostly supports the economy of some islands and towns. And it is true, Filipinos are among the most vulnerable victims of the global economic slum. But this is the Philippine charm, a healthy balance of the old and new world at virtually any place you go, even in the most modern cities, like the cities of Makati and Manila there thrives elements of old.

GEOGRAPHY

The Philippine archipelago (13 00 N, 122 00 E) on the outlying periphery of the Pacific ring of fire and the typhoon belt, it’s by odd miracle the Philippines has been devoid of powerful seismic and typhoon activity. The Philippines’ land territory is vastly rolling mountains inland and flat lowlands from centre to coasts covered by tropical rainforests, the highest of which is the Mt. Apo in Mindanao boasting a height of 2,954 metres above the Philippine Sea level. The total area of 300,000 km2 includes Philippine territorial waters of 1.67 million km2 producing a unique marine species of 2,400 fish species and 500 of coral, hence a favourite among marine biologists and underwater explorers. The Apo Reef is after all the world’s 2nd largest coral reef system. Rich with natural resources and natural gases, the land and seas are in large threat of exploitation by rampant deforestation and coral reef degradation, although rural communities are deeply involved with preservation of the migratory animals like birds, dolphins, and whales.

CLIMATE

The climate here is tropical marine bearing great resemblance to most other countries in SEA with 3 distinct seasons: hot and dry season from March to April, rainy (southwest monsoon) from June to October, and cold season (northeast monsoon) from November to February. The hottest month is in April, but travellers continue to flock rain or shine. Temperatures are always cooler year-round away from the metro and towards the highlands.

PEOPLE

The Philippine population holds a count of 97,976,603 as of last year, 2009, add an estimate of 11 million of Filipino ancestry abroad. In the Philippines, “poverty” is given a new meaning that denotes a day without eating as a third of the population living below the poverty line, in the worst cases, at a dollar a day. The Philippines is the largest Asian Christian nation. As a result of the 300-year Spanish colonial rule, the population is 90% Christians and the remainder, particularly in Mindanao, former territory of Borneo, mostly Muslims.

LANGUAGE

FILIPINO is the official language used simultaneously with ENGLISH in state, business, and foreign affairs. Filipino can be described as Tagalog infused with Spanish and other borrowed words. Tagalogs are the de facto predominant ethno-linguistic group forming one-thirds of the population, followed by the 2nd major group, Cebuanos, then Ilocanos, Bisayas, Ilonggos, Bikolanos, and the Warays. Filipinos are naturally multilingual with over 175 ethno-linguistic groups and languages and dialects. With a big Chinese enclave all over the Philippines, CHINESE is gradually infused with the language.

The eight other major languages are Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilocano, Ilonggo, Bicol, Waray, Pampango, and Pangasinense. A modern Filipino would have a repertoire of at least 3 languages: Filipino, English, and a local dialect. The older generation possess knowledge of Spanish, while most of the younger generation, even in the most remote tribal areas, are proficient to experts in English. The Philippines has, in fact, more English speakers than New Zealand. There are a great number of creole Spanish languages as well.

ATTRACTIONS

There are just as diverse options for tourist spots and off-the-beaten-path travels in the country. The most sensible advice: independent travel off the beaten path. The traveller will definitely find a personal paradise because the Philippines is abundant in nature wonders, rich in culture expression, and teeming with brilliant discoveries. With the long coastline, the 5th longest in the world, looking for beaches is like shopping in the biggest mall in Asia, which is right here in Manila as well, the Mall of Asia. White sand beaches are ubiquitous in all three key islands, Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao, the best to date are Bohol, Dakak, El Nido, Tambuli and The Pearl Farm. The world centre for extreme sports, especially kite surfing is Boracay, but is Siargao is superior for surfing.

But the Philippines is more than a huge water park. Bohol alone has loads to offer besides blinding white sand beaches, sultry Chocolate Hills, extraordinary scuba and snorkelling sites, vibrant butterfly farms, dolphin and whale watching, mangroves, river-cruise restaurants, tarsier petting, trekking and hiking. There are also many such places of rich historical significance like Intramuros, Vigan, Bataan and Cebu where the traveller will behold of old colonial basilicas and war ruins. How about the experience a la Batanes extraordinaire, Ireland in Asia? This is a small group of 10 islands, miles north of Luzon featuring extraordinary stone-houses and excellent views of the ocean that revoke a recurring feeling of Ireland, Scotland or New Zealand. The Hundred Islands in Pangasinan are also a treat of a hundred times. Most of these places are shy of heavy tourist crowds, but expect Baguio to teem with locals at summertime. Forested, flowery, and elevated 1,500 metres above sea level, it maintains relatively cool temperatures with a mean of 18°C. However, Tagaytay, the site of the crater-lake Taal, is the ideal city escape. It takes only 1.5 hours away from Manila, but half a lifetime to fully experience the whole archipelago.

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