About Philippines


The Philippines is an archipelago of 7,107 islands surrounded by the Pacific Ocean to the east, the Bashi Channel to the north, the Sulu and the Celebes Seas to the south, and the West Philippine Sea to the west. The country is divided into three geographical regions: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. Its capital, the City of Manila, is in Luzon.




Every so often, one might come across an article about a new species of owl, fish or lizard that has just been discovered in the Philippines. The archipelago is a hotbed of life, with approximately 12,000 plant species, 1,100 land vertebrate species and at least 400 coral species. With just a land area of about 300,000 km2 , the Philippines is the most ecologically diverse place on the planet. The islands have varied tropical terrains. There are mountain ranges, coral reef systems, flat plains, cave systems, waterfalls, rock faces, rivers, deserts, forests, lakes and so much more.


These islands were home to a rich indigenous population with vast kingdoms and sultanates which traded with Indo-Malays and Chinese merchants. In 1521, Spanish explorers led by Portuguese Ferdinand Magellan claimed the islands for Spain. They named the archipelago Felipinas after the Spanish King Philip II, and introduced Christianity to its people.


The explorers saw the 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.



Filipinos are culturally and ethnically rich. Most would identify themselves as Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilokano, Bisaya, Hiligaynon, Bikol, Waray, etc., mostly basing on the language they first speak. There are also a number of indigenous peoples in the Philippines like the Igorots, Aeta, the Lumad, Mangyan, Badjaos, and many more.

The country is predominantly Catholic with a strong Muslim minority in the south.



Filipino and English are the official languages. Filipino is the national language. English is also widely used and is the medium of instruction in higher education. However, there are various languages also spoken in different parts of the country. The most widely spoken of them are: Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilocano, Hiligaynon or Ilonggo, Bicol, Waray, Pampango, and Pangasinense.


The currency in the Philippines is the Peso (PhP) and the Centavo. 100 centavos = P1. Coin denominations are: 1, 5, 10, and 25 centavos, P1, and P5. Bill denominations are : 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1, 000 pesos.

The currency in the Philippines is the Peso (PhP) and the Centavo. 100 centavos = P1. Coin denominations are: 1, 5, 10, and 25 centavos, P1, and P5. Bill denominations are : 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1, 000 pesos.

Foreign currency may be exchanged at hotel establishments, and in most of the large department stores, banks and authorized money changing shops. Exchanging money anywhere else is illegal and the laws are strictly enforced.

Most large stores, restaurants, hotels and resorts accept major credit cards including American Express, Visa and MasterCard. Traveler's checks preferably American Express are accepted at hotels and large department stores. Personal checks drawn on foreign banks are generally not accepted.



Visitors from 151 countries may enter the Philippines without a visa for 30 days while visitors from Brazil and Israel may stay up to 59 days.



Feel free to tip waiters, drivers, porters, housekeepers, salon staff, barbers, and other service providers. A tip of 10% of the total bill is the usual practice. But if the bill already includes a 10% service charge, tipping is optional.



The Metric System is used in most trade and legal transactions.


220 volts a/c is the common standard. 110 volts a/c is also used, especially in major hotels.


The Philippines is a tropical country and people dress for the weather. During sunny days, light and comfortable clothes are encouraged. When visiting places of worship, like churches and temples, one must dress appropriately. For men, if expected to have to attend any occasion which would usually require a jacket and a tie, a barong tagalog can be a substitute. It is an embroidered shirt and considered a national costume for men.



Water supply in Metro Manila and in all the other major cities is potable. Bottled purified water, spring water or mineral water is often supplied by hotels and resorts, and sold in stores.


Mobile phone sites can be found all over the country. It is fairly easy to pick up a new prepaid SIM card and start texting or calling right away. Top-ups are widely available from most anywhere, from convenience stores to sari-sari stores (small retail outlets). "Load" is the common term for mobile connectivity credit.

Internet and email services are widely available through most establishments, Establishments that offer free Wi-Fi usually has a “Free WiFi” sign on their doors.

Telephone service is reliable and available anywhere in the country. Public phones are plentiful. Public phones require a minimum of two one-peso coins for a local call. National and international direct dial services are available for an additional fee.

Some Important Telephone Numbers: (24-Hour Hotline)
Police & Fire: 757 or 116 (kindly check for local Police hotlines)
Emergency No.: 501- 650 or 501- 728
Directory Assistance: 114
National Operator: 109
International Operator: 108

NOTE: It is advisable to always have the telephone number and the address of your hotel, embassy, or consulate.



Most businesses are open from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM weekdays and 8:00 AM till noon Saturdays. Banks are open from 9:00 AM till 3:00 PM Mondays through Fridays. When banking in the Philippines, it is advisable to have one’s passport for identification.

Most shopping malls, department stores, and supermarkets are open from 10:00 AM to 8:00 PM, with hours extending until 10:00 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.

The post offices are open from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM weekdays only. Stamps for postcards are frequently available from the Concierge Desk at most major hotels. The Philippines uses ZIP codes, please include them in addressing local mail.

NOTE: The Standard lunch hour is noon to 1:00 PM. Most businesses and government offices are closed.


ANTI-SMOKING LAW in Enclosed Places, etc.

Section five of the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003 (Republic Act 9211) prohibits the carrying of any lighted tobacco product in public vehicles, schools, health centers, elevators, cinemas, malls and in places where fire hazards are present. Smoking is also banned in recreational facilities for minors. Fines imposed on violators of this section range from P500 to P10,000.