The Philippines (Filipino: Pilipinas) is an archipelago in South-East Asia of more than seven thousand islands located between the Philippine Sea and the South China Sea at the very eastern edge of Asia.
Many wonderful beaches are just part of one of the world's longest coastlines and it takes about 20 years to spend a day on every island. Since Spanish colonial times, the country has been Asia's largest Catholic country. Over a hundred ethnic groups, a mixture of foreign influences and a fusion of culture and arts have enhanced the uniqueness of the Filipino identity and the wonder that is the Philippines.
Over 10% of the GDP of the Philippines consists of remittances from abroad.
Although Filipinos have to endure corrupt and avaricious politicians, teeming and polluted cities, crumbling infrastructure, earthquakes, tropical diseases, and cyclones they keep on smiling throughout and give many visitors a silent lesson in gracious humility, fortitude and resourcefulness.
Travel warnings have been issued by few countries against the Philippines, almost all pertaining to the country's farthest island to the South, especially the Sulu Archipelago, although these islands proved to be slightly inaccessible and are far from the country's vast number of tourist attractions.
Several thousand years ago, the first settlers in the Philippines crossed shallow seas and land bridges from mainland Asia to arrive in this group of islands. These were the Negritos or Aetas related to Melanesians, Australian Aborigines and Papuans. Direct descendants of these people can still be found, especially in Negros Oriental.
Several thousand years later, Austronesian settlers travelled the same route as the Negritos - but this time over sea in their impressive Balangay boats. (This word is where the basic form of the political institution, the baranggay, came from.) The Austronesians are thought to have come from Taiwan and traveled south to the Philippines and then ever onwards, as far away as Hawaii, Easter island, New Zealand and Madagascar.
The early Austronesians of the Philippines simultaneously traded with each other in present-day Malaysia, Indonesia and Micronesia as well as with the Chinese, Japanese, Okinawans, Indians, Thais and Arabs. An interesting mix of cultures developed in the islands and a writing system called baybayin [the wordalibata is a misnomer for the Baybayin writing system; it is the informal term for the arabic alphabet (alif-ba-ta, the first three letters of the said alphabet) whereas baybayin comes from the Filipino word 'baybay' which literally means 'to spell', owing to the syllabic nature of the writing system--different from the indo-european English-Latin alphabet]. A social structure also developed quickly, some of the traders stayed and married the natives. Hinduism and Buddhism was introduced by traders from India, Sumatra and Java. These two religions syncretized with the various indigenous animistic beliefs. Later, Arab, Malay and Javanese traders converted the natives in the island of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago to Islam. The archipelago became a mix of the indigenous Austronesian and Melanesian people with some foreign influence from Arabia, Malaysia, Indonesia and India.
Under Spanish rule
When the explorer Ferdinand Magellan set foot on Maharlika (not Philippines yet) soil through the island of Homonhon in 1521, the Philippines was predominantly animist, with some Muslim and Hindu inhabitants mainly in the southern part of the country. Famished, Magellan's crew were treated to a feast by the welcoming islanders who wore elaborate tattoos. Magellan was Portuguese but it was a Spanish Expedition which he led to the islands which were eventually claimed by Spain as its colony. Lapu-Lapu a native chief of Mactan island was against the Christianization of the natives, he then fought a battle with Magellan where Lapu-Lapu won while Magellan was killed. The Philippines was later on named for Crown Prince Philip II of Spain and most of the natives converted to Catholicism. Some Muslims in the south and various animistic mountain tribes, however, resisted Spanish conquest and Catholic conversion.
The longest revolt against Spanish colonization was led by Francisco Dagohoy in Bohol which lasted for 85 years covering the period of 1744-1829. As a cabeza de barangay or barangay captain, Dagohoy opposed the Spanish colonizers which were represented by priests and civil leaders, which required payment of excessive taxes, tributes. They also oppressed the Philippines' natives by subjecting them as slaves and sending them to prison for disobeying rules. The Manila Galleon trade made contact between the Philippines and Mexico as well as the whole of the Americas, Mayans and Aztecs settled in the Philippines and introduced their cultures which then was embraced by the Filipinos. The Philippines received heavy influence from Mexico and Spain, and the archipelago became "hispanicized". Other Asians used the Manila Galleon trade to migrate to the West. During the Spanish rule, people such as the Dutch, Portuguese and British tried to colonize the country, however only the British did so and it lasted for 2 years in the modern-day capital: Manila. The Philippines remained a Spanish colony for over 300 years until 1899 when it was ceded by Spain to the United States following the Spanish-American War.
The road to independence
Filipinos declared independence on June 12, 1898 and fought American colonization for seven long years. Relations between the US and the Philippine territory continued without any major events and the Philippines were granted commonwealth status in 1935. Any time after this point (years or decades - or never), the Philippines could have become a US state or been given independence. Japan invaded the Philippines and the Japanese occupation lasted from 1941 until 1945 when General Douglas McArthur fulfilled his promise and liberated the U.S. territory from the Japanese, with Americans and Filipinos fighting side by side against the Japanese. In 1946, a year after World War II ended with a victory by the Allies, the Philippines were at last granted independence.
Up until the 1960's, the Philippines was second only to Japan in terms of development in Asia. Several decades of rule by Ferdinand Marcos plunged the country into deep debt. Poverty was widespread and infrastructure for development was severely lacking. In 1986, the People Power uprising finally overthrew the Marcos government. (The EDSA Revolution - the majority of the demonstrations took place on Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, EDSA.) He was replaced by Corazon Aquino, widow of slain opposition leader, Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, Jr.
Prior to the 21st Century, corruption became one of the main problems of the country. The country suffered slightly in the 1997 Asian Financial crisis but led to a second EDSA which overthrew Pres. Joseph Estrada, the then Vice-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (daughter of one of the former presidents) took his place. After her term ended in 2010, Benigno Aquino III (nicknamed "Noynoy" and "Pnoy"), son of Corazon and Benigno Aquino, Jr., was elected President. Growth in the Philippines is slow but it is hopefully catching up with its neighbours. On 2009, Typhoon Ondoy stormed the country, in just a day it flooded the whole of Metro Manila leaving many casualties.
As of 2010, the Philippines has a population estimated at 93 million and growing very rapidly. From its long history of Western influence, 377 years by the Spaniards and 49 years by the Americans, its people have evolved as a unique blend of East and West in both appearance and culture. Filipinos are largely Austronesian (more specifically Malayo-Polynesian)in terms of ethnic origin. However, many people, particularly in the cities of Luzon and the Visayas, have Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Spanish and American mixtures, whereas those living in the provinces are mostly of pure Austronesian origin (known as "native"). Many Muslims in the Sulu archipelago near Borneo have Arab, Indian and Chinese mixtures. The four largest foreign minorities in the country are as follows: Chinese, Indian, and the Japanese. Also of significance are the Americans, Indonesians, and Arabs. Pure Spaniards and other Europeans form a very small proportion in the country's population.
Needless to say, the Filipino trait is a confluence of many cultures put together. Filipinos are famous for the bayanihan or spirit of kinship and camaraderie taken from Austronesian forefathers. They observe very close family ties which is said to have been passed on by the Chinese. Religion comes from the Spaniards who were responsible for spreading the Christian faith across the archipelago. The Spaniards introduced Christianity (Roman Catholicism) and succeeded in converting the overwhelming majority of Filipinos. At least 83% of the total population belongs to the Roman Catholic faith. The Philippines is one of only two countries in Asia with a majority Roman Catholic population (the other being East Timor)
The genuine and pure expression of hospitality is an inherent trait in Filipinos, especially those who reside in the countryside who may appear very shy at first, but have a generous spirit, as seen in their smiles. Hospitality, a trait displayed by every Filipino, makes these people legendary in Southeast Asia. Guests will often be treated like royalty in Philippine households. This is most evident during fiestas when even virtual strangers are welcomed and allowed to partake in the feast that most, if not all, households have during the occasion. At times, this hospitality is taken to a fault. Some households spend their entire savings on their fiesta offerings and sometimes even run into debt just to have lavish food on their table. They spend the next year paying for these debts and preparing for the next fiesta. At any rate, seldom can you find such hospitable people who enjoy the company of their 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.
Filipinos lead the bunch of English-proficient Asian people today and English is considered as a second language. When it was an American territory, English was largely taught to the Filipino people. While the official language is Filipino (which is basically the Tagalog dialect) and whereas 76-78 languages and 170 dialects exist in this archipelago, English is the second most widely spoken language in the country. Many business establishments and schools also speak in English and many signs around the country are in English. American culture such as movies, television, music, electronic accessories and such are extremely popular in the country.
The geographical and cultural grouping of Filipinos is defined by region, where each group has a set of distinct traits and dialects - the sturdy and frugal Ilocanos of the north, the industrious Tagalogs of the central plains, the loving and sweet Visayans from the central islands, and the colorful tribesmen and religious Muslims of Mindanao. Tribal communities or minorities are likewise scattered across the archipelago.
Also, it may seem peculiar for tourists to notice a somewhat latin flair in Filipino culture. About 3 million people, often the very oldest. in the country speak some Spanish. Mainstream Philippine culture, compared to the rest of Asia, is quite Hispanic and westernized at the surface level. But still, Filipinos are essentially Austronesian and many indigenous and pre-Hispanic attitudes and ways of thinking are still noticeable underneath an American veneer. Indigenous groups, who have retained a fully Malayo-Polynesian culture unaffected by Spanish-influence, are also visible in cities like Manila, Baguio, Davao or Cebu, and can remind a visitor of the amazing diversity and multiculturalism present in the country.
The government of the Philippines was largely based on the United States model. The President of the Philippines is elected directly by the people, and serves as both the Head of State and Head of Government.
The legislature is a bicameral congress consisting of a lower house, known as the Kapulungan ng mga Kinatawan (House of Representatives) and an upper house, known as the Senado (Senate). Both houses are elected directly by the people, though the country is divided into districts for the election of the lower house, while the upper house is elected by the country as a whole.
The Philippines is not only the largest Christian country in Asia, but also it is the world's third largest Catholic Nation. The Catholic faith remains the single biggest legacy of three hundred years of Spanish colonial rule. Catholicism is taken quite seriously in the Philippines. Masses draw crowds from the biggest cathedrals in the metropolis to the smallest parish chapels in the countryside. During Holy Week, most broadcast TV stations close down or operate only on limited hours and those that do operate broadcast religious programs. The Christian faith exerts quite a bit of influence on non-religious affairs such as affairs of state. Mores have been changing slowly, however; artificial birth control, premarital sex, and the dissolution of marriage vows have been on the rise.
The biggest religious minority are Muslim Filipinos who primarily live in Mindanao and ARMM, but also increasingly in cities such as Manila, Baguio or Cebu in the north and central parts of the country. They account for around 5% of the population. Islam is the oldest continually practiced organized religion in the Philippines, with the first conversions made in the 12th century AD. Islam became such an important force that Manila at the time of the Spanish arrival in the 16th century was a Muslim city. Many aspects of this Islamic past are seen in certain cultural traits many mainstream Christian Filipinos still exhibit (such as eating and hygiene etiquette) and has added to the melting pot of Filipino culture in general. Sadly, Terrorist attacks and violent confrontations between the Filipino army and splinter militant Islamic organizations such as the Abu Sayyaf and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have strained relations between Muslim and the non-Muslim Filipinos in rural areas in the south. Yet, the Muslim Filipinos are much more liberal in their interpretations of Islam, and like the Muslims of Indonesia, are generally more relaxed regarding such topics as gender-segregation or the hijab (veil) than South Asians or Middle Eastern Muslims.
Indian Filipinos, Chinese Filipinos, and Japanese Filipinos are mostly Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Shinto, and Taoist which all account 3% of the population of the Philippines. These populations have been in the country for centuries preceding Spanish rule, and many aspects of Buddhism and Hinduism are seen in the mainstream culture of Christian or Muslim Filipinos. As with many things in the Philippines, religion statistics are never clear-cut and defined, and many Christians and Muslims also practice and believe in indigenous spiritual aspects (such as honoring natural deities and ancestor-worship, as well as the existence of magic and healers) that may in some cases contradict the orthodox rules of their religions.
Atheists and Agnostics form a minority in the Philippines, around 0.8% of Filipinos are irreligious.
The climate is tropical, with March to May (summer) being the hottest months. The rainy season starts in June and extends through October with strong typhoons possible. The coolest months are from November to February, with mid-January to end of February considered the best for cooler and dryer weather. Locations exposed directly to the Pacific Ocean have frequent rainfall all year. This includes the popular Pagsanjan Falls southeast of Manila (though the falls will get you wet regardless). The average temperatures range from 78°F / 25°C to 90°F / 32°C, and humidity is around 77 percent. Baguio, which is branded as the summer capital of the Philippines, tends to be cooler due to its being located in mountainous regions with temperatures at night going below 20°C (68°F). During summer, the country experience droughts, sometimes at extreme conditions.
The culture of the Philippines is very diverse. There is the native Melanesian and Austronesian culture, which is most evident in language, ethnicity, native architecture, food and dances. There is also some influence from Japan, China, India, Arabia, and Borneo. On top of that there is a heavy colonial Hispanic influence from Mexico and Spain, such as in religion, food, dance, language, festivals, architecture and ethnicity. Later influence from the US can also be seen in the culture.
Philippine laws and court decisions, with extremely rare exceptions, are written solely in English.
Filipino literature is a mix of Indian sagas, folktales, and traces of Western influence. Classical books are written in Spanish as well as in Tagalog, to this day most of Filipino literature is written in English. The Philippines thus is a Multi-cultural country with its roots stretching from Asia to Europe and to the Americas.
Cinema and music
The Filipino film industry is suffering because of its main rival; the Western film industry, since the 21st century every year only 40 films are produced; down from 200-300 films a year in the 1990s. Western culture has also permeated the music industry in the Philippines. Many songs are in English. American Rock-n-Roll and, recently, rap and hip-hop are heard and performed. Traditional Filipino songs such as Kundiman (nostalgic/poetic songs) are still held dearly by the population but are, unfortunately, slowly losing influence among the younger generations.
In the Philippines, Barangays which is somewhat the equivalent of a typical western sub-urban, the term refers to the lowest government unit of administration. Barangay is abbreviated as Brgy.. Although the word Barangay is conceived to have come from the word Balangay which is a term used to refer to a boatload of settlers in the old days in Mindanao, the term linguistically originated from the Spanish term Barrio commonly used in the Visayas, which refers to a cluster of settlements in villages, until the term was legally adopted and used as a term in Philippine laws on local governments in the late 70s. A Barangay contains usually not less than 100 families. Barangays are then further divided into sitios, a term used to refer to a community (sub-village) especially in rural areas where settlements are scattered in far flung communities. In urban cities, most barangays no longer have sitios but contiguous residential subdivisions or communities. Basically, every street address in the Philippines belongs to a barangay or two or more opposite barangays where boundaries are delineated by streets cutting across. By comparison, a barangay in urban cities is somewhat different from barangays in rural towns. A barangay in urban cities such as capital Manila and neighboring Quezon City, could differ in terms of population density and territorial size when compared to barangays in Paracelis, which is a rural town. Imagine Manila with a population of 1,660,714 living in 38.55 km2 distributed in 897 barangays compared to Quezon City with a population of 2,679,450 distributed in 142 barangays in 166.20 km2. as compared to Paracelis with a population of 24,705 living in just 9 barangays over a land area of 553.25 km2. The biggest barangay in Paracelis is even bigger than the entire Manila.
While getting a taxi or jeepney, Filipinos don't give the street's name, they give the address of a popular landmark instead which is near to their destination, so when you get a taxi or jeepney just give the popular landmark near your destination. In rural areas, it is not much harder to get to destinations since everybody almost knows everybody and you get to your destination by knowing the name of the barangay, and then the sitio.
The Philippines has 80 provinces categorized into 17 regions containing over 120 cities. Our guide divides it into 3 major island groups:
With seven thousand islands, the Philippines has many cities. Listed below are the nine most important cities for visitors, some of which are provincial capitals and centres of commerce and finance, as well as culture and history.
Nationals of countries which are required to obtain a visa to enter the Philippines may obtain one upon arrival under the Bureau of Immigration's Visa Upon Arrival Program (VUAP). However, Visas must be pre-arranged with the Bureau of Immigration prior to arriving in the Philippines.
If intending to stay beyond the duration of the 30-day visa, you may apply for a visa extension at the Bureau of Immigration (BI). Each visa extension is valid for 59 days except for the first one that exceeds your original visa to 59 days. As the rules have changed on 1st August 2013 contact your local embassy for up-to-date information. Extensions are granted only up to a maximum of six months, after which foreign nationals wishing to stay longer must obtain an alien certificate of registration (ACR). To avoid going to the BI to renew a tourist visa, it is also possible to apply for a tourist visa at a Philippine embassy or consulate, although nationals of visa-exempt countries who have a visa must present the visa to the immigration officer to avoid being stamped with the wrong visa.
If you overstay, you must pay on departure a fine of ₱1,000 per month of overstay plus a ₱2,020 processing fee.
Airlines may refuse to let you check in if you only have a one-way ticket to the Philippines due to immigration requirements. Cebu Pacific Air will require a printed copy of an onwards "itinerary receipt" at check in. If you want to risk not having an onwards ticket, try to check in early to allow yourself time to buy a ticket at an Internet cafe or ticket desk in the airport if the airline refuses to check you in.
A much more congenial airport to arrive at is Mactan-Cebu International Airport which is both in the centre of the Philippine archipelago and outside the Typhoon belt.
Passengers departing the Philippines have to pay a terminal fee (in addition to the Philippine travel tax levied on locals). This fee is included in airfare if flying from Manila. Otherwise, this ₱550 fee ($15 if paid in U.S. dollars, Clark is now also ₱550) is paid before entering the immigration and pre-departure "air-side" area of the terminals.
If you plan to travel around the various islands, it is best to get an open jaw ticket. This can save much time back-tracking. Most common open-jaw ticket combinations fly into Manila and out of Cebu. Local airlines also have regular "seat sales", advertising cheap fares for flights to domestic destinations. However, be aware of travel dates: some tickets booked during a seat sale may only be used on dates well after the duration of the sale (sometimes up to a year after the sale), and advertised fares usually exclude government taxes and fuel surcharges.
If you live in an area with a large Filipino population (such as London, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taipei or Tokyo), check out travel agencies catering to overseas Filipinos which often have fares keener than those generally advertised.
Ninoy Aquino International Airport
Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA)  (IATA: MNL | ICAO: RPLL is divided into four terminals: Terminals 1, 2, 3 and the Domestic Terminal (also known as Terminal 4). All airlines use Terminal 1 with a few exceptions: Philippine Airlines uses Terminal 2, while Cebu Pacific, Airphil Express and All Nippon Airways use Terminal 3. Air Asia and Tiger Airways use the Domestic Terminal.
Terminal 1, long regarded as one of Asia's worst airport terminals, is currently undergoing renovation and several areas of the terminal have been renovated. The newer Terminals 2 and 3 are regarded as being far nicer than Terminal 1, with more amenities to boot.
Airlines and routes
Several airlines fly in and out of Manila, servicing various destinations.Philippine Flight Network provides updated information on all of the latest airline news, routes, and destinations.
NAIA is famously known for being difficult to transit through, especially if your flight leaves from a different terminal. However, airport shuttle buses now transport passengers between terminals. The fare is ₱20 and runs every fifteen minutes. Shuttle buses depart from the arrival area of all terminals and use main airport access roads, so make sure you have a visa if you require one to enter or transit the Philippines as you will be entering the Philippines if you will be connecting onto a flight departing from another terminal.
Passengers who are connecting to an Airphil Express flight from a Philippine Airlines flight and vice-versa may avail of a free airside shuttle service between Terminals 2 and 3.
If your flight departs from the same terminal, transfer counters are available before immigration at all terminals. Passengers who transit through Manila and do not transfer terminals do not need to undergo entry procedures and are exempt from paying the terminal fee.
NAIA is accessible by bus, taxi, train, jeepney and shuttle bus.
Some visitors who enter the Philippines choose to avoid flying through Manila, instead using other airports throughout the country which have international flights.
Since the Philippines is an archipelago, the easiest way to move between islands is by plane. Philippine Airlines (including sister carrier PAL Express), Cebu Pacific have significant domestic operations, linking many major towns and cities with Manila and Cebu, while Air Asia and TigerAirways also serve secondary destinations. There are also several smaller carriers which serve resort destinations (such as Amanpulo in Palawan), as well as more remote destinations. While larger cities are served by jet aircraft, many destinations and less busy routes are served by propeller-driven planes.
Unlike most other countries, the terminal area is reserved only for passengers (as well as airport and airline staff). In order to enter, one needs to present a print-out of the flight reservation. Security screening may be performed at the entrance to the terminal in addition to after check-in.
The route networks of most local airlines are heavily centered around Manila, Clark and Cebu: flying between two domestic points usually entails having to transit through at least one of these airports, and there are few direct flights between other major cities. Reaching Sulu and Tawi-Tawi by air is a special case: travelers must fly through Zamboanga City.
A significant majority of domestic flights in the Philippines are operated by low-cost carriers and are consequently economy-only: PAL is the only airline to offer business class on domestic flights. This does not mean however that fares are affordable: domestic seat sales are a common feature throughout the year, and all major airlines regularly offer promo fares on their websites. However, fares increase significantly during major peak travel seasons (particularly during Christmas, Holy Week and the last two weeks of October), and in places served by only one airline (such as Vigan or Marinduque), fares also increase during major provincial or town fiestas. Flights are frequently full during peak travel season, so it is advisable to book well in advance.
Passengers departing on domestic flights must pay a terminal fee prior to entering the pre-departure area, although the fee will be integrated into the ticket price starting August 1, 2012 (tickets issued before that date do not include the terminal fee and the fee must be paid at the airport). Fees vary, with most major cities charging ₱200, and smaller cities charging between ₱30 and ₱100. Fees are only payable in Philippine pesos except in Manila and Cebu, where U.S. dollars are accepted.
The Philippine National Railways (PNR)  currently operates two overnight intercity services: the Bicol Express between Manila and Naga, Camarines Sur, which resumed on June 29, 2011 after a five-year absence, and the Mayon Limited between Manila and Ligao in Albay. Additional services are expected in the future as the rehabilitation of the PNR network progresses. Train service is comparable to (or slower than, due to delays) buses in terms of speed, but is more comfortable owing to the use of donated Japanese coaches for the service.
The Bicol Express and Mayon Limited are NOT non-stop services: from Tutuban, Manila's main train station, the train calls at several points in Metro Manila, Laguna, Quezon and Camarines Sur before arriving in Naga (and Albay before arriving in Ligao for the Mayon Limited). It is possible to travel between any two points served by the services, and fares are distance-based. Children under three feet may travel for free.
There are currently four classes of service on the Bicol Express:
On the Mayon Limited, only reclining air-conditioned economy class ("deluxe") and regular economy class are offered. However, unlike the Bicol Express, the Mayon Limited provides service using two different trains: the "deluxe" service operates on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, while the "economy" service operates on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.
Passengers on PNR intercity services are entitled to a free baggage allowance of 20 kilograms.
It is possible to pre-book seats on intercity trains by calling the PNR at +63 (2) 319-0044. Pre-booking seats is recommended during peak travel seasons (especially during Holy Week and in September, during the Peñafrancia Festival in Naga), where trains can be full. However, the PNR does send a second, all-economy supplementary overnight train on certain days during peak season if traffic demand warrants it. Timetables and fares for all services, including supplementary services, are announced on the PNR's website and also on its official Facebook profile .
The PNR also operates the Commuter Express in Metro Manila, a once-daily commuter service between Manila and Biñan, Laguna (which is also part of the Commuter Express, but uses different trains), and the Bicol Commuter between Naga and towns in Camarines Sur and Albay.
The Philippines' road network is centered on Manila. Outside Luzon, larger islands' road networks converge on the largest city or cities (for example, Cebu City for Cebu, Iloilo City for Panay and Puerto Princesa for Palawan), while smaller islands (such as Marinduque, Catanduanes and Camiguin) usually have a road circling the entire island. The Philippines has one highway which is part of the Asian Highway Network: the Pan-Philippine Highway (AH26), also known locally as the Maharlika Highway. The highway begins in Laoag and ends in Zamboanga City, traversing through Luzon, Samar, Leyte and Mindanao. However, it is also the only highway in the Asian Highway Network which is not connected to any other highway: it is not possible to enter the Philippines by car.
Roads in the Philippines vary greatly in quality from the paved multi-lane expressways of Luzon to the narrow dirt roads of remote mountain areas, which may complicate travel by car. Most major roads have two lanes and are normally paved with asphalt or concrete, although multi-lane roads are common near major cities. Road atlases and maps are available at bookstores throughout the country, and are very helpful when driving, especially when driving alone.
Major international car rental companies such as Hertz  and Budget  have offices in Metro Manila, notably at the airport. Avis  and Europcar  are among the largest international car rental companies, with offices in several cities throughout the Philippines. There are also local car rental companies, such as Nissan Rent-a-Car . Regardless of the company, prices are bound to be reasonable.
Car rental companies usually allow either self-drive or chauffeur-driven rentals: some types of cars however (like vans) may only be rented out with a chauffeur. Also, some rental companies (mostly local ones) may only allow rentals to be driven within the island where the city of rental is located: for example, it may be possible to drive with a rental from Manila to Legazpi (both on Luzon), but not from Manila (Luzon) to Tacloban (Leyte) because it would entail the use of roll-on/roll-off (RO/RO) ferries. If you intend to drive out of Luzon and into the outlying islands, the Visayas or Mindanao (and/or vice-versa), be sure that the rental company's terms and conditions allow it.
In addition to the existing network of national and local roads, the Philippines has two additional road networks: an expressway network and the Strong Republic Nautical Highway (SRNH) system.
Luzon has an expressway network dominated by the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) and South Luzon Expressway (SLEX). These are tollways with good paved roads, are privately-maintained, and the farthest tolls will not cost more than a few dollars from Metro Manila. Other expressways include the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (a 94-kilometer 4-lane freeway connecting Subic Bay and Tarlac) and the Bataan Provincial Expressway. Expressways are connected to the network of national highways and provincial roads which connect to major cities and provinces.
The Strong Republic Nautical Highway system is a three-route network of national and provincial roads, bridges and roll-on/roll-off (RO/RO) ferries which facilitate the connection of major islands of the Philippines together by road, bringing down the cost of driving (and, ultimately, lowering the cost of shipping goods between islands). The SRNH system begins in Luzon and run in a north-south direction through the Visayas and ultimately end in Mindanao. The SRNH is useful for driving to tourist destinations outside Manila: for example, it is possible to drive to both Puerto Galera and Boracay from Manila via the Western Nautical Highway. SRNH routes are signposted and a map of the network and RO/RO schedules are available from the Department of Tourism .
International driving licences are valid in the Philippines for up to 30 days after arrival, after which an International Driver's Permit or a Philippine driving licences are required. Vehicular traffic in the Philippines moves on the right, and the vast majority of road signs are in English. Most signs conform to design guidelines used in the United States but all units used are metric.
Filipinos are famous for their driving habits (or lack thereof). Traffic often grinds to a screeching halt, especially in major cities (Metro Manila in particular), and the honking of horns is a very common occurrence. When there is no traffic, speeding, swerving and reckless passing happen on a regular basis, especially on desolate rural roads. Car traffic competes with bus and jeepney traffic, which jostle sidewalk curbs to get more passengers, especially in areas without designated bus stops: the fact that bus and jeepney drivers' salaries are determined based on passenger load does not help the traffic situation in many cities. Motorcycles frequently weave through traffic, increasing the risk of accidents. However, traffic lights, while frequently ignored in the past, are more strictly adhered to now. Seatbelts are mandatory only for persons seating in the front seat.
Due to heavy traffic congestion, Metro Manila and Baguio have laws that restrict certain vehicles based on the day of the week and the ending number of your vehicle's license plate: this is officially called the Uniform Vehicular Volume Reduction Program (UVVRP), but it is simply known as "number coding" or, previously "color coding" (although it has nothing to do with the color of your vehicle). The UVVRP works as follows:
Cities that enforce the UVVRP prohibit cars from being driven between 7:00 am and 7:00 pm on a certain weekday on most national (primary) and secondary roads, although the implementation varies: in Metro Manila (excluding Makati and Pasay), a "window" exists between 10:00 am and 3:00 pm where the scheme is not enforced, while in Baguio, the UVVRP is only enforced in the city center, and the scheme does not apply to the rest of the city. In general however, the UVVRP does not apply to minor streets (mostly in residential areas), and those roads remain open to coded cars the whole day. Be sure to check with a local contact or the car rental agency/hotel concierge about whether these rules will apply to your vehicle, especially as foreigners driving can become targets for less scrupulous traffic aides.
When hailing a taxi in the cities, ensure the meter is on and pay the metered fare. A tip of 10 pesos is acceptable. Also, make sure you have small denomination banknotes, as the drivers often claim not to have change in an effort to obtain a larger tip! Please do have coins ready with you. Moreover, don't be surprised if drivers want to bypass the meter during rush hour. (Updated April 2011) Most taxis have the flag down rate of ₱40 with each 300 meters cost ₱3.50 while Yellow cab taxis are more expensive with a flag down rate of ₱70 with each 300 meters cost ₱4.00.
Buses are usually the cheapest way to go when it comes to traveling around the Philippines, at least from within the major islands with fares as low as ₱300-500.
Get around Manila with Pasig's Pasig Ferry Service, waterbuses are available in stations around the historical river of Pasig. Fares ranges from ₱25, ₱35 and ₱45. For students and youth fares range ₱20 regardless of distance.
Next to buses, ships are the cheapest modes of transports when getting around the country as fares are as low as ₱1,000 if it's a trip lasting a day or two and ₱600 if it's only a one hour trip.WG&A SuperFerry and a number of other companies operate interisland ferries. There is a convenient Friday overnight ferry trip to Coron, Palawan. This allows divers to spend the weekend in Coron and take the Sunday night ferry trip back to Manila, arriving around noon. You can also stay on a Cruise Ship that's exploring around the Coron area. The 7,107 Island Cruise Ship takes passengers around Coron and some of its private islands.
Ferry trips to other islands can take over 24 hours, depending on distance. Other major ferry companies include: Sulpicio Lines, Negros Navigation, Trans Asia Shipping Lines, and Cebu Ferries.
Oceanjet is a reliable company offering fast ferries throughout the Visayas at affordable prices - except for taking small scooters or motorcycles where their prices are outrageously expensive. Schedule Information is difficult to obtain - newspapers often contain pages with ads on certain days, but, believe it or not, most people rely on word-of-mouth.
SCAM ALERT: On many of the shorter boat rides (eg to and from Malapascua Island from Cebu), a local will tell you the public boat has "already gone for the day" in order to get a private (expensive) fare from you for his boat. If this happens, it may be best to walk away and ask somebody else about the public boat schedule.
Be aware that while travelling by ferry is cheap, and relatively care-free compared to air-travel, boat services can be unreliable. Ferries can sometimes be delayed anywhere between 24 to 48 hours because all the cargo and passengers has not yet boarded. If you need to make a deadline (such as an international flight), then fly instead of travelling by ferry.
7107 Islands Cruise offers a cruises from Boracay to Puerto Galera to Boracay, prices range from ₱2,000 - ₱10,000, children below than 3 years old are free to travel who is accompanied by 2 adults, children from 5 to 12 years old are given a 50% discount, who are accompanied also by 2 adults while senior citizens can avail a 20% discount. The cruise will tour around the Philippines in islands such as Boracay and Coron Island.
Hans Christian Andersen Cruise will take you on an unforgettable voyage through the Philippines. They have set their sights on memorable experiences, empty beaches, local fishing villages, fantastic diving and snorkeling - the perfect way to explore the picturesque archipelagos of the Philippines. They offer a relaxed unpretentious holiday atmosphere and you won’t have to worry about dress code.
Sun Cruises  has tour packages to Corregidor Island in Manila Bay. Prices range from ₱2,000 for a day tour with a buffet lunch, to ₱3,000 for an overnight stay at the island. The tour guides are very informative, and the island is steeped in history, particularly about the battles that raged there during World War 2. They also offer cruises around Manila Bay.
By jeep and rickshaws
Jeepneys are the most known transportation to all Filipinos. They are the most affordable transport in the Philippines. Costing about ₱8 per 4 km and additional ₱1 per km, they are by far the most affordable way to get around most major urban areas.. They stop if you wave at them. The jeepney is remnants of the Jeep used by the American troops during World War II, the innovative Filipinos modified the jeep (by lengthening the body and adding horizontal seats) to seat as many as 20 people (10 per side). Within Manila, you will find multiple Jeepneys per route, for added convenience. In the provinces, Jeepneys also connect towns and cities. For longer distances, however, buses are more comfortable.
Also worthy of mention are the traysikels and the pedicabs or in other words Rickshaw; however, this may not be to the liking of most foreigners, as these are cramped and quite open to traffic. These means of transport are usually used for very short distances. Traysikels are different from Pedicabs; they are motorized while pedicabs are manually used with the help of bicycles. Fares range from ₱3 to ₱7 or even higher, depending on the distance of your destination.
Filipino is the language spoken in the Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog regions as well as the National Capital Region (NCR) or Metro Manila. In the Northern Luzon provinces, Ilocano is the most common language spoken while Kapampangan is widespread in Central Luzon. Further south of Metro Manila lies the Bicol Region where Bicolano is used. In the Southern Islands of Visayas and Mindanao, Cebuano is the most common language spoken. Other languages in the south include Hiligaynon and Waray.
English is an official language of the Philippines and is a compulsory subject in all schools, so it is widely spoken in the larger cities and main tourist areas. However, it is usually not the first language of locals. English, though, is in widespread use as many signs are printed in English and there are even 3 TV channels using it on a full-time basis. Almost all broadsheet newspapers use English as well. Tourists won't have any problems using English when making inquiries at commercial and government establishments. A few simple phrases in Filipino will come in handy when traveling to rural places as English proficiency is limited there. Taglish, which involves code switching between Tagalog and English, is spoken nowadays by some urban youths, Below is an example:
Spanish is no longer widely understood, though many Spanish words survive in the local languages. A Spanish based Creole language known as Chavacano is spoken in Cavite and in Zamboanga. The government is trying to revive Spanish by providing Spanish in public schools as an optional language. Younger Spanish-Filipinos tend to speak Filipino languages and/or English as their primary language, however there are around 3 million people who speak Spanish plus there is daily radio programme "Filipinas Ahora Mismo" which broadcasts from Manila in Spanish.
There are some other ethnic groups who reside in the country, particularly in more urbanized areas like Manila. The largest group is the Chinese, many of whom have assimilated with Filipino society. Take note however that since most of them come from Fujian province, they speak Hokkien (rather than Mandarin), but they are also taught Mandarin in Chinese schools. Muslim Filipinos are taught Arabic in schools to read the Qu'ran. Other groups include the Indians, Japanese, Arabs, Koreans, Americans and Europeans use their native language as their first language. In some cosmopolitan areas, there are establishments catering to Korean speakers. Indian languages such as Hindi and Punjabi are also spoken by the Indian communities while Europeans speak their own languages.
Historical and Cultural
Adventure and Others
See Scuba diving for more information
Scuba diving is spectacular in the Philippines. There is a great variety of dive sites and most if not all of these have at least a handful of PADI-accredited diving schools where you can obtain your license. Costs (of both lessons and equipment) are likely to be cheaper here compared to places like Australia, the Caribbean or even in nearby Thailand and Malaysia.
Eskrima or Kali is Filipino martial art that emphasizes in using swords and sticks, it was used in films such as' Equilibrium, training centers and schools that teach Eskrima are mostly found around Metro Manila.
Tertiary education and ESL
Many foreigners such as Europeans, Chinese, Americans and Koreans choose to study and finish university in the Philippines because compared to other countries, Universities here are inexpensive and offer the same system the Americans apply (however most schools follow K-10, international schools follow K-12 standards), major schools such as University of the Philippines, De La Salle University, Ateneo University, Far Eastern University and Adamson University are just some of the major universities with many provincial branches in the country.
The country is also a hub for people seeking to learn English mostly Chinese and Koreans, there are many English learning centers around the country predominantly around Metro Manila, Bacolod, Cebu, Baguio and Taguig City, as well as all significant financial, commercial and provincial capitals. It is one of the largest hubs in learning ESL in Asia. Other international schools in the Philippines are also found and usually operated by British and other European diplomats, Japanese, Korean, Chinese and American immigrants and diplomats.
Under Philippine law, any foreigner working must have an Alien Employment Permit issued by the Department of Labor. The paperwork is in general handled by the prospective employer and the employee picks up the relevant visa at a Philippine Embassy or Consulate. Working without a permit is not allowed and does not give you any labor protections. Furthermore, visas are checked upon departing the Philippines. Those who have overstayed without permission are subject to fines and, in certain cases, even jail.
It is possible for foreigners to earn casual money while staying in the Philippines, especially in Manila and other bigger cities in provinces. These may include temporary teaching in schools, colleges and other institutions; and working in bars and clubs. Temporary work may also be available as an "extra" on the set of a film or television series. Fluency in English is very important in jobs while knowledge of Filipino or Tagalog is considerably low. Recently as of late 2010, the Philippines has overtaken India in the call center industry, and many international companies hire English fluent workers.
Most establishments pay monthly but informal jobs pay out variably either cash on hand or weekly.
Peso bills come in denominations of 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000. One peso is equivalent to 100 centavos and coins come in 5, 10 and 25 centavo variants in addition to the 1, 5 and 10 peso coins. There are 2 versions of each bill with the newer version in circulation since December 2010 (albeit it is still rare to have them). The newer notes have similar colours to their old counterparts, have the same people at the front (Except for the 500-peso note which also features former President Aquino) but rather than historical sites at the back, these newer notes feature Filipino natural wonders and species unique to the country. The older notes will remain legal tender until 2013.
Money changers are not so common in the Philippines outside some heavily touristed areas. A rule of thumb: the more currency you wish to exchange, the more favourable the rates can be. Banks on the other hand are widely available to exchange currency but usually impose a minimum amount (usually around US$100) and have limited hours of operation, usually 09:00-15:00 on weekdays. The notable exceptions areBank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) and Banco De Oro (BDO) which have longer hours of operation. Don't exchange money in stalls along the streets as some of them might be exchanging your money for counterfeit money, contact Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (Central Bank of the Philippines) if you suspect the money you've been given to be counterfeit. Money changers do exist at department stores, supermarkets and hotels but needless to say the rates are highly unfavourable to the customers and some will only exchange into ₱. If you need to change back into foreign currency, you need to fill-out paperwork and can only exchange in certain denominations (usually $100, €100, £100).
Be aware that no person is allowed to enter or leave the Philippines carrying more than ₱10,000 of coins and banknotes without prior authorisation by Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. Those who have not gained prior authorisation will have to declare the excess money at the customs desk. However bringing-in any amount in foreign currency is legal but anything in excess of US$10,000 (or its equivalent) must be declared.
ATMs and credit cards
Visitors can also use the 6,000 ATMs nationwide to withdraw funds or ask for cash advances. The three major local ATM consortia are BancNet, MegaLink and Expressnet. International networks, like PLUS and Cirrus, are accessible with many ATMs, however Cirrus is more predominant than PLUS; however, withdrawals are often limited to 5,000 pesos. Citibank and HSBC ATMs in Manila and Cebu let you take out P25,000 to P40,000 per transaction. Visitors who have a MasterCard/Maestro/Cirrus cards can withdraw funds or ask for cash advances at ATMs that display their logos. The most prominent MasterCard ATMs are the Express Tellers by BPI (Bank of the Philippine Islands) and the Smartellers by Banco de Oro. PLUS ATMs are not available locally as a complement by itself, but instead it is available along with Cirrus. Prominent examples include the Fasteller by Equitable PCI Bank and the Electronic Teller (ET) by Metrobank. Most MegaLink ATMs are linked to PLUS and Cirrus.
Credit (and debit) card holders can use VISA, MasterCard, American Express and JCB cards in many commercial locations in the Philippines but merchants would usually require a minimum purchase amount before you can use your card. Cardholders of China UnionPay credit cards can get cash advances at many BancNet ATMs (particularly of Metrobank) but cannot use their cards in point of sale transactions at the moment. Most credit card machines in stores are capable of reading chip-and-pin cards and you should be to enter your PIN to process a transaction just as you do in your home country. However because entering a PIN is not yet a norm in most locally-issued credit cards, merchants may nonetheless also require your signature on the transaction slip. Credit cards are generally not accepted for government-related transactions.
In 2010, Philippine banks started to charge ₱200 per transaction for using foreign cards in their ATM machines, in addition to cash withdrawal and exchange fees already imposed by your bank. Notable exception is HSBC , which does not charge (January 2014) this fee; however, their ATMs are available only in a few larger cities, and even there don't count you'll stumble upon one of them - there's only one HSBC ATM in the entire Cebu City, for example. Citibank, which reportedly (as late as end of 2012) used to be fee-free, now charges ₱200 in line with the rest of the banks. Considering small transaction limits in many ATMs, this fee easily adds 2-4% to the amount withdrawn - thus, bringing in cash and exchanging it to peso in the bank generally will be cheaper (please be aware though of customs regulations). Check your home bank to see if special arrangements exist to lower withdrawal fees imposed by foreign banks.
Traveling in Philippines is cheap (one of the least expensive places to visit in Asia and as well in the rest of the world.) Some accommodations may be pricey. , more so in some cases places to stay are cheaper in Thailand. For example a stay in a hotel would cost as low as $30 or ₱1400, a flight to Cebu from Manila and vice-versa will cost $35 or ₱1645. Transportation is low as ₱8.50 for the first 4km in a Jeepney. Using the internet for 1 hour in an internet cafe range from ₱20 to ₱50 depending on the Internet Cafe's location, a can of coke costs as low was ₱16 while a copy of the International Herald Tribune costs ₱70 and Economist as low as ₱160. In most restaurants. There is 12% Value Added Tax (VAT) usually included in the unit price. Service charge is often excluded and computed separately but you only need to pay this for eat-in or delivery orders, not take-aways.
It isn't hard to find malls in the Philippines; the 3 largest malls in the world are found here. It's a fact: consumerism has been part of a Filipino's life, even things they don't need but are in sale and discount they'll buy it. The reason why the country hasn't been affected much by recent financial crisis is because of the circulation of money, even if Filipinos are broke they'll find a way to buy something at least in a week for themselves.
As stated above, living in the Philippines is cheap, shopping there is also cheap. Sales tend to happen during pay day and last for 3 days and also during the Christmas season (in the Philippines Christmas season extends from September to the first week of January) in Department stores like SM Department Store. Cheaper items are sold at flea markets and open markets where you can bargain the price like Divisoria, Market!Market!, Greenhills in Metro Manila. Ayala Center is often compared to Singapore's Orchard Rd, from Entertainment to shopping, they have it all there, located in the Financial district of Makati. Not far from Makati is Serendra, a Piazza that offers lifestyle and luxury shops and often called the Luxury lifestyle center of Metro Manila. The piazza features modern architecture that will make you think you're somewhere near the world of Star Wars, stare, drool and be amazed at the public art displayed there. Coffee shops and tea shops are found around this area, as well as furniture and clothing stores and is located in Fort Bonifacio Global City, Taguig. The 4 largest mall operators are SM, Gaisano, Ayala and Robinson's with branches around the archipelago.
Be aware of import/export laws, particularly when leaving the country, as some items like food may be confiscated at the airport. If you bought a pet, be sure it has the right papers that will be accepted in your destination. It is wise to declare your souvenirs to Customs officials to avoid future trouble.
To experience how the Filipinos eat in a budget way, Carenderias (food stalls) and Turo-turo (meaning Point-point, which actually means you point at the food you want to eat in the buffet table) are some of the options. Mains cost less than $1. Carenderias serve food cooked earlier and it may not always be the safest of options.
As with the rest of Southeast Asia, rice is the staple food of the Philippines. Some areas in the Visayas prefer corn but elsewhere Filipinos would generally have rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Uncooked rice usually comes in 50kg sacks but can be bought by the kilogram at the wet market or at neighborhood rice dealers. Single servings of rice are readily available at fastfood restaurants or eateries.
The word diet is non-existent in the vocabulary of Filipinos or has never existed, as mentioned before they are laid back people, they love to eat as much as they can as if there is no tomorrow. They spend most of their money on food, a Filipino teenager might at least enter a fastfood chain two or three times a week, during fiestas in a city, town, barangay, purok or subdivision Filipinos would have big parties and it would last from noon to midnight when some of the people would end up being drunk, you can ask if you can join a fiesta in a home and some might welcome you as this is a tradition. If you're visiting the Philippines it is the best time to cut your so called diet and eat to your heart's content. The Filipino diet is a lot more similar to the west than the east, with Filipinos eating less vegetables, more oil, meat and sugar than people in neighboring countries; most Filipinos aren't health conscious. Cancer and heart-related diseases are the leading causes of death here. However if you visit rural areas they use more vegetables and less meat and practice old Filipino medicine.
Some Filipinos use a rather strict interpretation of the serving spoon rule and believe that offering utensils or food that has come into contact with someone's saliva is rude, disgusting, and will cause food to get stale quickly. Singing or having an argument while eating is considered rude, as they believe food is grasya/gracia or blessed in English; food won't come to you if you keep disrespecting it. Singing while cooking is considered taboo because it will cause you to forever be a bachelor or spinster. Conservative Filipinos share another belief with the Chinese that not finishing your food on your plate is taboo and rude; you'll often see Filipino parents scolding their children to finish their food or not they'll never achieve good academic performance.
Usually, before a meal starts or before food is served, Filipinos say a prayer; wait until the host invites you to start eating. Also, it is rude to refuse food that the host has offered or to leave the dining table while someone is still eating. While eating in front of Chinese/Japanese/Korean -Filipinos, don't stick your chopsticks vertically upright into a bowl of food.
Filipinos usually serve at least one main course accompanied by rice for lunch and dinner. At times you would have two with a vegetable dish accompanying a meat dish. On special occasions such as fiestas, several main dishes would be served, a Filipino party or a Fiesta wouldn't be complete without Spaghetti, Pasta, Fruit Salad, Ice Cream, Rice, spring rolls, cake or rice cakes and soda. Soups are also often the main course apart from being a starter. It is not uncommon for Filipinos to douse their rice with the soup and eat the meat that came with the soup alongside.
Kanin at Kakanin
Kanin means Rice in Tagalog while Kakanin means Rice cakes.
Pancit/Pancit or Noodles, an influence from Chinese cuisine and believed to give long life because of its length, often eaten in celebrations such as Birthdays and New Year. Below listed are some popular Filipino noodle dishes
Silog and pankaplog
Usually eaten at breakfast, this is the Filipino version of a typical American breakfast of egg, bacon and pancakes. Silog is an contraction of the words Sinangag(fried rice) and Itlog(egg). They are not only sold in Filipino eateries and stalls but also in restaurants and fastfood chains such as McDonald's.
Ulam means Mains in Tagalog.
Spanish, Portuguese, Mexicans, Americans and other European and Mediterranean people introduced their cuisine to the locals and just like they did to the Chinese, they embraced it. While the Spanish occupied the Philippines, connections of the Mexicans and the Aztecs with the Filipinos started in the Manila-Acapulco trade, the people introduced to each other their native cuisine. American influence came during the American colonization.
America's influence is palpable in the Philippines, and you'll be hard pressed to find a mall without the requisite McDonalds,KFC, Pizza Hut, and even Taco Bell. Filipino fastfood chains that capture the essence of Filipino food compete strongly for Filipino tastebuds however, and they may be a safe place for the tourist to try the local fare. The following are a list of fastfood chains that have branches all around the Metro, and in many cases around the country.
Mang Inasal, . A relative newcomer, Mang Inasal actually brings a variety of barbecue called "inasal" into Metro Manila from the city of Iloilo. They offer other grilled meats, as well as soups like sinigang (a sour, tamarind based soup). ₱45-140 per serving. edit
The Filipinos and Chinese traded with each other in the early times, then the Chinese finally began settling in the Philippines and introduced their cuisine and culture, the Filipinos embraced the Chinese heritage and started adapting it in their lives including food. Most of the dishes found below are served in Chinatown and Filipino-Chinese fast food chains and eateries.
Arguably Filipino streetfood is one of the best however it may not be as clean as the ones you find in Singapore. Streetfood vendors have been criticized because of their unhygienic practices as well as unhealthy options but praised by many especially the youth because of its affordability and taste, nowadays streetfood is also found in malls but the traditional way of street vending still hasn't died out. Items are sold for as low as P5. Street food is usually enjoyed with beer or soda, usually eaten during the afternoon till night.
Snack and baked goods
Fruits & desserts
Tropical fruits abound in the Philippines. Most of the countryside produce finds its way to the metro areas and can be easily bought in supermarkets, such as:
Condiments and salads
Muslims will find it hard to find Halal food outside predominantly Muslim areas in the Philippines even though the country is one of the fastest emerging markets in exporting certified halal products. Ask if there is pork in the dish before eating it. Seventh Day Adventists would possibly find some vegetarian restaurants in the Philippines, mostly lurking in the commercial, financial and provincial capitals, and most of them use tofu instead of meat, Sanitarium products may be found in Seventh Day Adventists or Sanitarium hospitals. Hindus will find Indian restaurants which serve some vegetarian options around Metro Manila. Vegetarians and vegans will find it difficult to find a Filipino dish which is wholly vegetarian as most of the Filipinos love to add meat in every single dish they eat. Jews will also find it hard to find Kosher meals. However rabbis in the Philippines suggest some stores which sell Kosher food, visit Kosher Philippines for advice.
Tropical fruit drinks made from dalandan (green mandarin), suha (pomelo), pinya (pineapple), calamansi (small lime), buko (young coconut), durian, guyabano (soursop) mango, banana, watermelon, strawberry and many more are available at stands along streets, as well as at commercial establishments such as food carts inside malls. They are often served chilled with ice.
Sago't Gulaman a sweet drink made of molasses, sago pearls and seaweed gelatin, and taho, a sweet, warm snack made from sago pearls, soft tofu and carmelized syrup, are worth trying. They are affordable and sold in stalls along streets or by vendors around the a common area as well as in malls. Zagu is a shake with flavors such as strawberry and chocolate, with sago pearls. Another famous drink is 'buko juice, the juice is consumed via an inserted straw on the top of the buko or young coconut.
Tea, coffee and chocolate
Salabat, sometimes called ginger tea, is an iced or hot tea made from lemon grass and pandan leaves or brewed from ginger root. Kapeng barako is a famous kind of tea in the Philippines, found in Batangas, made from coffee beans found in the cool mountains. Try the Filipino hot chocolate drink, tsokolate, made from chocolate tablets called tableas, a tradition that dates back the Spanish colonial times. Champorado  isn't considered a drink by Filipinos, but it is another version of tsokolate with the difference of added rice. Records say that chocolate was introduced by the Aztecs to the Filipinos during the Manila-Acapulco trade.
Metro Manila is home to many bars, watering holes, and karaoke sites. Popular places include Makati (particularly the Glorietta and Greenbelt areas), Ortigas Metrowalk, and Eastwood in Libis. Other big cities such as Cebu City and Davao also have areas where the nightlife is centered. Establishments serve the usual hard and soft drinks typical of bars elsewhere. Note that Filipinos rarely consume alcohol by itself. They would normally have what is called as "pulutan" or bar chow alongside their drinks which is like the equivalent of tapas. At the least, this would consist of mixed nuts but selections of grilled meats and seafood are not uncommon food alongside the customary drinks. When having a party, Filipinos enjoy drinking round-robin style using a common glass. One is supposed to drink bottoms-up before passing the glass to the next person. This custom is known as "tagayan" and one person usually volunteers to pour the drink.
Beer is perhaps the most common form of alcohol consumed in bars. San Miguel Beer is the dominant local brand with several variants such as Light, Dry, Strong Ice and their flagship variant Pale Pilsen. Budweiser, Heineken and Corona can also be found in upscale bars. Rum and ginebra which is the local form of gin are commonly available forms of hard liquor. Indigenous forms of liquor are lambanog and tuba which are both derived from coconut sap. Tuba is fermented from the coconut sap and though tuba itself can be drunk, it is also distilled to take the form of lambanog. Lambanog is now being marketed widely both locally and internationally in its base form as well as in several flavored variants such as mango, bubble gum and blueberry.
Alcohol is extremely cheap in the Philippines (and one of the cheapest in the whole of Asia). For a bottle of San Miguel bought at a 7-11 or Mini-Stop, a bottle would costs about ₱20-₱30 (about US$0.50). Regular bars will offer it for ₱40-50, and even in top-end bars and clubs, a bottle would cost about ₱100-200. A bottle of 750ml Absolut Vodka at the supermarket will cost about ₱750, and a popular local rum (especially amongst knowledgeable expats) tanduay costs just below ₱70 at a 24 hour convenience store in Makati (The Financial District).
Housing options for tourists include hotels, condotels, apartelles, motels, inns/bed-and-breakfasts, and pension houses.
Hotels are usually for the higher-end traveller, although hotel rates--even for four-star establishments-- are not very high compared to other international destinations. Condotels are furnished condominium units rented out for long or short term stays, apartelles are set up for both short and long term stays, and a pension house is usually more basic and economical. These all vary in terms of cleanliness, availability of air conditioning, and hot water showers. Motels, inns, and lodges also serve lodging purposes but have a reputation as meeting places for illicit sex, a unit being usually a small room with a connected carport, hidden behind a high wall which provides for secret comings and goings. You can distinguish these by their hourly rates, while more reputable institutions usually have daily rates.
Use common sense when traveling to and around the Philippines, as with traveling to other developing nations. It is wise to have Filipino friends as they will give you genuine advice on how to get by. Although the people of these islands are generally friendly and accommodating, one must be aware of the prevalence of poverty (especially in big cities) and the things that, unfortunately, come with it. You must not flash your valuables (especially Apple iPods and iPhones) because they pose a pickpocketing threat. Carry small change and don't flash large bills. Pickpockets are common in the big cities. Manila is not a place for violent robbery, but the ativan scam is common practice. Don't expect any reprisal from the police and must also sometimes be wary of them as they can be easily bribed and might be entangled in their own scams. Do not enter alleyways and remote areas at night.
Both Christian and Muslim areas of Mindanao have traditionally been home to organized criminal groups. Groups active in the drug and weapons trade, gambling or armed robberies aren't very likely to harass tourists. However, kidnappings especially in Muslim Mindanao regularly occur.
Drive-by shootings are very common in Muslim Mindanao as well, and as of the 2010's rebels and criminal groups are resorting to more drive bys than kidnappings. So be careful being out in public, as these drive bys happen in broad daylight than at night.
Prostitution and drugs
Prostitution is thriving but officially illegal in the Philippines, although hostess bars, massage parlors and other opportunities abound which offer this service. EDSA and Makati in Metro Manila, and Angeles City are known hot spots for these activities. The age of consent is 18. The Philippine National Police treat sex-offenders, child-molesters and people involved in prostitution harshly. Acts associated with prostitution and child sex abuse will result in you being jailed long term and then deported.
Marijuana and shabu (crystal methamphetamine) are widely used but illegal. Penalties are very harsh.
The Philippines is a predominantly Roman Catholic country, but is home to one of the largest LGBT communities in Asia. Gays and lesbians will be fine here in the Philippines as some of the younger tolerant generation are very accepting, but please use common sense (ie: avoid public kissing) as you may get stares or even verbal profanity. Also, in the countryside and with the 50 year old and up generation chances are they will condemn it. But nevertheless, Filipinos have their warm hospitality. Violence against gays and lesbians is rare.
Eating and drinking
Drink the readily available bottled water. Buko (young coconut) juice is also safe if they have not added local ice to it. Be wary also of Buko juice vendors, some usually just add sugar to water. Buy and eat fruit that has not already been cut up. Cooked food from a karenderia (outdoor canteen) is okay if there is a fire under the pots and the food has been kept hot. If you must drink tap water (it is usually served/contained in a small to medium plastic bag), water in Manila, Cebu City and other major cities, but it is recommended that you boil tap water for at least 5 minutes just to be safe. Elsewhere drink bottled water. There is always the risk of contracting amoebiasis when drinking tap water in the countryside. Also, this applies to ice that is usually put in beverages. Bottled water is best purchased from within stores and sheltered eateries. Bottled waters sold outside (by the roads) are more than likely used bottles filled with tap water, sealed then cooled. Be careful of drinking pampalamig (cold drinks like Sago't Gulaman) as some of the vendors might be using Magic Sugar(formally called Sodium Cyclamate); an artificial sweetener, which has been banned by the Philippine Government because of its adverse effects on health such as higher risk of getting cancer by consuming Magic sugar, it has been used as an alternative to ordinary sugar as it is much cheaper, call 117 (Philippine National Police) if you encounter such situation. Streetfood isn't so safe to consume in the Philippines, hygienic standards aren't enforced much. It is better to eat streetfood as well as pampalamig inside malls and shopping centers than in streets as stalls in malls and shopping centers have better enforcement of cleanliness.
CDC advises that risk of malaria exists in areas below 600 meters, except for the provinces of Aklan, Bilaran, Bohol, Camiguin, Capiz, Catanduanes, Cebu, Guimaras, Iloilo, Leyte, Masbate, northern Samar, Siquijor, and Metro Manila. Chloroquine is no longer a recommended malaria preventative for anywhere in the Philippines. In general malaria is not common in the Philippines compared to Africa and the rest of mainland Southeast Asia, and around half of the c. 40,000 annual cases are in a couple of discrete locations. Dengue fever is common in the Philippines and cases rise every year, so it is advisable to apply anti-mosquito repellents and wear long sleeved clothes whenever possible. Rabies is also common among street animals in the country, so get a vaccination for rabies if you haven't already, and if you're traveling with children, vaccinate them as soon as possible as they are of high risk of getting rabies because they tend to play more with animals. Hepatitis A and B is a high risk in the country. Get a vaccine if you haven't had one, as you can contract hepatitis through exposure to contaminated food or water, sexual contact, or contact with blood of infected people. If you plan to visit rural farming areas, Japanese encephalitis is common, and vaccination is recommended. Avoid swimming in fresh water areas where you will have high risks of getting schistosomiasis (unless they are chlorinated). Leptospirosis is often contracted from recreational water activities, such as kayaking, in contaminated water.
Also please note that tuberculosis is very common in the countryside, so try to avoid individuals who cough or look weak and be careful about staying too long in villages that may be high in contagious people.
Bring anti-diarrheal drugs with you, as unsanitary conditions present a high risk for traveler's diarrhea. Gatorade or other "sport drinks" might relieve you from fluid loss. Drink bottled liquids if you are unsure of the water, and always wash your hands.
Although the Philippines is a low HIV prevalence country, it still pays to take precautions. Other sexually transmitted diseases are more common than HIV.
Most of the Philippines is 220 Volt 60 Hz mixed with the American and European plug. There is sometimes a ground in some areas. Americans will need a step-down transformer. It's best also to bring such items that work universally such as those electronics marked with a 100V-240V 50/60hz compatibility to avoid voltage concerns.
3-phase voltage is 380v.
Downtown Baguio (northern Luzon) uses 110 V, and is also 60 Hz. This doesn't extend beyond the center of the city. The airport, for example, is 220V. If staying in the Baguio area, always ask first! If your equipment is 100-127V, merely crossing a street corner can cause it to be damaged or even catch fire. There are no signs in Baguio indicating where 110V ends and 220V begins.
During drought seasons (March to May), most of the power-plants are hydro-electrics (as stated above in the climate section), regular black-outs happen during this time, ask if your hotel owns a generator.
Television and video
Television and Video is in NTSC. Region Coded DVDs are Region 3 (Southeast Asia), though virtually all Filipino movies are region free. Major Networks that operate are - ABS-CBN, GMA, and TV5, all operate in Filipino, which all compete for ratings making network wars part of Filipino culture from the corner of the street to your hotel reservations desk there would always be an argument which stations airs the best telenovelas (TV Drama Series). The three major stations air TV Series to Newscasts. ABS-CBN and GMA have regional substations who operate in their own major regional languages. ETC, operates in English with exceptions of Filipino, airs Foreign TV Series on English as well as franchised TV shows like Project Runway while Chase purely airs in English and its content is just Foreign TV Series on English. Studio 23 is ABS-CBN's free-to-air channel which targets sports fanatics and the young population. All 6 Channels operate free-to-air, most of the channels which operate purely on English are available on Cable TV alone - SkyCable and Global Destiny Cable are the best-known cable operators in the country while Dream is the country's sole satellite TV operator. Almost all hotels and major commercial centres have cable or satellite TV. Channels such as BBC, CNN, Bloomberg. ABS-CBN's News Channel, ANC, provide 24/7 news headlines, updates, travel, business and lifestyle programs, almost always in English except the early morning news show originating from ABS-CBN.
Embassies and Consulates
Several embassies and consulates are open in the Philippines, for a full detailed list of embassies visit EmbassiesAbroad.com
A little courtesy goes a long way. Filipinos are a very friendly and hospitable people, sometimes even to a fault. Take the time to smile and say "thank you", and you'll receive much better responses. You will receive an even better response if you throw in a little Tagalog, such as "salamat", which means "thank you". When talking to the people who are usually old enough to be your parents or grandparents in Filipino, it is greatly appreciated to include po in your sentences such as salamat po, call them also by Tito(Uncle), Tita(Aunt), Manong(Mr.) or Manang(Mrs./Ms.), Ate (older sister) or Kuya(older brother) (words used to address people older than the speaker but not old enough to be an aunt or uncle. Older speakers will tend to use "manong" and "manang" instead) with their name, it is mean to call older people with their names. If you are having a conflict, stay relaxed, make a joke and smile. Getting angry or standing on your stripes will not bring you far, and you will lose respect.
In the countryside and in some urban homes, footwear is removed when entering a home, though they may make an exception for foreigners. The key is to look around before entering any home. If you see footwear just outside the door, more than likely the family's practice is to remove footwear before entering. If you wear socks, you don't have to remove them.
Although many Filipinos might not be able to afford tipping service workers, tipping is always accepted. Tips are customary, and in some instances, mandatory in the more high-end environments such as hotels and major restaurants.
When working with people in the Philippines, it's important to remember that they often bring cultural influences into the workplace and that don't always match well with your business culture. When you first meet another business person, it's important that you address them with both their title and both their first and last name. Businesses in the Philippines are often structured as a hierarchy and it's important to note that most decisions are made from the top down. Additionally, the Filipino value of "social harmony" doesn't always allow for directness when approaching sensitive issues. 
In many of the larger cities extreme poverty is prevalent. It is illegal to give money to beggars or the street children who run around at all hours. If you really want to give something, food is the better alternative. At times, when children go up to foreigners they won't go away until you give something. To counter this, avoid swearing and just ignore them. They can understand swear words and might call on their friends to bug you even more.
Keep in mind that the Marcos years (1965-1986) can be a polarizing topic within the Philippines. Visitors will find that the northern Ilokano Population view the regime as an era of stability, while metropolitan areas in the Bicol region take pride in the "EDSA" Revolution (Note: The Bicolanos are left-leaning, while the Ilokanos are conservative). Either way it is best to assess the speaker's opinion prior to approaching the topic.
The country code for the Philippines is 63. The area code for Metro Manila is 2. To make a overseas call, include the prefix 00.
The cheapest way to call to and from the Philippines is by using Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP), there are several licensed VoIP providers in the Philippines. One of the most popular is Vodini Telecom .
English newspapers are available throughout the country and there are also some Japanese and Chinese language options. The Daily Tribune , Malaya , Manila Standard , Manila Bulletin , Business World , Philippine Daily Inquirer  and Visayan Daily Star  are some of the English newspapers.
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 your unit is locked to your home service provider, cellphone repair shops in various malls have ways of unlocking (the typical fee to unlock is ₱300 for relatively old basic phones but can go as high as ₱2,000 for high-end smart phones). 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. Phones that come with these sot of deals are usually locked to a local network provider, and you would need to have it unlocked before leaving if you plan on using it elsewhere.
GSM mobile phones are in wide use all over the country. 3G technology is available through Globe, Smart and Sun, but is poorly implemented and often not properly operational especially outside urban areas. In most urban locations and many resorts, cell phone service will be available. Please note that Sun cellular did not work outside the main island of Luzon. Globe or Smart is a much better choice. The usual cost of an international long-distance call to the United States, Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore, Europe or other major countries is US$0.40 per minute (converted to ₱ at the prevailing rate). Local calls range from ₱ 6.50 to 7.50 per minute for prepaid calls (a new law was passed that will eventually require per pulse, i.e. rates per 6-seconds charging) but unlike other countries, you won't be charged for incoming calls. Take note that ringing a user in the same network as you (as well as affiliate networks) will cost less than ringing a user on a different or unaffiliated network. Text messages typically cost as low as ₱1 and the Philippines is usually tagged as the "texting capital of the world". International SMS is charged at a higher rate of between ₱15-25. Bundles for cheaper/unlimited calls, SMS and/or mobile data are offered by the networks are available; but for call packages, the lower-cost minutes are almost always allocated to those made to parties within the same network and their affiliates. Affiliate networks of SMART include Talk 'N Text, its parent company PLDT and in some cases Sun Cellular; whilst for Globe, its main affiliate is Touch Mobile. To help you identify the network the other party is using for purposes of estimating costs, please refer to the following table:
Reloading (known in other countries as recharge/recharging or top-up/topping-up) pre-paid SIMs is a breeze. Electronic Load (E-Load) stations are everywhere from small corner stores to the large malls where you just give your mobile phone number and the amount you wish to load (Globe, Smart and Sun each have their load denominations to choose from for E-loading). If you have a friend using the same mobile operator as you, you can load as little as a few pesos by letting him/her pass on some of his/her load to you and if you need hundreds of pesos worth of load, you can purchase pre-paid cards which are available in denominations of ₱100, ₱300 and ₱500 (approximately US$2.20, US$7 and 12 respectively).
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.
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 like Starbucks and Seattle's Best 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.
In addition, you may want to consider buying a mobile broadband modem starting at ₱995 where service is also provided by Globe, Smart or Sun. Mobile broadband signals vary depending on available infrastructure on your particular location, but in general Smart has the largest network in the country, followed by Globe, and then Sun. It takes up to 24 hours for internet to be available on a new sim card. Mobile broadband comes both in postpaid and prepaid variants. To buy a modem and subscription you will have to go to one of the larger cities - the small shops the sell cell phones and sim cards aren't able to sell mobile broadband. "Loads" often cost just P20 (approximately USD0.45) an hour for most mobile internet modems. However, service is usually slower during certain times--especially in the evening--due to a high volume of people surfing. Even with a fast broadband dongle, service is guaranteed to slow down to a standstill.
Apart from the Philippine postal service, FedEx, UPS, and DHL courier services are also available. Local couriers such as LBC and Aboitiz are also available. Postal mail from abroad is often "lost", so don't send anything valuable.