Difference between revisions of "Philippines"
Revision as of 17:38, 25 March 2008
The Republic of the Philippines  (Filipino: Republika ng Pilipinas) is an archipelago in South-East Asia consisting of 7,107 islands located between the Philippine Sea and the South China Sea, east of Vietnam, and north of Sabah and Borneo.
The Philippines is an archipelago abundant in nature, rich in culture, and filled with pleasant discoveries. Experience the Philippines, its 7,107 islands, its natural wonders, colorful history and warm, engaging people. Over a hundred ethnic groups, a mixture of foreign influences and a fusion of culture and arts have enhanced the uniqueness of the Filipino race and the wonder that is the Philippines.
There are a total of 79 provinces in the Philippines that can be divided among three main island groups:
Several thousand years ago, the first settlers in the Philippines crossed shallow seas and land bridges from the Asian mainland to arrive in this group of islands. These were the Negritos or Aetas. Direct descendants of these people can still be found in Zambales province to the North of Manila. Several thousand years later, they were then followed by Austronesian settlers travelling the same route as the Negritos but this time over sea in their impressive Barangay boats (the word is still used to refer to the smallest political subdivision in the Philippines, the Barangay). After settling the islands, they traveled further and settled the islands of Indonesia, Malaysia as well as the whole Pacific. The early Austronesians took no time in trading with each other as well as with the Chinese, Japanese, Okinawans, and Indians. An interesting mix of cultures developed in the islands, and a writing system as well as a social structure developed quickly. When the explorer Ferdinand Magellan set foot on Philippine soil in 1521, the Philippines was predominantly Muslim with some of the inhabitants Hindus and Buddhists. Settlements were ruled from Brunei and Java. Magellan was Portuguese but it was a Spanish Expedition which he led to the islands which were eventually claimed by Spain as its colony. The Philippines was named for Crown Prince Philip II of Spain and most of the natives converted to Catholicism.
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. American presence remained until World War II when Japan invaded the Philippines. The Japanese occupation lasted from 1941 to 1945 when Gen. Douglas McArthur fulfilled his promise and liberated the country from the Japanese.
In 1946, the Philippines was granted full independence by the U.S., although they maintained a military presence in the country through the Subic Naval Base in Zambales and Clark Air Base in Angeles City. These facilities were ultimately returned to the Philippines in the early 1990's.
Up until the 1960's, the Philippines was second only to Japan in terms of development within the region. Several decades of corrupt rule by Ferdinand Marcos, however, plunged the country into debt and the Philippines ultimately became known as the sick man of Asia. Poverty was widespread and infrastructure for development was severely lacking. In 1986, the People Power uprising finally overthrew the Marcos government and he was replaced by Cory Aquino, widow of slain opposition leader, Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, Jr.
A couple of decades more have passed and somehow the Philippines is still lagging in comparison to its South East Asian neighbors Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore. Development is still slow but the country is at least moving in the right direction in recent times.
The people of the Philippines, or Filipinos, are descended from a mixture of Austronesians (related to Malays and Polynesians) and of other races. Many, particularly in the cities, have Japanese, Chinese, Spanish, and American admixtures, whereas those living in the provinces are mostly of pure Filipino origin. The four largest foreign minorities in the country are as follows: Chinese (1st), Americans (2nd), and Indian (3rd), and the Japanese (4th). Also of significance are the Koreans, Indonesians, and Arabs. Pure Spaniards form a small proportion in the country's population.
Filipinos are hospitable by nature. 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 of the feast that most, if not all, households within the town serve 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.
Also, it may seem peculiar for tourists to notice the Latin flair in Filipino culture. Philippine culture compared to the rest of Asia is highly hispanized.
The Philippines is not only the largest Christian country in Asia, it is the world's fifth largest Catholic Nation. The Catholic faith remains the single biggest legacy of three hundred years of Spanish colonial rule. Catholicism is still taken quite seriously in the Philippines. Masses still 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 Catholic Church also still exerts quite a bit of influence even on non-religious affairs such as affairs of state. Mores are changing slowly, however; Filipinos are now slowly accepting what were previously taboo issues in as far as Catholic doctrine is concerned, such as artificial birth control and the dissolution of marriage vows.
The biggest religious minority are Muslim Filipinos who primarily live in Mindanao and Sulu, and account for around 5% of the population. Terrorist attacks and violent confrontations between the Filipino army and militant Islamic organizations such as the Abu Sayyaf and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front has strained the relations between the Muslim and the non-Muslim population. The Muslims are sometimes being seen at times as "dangerous". The Muslim Filipinos differ in their interpretations of Islam, and like the Muslims of Indonesia, are generally more relaxed regarding such topics as gender-segregation or the veil. Indian Filipinos, Chinese Filipinos, and Japanese Filipinos who are mostly Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Shinto, and Taoist which all accounts 3% of the population of the Philippines.
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).
Being a predominantly Catholic country means observing the traditional Catholic holidays of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday during Lent. Christmas and New Year's Day are also observed as non-working holidays along with All Saints Day on November 1. In recognition of the Muslim Filipino, the Islamic feast of Eid-Al-Fitr (known in the Philippines as Hari Raya Puasa), held after Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting, is also a national holiday. This day changes year by year, as it follows the Lunar Calendar. Secular holidays include Labor Day (May 1) and Independence Day (June 12). Some holidays also commemorate national heroes such as Jose Rizal (Dec. 30) and Andres Bonifacio (Nov. 30). Metro Manila is less congested during Holy Week as people tend to go to their hometowns to spend the holidays there. Despite this, it is not a good idea to be in the metropolis at this time as most malls, shops and attractions are closed. Apart from Lent, malls and shops particularly in tourist areas generally still remain open on holidays. Shops may observe limited hours on Christmas, New Year and All Saints' Day. Holy week is also considered part of the super peak season for most beach resorts such as Boracay and the most popular ones tend to get overcrowded at this time. Due to its cool mountain weather, Baguio is also where a lot of people spend the Holy Week break.
On entering the Philippines foreigners from most countries automatically get a free 3-week tourist visa. If intending on staying longer you should apply for a visa extension. Each visa extension is valid for 59 days, except the first which is 38 days (i.e 59-21).
You can pay on departure a fine of PhP1000 per month of overstay plus the PhP2020 fee.
To avoid all the hassle, before traveling get the longer visa from the embassy (or a consulate), as this saves you a couple of days hassle during your holiday. Contact the Philippine embassy of your country about the exact requirements for a visa application and opening hours of the consular section. When you arrive with a visa, show it to the immigration official, so that he will actually give you the 59 days, instead of the normal 21 days, on your arrival stamp.
Bureau of Immigration offices are as follows:
-Bureau of Immigration Main Office. Magallanes Drive, Intramuros, Manila. Tel (011-63-2)527-5657.
-Bureau of Immigration Regional Office. P Burgos Street, Tribunal, Mandaue City, Cebu. Tel (011-63-32)345-6442/6443/6444.
-Bureau of Immigration Regional Office - Davao. BI Building, JP Laurel Ave., Bajada, Davao City, Tel (011-63-82)300-7258.
-Bureau of Immigration offices in other locations
Since the Philippines is an archipelago, most visitors will arrive by plane. International travelers can fly into airports in Manila, Cebu, Davao, Clark (Angeles), Kalibo, Laoag, Subic (Zambales), and Zamboanga.
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 combination in flying into Manila and out of Cebu.
The cheapest options when coming from Europe or North/South America is via Singapore or Hong Kong. There are many regional carriers that can give excellent open jaw ticket options Silkair with Singapore Airlines being one.
Most visitors will fly in through the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila. NAIA has three terminals. Terminal 2 is exclusively used by Philippine Airlines for its International and Domestic flight networks and by Air Philippines for its Domestic flight networks. Terminal 1 is used by airlines that fly to international destinations. The Manila Domestic Passenger Terminal is used by airlines that fly to domestic destinations. Terminal 3, the largest and most modern of the terminals , is set to open early next year.
Major airlines that fly to Manila include KLM and Lufthansa, which have daily connections to Amsterdam and Frankfurt, respectively, and to other points in Europe; Northwest Airlines, which have various connections to the United States via Japan; Singapore Airlines with multiple connections each day to Singapore, and Cathay Pacific which offers multiple flights a day to Hong Kong and further into the the Chinese Mainland. Budget carrier Jet Air Asia operates flights from Singapore to Manila unlike other low cost carriers which fly to Clark (see below).
Major airlines that fly into Manila include (as of January 2007):
From either international airport, passengers can connect to domestic flights. Philippine Airlines domestic flights leave from the same airport (Terminal 2), while other domestic airlines fly out of the old domestic airport.
The Diosdado Macapagal International Airport in Clark, Angeles City is where budget airlines like Air Asia (from Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu) and Tiger Airways (from Singapore and Macau) fly to, aside from that it also receives direct flights from Hong Kong and Korea. Clark is located to the north of Metro Manila, about 1 to 2 hours by bus. Currently Cebu Pacific operates domestic flights to Cebu-Mactan airport, and South East Asian Airlines operates flights to Boracay's Caticlan airport. Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific are currently awaiting approval to open up new hubs/focus cities at Diosdado Macapagal International Airport.
The Mactan-Cebu International Airport in Cebu on the island of Mactan, is the second busiest airport with various domestic and international connections.
Major airlines that have regular flights in and out of Cebu include (as of August 2007):
Most visitors usually fly in through the Mactan-Cebu airport if their intended destination is within the Visayas (for Boracay and Bohol) and Mindanao regions.
The Francisco Bangoy International Airport in Davao City on the island of Mindanao receives direct flights from Seoul in South Korea, Singapore, Manado and Gorontalo in Indonesia, and Palau in Micronesia and seasonal flights from Macau. Flights operated by Air Asia are to begin next year, from Kuala Lumpur.
The Kalibo Airport in Kalibo in the province of Aklan, a gateway to Boracay, receives direct flights from Seoul in South Korea and Shanghai in China.
The Laoag International Airport in Laoag City in the province of Ilocos Norte receives direct flights from Guangzhou in China.
The Subic Bay International Airport in Subic in the province of Zambales receives direct flights from Taipei in Taiwan, Pacific Pearl Airways, a Charter Airline currently offers flights to Kalibo, Cebu, Puerto Princesa and parts of South Korea.
The Zamboanga International Airport in Zamboanga City on the Zamboanga Peninsula will soon receive direct flights from Sandakan in Malaysia beginning in April 23, 2007.
Philippine Airlines and Air Philippines, Cebu Pacific, SEAIR, Asian Spirit and Interisland Airlines are some of the airlines that operate domestic flights. Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific serve most large cities, while smaller operators like SEAIR, Asian Spirit and Interisland Airlines typically fly to popular resort destinations.
Within Metro Manila, there is a network of light railway systems that connect various portions of the metropolis. The Philippine National Railways network in the south is dilapidated and possibly not advisable for tourists to take.
The Strong Republic Nautical Highway has made travel by car across the various islands possible, albeit quite impractical for tourists due to long travel times required and the relatively cheap air fares between the major cities. If one is insistent on driving, the major car rental companies such as Avis, Hertz and Budget have offices in Metro Manila, notably at the airport. These companies have chauffeur driven rentals available and prices are bound to be reasonable.
Due to heavy traffic in Metro Manila, certain areas of the city have laws that restrict certain vehicles based on the day of the week and the ending number of your vehicle's license plate (this plan is called "Color Coding", though it has nothing to do with the color of your vehicle). For example: Cars with license plates ending in 1 or 2 cannot drive between the hours of 7am and 7pm on Mondays on most main roads. 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.
Travel from Metro Manila to various provinces in Luzon will typically start off from either the North or South Expressways. These are tollways with good asphalt paved roads. Farthest tolls will not cost more than a few dollars from Metro Manila. From the expressways, national highways and provincial roads connect to the major cities and provinces.
Bridges and ferries connect the major islands together. Roads vary greatly in quality from the paved multi-lane highways to narrow dirt roads, which further complicates travel by car
Taxis are generally available within the major cities but are usually not used for travel across the various provinces and regions. Some FX (shared taxis), however, usually ply provincial routes.
You can also call reputable Taxi companies that can arrange pickups and transfers as well as airport runs.
Basic Taxi Company Tel: 02 9001447 Tel: 02 6427777 Tel: 02 6437777
Apart from flying, buses are usually the way to go when it comes to traveling across the Philippines, at least from within the major islands. Provincial bus companies have scheduled trips from Manila to provinces to the north and south.
Roll-on, Roll-off ferries have also made inter-island travel by bus possible.
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.
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.
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. Boat Schedules and Directory
Warning: If the boat appears to be over capacity, do not board. Always check the latest weather reports before travel by ferry, as some captains are willing to sail even when a typhoon is approaching. Bringing your own life preserver is strongly recommended (but no substitute for common sense). Travel by boat should not be considered safer than air travel.
The jeepney is by far the most affordable way to get around most major urban areas. 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 tricycles and the pedicabs (three-wheeled vehicle); 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 also usually only used for very short distances.
NOTE: The jeepneys, tricycles and pedicabs are meant for small people. Seating is cramped, even for locals, who are, on average, smaller by Western standards. Jeepney drivers/operators often insist on seating the vehicle to full capacity (say, nine per side) even if there's a very large person seated. Consider this if you're overweight or 6 feet or taller. Watch your head when boarding as the roof is low (compared to a bus). Also, drivers often don't look to see if anyone is boarding before embarking. As you board, you need to evaluate every half second whether you're going to abort or hang on to the vehicle if it starts to move. If you're not in good physical shape, don't even try it.
The Philippines has two official languages: English and Filipino. Filipino is mainly based on the Tagalog language (a relative of Malay), with heavy Tamil, Sanskrit, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish and English influences.
Tagalog 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. The provinces of Pangasinan and Pampanga also have their own languages. Further south of Metro Manila lies the Bicol Region where Bikolano is used. In the Southern Islands of Visayas and Mindanao, Cebuano is the most common language spoken. Other minor languages in the south include Hiligaynon and Waray.
There are some other ethnic groups who reside in the country, particularly in more urbanized areas like Manila. The biggest group is the Chinese, many of whom have assimilated with Filipino society. Other groups include the Indians, Japanese, Arabs, Koreans and the Europeans/Americans.
Communication wouldn't be too much of a hassle for the English-speaking traveler since the vast majority of the locals are English-speaking. The Philippines also has one of the highest percentages of truly bilingual and multilingual speakers in the world, surpassing other officially bilingual/multilingual nations and territories in Asia, such as Malaysia, Singapore, and Hong Kong. English is widely used around the country, particularly in big cities. It is also widely used in government, the media, and in commerce. Street signs and billboards will likely be in English, but public service messages may be in Filipino. English is a compulsory subject in all schools (public and private) from elementary school to university. Practically everyone you meet will understand English, even if s/he may not be completely fluent. In fact, English is the official language of business.
Many Spanish words survive in many of the local languages. Spanish is no longer widely understood. Nonetheless, Spanish is still spoken by a small Spanish ethnic minority, particularly older members who were educated when Spanish was used as the language of government and higher education. Younger Spanish-Filipinos tend to speak Filipino languages and/or English as their primary language.
The Philippines offers plenty of regional festivals, often linked to the feast of the patron saints of the town or city holding the festival. Parades and processions, marching bands, floats and dance displays are usual activities. A number of important festivals include the following:
Beaches can be found aplenty on this nation of 7,107 islands. These beaches come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and fineness of sand. Some are in well-secluded islands while others are just a short ride across a causeway from the city. Among the most notable are the following:
Scuba diving is spectacular in the Philippines. There is a great variety of dive sites and most if not all of these would 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.
The Philippines has several places where you can do Whitewater Rafting.
It is possible for foreigners to earn casual money whilst 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 even if knowledge of Filipino or Tagalog is considerably low.
Unlike other countries, there are no strict bureaucratic papers needed such as carte de sejours and NI IDs, so some formal jobs are not hard to come by and get. Do not expect large amount of sums of money even for formal jobs. Wages are displayed on a per day basis rather than a per hour basis.
Most establishments pay out monthly but informal jobs pay out variably either cash on hand or weekly.
The Philippine peso is the official currency. One US dollar is equivalent to P 40.33 PHP (28 February 2008).
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.
Money changers are not so common in the Philippines apart from some heavily touristed areas and most malls which usually have their own currency exchange stall. Banks on the other hand are widely available to exchange currency but have a limited time of operation, usually from 9 AM to 3 PM on weekdays.
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, but Cirrus is more predominant than PLUS; however, withdrawals are often limited to 5,000 pesos. An exception is HSBC where up to 50,000 pesos is possible.
Visitors who have a MasterCard/Maestro/Cirrus card 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 card holders can use VISA, MasterCard, American Express and JCB cards in many 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.
The Philippines is one of the least expensive places to visit in Asia and as well in the rest of the world.
Here is a list of prices in Philippine pesos (P).
Flight from London Heathrow to Manila £500 (off peak - Aug - Nov, Jan - April) - £800 peak, economy
Flight from London Heathrow to Manila £1200 - £1800 (P120,000 - P180,000) Business and First Class
One-way flight from Manila to Singapore (vice-versa) - US$75
One-way flight from Manila to Cebu (vice-versa) - US$35
Typical 4-star hotel single room in Manila - P3500/$66.00
Typical 3D/2N hotel suite accommodation in Boracay Island - P14,000/$264.00
Air-conditioned dormitory in Manila - P240/$4.50
Single air-con room with private cold shower and cable TV in Cebu - P500/$9.45
Movie - P100-P160/$2.00-$3.00
Budget Meal - P40 (includes a cup of rice, assorted selection of meat, side dish of vegetables, and a bowl of clear broth soup).
Taxi - P30 for the first 2.5km and P2.50 for each succeeding 200m
Jeepney - P7.00 (first 4km; P6.00 for Students/Elderly/Disabled) P1.25/KM after the first 4km.
Elevated Train in Manila - P12-15 (LRT 1 and MRT 2), P10-P15 (MRT-3)
Internet use (1 hour) - P20-P50; depending on the Internet Café
7-Eleven: can of Coke - P16, 1.5 liter Coke - P35, Hotdog - P20, Donut - P16, serving of Spaghetti - P32, serving of Pork Adobo with rice - P35
Buffet in Cebu - P130
Buffet in Davao - P99
Buffet in Manila - P350
International Herald Tribune - P70
Economist Magazine - P160
Filipino cuisine has developed from the different cultures that shaped its history. As such it is a melange of Indian, Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Malay, American, and Spanish influences. Though it is not as renowned as Thai and lately Vietnamese cuisine, Filipino cooking is nonetheless distinct in that it is possibly the least spicy of all South East Asian cuisines. Don't make the mistake to think of Filipino food as bland, though. It is just that instead of spices, Filipino food depends more on garlic, onions and ginger to add flavor to dishes. Painstaking preparation and prolonged cooking time is also a characteristic of most Filipino dishes, and this often is what brings out the flavor of the food as opposed to a healthy dose of spices.
Filipinos usually eat with a spoon and fork, with the spoon held in the right hand and the fork used for pushing food onto the spoon but sometimes, Filipinos eat with their hands, usually on provinces and remote areas or when they are on a picnic and using banana leaves as their plates.
As with the rest of Southeast Asia, rice is the staple food of the Philippines. Some areas in the south 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.
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. 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. Here are a few typical Filipino dishes:
Filipinos love to snack. Merienda is what Filipinos call their mid-morning and mid-afternoon meals. Some favorite snack time meals include:
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.
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.
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. Rhum 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.
Of course non-alcoholic drinks are also widely available in bars and other establishments. Don't miss:
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.
Don't flash around valuables like mp3 players, jewelry, and cellphones because they pose a pickpocketing threat. Pickpockets are really common in the big cities of the Philippines. On the other hand, Manila is one of the safest cities in the Southeast Asian region.
Several regions, notably the southern islands of Mindanao, are known for being "conflict areas," areas with long histories of insurgency from groups such as the New People's Army (NPA, a communist group) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF, a radical Islamic seperatist group). Having a reputable travel guide or a trusted local friend with you when traveling through these areas is highly advisable.
Prostitution is thriving but officially and nationally illegal in the Philippines, although hostess bars, massage parlors and other opportunities abound which offer this service. The age of consent is 18. Penalties for sex with minors are harsh, and offenders may also be prosecuted by their home country.
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, Subic, and Angeles may be ok, 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.
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, Sequijor, and metropolitan Manila. NB: chloroquine is no longer a recommended malaria preventative for anywhere in the Philippines. In general malaria is not common in the Philippines and around half of the c. 40,000 annual cases are in a couple of discrete locations.
Also please note the tubercolosis is very common in the countryside, it is advisable not to stay in certain villages in areas you are not familiar with for a very long time. It is also higly advisable that if one coughs or looks weak in strength it is highly advisable to avoid contact with that person.
Bring anti-diarrheal drugs with you, as unsanitary conditions present a high risk for traveler's diarrhea.
Most of the Philippines is 220 Volt 60 Hz with the older 2-prong plug formerly used in the USA (not polarized or grounded). This is not a common voltage-frequency combination, so nearly everyone will have to pay close attention to what they plug in to an electric outlet. Americans will need a step-down transformer, while Europeans and Australians cannot use electric clocks and heavy-duty 50 Hz motors. Also, they will need a passive plug adaptor intended for USA/Canada. Americans will need one too for any plug where one blade is wider than the other (polarized), or has a third round grounding pin. 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.
Downtown Baguio (northern Luzon) uses 110 V @ 60 Hz like USA, but doesn't go very far beyond the city center. The airport, for example, is 220V. If staying in the Baguio area, always ask first! If your equipment is 110-125V, 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.
Television and Video
Television and video in the Philippines use the NTSC format, which is the same as the USA and Canada. Televisions sets and VCRs made for Japan (though the same video format) will skip certain channels. Region Coded DVDs are Region 3 (SE Asia), though virtually all Tagalog movies are region free. There are three major networks in the Philippines - ABS-CBN, GMA, and TFC(The Filipino Channel).
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 older than you in Filipino, it is greatly appreciated to include "po" in your sentences such as "salamat po". 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.
The country code for the Philippines is 63. The area code for Metro Manila is 2.
GSM cell phones are in wide use all over the country, however iDEN network is also somewhat present (service is provided by Next Mobile, a subsidiary of Nextel) 3G technology is also available through Globe and Smart. In most urban locations and many resorts, cell phone service will be available. The average cost of an international long-distance call to the United States and other major countries is 40 US cents per minute (approximately 20 pesos), with local calls ranging from 6.50 to 7.50 pesos. Text messages cost one peso and the Philippines is usually tagged as the "texting capital of the world".
The three major telecommunications companies are Globe Telecom, PLDT (wireless subsidiary Smart Communications for mobile phones) and Sun Cellular. If you are visiting the Philippines, it is wise to check your mobile carrier to see if they offer international roaming for your plan and if so, which of the three carriers do they partner with and you will need at least a dualband GSM mobile phone.
Pre-paid SIM cards of these networks are easy to acquire and cost as low as P30 (approximately 70 US cents) and provide a cheap alternative to (usually) expensive roaming charges on home networks. If your unit is locked to your home service provider, cellphone repair shops in various malls have ways of unlocking. If you don't have a phone to begin with, a complete pre-paid kit with phone and SIM could be had for as low as 2 to 3 thousand pesos (US$40 to 60). Note that the phones that come with these kits would usually be locked to the local network provider. You would also need to have it unlocked before leaving if you plan on using it back home.
Reloading 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 300 and 500 pesos (approximately US$7 and 12 respectively).
Due to the wide use of cellular 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. Some of these shops offer an alternative to the traditional overseas phone calls by use of their VOIP networks. 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 P200/hour (approximately US$5) but neighbourhood cafes can be as cheap as P15/hour (approximately US$0.35). WiFi service in the Philippines is provided by Airborneaccess.net and WiZ is likely to cost P100 (approximately US$2) for up to an hour. Coffee shops like Starbucks and Seattle's Best as well as malls usually carry WiFi service (check www.airborneaccess.net for the full list). Certain areas may carry free WiFi.
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.