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Quick Facts
Capital Manila
Government Republic
Currency Philippine peso (PHP)
Area total: 300,000 km2
water: 1,830 km2
land: 298,170 km2
Population 89,468,677 (est. 2006)
Language English and Filipino (based on the Tagalog dialect) are the two official languages. There are about 8 major dialects, 76 to 78 major language groups, with more than 500 dialects.
Religion Predominantly Christian 92% (Roman Catholic 83%, Protestant 9%,) Muslim 5%, Buddhist and other 3%.
Electricity 220V/110V
Country code +63
Internet TLD .ph
Time Zone UTC +8

The Republic of the Philippines [1] (Filipino: Republika ng Pilipinas) is an archipelago in South-East Asia consist of 7,100 islands located between the Philippine Sea and the South China Sea, east of Vietnam, and north of Sabah and Borneo.

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.


Map of the Philippines showing the regions and their provinces (click for larger version).

There are 17 regions in the Philippines that is classified into three main island groups namely:

Luzon – the northernmost island groups, center of government, history and economy

Visayas – the central island group, heart of country’s antiquity, nature and biodiversity

Mindanao – the southernmost island group showcase Philippines’ indigenous and rich culture

These regions are divided into a total of 79 provinces or states, which are then subdivided into cities and or towns. These cities are consisting of towns, which are then diverge into barangays or barrios and are then composed of small sitios or streets.

Major Hubs

  • Manila -- National capital. The Metropolitan Manila area includes several cities and municipalities to form one administrative body governed jointly by the local governments and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA).
  • Makati City -- A Central Business District located at The Metro-manila Area, situated at the east of Manila. It is where most of the country's Business hubs are situated. It is also ideal for nightlife and shopping.
  • Cebu -- Also known as the Queen City of the South, Cebu is the first established indigenous settlement discovered by the west in the Philippines. For a short time before the re-dedication of Manila, Cebu City served as the capital of the far eastern territory claimed by Spain
  • Davao -- One of the largest cities in the world in terms of land area. Relatively young when compared with Manila or Cebu, it has grown to become the economic and commercial hub of the southern island of Mindanao. Nearby you'll find the country's tallest mountain (Mount Apo), the endangered Philippine Eagle, and one of priciest orchids in the world, the Waling-waling (Vanda Sanderiana.)


  • Angeles - culinary hotbed, cheap food, nightlife
  • Baguio - the country's summer capital (cool weather), nice parks and views, home of the "Igorot" peoples, vegetable gardens
  • Bacolod - the city of smiles, land of sweettooths
  • Batangas - the Int'l Port in South Luzon, beaches, dive-sites, resorts, heritage sites
  • Cagayan de Oro - the city of golden friendship, whitewater rafting
  • Iloilo - city of mestizos, good food, old churches
  • Legaspi - gateway to Mt. Mayon, rural setting
  • Puerto Princesa - cleanest and greenest city
  • Roxas City - seafood capital, cheap food
  • Subic - freeport zone, adventure and sports
  • Tagaytay - picnic getaway, temperate climate near Manila
  • Vigan - historic spanish town, UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • Zamboanga - little Spain, pink sand beaches

Other destinations

The Mayon volcano, near Bicol
Hawksbill Turtle in Sabang

Tropical beaches and islands

Natural Wonders

  • Chocolate Hills
  • Mayon Volcano
  • La Paz Sand Dunes
  • Rivers and Lakes in the Philippines
  • Sulu Sea
  • Taal Lake and Taal Volcano

Heritage Sites



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 Indonesians and later on by Malayan settlers. The first westerner to set foot on Philippine soil was Ferdinand Magellan in 1521. Magellan was Portuguese but it was a Spanish Expedition which he led to the islands which were then taken by Spain as its colony. The Philippines actually was named for Crown Prince Philip II of Spain.

The Philippines remained a Spanish colony for over 300 years until 1899 when it was ceded by the Spanish to the Americans 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 finally granted independence by the U.S.A albeit they maintained a significant presence in the country through the Subic Naval Base in Olongapo and Clark Air Base in Pampanga. These facilities were ultimately turned over to the Philippines in the late 1990's.

Up until the 1960's, the Philippines was supposedly 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 somehow the country is at least moving in the right direction.


The people of the Philippines, or Filipinos, are descended from a mixture of Austronesians (related to Malays and Polynesians) and of the Southern Han Chinese. Many, particularly in the cities, have Spanish, Chinese, and American admixtures, whereas those living in the provinces are mostly of pure Filipino origin. The three largest foreign minorities in the country are as follows: Chinese (1st), Americans (2nd), and South Asians (3rd). Also of significance are the Australians, Indonesians, Arabs, Koreans, Japanese, and Britons. The pure Spaniards form a very tiny proportion in the country's population, however, Spanish contributions to ethnicity are not lost, since many Filipinos are partly Spanish.

Filipinos are very 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 occassion. 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 hispanicized.


Filipinos are very diverse, not only in features but also in languages. Filipino is one of two official languages (the other being English), based on Tagalog. Most foreigners know the term Tagalog instead of the newer term Filipino. Tagalog has a strong association with the Malay languages (Bahasa Indonesia/Malay). Tagalog contains a mix of Malay and Spanish words, and oftentimes includes words and phrases rooted in English and Chinese. Based on the 1990 and 2000 United States census, Tagalog is the second most commonly-spoken Asian language (after Chinese) in the United States, and the sixth non-English language spoken in the country. Spanish, formerly an official language, has declined. However, some estimated 4 million Filipinos (roughly 4.5 percent of the population) still speak Spanish. In Manila, about 10 percent of the city's population continue to use Spanish as a second, third or fourth language.


The Philippines is by far the largest Christian country in Asia. The Catholic Faith remains to be 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. 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. But make no mistake, to the Filipinos, their faith is still a vital part of their lives.


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. However, 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.


Being a Catholic country means observing the traditional Catholic holidays of Maunday 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 population in the South, the end of the period of Ramadan is also observed as a national holiday. 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 Saint's 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.

Get in

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

Many tourists also get caught out on the dress code .....No sandals or shorts! So, dress well!

By plane

Since the Philippines is an archipelago, most visitors will arrive by plane. International travelers can fly into airports in Manila, Cebu or Davao.

If you plan to travel around the various islands it is best to get an open jaw ticket. This can save much time 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. Terminal 1 is used by all the other airlines. Terminal 3, as of the writing of this article, is not yet open to the public.

Major airlines that fly to Manila include KLM and Lufthansa, which has 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).

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, Pampanga is where budget airlines like Air Asia (from KL) and Tiger Airways (from Singapore) fly to. Clark is located to the north of Metro Manila, about 1 to 2 hours by bus.

The Mactan-Cebu International Airport in Cebu on the island of Visayas receives international traffic from Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan and Korea.

The Francisco Bangoy International Airport in Davao City on the island of Mindanao receives direct flights from Singapore, Manado(Indonesia), and Palau (Micronesia).

Get around

By plane

Philippine Airlines and Air Philippines, Cebu Pacific, Seair, and Asian Spirit are some of the airlines that operate domestic flights. Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific serve most large cities, while smaller operators like Seair typically fly to popular resort destinations.

By train

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.

By car

The Strong Republic Nautical Highway has actually made travel by car across the various islands possible albeit quite impractical for tourists due to long travel times required and the relatively cheap price of airfares 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.

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

By taxi

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

By bus

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.

  • Major Provincial Bus Companies:
    • Alps Bus Co -- Southern Tagalog Region
    • JAM Bus Co -- Southern Tagalog Region
    • Five Star -- Ilocos Region
    • Victory Liner -- Ilocos Region and Zambales
    • Partas -- Ilocos Region
    • Farinas -- Ilocos Region
    • Dagupan Bus Co. -- Ilocos Region
    • Philtranco -- Bicol, Eastern Visayas, Northern, Eastern, and Southern Mindanao

Roll-on, Roll-off ferries have also made inter-island travel by bus possible.

By boat

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

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 more safe than air travel, and could easily be more dangerous.

By jeep

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 lengthning the body and adding horizontal seats) to seat as many as 20 people (10 per side). In the provinces, Jeepneys also connect towns and cities together. For longer distances however, buses are more comfortable.

Also worthy of mention are the tricycle and the pedicab (three wheeled bike), however this may not be to the liking of most foreigners, as these are cramped and quite open to the 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 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 language. 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.

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 though mostly in corrupted form. (Some local languages such as Chavacano is entirely a corrupted form of Spanish.) Spanish is no longer widely understood but you can probably get around town with a little bit of Spanish, since about 45% of all the words used in everyday speech are of Spanish provenance. Nonetheless, Spanish is still spoken fluently by a select population.


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:

  • Sinulog - held in Cebu in January to commemorate the feast of the Sto. Nino
  • Panagbenga - the flower festival held in Baguio every February
  • Ati-Atihan - also held to commemorate the feast of the Sto. Nino, but this time in Kalibo on the island of Panay. Said to be the Filipino version of Mardi Gras.
  • Moriones - held during the Lenten Season in Marinduque. These are passion plays meant to depict the crucifixion and eventual resurrection of Jesus Christ.
  • Pahiyas - held every May in Lucban, Quezon to celebrate the feast day of San Isidro Labrador. There is a town-wide house decorating contest held during the festival. The colors and designs used are a feast for the eyes.
  • Kadayawan - held in Davao every August, Kadayawan means a Thanksgiving celebration for the good harvest, were most flowers and fruits are available during the season.


Phuka Beach on Boracay

Beaches can be found aplenty on this nation of 7,100 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:

  • Boracay - Boracay Island off the island of Panay has the White Beach. It has fine, powdery sand stretching on for several kilometers and is an excellent spot for sun-worshippers. Boracay also has several other lesser-known beaches. Outrigger boats to Boracay depart from Caticlan Port, just a short flight from Manila.
  • Mactan Island - in Cebu, the Cebu airport is actually on Mactan Island
  • Pagudpud - in Ilocos Norte, several hours north of Metro Manila
  • Panglao - small island off the island of Bohol, a short ride from the capital of Tagbilaran, which in turn is a short fast ferry ride from Cebu City. From Panglao, you can easily schedule an excursion to the Chocolate Hills for which Bohol is most known.
  • Puerto Galera - on the island of Mindoro. Ferries to Puerto Galera depart from Batangas Port, a couple of hours drive south of Metro Manila
  • Samal Island - off the coast of Davao


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 Carribean or even in nearby Thailand and Malaysia.


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 49.80 pesos (12 Oct 2006).

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 consortiums are BancNet, MegaLink and Expressnet. International networks, like PLUS and Cirrus, are accessble with many ATMs, but Cirrus is more predominant that PLUS.

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 £400 (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

Flight from Manila to Singapore - US$115

Flight from Manila to Cebu - US$50

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 (first 2.5km) P5 Php

Jeepney - P7.50 (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 Spanish, Chinese, Malay and American 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; 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.


As with the rest of South East 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. Rice comes in 50kg sacks.


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 occassions 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:

  • Adobo - chicken, pork or both served in a garlicky stew with vinegar and soy sauce as a base.
  • Sinigang - soup soured usually with tamarind (but can also be by guavas or kamias), can be served with pork, beef, chicken, fish or shrimps.
  • Lengua - roasted beef tongue marinated in savory sauce
  • Nilaga - literally means "boiled", can be beef which in certain places is served with its marrow (bulalo), pork or chicken.
  • Calamares - fried shrimp/squid wrapped in breadings.
  • Kare-kare - peanuty stew of vegetables and meat simmered for hours on end, usually beef with tripe and tail and eaten with a side of shrimp paste (bagoong). There is also a seafood version of kare-kare with crabs, squid and shrimp instead of beef.
  • Camaron Rebusado - the Filipino version of tempura.
  • Lechon de leche - slow-roasted baby pork, usually served during larger occassions. The crispy skin is delicious and is often the first part that is consumed.
  • Daing na bangus - fried dried milkfish, usually served for breakfast with garlic fried rice and fried egg.
  • Pakbet - a traditional meal of mixed vegetables usually containing cut tomatoes, minced pork, lady finger, eggplant, etc.
  • Dinuguan - a dark stew of pig's blood mixed with its innards. Usually served with a big green chili and best eaten with puto.
  • Bopis - pork innards, usually served spicy.


Filipinos love to snack. Merienda is what Filipinos call their mid-morning and mid-afternoon meals. Some favorite snack time meals include:

  • Bibingka - rice cake with cheese and salted egg.
  • Halo-halo - literally "mix-mix", fruit, sweets, crushed ice, milk, beans, and sometimes ice cream. Similar to the ice kachang served in Malaysia and Singapore.
  • Balut - is a fertilized duck egg with a nearly-developed embryo inside that is boiled and eaten in the shell. Popularly believed to be an aphrodisiac and considered a high-protein, hearty snack, baluts are mostly sold by street vendors at night in the regions where they are available. Boiled and usually eaten with a sprinkle of salt and vinegar.
  • Penoy - same as balut, but unfertilized, with just the yolk.
  • Buko pie - pie made with fresh coconut flesh.
  • Pandesal - small buns usually made fresh in the morning, usually an alternative to rice for breakfast.
  • Banana cue - a popular street food made of saba bananas fried in very hot oil with caramelized sugar coating. The saba bananas can also be boiled instead of fried.
  • Fishballs - more popularly known to Filipinos as "fishballan" they usually come in vendor stands and are sold deep-fried along with squidballs, chickenballs and kikiam. Some stands also sell "isaw" (chicken innard), siomai (steamed dumpling), "kwekkwek" (boiled quail egg in orange coating), and "betamax" (dried and cubed pig's blood). A stick may sell from P5 to P10. Isaw sticks usually sell for P2.
  • Puto - a general term for rice cake, they usually come as soft white rice muffins or pie-shaped desserts. Other kinds include Biko, Cuchinta, Pichi-Pichi, Sapin-Sapin, etc.
  • Chicharon - crunchy snacks made from deep-fried pig parts.

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.

  • Green, ripe, and dried mangoes - Philippine mangoes are among the best in the world!
  • Durian - smells like hell but supposedly tastes of heaven, most common in Davao but can usually also be bought in some supermarkets in Manila.
  • Sampaloc candy - salted and sweetened tamarind fruit
  • Mais con Hielo - corn mixed with crushed ice and milk
  • Leche Flan - jelly made from butter, milk and honey
  • Halo Halo - literal, "mix-mix", a mixture of different fruit slices and jellies in milk and crushed ice.

McDonald's, Dairy Queen, Burger King, Wendy's, KFC, Shakey's, Pizza Hut, Kenny Roger's Roasters, Sbarro's, Starbucks, Seattle's Best, and other multinational fast food chains have established themselves in the Philippines.


Sunset during Happy Hour on Boracay

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:

  • Calamansi juice (a fruit drink made from a small, round, green citrus fruit)
  • Fresh Buko juice (young coconut)
  • Sago at Gulaman (a sweet drink with tapioca pearls and seaweed gelatin)
  • Green mango shake
  • Taho (a sweet, warm soya snack usually served in the morning, with tapioca balls, soft tofu and caramelized syrup)


Housing for tourists are hotels, condotels (mostly in Manila), apartels and pension houses. Hotels are usually more expensive, condotels are furnished condos rented out for long or short term stays, apartels 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 are for illicit sex, and are usually a small room with a connected carport, hidden behind a high wall which provides for secret comings and goings. You can distinguish these from reputable lodgings by their hourly rates.

Stay safe

Always check for travel advisories and obtain advice from both your embassy (if you are a visiting tourist) and from local sources as well. If you are visiting, plan your trip ahead, and check for the safety of the areas you wish to visit in advance.

Common sense will usually prevent most petty crimes in any place in the world, and the Philippines is no exception to this. While foreigners do tend to stand out in crowds, they are not an uncommon sight in major cities and urban areas, nor in well-known tourist areas. As such, if traveling as a tourist, it is always best to keep in groups. Avoid traveling in the late evening if you are unfamiliar with the area. Having a reputable travel guide or a trusted local friend with you when traveling through these areas is highly advisable.

Several regions 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). Again, having a reputable travel guide or a trusted local friend with you when traveling through these areas is highly advisable.

See also common scams and pickpockets.


Prostitution is notionally illegal in the Philippines, although hostess bars and massage parlors abound. The age of consent is 18. Penalties for sex with minors are harsh, and pedophiles may also be prosecuted by their home country.

Stay healthy

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, Olongapo-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 discreet 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 is looks weak in strength it is highly advisable to avoid contact to that person.

Electricity and Electronics

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.

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 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.

See also: Travel topics -- Electrical systems


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". 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 need not remove them.

Filipinos are known for not being on time and it is acceptable to come to gatherings a little bit late. However, being off by more than 30 minutes might be considered disrespectful.


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 Smart and Globe. 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, 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 PLDT (wireless subsidiary Smart Communications for mobile phones), Globe Telecom, 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 P 150 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 (40 to 60 US$). 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. You can load as little as a few pesos but if you mean to call overseas would obviously need to load a lot more.

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 cafes 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.

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.

This country guide is usable. It has links to this country's major cities and other destinations (and all are at usable status or better), a valid regional structure and information about this country's currency, language, cuisine, and culture is included. At least the most prominent attraction is identified with directions. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!