Philippine Islands

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  The Philippine Islands

Quick Facts


  Weather Patterns


  Population Growth

Filipino History






Filipino Characteristics

common traits

  Family Ties
  Utang na Loob
  Amor Propio





Filipino Facts

The Philippines is an archipelago surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, the Celebes Sea, and the South China Sea.  It is a republic with an illustrious history.  It has been an active trading center since pre-colonial times, a site of decisive battles and political revolutions, and, for centuries, a cultural meeting ground of East and West.

The Philippines is known not only for the beauty of its natural environment but also for the warmth and charm of its people.  It has been praised in lofty ways, but perhaps not in as exalted a manner as by Filipinos themselves.  “Pearl of the Orient Seas” was the title given by Dr. Jose Rizal, the national hero, to his homeland.

Quick Filipino Facts

Official Name:

Republic of the Philippines

Official Languages:

Filipino and English

Total Area:

300,000 sq. km. (116,610 sq. mi.)


Highest: Mount Apo at 3,144 meters (or 10,218 feet)


76,058,573 (estimated 2001)


54% rural, 46% urban

Main Products:

Agriculture: banana, cassava, coconut, corn, pineapple, rice, sugarcane, sweet potato, swine, and poultry.

Forestry: ebony, kapok, Philippine mahogany

Marine: milkfish, shrimp, sponges, tuna, mother-of-pearl

Mining: chromite, copper, gold, nickel

Manufacturing: cement, chemicals, garments, electronic equipment, foods and beverages, petroleum products, textiles and wood products

Basic Monetary Unit:


Weights & Measures:

Metric System

Largest Cities:

Manila, Quezon City, Davao, Cebu and Zamboanga


Roman Catholic  83%, Protestant  9%, Muslim  5%, Buddhist  3%, and others

Major Dialects:

Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilocano, Pampango, Ilonggo

National Flag:

A field of two horizontal bands, blue on top and red at the bottom.  During war, the colors are reversed.  They are joined at the staff side by a white triangle, in the middle of which is an eight-rayed sun that represents liberty.  In each corner of the triangle is a yellow star, which stands for the major island groups of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

Click here to see more information about the Philippines!

"Fun Filipino Facts"



The Philippine archipelago lies off the southeastern coast of the Asia mainland.  It consists of 7,107 islands and islets, making it one of the largest archipelagos in the world.  The islands are grouped into three sections: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.  There are eleven main islands: Luzon, Mindanao, Samar, Negros, Palawan, Panay, Mindoro, Leyte, Cebu, Bohol and Masbate.





Click for larger view.

 For administrative purposes, the country is divided into 15 regions (listed below).  The regions are further divided into provinces, the provinces into cities and municipalities, and these into barangays (the smallest political unit).


I – Ilocos

II – Cagayan Valley

III – Central Luzon

IV – Southern Tagolog

V – Bicol

VI – Western Visayas

VII – Central Visayas

VIII – Eastern Visayas

IX – Western Mindanao

X – Northern Mindanao

XI – Southern Mindanao

XII – Central Mindanao

National Capital Region (NCR)

Cordillera Administrative Region

Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao


The Philippines has a varied topography.  It has a coastline of 18,411 kilometers.  Many islands have extensive coral reefs that attract tourists from everywhere.  The larger islands have rugged, mountainous interiors, mostly ranges running north to south.  Its four major lowland areas – central plain of Luzon, Cagayan valley, Agusan and Cotabato river valley – contrast sharply with the high mountain areas of Central and Eastern Cordillera and Zambales.  Three major mountain ranges traverse the country to form natural barriers: the Sierra Madre, the Cordillera, and Caraballo ranges.  There are about 221 volcanoes, 21 of which are active.

 The Philippines lies on the volatile Pacific “Ring of Fire,” and most of the highest mountains are volcanic in origin.  It had its share of natural disasters in recent years, but two major eruptions Mt. Pinatubo and Mayon Volcano caught the attention of sightseers.  Mt. Pinatubo in the central plain of Northern Luzon erupted on June 12, 1991, after 600 years of silence, rendering almost 50,000 people homeless.  The great rivers of volcanic lava devastated the once fertile central plains of Luzon.  Mayon Volcano, called “the perfect cone,” almost lost its mystique when it erupted on February 2, 1993, spewing volcanic debris several miles into the air and destroying fertile farmlands around the city of Legaspi.

 The Philippines is no stranger to earthquakes.  The worst earthquake in the recent past occurred in 1990.  With an intensity of 7.7 on the Richter scale, it damaged thousands of buildings and resulted in widespread casualties.  Fortunately, the damaged areas of Baguio, Cabanatuan and Pangasinan have recovered.  Manila had minimal damage, making it the refuge of those who were left homeless by the earthquake.



The Philippines is located just above the equator on the upper torrid zone of the globe.  Thus, the country experiences an average temperature ranging from 24˚ Celsius (about 75˚ Fahrenheit) to 31˚ Celsius (about 88˚ Fahrenheit) and humidity varies from 70% to 85% depending on the time of year.  The warm and humid climate all year round accounts for one of the healthiest tropical climates.  There are two distinct seasons: wet and dry.  The time of year for each season depends upon the local climate in each region.  In Baguio, the “summer capital” of the Philippines, temperature averages 18.3˚ Celsius (or 65˚ Fahrenheit).  Nights all over the country are decidedly cold in the months of December and January.

 The different parts of the country experience varied weather conditions because of the general air streams that cross the islands: the northeast monsoon that moves from north to east from October to January; the trade winds that come from the tropical high-pressure area of the Pacific from February to April; the southwest monsoon that originates from the tropical high-pressure area below the equator from May to September.

 Typhoons may occur anytime of the year, but their peak of occurrence coincides with the rainy season.  The number, path, and strength of typhoons differ each year.  They are measured by signals according to strength and length.  An average of 25 typhoons comes each year to different regions of the country.



The Philippine population in 1990 was 61.5 million.  In the year 2000, it soared to 76.5 million and is expected to grow further.

 As the country moves toward industrialization, the urban population has increased.  Many people from the rural areas are transferring to urban areas where the standard of living is perceived to be higher and there are more opportunities for employment.  Of the total Philippine population, 65% belong to the working age group (between 15 and 64 years old).

Aware of the adverse effects of high population growth on all aspects of the economy, the government continues to advocate a population policy that encourages the attainment of a small family size.  These population programs are complemented by schemes to promote the health and welfare of women, improve the environmental sanitation, and provide more employment opportunities.



Filipino History

Brief History

The first people to live in the Philippine Islands are thought to have migrated from various regions of Asia, including negroid Aetas and Mongloid people from Southeast Asia.  Larger groups of people from the regions of present-day China and Vietnam arrived later.  The largest migrations to the islands, however, probably occurred after the 3rd century BC.  The latest arrivals were people from the Malay and Indonesian archipelagos and the Polynesian islands.  These migrants brought iron tools and technologies that included glassmaking and weaving as well as seafaring skills.  (Click here for more information)


Timeline of Philippine History

Follow this link to see important events in Filipino history!


This Month in Philippine History

Follow this link to see important events in Filipino history!



Filipino Characteristics

Common Traits

There is no doubt that the Filipino spirit is alive and strong.  The Filipino's identity is evident in the traits, traditions, passions, and attitudes of a people with a diverse and unique culture.

Filipinos are generally known for their hospitality.  Although they are not the only people in the world who can be friendly, warm, and welcoming, their attitude toward other people is said to be unique.  The foreigner will experience being "at home" almost anywhere in the Philippines.  If he happens to drop by a Filipino home, the family will normally offer him something to eat.  The host will not complain that he's being disturbed and will not boast that he has offered the best that is available under the circumstances.

Another important Filipino Trait is close family ties.  In a conventional Filipino family, the father is the head and the mother is the "light," the teacher and manager of the household.  Due to the closeness that this unit maintains, the grandparents live with the family for as long as they like.  More than that, the Filipino values the relationship of their relatives, even down to their third cousins.

Another major trait incomparable to other races is respect for elders.  In the Filipino setting, the parents are accorded the highest respect in the family.  Hence, it is a moral rule for children to talk and behave respectfully.  The constant use of the words po and opo is a sign of respect for the elderly.  Even parents are obliged to use these words when talking to their elders.

If you want a Filipino friend, it would not be hard for you to gain loyalty, which is another strong trait among the people.  The term utang na loob implies a strong sense of gratitude and loyalty to a person who did a good thing for someone.  Filipinos treasure their friendships under any circumstances.  The Filipino's trust becomes evident when he shares with you both his joys and sorrows.  A Filipino friend is someone you can lean on.

Another trait of the Filipino is pakikisama, which can be roughly translated as comradeship or being cooperative.  It has many manifestations in Philippine society, one of which is extending support or offering help to neighbors who are in need.  Pakikisama reflects the bayanihan spirit, which involves cooperation among fellow men to come up with a certain idea or accomplish a certain task.  While bayanihan refers to a community-support deed, pakikisama has a more individualized sense.

Filipinos too are known for being sensitive to insults, criticisms (constructive and destructive), racial discrimination, and other small issues cropping on occasion.  Amor propio, or pride, connects the traits pakikisama, hiya (or shame), and utang na loob (or debt of honor).  All of these affect his amor propio.  If you have helped him in a way that cannot be repaid materially, he will constantly thank you for the favor done.  The pride to return the good deeds he received nurtures his amor propio, which sometimes leads to showing off especially in the presence of peers and subordinates.  His amor propio propels him to be overly of sensitive.


The Filipino Compared to the Bamboo

There is a popular saying, "The Filipino is as pliant as a bamboo."  The bamboo is a tree found in tropical and subtropical regions.  It is known for its flexibility and versatility.  It can be used in making furniture, kitchen utensils, and other items for practical use.  There is even a organ made from bamboo at the Las Piňas church, the only one of its kind in the world.

The properties of bamboo, according to Tomas Andres in Positive Filipino Values (1989), are "low modules of elasticity, poor bond with concrete, tendency to absorb moisture, high absorption strain, and variations in mechanical properties."  The bamboo is generally considered pliant, and symbolically it has been compared to the Filipino character.  Why so?

The Filipino character is similar to the bamboo because it has flexibility, endurance, and harmony with nature.  It bends with the wind, but can survive a storm.  Just like the bamboo, the Filipino nation goes along with the forces of nature and politics.  It copes with "fate" rather than fights against it.  The Filipino mind is pliant in the sense that it is open to new ideas.  Although the Filipino is trusting, he is also capable of standing up for his own beliefs.  He will not tolerate betrayal and oppression.  Filipinos in general are protective of their hard-won independence, and they will fight for their freedom at all costs.



Majority of Filipinos—about 83% of the national population—are Roman Catholics.  The religion was introduced to the natives by the Spanish colonizers in the 16th century.  About 95% of the people are considered Christians, more than in any Asian country.  Thus, the Philippines is considered the only Christian country in Asia.

The Philippine Constitution guarantees freedom of worship.  Every Filipino can choose which organized religion to join.  Protestants, Muslims (especially in the South), and members of other minor religions can openly practice their faith.



The Philippines has two official languages, Filipino and English.  Filipino is based primarily on the Tagalog language.  Most Filipinos are either bilingual or trilingual.  About 70 native languages are spoken all over the archipelago.


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Last modified: September 15, 2006