Major islands are Luzon in the north and Mindanao in the south. In between lies the Visayan Island group, while Palawan is the largest island to the west. Metro Manila is the capital and largest city. Population is estimated near 90 million. Highest peak is Mt. Apo at 3,144 meters (10,311 feet) in Mindanao. Main mountain ranges are the Cordilleras and Sierra Madre in Northern Luzon. Twenty-two active volcanoes. Sixteen defined regions. Seventy-nine provinces and 7,107 islands.
Tropical. Hot and humid all year round. Two defined seasons: dry from January to June; wet from July to December. December and January coolest months. March to May hottest months. Mountainous regions such as the Cordillera can be quite cool, especially in January.
Plants and Animals
National flower is the sweet-scented Sampaguita. There are many native orchids. Native animals include the Philippine Eagle, the dwarf buffalo (tamaraw), the tarsier, a miniature primate, the mouse deer and the Palawan Bear Cat. The water buffalo (carabao) is the main domestic animal.
Constitutional Democratic Republic. President elected to a single six-year term. Current president is Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. National government is the sole lawmaker, through an elected Congress and Senate. Provinces are administered by elected governors and board members. Cities, towns, and municipalities under the authority of mayors and councils. Barangay or suburb councils are the grass roots of government.
Largely agrarian. Rice is staple food product. Main export crops are dried coconut (copra), bananas, pineapples, mangoes and tobacco. Main mineral resources are gold, silver, chrome, iron, copper, marble, and nickel. Major industries include textiles, garments, handicrafts, furniture, and electronics.
The Philippines has two official languages, Filipino and English. Filipino or Tagalog, originated a the language of Manila and surrounding areas, but now incorporates elements of other dialects. The vast majority of Filipinos are fluent Tagalog speakers and many also speak their own local dialect. Other major dialects are Cebuano or Visayan, which is also spoken in Northern Mindanao, Waray, Bicolano, Ilocano, Kapampangan, Hiligayon, and Pangasinense.
English was taught extensively during the era of American rule and remains the official language of commerce, government and law. Fluency in English varies according to the degree of education of the individual. Anyone with a high school education can understand and speak English quite adequately.
Spanish was once widely spoken, but is now largely obsolete. Its use is now confined to small areas such as Zamboanga and Cavite.
More than 80% of the population are Roman Catholic and Catholic moral values are the basis of many of the country's laws. Divorce and abortion are both totally banned,while certain forms of artificial contraception are readily available.Television, and to a lesser extent, movies, are censored.
The largest Protestant Church is the Iglesia ni Cristo, while other denomination such as Baptist, Methodists,Mormons, Episcopalians and Jehovah's Witnesses are present in smaller numbers. El Shaddai is an influential,charismatic Catholic movement.
Muslims comprise about 10% of the population and are concentrated mainly in Central and Western Mindanao; as well as, the Sulu Archipelago. There are scattered groups Buddhists, mostly of Chinese descent.
Filipinos are naturally gifted musicians, singers and dancers. Live entertainment areas abound, while the karaoke craze has also swept the nation. The popularity of ballroom dancing is a legacy of Spanish rule. In the major cities, discos and nightclubs are very common.
All arrivals with a valid passport are automatically issued with a 21-day visa, free of charge. Fifty-nine day visas are issued at Philippine Embassies of Consulates in other countries, but must be obtained before entering. Visa extension, up to six months, can be arranged and special applications are needed for further extension. Authorized travel agencies and visa assistance centers can arranged all details.
The main unit of currency is the Philippine Peso, currently fluctuating between P45 to P50 for US$1. The exchange rate tends to remain relatively stable, except when there is a sudden downturn in the Asian economy, as happened in June 1997. Regular visitor often prefer to use licensed money changers to change other currencies into pesos.
Most traveler's checks are accepted by banks. though they must be in near perfect condition. Equitable PCI Bank is the Philippine agent for Visa and MasterCard and cash withdrawals can be made at Equitable PCI ATM's or over the counter presentation of credit card and passport.
Thursday, November 08, 2007