The Philippines (Tagalog: Republika ng Pilipinas) is an island country located in Southeast Asia, on the Pacific Ocean. Its capital is Manila and its most populous city is Quezon City. To the north it is separated from the island of Taiwan by the Luzon Strait; to the west is the South China Sea, also known as the West Philippines Sea and Vietnam; to the southwest, the island of Borneo; to the south, the Celebes Sea separates it from other Indonesian islands, and to the east it borders the Philippine Sea.

Its location in the Pacific Ring of Fire and tropical climate make it prone to earthquakes and typhoons. The country is rich in natural resources and is located in one of the most biodiverse areas in the world. It consists of 7641 islands that are geographically classified into three groups: the island of Luzon, the Visayas group and the island of Mindanao.

Republic of the Philippines
Republika ng Pilipinas (Tagalog)
Coat of arms of the Philippines
Coat of Arms of the Philippines
Motto: Maka-Diyos, Maka-Tao, Makakalikasan at Makabansa
(Filipino: “For God, Man, Nature and Country”)
Anthem: Lupang Hinirang
(Tagalog: “Golden Land”)
The position of the Philippines on the earth globe
The position of the Philippines on the Earth globe
Capital Manila
14°35’45″N 120°58’38″E
Most populous city Quezon City
14°38’00″N 121°02’00″E
Official languages
  • 2 nationals
    • Filipino
    • English
  • 8 regionals
    • Bikol
    • Cebuano
    • Hiligaynon
    • Ilocano
    • Kapampangan
    • Pangasinan
    • Tagalog
    • Waray
  • 2 optionals
    • Spanish
    • Arab
Demonym Filipino, Filipina
Form of government Presidential republic
•President Bongbong Mark
•Vice president Sara Duterte
Legislative body Congress of the Philippines
Independence of Spain (1898)
First Republic 1899-1901
U.S. occupation 1901-1935
Commonwealth of the Philippines 1935-1942 / 1945-1946
Japanese occupation 1942-1945
Independence of the United States (1946)
Surface Approximately 299,834 km2 (73rd place)
Water (%) 0.6
Borders 0 km
Waterfront 36 289 km
Highest point Mount Apo
Total population (2023) 116 434 200 hab. (13th place)
Density (est.) 363 hab./km²
GDP (PPP) 29th place
• Total (2021) USD 1 000 617 million
•Per capita USD 9,061
GDP (nominal) 34th place
• Total (2021) USD 402 638 million
•Per capita $3,646
HDI (2021) 0.699 (116th) – Medium
Gini coefficient 42.3 medium (2018)
Currency Philippine peso (₱, PHP)
Time zone PST (UTC+8:00)
• In summer Not applicable.
ISO Code 608 / PHL / PH
Internet domain .ph
Phone code +63
Radio prefix DUA-DZZ / 4DA-4IZ
Country acronym for aircraft RPC
Country acronym for automobiles RP

In the Philippines, more than 170 languages are spoken, but only these two have officiality. For more information, see the “languages” section.

Filipino revolutionaries declared their independence from Spain on June 12, 1898, but sovereignty passed from Spain to the United States in the Treaty of Paris.

The Philippines has an estimated population of 109 million according to the 2020 census; In addition, it is the 12th most populous country in the world without taking into account the 12 million Filipinos living abroad. Several ethnic groups and cultures coexist throughout its islands. Listed as a newly industrialized country, its economy continues the steady growth it began since its independence. The economic reforms implemented at the beginning of the twenty-first century managed to displace the services sector as the main economic activity, and now it contributes more than half of the GDP. However, it still faces several challenges in infrastructure: lack of development in the tourism sector, education, health care and human development.

In prehistoric times, the Negritos were some of the first inhabitants of the archipelago, followed by successive waves of Austronesian peoples who brought with them traditions and customs from Malaysia, India, and the Islamic world, while trade introduced some Chinese cultural aspects. These established the first island kingdoms ruled by Datus, Rajas or Sultans.

In 1521, the arrival of explorer Ferdinand Magellan—a Portuguese in the service of Spain—ushered in an era of Spanish influence and subsequent rule. Miguel López de Legazpi established the first Spanish settlement in the Philippines in 1565, with the founding of Cebu. In 1571 he founded the city of Manila, which would become the administrative and economic center of the Spanish Empire in Asia and the port of departure for the Manila galleon bound for Acapulco. The Philippines was ruled by the Viceroyalty of New Spain centered in Mexico before direct rule was decreed after Mexico’s independence. Three centuries of Spanish influence gave rise to a Spanish-Asian culture, evident in the art, music, gastronomy and customs of the Philippines, especially its Catholic religion. A Filipino variant of the Spanish language also emerged, flourishing in the second half of the nineteenth and first twentieth centuries.

In the late nineteenth century the Philippine Revolution broke out, supported by the United States, and later the Spanish-American War that led to the cession of the islands by Spain to the United States in 1898. Disagreements between the new Philippine Republic and the United States led to the Philippine-American War that ended with the American victory in 1903. In this way, the United States replaced Spain as the dominant power. Except for the period of Japanese occupation, the Americans retained sovereignty over the islands until the end of World War II in 1946. Since independence, the country went through several political crises that served to define the characteristics of a constitutional republic.

The legacy of the different historical periods is reflected in the current culture of the country, which is a combination of the pre-Hispanic indigenous with Chinese elements and Hispanic culture, due to three centuries of Spanish presence. This mestizo culture is present in Filipino cuisine, music, dances and art. The Hispanic character is most evident in its Catholic religion, in its architectural legacy, especially the churches and colonial-style houses, in many place names of the country and in names and surnames. Finally, America’s heritage endures in the English language and in a greater affinity with popular culture.


Before acquiring its current name, other names were used to refer to the country as “Islas del Poniente” and “San Lázaro”, both granted by Ferdinand Magellan. The word “Philippines” derives from the name of King Philip II of Spain. During an expedition in 1542, the Spanish explorer Ruy López de Villalobos named the islands of Leyte and Samar “Felipinas” in honor of the then Prince of Asturias.

Finally, the name was changed and the name “The Philippine Islands” came to refer to all the islands of the archipelago. The official name of the Philippines has changed several times over the course of its history. During the Philippine Revolution, the Congress of Malolos proclaimed the establishment of the “Philippine Republic”. With American colonization and the introduction of the English language, the country’s official name was translated into the new predominant language, the Republic of the Philippines. Thus, since its independence, the official name has been the “Republic of the Philippines”, without prefixing the “the” that results from the literal translation of the name.

History of the Philippines

Prehistory and pre-Hispanic times

A page from the Codex Boxer
A page from the Codex Boxer. On the left, a general of the Rajanato of Butuan and on the right, a princess of the Kingdom of Tondo.

Until recently, the oldest human remains found in the Philippine archipelago were thought to be Tabon man, aged 22,000 to 24,000 years, but were replaced by the metatarsus of Callao Man, which according to the uranium-thorium method is 67,000 years old. The Negritos were among the first inhabitants of the islands, but the date of their appearance is still unknown. During the year 13,000 BC, the Austroasiatic settlement occurred, when they roamed the pre-sunken landmass of Shondaland, of which the Philippines is a post-Flood island remnant, as detected in the genes of the Manobo and Sama peoples.

Simultaneously with this, it was the westward expansion of the Papuan race as detected in the genetics of Blaan and Sangil. Around 3000 BC. After the polar ice caps melted, Austronesian sailors, who form the majority of today’s population, migrated south from Taiwan. Around 1 AD. Until pre-colonial times there was also limited immigration from South Asia, as found in the DNA of the Dilaut ethnic group. By 1000 BC, the inhabitants of the archipelago had been organized into four types of social groups: hunter-gatherer tribes, warrior societies, small plutocracies and principalities centered in seaports.

Over the course of the following centuries, trade with maritime peoples and other Asian countries brought with it the influence of Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism. During this time there was no unifying political state encompassing the entire Philippine archipelago. Instead, the islands were divided between several thalassocracies that often fought each other, ruled by various datus, rajahs or sultans. Among them were the kingdoms of Manila, Namayan and Tondo; politias of Cainta, Ma-i, Sandao, and Pulilu; kedatuans of Dapitan and Madja-as; rajanatos from Cebu, Butuan, and Sanmalan; and the sultanates of Lanao, Maguindanao, and Sulu.

Some of these societies were part of the Malay empires of Srivijaya, Madjapahit and Brunei. Islam came to the Philippines through merchants and some proselytizers from Malaysia and Indonesia. Thus, in the fifteenth century, Islam was established in the Sulu archipelago, and it is known that in 1656 it had already reached Mindanao, Luzon and the Visayas. The Philippine kingdoms were divided and sparsely populated. This was due to constant wars between kingdoms and the common frequency of natural disasters. Some Filipinos (Luzones) traded, settled and fought in South, Southeast and East Asia.

Spanish domination

Fort Santiago in Manila, built to defend the city from external attacks
Fort Santiago in Manila, built to defend the city from external attacks.

In 1521, Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan arrived in the Philippines and took possession of the islands for Spain. The conquest began in 1565 when Spanish explorer Miguel López de Legazpi arrived from New Spain and founded the first Spanish settlement in present-day Cebu. In 1571, after dealing with the native royal families during the Tondo conspiracy and defeating the crew of the Chinese pirate Limahong, the Spanish established in Manila, the capital of the Philippines and the Spanish East Indies.

Spanish rule meant the political unity of the archipelago for the first time in its history. From 1565 to 1821 the Captaincy General of the Philippines depended on the Viceroyalty of New Spain based in Mexico City and after the Mexican War of Independence, it was administered directly from Madrid.

From this same Captaincy, Spain controlled other of its territories in the Pacific, including Guam, Palau, the Caroline Islands and the Mariana Islands. Between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Manila galleon connected the capital of the Philippines with Acapulco, Mexico; making one or two trips a year in both directions.

Due to constant wars that produced meager profits, the Philippines was subsidized by silver extracted from Potosí in Bolivia and Peru. Transpacific trade introduced foods such as corn, tomatoes, potatoes, chili and pineapple, all from America, into the archipelago. Catholic missionaries converted most of the inhabitants to Christianity and founded schools, universities, and hospitals. The Spanish also brought to the Philippines the plough, the printing press, the clock and the stone construction. A Spanish decree of 1863 established free public education in the country for the first time, resulting in high literacy rates.

1829 quarter coin, issued in Manila
Quarter coin of 1829, issued in Manila. It shows the coat of arms of Spain.

During the period of Spanish rule, the Spanish forces and the loyal Indians fought against several internal rebellions and multiple external attacks by Chinese, Dutch and Portuguese pirates: especially noteworthy are the Battles of Cagayan (1582), which pitted the famous Spanish Tercios against pirates and Japanese ronins. In an extension of the fighting of the Seven Years’ War, British forces briefly occupied the city of Manila after a fierce battle.

British forces found allies such as Diego and Gabriela Silang, who seized the opportunity to lead a revolt, until Spanish rule was finally restored following the Treaty of Paris of 1763. During the occupation, the British took the opportunity to subtract valuable Pacific navigation charts from the Manila archives.

The Spanish who once waged war against Muslims in the homeland, known as the Reconquista, divided pagan and Muslim Filipinos among themselves. The Spanish extended the war against Islam in Europe in the Reconquista, to Islam found in the Philippines. The Spanish-Moorish conflict lasted several hundred years. In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, Spain conquered portions of Mindanao and the Moorish Muslims in the Sultanate of Sulu, formally recognizing Spanish sovereignty.

José Rizal, Marcelo del Pilar and Mariano Ponce, leaders of the Propaganda Movement
José Rizal, Marcelo del Pilar and Mariano Ponce, leaders of the Propaganda Movement.

In the nineteenth century, Philippine ports were opened to world trade and changes occurred in Philippine society. At the beginning of the century, the influence of the South American independence movements began to be felt. On February 1, 1818, Hipólito Bouchard, a privateer of the United Provinces of South America, arrived aboard the frigate La Argentina. For two months he kept Manila Bay blocked, also closing the San Bernardino Strait.

In this period, several Spaniards born in the Philippines (Creoles) and those of mixed ancestry (mestizos) became rich. The influx of Spanish and Hispanic American settlers diminished the power of the Church and opened up some positions in government, traditionally occupied by Spaniards born in the Iberian peninsula (peninsulares). Inspired by the Latin American wars of independence, there was an uprising by the short-lived Emperor Andrés Novales, supported by degraded Latin American officers from the Spanish-speaking Philippine army, who had opposed the inequality imposed by the Spaniards.

The ideals of the revolution also began to spread across the islands. Creole dissatisfaction resulted in the revolt of Cavite El Viejo in 1872, one of the precursors of the Philippine Revolution.

Philippine Revolution, First Philippine Republic and American domination

Revolutionary sentiments intensified in 1872 when three priests, Mariano Gómez, José Burgos and Jacinto Zamora—known as Gomburza—were accused of sedition and executed by the imperial authorities. This inspired a propaganda movement in Spain organized by Marcelo H. del Pilar, José Rizal, and Mariano Ponce, who pressured the government to introduce political reforms in the Philippines. Rizal was finally arrested and, accused of rebellion, executed on December 30, 1896.

As attempts to achieve these reforms met with great resistance, in 1892, Andrés Bonifacio founded a secret society called Katipunan, related to groups of Freemasons seeking independence from Spanish rule through an armed revolt. Boniface and Katipunan started the Philippine Revolution in 1896. A faction of the Katipunan, the Magdalo of Cavite province, came to challenge Boniface’s position as leader of the revolution and Emilio Aguinaldo relieved him.

April 24, 1942 edition of The Tribune, announcing the Japanese invasion of the Philippines
April 24, 1942 edition of The Tribune announcing the Japanese invasion of the Philippines

In 1898, the Spanish-American War began in Cuba and subsequently spread to the Philippine archipelago already submerged in a revolt. On June 12, 1898, Aguinaldo declared Philippine independence from Spain at Kawit, Cavite, and the following year the First Philippine Republic was established. For its part, when Spain lost the war it signed the Treaty of Paris in 1898, in which it ceded the dominion of the islands to the United States for 20 million dollars. As it became increasingly apparent that the United States would not recognize the First Philippine Republic, the Philippine-American War broke out.

The war ended in 1902 with a U.S. victory and between 200,000 and 1,000,000 died, mostly from famine and disease. Most modern historians place the death toll from the war at between 200,000 and 250,000, including a cholera epidemic at the end of the war that killed between 150,000 and 200,000 people.

In 1903, U.S. authorities counted the population of the Philippines for the census. The survey yielded 7,635,426 people, including 56,138 foreign-born. In 1887, a Spanish census recorded a population of 5,984,717 excluding non-Christians.

When the conflict was lost, the archipelago ended up under total American control, since until then it had been administered as an island area; in 1935, the Philippines obtained the status of “commonwealth” under the name of Commonwealth Philippines.

In the following decade, plans to regain independence were interrupted by World War II, particularly when the Japanese Empire invaded the country and established a puppet government, the Second Philippine Republic. Multiple war crimes were committed during the conflict, including the Batan Death March and the Manila Massacre, culminating in the Battle of Manila.

The crimes against the population of Spanish origin and the assaults on the official Spanish headquarters in the Philippines caused great concern in the government of Francisco Franco. As a consequence, Spain broke diplomatic relations with Japan on April 12, 1945. By the time Allied troops defeated the Japanese in 1945, more than a million Filipinos had died. Finally, on July 4, 1946, the Philippines achieved its independence from the U.S. government.

Marcos’s dictatorship and the Third Philippines Republic

Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos on their visit to the United States in 1966
Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos on their visit to the United States in 1966

After gaining its independence, the young nation faced several problems: the country had to be rebuilt from the ravages of war and reach an agreement with several Japanese collaborators and businessmen to begin its economic development. In rural areas, large landowners had their farms farmed by tenants with miserable living conditions. They took a considerable share of the crops—usually half—and often became creditors to these heavily indebted farmers.

Disputes between landowners and farmers are frequent, and the authorities always support the owners. The political class was composed of men often committed to the Japanese – starting with Manuel Roxas who was elected president in April 1946. On the contrary, the deputies of the resistance to the Japanese occupation were forbidden to sit in Congress to secure the majority necessary to pass, in the summer of 1946, a constitutional amendment necessary to implement a law favorable to American economic interests.

Mainly between 1948 and 1954, the communist-inspired Hukbalahap peasant uprising fought against the Philippine government and the militias of the big landowners. The Philippine government turned to specialized counterinsurgency units, which sowed terror among rural civilian populations suspected of sympathizing with the rebellion. With U.S. military help, the government was able to weaken the movement, which had disappeared in the 1960s.

In 1965, Ferdinand Marcos was elected president, with his wife Imelda Marcos at his side. As the constitution prohibited him from being re-elected more than twice to the presidential office, at the end of his second term he declared martial law on September 21, 1972. To continue ruling by decree, he used as arguments the political division, the tension of the Cold War and the specter of communist rebellion and Islamic insurgency in the country. In this way began a dictatorship that lasted more than ten years and was characterized by strict control of the economy and political repression.

On August 21, 1983, Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr., leader of the opposition to the Marcos government, ignored the warnings and returned from exile in the United States. He was killed as his plane landed at Manila International Airport — now called Ninoy Aquino International Airport, in his memory. As political pressure mounted, Marcos called for presidential elections in 1986. Corazon Aquino, Benigno’s widow, became the leader of the opposition and a candidate for the presidential race. When Marcos was proclaimed the winner, many thought the election had been rigged.

This led to the EDSA Revolution, instigated when two of Marcos’ oldest allies—Fidel V. Ramos, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces, and Juan Ponce Enrile, Secretary of National Defense, resigned and demonstrated at the Aguinaldo camp and the Crame field. Cardinal Archbishop of Manila, Jaime Sin, urged people to gather in support of rebel leaders and protest on Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA). In the face of mass protests and military defections, Marcos and his allies fled to Hawaii, where they were exiled. That same year, Corazon Aquino was named president.

The return of democracy and reforms to the government after the events of 1986 were hampered by national debt, corruption, coup attempts, a persistent communist insurgency and Islamic separatist movements. Although the economy improved during the administration of Fidel V. Ramos, who was elected president in 1992, the onset of the 1997 Asian financial crisis halted these advances. In 2001, amid corruption allegations and a stalled impeachment process, Ramos’ successor, Joseph Estrada, was ousted from the presidency by the 2001 EDSA Revolution and replaced by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Arroyo’s nine-year rule characterized his economic growth, but these were marred by corruption and political scandals.
On November 23, 2009, 34 journalists and several civilians were killed in Maguindanao. In the 2010 presidential election, Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and Jejomar Binay were elected to the post of president and vice president respectively. Economic growth continued during the Aquino administration, who pushed for better governance and transparency.

On November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan devastated the central part of the archipelago, affecting more than eleven million Filipinos and killing more than five thousand people; the press criticized the slow response by the government of Aquino III. In 2015, a clash in Mamasapano, Maguindánao, killed 44 members of the Philippine National Police Special Action Force, bringing efforts to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law to a stalemate.

Rodrigo Duterte
Rodrigo Duterte

Former Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte won the 2016 presidential election, becoming Mindanao’s first president. Duterte launched an anti-drug campaign and an infrastructure program. The implementation of the Bangsamoro Organic Law led to the creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Mindanao. In early 2020, the COVID-19 Pandemic reached the country causing gross domestic product to shrink by 9.5%, the country’s worst annual economic result since records began in 1947.

In the 2022 presidential election, Ferdinand Marcos’ son, known as Bongbong Marcos, won the presidential election, thus bringing the country’s foreign policy closer to China. In response to his critics, Bongbong has said he will try to assert the Philippines’ “maritime territorial rights” under his leadership despite seeking rapprochement with China.

Government and politics

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.


Malacañán Palace is the official residence of the President of the Philippines
The Malacanan Palace is the official residence of the President of the Philippines

The Philippines is a constitutional republic with a presidential system of government, administered as a unitary state, with the exception of the Moorish Nation Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which is largely independent of the national government. The president acts as head of state and head of government, in addition to being the commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

He is elected by popular vote for a single six-year term, during which he himself elects and presides over his own cabinet. The Vice-President is also directly elected for a six-year term, and may be re-elected once. The vice president can hold a cabinet post, and in case the president dies or resigns, he would become the acting president and call elections. At the local level, the executive branch is represented by provincial governors, mayors of cities and municipalities, and barangay captains.

The bicameral Congress is composed of the Senate—equivalent to the upper house, with members elected for a six-year term—and the House of Representatives—the lower house, with members elected for a three-year term. Senators are elected at the same time as the president, while representatives are elected through legislative districts and through proportional representation. Congress is responsible for the creation and adoption of laws and amendments to the Constitution through resolutions and bills. For any bill to pass it must receive more than a two-thirds vote in favor in both chambers.

The judiciary is headed by the Supreme Court, composed of the Chief Justice as the Chief Justice and fourteen associate judges, who are chosen by the President from among various candidates proposed by the Council of Justice and Bar Association. The judiciary enjoys fiscal autonomy, although it is supervised by the Office of the Administrator of the Courts. The Supreme Court also promulgates the rules of procedure of all courts and participates in the process of teaching future lawyers. Since the administration of the Ramos government, there have been several attempts to reform the government to a federal, unicameral or parliamentary system.

President Noynoy Aquino before the Congress of the Philippines
President Noynoy Aquino before the Congress of the Philippines

The legal system established by the 1987 Constitution contains elements inherited from the time of Spanish and American rule. For example, those issues of property, family and the absence of a jury in trials are characteristic of continental law, existing in Spain. However, the common law installed by the United States in the early twentieth century is the one that governs some of the most important legal issues. These include trade, labor relations, taxes, banking and currency.

The Philippine multi-party system allows for numerous political parties, although in practice it is common for alliances to be created to obtain more votes during electoral contests. For its part, the Elections Commission (Comelec) defined six parties as the most important in the country: the Liberal Party, the Lakas Kampi CMD, the Nationalist Party, the Nationalist People’s Coalition, the National Union Party and the United Nationalist Alliance.

Since 1992, national and local elections have been held every three years on the second Monday in May. Only elections for president and vice president are held every six years. The minimum voting age is 18. In the presidential elections held in 2010, just over 38 million voters participated, 74.34% of those registered in the electoral roll.

Although homosexuality is not illegal in the Philippines, there is some discrimination by society in general towards this group. Until 2009, homosexuals were banned from joining the armed forces. Although multiple efforts have been made in the fight for the rights of the LGBT community, same-sex marriage is still illegal and there is no recognition for legal unions made in other countries.

External relations

Philippines Embassy in Washington D.C, United States
Philippines Embassy in Washington D.C, United States

The Philippines’ international relations are based on trade with other nations and the well-being of the eleven million Filipinos living outside the country. As a founder and active member of the United Nations, he has been elected several times to the UN Security Council, and a national, Carlos P. Romulus was President of the United Nations General Assembly. The country is an active participant in the Human Rights Council, as well as in peacekeeping missions, particularly in East Timor.

In addition to its participation in the UN, the country is one of the founders and active members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), an organization designed to strengthen relations and promote economic and cultural growth among the states of the Southeast Asian region. It has hosted several of its summits and is an active contributor to the bloc’s direction and policies. The relations it currently enjoys with other Southeast Asian states contrast with the situation of the 1970s, when it was at war with Vietnam and disputed the territory of Sabah with Malaysia, although there are still disagreements regarding the Spratly Islands.

It is also a member of the East Asia Summit (EAS), the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Latin Union, the Group of 24, the Non-Aligned Movement and is considered an important non-NATO ally. It also seeks to strengthen its relations with Islamic countries through its candidacy for observer membership in the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

U.S. Marine Corps at military exercise in Philippine territory
U.S. Marine Corps at a military exercise in Philippine territory

On the other hand, he has good relations with the United States, whom he supported during the Cold War and the War on Terror. In recent years, however, the U.S. presence at the Subic and Clark Bay military bases and the Visiting Forces Agreement have generated some controversy. Japan, the country’s largest official contributor of development aid, is also regarded as one of its main allies. While some historical debates still prevail between the two countries—especially on issues such as comfort women—much of the enmity arising from the events of World War II has disappeared.

The Philippines has also established good relations with other nations. The fact of sharing several democratic values facilitates their relations with European and Western countries. The economic problems it faces help it to create links with other developing countries facing similar obstacles. Similarly, historical ties and cultural similarities strengthen relations with Spain and Latin America. Despite problems affecting overseas Filipino workers, such as domestic abuse and war, as well as obstacles posed by an Islamic insurgency in Mindanao, relations with Middle Eastern countries — including Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — are good, allowing the more than two million Filipinos to continue living and working in the region.

Relations with the People’s Republic of China have improved considerably, especially since the 1950s. However, several issues related to the recognition of the Republic of China, the possession of the Spratly Islands and concerns about the growth of Chinese influence, prevent a close relationship between the two neighbors. Recently, Philippine foreign policy has been geared primarily toward establishing better economic relations with its Southeast Asian and Pacific neighbors

In 2016 a ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration located in The Hague recognized the Masinloc bass and other disputed islands as the Philippines. China offers the Philippines to ignore the ruling in exchange for joint oil and gas drilling.

Armed forces of the Philippines

BRP Artemio Ricarte, a Jacinto-class corvette of the Philippines Navy
The BRP Artemio Ricarte, a Jacinth-class corvette of the Philippines Navy

Defense is provided by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, which is composed of three corps: the Air Force, the Army and the Navy (including the Marine Corps). In 2010, the armed forces had more than 331,500 active personnel, the 40th largest in the world. The Philippine National Police is responsible for civilian security, under the command of the Department of the Interior and local governments.

In the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, the most important separatist organization, the Moro National Liberation Front, politically governs the region. Other militant groups such as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the communists of the New People’s Army and Abu Sayyaf are still fighting in other provinces, but their presence has been reduced in recent years thanks to security operations implemented by the government.

It should also be noted that the Philippines has been an ally of the United States since World War II: in 1951, both countries signed a mutual defense treaty. The Philippines supported American ideology during the Cold War, as well as its participation in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. It was even a member of the dissolved SEATO, an organization whose objective was to play a NATO-like role in the region, whose members included Australia, France, New Zealand, Pakistan, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States. After the start of the War on Terror, the Philippine military was part of the coalition that provided support to the US in Iraq, so it was listed as an important non-NATO ally.


The Philippine archipelago is divided into three island groups: Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. In turn, these are divided into 17 regions, 80 provinces, 138 cities, 1496 municipalities and 42,025 barangays. In addition, section 2 of Republic Act No. 5446 states that the definition of the territorial sea around Philippine territory has no effect on the Sabah claim. The regions of the Philippines are listed below, the number shown in the table is used to locate them on the map on the right.

No. Region Designation Regional Center
1 Ilocos Region I San Fernando
2 Administrative Region of La Cordillera CAR Baguio
3 Cagayan Valley Region II Tuguegarao
4 Central Luzon Region III San Fernando
5 National Capital Region NCR Manila
6 Calabarzón Region IV-A Calamba
7 Mimaropa Region IV-B Calapan
8 Bicolandia Region V Legazpi
9 Oriental Visayas Region VIII Tacloban
10 Western Visayas Region VI Iloyl
11 Central Visayas Region VII Zebu
12 Zamboanga Peninsula Region IX Pagadian
13 Northern Mindanao Region X Golden Cagayan
14 Caraga Region XIII Butuan
15 Mora Nation Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao BARMM Cotabato
16 Davao Region XI Davao
17 Soccsksargen Region XII Koronadal


Physical map of the Philippines
Physical map of the Philippines

The Philippines is an archipelago of 7107 islands, with a total area of approximately 300,000 km² including inland water bodies. Its 36,289 km of coastline make it the fifth country with the longest coastline in the world. The Philippine territory is located between 116°40′E, 126°34′E and 4°40′N, 21°10′N. It borders the Philippine Sea to the east, the South China Sea (or West Philippine Sea) to the west, and the Sulawesi Sea to the south. The island of Borneo is located just a few hundred kilometers to the southwest and the island of Taiwan lies directly to the north. The Moluccas and Sulawesi are located in the southwest and Palau is located east of the islands.

Most of the islands are mountainous, covered with dense rainforest and are of volcanic origin. The highest mountain is Mount Apo, with an altitude of 2954 m a.s.l. and is located on the island of Mindanao. The Galathea Depression in the Philippine Trench is the lowest point in the national territory, and the third deepest in the world, located at the bottom of the Philippine Sea.

Also, the longest river is the Cagayan, in northern Luzon. Manila Bay, where the city of the same name is located, is connected to Bay Lagoon — the largest lake in the Philippines — by the Pasig River. The country’s most important watersheds are the Pulangi and Agusan Rivers in Mindanao and the Cagayan and Pampanga Rivers in Luzon. Subic Bay, Davao Gulf and Moro Gulf are other major bays. The San Juanico Strait separates the islands of Samar and Leyte, although they are connected by the San Juanico Bridge.

Located on the western periphery of the Pacific Ring of Fire, the territory experiences frequent seismic and volcanic activity. The Benham Plateau, east in the Philippine Sea, is an underwater region with very high tectonic subduction activity. About 20 earthquakes are recorded daily, although most are too weak to be felt; the last major earthquake recorded was the 1990 Luzon earthquake. Similarly, there are many active volcanoes in the archipelago, such as Mount Mayon, Mount Pinatubo and Taal Volcano. The eruption of Mount Pinatubo in June 1991 produced the largest land eruption of the twentieth century. However, not all notable geographical features have such a violent or destructive origin: an example of the legacy of geological activity is the underground river of Puerto Princesa.

Mount Apo is the highest mountain in the Philippines
Mount Apo is the highest mountain in the Philippines

Mineral deposits are abundant due to the volcanic nature of the islands. The Philippines is estimated to have the second-largest gold deposit after South Africa and one of the largest copper deposits in the world. The subsoil is also rich in zinc, chromium and nickel. Despite this, poor management, high population density and environmental awareness have caused these to remain largely unexploited. Unlike the above, geothermal energy is one of the products of volcanic activity that the country has taken advantage of most successfully. The Philippines is the second largest producer of geothermal energy in the world, behind the United States, covering 18% of the national electricity demand.

South of the Philippines passes the Wallace Line, the biogeographic boundary that separates the regions of Asia and Oceania through Insulindia. The fauna, and to a lesser extent the flora, are distinct on each side, despite geographical proximity and relative climatic similarity, reflecting separate evolutionary histories. The line runs between the islands of Bali and Lombok, east of Java; continues between the island of Borneo, which it leaves to the west, and the Sulawesi and passes south to the Philippines.

The Philipppines climate

The Philippines has a tropical maritime climate that is usually hot and humid. Three seasons are distinguished: tag-init or tag-araw, the dry warm season from March to May; tag-ulan, the rainy season from June to November; and tag-lamig, the dry temperate season from December to February. The southwest monsoon — from May to October — is known as the Habagat and the dry northeast monsoon winds — from November to April — like the Amihan. Temperatures normally range from 21 °C to 32 °C, although they can be colder or warmer depending on the season; The mildest month is January and the warmest is May.

The average annual temperature is around 26.6 °C. When examining temperatures, location in terms of latitude and longitude is not an important factor. Whether in the far north, south, east or west of the country, sea level temperatures tend to be in the same range. Generally, it is the altitude that has the most impact. Baguio’s average annual temperature, located at an altitude of 1500 m a.s.l., is 18.3 °C, making it a popular destination during hot summers.

Being located in a tropical cyclone zone, most islands experience torrential rains and thunderstorms from July to October, because on average about nineteen cyclones enter the Philippine territory, and between eight or nine of them make landfall in the archipelago. Average annual rainfall is up to 5000 mm in the mountainous section of the east coast, but less than 1000 mm in some of the low valleys. The wettest tropical cyclone to hit the country was the July 1911 typhoon, which dumped more than 1168 mm of rain in just 24 hours in Baguio City. Since then, in Tagalog, the term bagyo is used to refer to a tropical cyclone.

Flora and fauna

The Philippine tarsier is one of the smallest primates in the world
The Philippine tarsier is one of the smallest primates in the world

The jungles and extensive coastlines are home to a wide range of birds, plants, animals and sea creatures. The Philippines is one of the ten most biologically diverse countries, with one of the highest biodiversity rates per unit area – up to 1736 species per 100 km². About 1100 species of terrestrial vertebrates can be found, including more than 100 species of mammals and 170 species of birds that are thought not to exist elsewhere. Endemic species include the Mindoro Tamaar, Visayas spotted deer, Philippine mouse-deer, Visayas wild boar, Philippine flying lemur and several species of bats.

However, it lacks large predators, with the exception of snakes, such as pythons and cobras, and some birds of prey, such as the Philippine monera eagle, the national bird. Other native animals include the palm civet, dugong and Philippine tarsier. With an estimated 13,500 plant species in the country—3200 of which are unique to the islands, the Philippines rainforests boast abundant flora, including many rare types of orchids and rafflesias.

The narra is considered the most important hardwood of the national industry. Thanks to its tropical climate, flowering plants are abundant and are used as ornaments, for the manufacture of perfumes and as food. These include the ylang-ylang and the sampaguita, the national flower. Other notable plant specimens include the 54 species of bamboo that exist throughout the archipelago; coconut trees, which are the basis of the economy of many localities; nipa, mahogany and mabolo trees, the wood of which is exploited for construction; the fruits of pili nut, durian and lansones; and carnivorous plants known as monkey cups.

The country’s maritime waters cover about 2.2 million km² and are home to unique and diverse marine life, which is an important part of the Coral Triangle. Here live 2400 species of fish and more than 500 species of coral. Apo Reef is the largest contiguous coral reef system in the country and the second largest in the world. The Philippinse waters also maintain the cultivation of pearls, crabs and algae.

Deforestation, often the result of illegal logging, is a serious problem in the Philippines. Forest cover declined from 70% of the country’s total area in 1900 to 18.3% in 1999. Many species are threatened with extinction and scientists say Southeast Asia, of which the Philippines is a part, faces a catastrophic extinction rate of 20% by the end of the 20th century. According to Conservation International, “the country is one of the few nations that is, in its entirety, an interactive zone and a country of megadiversity, which places it among the highest priority areas for global conservation”.

Economy of the Philippines

Exports to Imports of
China 21,3 % China 14,6 %
Japan 14,1 % Japan 12,3 %
United States 13,9 % United States 9,4 %
Singapore 8,9 % South Korea 8,4 %
Hong Kong 7,5 % Singapore 8 %
Other 34,3 % Other 47,3 %

The economy of the Philippines is among the fifty most powerful economies in the world, with a nominal GDP estimated at $348 billion for 2017. The main exports are semiconductors and electronics, transportation equipment, clothing, copper products, petroleum products, coconut oil and fruits. Likewise, its main trading partners are the United States, Japan, China, Singapore, South Korea, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Germany, Taiwan and Thailand. Its currency is the Philippine peso (₱ or PHP). The Philippines is a member of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Asian Development Bank (headquartered in the city of Mandaluyong), the Colombo Plan, and the G-77, among other groups and institutions.

Flower market in the capital
Flower market in the capital

As a newly industrialized country, the Philippine economy shifted from agriculture-based to focusing on services and manufacturing. Of the country’s 38.1 million people, the agricultural sector employs about 45.2%, but contributes only 13.8% of GDP. The industrial sector employs around 15.2% of the labor force and accounts for 30% of GDP. On the other hand, 39.6% of workers make up the service sector, which is responsible for 56.2% of GDP.

On October 2013, the unemployment rate was around 6.5% and due to the global economic slowdown, inflation reached a level of 4.1% on December 2013. In February 2010, gross international reserves were $45.713 billion. In 2004, government debt as a percentage of GDP was estimated at 74.2%; In 2008, it fell to 56.9%, while gross external debt increased to $66.27 billion. On July 2011, the inflation rate was at a level of 5.1%, showing an increase of more than one percentage point compared to the same month in 2010.

After World War II, it was considered the second richest economy in East Asia, behind only Japan. However, during the 1960s it began to be overcome. The economy stagnated under the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, due to political instability and economic mismanagement by the regime. The country suffered from slow economic growth and recessionary seasons. It was not until the 1990s that the economy began to recover, due according to various analysts, to a program of economic liberalization.

The Port of Manila is the main port center of the islands
The port of Manila is the main port center of the islands

In 1997, the Asian financial crisis affected its economy, resulting in a continuous devaluation of the national currency and several falls in the stock market. However, its effects on the Philippines were not as severe as for some of its Asian neighbors. This happened largely because of the government’s fiscal conservatism, as a result of decades of fiscal monitoring and supervision by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), compared to the massive spending of its neighbors for a rapid acceleration of their economic growth. Since then, the Philippines has shown signs of progress. In 2004, the economy experienced growth of 6.4% of GDP and 7.1% in 2007, its fastest growth rate in three decades.

However, the average annual growth in GDP per capita for the period 1966–2007 was 1.45% compared to the average of 5.96% for East Asia and the Pacific as a whole, and the daily income of 22.6% of the Filipino population remains below $1.25. Despite enjoying stable economic growth during the first decade of the twenty-first century, by 2010, the country’s economy was smaller than that of its Southeast Asian neighbors—Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore—in terms of GDP and nominal GDP per capita.

There are other imbalances and challenges in the Philippines. The economy is heavily dependent on remittances, which exceed foreign direct investment as a source of foreign exchange. Regional development is uneven, with Luzon—particularly Metro Manila—accounting for much of the economic growth at the expense of other regions, although the government has taken steps to spread economic growth by promoting investment in other areas of the country. Despite the limitations, services such as tourism and Business Process Outsourcing have been identified as some of the best areas of opportunity for the country’s growth. Goldman Sachs included the country in its list of “Next Eleven” economies, although China and India have emerged as its main economic competitors in the region.


The rice terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site
The rice terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras were named a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Thanks to its geographical conditions and the existing biodiversity in the archipelago, the Philippines has multiple natural parks that serve as its main tourist attraction. The tourism industry began to develop in the 1970s. However, due to the conflicts in the country, it was not until the end of the next decade that tourism began to become an important part of local economic development. Since then, tourism has been constantly growing, and it is estimated that by 2016 it will generate more than 7.4 million jobs, 18.8% of the workforce, and will contribute between 8 and 9% of the national GDP.

In 2012, 4,272,811 foreign tourists visited the Philippines, almost 10% more than the previous year. Most of these came from South Korea (24.1%), the United States (15.2%), Japan (9.6%), China (5.8%) and Taiwan (5%). Among the main tourist destinations are: Manila, mainly the old part of the city; Boracay, named the best island in the world by Travel + Leisure magazine, Coron Island, famous for World War II Japanese shipwrecks and diving; the underground river of Puerto Princesa, declared one of the seven wonders of nature; the rice terraces of the Philippine Mountain Ranges, a UNESCO World Heritage Site; Vigan, another World Heritage Site characterized by its colonial architecture; the festivals of Cebu and Davao City, among many others.



Puhagan Geothermal Power Plant
Puhagan Geothermal Power Plant

Many analysts say that thanks to its geographical location, the Philippines has enormous potential for energy resources. However, most renewable energy sources remain unused due to a lack of economic resources and infrastructure for their use. For example, it is estimated that the country could produce 35,000 MW if it used all the geothermal potential that exists in its territory. In 2010, of the 51.3 billion kWh of electricity consumed in the country, 66.1% came from fossil fuels, 21.1% from hydroelectric plants and only 12.8% from other renewable energy sources. There are no nuclear power plants in the Philippines.

In the 1970s the government authorized the search for oil fields in the Sulu and Palawan area, and by 1979 commercial exploitation of the discovered fields began. In 2010 it produced about 26 640 barrels of oil per day, along with 2860 million m³ of natural gas. In addition, Philippine soils are rich in minerals such as copper, chromium, gold, nickel, and there are small deposits of cadmium, iron, lead, manganese, mercury, molybdenum and silver.


The jeepney and bus are two of the most used public transport in the Philippines
The jeepney and the bus are two of the most used public transports in the Philippines

Transport infrastructure is relatively underdeveloped. This is partly due to the islands mountainous terrain and scattered geography, but it is also the result of low government investment. In 2003, only 3.6% of GDP was spent on infrastructure development, which was significantly lower than that of some of its neighbors. As a result, while there are 203 025 km of roads, only about 20% of the total is paved.

There are many ways to get around, especially in urban areas. Buses, jeepneys, taxis and motorized three-wheelers are available in major cities. In 2007 there were approximately 5.53 million registered motor vehicles, with an average annual increase of 4.55%. There are also three rail networks that serve to communicate the different areas of Metro Manila and other parts of Luzon: the Manila Metro (LRT), the Metro Metro Transit System of Metro Manila (MRT) and the National Railways of the Philippines (PNR).

As it is an archipelago, it is often necessary to make inter-island trips in boats. The busiest ports are Iloilo, Manila, Cebu, Davao, Cagayan de Oro and Zamboanga. Passenger ships and other vessels, such as those operated by Superferry, Negros Navigation and Sulpicio Lines, connect Manila with various cities and towns. In 2003, the Autopista Náutica Fuerte de la República (SRNH) was established, a set of road segments and ferry routes covering 919 km and connecting 17 cities. Some rivers that pass through metropolitan areas, such as the Pasig River and the Marikina, have passenger ferry services. This Pasig River service has numerous stops in Manila, Makati, Mandaluyong, Pasig and Marikina. There are another 3219 km of waterways in the interior of the country.

There are 85 public airports in the country and about 111 more that are private. Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) is the main international airport. Other major airports include Diosdado Macapagal International Airport, Mactan-Cebu International Airport, Francisco Bangoy International Airport and Zamboanga International Airport. Philippine Airlines, Asia’s oldest commercial airline still operating under its original name, and Cebu Pacific, the main low-cost airline, are the country’s main airlines and offer the largest number of domestic and international destinations.


Communications towers in Zamboanga
Communications towers in Zamboanga

The Philippines has a sophisticated mobile phone industry and a high concentration of users. In 2008 there were about 67.9 million mobile phone subscribers in the country. Texting is a popular form of communication and has fostered a culture of quick greetings and forwarded jokes among Filipinos. In 2007, the nation sent an average of one billion SMS messages a day. Aside from this growing number of texting users, more than five million use their phone as a virtual wallet, making the country a leader among developing nations in providing financial services over mobile phone networks.

The Philippines Long Distance Telephony Company, known as PLDT, is the main telecommunications provider, as well as being the largest company in the country. Its subsidiaries, Smart Communications and Piltel, together with the Globe Telecom of the Ayala group, BayanTel and Sun Cellular are the most important mobile phone service providers in the national territory.

There are approximately 398 AM and 837 FM radio stations, 87 free-to-air television channels and 1804 cable television channels. Estimates for Internet penetration in the Philippines vary widely, from a low of 5.1 million to a high of 24 million people. Social media and video websites are among the most visited by Filipino users.

Filipino media mainly use the Filipino language and English for their broadcasts. Some also use other local languages, especially radio, because of their ability to reach the most remote rural populations, who would otherwise have no other means of communication. The dominant television networks, ABS-CBN and GMA Network, also have a wide radio presence.

Some newspapers in the Philippines are Manila Bulletin, The Daily Tribune, Cebu Daily News, among others.

The entertainment industry is very active, and nurtures newspapers and tabloids with an endless supply of details about celebrities and sensational scandals. As in other countries, drama and fantasy series are surpassed by Hispanic telenovela programs, Asianovelas and anime. Daytime television is dominated by talk shows—such as Eat Bulaga, Showtime and Happy, Yipee, Yehey—variety shows, and game shows.


Population growth of the Philippine population
Population growth of the Philippine population

The first official census was conducted in 1877 and recorded a population of 5,567,685. By 2010, the Philippines became the 12th most populous nation in the world, with a population exceeding 92 million. The population growth rate between 1995 and 2000 was 3.21%, and decreased to 1.95% for the period 2005-2010; However, this index is still a matter of debate. The median age of the population is 22.7 years, and 60.9% of Filipinos are between 15 and 64 years old. Life expectancy at birth is 71.38 years; 74.45 for women and 68.45 years for men.

There are about 11 million Filipinos living abroad. Since the liberalization of U.S. immigration laws in 1965, the number of people in that country with Filipino ancestry has grown significantly: by 2007, there were between 3 and 4 million Filipino Americans. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, immigrants from the Philippines make up the second largest group of people seeking family reunification, second only to Mexican immigrants. Some two million Filipinos work in the Middle East; almost half of them are in Saudi Arabia, and there is also a significant migratory flow to Spain, where Filipino emigrants can acquire nationality by residing for two years thanks to the dual nationality treaties between the two countries.

According to 2010 data, 49% of the population lived in cities. Large cities are composed of several localities called barangays, which comprise several “sites” or barrios. Six out of ten Filipinos live in a barangay, which usually has a school, one or two supermarkets, and a Catholic chapel or church. The growing urban population has generated a clash between the traditionalist values of rural inhabitants and the new customs of daily life. The urbanization rate is 2.3%. This rapid pace of urbanization is why many of the immigrants live in houses built of low-strength materials, such as cardboard and sheeting, without basic services such as electricity, drinking water and drainage.

Ethnic groups

According to the 2000 census, 28.1% of Filipinos are Tagalogs, 13.1% Cebuanos, 9% Ilocanos, 7.6% Visayans/Binisayos, 7.5% Hiligainones, 6% Bicoles, 3.4% Samarians and the remaining 25.3% are classified as “other”. This general classification can be broken down to show more tribal groups such as the Moro, the Pampango, the Pangasinense, the Ibanag and the Ivatan. There are also several indigenous peoples, such as the Igorotes, the Lumad, the Mangyan, the Bajau and the Palawan tribes. The Negritos, like the Aeta and Ati, are considered among the first inhabitants of the islands.

Filipinos generally belong to several Asian ethnic groups linguistically classified as part of the Austronesian and Malayo-Polynesian language family. It is believed that thousands of years ago, the aborigines of Taiwan migrated to the Philippines bringing with them the knowledge of agriculture and ocean sailing, leading to the displacement of the first groups of negritos from the islands. The Manobo and Sama ethnic groups have an ancestral affinity with the Mlabri and Htin Austro-Asiatic peoples of mainland Southeast Asia. South Asian ancestry was also detected among Filipinos and peaked among the Dilaut people. A westward expansion of Papua ancestry from Papua New Guinea to eastern Indonesia and Mindanao between the Blaan and Sangir was also detected.

Finally, Chinese, Spanish, Latin American, Indian, and American colonizers procreated with the various ethnic groups that had developed on the islands. Their descendants are known as mestizos, of which Chinese Filipinos are the most numerous, with two million pure Chinese people and Chinese-Filipino mestizos accounting for 20% of the population. According to a survey of cemetery samples, European Filipinos (mainly Spanish) make up 6% of the Filipino population. Ibero-Americans and their mixtures, on the other hand, make up 12.7% of the population. Other migrant ethnic groups that have settled in the country include Arabs, British, other Europeans, Indonesians, Japanese, Koreans and other South Asians.


Native languages (2000)
Tagalog 22 million
Cebuano 20 million
Ilocano 7.7 million
Hiligainon 7 million
Kapampangan 3.1 million

Ethnologue lists 175 different languages in the Philippines, 171 of which are living languages, while four no longer have any known speakers.
They are all part of the Malayo-Polynesian language group of Borneo-Philippines, which is itself a branch of the Austronesian language family, with the sole exception of Chabacano, which is a Creole language based on Mexican Spanish.

According to the 1987 Constitution of the Philippines, Filipino and English are the official languages. Filipino is a de facto standard version of Tagalog, spoken in Metro Manila and other urban regions. Filipino and English are used in government, education, politics, media, printing and business. The Constitution designates regional languages, such as Central Bicolano, Cebuano, Ilocano, Hiligainón, Pampango, Pangasinense, Tagalog, and Samareño, as auxiliary official languages. It also stipulates that Spanish and Arabic must be promoted voluntarily and optionally. There are also other dialects that have regional relevance and validity.

There are currently about 4000 Spanish speakers in the Philippines, which is 0.5% of the total population. However, the Cervantes Institute of Manila details that for economic reasons related to globalization, the interest in studying this language is increasing. Also, the headquarters of this institute in the Philippine capital is one of the most students.

Spanish was used to draft the Aguinaldo Declaration of Independence, the Malolos Constitution of the First Republic of the Philippines in 1899, and the first lyrics of the national anthem. José Rizal also developed all his work in the Spanish language. Cebuano, Tagalog among other native languages, maintain their influence from Spanish.


Manila Cathedral
Manila Cathedral

More than 90% of the population is Christian: 80% belong to the Catholic Church, while 10% belong to other Christian denominations, such as the independent Philippine Church, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the Ni Cristo Church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the United Church of Christ, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the Orthodox Church. The Philippines is one of two Asian countries where Catholics are in the majority, the other being East Timor.

Between 5 and 10% of the population is Muslim, living mostly in the regions of Mindanao, Palawan and Sulu, an area known as Bangsamoro or the “land of the Moors”. Some of them have migrated to urban and rural areas in different parts of the country. Most Muslim Filipinos practice Sunnism according to the Shafi’i school.

Many indigenous and tribal groups still practice various traditional religions, often syncretized with Christianity and Islam. Animism and shamanism are still present as currents of other traditional religions, through albularyo, babaylan and manghihilot. Traditional Chinese religion, Buddhism and Taoism, are predominant in Chinese communities. The country also has a significant number of Baha’i supporters.


Founded in 1611, the University of Santo Tomas is the oldest in Asia
Founded in 1611, the University of Santo Tomas is the oldest in Asia

In 2008, the National Bureau of Statistics reported a simple literacy rate of 93.4% and a functional literacy rate of 86.4%. Values are similar for men and women. Spending on education is around 2.5% of GDP. According to the Department of Education (DepEd), in 2010 there were 44,846 primary schools and 10,384 secondary schools registered, while the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) listed 1741 institutions of higher education, 203 of which were public and 1538 private. Classes start in June and end in March, but most universities follow a semester schedule, from June to October and November to March. In addition to the above, there are several foreign schools with their own curricula. Republic Act No. 9155 provides the legal framework for basic education in the Philippines and defines primary and secondary education as compulsory and free.

Several government agencies are involved in education. The Department of Education covers primary, secondary and informal education; the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) administers post-secondary education and the middle level of education; and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) oversees universities and graduate academic programs, as well as regulating the rules for the delivery of higher education. In 2004, madrassas were incorporated in 16 regions throughout the country, mainly in Muslim areas in Mindanao, under the auspices and program of the Department of Education. Public universities are non-sectoral entities and are classified as State Colleges and Universities (CUE) and Local Colleges and Universities (CUL). The CUEs are financed by the National Government, as determined by Congress. The University of the Philippines is the national university and the largest and most important in the Philippines.

Bless you

Entrance to the Philippine General Hospital, Manila
Entrance to the General Hospital of the Philippines, Manila

Most of the country’s health services are provided by private health institutions. In 2010, total health expenditures represented 3.6% of GDP. 65.3% came from private companies, while 34.7% were from government institutions and 1.3% from external resources. The same year, health expenditures accounted for about 6.7% of total government spending, while per capita spending was $63. The proposed national health budget for 2010 was 28 billion pesos (more than $597 million), or ₱310 (US$7) per person. The government’s share of total health spending has steadily declined, and with population growth, per capita spending is also declining.

There are about 90,370 doctors in the Philippines, 1 for every 833 people, 480,910 nurses, 43,220 dentists and 1 hospital bed for every 769 people. Retaining skilled professionals is a problem, as 70% of nursing graduates go abroad to work, resulting in the country being the largest provider of nurses in the world. In 2012 there were about 1800 hospitals throughout the national territory, of which about 40% were state and the other 60% private. Cardiovascular diseases are responsible for more than 25% of deaths. According to official estimates, between January and August 2012, there were 2156 new cases of infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), of which 116 developed acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Since records began in 1984, 353 people have died from the disease in Philippine hospitals.

Main locations in the Philippines

Greater Manila, also known as the National Capital Region, comprises the city of Manila itself, 15 other nearby cities and one municipality. Ten of its component cities are among the twenty most populous in the country. With an estimated population of over 11 million, Metro Manila ranks among the most populous urban agglomerations in the world. The population of its metropolitan area, which includes parts of other neighboring provinces, exceeds 20 million. Davao in Mindanao and Cebu in the Visayas are other important urban areas. The table below shows the twenty most populous cities in the Philippines.

Major cities of the Philippines
  No. City Region Hab. No. City Region Hab.  
1 Quezon City Metro Manila 2 761 720   11 Parañaque Metro Manila 588 126
2 Manila Metro Manila 1 652 171   12 Dasmariñas Calabarzon 575 817
3 Caloocan Metro Manila 1 489 040   13 Valenzuela Metro Manila 575 356
4 Davao Davao 1 449 296   14 The Pineapples Metro Manila 552 573
5 Zebu Central Visayas 866 171   15 General Santos Soccsksargen 538 036
6 Zamboanga Zamboanga Peninsula 807 129   16 Makati Metro Manila 529 039
7 Antipole Calabarzon 677 741   17 Bacoor Calabarzon 520 216
8 Pasig Metro Manila 669 773   18 Bacolod Western Visayas 511 820
9 Taguig Metro Manila 644 473   19 Muntinlupa Metro Manila 459 941
10 Golden Cagayan Northern Mindanao 602 088   20 San Jose del Monte Central Luzon 454 553
2010 Census


Filipino culture is a combination of Eastern and Western culture. The Philippines presents aspects found in other Asian countries with a Malay heritage; However, their culture also displays a wealth of Spanish and American influences. Thus, traditional festivals known as barrio fiestas to commemorate the feast day of a saint are common, at the same time as festivals such as Moriones and Sinulog. These communal celebrations are accompanied by feasting, music, and dancing. Some traditions, however, are slowly changing or being forgotten due to modernization.

One of the most visible Hispanic legacies is the prevalence of names and surnames of Spanish origin among Filipinos. However, the name does not necessarily denote Spanish ancestry. This peculiarity, unique among the peoples of Asia, came as a result of a governmental decree, the Edict of Clavería, for the systematic distribution of family names and the application of the Spanish name system. The names of many streets, cities and provinces are also in Spanish, plus all languages spoken in the Philippines have hundreds of Hispanic loanwords.

The common use of the English language is an example of the American impact on Philippine society. It has contributed to the full acceptance and influence of American popular culture trends. This affinity manifests itself in Filipinos’ taste for fast food, movies, and American music. Fast food outlets are located on the corners of major streets. Although major international fast-food chains have entered the market, local fast-food chains such as Goldilocks and most notably Jollibee, the leading fast-food chain in the country, have emerged and are successfully competing against their foreign rivals.




Our Lady of the Rosary, the altarpiece of the nineteenth century
Our Lady of the Rosary, the altarpiece of the nineteenth century

Before the arrival of Europeans, each ethnic group developed and perfected its own artistic manifestations, influenced by Malay, Chinese and Islamic art. However, it was during the Spanish conquest that missionaries introduced Western techniques for the practice of various arts. In this way, once the Filipinos converted to Christianity, they stopped sculpting small figures of idols to dedicate themselves to the elaboration of altarpieces, reliefs and sculptures of saints of the Catholic Church. After the nineteenth century the works of sculpture were directed towards other non-religious expressions; works known as Types of the Country — sculptures that showed people of various Filipino ethnicities going about their daily lives — became the most popular.

Similar to sculpture, early Filipino paintings are religious in nature, since the teaching of this art was for exclusive use in the church. Towards the end of this era, European influence gained strength and Filipino classicism developed. American domination opened the doors to modernist trends in painting, which have enriched the nation’s pictorial heritage. The Bayanihan Philippine National Folk Dance Company has been recognized for its attempt to preserve many of the traditional dances practiced throughout the Philippines. His interpretations of iconic Filipino dances have become famous, especially in dances such as tinikling and singkil, characterized by the use of bamboo canes to represent confrontations.

Filipino music can be classified into three major groups: folk music, Spanish-influenced and contemporary. Folk music encompasses all the traditions that endure among the country’s indigenous groups. The main musical instruments used are the gong, xylophone, flutes, trunk drums, harp, bamboo zithers, among others. Spanish-influenced music is mostly religious, although secular forms combined folkloric elements with Hispanic music for the creation of various traditional songs. The main legacy of this style are the rondallas and the Filipino adaptation of the Spanish students. Finally, contemporary music is strongly tied to American trends, lifestyles and popular culture. The so-called pinoy pop is a Filipino genre that encompasses various Western styles such as rock, jazz, hip-hop, disco and pop with the folkloric traditions of the country.

The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), created in 1987 by President Corazon Aquino, is the body responsible for creating, promoting, coordinating and regulating all cultural and artistic programs, policies and activities. The Order of National Artists is the highest recognition given by the NCCA to those artists who make significant contributions to the development and promotion of the Philippine arts. As of 2013, only 57 people have received such a designation in fields spanning architecture, film, visual arts, literature, fashion design, dance, historical literature, music and theater.

Architecture in the Philippines

Barasoain Church in Malolos, where the First Philippine Republic was founded
Barasoain Church in Malolos, where the First Philippine Republic was founded

The architecture of the Philippines is characterized by a strong Spanish influence and the integration of multiple elements of the culture of the native Filipinos. In fact, according to local folklore, typical Filipino houses must meet certain architectural characteristics to ensure good luck and prosperity for the family that inhabits it. For example, the ideal house should receive the sun’s rays in the morning on two of its facades. The stairs must be oriented to the east, must not be located in the center of the construction or have a number of steps that is a multiple of three. Other considerations include not placing two doors facing each other, not building basements, placing the bed away from the door, and making the dining room the largest and lightest space in the house.

Spanish architecture left its mark on the Philippines in the layout of many cities that were designed around a central plaza, but many of the buildings with its architectural influence were demolished during World War II. Some architectural examples that still stand are mainly churches, government buildings and universities. In fact, the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites includes four Filipino baroque churches of Spanish invoice: the Church of San Agustín de Manila, the Church of San Agustín de Paoay, the Church of Our Lady of the Assumption and the Church of Santo Tomás de Villanueva. Vigan, in Ilocos Sur, is also recognized for the many Hispanic-style houses and buildings that are still preserved.

After American rule and World War II, Filipino architecture began to adopt modern Western architectural currents, which combined with local traditions and culminated in the creation of the “Filipino style,” present in constructions such as the House of Representatives headquarters and the houses of government housing programs. United Architects of the Philippines (UAP) is an organization created in 1974 in order to regulate and organize all certified architects in the country and support and promote their works nationally and internationally.


Promotional of Secret of Confession (1939) the first film in Spanish produced in the Philippines
Promotional of Secret of Confession (1939) the first film in Spanish produced in the Philippines

Philippine cinema began with the introduction of the first film on January 1, 1897, at the Pertierra Salon in Manila. The following year, the Spaniard Antonio Ramos made the first filming with the Lumière brothers’ cinematograph. The first film made by a Filipino was Dalagang Bukid (Country Maiden), a film based on a popular musical, directed by José Nepomuceno. Known as the “father of Filipino cinematography”, his work marked the beginning of cinema as an art form on the islands. The Philippines was the last country to establish a national cinematheque, which opened in October 2011.

Even with the problems currently facing cinema, movies are still considered one of the most popular forms of entertainment among Filipinos. The film industry employs more than 260,000 people and generates around ₱2 billion annually. Some of the most successful Philippine films include: Kailangan Kita (2002), Libingan (2007), Ang Lihim ni Antonio (2008), Bata Bata Paano Ka Ginawa? (1998), Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros (2005), Moral (1982), Mababangong Bangungot (1979), Tinimbang Ka Ngunit Kulang (1974), Kisapmata (1981) and Oro Plata Mata (1982). Among the most critically acclaimed Filipino-born directors and actors are Lino Brocka and Nora Aunor, for films such as Maynila: Sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag and Himala. In recent years, it has become common to see Filipino celebrities move between television and film and then political activism.

Mythology and literature

In addition to being one of the forerunners of the Philippine Revolution, Jose Rizal is also considered one of the greatest Filipino writers.
In addition to being one of the forerunners of the Philippine Revolution, Jose Rizal is also considered one of the best Filipino writers

Filipino mythology has been transmitted primarily through the folk literature and oral tradition of the Filipino people. While each ethnic group has its own unique stories and myths, Hindu and Spanish influence can be detected in many cases. Many of the myths are creation stories or about supernatural creatures, such as the aswang (vampire), the diwata (fairies) and nature. Popular figures from Philippine mythology include Tikbalang, Maria Makiling, Lam-Ang and the Sarimanok.

Philippine literature comprises works generally written in Filipino, Spanish, and English. Some of the best-known Philippine works were created in the nineteenth century. Francisco Balagtas, a poet and playwright who wrote Florante at Laura, is recognized as a prominent writer of the Filipino language. José Rizal wrote the novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, where he depicted the injustices of Spanish rule. His death by firing squad inspired other Filipino revolutionaries to seek independence and he is considered a national hero. In the twentieth century, among the Filipino writers officially recognized as national artists of the Philippines are: N.V.M. Gonzalez, Nick Joaquin, F. Sionil José and Alejandro Roces.


Each year, the Congress of the Philippines agrees on a calendar of holidays and non-working days to be celebrated throughout the country. In general, these holidays coincide with the anniversary of historical events or are religious celebrations. The main festivities observed in the Philippines are:

Date Festival Local name Notes
January 1 New Year’s Day Araw ng Bagong Taon Start of the Gregorian calendar. December 31 is not working either.
February 25 Anniversary of the EDSA Revolution Anibersaryo ng Himagsikang Lakas ng Taumbayan Start of the EDSA Revolution, which occurred in 1986.
Variable Holy week Holy week Non-working days correspond to Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Saturday of Glory.
April 9 Batan Day Araw ng Kagitingan It commemorates the Battle of Batán during World War II.
May 1 Labor Day Araw ng Paggawa Commemoration of International Workers’ Day.
June 12 Independence day Araw ng Kalayaan Declaration of Philippine Independence from Spain.
August 21 Ninoy Aquino Day Araw ni Ninoy Aquino Anniversary of the assassination of Ninoy Aquino.
Variable National Heroes Day Pambasang Araw ng mga Bayani Held on the last Monday of August.
November 1 All Saints’ Day All Saints / Araw ng mga Patay / Araw ng mga Banal Religious festival in honor of the dead. November 2 is also not a working day.
November 30 Boniface Day Araw ni Bonifacio In honor of the birth of the revolutionary Andrés Bonifacio.
December 25 Christmas Pasko December 24 is not working either.
December 30 Jose Rizal Day Araw ni Rizal In honor of the death of Jose Rizal, poet and national hero.


Filipino cuisine has evolved over several centuries from its Malayo-Polynesian origin to become a mixed cuisine with many Hispanic, Chinese, American and other Asian national influences, which have adapted to local ingredients and palates to create distinctly Filipino dishes. The range of dishes ranges from simple, such as a meal of fried fish with salt and rice, to the very elaborate, such as stews and paellas prepared for the holidays. Popular dishes include suckling pig, adobo, sinigang, kare kare, tapa, pata crispiente, pancit, lumpia, halo-halo and puto. Some local ingredients commonly used in cooking are calamondines, coconuts, saba, mangoes, chano and various fish. The taste of Filipinos tends to favor strong flavors, but their dishes are not as spicy as those of their neighbors.

One of the most famous dishes is Balut. This meal consists of a duck egg already fertilized with its embryo inside, its preparation is equal to that of a cooked egg. In several Asian countries, it is considered a delight as it provides high protein content. It is usually sold in street stalls.

Unlike many Asian countries, Filipinos do not eat with chopsticks, but use Western cutlery. However, possibly because rice broth is the main staple food and the popularity of a large number of stews and dishes that are made with rice, the main pair of utensils on the Philippine table is the spoon and fork, and not the knife and fork. The traditional way of eating with the hands, known as kamayan, is most often seen in less urbanized areas.

Sports in the Philippines

A PBA basketball game
A PBA basketball game


Cockfighting in Hilongos, Philippines
Cockfighting in Hilongos, Philippines

There are several popular sports and pastimes in the country, highlighting basketball, boxing, badminton, taekwondo, billiards, bowling, chess and sipa. Extreme sports such as motocross, cycling and mountaineering are also gaining popularity. Basketball is played at amateur and professional level and is considered the most popular sport in the country. In fact, in almost every neighborhood of cities there is a basketball court. The national team participated in several editions of the Olympic Games and the World Basketball Championship – where they won a bronze medal in 1954 – and in multiple regional and local tournaments.

The Philippines has participated since 1924 in the Olympic Games and until the 2012 edition won a total of nine medals: seven bronze and two silver. Of these, five come from boxing, two from swimming and two from athletics events. Some Filipinos recognized for their sporting achievements include Francisco Guilledo, Flash Elorde and Manny Pacquiao in boxing; Paulino Alcántara in football; Carlos Loyzaga, Robert Jaworski and Ramón Fernández in basketball; Efren Reyes in billiards; Eugene Torre in chess; and Rafael Nepomuceno in bowling.

The country’s children and youth still play several of the traditional Filipino games, such as luksung baka, patintero, piko and tumbang prisoner. Sungka and mahjong are two of the most popular board games in the country. Card games are mainly played during some holidays, although some, including pusoy and tong-its, are used to place illegal bets. Yo-yo was introduced in its modern form by Pedro Flores, and its name comes from the Ilocano language.

Finally, arnis /Eskrima/kali is officially the martial art and national sport of the Philippines. Cockfighting was already flourishing in the pre-Hispanic Philippines, as recorded by Antonio Pigafetta, the Italian chronicler aboard Ferdinand Magellan’s 1521 expedition.

References (sources)