Get to Know the Island of the Philippines
Known as the pearl of the orient, the Philippines teems with culture and history. With over 7000 islands, it boasts of a diverse culture and natural wonders. Lying in the western Pacific Ocean, it has some of the best diving and snorkeling spots. Below, you will find out more about its history, economy, culture and everything else there is to know about this fascinating country.
The Philippines ranked No. 12 in the list of the most populous countries in the world because of its 92 million inhabitants. An estimated 11 million more are scattered across the globe, looking for a better life. The people in the Philippines are composed of various ethnicities and cultures. The Negritos were known to be the first inhabitants of this island. The Austronesian people then came and introduced to the early inhabitants the cultures of Malay, Hindu, and Islam. The early Filipinos traded heavily with the Chinese and that paved the way for the Chinese influence to penetrate into the country's culture.
In 1521, Ferdinand Magellan arrived in the island and brought with him the Spanish influence. It was the start of Spanish domination and the proliferation of Christianity. From 1566-1821, the country was colonized by the Spaniards. Under its regime, it had successfully thwarted several indigenous revolts and some attempts from the Chinese, Dutch, and Portuguese. As the Philippines entered world trade through the opening of its ports in the 1800s, many Spaniards and those with mixed ancestry amassed great wealth.
But dissatisfaction spread across the country and that led to the Philippine Revolution. The execution of the three priests, known as Gomburza, in 1872 fueled the propaganda movement initiated by three prominent Filipinos namely Jose Rizal, Mariano Ponce, and Marcelo H. Del Pilar. Rizal, who later became the national hero, was executed through firing squad on December 30, 1896. Many revolutions ensued to free Philippines from Spanish rulings. It had finally gained independence in 1898 and a historic declaration of Philippine independence was made on June 12, 1898 in Kawit, Cavite.
Under the leadership of Ferdinand Marcos in 1965 the Philippines was put under martial law that lasted for many years. The assassination of his chief rival Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, Jr initiated the downfall of his regime. In 1986, Ninoy's widow, Corazon Aquino was instated as president, following the People Power Revolution. The recent election has made Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III as the fifteenth president of the Philippine Republic.
Geography and Climate
The Philippines is made up of 7,107 islands with a land area measuring about 300,000 square kilometers. The eastern part of the country borders the Philippine Sea and the northern part borders the South China Sea, while to its southern part borders the Celebes Sea. Southwest of the Philippines is the island of Borneo and to the north is its Asian neighbor, Taiwan. Other neighboring islands include Moluccas and Sulawesi to the south-southwest and Palau to the east.
The climate in the Philippines can be described as tropical and is hot and humid most days of the year. It comprises of three seasons namely the summer season, which starts from March and lasts up to May, the rainy season, which starts from June to November, and the cool dry season, starting in December up to February. The Habagat or southwest monsoon usually strikes the country in the months of May to October, while the Amihan or northeast monsoon hits Philippines during the months of November to April. The country's usual temperature plays between 21oC to 32oC, depending on whether it is the warm or cold season. January is known to be the coldest month while May is the warmest month.
The Philippines population has ballooned to 92 million during the 2009 census, making it the 12th most populous country. The vast majority of that population inhabits the country's biggest island, Luzon. The capital city of Manila ranked No. 11 in the most populous cities in the world. The Greater Manila Area alone resides 20 million Filipinos.
About 11 million Filipinos are working and living abroad. The number of Filipinos living in the United States has grown significantly since the US immigration laws were loosened in 1965. Filipinos are the second largest immigrants in the US that are seeking family reunification. An estimated two million Filipinos are working in the different countries in the Middle East.
The Philippine economy ranked No. 48 in the world. The country's GDP in 2009 reached $161 billion. It has many exports products including electronic products, coconut oil, garments, among others. From a mainly agricultural country Philippines has slowly embraced industrialization, concentrating more on services and manufacturing. But the unemployment rate remains high, especially after it was hit by the recession in 2009.
The Philippines was once the second wealthiest economy in East Asia but during the Marcos regime the economy was badly mismanaged. The volatile political situation had also contributed to the sluggish economic development. Today, tourism and outsourcing have provided economic opportunities. Goldman Sachs recognizes the Philippines as one of the "Next Eleven" economies, although, China and India pose major competition.
The Philippine culture is a merger of Western and Eastern influences. Barrio fiestas are held in different cities and provinces each year to honor their respective patron saints. Sinulog Festival and Moriones Festival are two of the biggest fiesta celebrations in the country. During this time, dancing and feasting abound. The Spaniards have left behind some legacies such as the names and surnames that are used by most Filipinos.
Philippine cuisine is largely influenced by various cultures such as Chinese, Hispanic, and American. Rice is a staple in most tables, while elaborate dishes such as paellas, lechon, adobo, and kare-kare are prepared during major occasions. Although located in Southeast Asia, Filipinos eat with western cutlery, and not with chopsticks. Filipinos are also fond of sport, with basketball being played at all levels. One can find a basketball court almost anywhere. Patintero, piko, and tumbang preso are some of the traditional games and are mostly played by children. Pusoy and tong-its are traditional card games and are played during festivities. Being in Asia has exposed Filipinos in martial arts and it was able to create its own in the form of Arnis, which is hailed as its national martial arts.