Mabuhay! It's more fun in the Philippines

The Philippines is a beautiful archipelago which is also called as the “Pearl of the Orient” located in Southeast Asia region bounded by the South China Sea on the west, the Philippine Sea on the east, the Luzon strait on the north, and the Celebes Sea on the south. The major island groupings are Luzon in the north, Visayas in the center and Mindanao in the south. It is comprise of more than 7 107 islands with a total land area of 300,000 sq. km. There are historical places, signature foods, dances and costumes in almost every province. This is primarily due to its strategic location, rich history, and culture.

History

                The Philippines is the third largest English speaking country in the world. It has a rich history combining Asian, European, and American influences. Prior to Spanish colonization in 1521, the Filipinos had a rich culture and were trading with the Chinese and the Japanese.

The first well documented arrival of western Europeans in the archipelago was the Spanish expedition led by Portuguese Ferdinand Magellan on 1521. The Spanish expedition headed by Ruy Lopez de Villalobos on 1542 claims the island for Spain and had named it “Islas Filipinas” in honor to King Philip II. Spain's colonization brought about the construction of Intramuros in 1571, a "Walled City" comprised of European buildings and churches, replicated in different parts of the archipelago. In 1898, after 350 years and 300 rebellions, the Filipinos, with leaders like Jose Rizal and Emilio Aguinaldo, succeeded in winning their independence.  In 1898, the Philippines became the first and only colony of the United States. Following the Philippine-American War, the United States brought widespread education to the islands. Filipinos fought alongside Americans during World War II, particularly at the famous battle of Bataan and Corregidor which delayed Japanese advance and saved Australia. They then waged a guerilla war against the Japanese from 1941 to 1945. The Philippines regained its independence in 1946 as well as Manuel Roxas Y Acuña was elected as the first president of the new republic.

People

The Filipino character is actually a little bit of all the cultures put together. The bayanihan or spirit of kinship and camaraderie that Filipinos are famous for is said to be taken from Malay forefathers. The close family relations are said to have been inherited from the Chinese. The piousness comes from the Spaniards who introduced Christianity in the 16th century. Hospitality is a common denominator in the Filipino character and this is what distinguishes the Filipino.

 

The Filipinos are divided geographically and culturally into regions, and each regional group is recognizable by distinct traits and dialects - the sturdy and frugal llocanos of the north, the industrious Tagalogs of the central plains, the carefree Visayans from the central islands, and the colorful tribesmen and religious Moslems of Mindanao. Tribal communities can be found scattered across the archipelago.

 

Climate

                The climate in the Philippines is typically tropical. Although the weather pattern is fairly complex, it can be roughly divided into the dry season (January to June) and the wet season (July to December). The first half of the year, from January to May, is the best time to visit the country. November to February are usually cool.

Religion

                The Philippines proudly boasts to be one of the only four Christian countries in Asia. More than 86 percent of the population is Roman Catholic, 6 percent belong to various nationalized Christian Cults, and another 2 percent belong to well over 100 Protestant denominations. In addition to the Christian majority, there is a vigorous 4 percent Muslim minority, concentrated on the Southern islands of Mindanao, Sulu and Palawan. The remaining 2 percent follow non- Western, indigenous beliefs and practices. The Chinese minority has been culturally influential in coloring Filipino Catholicism with many of the beliefs and practices of Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism.

Language

                The two official languages are Filipino and English. Filipino which is based on Tagalog, is the national language. English is also widely used and is the medium of instruction in higher education. Eight (8) major dialects spoken by majority of the Filipinos: Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilocano, Hiligaynon or Ilonggo, Bicol, Waray, Kapampangan, and Pangasinense. And some who knows and speak foreign language like Chinese, Japanese and Korean.

Culture

                The culture of the Philippines reflects the country’s complex history. It is a blend of the Malayo- Polynesian and Hispanic cultures, with influence from Chinese, Indians, Arabs and other Asian cultures. It has a larger and more vigorous artistic community than any other Southeast Asian nations. The hospitality of the Filipino culture as well is one of the reasons why tourism in the Philippines is steadily growing.

Cuisine

                Filipinos cook a variety of foods influenced by Western and Asian cuisine. The Philippines is considered a melting pot of Asia. Filipino cuisine is distinguished by its bold combination of sweet, sour and salty flavors. While other Asian cuisines may be known for a more subtle delivery and presentation, Filipino cuisine is often delivered all at once in a single presentation. Popular foods include:

  • Lechon (whole roasted pig)
  • Longganisa (Philippine sausage)
  • Tapa (cured beef)
  • Torta (omelette)
  • Adobo (chicken and/or pork braised in garlic, vinegar, oil and soy sauce)
  • Kaldereta (meat in tomato sauce stew)
  • Mechado (larded beef in soy and tomato sauce)
  • Puchero ( beef in bananas and tomato sauce)
  • Afritada (chicken and/or pork simmered in a tomato sauce with vegetables)
  • Kare- kare (oxtail and vegetables cooked in peanut sauce)
  • Crispy pata (deep fried pig’s leg)
  • Hamonado (pork sweetened in pineapple sauce)
  • Sinigang (meat or seafood in sour broth)

CURRENCY 

The currency in the Philippines is the Peso (PhP) and the Centavo. 100 centavos = P1. Coin denominations are: 5, 10, and 25 centavos, P1, and P5. Bill denominations are: 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1,000 pesos. Foreign currency may be exchanged at your hotel, and in most of the large department stores, banks, and authorized money changing shops. Exchanging money anywhere else is illegal and the laws are strictly enforced.  Most large stores, restaurants, hotels and resorts accept major credit cards including American Express, Visas and MasterCard. Traveler’s checks preferably American Express is accepted at hotels and large department stores. Personal checks drawn on foreign banks are generally not accepted

Popular Tourists Destinations

                The places in the Philippines that tourists visit the most:

  • Manila
  • Palawan
  • Boracay
  • Baguio
  • Bohol
  • Laguna
  • Dumaguete
  • Davao
  • Laoag
  • Subic
  • Clark
  • Leyte
  • Legaspi
  • Cagayan de Oro
  • Bicol
  • Cebu
  • Davao
  • Pagsanjan
  • Iloilo
  • Tagaytay
  • Batangas
  • Batanes
  • Puerto Galera
  • Ilocos Sur

Activities

                The activities in different places in the Philippines:

  • Caving
  • Cycling
  • Diving
  • Hiking & Trekking
  • Mountaineering
  • Sailing
  • Surfing
  • Windsurfing

Modes of Transportation

                Top 10 modes of transportation in Philippines:

  • Jeepneys
  • Buses
  • Tricycles
  • Bancas
  • Pedicabs
  • Minibuses
  • MRT/LRT
  • Taxis/FX
  • Ships/Ferries
  • Airplanes

Entry Requirements

                Foreign nationals are allowed to enter and travel within the Philippines for 21 days without a visa provided that they have valid tickets for their return journey to their port of origin or to their next travel destination port and that their passports are valid for a period of at least six (6) months. Extension of stay is available at the Philippine Bureau of Immigration after paying a minimal fee. For stays longer than 21 days, a temporary visitor’s visa is required.

                Exceptions: Passport holders of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR), British National Overseas (BNO), and Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR) are only allowed up to 7 days stay without a visa. Foreign nationals from Brazil and Israel are allowed up to 59 days without a visa.

AIRPORT TAX 

Passenger Terminal Fee is levied on all passengers embarking for:
1. International travel : PHP 550
2. Domestic travel: PHP 200
Place of payment: Airport of departure.
Exempt:
1. Children under 2 years of age.
2. Transit passengers remaining in the transit area and not leaving the airport.
3. Crew members. 

ANTI-SMOKING LAW in Enclosed Places etc.

MANILA, Philippines -- Section five of the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003 (Republic Act 9211) prohibits the carrying of any lighted tobacco product in public vehicles, schools, health centers, elevators, cinemas, malls and in places where fire hazards are present. Smoking is also banned in recreational facilities for minors. Fines imposed on violators of this section range from P500 to P10, 000.

VISA INFORMATION

GUIDELINES ON THE ENTRY OF TEMPORARY VISITORS TO THE PHILIPPINES

Nationals from countries who are travelling to the Philippines for business and tourism purposes are allowed to enter the Philippines without visas for a stay not exceeding twenty-one (21) days, provided they hold valid tickets for their return journey to port of origin or next port of destination and their passports valid for a period of at least six (6) months beyond the contemplated period of stay. However, Immigration Officers at ports of entry may exercise their discretion to admit holders of passports valid for at least sixty (60) days beyond the intended period of stay.

CUSTOMS 

Upon Arriving: Visitors are allowed to bring in duty free personal belongings, two cartons of cigarettes or two tins of pipe tobacco and up to one liter of alcohol. Balikbayans have separate rules and should check with the Embassy or Consulate in their home city.  You may bring in unlimited amount of foreign currency. Upon Leaving: Any antiques you may have acquired during your stay must be accompanied by a certificate from the National Museum. You may also not take more than PhP5, 000.00 (five thousand Philippine pesos) out of the country.

HOW TO GET THERE

By Air

Manila, Cebu, Davao, Clark, Subic, and Laoag are the international gateways, with the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila as the premier gateway. It is served by more than 30 airlines, which fly to different cities around the world. The Mactan International Airport (MIA) in Cebu handles regular flights from Japan, Singapore, and Australia as well as chartered flights from Hong Kong, the United States, and other major travel capitals. Davao International Airport handles regular flights from Indonesia and Singapore. The Diosdado Macapagal International Airport and Subic Airfield in Central Luzon service both chartered and cargo planes. Laoag International Airport in Ilocos Norte services regular flights from Taiwan and Macau. Philippine Airlines (PAL), the national flag carrier and considered “Asia’s First Airline,” remains the country’s biggest airline company. It has the largest number of international flights to the Philippines as well as domestic flights. PAL links Manila to 14 cities in 8 countries, and flies regularly to 41 domestic destinations outside Manila. The Philippines’ largest national flag carrier, Cebu Pacific (CEB) entered the aviation industry on March 1996 and pioneered the “low fare, great value” strategy. It has since then flown 50 million passengers and counting.

By Sea

As the islands of the Philippines are separated by different bodies of water, the sea plays an integral part in travel. A range of seafarers are available, from huge cargo ships to small ferry boats; take long trips that last for a day or two with regular ship lines or take shorter ones with ferries. Major cruise liners call on the port of Manila. WG&A Lines, a partnership between William Lines and the Aboitiz Group, has launched its SuperFerry Program, an affordable but convenient alternative to the usually crowded vessels of other ship lines.

By Land

Moving around the country by land is easy with national highways connecting the major islands and an extensive public transportation system, which includes the exotic Philippine jeepney. Trains, taxis, buses, jeepneys, and trikes are the main modes of public transportation. The calesa, a more elegant means of traveling in most major cities, is more commonly offered as a “fun ride” in many public parks across the country.