From beautiful emerald rice fields to bright sandy beaches, tropical forests filled with wildlife to teeming mega-cities, the Philippines is a paradise with friendly people and vibrant cultural experiences just waiting to be explored. Here are 50 facts about the Philippines covering its history, culture, people, economy, archipelago and some interesting things.
The Philippines Archipelago
Fact 1. The Republic of the Philippines is the world’s second largest archipelago made up of over 7,100 islands. The country is divided into three key geographical areas. Luzon is the large island to the north on which the capital city Manila is located. Mindanao is the large island to the south. The Visayas are the group of islands lying between them in the middle. The Philippine’s flag has three stars on it to symbolize these three sections of the country.
Fact 2. The Philippine islands are surrounded by the Philippine, South China, Celebes, and Sulu Seas as well as the Luzon straight. This provides them with 36, 289 kilometers (22,540 miles) of coastline that includes natural harbors, beautiful coves, and spectacular sandy white beaches. The country has the fifth largest coastline of any country in the world. Taiwan is directly to the north of the Philippines.
Fact 3. Located on the western edge of the Pacific’s Ring of Fire, the Philippines has hundreds of volcanoes and an average of 20 earthquakes per day (most so faint they can’t be felt). The three most active volcanoes are Mount Pinatubo, the Taal Volcano, and the Mayon Volcano.
Geographical location of the Philippines
Historical facts about the Philippines
Fact 4. The Negritos were the area’s earliest inhabitants in prehistoric times (and still live in nomadic tribes in the tropical forests today). Exchanges of peoples with Chinese, Indian, Malay and Islamic states then occurred.
Fact 5. Spanish colonization began with Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 and in 1543 Spanish explorer de Villalabos names the archipelago for the crown prince (later King Philip II) of Spain. The Philippines remained a Spanish colony for over 300 years.
Fact 6. As part of the settlement of the Spanish-American war, Spain cedes the Philippines to the United States in 1898. The U.S. begins to incorporate the islands’ Muslim areas by force.
Fact 7. Japan seizes the Philippines in 1941 at the beginning of World War II; U.S. forces retake the islands in 1944. The islands are granted their full independence in 1946 (the first Southeast Asian country to gain independence after the war) and renamed the Republic of the Philippines. The U.S. military is awarded bases on the island in 1947.
Fact 8. President Ferdinand Marcos is elected in 1965 and declares martial law seven years later. He lives lavishly while the people live in poverty. He is ousted in 1986 by the “people power” revolt over a stolen election.
Fact 9. Several presidents come and go, some through coups amid corruption allegations. Movie actor turned President Joseph Estrada is ousted in 2001 by a military–backed uprising of the people and sentenced to life in prison but later pardoned.
Fact 10. Abu Sayyaf Muslim extremists take 20 hostages and troops comb the jungles in the southern island of Basil for them in 2001. In 2002 the Filipino and U.S. armies hold joint counter-terrorism exercises near the stronghold of this same Al-Qaeda-linked group.
Fact 11. In September 2009 the Army captures a leading figure in the MILF and in November a group of people on Mindanao are attacked, killing 57. The massacre shocks the country. February 2010 the army captures the Aby Sayyaf leader of the kidnapping and murder of Christian missionaries in 2001. A former provincial governor and 195 more people are charged with murder for the Mindanao massacre. President Benigno Aquino is elected.
Fact 12. In the southern Philippines in 2015, hundreds of Muslim rebels register to vote in the 2016 elections under the peace treaty signed to end 40 years of conflict. In October, a typhoon hits the northern Philippines, killing 59 and causing extensive damage to fisheries and farms.
Fact 13. In 2016, an international tribunal rules that claims China made in 2012 to the Scarborough Shoal reef off the coast of the Philippines in the South China Sea (with its significant gas and oil resources) has no legal basis.
Fact 14. Filipino culture has been influenced by both the East and the West with significant influences by Spain and the U.S. also. It owes much to its Malay heritage as well. There are an enormous 184 individual languages spoken in the Philippines but Filipino (Tagalog) and English are the country’s official languages.
Fact 15. From their Austronesian ancestors Filipinos are their famous “bayanihan”; a warm spirit of camaraderie and kinship they exhibit as a culture. From the Chinese comes their close emphasis on family ties and support. Their Catholic religion comes from the Spaniards who brought their Christian faith with them in the 1500s.
Fact 16. Though officially the Philippines are a secular state, Christianity is the dominant faith and over 80 percent of the population is Catholic. Traditional district festivals (barrio fiestas) that commemorate patron saints’ feast days are common. The Moraines and Sinology fiestas are two of the better known community celebrations and they include music and dancing as well as feasting.
Fact 17. Traditional Philippine folk dances like the “sigil” and the “tinkling” (featuring clashing bamboo poles and jumping patterns) are being preserved by the Bayanihan Philippine National Folk Dance Company. Filipinos still dress up and wear their national costumes of special occasions, with women dressed in a “tern” (a long dress with flared skirt and butterfly sleeves) and men wearing slacks and a “barong tagalong”, which is a special shirt with sleeves made out of pineapple pulp.
Fact 18. As of the 2000 census, 28 percent of the country’s population was Tagalog, 12 percent were Cebuano, and Ilocano, Visayas, Bicol, and Hiligaynon were all less than ten percent each. Another 25 percent of the population can be broken down into more than ten non-tribal and indigenous people groups.
Fact 19. The national dish of the Philippines may well be the adobo, a stew of port or chicken cooked with soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, bay leaf and peppercorns. “Adobo” means sauce in Spanish but the Filipino version was indigenous to the islands long before the arrival of Magellan. Other popular dishes include singing, halo-halo, lumpier, fish sauce and milkfish.
Fact 20. Meals are typically eaten three or four times each day. Besides breakfast, lunch and dinner a family might have “merienda” which is a late afternoon dessert or snack time. Rice is important in the Filipino diet and may be eaten at every meal.
Fact 21. Children go for six years to elementary school and then for four years to high school for their mandatory education. The University of Santo Tomas in Manila was founded in 1611 and the University of San Carlos in 1595, making them both older than Harvard University, which was not opened until 1636. Most of the students in the Philippines’ universities are female; they earn two-thirds of all master’s degrees awarded and most all of the doctorates.
Fact 22. The Filipinos celebrate secular holidays as well as Christian, Chinese and Muslim ones. Some notable ones are the Day of Valor, in which Boy Scouts re-enact and honor those on the Bataan Death March; Independence Day on June 12 and National Heroes Day on August 30, in addition to all the religious holidays.
Fact 23. Christmas season in the Philippines starts in September and ends with the Feast of the Three Kings in January. Christmas feasts (Noche Buena) are said to compare to American’s Thanksgiving dinner.
Fact 24. Basketball is the Filipinos’ most popular sport but cockfighting (or sabong) is also quite popular (particularly with men). Sabong existed in the islands before the Spanish arrived. The Philippines own Manny Pacquiao is currently regarded as the world’s best boxer and when his bouts are on television, crime drops to almost zero in the cities.
Fact 25. Social media is important to Filipinos. The Philippines is now considered the text capital of the world. With more than 450 million SMS messages sent by the residents daily, they surpass the daily texts sent in Europe and the U.S. combined.
Facts about Filipinos
Fact 26. On July 27, 2014, the birth of a baby girl made the population of the Philippines officially become 100 million. The Philippians was the twelfth country in the world to reach this number.
Fact 27. Half of the Philippines population is estimated to live on the island of Luzon. The population is densest in the city of Manila.
Fact 28. As of 2007, there were an estimated 12 million native Filipinos living and working overseas. The money sent home by these people accounts for approximately 11 percent of the economy of the Philippines.
Fact 29. The Philippines supplies the rest of the world with approximately 25 percent of all the overseas nurses that are available worldwide.
Fact 30. The Philippines struggles with human trafficking. It has the fourth largest number of children who are prostituted in the world. There are an estimated 375,000 girls and women in the sex trades. They range in age between 15 and 20, with some as young as 11 years old.
Facts for Kids
Fact 31. The national symbol of the Republic of the Philippines is the national bird of the country, the monkey-eating eagle (or Philippine eagle). This is the largest of all the eagles with a wingspan of almost seven feet wide. Because this eagle is critically endangered, killing one is punishable by 12 years in prison as well as a heavy fine. It is estimated there are only 180 to 500 of these eagles remaining.
Fact 32. The only place in the world where skunks are found other than America is Indonesia and the Philippines, where they are called stink badgers.
Fact 33. In June of 1991, Mount Pinatubo erupted and sent up a mushroom cloud of ash twenty five miles high. The effects of this destructive eruption were felt throughout the world as 20 million tons of toxic sulfur dioxide remained in the earth’s atmosphere for more than a year, lowering its temperature by a degree for the same amount of time. There were 184 people injured and over 847 people killed when it erupted and more than a million people left homeless.
The Philippines flag
Fact 34. It is the only country in the world whose flag is flown upside down when the country is at war.
Fact 35. There are no large predator animals in the Philippines except for snakes (cobras and pythons), birds of prey (like the monkey-eating eagle), and salt water crocodiles.
Interesting and and unusual facts
Fact 36. On these volcanic islands, mineral deposits are abundant but remain largely untapped presently. The Philippines is believed to have one of the largest copper deposits in the world and the second- largest gold deposits after South Africa. It also has a supply of chromite, zinc and nickel. The country is, however, the world’s second-largest geothermal energy producer (after the U.S.).
Fact 37. The Philippines is one of the world’s ten most biologically megadiverse countries due to its huge and diverse range of flora and fauna, including more than 170 species of birds and 100 species of mammals not found to exist anywhere else on earth so far. (Megadiverse indicates a country that harbors a high number of endemic species.) This country has one of the highest rates of discovery in the world; sixteen new mammal species have been discovered in the last decade.
Fact 38. The Philippines’ waters are an important part of the Coral Triangle. The Sulu Sea’s Tubbataha Reef is a 1993 World Heritage Site. It sustains the cultivation of seaweeds, crabs and pearls. Seven of the world’s eight giant clam species are found in the country’s waters. The most expensive and rarest seashell in the world is from the Philippines. The Conus gloriamus sold at auction for around $5,000.
Fact 39. One acute problem found in the country is deforestation, making the Philippines both a megadiversity country as well as a biodiversity hotspot for global conservation. (A hotspot has a critical need to conserve endangered and threaten species.)
Fact 40. The rice terraces of the Cordillleras remain has they were in pre-colonial times and are considered by the Filipinos to be the eighth wonder of the world. They were built over 2,000 years ago and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site today.
Fact 41. Before the discovery of an underground river in Mexico, Palawan’s Puerto Princesa Subterranean River in the Philippines was the longest underground waterway in the world. It is five miles (over eight kilometers) long. Mexico’s is over six miles long.
Fact 42. Not only is the country home to the longest snake in the world, it is also the world’s longest reptile. The Reticulated Python can grow to be as much as almost 29 feet in total length.
Fact 43. The Philippines’ capital city of Manila gets its name from the Nilad, a tree with star-shaped white flowers sometimes called the Indigo tree because it yields blue dye.
Fact 44. American soldiers can back from World War II with a new word in their vernacular: “boondocks”. If you live out in the “boonies”, you are isolated from others. The Word actually is based on a Filipino Tagalog word that means “mountain” – bundok.
Fact 45. After World War II, the Jeeps American GIs drove in the Philippines were left behind and converted into the Philippine Jeepney for carrying multiple passengers. Today’s 2nd and 3rd generation Jeepneys include air conditioning and closely resemble colorful mini-buses.
Fact 46. Three of the ten largest shopping malls in the entire world are located in the Philippine islands. They are SM Mall of Asia, SM North Edsa, and SM Megamall.
Fact 47. Filipino Pedro Flores introduced the modern form of the yo-yo as a popular toy but it actually had its beginning as an ancient studded hunting weapon attached to a long rope. The name is from the Ilocano language and means “come back”.
Fact 48. Filipino Dr. Abelardo Aguilar invented the antibiotic erythromycin in 1949. When he sent a sample to the Eli Lilly pharmaceutical company (his employer), they quickly patented it. It is used for people who are allergic to penicillin and has saved millions of peoples’ lives.
Fact 49. In 1975 Filipino Roberto del Rosario patented the “Sing Along System”, the first working karaoke machine. The Japanese later translated the name to “karaoke”, meaning “singing without accompaniment”.
Fact 50. Ferdinand Marcos, the country’s first elected president, died two decades ago yet hasn’t been properly buried yet. He is “on ice” while officials decide if he should be buried with other past presidents and the Philippines’ heroes in the cemetery reserved specifically for them or not.
A fusion of a variety of cultures creates the uniqueness that is the Philippines. From its majestic active volcanoes to the colorful Jeepneys that carry you from place to place, the Philippines are waiting to be discovered.
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The Philippines facts – country at a glance
|Largest city||Quezon City
|Independence||4 July 1946 (from the US)|
|Life expectancy||68.96 Years (2012)
Life expectancy at birth indicates the number of years a newborn infant would live if prevailing patterns of mortality at the time of its birth were to stay the same throughout its life.
|Population||100,998,376 (July 2015 est.)|
|Total Area||300,000 sq km|
|Borders||No land borders.
Maritime borders with China, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Palau, Vietnam, and Taiwan.
|National anthem||"Lupang Hinirang" (Chosen Land)|
|Official Language||Filipino and English|
|Climate||tropical marine; northeast monsoon (November to April); southwest monsoon (May to October)
|Terrain||mostly mountains with narrow to extensive coastal lowlands
|Currency||Peso (Filipino: piso) (₱) (PHP)|
|Natural resources||timber, petroleum, nickel, cobalt, silver, gold, salt, copper
|National symbol||three stars and sun, Philippine eagle; national colors: red, white, blue, yellow|
|Industries||electronics assembly, garments, footwear, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, wood products, food processing, petroleum refining, fishing
|Exports||$58.65 billion (2015 est.)
semiconductors and electronic products, transport equipment, garments, copper products, petroleum products, coconut oil, fruits
|Imports||$66.69 billion (2015 est.)
electronic products, mineral fuels, machinery and transport equipment, iron and steel, textile fabrics, grains, chemicals, plastic
|GDP - per capita (PPP)||$7,300 (2015 est.)
|Birth rate||24.27 births/1,000 population (2015 est.)
|Death rate||6.11 deaths/1,000 population (2015 est.)
|Sex ratio||1.01 male(s)/female (2015 est.)|
|Time Zone||UTC + 8:00|
|Internet country code||.ph|
|Internet users||41.106 million
percent of population: 40.7% (July 2015 est.)
|Drives on the||Right|