The Republic of the Philippines (Filipino: Republika ng Pilipinas) is an archipelago in South-East Asia consisting of 7,107 islands located between the Philippine Sea and the South China Sea, east of Vietnam, and north of Sabah and Borneo.

The Philippines is an archipelago abundant in nature, rich in culture, and filled with pleasant discoveries. Experience the Philippines, its 7,107 islands, its natural wonders, colorful history and warm, engaging people. Over a hundred ethnic groups, a mixture of foreign influences and a fusion of culture and arts have enhanced the uniqueness of the Filipino race and the wonder that is the Philippines.


  • Manila - the national capital and is part of what is called the greater Metropolitan Manila area (Metro Manila). The latter includes several cities and municipalities to form one administrative body governed jointly by the local governments and the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA).

  • Angeles - interesting place with a colorful history; it has been dubbed the "Entertainment Capital of Central Luzon.".

  • Bacolod - the city of smiles and land of sweet teeth. It celebrates the vibrant annual Maskara Festival, boasts of the delicious chicken inasal (marinated in local recipe prior to grilling) and home to many natural wonders. Most famous school in Bacolod is the St La Salle University (Top 11). Bacolod City is the most hospitable city in the Philippines. Everything you want to buy is in Bacolod.

  • Baguio - the country's summer capital (cool weather), well-maintained parks and views, the vegetable basket of the Philippines, home of the indigenous "Igorot" peoples who have proudly kept their culture of more than 2000 years, even prior to the arrival of the Chinese merchants and Spanish conquistadores in the archipelago.

  • Cagayan de Oro - known as the City of Golden Friendship, it is popular for whitewater rafting. As the gateway to Northern Mindanao, it is the jump off point to popular destinations like Camiguin Island and Bukidnon Province. Xavier University (Top 6) is the best university in Cagayan de Oro.

  • Cebu - also known as the Queen City of the South, Cebu is the first established indigenous settlement discovered by the west in the Philippines. For a short time before the re-dedication of Manila, Cebu City served as the capital of the far eastern territory claimed by Spain. The University of San Carlos (Top 5) is the most famous university in Cebu City.

  • Davao - one of the largest cities in the world in terms of land area. Relatively young when compared with Manila or Cebu, it has grown to become the economic and commercial hub of the southern island of Mindanao. Nearby you'll find the country's tallest mountain (Mount Apo), the endangered Philippine Eagle, and one of the priciest orchids in the world, the Waling-waling (Vanda Sanderiana.) This city comes in complete package: buffet meal at P99!, natural parks for flora and fauna, nature adventure such as zipping, climbing, snorkeling, etc.

  • Iloilo - also known as the King City of the South, Iloilo is the convention and education centre. The West Visayas State University (Top 7) and the University of San Agustin (Top 10) are the premier universities in Iloilo City. Famous restaurant in Iloilo are the Hong Kong Kitchen and The Promenade. Iloilo City is famous for its Deco's La Paz Batchoy and Mang Inasal Chicken. Iloilo City is the most noble city in the Philippines.

  • Tagbilaran City, Bohol - the City of Friendship, site of the Blood Compact Treaty between Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and Rajah Sikatuna representing the Bohol-anon people (of Bohol). The main entry point to Bohol's Chocolate Hills, centuries-old churches and Panglao Island's white-sand beaches and world-class dive sites. If you've loved the Mekong, Ganges or Yangtze, the Loboc River of Bohol is superlative and will mesmerize you. The province of Bohol is the latest city to have emerged as a prime eco-tourism destination. It was a little known treasure or paradise some 30 years ago.

  • Vigan - historic Spanish town, north of the Philippines and about 5 hours drive or bus ride from Manila. A UNESCO World Heritage Site.

  • Zamboanga City also known as the Asia's Latin City, Zamboanga City brings its best foot forward during the popular Fiesta Pilar, celebrated in honor of the city's patron saint, La Nuestra Senora del Pilar de Zaragoza Our Lady of the Pillar of Zaragoza, Spain. The people of Zamboanga speak a unique Creole language called Chavacano - a blend of Spanish and European, Mexican-Indian words with a spattering of several local dialects,and Zamboanga is an important part of BIMP-EAGA area which stands for Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area. BIMP-EAGA is an agreement among the four Southeast Asian neighbor countries for economic cooperation. It has put Zamboanga City in touch with towns in Malaysia and Indonesia. As a result of contacts arising from BIMP-EAGA, an air and sea route has been opened between Zamboanga City and Sandakan in Malaysia.

Other destinations

  • Banaue

  • Boracay

  • Camarines Sur

  • Camiguin

  • Coron Group

  • Donsol

  • El Nido

  • Leon Fall, Iloilo

  • Malapascua Island

  • Negros Island (Negros Occidental & Negros Oriental)

  • Panglao Island

  • Port Barton Coastline

  • Puerto Galera

  • Sabang

  • Sagada

  • Tagaytay

  • Tarlac

  • Taytay

  • Iloilo City

  • La Union

  • Legazpi City

  • Ligao City

  • Labo, Camarines Norte

  • Vinzons ,Camarines Norte

  • Lanao del Norte

  • Iligan City (the city of waterfalls)


There are a total of 79 provinces in the Philippines that can be divided among three main island groups:

  • Luzon | -
  • Visayas | -
  • Mindanao | -



Several thousand years ago, the first settlers in the Philippines crossed shallow seas and land bridges from the Asian mainland to arrive in this group of islands. These were the Negritos or Aetas. Direct descendants of these people can still be found in Zambales province to the North of Manila. Several thousand years later, they were then followed by Austronesian settlers travelling the same route as the Negritos but this time over sea in their impressive Balanghai boats. This word is where the basic form of political institution, the baranggay, came from.

After settling the islands, they traveled further and settled the islands of Indonesia, Malaysia as well as the whole Pacific. The early Austronesians of the Philippines simultaneously traded with each other as well as with the Chinese, Japanese, Okinawans, Indians, Thais, Arabs and other Austronesians of present-day Malaysia and Indonesia. An interesting mix of cultures developed in the islands, and a writing system called baybayin or alibata, as well as a social structure developed quickly. Hinduism and Buddhism was introduced by traders from India, Sumatra and Java. These two religions syncretized with the various indigenous animistic beliefs. Later, Arab, Malay and Javanese traders converted the natives, mainly in the island of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago to Islam.

When the explorer Ferdinand Magellan set foot on Philippine soil through the island of Homonhon in 1521, the Philippines was predominantly Hindu and Buddhist with some Muslim inhabitants mainly in the southern part of the country. Famished, Magellan's crew were treated to a feast by the welcoming islanders who wore elaborate gold jewelry. Magellan was Portuguese but it was a Spanish Expedition which he led to the islands which were eventually claimed by Spain as its colony. The Philippines was later on named for Crown Prince Philip II of Spain and most of the natives converted to Catholicism. The Muslims in the south and various animistic mountain tribes, however, resisted Spanish conquest and Catholic conversion.

The longest revolt against Spanish colonization was led by Francisco Dagohoy in Bohol which lasted for 85 years covering the period of 1744-1829. As a cabeza de barangay or barangay captain, Dagohoy opposed the Spanish colonizers which were represented by priests and civil leaders, which require payment of excessive taxes, tributes. They also oppresed the Philippines' natives by not subjecting them as slaves and sending them to prison for disobeying rules.

The Philippines remained a Spanish colony for over 300 years until 1899 when it was ceded by Spain to the United States following the Spanish-American War. The Filipinos declared independence on June 12, 1898 and resisted the American occupation and colonization and fought the Americans for seven years until the Filipinos surrendered which completed the colonization of the Philippines. The American presence remained until World War II when Japan invaded the Philippines. The Japanese occupation lasted from 1941 to 1945 when Gen. Douglas McArthur fulfilled his promise and liberated the country from the Japanese.

In 1946, the Philippines was granted full independence by the U.S., although they maintained a military presence in the country through the Subic Naval Base in Zambales and Clark Air Base in Angeles City. These facilities were ultimately returned to the Philippines in the early 1990's.

Up until the 1960's, the Philippines was second only to Japan in terms of development in Asia. Several decades of corrupt rule by Ferdinand Marcos plunged the country into debt and the Philippines ultimately became known as the sick man of Asia. Poverty was widespread and infrastructure for development was severely lacking. In 1986, the People Power uprising finally overthrew the Marcos government and he was replaced by Cory Aquino, widow of slain opposition leader, Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, Jr.

A couple of decades more have passed and somehow the Philippines are still lagging in comparison to its South East Asian neighbors Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam. Development is still slow but the country is at least moving in the right direction in recent times.


As of 2008, the Philippines has a whopping population estimated at 96 million. From its long history of Western occupation, 300 years by the Spaniards and 30 years by the Americans, its people have evolved as a unique blend of East and West in both appearance and culture. But Filipinos are largely Malay in terms of ethnic origin (Austronesian or Malayo-Polynesian). However, many, particularly in the cities of Luzon and the Visayas, have heavy Chinese, Spanish, and American mixtures, whereas those living in the provinces are mostly of pure Austronesian origin (known as "native"). Many Muslims in Mindanao have Arab, Indian and Chinese mixtures. The four largest foreign minorities in the country are as follows: Chinese (1st), Koreans (2nd), and Indian (3rd), and the Japanese (4th). Also of significance are the Americans, Indonesians, and Arabs. Pure Spaniards, and other Europeans, form a very small proportion in the country's population.

Needless to say, the Filipino trait is a confluence of many cultures put together. Filipinos are famous for the bayanihan or spirit of kinship and camaraderie taken from Malay forefathers. They observe very close family ties which is said to have been passed on by the Chinese. Religion comes from the Spaniards who were responsible for spreading the Christian faith across the archipelago. The Spaniards introduced Christianity (Roman Catholicism) and succeeded in converting the overwhelming majority of Filipinos. At least 83% of the total population belongs to the Roman Catholic faith.

The genuine and pure expression of hospitality is an inherent trait in Filipinos, especially those who reside in the countryside who may appear very shy at first, but have a generous spirit, as seen in their smiles. Hospitality, a trait displayed by every Filipino, makes these people legendary in Southeast Asia. Guests will often be treated like royalty in Philippine households. This is most evident during fiestas when even virtual strangers are welcomed and allowed to partake in the feast that most, if not all, households have during the occasion. At times, this hospitality is taken to a fault. Some households spend their entire savings on their fiesta offerings and sometimes even run into debt just to have lavish food on their table. They spend the next year paying for these debts and preparing for the next fiesta. At any rate, seldom can you find such hospitable people who enjoy the company of their Western visitors. Perhaps due to their long association with Spain, Filipinos are emotional and passionate about life in a way that seems more Latin than Asian.

Filipinos lead the bunch of English-proficient Asian people today. The American occupation was responsible for teaching the Filipino people the English language. While the official language is Filipino (which many incorrectly equate to Tagalog) and whereas 76-78 languages and 170 dialects exist in this archipelago, still English is the second most widely spoken language in the country.

The geographical and cultural grouping of Filipinos is defined by region, where each group has a set of distinct traits and dialects - the sturdy and frugal Ilocanos of the north, the industrious Tagalogs of the central plains, the loving and sweet Visayans from the central islands, and the colorful tribesmen and religious Muslims of Mindanao. Tribal communities or minorities are likewise scattered across the archipelago.

Also, it may seem peculiar for tourists to notice the Latin flair in Filipino culture. Mainstream Philippine culture compared to the rest of Asia is quite Hispanic and westernized at the surface level. But still, Filipinos are essentially Southeast Asians and many indigenous and pre-Hispanic attitudes and ways of thinking are still noticeable underneath a seemingly westernized veneer. Muslim Filipinos and indigenous groups, who have retained a fully Malayo-Polynesian culture unaffected by Spanish-influence, are also visible in cities like Manila, Baguio, Davao or Cebu, and can remind a visitor of the amazing diversity and multiculturalism present in the country.


The Philippines is not only the largest Christian country in Asia, but also it is the world's third largest Catholic Nation. The Catholic faith remains the single biggest legacy of three hundred years of Spanish colonial rule. Catholicism is still taken quite seriously in the Philippines. Masses still draw crowds from the biggest cathedrals in the metropolis to the smallest parish chapels in the countryside. During Holy Week, most broadcast TV stations close down or operate only on limited hours and those that do operate broadcast religious programs. The Catholic Church also still exerts quite a bit of influence even on non-religious affairs such as affairs of state. Mores are changing slowly, however; Filipinos are now slowly accepting what were previously taboo issues in as far as Catholic doctrine is concerned, such as artificial birth control, premarital sex, and the dissolution of marriage vows. 

The biggest religious minority are Muslim Filipinos who primarily live in Mindanao and Sulu, but also increasingly in cities such as Manila, Baguio or Cebu in the north and central parts of the country. They account for around 5% of the population. Islam is the oldest continually practiced organized religion in the Philippines, with the first conversions made in the 12th century AD. Islam became such an important force that Manila at the time of the Spanish arrival in the 16th century was a Muslim city. Many aspects of this Islamic past are seen in certain cultural traits many mainstream Christian Filipinos still exhibit (such as eating and hygiene etiquette) and has added to the melting pot of Filipino culture in general. Sadly, Terrorist attacks and violent confrontations between the Filipino army and splinter militant Islamic organizations such as the Abu Sayyaf and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have strained relations between Muslim and the non-Muslim Filipinos in rural areas in the south. Yet, the Muslim Filipinos are much more liberal in their interpretations of Islam, and like the Muslims of Indonesia, are generally more relaxed regarding such topics as gender-segregation or the hijab (veil) than South Asians or Middle Eastern Muslims.

Indian Filipinos, Chinese Filipinos, and Japanese Filipinos are mostly Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Shinto, and Taoist which all accounts 3% of the population of the Philippines. These populations have been in the country for centuries preceding Spanish rule, and many aspects of Buddhist and Hindu belief and culture are seen in the mainstream culture of Christian or Muslim Filipinos as well. As with many things in the Philippines, religion statistics are never clear-cut and defined, and many Christians and Muslims also practice and believe in indigenous spiritual aspects (such as honoring natural deities and ancestor-worship, as well as the existence of magic and healers) that may in some cases contradict the orthodox rules of their religions.


The climate is tropical, with March to May (summer) being the hottest months. The rainy season starts in June and extends through October with strong typhoons possible. The coolest months are from November to February, with mid-January to end of February considered the best for cooler and dryer weather. Locations exposed directly to the Pacific Ocean have frequent rainfall all year. This includes the popular Pagsanjan Falls southeast of Manila (though the falls will get you wet regardless). The average temperatures range from 78°F / 25°C to 90°F / 32°C, and humidity is around 77 percent. Baguio, which is branded as the summer capital of the Philippines, tends to be cooler due to its being located in mountainous regions with temperatures at night going below 20°C (68°F).


Being a predominantly Catholic country means observing the traditional Catholic holidays of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday during Lent. Christmas and New Year's Day are also observed as non-working holidays along with All Saints Day on November 1. In recognition of the Muslim Filipino, the Islamic feast of Eid-Al-Fitr (known in the Philippines as Hari Raya Puasa), held after Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting, is also a national holiday. This day changes year by year, as it follows the Lunar Calendar.

Secular holidays include Labor Day (May 1) and Independence Day (June 12). August 30 is also declared a holiday, it being a National Heroes Day. Some holidays also commemorate national heroes such as Jose Rizal (Dec. 30) and Andres Bonifacio (Nov. 30).

Metro Manila is less congested during Holy Week as people tend to go to their hometowns to spend the holidays there. Holy week is also considered part of the super peak season for most beach resorts such as Boracay and the most popular ones tend to get overcrowded at this time. Due to its cool mountain weather, Baguio is also where a lot of people spend the Holy Week break.

Get in

On entering the Philippines foreigners from most countries automatically get a free 3-week tourist visa. If intending on staying longer you should apply for a visa extension. Each visa extension is valid for 59 days, except the first which is 38 days (i.e 59-21). Effective 27 May 2009, all passengers regardless of citizenship or residence must fill-out the new machine-readable arrival-departure card which is issued by the airline. Unlike the previous scheme where arrival and departure cards are filled-out separately and independently from each other, the new card has a portion for arriving passengers, which will be given to the passport control officer and another part to be retained in the passport until departure.

You can pay on departure a fine of PhP1000 per month of overstay plus the PhP2020 fee.

To avoid all the hassle, before traveling get the longer visa from the embassy (or a consulate), as this saves you a couple of days hassle during your holiday. Contact the Philippine embassy of your country about the exact requirements for a visa application and opening hours of the consular section. When you arrive with a visa, show it to the immigration official, so that he will actually give you the 59 days, instead of the normal 21 days, on your arrival stamp.

Bureau of Immigration offices are as follows:

-Bureau of Immigration Main Office. Magallanes Drive, Intramuros, Manila. Tel (011-63-2)527-5657.

-Bureau of Immigration Regional Office. P Burgos Street, Tribunal, Mandaue City, Cebu. Tel (011-63-32)345-6442/6443/6444.

-Bureau of Immigration Regional Office - Davao. BI Building, JP Laurel Ave., Bajada, Davao City, Tel (011-63-82)300-7258.

-Bureau of Immigration offices in other locations:

By plane

Since the Philippines is an archipelago, most visitors will arrive by plane. International travelers can fly into airports in Manila, Cebu, Davao, Clark (Angeles), Kalibo, Laoag, Subic (Zambales), and Zamboanga. The Philippines, being an archipelago and therefore not connected by land to any of its neighboring countries is the usual reason why this paradise destination is skipped by many uninformed travelers. But below you will read about different options to reach the Philippine islands.

If you plan to travel around the various islands, it is best to get an open jaw ticket. This can save much time back-tracking. Most common open jaw combination fly into Manila and out of Cebu.

The cheapest option when coming from Europe or South America is transitting into Singapore (via Tiger Airways) or Hong Kong (via Cebu Pacific or Philippine Airlines) or fairly recently Kuala Lumpur (via Air Asia). In fact, the Air Asia trip from London to KL can be as low as €200 if you book a flight during off-peak season or well in advance. From KL, Cebu Pacific airlines can take you direct to Manila or you can pass by Singapore before your trip to this beautiful archipelago. From North America, use Philippine Airlines which has direct service from Vancouver and a stopover in Guam from San Francisco and Los Angeles. But there are many regional carriers that can give excellent open jaw ticket options Silkair with Singapore Airlines being one.

Most visitors will fly in through the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila. NAIA has three terminals. Terminal 2 is exclusively used by Philippine Airlines for its International and Domestic flight networks. Terminal 1 is used by airlines that fly to international destinations. The Manila Domestic Passenger Terminal is used by airlines that fly to domestic destinations. Terminal 3, the largest and most modern of the terminals , is open to Cebu Pacific, PAL Express and AirPhilippines operations.

Major airlines that fly to Manila include KLM, which have daily connections from Amsterdam coming from Europe; Northwest Airlines, which has various connections from the United States via Japan; Singapore Airlines with multiple connections each day to Singapore, and Cathay Pacific which offers multiple flights a day to Hong Kong and further into the the Chinese Mainland. Budget carrier Jet Air Asia operates flights from Singapore to Manila unlike other low cost carriers which fly to Clark (see below).

Major airlines that fly into Manila include (as of April 2009):

  • Afriqiyah Airways (Dhaka, Tripoli(Begins on July 18))

  • Air Macau (Macau)

  • Air Niugini (Hong Kong, Port Moresby)

  • Asiana Airlines (Busan, Seoul-Incheon)

  • Cathay Pacific (Hong Kong)

  • Cebu Pacific (Bangkok, Guangzhou, Ha Noi, Ho Chi Minh City, Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Macau, Seoul-Incheon, Shanghai, Singapore, Taipei, Xiamen)

  • China Airlines (Kaohsiung, Taipei-Taiwan Taoyuan)

  • China Southern Airlines (Beijing, Guangzhou, Xiamen)

  • Continental Airlines (as Continental Micronesia; Guam, Koror, Saipan, Yap)

  • Emirates (Dubai)

  • Etihad Airways (Abu Dhabi)

  • EVA Air (Taipei-Taiwan Taoyuan)

  • Gulf Air (Manama)

  • Hawaiian Airlines (Honolulu)

  • Hong Kong Express Airways (Hong Kong)

  • Japan Airlines (operated by JALways; Tokyo-Narita)

  • Jetstar Asia Airways (Singapore)

  • KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (Amsterdam)

  • Korean Air (Seoul-Incheon, Busan)

  • Kuwait Airways (Bangkok, Kuwait)

  • Malaysia Airlines (Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur)

  • Northwest Airlines (Detroit, Honululu, Nagoya-Centrair, Tokyo-Narita)

  • Philippine Airlines (Bangkok, Beijing, Busan, Chengdu, Chongging, Fukuoka, Guam, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, Honolulu, Jakarta, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Melbourne, Nagoya-Centrair, Okinawa, Osaka-Kansai, San Francisco, Seoul-Incheon, Shanghai-Pudong, Singapore, Sydney, Taipei-Taiwan Taoyuan, Tokyo-Narita, Vancouver, Xiamen)

  • Qantas (Brisbane, Sydney)

  • Qatar Airways (Doha)

  • Royal Brunei (Bandar Seri Begawan)

  • Saudi Arabian Airlines (Dammam, Jeddah, Riyadh)

  • Singapore Airlines (Singapore)

  • Thai Airways International (Bangkok, Osaka-Kansai)

From either international airport, passengers can connect to domestic flights. Philippine Airlines domestic flights leave from the same airport (Terminal 2), Cebu Pacific, PAL Express and Air Philippines fly out of Terminal 3 while other domestic airlines fly out of the old domestic airport.

The Diosdado Macapagal International Airport in Clark, Angeles City is where budget airlines like Air Asia (from Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu) and Tiger Airways (from Singapore and Macau) fly to, aside from that it also receives direct flights from Hong Kong and Korea. Clark is located to the north of Metro Manila, about 1 to 2 hours by bus. Currently Cebu Pacific operates domestic flights to Cebu-Mactan airport, and South East Asian Airlines operates flights to Boracay's Caticlan airport. Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific are currently awaiting approval to open up new hubs/focus cities at Diosdado Macapagal International Airport. It is set to replace the Ninoy Aquino International Airport as the country's premier gateway in 10 years time.

The Mactan-Cebu International Airport in Cebu on the island of Mactan, is the second busiest airport with various domestic and international connections.

Major airlines that have regular flights in and out of Cebu include (as of August 2007):


  • Air Philippines (Bacolod, Davao, General Santos, Iloilo, Manila)

  • Asian Spirit (Cagayan de Oro, Malay, Manila)

  • Cebu Pacific (Bacolod, Cagayan de Oro, Davao, Iloilo, Kalibo, Manila, Manila-Clark, Puerto Princesa, Zamboanga)

  • Philippine Airlines (Manila)

  • South East Asian Airlines (Bislig, Cotabato, Malay, Mambajao, Manila-Clark, Siargao, Tagbilaran and Zamboanga City)

  • Zest Airways ( Zamboanga City to Malaysia and Bandar Seri Bengawan )


  • Asian Spirit (Koror-Palau)

  • Asiana Airlines (Seoul-Incheon)

  • Cathay Pacific (Hong Kong)

  • Cebu Pacific (Busan, Hong Kong, Seoul-Incheon, Singapore, Taipei-Taiwan Taoyuan)

  • Mandarin Airlines (Kaoshiung, Taipei-Taiwan Taoyuan)

  • China Eastern Airlines (Shanghai-Pudong)

  • Korean Air (Seoul-Incheon)

  • Malaysia Airlines (Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur)

  • Philippine Airlines (Seoul-Incheon, Tokyo-Narita)

  • Qatar Airways (Doha)

  • Silk Air (Singapore)

Most visitors usually fly in through the Mactan-Cebu airport if their intended destination is within the Visayas (for Boracay and Bohol) and Mindanao regions.

The Francisco Bangoy International Airport in Davao City on the island of Mindanao receives direct flights from Seoul in South Korea, Singapore, Manado and Gorontalo in Indonesia, and Palau in Micronesia and seasonal flights from Macau. Flights operated by Air Asia are to begin next year, from Kuala Lumpur.

The Kalibo Airport in Kalibo in the province of Aklan, a gateway to Boracay, receives direct flights from Seoul in South Korea and Shanghai in China.

The Laoag International Airport in Laoag City in the province of Ilocos Norte receives direct flights from Guangzhou in China.

The Subic Bay International Airport in Subic in the province of Zambales receives direct flights from Taipei in Taiwan, Pacific Pearl Airways, a Charter Airline currently offers flights to Kalibo, Cebu, Puerto Princesa and parts of South Korea.

The Zamboanga International Airport in Zamboanga City on the Zamboanga Peninsula will soon receive direct flights from Sandakan in Malaysia beginning in April 23, 2007.

Get around

By plane

Philippine Airlines and Air Philippines , Cebu Pacific , SEAIR , Asian Spirit and Interisland Airlines are some of the airlines that operate domestic flights. Philippine Airlines, Air Philippines and Cebu Pacific serve most large cities, while smaller operators like SEAIR, Asian Spirit and Interisland Airlines typically fly to popular resort destinations.

By train

Within Metro Manila, there is a network of light railway systems that connect various portions of the metropolis. LRT1 Line covers Taft Avenue in Manila to Monumento in Caloocan. LRT2 Line, meanwhile covers Manggahan, Pasig to Recto Avenue in Manila. Third train system is the MRT1 which spans EDSA starting from North Ave. in Quezon City to Taft Avenue in Manila. This mode of transport is top choice among travelers for they are cheaper and faster compared to other land-based transportation. It operates from 6am to 12midnight daily.

The Philippine National Railways network in the south is currently under rehabilitation.

By car

There are major car rental companies such as Avis, Hertz and Budget have offices in Metro Manila, notably at the airport. These companies have chauffeur driven rentals available and prices are bound to be reasonable.

Due to heavy traffic in Metro Manila, certain areas of the city have laws that restrict certain vehicles based on the day of the week and the ending number of your vehicle's license plate (this plan is called "Color Coding", though it has nothing to do with the color of your vehicle). For example: Cars with license plates ending in 1 or 2 cannot drive between the hours of 7AM and 7PM on Mondays on most main roads. Be sure to check with a local contact or the car rental agency/hotel concierge about whether these rules will apply to your vehicle, especially as foreigners driving can become targets for less scrupulous traffic aides.

Travel from Metro Manila to various provinces in Luzon will typically start off from either the North(NLEX) or South(SLEX) Expressways. These are tollways with good paved roads. Farthest tolls will not cost more than a few dollars from Metro Manila. From the expressways, national highways and provincial roads connect to the major cities and provinces. Another main highway system built in the northern part of Luzon is SCTEX or Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway which is a 94-kilometer 4-lane freeway.

Bridges and ferries connect the major islands together. Roads vary greatly in quality from the paved multi-lane highways to narrow dirt roads, which further complicates travel by car

By taxi

Taxis are generally available within the major cities but are usually not used for travel across the various provinces and regions. Some FX (shared taxis), however, usually ply provincial routes.

You can also call reputable Taxi companies that can arrange pickups and transfers as well as airport runs.

Basic Taxi Company Tel: 02 9001447 Tel: 02 6427777 Tel: 02 6437777

When hailing a taxi in the cities, ensure the meter is on and pay the metered fare. A tip of 10 pesos is acceptable. Also, make sure you have small denomination banknotes, as the drivers often claim not to have change in an effort to obtain a larger tip! Moreover, don't be surprised if drivers want to bypass the meter during rush hour.

By bus

Apart from flying, buses are usually the way to go when it comes to traveling across the Philippines, at least from within the major islands. Provincial bus companies have scheduled trips from Manila to provinces to the north and south.

  • Major Provincial Bus Companies:

    • ALPS The Bus, Inc. -- Southern Tagalog Region. The bus company have daily departures from Batangas to Alabang; Batangas to Lawton; Batangas to Pasay; Batangas to Cubao/Kamias; Cubao to Iloilo; Cubao to Estancia and vise versa. You can travel safely and conveniently with the everyday low fares on ALPS. They can be contacted via web:; e-mail:; Telephone: +6343-7239033

    • JAM Bus Co -- Southern Tagalog Region

    • Five Star -- Ilocos Region

    • Victory Liner -- Ilocos Region, Baguio and Zambales

    • Saulog Transit -- Baguio, Olongapo, Cavite

    • Partas -- Ilocos Region

    • Farinas -- Ilocos Region

    • Dagupan Bus Co. -- Ilocos Region

    • Philtranco -- Bicol, Eastern Visayas, Northern, Eastern, and Southern Mindanao

    • Rural Transit -- Mindanao

    • Rural Tours -- Mindanao

    • Bachelor Tours -- Northern Mindanao

    • Super-5 -- Northern Mindanao Roll-on, Roll-off ferries have also made inter-island travel by bus possible.

By boat

WG&A SuperFerry and a number of other companies operate interisland ferries. There is a convenient Friday overnight ferry trip to Coron, Palawan. This allows divers to spend the weekend in Coron and take the Sunday night ferry trip back to Manila, arriving around noon. You can also stay on a Cruise Ship that's exploring around the Coron area. The 7107 Island Cruise Ship takes passengers around Coron and some of it's private islands.

Ferry trips to other islands can take over 24 hours, depending on distance.

Other major ferry companies include: Sulpicio Lines, Negros Navigation, Trans Asia Shipping Lines, and Cebu Ferries.

Oceanjet is a reliable company offering fast ferries throughout the Visayas at affordable prices.

Schedule Information is difficult to obtain - newspapers often contain pages with ads on certain days, but, believe it or not, most people rely on word-of-outh.

Warning: If the boat appears to be over capacity, do not board. Always check the latest weather reports before travel by ferry, as some captains are willing to sail even when a typhoon is approaching. Bringing your own life preserver is strongly recommended (but no substitute for common sense). Travel by boat should not be considered safer than air travel.

By jeep


Jeepneys are the most known transportation to all Filipinos. They are the most affordable transport in the Philippines. (Cost about 9 pesos per km). They stop if you wave at them.

The jeepney is by far the most affordable way to get around most major urban areas. Remnants of the Jeep used by the American troops during World War II, the innovative Filipinos modified the jeep (by lengthening the body and adding horizontal seats) to seat as many as 20 people (10 per side). Within Manila, you will find multiple Jeepneys per route, for added convenience. In the provinces, Jeepneys also connect towns and cities. For longer distances, however, buses are more comfortable.

Also worthy of mention are the tricycles and the pedicabs (three-wheeled vehicle); however, this may not be to the liking of most foreigners, as these are cramped and quite open to traffic. These means of transport are also usually only used for very short distances.

NOTE: The jeepneys, tricycles and pedicabs are meant for small people. Seating is cramped, even for locals, who are, on average, smaller by Western standards. Jeepney drivers/operators often insist on seating the vehicle to full capacity (say, nine per side) even if there's a very large person seated. Consider this if you're overweight or 6 feet or taller. Watch your head when boarding as the roof is low (compared to a bus). Also, drivers often don't look to see if anyone is boarding before driving off. As you board, you need to evaluate every half second whether you're going to abort or hang on to the vehicle if it starts to move. If you're not in good physical shape, don't even try it.


The Philippines has two official languages: English and Filipino. Filipino is mainly based on the Tagalog language (a relative of Malay), with heavy Spanish, Cebuano, Malay, Chinese (Hokkien), Hindi, Tamil, Sanskrit, Arabic, and American English influences.

Filipino is the language spoken in the Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog regions as well as the National Capital Region (NCR) or Metro Manila. In the Northern Luzon provinces, Ilocano is the most common language spoken. The provinces of Pangasinan and Pampanga also have their own languages. Further south of Metro Manila lies the Bicol Region where Bikolano is used. In the Southern Islands of Visayas and Mindanao, Cebuano is the most common language spoken. Other minor languages in the south include Hiligaynon and Waray.

Although English is an official language of the Philippines and a compulsory subject in school, it is in practice used more often by the richer and better educated when making formal speeches and it would be awkward if a Filipino speaks English to a fellow Filipino in informal situations. Tourists however won't have problems using English when making inquiries from commercial and government establishments. A few simple phrases in Filipino will come in handy when traveling to rural places as English proficiency is limited there.

Many Spanish words survive in many of the local languages. Spanish is no longer widely understood. Nonetheless, Spanish is still spoken by a small Spanish ethnic minority, particularly older members who were educated when Spanish was used as the language of government and higher education. Younger Spanish-Filipinos tend to speak Filipino languages and/or English as their primary language.

There are some other ethnic groups who reside in the country, particularly in more urbanized areas like Manila. The biggest group is the Chinese, many of whom have assimilated with Filipino society. Take note however that since most of them come from Fujan province, they speak more Hokkien but learn Manadarin if sent to Chinese schools. Other groups include the Indians, Japanese, Arabs, Koreans, Americans and Europeans. In some cosmopolitan areas, there are establishments catering to Korean speakers.



Scuba diving is spectacular in the Philippines. There is a great variety of dive sites and most if not all of these would have at least a handful of PADI accredited diving schools where you can obtain your license. Costs (of both lessons and equipment) are likely to be cheaper here compared to places like Australia, the Caribbean or even in nearby Thailand and Malaysia.


The Philippines has several places where you can do Whitewater Rafting.

One of the best, if not the best, whitewater rafting experience can be had in Cagayan de Oro City, a city in the northern part of Mindanao.

Also, Davao is emerging as the "true" Whitewater rafting capital in Mindanao, if not in the Philippines.


The Philippines offers plenty of regional festivals, often linked to the feast of the patron saints of the town or city holding the festival. Parades and processions, marching bands, floats and dance displays are usual activities. A number of important festivals include the following:

  • Black Nazarene - held in Quiapo Church Manila in January.

  • Sinulog - held in Cebu City on the 3rd Sunday of January. Celebrating Sto. Niño, the Sinulog Festival includes a week of dancing, parades and celebration.

  • Panagbenga - the flower festival held in Baguio every February

  • Chinese New Year - celebrations coinciding with the coming of the Lunar new year, held in many urban areas, particularly in Chinatown in downtown Manila

  • Ati-Atihan - also held to commemorate the feast of the Sto. Niño, but this time in Kalibo on the island of Panay. The Queen of Philippine Festivals and said to be the Filipino version of Mardi Gras.

  • Moriones - held during the Lenten Season in Marinduque. These are passion plays meant to depict the crucifixion and eventual resurrection of Jesus Christ.

  • Pahiyas - held every May in Lucban, Quezon to celebrate the feast day of San Isidro Labrador. There is a town-wide house decorating contest held during the festival. The colors and designs used are a feast for the eyes.

  • Flores de Mayo - flower festival held in every May. Many towns celebrate Flores De Mayo with the community congregating in the afternoons to pray the rosary, offer flowers to the Virgin Mary, and share homemade delicacies and snacks. Children and adults wearing their Sunday best sing and dance to welcome the rains that will water the new crops.

  • Kadayawan - held in Davao every August, Kadayawan means a Thanksgiving celebration for the good harvest, where most flowers and fruits are available during the season.

  • Bangus Festival - not as popular as the other festivals. It is held annually in Dagupan City, Pangasinan. The usual events are a parade and 101 Ways to Cook Bangus. A "Longest Barbeque" was also held during the festival one year.

  • Kagay-an Festival - held every August 26 to 28 in Cagayan de Oro in celebration of the feast day of Saint Augustine. Festivity highlight includes the Miss Kagay-an Tourism beauty pagent, Sakay-Sakay sa Lambago fluvial parade, street dancing in native costumes and the Golden Float parade.

  • Zamboanga Hermosa Festival (Fiesta Pilar) October 3-12 Highlighted by the October 12 Fiesta Pilar in honor of the miraculous image of Our Lady of the Pillar at the legendary Fort Pilar. The festival features week-long novena masses, cultural shows, agricultural fairs, cutural exhibits, a two-day mardi gras parade, the bandoreal, a regatta, torch parades, fireworks, and carnivals. The festival commences with a solemn procession and a grand mass at the Fort. With thousands of pilgrims converging in Zamboanga City, this is the peninsula's biggest festival.

  • Kaamulan Festival (Bukidnon)


Beaches can be found aplenty on this nation of 7,107 islands. These beaches come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and fineness of sand. Some are in well-secluded islands while others are just a short ride across a causeway from the city. Among the most notable are the following:

  • Boracay - Boracay Island off the island of Panay has the White Beach. It is also one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. It has fine, powdery white sand stretching on for several kilometers and is an excellent spot for sun-worshippers. Boracay also has several other lesser-known beaches. Outrigger boats to Boracay depart from Caticlan Port, just a short flight from Manila.

  • Mactan Island - in Cebu, the Cebu airport is actually on Mactan Island

  • Pagudpud - in Ilocos Norte, several hours north of Metro Manila

  • Panglao - small island off the island of Bohol, a short ride from the capital of Tagbilaran, which in turn is a short fast ferry ride from Cebu City. From Panglao, you can easily schedule an excursion to the Chocolate Hills for which Bohol is most known.

  • Puerto Galera - on the island of Mindoro. Ferries to Puerto Galera depart from Batangas Port, a couple of hours drive south of Metro Manila

  • Samal Island - off the coast of Davao

  • Camiguin Island - an island-province north of Mindanao. Also known as the Lanzones Capital of the Philippines, it can be reached directly by plane or ferry.

  • Sta. Cruz Island - Zamboanga City Great Santa Cruz island is known for it's pink sand beach and sand bar, while the Little sta. cruz island is a typical white beach, with pulverized-like sand. It is also a diving site and is host to a lagoon.

  • Negros Island - Negros Occidental (north-western half of the island, in the Western Visayas region) offers fine white sand beaches, and nearby Danjugan Island Marine Reserve. Danjugan Island is bursting with thousands of species of marine life and home to the endangered White Breasted Eagle. Negros Oriental (south-eastern half of the island, in the Central Visayas region) is home to Dumaguete and numerous beach resorts in Dauin that can take you to Apo Island, one of the most magnificent diving spots in the Philippines.


It is possible for foreigners to earn casual money whilst staying in the Philippines, especially in Manila and other bigger cities in provinces. These may include temporary teaching in schools, colleges and other institutions; and working in bars and clubs. Temporary work may also be available as an "extra" on the set of a film or television series. Fluency in English is very important in jobs even if knowledge of Filipino or Tagalog is considerably low.

Unlike other countries, there are no strict bureaucratic papers needed such as carte de sejours and NI IDs, so some formal jobs are not hard to come by and get. Do not expect large sums of money even for formal jobs. Wages are displayed on a per day basis rather than a per hour basis.

Most establishments pay out monthly but informal jobs pay out variably either cash on hand or weekly.



The Philippine peso (PHP) is the official currency. As of February 2009, one Euro trades at around 60 pesos.

Peso bills come in denominations of 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000. One peso is equivalent to 100 centavos and coins come in 5, 10 and 25 centavo variants in addition to the 1, 5 and 10 peso coins.

Money changers are not so common in the Philippines apart from some heavily touristed areas and most malls which usually have their own currency exchange stall. Banks on the other hand are widely available to exchange currency but usually impose a minimum amount and have limited hours of operation, usually from 9 AM to 3 PM on weekdays except BPI and BDO which have longer hours of operation.

Visitors can also use the 6,000 ATMs nationwide to withdraw funds or ask for cash advances. The three major local ATM consortia are BancNet, MegaLink and Expressnet. International networks, like PLUS and Cirrus, are accessible with many ATMs, but Cirrus is more predominant than PLUS; however, withdrawals are often limited to 5,000 pesos. An exception is HSBC where up to 50,000 pesos is possible.

Visitors who have a MasterCard/Maestro/Cirrus card can withdraw funds or ask for cash advances at ATMs that display their logos. The most prominent MasterCard ATMs are the Express Tellers by BPI (Bank of the Philippine Islands) and the Smartellers by Banco de Oro.

PLUS ATMs are not available locally as a complement by itself, but instead it is available along with Cirrus. Prominent examples include the Fasteller by Equitable PCI Bank and the Electronic Teller (ET) by Metrobank. Most MegaLink ATMs are linked to PLUS and Cirrus.

Credit card holders can use VISA, MasterCard, American Express and JCB cards in many locations in the Philippines but merchants would usually require a minimum purchase amount before you can use your card. Cardholders of China UnionPay credit cards can get cash advances at many BancNet ATMs (particularly of Metrobank) but cannot use their cards in point of sale transactions at the moment.


The Philippines is cheap (one of the least expensive places to visit in Asia and as well in the rest of the world.)

Some accomdation is pricy. , more so in some cases places to stay are cheaper in Thailand.

As of now the exchange rate of US Dollar in Peso is P47 ( $1 = P47 )

Here is a list of prices in Philippine pesos (P).

Flight from London Heathrow to Manila £500 (off peak - Aug - Nov, Jan - April) - £800 peak, economy

Flight from London Heathrow to Manila £1200 - £1800 (P120,000 - P180,000) Business and First Class

One-way flight from Manila to Singapore (vice-versa) - US$75

One-way flight from Manila to Cebu (vice-versa) - US$35

Typical 4-star hotel single room in Manila - P3500/$66

Typical 3D/2N hotel suite accommodation in Boracay Island - P14,000/$264

Air-conditioned dormitory in Manila - P240/$4.50

Single air-con room with private cold shower and cable TV in Cebu - P500/$9.45

Movie - P100-P160/$2-$3

Budget Meal - P50 (includes a cup of rice, assorted selection of meat, side dish of vegetables, and a bowl of clear broth soup).

Taxi - P30 for the first 2.5km and P2.50 for each succeeding 200m

Jeepney - P8.50 (first 4km; P6.00 for Students/Elderly/Disabled) P1.25/KM after the first 4km.

Elevated Train in Manila - P12-15 (LRT 1 and MRT 2), P10-P15 (MRT-3)

Internet use (1 hour) - P20-P50; depending on the Internet Café

7-Eleven: can of Coke - P16, 1.5 liter Coke - P35, Hotdog - P20, Donut - P16, serving of Spaghetti - P32, serving of Pork Adobo with rice - P35

Buffet in Cebu - P130

Buffet in Davao - P99

Buffet in Manila - P350

International Herald Tribune - P70

Economist Magazine - P160


Filipino cuisine has developed from the different cultures that shaped its history. As such it is a melange of Chinese, Malay, Spanish and American influences. Though its cuisine is not as renowned as many of its neighbours, such as that of Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and lately Vietnam, Filipino cooking is nonetheless distinct in that it is possibly the least spicy of all South East Asian cuisines. Don't make the mistake to think of Filipino food as bland, though. It is just that instead of spices, Filipino food depends more on garlic, onions and ginger to add flavor to dishes. Painstaking preparation and prolonged cooking time is also a characteristic of most Filipino dishes, and when done properly is often what brings out the flavor of the food as, opposed to a healthy dose of spices.

Filipinos usually eat with a spoon and fork, with the spoon held in the right hand and the fork used for pushing food onto the spoon but sometimes, Filipinos eat with their hands, usually on provinces and remote areas or when they are on a picnic and using banana leaves as their plates.


As with the rest of Southeast Asia, rice is the staple food of the Philippines. Some areas in the Visayas prefer corn but elsewhere Filipinos would generally have rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Uncooked rice usually comes in 50kg sacks but can be bought by the kilogram at the wet market or at neighborhood rice dealers. Single servings of rice are readily available at fastfood restaurants or eateries.


Filipinos usually serve at least one main course accompanied by rice for lunch and dinner. At times you would have two with a vegetable dish accompanying a meat dish. On special occasions such as fiestas, several main dishes would be served. Soups are also often the main course apart from being a starter. It is not uncommon for Filipinos to douse their rice with the soup and eat the meat that came with the soup alongside. Here are a few typical Filipino dishes:

  • Adobo - chicken, pork or both served in a garlicky stew with vinegar and soy sauce as a base.

  • Pansit - chicken, pork or shrimp mixed with rice noodles with variety of vegetables i.e. carrots, cabbage, celery, peapods etc.

  • Tinola - chicken in ginger soup.

  • Sinigang - soup soured usually with tamarind (but can also be by guavas or kamias), can be served with pork, beef, chicken, fish or shrimp.

  • Lengua - roasted beef tongue marinated in savory sauce

  • Nilaga - literally means "boiled", can be beef which in certain places is served with its marrow (bulalo), pork or chicken.

  • Calamares - fried shrimp/squid wrapped in breading.

  • Kare-kare - peanuty stew of vegetables and meat simmered for hours on end, usually beef with tripe and tail and eaten with a side of shrimp paste (bagoong). There is also a seafood version of kare-kare with crabs, squid and shrimp instead of beef.

  • Camaron Rebusado - the Filipino version of tempura.

  • Lechon de leche - slow-roasted baby pork, usually served during larger occasions. The crispy skin is delicious and is often the first part that is consumed.

  • Daing na bangus - fried dried milkfish, usually served for breakfast with garlic fried rice and fried egg.

  • Pakbet - a traditional meal of mixed vegetables usually containing cut tomatoes, minced pork, lady finger, eggplant, etc.

  • Dinuguan - a dark stew of pig's blood mixed with its innards. Usually served with a big green chili and best eaten with puto.

  • Bopis - pork innards, usually served spicy.


Filipinos love to snack. Merienda is what Filipinos call their mid-morning and mid-afternoon meals. Some favorite snack time meals include:

  • Bibingka - rice cake with cheese and salted egg.

  • Halo-halo - literally means "mixed", fruit, sweets, crushed ice, milk, beans, and sometimes ice cream. Similar to the ice kachang served in Malaysia and Singapore.

  • Balut - is a fertilized duck egg with a nearly-developed embryo inside that is boiled and eaten in the shell. Popularly believed to be an aphrodisiac and considered a high-protein, hearty snack, baluts are mostly sold by street vendors at night in the regions where they are available. Boiled and usually eaten with a sprinkle of salt and vinegar.

  • Penoy - same as balut, but without the embryo, just the yolk.

  • Buko pie - pie made with fresh coconut flesh. The province of Laguna has numerous roadside buko pie stores, with several of them claiming to be the home of the "original" buko pie.

  • Pandesal - small buns usually made fresh in the morning, usually an alternative to rice for breakfast. It is usually eaten with a cup of coffee. Some people prefer to dip their pandesal in coffee.

  • Banana cue - a popular street food made of saba bananas fried in very hot oil with caramelized sugar coating. The saba bananas can also be boiled instead of fried.

  • Fishballs - more popularly known to Filipinos as "fishballan" they usually come in vendor stands and are sold deep-fried along with squidballs, chickenballs and kikiam. Some stands also sell "isaw" (chicken innard), siomai (steamed dumpling), "kwekkwek" (boiled quail egg in orange coating), and "betamax" (dried and cubed pig's blood). A stick may sell from P5 to P10. Isaw sticks usually sell for P2.

  • Puto - a general term for rice cake, they usually come as soft white rice muffins or pie-shaped desserts. Other kinds include Biko, Cuchinta, Pichi-Pichi, Sapin-Sapin, etc. The towns of Calasiao in Pangasinan and Binan, Laguna are famous for their puto.

  • Chicharon - crunchy snacks made from deep-fried pig skin.

Fruits & Desserts

Tropical fruits abound in the Philippines. Most of the countryside produce finds its way to the metro areas and can be easily bought in supermarkets, such as:

  • Green, ripe, and dried mangoes - Philippine mangoes are among the best in the world.

  • 'Durian' - smells like hell but supposedly tastes of heaven, most common in Davao but can usually also be bought in some supermarkets in Manila.

Desserts/ Sweets:

  • 'Sampaloc candy'- salted and sweetened tamarind fruit

  • 'Mais con Hielo'- a dessert of fresh sweet corn served in a glass mixed with crushed ice and milk.

  • 'Halo-Halo' - another refreshing dessert which is a mix of sweetened beans and fruits, such as sweetened bananas, red and white beans, sago, crushed ice and milk and topped off with leche flan and ube jam and/or ice cream

  • 'Leche Flan' - custard flan made from eggs, milk and sugar

McDonald's, Dairy Queen, Burger King, Wendy's, KFC, Shakey's, Pizza Hut, Kenny Roger's Roasters, Sbarro's, Starbucks, Seattle's Best, Subway and other multinational fast food chains have established themselves in the Philippines. The Philippine version of McDonald's, Jollibee, has a branch in almost every city and town in the country. Other popular Filipino food chains are Chow King, Goldilock's, and Greenwich.


Metro Manila is home to many bars, watering holes, and karaoke sites. Popular places include Makati (particularly the Glorietta and Greenbelt areas), Ortigas Metrowalk, and Eastwood in Libis. Other big cities such as Cebu City and Davao also have areas where the nightlife is centered. Establishments serve the usual hard and soft drinks typical of bars elsewhere. Note that Filipinos rarely consume alcohol by itself. They would normally have what is called as "pulutan" or bar chow alongside their drinks which is like the equivalent of tapas. At the least, this would consist of mixed nuts but selections of grilled meats and seafood are not uncommon food alongside the customary drinks. When having a party, Filipinos enjoy drinking round-robin style using a common glass. One is supposed to drink bottoms-up before passing the glass to the next person. This custom is known as "tagayan" and one person usually volunteers to pour the drink.

Beer is perhaps the most common form of alcohol consumed in bars. San Miguel Beer is the dominant local brand with several variants such as Light, Dry, Strong Ice and their flagship variant Pale Pilsen. Budweiser, Heineken and Corona can also be found in upscale bars. Rhum and "ginebra" which is the local form of gin are commonly available forms of hard liquor. Indigenous forms of liquor are lambanog and tuba which are both derived from coconut sap. Tuba is fermented from the coconut sap and though tuba itself can be drunk, it is also distilled to take the form of lambanog. Lambanog is now being marketed widely both locally and internationally in its base form as well as in several flavored variants such as mango, bubble gum and blueberry.

Alcohol is extremely cheap in the Philippines (and probably cheapest in the whole of Asia). For a bottle of San Miguel bought at a 7-11 or Mini-Stop, a bottle would costs about PhP20-PhP30 (About USD 0.50). For top-end bars and clubs, a bottle would costs about PhP100.00-PhP200 (about USD 2.50-5.00). A bottle of 750ml Absolut Vodka at the supermarket would fetch a price of around PhP750.00 and a popular local rhum (especially amongst knowledgeable expats) Tanduay would get you just below PhP70.00 at a 24 hour convenience store in Makati (The Financial District).

Of course non-alcoholic drinks are also widely available in bars and other establishments. Don't miss:

  • 'Calamansi Juice' - juice made from small, local limes called calamansi

  • 'Fresh Buko Juice'- juice extracted from young coconuts

  • 'Sago't Gulaman - a sweet drink of molasses, tapioca pearls and seaweed gelatin

  • 'Green mango shake- a fruit shake made of green or unripened mangoes, sugar, milk and ice (one of the best native drinks in the Philippines)

  • Taho - a sweet, warm soya snack usually served in the morning, with tapioca balls, soft tofu and caramelized syrup


Housing options for tourists include hotels, condotels, apartelles, motels, inns/bed-and-breakfasts, and pension houses.

Hotels are usually for the higher-end traveller, although hotel rates--even for four-star establishments-- are not very high compared to other international destinations. Condotels are furnished condominium units rented out for long or short term stays, apartelles are set up for both short and long term stays, and a pension house is usually more basic and economical. These all vary in terms of cleanliness, availability of air conditioning, and hot water showers. Motels, inns, and lodges also serve lodging purposes but have a reputation as meeting places for illicit sex, a unit being usually a small room with a connected carport, hidden behind a high wall which provides for secret comings and goings. You can distinguish these by their hourly rates, while more reputable institutions usually have daily rates.

Stay safe

If you use your common sense, you must not flash your valuables (especially Apple iPods and iPhones) because they pose a pickpocketing threat. Pickpockets are really common in the big cities of the Philippines. Manila is not a place for violent robbery, but the ativan scam is common practice. Don't expect any reprisal from police. They have their own problems seeing as their government underpays them and thus they thrive on bribes. Althrough sometimes you could get something good out of them but don't expect any more.

See also common scams and pickpockets.


Prostitution is thriving but officially and nationally illegal in the Philippines, although hostess bars, massage parlors and other opportunities abound which offer this service. The age of consent is 18. Penalties for sex with minors are harsh, and offenders may also be prosecuted by their home country.

Gays and Lesbians

Gays and lesbians will slightly be fine here in the Philippines as some the younger tolerant generation are very accepting, but please note use common sense such as public kissing as you may get stares or even verbal profanity. Also, in the countryside and with the 50 year old and up generation chances are they will condemn it. But nevertheless, Filipinos have their warm hospitality. Violence against gays and lesbians is rare but don't expect this.

Stay healthy

Drink the readily available bottled water. Buko (young coconut) juice is also safe if they have not added local ice to it. Be wary also of Buko juice vendors, some usually just add sugar to water. Buy and eat fruit that has not already been cut up. Cooked food from a karenderia (outdoor canteen) is okay if there is a fire under the pots and the food has been kept hot.

If you must drink tap water (it is usually served/contained in a small to medium plastic bag), water in Manila, Cebu City, Subic, and Angeles may be ok, but it is recommended that you boil tap water for at least 5 minutes just to be safe. Elsewhere drink bottled water. There is always the risk of contracting amoebiasis when drinking tap water in the countryside. Also, this applies to ice that is usually put in beverages.

Bottled water is best purchased from within stores and sheltered eateries. Bottled waters sold outside (by the roads) are more than likely used bottles filled with tap water, sealed then cooled.

CDC advises that risk of malaria exists in areas below 600 meters, except for the provinces of Aklan, Bilaran, Bohol, Camiguin, Capiz, Catanduanes, Cebu, Guimaras, Iloilo, Leyte, Masbate, northern Samar, Sequijor, and metropolitan Manila. Chloroquine is no longer a recommended malaria preventative for anywhere in the Philippines. In general malaria is not common in the Philippines compared to Africa and the rest of mainland Southeast Asia, and around half of the c. 40,000 annual cases are in a couple of discrete locations.

Also please note the tubercolosis is very common in the countryside, it is advisable not to stay in certain villages in areas you are not familiar with for a very long time. It is also higly advisable that if one coughs or looks weak in strength it is highly advisable to avoid contact with that person.

Bring anti-diarrheal drugs with you, as unsanitary conditions present a high risk for traveler's diarrhea.

Although the Philippines is a low HIV prevalence country, it still pays to take precaution. Other sexually transmitted diseases are more common than HIV.



Most of the Philippines is 220 Volt 60 Hz with the older 2-prong plug formerly used in the USA (not polarized or grounded). This is not a common voltage-frequency combination, so nearly everyone will have to pay close attention to what they plug in to an electric outlet. Americans will need a step-down transformer, while Europeans and Australians cannot use electric clocks and heavy-duty 50 Hz motors. Also, they will need a passive plug adaptor intended for USA/Canada. Americans will need one too for any plug where one blade is wider than the other (polarized), or has a third round grounding pin. It's best also to bring such items that work universally such as those electronics marked with a 100V-240V 50/60hz compatibility to avoid voltage concerns.

Downtown Baguio (northern Luzon) uses 110 V @ 60 Hz like USA, but doesn't go very far beyond the city center. The airport, for example, is 220V. If staying in the Baguio area, always ask first! If your equipment is 110-125V, merely crossing a street corner can cause it to be damaged or even catch fire. There are no signs in Baguio indicating where 110V ends and 220V begins.

See also: Travel topics -- Electrical systems

Television and Video

Television and video in the Philippines use the NTSC format, which is the same as the USA and Canada. Televisions sets and VCRs made for Japan (though the same video format) will skip certain channels. Region Coded DVDs are Region 3 (SE Asia), though virtually all Tagalog movies are region free. There are two major networks in the Philippines - ABS-CBN and GMA.

Cable and Satellite TV are widely available. SkyCable and Global Destiny Cable are the best-known cable operators in the country while Dream is the country's sole satellite TV operator. Almost all hotels and major commercial centres have cable or satellite TV.


A little courtesy goes a long way. Filipinos are a very friendly and hospitable people, sometimes even to a fault. Take the time to smile and say "thank you", and you'll receive much better responses. You will receive an even better response if you throw in a little Tagalog, such as "salamat", which means "thank you". When talking to the people who are usually old enough to be your parents or grandparents in Filipino, it is greatly appreciated to include "po" in your sentences such as "salamat po".
If you are having a conflict, stay relaxed, make a joke and smile. Getting angry or standing on your stripes will not bring you far, and you will lose respect.

In the countryside and in some urban homes, footwear is removed when entering a home, though they may make an exception for foreigners. The key is to look around before entering any home. If you see footwear just outside the door, more than likely the family's practice is to remove footwear before entering. If you wear socks, you don't have to remove them.


When working with people in the Philippines, it's important to remember that they often bring cultural influences into the workplace and that don't always match well with your business culture. When you first meet another business person, it's important that you address them with both their title and both their first and last name. Businesses in the Philippines are often structured as a hierarchy and it's important to note that most decisions are made from the top down. Additionally, the Filipino value of "social harmony" doesn't always allow for directness when approaching sensitive issues.

Street Children

In many of the larger cities extreme poverty is prevalent. It is advised not to give money to beggars or the street children who run around at all hours. If you really want to give something, food is the better alternative.

Political topics

Keep in mind that the Marcos years (1965-1986) can be a polarizing topic within the Philippines. Visitors will find that the northern Ilokano Population view the regime as an era of stability, while the metropolitan areas in the south of Luzon take strong pride in the people's power or "EDSA" revolution that deposed the regime. Either way it is best to assess the speaker's opinion prior to approaching the topic.


The country code for the Philippines is 63. The area code for Metro Manila is 2.

The cheapest way to call to and from the Philippines is using Voice Over Internet Protocol, there are several licensed VoIP providers in the Philippines one of the most popular being Vodini Telecom who has plans way under the traditional carriers as well as unlimited calling plans.

For cell phone calling there are three major cell phone companies, Globe , Smart for mobile phones) and Sun ; each of them operates its own mobile network (GSM 900/1800). Pre-paid SIM cards of these networks are easy to acquire and cost as low as P30 (approximately 70 US cents) and provide a cheaper alternative to expensive roaming charges. If your unit is locked to your home service provider, cellphone repair shops in various malls have ways of unlocking. If you don't have a phone to begin with, a complete pre-paid kit with phone and SIM could be had for as low as 1,500 pesos (US$30). Note that the phones that come with these kits would usually be locked to the local network provider. You would also need to have it unlocked before leaving if you plan on using it back home.

GSM mobile phones are in wide use all over the country, however. 3G technology is also available through Globe and Smart but is poorley implimented and often not properly operational. In most urban locations and many resorts, cell phone service will be available. The usual cost of an international long-distance call to the United States, Europe and other major countries is 40 US cents per minute. Local calls range from 7.50 to 9 pesos (approximately 15 to 18 US cents) per minute. Text messages typicaly cost as low as 1 peso (a little over 2 US cents) and the Philippines is usually tagged as the "texting capital of the world". International SMS is charged at a higher rate 15-25 pesos.

Reloading pre-paid SIMs is a breeze. Electronic Load (E-Load) stations are everywhere from small corner stores to the large malls where you just give your mobile phone number and the amount you wish to load (Globe, Smart and Sun each have their load denominations to choose from for E-loading). If you have a friend using the same mobile operator as you, you can load as little as a few pesos by letting him/her pass on some of his/her load to you and if you need hundreds of pesos worth of load, you can purchase pre-paid cards which are available in denominations of 300 and 500 pesos (approximately US$7 and 12 respectively).

Due to the wide use of mobile phones, pay phones are increasingly becoming obsolete. Some malls and public places still do have them and they usually come in either the coin or card operated variety. Globe and PLDT are the usual operators. Phone cards are usually sold by shops which sell cellphone pre-paid loads and cards. Note that phone cards of one company can not be used with the other company's card operated phones.

Internet access areas of broadband speeds are plentiful in city malls, much less so outside the cities, but are growing at a rapid pace. Internet surfing rates depend primarily on where you surf and the medium used (e.g. WiFi or wired). Internet services offered by hotels and shopping malls are expensive and can go up to P200/hour (approximately US$5) but neighbourhood cafes can be as cheap as P15/hour (approximately US$0.35). Public place WiFi services in the Philippines is provided by and WiZ is likely to cost P100 (approximately US$2) for up to an hour. Coffee shops like Starbucks and Seattle's Best as well as malls usually carry WiFi service some are free to use. Certain areas may also carry free WiFi.

Apart from the Philippine postal service, FedEx, UPS, and DHL courier services are also available. Local couriers such as LBC and Aboitiz are also available.

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This travel guide also includes text from Wikitravel articles, all available at WikitravelView full credits

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English and Filipino (based on the Tagalog language) are the two official languages. There are about 8 major languages, 76 to 78 major language groups, with more than 170 distinct languages. - Philippine peso (PHP)
Areatotal: 300,000 km2
water: 1,830 km2
land: 298,170 km2
Electricity220V 60Hz (in Baguio or in some homes 110V with transformers)
Population87,857,473 (July 2006 est.)
ReligionChristianity 91% (Roman Catholic 82%, Protestant 9%), Islam 5%, Buddhism 3% and other 1%.
TimezoneUTC +8