The Philippines is one of the largest island groups in the world with 7,107 islands and islets lying off the southwest coast of the Asian mainland between Taiwan and Borneo. It is bounded in the west by the South China Sea, in the east by the Pacific Ocean, in the south by the Sulu and Celebes Seas, and in the north by the Bashi Channel. Its strategic position finds the Philippines at the crossroads of international travel lanes.
It has a total land area of 300,000 sq.km and a coastline of 34,000 km, the longest in the world.
The land consists of coastal plains with many central peaks and mountain ranges. Mount Apo in Mindanao is the tallest in the country, rising 9,600 feet. Volcanoes dot the country. And one of these – Mayon Volcano in the Bicol region – is considered to have the most perfect cone.
Manila is the seat of administration and the center of commerce and industry, culture, the arts, and education. It is the largest and most important city in the Philippines. It is also one of the loveliest and most exciting cities in Asia. The city of Manila has been combined with other major cities and municipalities to form what is now popularly known as Metro Manila, which has a total area of 60 sq. km.
The Philippines has three major islands – Luzon, the largest island where the capital of the Philippines is situated; Visayas, known for its fine beaches and idyllic coves; and Mindanao, whose exotic forests make it an irresistible haven for nature lovers.
The Philippines is normally warm with abundant rainfall and gentle winds. There are three pronounced seasons: wet to rainy from June to October; cool and dry weather from November to February; and hot and dry weather from March to May.
According to the latest official census, Filipinos now number 68 millions. Population growth as of 1991 is estimated at 2.7 percent annually and the number is expected to top the 75.2 millions by the Year 2000.
Filipinos are famous for their warm hospitality, friendliness to foreigners, musical and artistic talents, romanticism, deep religiosity, and bravery. They are also fond of music, fiestas, and politics.
There are 11 cultural and racial groups, each with its own language. Most Filipinos are bilingual, with English as the basic language in business, government, schools, and everyday communication. Pilipino, based primarily on the Tagalog language, is the national language; there are 11 languages and 87 dialects in the archipelago. Aside from English, Spanish is another foreign language spoken fluently by a number of Filipinos along with Arabic, Chinese, and Nippongo.
Peso is the unit of currency. Bank notes: P5, P10, P20, P50, P100, P500, and P1,000. Coins: P5, P2, P1, 50c, 25c, 10c, and 5c. Various banks, hotels, and authorized foreign exchange dealers provide peso exchange for most foreign currencies. Credit cards are accepted at major hotels, resorts, shops, and restaurants although, outside of Manila, the use of Philippine pesos is preferred.
Roman Catholic is the predominant religion, comprising about 85 percent of the population. Muslims are concentrated at the southern end of the archipelago.