Philippines

Geography and Weather

The Philippines is an archipelago consisting of 7,641 islands in Southeast Asia. It has three main islands which are Luzon in the north, the Visayas in the middle, and Mindanao in the south. This English-speaking country contains volcanic islands with mostly mountainous ranges surrounded by lowlands and plains along the coasts.

The climate of the Philippines is tropical. It experiences a dry season from November to May and a wet season from June to October. Filipinos think and feel summer in April and May as they are the hottest months of the year. The Philippines is hot and humid all year round, no matter if it is the dry or wet season. However, it is great to visit this country from December to February as they are the coolest months of the year.

Culture

The Philippines’ customs and traditions were heavily influenced by the nations that colonized it in the past. The years of Spanish colonization had a major effect on the religion of the Philippines. The country is predominantly Christian. More than 85% of Filipinos adheres to the teachings of the Bible. A good example is the Philippines annual patron saint celebration known as Fiesta. Each year, every town, village, or regional district honors their patron saint through a variety of festivities like street parades, fireworks, and beauty and dance contests.

Aside from being religious, Filipinos are family-oriented. They consider their family as the center structure which they can rely on for stability, support, and guidance. This concept also extends to every Filipino’s aunts and uncles, grandparents, cousins, and even to their godparents and close family friends. Filipinos are collectivistic rather than individualistic. This idea contributes to why they are known for their amazing hospitality and their respect for the elderly.

English is the secondary language of the Philippines. Filipino, widely known as “Tagalog”, is the country’s national language. Apart from Tagalog, there are numerous other native languages or dialects per region in the country.

Transportation

After World War II, Americans left military jeeps which were customized by Filipinos and became the jeepney, considered as a standard means of urban transportation in the Philippines. One U.S. Dollar equates to around 40 to 50 Philippines pesos and P8 is the standard jeepney fare within towns which gradually increases after every kilometer. Riding public buses is another good inexpensive option of transportation in the Philippines.

However, it can be uncomfortable since drivers always want to pack the most passengers available and would even race other drivers to get the most profit. Those in the capital, Manila, who have tight schedules would want to utilize the elevated railway system. It is also a cheap and fast alternative but visitors should be mindful of the multitude of eager passengers during rush hour. Additionally, most cities and towns have tricycles which are used to get around the market places and crowded streets.

Taxis are also recommended. It is relatively inexpensive with a P40 flag down rate. However, is it advisable to make sure the driver uses a meter since there are drivers who would try to rip off tourists? Find another cab if the driver has a broken meter or if he wants to arrange the price for the trip. It is a good practice to take a picture of the plate number of the taxi just in case a problem arises.

Tourist wanting an inter-island trip would choose between sea or air travel. Sea travel the primary means of getting from island to island. A variety of option can be chosen from lavish ferries to small boats or pump boats, locally called “bangka”. However, sea travel takes a long time and it can become overloaded. Tourists who have the budget would opt for a fast and convenient domestic flight option. The popular airlines in the Philippines are Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines, and PAL Express.

Food

Food in the Philippines is primarily Spanish-based with Asian influences. The centuries of colonization greatly affected the traditional Filipino cuisine and made it what it is now. A quick description of the essence of Filipino food is that it tries to combine the sour, sweet, salty, and spicy taste all at once. Vinegar, fermented shrimp paste and fish sauce are frequently used for flavor and as a condiment. Common dishes are pork, beef, and chicken stews, soups, vegetables, grilled fishes, and noodles. Adobo, pancit, lumpia, sisig, kare-kare, and lechon are just some of the must-try dishes in this nation which every tourist must experience. Food is relatively inexpensive and every region or island has its own distinctive flavor and dishes. The dreaded “balut”, duck embryo, is a mind-blogging delicacy in the Philippines that would gratify a curious man’s taste buds.