Official Name: Republic of the Philippines
Flag of the Philippines:
Capital: Manila ( Population: 9.5 million )
Languages: Pilipino (official), local dialects, English is widely spoken throughout the country
Area: 300'000 square kilometers
Population: ca. 70 million
Population growth: 2.5% / year
Religion: 90% Christians, 6% Muslims, 4% other religions
People: 95% Malay, 2% Chinese, 3% Indigenous and Others
Currency: Philippine Peso = 100 Centavos (1US$ ~ 40Pesos, December 1999)
For updated currency information click here
Climate: typically tropical. There is a cool dry season from December to March, a hot dry season from April to July. The rainy season usually lasts from July until October. From June to December there may be typhoons. Average temperature is 27 C (80 F ).
For an updated weatherforecast click here
Economy: Principally agricultural, with rice, copra, sugar, coffee, fruits and tabacco as main products. Many people depend on fishing for their livelihood. Industrial production has been growing in the last years, but is still increasing at a slower pace than in the other south-east Asian countries. Tourism, textiles, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, paper products, electronics assembly, petroleum refining and fishing are the main industries.
Natural resources: Copper, coal, chromium, manganese, phosphates, nickel, gold, petroleum, silver, salt
Geography: The Philippine Islands consist of over 7'000 islands which can be separated into four groups:
- Luzon, the largest island and the island of Mindoro
- The Visayas, a group of islands south of Luzon, with Cebu, Negros, Panay, Leyte, Samar amongst them
- Minadanao, the "Muslim" island with Mount Apo as highest mountain in the Philippines and the islands of the Sulu archipelago
- Palawan Island with the Calamian group
Immigration: A 21-day visa is given upon arrival which can easily be extended up to 59 days. For longer stays, extensions have to be applied for at the Immigration Office in Intramuros, Manila or at one of its branches in the bigger cities. Normally a stay up to one year is possible for tourists.
Business Hours: Normal business hours are from 9 to 12 am and 1 to 5 pm, Monday to Saturday. Banks are open from 9am to 3pm, Monday to Friday. Embassies are open from 9am to 1pm, Monday to Friday. Department stores in big cities are open from 10am to 8pm, seven days a week.
Money: The US$ is the most common foreign currency. Money can be changed either with banks or with official moneychangers, who give a slightly better rate. Some moneychangers are open 24 hours in Manila. Avoid changing in the streets, if you do not like to be shortchanged!!! Away from the big tourist centers like Manila, Cebu, Boracay and Puerto Galera it is often difficult or impossible to cash creditcards, change traveller checks or even cash dollars. If you go off the beaten track, take enough Pesos with you.
Short History: The beginning of human settlements on the islands that came to be known as the Philippines is lost in time. The oldest human bones and tools which have been found on the island of Palawan can be dated back to 22'000 BC.
About 3'000 BC a wave of immigration took place which consisted mostly of people of the Malayan race. Those people settled in the lowlands, gradually displacing the original inhabitants. After about 1000 AD the islands were regularly visited by Chinese, Arab, Indian and Indonesian traders, who brought along textiles, pottery, iron tools and arms. They bartered those goods for corals, pearls, rice, dried fish and , sometimes, gold. It was these traders who introduced Islam in the beginning of the 14th century to the native population.
The islands were brought to the western consciousness by Ferdinand Magellan who arrived in 1521. He named them after King Philipp II. Magellan was sent out to discover a westward route to India and claim all the territory he found on the way for the Spanish throne.
In the following decades the Spanish established several strongholds in the Philippines, fought the Muslim predominance and spread the catholic faith. As early as 1571 a link between Manila and Acapulco (Mexico) was established by the famous "Manila Galleon", which sailed yearly across the Pacific laden with treasures from the east. The control of the Spanish over the islands remained virtually unchallenged until the 19th century, although they never really managed to dominate the Moslems in Mindanao and the islands of Sulu.
In the middle of the 19th century several nationalistic movements began to surface which challenged the colonial rule of the Spanish. The leaders of those movements were Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio and Emilio Aguinaldo, but it was the Americans who took over control in the Philippines from the Spanish in 1898 in the wake of the Spanish-American war. In the following decades the Americans set out to establish the "american way of life" in the islands. They built schools, hospitals and infrastructure along with a westernized lifestyle. In 1935 independence was promised to the Philippines for 10 years later , but the Japanese had other ideas.
During December 1941 the Japanese forces attacked the American bases on Luzon with their stronghold on the island of Corregidor. In May 1942 the Philippines had to be given up by the Americans. There followed more than two years of Japanese occupation, which lasted until October 1944.
On July 4th, 1946 the Philippines became an independent nation, but ties to the USA remained strong. In 1965 Ferdinand Marcos was elected President of the Philippines. 1972 he declared marital law, ostensibly to curb communist activities but , no doubt, also to stay in power without having to face the electorate. What followed was a period of notorious cronyism with widespread corruption. The murder of Benigno Aquino in 1983 brought public discontent to new heights, which ended in the blood-less "Edsa-Revolution" (1986) with Marcos fleeing to Hawaii for exile. With Corazon Aquino as new president, the Philippines saw the rebirth of democracy but progress remained slow with the country's endemic corruption, muslim and communist insurgencies and her inability to control the armed forces.
In 1992 Aquino was succeeded by Fidel Ramos, former chief of staff, who moved to revitalize the economy, curb corruption and encourage foreign investment. Although the Philippines did not enjoy a boom as big as the neighboring countries, there is definitely an upwards trend and with the development of the financial markets in the recent months, a more cautious economic growth might turn out to be an advantage.
On May 11th, 1998 Josef 'Erap' Estrada was elected as President of the Philippines.
After two and a half years of staying in office, Mr. Estrada was forced to resign as President of the Philippines amongst allegations of corruption and cronyism. In a spectacular second gathering of more than one million people on EDSA the Philippine people managed to have Vice president and leader of the opposition Ms Gloria Arroyo-Macapagal inaugurated as the 14th president of the Philippines on January 20, 2001.