The combined length of all its beaches make for one of the world's longest coastlines, and the many islands and many waves of immigration make for considerable cultural diversity. More than a hundred distinct ethnic groups, a mixture of foreign influences — the country was a Spanish colony from the late 1500s to 1898, then American until 1946 — and a fusion of culture and arts enhance the wonder that is the Philippines. It would take decades to visit and experience everything.
The country has fantastic beaches and landscapes, and a vibrant and diverse culture. Many locals speak English well and most of others have at least some English. Food and accommodations are cheap, many destinations have excellent infrastructure, and the people are cheerful and friendly; perhaps the easiest way to recognize a Filipino abroad is to see who has the broadest smile.
All that said, the Philippines received only 8,000,000 visitors in 2018, just a fifth of Thailand's draw (though twice that of Laos), despite a population 40% larger, and Westerners form a minority of visitors. Insurgencies, crimes, and corruption are to blame, but the country is striving to be recognized again on the tourist trail.
Wikivoyage divides the country into four island groupings:
|Luzon (Metro Manila, Bicol, Cordillera Administrative Region, Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Mimaropa)|
is an administrative region centered on the largest and most populous island in the Philippines. Luzon Island is ranked 15th largest in the world by land area. Located in the northern region of the archipelago, it is the economic and political center of the nation, being home to the country's capital city, Manila, as well as Quezon City, the country's most populous city.
|Visayas (Leyte, Samar, Cebu Province, Bohol, Negros, Panay, and the small island provinces Biliran, Siquijor and Guimaras)|
is one of the three principal geographical divisions of the Philippines, located between the other two (Luzon and Mindanao). It consists of many islands and has its own ethnic groups and languages, closely related to other Filipino groups and languages.
|Mindanao (Zamboanga Peninsula, Northern Mindanao, Davao Region, Soccsksargen, Caraga Region, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao)|
is the second largest island in the Philippines. Mindanao and the smaller islands surrounding it make up the island group of the same name. This area has many of the country's Muslims, some are quite radical, and much of the area is considered unsafe for travel; see warnings in Mindanao and lower-level articles for details.
|Palawan (Palawan Island, Calamian Islands, Cuyo Islands)|
is an archipelagic province to the west of the rest of the country. It is the largest province in the country in terms of total area of jurisdiction. Its capital is the city of Puerto Princesa.
The Philippine government's administrative system uses three top-level regions: Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. They treat Palawan as part of the Mimaropa region, administered under Luzon. Below that are 18 lower-level regions, 80 provinces, 120 cities and many rural municipalities. The lowest administrative level is the barangay — a rural district or an urban neighborhood — and addresses or directions in the Philippines often include the barangay name.
With more than 7,000 islands and a population around 100 million, the Philippine archipelago has many cities. Listed below are some of the most important cities for visitors, some of which are provincial capitals and centers of commerce and finance, as well as culture and history.
- 1 Metro Manila - the national capital, is one of the largest cities in the world and a place of huge contrasts, from ultra-modern and pleasant business and affluent districts to slums plagued with garbage and crime. While the pollution and traffic jams, as well as the scarcity of traditional historical sights, may discourage a visit to Manila, the smiling, stoical and resourceful people themselves, as well as the staggering number of choices of culture and entertainment, are its saving grace.
- 2 Bacolod - known as the "City of Smiles" because of the MassKara Festival (Máscara in Spanish) held annually on 19 October, it is one of the gateways to Negros Island and the home of the famous Bacolod Chicken Inasal.
- 3 Baguio - Luzon's summer capital because of its cool weather, it boasts well-maintained parks and scenic areas, as well as being the home of the "Igorot", the indigenous peoples of the Cordilleras.
- 4 Cagayan de Oro - known as the "City of Golden Friendship", it is popular for white water rafting and is the gateway to Northern Mindanao.
- 5 Cebu - the "Queen City of the South" was the first Spanish base in the Philippines and is a major center for commerce, industry, culture and tourism. Metro Cebu is the country's second largest urban area, after Metro Manila. Consider flying into its graft free and under-used airport as a more central and pleasant alternative to Manila - regularly nominated as one of the world's nastiest major airports - if your object is tourism.
- 6 Davao - the largest city in the world in terms of land area, is known for its Durian fruit and for being the home of Mount Apo, the Philippines' tallest mountain.
- 7 Tagbilaran - known as the site of the Sandugo (blood compact) between Spanish conquistador Miguel López de Legazpi and Rajah Sikatuna representing the people of Bohol.
- 8 Vigan - the capital of Ilocos Sur and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, its city center is the finest example of Spanish colonial architecture in the Philippines. Visit between 03:00 and 05:15 to savour some of its well-preserved, cobbled streets rather than the stench and noise of two-stroke engines.
- 9 Zamboanga - known as "La Ciudad Latina de Asia" (Asia's Latin City), it is the melting pot between the Philippines' Christian and Muslim cultures, boasting old mosques, grand churches and historic colonial structures.
- 1 Banaue has 2,000-year-old rice terraces and called by Filipinos the eighth wonder of the world, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. People are fascinated at the immense work of the Igorots in making this.
- 2 Batangas is the birthplace of scuba diving in the Philippines with world class dive sites and beaches. Its accessibility by road about 2 hours from Manila Airport makes it a popular destination. It is home to Taal Volcano and the Taal heritage town.
- 3 Boracay is a 10 km island featuring white sands.
- 4 El Nido contains dozens of limestone islands forming a stunningly beautiful karst topography permeated by crystal-clear bays and lagoons, still relatively unspoiled by mass tourism
- 5 Camarines Sur has beautiful coral reefs, and shorelines of Black and white sands. Visit the Camarines Sur Watersport complex and go water skiing.
- 6 Donsol is the Whale Shark Capital of the world, dive and see whale sharks.
- 7 Malapascua Island just like other islands in the Philippines, the island features a beautiful white sand shoreline and coral gardens.
- 8 Puerto Galera on Mindoro, a favorite getaway for people during Holy Week because of its white sand shorelines and its amazing flora.
- 9 Tagaytay , tired of the old scene of the noisy metropolis of Manila? or missing the cool weather? Head to Tagaytay, it provides a view of Taal Volcano, the weather is cool and often a getaway for Filipinos tired of warm tropical weather during the Holy Week.
- 10 Panglao Island in Bohol Province, as resort island with fine beaches. The rest of the province has other attractions including the Chocolate Hills and wild tarsiers (tiny primates).
|Currency||Philippine peso (PHP)|
|Population||100.9 million (2015)|
|Electricity||220 volt / 60 hertz (Type A, Type B, Europlug)|
|Time zone||Philippine Standard Time|
|edit on Wikidata|
With over 7,659 islands and 300,000 square kilometers (120,000 sq mi) of territory, the Philippines is the second largest archipelago, after nearby Indonesia. The islands are mostly volcanic in origin, covered with tropical rainforest and fertile soil, but much of the rainforest has been cut down. The terrain varies considerably, but many of the coasts have a lot of bays and headlands and many of the larger islands have mountainous interiors.
The climate is tropical, with constantly high humidity and high, stable temperatures, so prepare to change clothes frequently under the sweltering heat. Mountainous areas are the exception to the norm, rather temperate with mildly cool temperatures during the cool dry season from November to March.
The Philippines has over 100 million people since 2015, making the country the second largest in Southeast Asia, ahead of Indonesia, and the eighth largest in Asia, ahead of Japan. The population is not balanced throughout the archipelago, with the majority concentrated in Luzon, around Metro Manila, Central Luzon, and CALABARZON, and Cebu. Most tourists come via the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL IATA) in Metro Manila, but other opt to arrive via Clark International Airport (CRK IATA) or Mactan–Cebu International Airport (CEB IATA).
The Philippines has a diverse culture; you will find a unique blend of local customs, Chinese traditions of saving face, superstition and respect to elders, Hispanic religiosity, machismo and romance, and Western ideals and popular culture. The country is one of the few Christian-majority nations in Asia, the other being East Timor.
The country remains plagued by its share of contemporary issues like crime, corruption, poverty, and internal conflicts. Western nations have been discouraging travel to the country out of overgeneralized safety and security threats, affecting the Philippine tourism industry greatly, and the Philippine government rebukes those governments in return, asking them to renew their advisories to be less discouraging. There is also ongoing conflict between the Philippine government and Islamic separatists in Mindanao as well as communist rebels elsewhere, which are fortunately confined in some areas, though spillover of hostilities into large cities has occurred. Crimes and illegal drugs are commonplace, but you are more likely to encounter them if you venture into rough areas.
Despite the first impressions of the Philippines as relatively economically developed, it remains a developing country struggling with income inequality and poverty. Most Filipinos struggle to live with at least ₱400 a day, whether it be a farmer or a salesperson or fast food crew, while the sosyal or rich people will be seen cruising in their luxury cars, owning guarded mansions, and sending their children to prestigious private schools. Stereotypes circulated in popular media have increased the gap between the rich and poor. Some people finding it hard to find work might resort to racketeering or committing crime to earn a living. The capital, Metro Manila is suffering from its notorious traffic jams, and slums can be sighted in many places, sometimes in contrast to towering skyscrapers in its business districts like Makati. Economic and political centralization, often called "Imperial Manila" by critics, remains the cause of the economic plight in many provinces and increased calls for regional self-determination. As with the rest of Southeast Asia, the Philippines is also blighted with uncontrolled development causing urban sprawl, lack of pedestrian- and wheelchair-friendly facilities in many locations, and uncollected garbage.
The oldest human remains so far found in the Philippines are over 700,000 years old. The first settlers crossed shallow seas and land bridges from mainland Asia to arrive in this archipelago. These people were probably the Negritos or Aetas and are thought to be genetically related to Melanesians (e.g., Aboriginal Australians and Papuans). Direct descendants of these people can still be found in Negros Oriental, northern Luzon and other areas. Today they mostly live in the mountains, having been driven out of the prime coastal areas by later immigrants.
Several thousand years later, they were followed by Austronesian settlers travelling the same route as the Negritos but this time over sea in their impressive Balangay boats. This word is where the basic form of political institution, the barangay, came from. The Austronesian ethnolinguistic group includes Malays, Indonesians and Polynesians, and is spread as far as Hawaii, Easter Island, New Zealand and Madagascar. The majority of Filipinos are of Austronesian descent.
The origins of the Austronesian group are a matter of scholarly controversy. One widely held theory has them coming from Taiwan, and travelling south to the Philippines. Other theories put their origins in mainland Southeast Asia or even in China's Liangzhu Culture.
Having been a trading nation for thousands of years, a colony for several hundred and a destination for tourists and retirees for decades, the country includes descendants of many other ethnic groups. The largest minority group are the Chinese, mainly Hokkien speakers whose family origins are in Fujian province.
The early Austronesians of the Philippines traded with each other, and with the Chinese, Japanese, Okinawans, Indians, Thais, Arabs and other Austronesians from the Malay Peninsula and Nusantara (today's Malaysia and Indonesia) and Micronesia. 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, some of the traders stayed and married the natives. Hinduism and Buddhism were 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 in the island of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago to Islam. The archipelago became a mix of the indigenous Austronesian and Melanesian people with some foreign influence from Arabia, the Malay lands and India.
Under Spanish rule
- See also: Magellan-Elcano circumnavigation
When the explorer Ferdinand Magellan set foot on the island of Homonhon in 1521, the Philippines was predominantly animist, with some Muslim and Hindu-Buddhist based cultures situated in the southern and western parts of the country. Famished, Magellan's crew were treated to a feast by the welcoming islanders who wore elaborate tattoos. Magellan was Portuguese, but it was a Spanish Expedition which he led to the islands. Lapu-Lapu, a native chief of Mactan Island, was against the Christianization of the natives; he then fought a battle with Magellan that Lapu-Lapu won, and Magellan was killed.
In 1565 an expedition under Miguel López de Legazpi arrived to claim the country as a Spanish colony. The colony was named for Crown Prince Philip II of Spain and most of the natives converted to Catholicism. Some Muslims in the south and various animistic mountain tribes, however, resisted Spanish conquest and Catholic conversion. In the period of Spanish rule galleons brought large amounts of silver from Acapulco to Manila, and this had a large effect on trade across much of Asia. Even today one can find plenty of 18th- and 19th-century coins, apparently silver and mostly American or Mexican, in China; at least in tourist areas, though, these will more-or-less all be counterfeit.
The longest revolt against Spanish colonization was led by Francisco Dagohoy in Bohol and this lasted for 85 years covering the period of 1744-1829. As a cabeza de barangay or barangay captain, Dagohoy opposed the Spanish colonizers who were represented by priests and civil leaders and required payment of excessive taxes and tributes. They also oppressed the Philippines' natives by enslaving them and sending them to prison for disobeying rules. The Manila Galleon trade made contact between the Philippines and Mexico as well as the whole of the Americas. Mayans and Aztecs settled in the Philippines and introduced their cultures which were then embraced by the Filipinos. The Philippines received heavy influence from Mexico and Spain and the archipelago became "hispanicized". Other Asians used the Manila Galleon trade to migrate to the West. During Spanish rule, European powers such as the Dutch, Portuguese and British also tried to colonize the country; none succeeded though the British did control Manila for two years.
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.
American and Japanese occupation
The Filipinos declared independence on 12 June 1898 and resisted the American occupation for seven long, brutal years until surrender completed the colonization of the Philippines.
The war was quite controversial in the US, and famous writers weighed in on both sides of the controversy. Rudyard Kipling, an Englishman born in India and very much in favour of Empire, urged America to "Take up the White Man's Burden" while Mark Twain wrote "the United States paid poor decrepit old Spain $20,000,000 for the Philippines. It was just a case of this country buying its way into good society ... like an American heiress buying a Duke or an Earl. Sounds well, but that's all."
The American presence remained until World War II when Japan invaded the Philippines. The retreating American General Douglas McArthur (son of a former Governor of the colony) famously promised "I shall return", and did so later in the war. There is a monument on Leyte Island where he landed and various other wartime ruins or monuments around the country; Coron is famous for wreck diving because the US Navy sank a number of Japanese ships there in 1944.
On 4 July 1946, the Philippines was granted independence by the US, becoming the first country in Southeast Asia to gain independence from a colonial power, although the US continued to maintain a significant military presence, especially in the Subic Naval Base in Zambales and Clark Air Base in Angeles City. It was not until the early 1990s that the US bases were returned to the Philippines.
Up until the 1960s, the Philippines was widely considered to be the second most developed country in Asia after Japan. Several decades of misrule by the corrupt dictator Ferdinand Marcos then plunged the country into deep debt. Poverty became widespread and infrastructure for development was severely lacking. In 1986, the People Power uprising finally overthrew the Marcos government. (This was called the EDSA Revolution since the majority of the demonstrations took place on Epifanio de los Santos Avenue.) He was replaced by Corazon Aquino, widow of murdered opposition leader, Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino, Jr.
Before the 21st century, corruption became one of the main problems of the country. The country suffered slightly in the 1997 Asian financial crisis that led to a second EDSA revolt which overthrew President Joseph Estrada; the vice-president, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (daughter of one of the former presidents), took his place. After her term ended in 2010, Benigno Aquino III (nicknamed "Noynoy" and "Pnoy"), son of Corazon and Benigno Aquino, Jr., was elected President.
In mid-2016, a new president was elected, Rodrigo Duterte. He had previously been mayor of Davao, and earned the nickname "the punisher" by cleaning up the gang warfare that plagued that city in the 90s. Critics claim he did that largely by encouraging police and vigilantes to execute gang members without trial. In the presidential campaign, he vowed to clean up corruption and the drug trade (especially shabu, the local term for crystal methamphetamine, which is a serious problem in the country) and critics now accuse him of using similar tactics nationwide. Western media sources put the death toll around 1,000 a month since he became president, though the numbers are neither precise nor undisputed. On September 30, 2016, Duterte stated that he would like to emulate Hitler's Holocaust by exterminating 3 million drug users and dealers in the country, so it is safe to assume the killings will continue as long as he is in office. Despite much condemnation from the West, Duterte remains popular among Filipinos themselves, many of whom are weary of having to deal with drug pushers and high violent crime rates on a daily basis, and appreciate Duterte's efforts to deal with those problems.
Things have been improving slowly on the economic front but the Philippines is still largely a poor country. An IMF report showed, as of 2009, 45% of the population was living on under US$2 a day. Growth in the Philippines is slow, but the country is hopeful about catching up with its neighbors. One of the major exports is labor; around 10% of Filipinos live abroad, either as immigrants or as contract workers, and remittances from those people account for around 10% of the nation's GDP.
As of 2017, the Philippines has a population of approximately 103 million, making it the twelfth-largest nation on earth. Since the Philippines population is still growing rapidly, while that of Japan is declining, it will probably shortly overtake its northern neighbors to join the top ten.
From its long history of Western occupation (300 years by Spain and 40 years by the US), Filipino culture has evolved into a unique blend of East and West. The Filipino people are largely Austronesian (more specifically Malayo-Polynesian) in ethnic origin. However, many inhabitants, especially in the cities of Luzon and the Visayas, have Chinese, Japanese, Spanish and American mixtures. Those living in the provinces are mostly of Austronesian origin (known as "native"). Many Muslims in the Sulu archipelago near Borneo have Arab, Indian and Chinese mixtures. The four largest foreign minorities in the country are: Chinese, Koreans, Indians and the Japanese. Also of significance are Americans, Indonesians and Arabs. Spaniards and other Europeans form a very small proportion of the country's population. There are no official government statistics for foreign minorities and mestizos based on censuses, but embassies and consulates do keep a number of their nationals living in the country.
Filipino traits are a confluence of many cultures. Filipinos are famous for the bayanihan or spirit of kinship and camaraderie taken from Austronesian forefathers. They observe very close family ties. Roman Catholicism comes from the Spaniards who were responsible for spreading the Christian faith across the archipelago. The Spaniards introduced Christianity and succeeded in converting the overwhelming majority of Filipinos; at least 80% are Catholic today. The Philippines is one of only two countries in Asia with a majority Roman Catholic population (the other being East Timor).
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 of the feast that most, if not all, households have for 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 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 and English is considered as a second language. The American occupation was responsible for teaching the Filipino people the English language. While the official language is Filipino (which is basically a version of 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 to varying degrees of comprehension but is a learnt language. Around 3 million still speak Spanish, including Creole Spanish, Chavacano plus Spanish has been reintroduced as a language of instruction at school level.
The geographical and cultural grouping of Filipinos is defined by region, where each group has a set of distinct traits and languages or 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.
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 on the surface. But still, Filipinos are essentially Austronesian and many indigenous and pre-Hispanic attitudes and ways of thinking are still noticeable underneath a seemingly westernized veneer. 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.
Potentially jarring behaviors
Filipinos share most of their shocking behaviors with the Chinese, except for running amok and "Filipino time" (tardiness). So a foreigner who has travelled to China can easily cope, but most foreigners unfamiliar with the culture and customs might find local behavior rather jarring. Also take note that Filipinos can be friendly without being polite, the way Britons can be polite without being friendly.
- Aggressive drivers - This is a common problem in the roads, hence the viral dashcam videos (see #Get around: By car). Find someone driving against the flow, speed above the posted limit, use horns at most times, and drive without headlights. Road rage is commonplace, and simple disagreements between drivers might easily turn to heated arguments or violence.
- Crowds - Filipino culture sees the concept of personal space as less important, and expect to get bumped in many crowded locations, whether it be on boarding a jeepney or walking through tiangges. Streets in the Philippines tend to be narrow and crowded with parked cars and roadside obstructions.
- Cutting in line - Filipino culture respect the concept of lines (pila), but you might find it hard how to deal with locals cutting in line and pushing and bumping while everyone is waiting.
- Drinking (see more at #Alcohol) - Perhaps with exceptions of Muslims, you will find many Filipinos practically drinking anytime and anywhere, though local ordinance have regulated where one may drink alcohol. Customs also differ, and you cannot pour your own drink (someone will do it for you). Drunk driving is an unfortunate sight, especially at night.
- Ignoring rules - Here, the pasaway ("disobedient") attitude comes to play. Local ordinances, or sometimes, national laws, are generally disregarded. The same also goes with many house rules. This include dangerous and aggressive driving, jaywalking, and smoking in non-smoking areas.
- Noise - People lean on blowing horns and loud music, whether it be on the radio or karaoke. Conversations tend to be loud, and heard by everyone around. Loudspeakers are widespread, from storefronts to churches, just to send their message.
- Nose picking - It is socially acceptable to pick one's nose, and there are also crude humor surrounding this.
- Reactions on foreigners - Locals will practically stare at any foreigner they see, also turning them to magnets for beggars and corrupt cops. Also, don't get surprised when someone talks about your race or country of origin, or someone may just take out a camera phone and ask you to take pictures, especially selfies, with you.
- Running amok - Often described as similar to berserk, it is common for some people to run amok, especially to the point of killing someone, especially when drunk, high, or extremely angered. Of note is the case of pagdidilim ng paningin, an idiom meaning psychologically disturbing rage with murderous intent. Most commonly, running amok commonly happens on heavy drinkers or drug addicts, where there is a tendency to turn paranoid. Despite being treated as a mental illness nowadays, there remains a more lenient attitude on running amok, as some see as a way to save face, especially on men, so it is an obvious risk if you get into a fight with drunks.
- Smoking (see more at #Smoking) Though the smoking rate is 25% as of 2018, smoking remains common anywhere. Enforcement of smoking bans in public locations differs by location: Metro Manila bans smoking, as well as sale of tobacco within the 50-meter (160 ft) radius of no-smoking areas, while Dumaguete bans smoking on the streets. Yet, enforcement varies. You might also encounter a jeepney or tricycle driver smoking even within sight of a posted no smoking sign.
- Staring - This is very common, but this shows they are curious. Do not get surprised when someone just stares while walking. Rubbernecks or bystanders in accident or crime scenes are common.
- Tardiness (see more at #Punctuality) - Filipino less value punctuality, like their Hispanic counterparts, and it is socially acceptable to come late.
Most visitors will get used to these situations and see the good side of the people, but the best advice is do not take them seriously.
The government of the Philippines is largely based on the political system of the United States. The President of the Philippines is directly elected by the people, and serves as both the Head of State and Head of Government. The President is elected every six years, and can only run one term.
The political system follows a multi-party system, which is divided into three groups: major parties, minor parties ("partylists") and regional parties. The national political arena is dominated by nine political parties, with the center-left, federalist PDP-Laban (Partido Demokratiko Pilipino – Lakas ng Bayan), the neoliberal Liberal Party, and the center-right United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) being the dominating ones since 2016. There are also numbers of minor parties running for representation in Congress and regional parties of less importance in the provinces. Most positions in the local government are also dominated by the major parties.
The legislature is a bicameral congress, which consists of a lower house known as the Kapulungan ng mga Kinatawan (House of Representatives), and an upper house known as the Senado (Senate). Both houses are elected directly by the people, though the country is divided into constituencies for the election of the lower house, while the upper house is elected by the country as a whole based on proportional representation.
Politics, until today, is dominated by large, powerful families, where positions are passed from one family member to another. Corruption remains rampant, especially through the Padrino system, which is an open secret in the Philippine political arena. Padrino is often translated as "Godfather", and the system involves extensive patronage and nepotism. Political demonstrations are widespread, as in most democracies, and political violence is also a concern, especially during election periods when rival families clash, sometimes even to the point of killing each other.
Neal Stepheson's novel Cryptonomicon describes the Philippines as being as permeated by religion as India, except that it is all Catholic; this is reasonably accurate but slightly oversimplified. Certainly the Spanish made Catholicism almost ubiquitous, the Church is still very influential, and the Philippines has been Asia's largest predominantly Christian and Catholic country for centuries. However, there has also been a substantial Muslim population for centuries, Protestant missionaries have been active and several Protestant denominations are now well established in the country, and there are a few followers of other Asian religions as well.
The Philippines is not only the largest Christian country in Asia but also the world's third largest Roman Catholic nation. The Roman 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 so far as Roman Catholic doctrine is concerned, such as artificial birth control, premarital sex, and the dissolution of marriage vows.
The biggest religious minority are Muslim Filipinos (Moros) who primarily live in Mindanao but also increasingly in cities such as Manila, Baguio or Cebu in the north and central parts of the country. The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) gives partial self-government to some of them. 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. 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 the southern rural parts of the country. However, the Muslim Filipinos are much more liberal in their interpretations of Islam, and like the Muslims of Indonesia, are generally more relaxed regarding such issues as gender-segregation or the hijab (veil) than Muslims outside of Southeast Asia.
Indian Filipinos, Chinese Filipinos and Japanese Filipinos, who collectively account for 3% of the population, are mostly Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Shinto and Taoist. These populations have been in the country for centuries preceding Spanish rule, and many aspects of Buddhist and Hindu belief and culture permeate in the mainstream culture of Christian or Muslim Filipinos as well. As with many things in the Philippines, religion is not as clear-cut and defined as official statistics suggest, 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, and average temperatures range from 25°C (78°F) to 32°C (90°F), and humidity is around 77 percent. While locations within 11 degrees from the equator may have just two seasons and most books tell you of just two seasons, wet and dry, locals speak of three seasons:
- The hot dry season (summer) are the hottest months. The country becomes muggy, with temperatures soaring as high as 40 °C (104 °F), and heat indices of 50–60 °C (122–140 °F) not uncommon, especially in inland locations in Luzon like Cabanatuan and Tuguegarao. The temperatures are very desirable for beach bumming and resort hopping, but not for visiting heritage locations, unless you bear the heat and high humidity. Prices for flights, ferries, buses or accommodations skyrocket during this season, especially on Holy Week, and booking is difficult due to high demand.
- The rainy season starts in June and extends through October with strong typhoons possible.
- The cool dry season runs from November to February, with mid-January to end of February the coolest times. Temperatures are cooler in the mountains, but even lowland areas can experience temperatures below 20 °C (68 °F) when the northeast monsoon from Siberia is at full blast, so bring a sweater or light jacket at these times, especially when walking at night. This season is the best time to visit, with drier weather, but flights, boat and ferry trips, buses and accommodations tend to be expensive and difficult, especially during the Christmas and New Year season.
Locations exposed directly to the Pacific Ocean have frequent rainfall all year. This includes the popular Pagsanjan Falls south-east of Manila (though the falls will get you wet regardless). Baguio, 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) . During summer, the country experiences droughts, sometimes with extreme conditions, from March (sometimes as early as February) to May (sometimes extending to June).
Christmas: The Filipino Way
Most Filipinos are very Catholic; Christmas is celebrated from September till Epiphany. Go and have Nochebuena with a Filipino family; Filipinos don't mind strangers eating with them in their dining table as this is customary during Fiestas. Try out Hamon (ham) and Queso de Bola. Caroling is widely practiced by the youth around the Philippines, they'll appreciate if you give them at least ₱5-10. Don't miss the Misa Del Gallo and the nine-day Simbang Gabi (Tagalog meaning Night Mass). This tradition was passed down from the Spanish; the Masses are usually held either at Midnight or before dawn. After these Masses, Filipinos eat Kakanin (rice cakes) and Bibingka, sold outside churches, and drink Tsokolate (hot chocolate), or eat Champurado (hot chocolate porridge). Parols (Star of Bethlehem lanterns) are hanged in front of houses, commercial establishments and streets. A Giant Lantern Festival is held in Pampanga. Belens or Nativities are displayed in city halls and/or commercial establishments. This is an experience one shouldn't miss if one is travelling in the Philippines. See Christmas in the Philippines for details.
The Philippines is a multicultural country having Christian, Muslim and Buddhist holidays in addition to secular holidays. The year is welcomed by New Year's Day on 1 January. Being a predominantly Catholic country means observing the traditional Catholic holidays of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday during Lent or months around March or April, Araw ng pagkabuhay or Easter Sunday is celebrated 3 days after Good Friday. Araw ng Kagitingan or Day of Valor, Boy scouts re-enact the march every 2 years in honor of this day that is also known as Bataan Day, they march as long as 10 km, the Bataan Death March was part of the Bataan Battle which was also part of the Battle of the Philippines. The Bataan Death March was a 60 km march and the people who participated in this march were captured, tortured and murdered. All Saints Day is on 1 Nov and All Souls Day on 2 Nov. In recognition of the Muslim Filipino community, the Islamic feast of Eid-Al-Fitr (known in the Philippines as Hari Raya Puasa) held after the holy fasting month of Ramadan, is also a national holiday. This day changes year by year, as it follows the Islamic lunar calendar. Chinese New Year is also celebrated by the Chinese Community but dates vary according to the Chinese lunar calendar. Secular holidays include Labor Day (1 May) and Independence Day (12 Jun). 30 Aug is declared National Heroes Day. Some holidays also commemorate national heroes such as Jose Rizal (30 Dec) and Andres Bonifacio (30 Nov) as well as Ninoy Aquino (21 Aug). 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. Christmas is ubiquitously celebrated on 25 Dec.
- New Year's Day: 1 January
- Chinese New Year: varies (based on the Chinese lunar calendar)
- Maundy Thursday: varies
- Good Friday: varies
- Easter Sunday: varies
- Araw Ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor): 9 April
- Labor Day: 1 May
- Independence Day: 12 June
- Ninoy Aquino Day: 21 August
- National Heroes Day: Last Monday of August
- All Saints Day: 1 November
- All Souls Day: 2 November
- Eid Ul Fitr (Hari Raya Puasa): varies according to lunar calendar
- Eid Ul Adha: varies according to lunar calendar
- Bonifacio Day: 30 November
- Feast of the Immaculate Conception: 8 December
- Christmas Day: 25 December
- Rizal Day: 30 December
- Last Day of the Year: 31 December
|March||Paraw Regatta||Iloilo City and Guimaras|
|Pintados de Passi||Passi City, Iloilo|
|Araw ng Dabaw||Davao|
|Sanduguan||Calapan, Oriental Mindoro|
|June||Pintados-Kasadyaan & Sangyaw||Tacloban City, Leyte|
|July||T'nalak||Koronadal City, South Cotabato|
|October||Zamboanga Hermosa (Fiesta Pilar)||Ciudad de Zamboanga (Ciudad Latina de Asia)|
|December||Binirayan||San Jose, Antique|
The culture of the Philippines is very diverse. There is the native Melanesian and Austronesian culture, which is most evident in language, ethnicity, native architecture, food and dances. There is also some influence from Arabia, China, India and Borneo. On top of that there is heavy colonial Hispanic influence from Mexico and Spain, such as in Religion, food, dance, language, festivals, architecture and ethnicity. Later influence from the US can also be seen in the culture.
Filipino literature is a mix of Indian sagas, folk tales, and traces of Western influence. Classical books are written in Spanish as well as in Tagalog, but to this day most of Filipino literature is written in English. The Philippines, thus, is a multi-cultural country with its roots stretching from Asia to Europe and to the Americas.
- Red Revolution by Gregg R. Jones (ISBN 0813306442) - Documentary about the guerrilla movement; New People's Army (NPA), in the Philippines.
- In Our Image: America's Empire in the Philippines by Stanley Karnow (ISBN 0345328167) - Shares the story of European and American colonization in the archipelago as well as the restoration of democracy after the overthrew of Marcos.
- Noli Me Tangere by José Rizal
- El Filibusterismo by José Rizal
- Dekada '70 by Lualhati Bautista (ISBN 9711790238) - A story about a middle class Filipino family that struggled to fight with other Filipinos during the martial law during the time of Marcos.
- The Day the Dancers Came by Bienvenido Santos
- Amazing Archipelago by John-Eric Taburada
The Filipino film industry is suffering because of its main rival, the Western film industry. In this 21st century only 40 films are produced each year; down from 200-300 films a year in the 1990s.
- Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Festival
- Cinemanila International Film Festival
- Metro Manila Film Festival — held annually during the Christmas season, showcasing local films released during the festival month.
Western culture has also permeated the music industry in the Philippines; many songs written by Filipinos are in English, but Filipino-language songs are slowly gaining popularity. American rock-n-roll as well, rap and hip-hop are heard and performed. Traditional Filipino songs such as kundiman (nostalgic/poetic songs) are still held dearly by the population but are slowly losing influence among the younger generations.
- Freddie Aguilar - Aguilar's "Anak" had been translated to many languages and topped the Billboard charts because of its popularity in both the Philippines and elsewhere. The song is about a boy who was loved by his parents so much who, as he grows old, later disrespects them. As the song ends the boy comes back to his parents' arms after realizing all his mistakes. Most listeners could relate to the song, with some emotionally breaking down simply by relating to the song. The song has an English version. It also tells us about Filipino parents, that even though children commit grave mistakes the parents are always there to forgive and help them.
- Hotdog - The group's "Manila" was a popular song in the 1980s; it is about a man living abroad missing the bustling streets of Manila, its food, people and noise.
- Check out other pop and rock groups such as The Eraserheads, Spongecola, Parokya ni Edgar, Gary Valenciano, Side A and Apo Hiking Society. Journey frontman Arnel Pineda is a native of Manila (and a former street kid).
Topics in the Philippines
Summary of Philippine visa policy
Nationals from most countries, including all ASEAN countries, can enter the Philippines without a visa for up to 30 days, or obtain a visa on arrival for up to 59 days, as long as they have a return or onward ticket as well as passports valid for a period of at least six months beyond the period of stay. Exceptions to this rule are as listed below:
- Nationals of Brazil and Israel may enter the Philippines visa-free for up to 59 days.
- Nationals of Hong Kong and Macau - including permanent residents of Macau who hold Portuguese passports - may enter the Philippines visa-free for up to 14 days.
- Nationals of the People's Republic of China travelling as tourists and holding a valid visa issued by Australia, Canada, Japan, the United States or a Schengen Area state may enter the Philippines visa-free for up to 7 days.
- Nationals of Taiwan holding passports with National ID numbers or Resident Certificate may apply for the eVisa.
- Nationals of India holding a valid tourist, business or resident visa issued by Australia, Canada, Japan, Singapore, the United Kingdom, the United States or a Schengen Area state may enter the Philippines visa-free for up to 14 days.
- Nationals of Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, China (PRC), Cuba, East Timor, Egypt, Georgia, India, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kosovo, Lebanon, Libya, Moldova, Montenegro, Nauru, Nigeria, North Korea, North Macedonia, Pakistan, Palestine, Sierra Leone, Serbia, Somalia, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Tonga, Ukraine and Yemen need to apply for a visa at a Filipino diplomatic mission prior to departure.
If intending to stay beyond the duration of the 30-day visa, you may apply for a visa extension at the Bureau of Immigration (BI) which have offices in most main cities and at Manila and Cebu airports . Extensions are granted up to a maximum of six months per time. You can keep getting visa extensions up to a stay of 3 years, after which foreign nationals wishing to stay longer must go out of the Philippines and then come back to start anew, or apply for permanent resident status at home. At Cebu airport it costs ₱3000 to get a 29 day visa extension and takes less than 5 minutes.
The 1st visa extension got within the Philippines at a BOI office is from 30 days up to 59 days and cost ₱3130. The cost of a 29 day visa extension at Cebu airport is ₱3000. You could also get a 59-day tourist visa from any Philippines Embassy around the world for US$30/40, but you must go to the embassy twice as the visa take 2-3 working days to get.
If you overstay, you must pay on departure a fine of ₱1,000 per month of overstay plus a ₱2,020 processing fee.
Airlines may refuse to let you check in if you only have a one-way ticket to the Philippines due to immigration requirements. Cebu Pacific Air will require a printed copy of an onwards "itinerary receipt" at check in. If you want to risk not having an onwards ticket, try to check in early to allow yourself time to buy a ticket at an Internet cafe or ticket desk in the airport if the airline refuses to check you in.
All visitors are given arrival and departure cards presented to immigration.
Travellers intending to stay in the Philippines for the long term (i.e. applying for residence) must register for an Alien Certificate of Registration (ACR) card. ACR applicants will go through fingerprinting, photo identification, and submission of police clearance (not required for tourist visa holders). Foreigners retiring in the Philippines can apply for a retiree visa, but those planning to stay longer must apply for an immigrant visa and permanent residence, which requires at least $10,000 (₱600,000) deposited in a local bank and no criminal record. The Philippines regulates the number of immigrants to 50 persons per country, with exceptions outlined in local immigration legislation. In addition, you must go through additional paperwork at the barangay of residence by applying for a Barangay Certificate of Residence within 24 hours of your arrival.
Under the "Balikbayan Program", former Filipino citizens who have been naturalized in a foreign country may enter the Philippines visa-free for up to one year. If eligible, you must prove your previous Philippine citizenship by presenting an old Philippine passport, birth certificate, or foreign naturalization documents. However, you may not have to present these documents to the immigration officer, as usually it is sufficient to speak a Filipino language, appear Filipino, and/or show the foreign passport if it indicates that you were born in the Philippines. If your Balikbayan status is granted, the immigration officer will annotate your passport for a one-year stay. Your spouse and children may also avail themselves of the Balikbayan privilege, as long as they enter and leave the Philippines together with you. If you choose to reside permanently, you can reacquire Filipino citizenship by taking the Philippine oath of allegiance, and your children (under 18), including illegitimate or adopted children, will automatically acquire Filipino citizenship.
What to pay when leaving the Philippines?
When leaving the Philippines, departing passengers have to pay a passenger service charge, more commonly known as the terminal fee. With the notable exceptions of the airports in Clark and Cebu, this is included at the cost of the ticket. At Clark and Cebu, this is collected at the airport before entering immigration, payable in Philippine pesos or U.S. dollars. A stub is then attached to your boarding pass to indicate that this has been paid.
In addition, most resident aliens and any one who have been in the Philippines more than one year leaving the country are required to pay a travel tax of either ₱2,700 if flying first class or ₱1620 for business or economy class. This tax is collected at a designated counter before check-in if the ticket was purchased outside the Philippines or, in most cases, on-line. If the ticket was purchased at an airline ticket office or travel agency in the Philippines, the travel tax is most likely included in the ticket price; check first and ask before paying. Foreign nationals and balikbayans (former Filipino citizens) who are staying in the Philippines for less than one year are exempt from paying the travel tax, as are overseas Filipino workers (OFW), Filipino students studying abroad, infants and employees of government or international agencies on official business. Reduced rates are available for minors (under 12 years), dependents of OFWs (under 21 years) and journalists on assignment.
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 ticket combinations fly into Manila and out of Cebu or vice versa. Local airlines also have regular "seat sales", advertising cheap fares for flights to domestic destinations. However, be aware of travel dates: some tickets booked during a seat sale may only be used on dates well after the duration of the sale (sometimes up to a year after the sale) and advertised fares usually exclude government taxes and fuel surcharges.
If you live in an area with a large Filipino population (such as London, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Hong Kong, Singapore, Taipei or Tokyo), check out travel agencies catering to overseas Filipinos which often have fares keener than those generally advertised.
Ninoy Aquino International Airport
Most visitors entering the Philippines will fly in through the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) (MNL IATA). The airport is divided into four terminals: Terminals 1, 2, 3 and 4 (formerly called the Domestic Terminal).
Most international flights depart from Terminal 1 with a few exceptions:
- Philippine Airlines international depart from Terminal 2,
- All Cebu Pacific flights (international and domestic), international flights on AirAsia, and flights on Nippon Airways, Singapore Airlines, KLM, Cathay Pacific, Emirates and Delta Air Lines depart from Terminal 3.
Some visitors who enter the Philippines choose to avoid flying through Manila, instead using other airports throughout the Philippines which have international flights.
- Diosdado Macapagal Clark International Airport (CRK IATA) in Angeles City, Pampanga 85 km north of Manila is a popular hub for low-cost carriers serving Manila, although a few full-service carriers serve the airport as well.
- Mactan-Cebu International Airport (CEB IATA) in Metro Cebu is the Philippines' second-busiest airport and a major hub for visitors headed to points in the Visayas and Mindanao, with service on both full-service and low-cost carriers.
- Francisco Bangoy International Airport (DVO IATA) in Davao is served by Silk air (part of Singapore airlines) with flights to and from Singapore. and Cathay Pacific with flights to and from Hong Kong.
- Kalibo International Airport (KLO IATA) in Kalibo, Aklan (near Boracay) Air Asia, has flights to Seoul & Busan South Korea. Scoot Air fly to Singapore. Cebu Pacific fly from Kalibo to Hong Kong and Seoul. Other airlines also have scheduled flights to Kalibo from points in South Korea, China and Taiwan.
- Iloilo International Airport (ILO IATA) in Iloilo is served by Cebu Pacific, with flights to Hong Kong and Singapore.
- Puerto Princesa International Airport (PPS IATA) in Puerto Princesa, Palawan has direct flights to Taipei on Philippine Airlines.
Passengers departing on international flights from Clark airport, pay a terminal fee of ₱650. And from Cebu Airport a terminal fee of 850.
- Weesam Express operates a regular ferry service which connects Zamboanga City, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi with Sandakan, Malaysia.
- Aleson Shipping Lines also has a ferry from Zamboanga to Sandakan. Schedule departs Zamboanga every Monday and Thursday 12 noon. Economy class ₱2700 per way. Cabin ₱3100 per way.
One microcosm of Filipino addresses is the barangay (abbreviated as Brgy.), the lowest government unit of administration. Although some think the word came from the word Balangay (term used to refer to a boatload of settlers in the old days in Mindanao), the term linguistically originated from the Spanish term Barrio commonly used in the Visayas, which refers to a cluster of settlements in villages, until the term was legally adopted in local government law in the late 1970s.
A barangay contains usually more than 100 families. Barangays are then further divided into sitios, a term used to refer to a community (sub-village) especially in rural areas where settlements are scattered in far flung communities. In urban cities, most barangays no longer have sitios but contiguous residential subdivisions or communities. Basically, every street address in the Philippines belongs to a barangay or two or more opposite barangays where boundaries are delineated by streets cutting across. By comparison, a barangay in urban cities is somewhat different from barangays in rural towns. A barangay in urban cities such as capital Manila and neighboring Quezon City, could differ in terms of population density and territorial size when compared to barangays in Paracelis, which is a rural town. Imagine Manila with a population of 1,660,714 living in 38.55 km² distributed in 897 barangays compared to Quezon City with a population of 2,679,450 distributed in 142 barangays in 166.20 km² as compared to Paracelis with a population of 24,705 living in just 9 barangays over a land area of 553.25 km². The biggest barangay in Paracelis is even bigger than the entire Manila.
If you take a taxi, jeepney or tricycle, ask for directions in advance. Street names do exist, but they tend to be rare outside major cities. Philippine addresses often include details of nearby landmarks (e.g. opposite the high school, near the church/police station/barangay hall, etc.) or the intersecting street (e.g. Rizal Ave. cor. Mabini St.). The usual address is very complicated to the uninitiated, and you will find thr floor number, suite number, building name (if there is one), house number, street or road name, landmark details (in parentheses), sitio or purok (more common in the countryside), barangay (or district, in some very large cities), city or town, and province (ignored in Metro Manila, very large independent cities like Cebu, Davao, etc., and cities or towns sharing the name of the province where they are located, e.g. Surigao City, Batangas City). If you are visiting someone in a private subdivision, know the subdivision name, sometimes coterminous with the barangay, and in newer subdivisions, the block and lot number over a street number. Filipinos will ask fellow locals, drivers, shop owners, or cops for the nearest landmark or building characteristics; doing the same will help you get around better. The same goes in rural areas, but you may give the name of the sitio/purok. Using online maps like Google Maps works well in large cities and even rural areas, but coverage can be very messy for multiples reasons, including the tendency to add landmark details to the address.
Flight delays can occur due to technical problems at major airports around the Philippines. If bad weather or smog accumulates throughout the day, so does the backlog of flights and this can cause a 2–3-hour delay in your domestic flight.
If you have a separately ticketed flight on a continuing journey, or plan to fly out the next day, then you might want to consider flying earlier rather than later, that way you have plenty of time to relax, transit or make your hotel reservation for the night.
Since the Philippines is an archipelago, the easiest way to move between islands is by plane. Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and Philippines AirAsia have significant domestic operations, linking many major towns and cities. There are also several smaller carriers which serve resort destinations (such as Amanpulo in Palawan), as well as more remote destinations. While most cities are served by jet aircraft, some destinations are served by propeller-driven planes.
The route networks of most local airlines are heavily centered around Manila and Cebu: flying between domestic points usually entails having to transit one of those cities (sometimes both), although direct flights between other major cities are slowly being introduced. Reaching Sulu and Tawi-Tawi by air is a special case: travelers must fly through Zamboanga City.
A significant majority of domestic flights in the Philippines are operated by low-cost carriers and are consequently economy-only: PAL is the only airline to offer business class on domestic flights. This does not mean however that fares are affordable: domestic seat sales are a common feature throughout the year, and all major airlines regularly offer promo fares on their websites. However, fares increase significantly during major peak travel seasons (particularly during Christmas, Holy Week and the last two weeks of October), and in places served by only one airline (such as Calbayog, Camiguin or Siargao), fares also increase during major provincial or town fiestas. Flights are frequently full during peak travel season, so it is advisable to book well in advance.
Passengers departing on domestic flights must pay a terminal fee before entering the pre-departure area, although the fee is integrated into the ticket price as of August 1, 2012 for flights departing from Manila and Cebu. Fees vary, with most major cities charging ₱200, and smaller cities charging between ₱30 and ₱100. Fees are only payable in Philippine pesos.
- See also: sleeper trains
The Philippine National Railways (PNR) operates two overnight intercity services: the Bicol Express between Manila and Naga, Camarines Sur, which resumed on June 29, 2011 after a five-year absence, and the Mayon Limited between Manila and Ligao in Albay. Additional services are expected in the future as the rehabilitation of the PNR network progresses. Train service is comparable to (or slower than, due to delays) buses in terms of speed, but is more comfortable owing to the use of donated Japanese coaches for the service.
The Bicol Express and Mayon Limited are not non-stop services: from Tutuban, Manila's main train station, the train calls at several points in Metro Manila, Laguna, Quezon and Camarines Sur before arriving in Naga (and Albay before arriving in Ligao for the Mayon Limited). It is possible to travel between any two points served by the services, and fares are distance-based. Children under three feet may travel for free.
There are four classes of service on the Bicol Express:
- Executive sleeper class features individual air-conditioned cabins. Each cabin has a bed, pull-down armrests so that a portion of the bed can be used as a chair, and a small table. Washrooms are available inside the coach.
- Family sleeper class features four-bed air-conditioned cabins: two beds on each side, with one stacked on top of the other. Access to the top bunk is via a foldable ladder between both sides of the cabin, and cabins are separated from the aisle with a curtain. The PNR promotes this class for the use of families traveling together, although it is possible to book an individual bed.
- Reclining air-conditioned economy class (or deluxe class) features air-conditioned reclining chairs, two on each side of the cabin. On some coaches, it is possible to rotate the chairs so that passengers may face each other.
- Economy class (or ordinary class) is the cheapest class of service, featuring upholstered benches on each side which can sit up to three people. Ventilation is provided via overhead ceiling fans.
On the Mayon Limited, only reclining air-conditioned economy class ("deluxe") and regular economy class are offered. However, unlike the Bicol Express, the Mayon Limited provides service using two different trains: the "deluxe" service operates on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, while the "economy" service operates on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.
Passengers on PNR intercity services are entitled to a free baggage allowance of 20 kg.
It is possible to book seats on intercity trains by calling the PNR at +63 2 319-0044. Booking seats is recommended during peak travel seasons (especially during Holy Week and in September, during the Peñafrancia Festival in Naga), where trains can be full. However, the PNR does send a second, all-economy supplementary overnight train on certain days during peak season if traffic demand warrants it. Timetables and fares for all services, including supplementary services, are announced on the PNR's website and also on its official Facebook page.
The PNR also operates the Commuter Express in Metro Manila, a once-daily commuter service between Manila and Biñan, Laguna (which is also part of the Commuter Express, but uses different trains), and the Bicol Commuter between Naga and towns in Camarines Sur and Albay.
The Philippines' road network is centered on Manila. Outside Luzon, larger islands' road networks converge on the largest city or cities (for example, Cebu City for Cebu Province, Iloilo City for Panay and Puerto Princesa for Palawan), while smaller islands (such as Marinduque, Catanduanes and Camiguin) usually have a road circling the entire island. The Philippines has one highway which is part of the Asian Highway Network: the Pan-Philippine Highway (AH26), also known locally as the Maharlika Highway. The highway begins in Laoag and ends in Zamboanga City, traversing through Luzon, Samar, Leyte and Mindanao. However, it is also the only highway in the Asian Highway Network which is not connected to any other highway: it is not possible to enter the Philippines by car.
Roads in the Philippines vary greatly in quality from the paved multi-lane expressways of Luzon to the narrow dirt roads of remote mountain areas, which may complicate travel by car. Most major roads have two lanes and are normally paved with asphalt or concrete, although multi-lane roads are common near major cities. Road atlases and maps are available at bookstores throughout the country, and are very helpful when driving, especially when driving alone. Route numbers are now being introduced on all expressways and national highways, that they can be used when planning trips, but as this is still very new, as signs are only introduced in 2016, not all maps, especially app-based navigation apps (other than Waze, which has included them even before the signs are erected), include them for navigation purposes. National roads can now be referred by number, but the current practice is to refer them by their name (if known) or with the generic "National Road/Highway" (signed or unsigned), especially when asking for directions.
Major international car rental companies such as Hertz  and Budget  have offices in Metro Manila, notably at the airport. Avis  and Europcar  are among the largest international car rental companies, with offices in several cities throughout the Philippines. There are also local car rental companies, such as Nissan Rent-a-Car . Regardless of the company, prices are bound to be reasonable.
Car rental companies usually allow either self-drive or chauffeur-driven rentals: some types of cars however (like vans) may only be rented out with a chauffeur. Also, some rental companies (mostly local ones) may only allow rentals to be driven within the island where the city of rental is located: for example, it may be possible to drive with a rental from Manila to Legazpi (both on Luzon), but not from Manila (Luzon) to Tacloban (Leyte) because it would entail the use of roll-on/roll-off (RO/RO) ferries. If you intend to drive out of Luzon and into the outlying islands, the Visayas or Mindanao (and/or vice-versa), be sure that the rental company's terms and conditions allow it.
In addition to the existing network of national and local roads, the Philippines has two additional road networks: an expressway network and the Strong Republic Nautical Highway (SRNH) system.
Luzon has an expressway network dominated by the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) and South Luzon Expressway (SLEX). These are tollways with good paved roads, are privately-maintained, and the farthest tolls will not cost more than a few dollars from Metro Manila. Other expressways include the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (a 94-kilometer 4-lane freeway connecting Subic Bay and Tarlac) and the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway. Expressways are connected to the network of national highways and provincial roads which connect to major cities and provinces.
The Strong Republic Nautical Highway system is a three-route network of national and provincial roads, bridges and roll-on/roll-off (RO/RO) ferries which facilitates the connection of major islands of the Philippines together by road, bringing down the cost of driving (and, ultimately, lowering the cost of shipping goods between islands). The SRNH system begins in Luzon, runs in a north-south direction through the Visayas, and ultimately ends in Mindanao. The SRNH is useful for driving to tourist destinations outside Manila: for example, it is possible to drive to both Puerto Galera and Boracay from Manila via the Western Nautical Highway. SRNH routes are signposted and a map of the network and RO/RO schedules are available from the Department of Tourism .
Foreign driver's licenses are legally valid in the Philippines for up to 90 days after arrival, after which a Philippine driver's license is required. It may also be a good idea to carry your passport showing that your last entry into the Philippines was less than 91 days ago.
Vehicular traffic in the Philippines moves on the right, and the vast majority of road signs are in English, with a few in Filipino. Road signs are based on a mix of American and European standards. Road marking are usually white, the same as in most of Europe, save for the no-overtaking lines, that always uses yellow, like in most of the Americas. While most major highways have good signage and markings, it is less common in inner city and minor roads. Road sign theft is also a common problem even in the highways, and stolen signs can cause a fatal crash, especially at night.
Filipinos are famous for their driving habits (or lack thereof). Traffic often grinds to a screeching halt, especially in major cities (Metro Manila in particular), and the honking of horns is a very common occurrence. When there is no traffic, speeding, swerving and reckless passing happen on a regular basis, especially on desolate rural roads. Car traffic competes with bus and jeepney traffic, which jostle sidewalk curbs to get more passengers, especially in areas without designated bus stops: the "boundary" commission system that determine bus and jeepney drivers' salaries based on passenger load does not help the traffic situation in many cities. Motorcycles frequently weave through traffic, increasing the risk of accidents. However, traffic lights, while frequently ignored in the past, are more strictly adhered to now. Seatbelts are mandatory for all passengers, and if you travel with children, kids below 6 are not allowed to seat in front beside the driver. To add further, child restraint seats are not yet legal unlike in the West, but there is a proposed law to make child restraint seats mandatory for children below 7 travelling by car. Motorcycles accumulate on the pedestrian crosswalk at signalized intersections, just as in neighboring Indonesia or Malaysia; let them drive first to avoid an accident.
Gasoline stations are common in highly populated areas, but becomes rare out in the countryside. They are not self-service, and expect a gasoline boy to provide service and payment. Toilets tend to have poor sanitation, except in larger ones. Most gas stations have convenience stores and car repair shops, but smaller ones have only pumps and toilets. Fuel prices tend to fluctuate weekly, so gas up as early as possible.
Speed limits are set on 100 km/h (62 mph) on expressways, 80 km/h (50 mph) on national highways outside populated areas, and 20 km/h (12 mph) to 40 km/h (25 mph) elsewhere (residential areas, school zones, city roads). Speed limits are not well signed in most roads and enforcement is lax, and speeding is a common problem on rural highways.
Distracted driving is now illegal under a new law signed on May 2017. Even texting, calling, or playing games while your vehicle is stopped on a traffic light or a traffic jam can be fined. Navigation apps, like Waze and Google Maps, which are being popular with drivers trying to avoid jams, are permitted, but must be hands-free, that you cannot use the device while driving, unless you pull over to set navigation to an alternate route. Exceptions only apply when using a cell phone in emergency, like reporting an accident.
Due to heavy traffic congestion, Metro Manila and Baguio have laws that restrict certain vehicles based on the day of the week and the ending number of your vehicle's license plate: this is officially called the Uniform Vehicular Volume Reduction Program (UVVRP), but it is simply known as "number coding" or, previously "color coding" (although it has nothing to do with the color of your vehicle). The UVVRP works as follows:
|Weekends and holidays||No coding|
Cities that enforce the UVVRP prohibit cars from being driven between 7AM and 7PM on a certain weekday on most national (primary) and secondary roads, although the implementation varies: in Metro Manila (excluding Makati and Pasay), a "window" exists between 10AM and 3PM where the scheme is not enforced, while in Baguio, the UVVRP is only enforced in the city center, and the scheme does not apply to the rest of the city. In general however, the UVVRP does not apply to minor streets (mostly in residential areas), and those roads remain open to coded cars the whole day. 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.
Motorcycles and scooters (either can be called moto in Filipino English) are extremely common in the country, mostly Japanese brands (though perhaps manufactured elsewhere) plus some Filipino brands such as Rusi. Most are in the 125‑200cc range. They are available for rent (typically at around ₱300 a day) in many cities and tourist areas, and it is common for long-term visitors to buy one.
There is a national law requiring helmets, but it is not consistently enforced in all regions. Motorcycle driving is also not for the faint of heart; most accidents claim lives of motorcyclists because of dangerous driving habits like drunk driving or illegal overtaking.
Motorcycles used as taxis, called habal-habal are common in some areas; for example they are almost the only transport on Samal. There are no meters; you have to negotiate a price, and some drivers may try to overcharge tourists or may feel they are entitled to something extra because you want to be the only passenger where they could carry two or even three Filipinos. If you have a choice, either a tricycle or a jeepney will usually be both safer and more comfortable. National law prohibits the use of motorcycles as public transport for safety reasons, but they are quite common in some areas nonetheless. A law that will legalize motorcycle taxis is scheduled to be signed into law in 2019, but motorcycles taxis remain illegal, including app-hailed services like Angkas and GrabBike.
Most of the taxi drivers nowadays charge people with fares not based on the meters, especially during peak hours. If you encounter this say "no" and say that drivers don't have a right to give you a fare that is double and not based on the meters, this is usually encountered by tourists as well as middle class-elite class Filipinos. If this happens get out of the taxi, threaten the driver you will call the police hotline;Philippine National Police (PNP) +63 2 722-0650 start dialing your cellphone to make him believe you are calling the police or either call the MMDA(Metro Manila Development Authority) hotline; 136 if you're within Manila, you can also text the police at 2920 and your message must be as follows; PNP(space)(message), for your complaints. Some taxis have meters which give out receipts; ask for a receipt if they have one.
Taxis are generally available within the major cities but are usually not used for travel across the various provinces and regions. UV Express (shared taxis using white vans) usually ply provincial routes. You can also call reputable taxi companies that can arrange pickups and transfers as well as airport runs.
When hailing a taxi in the cities, ensure the meter is on and pay the metered fare. A tip of ₱10 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! Please do have coins ready with you. Moreover, don't be surprised if drivers want to bypass the meter during rush hour. Most taxis have the flag down rate of ₱40 with each 300 meters cost ₱3.50 while Yellow cab taxis are more expensive with a flag-down rate of ₱70 with each 300 meters cost ₱4 (April 2011).
You may book a taxi using GPS enabled mobile apps such as "Grab Taxi" and "Easy Taxi" for a small fee. This is better than hailing a cab because you can see the number of available taxis and their location via GPS. Once you have a confirmed taxi booking, the name, photo, plate number and telephone number will appear on your mobile device and you can communicate with your driver to let him know exactly where you are. This is available in Metro Manila and Cebu.
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. It is the cheapest mode of transport when getting around, fares are as low as ₱300-500. Provincial bus companies have scheduled trips from Manila to provinces to the north and south. Major provincial bus companies such as ALPS The Bus, Inc., Victory Liner, Philtranco operate in the country.
Although mariners from the Philippines are employed worldwide and have a good reputation as skillful and committed crew, it is a sad fact that shipowners in the Philippines put profit before lives and the Philippines has the sad distinction of having had some of the world's worst maritime disasters in peacetime. (On 20 Dec 1987, the passenger ferry Doña Paz collided with the oil tanker Vector in the Tablas Strait, near Marinduque. The tanker had more than 8,800 barrels of gasoline on board and the resulting conflagration quickly spread to the Doña Paz so that passengers had to leap into burning waters. Subsequently, there were reports that the life jackets aboard the Doña Paz were locked away to prevent pilfering. This one incident left an estimated 4,341 dead which included all but 24 of the Doña Paz's passengers, and all but two of the Vector's 13-man crew.)
Get around Manila with Pasig's Pasig Ferry Service, waterbuses are available in stations around the historical river of Pasig. Fares ranges from ₱25, ₱35 and ₱45. For students and youth fares range ₱20 regardless of distance.
Next to buses and some times low cost airlines, ships are the cheapest mode of transport when getting around the country as fares are as low as ₱1,000 if it's a trip lasting a day or two and ₱200 if it's only a one hour trip. 2Go Travel 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 7,107 Island Cruise Ship takes passengers around Coron and some of its private islands.
Ferry trips to other islands can take over 24 hours, depending on distance. Other major ferry companies include: 2Go Travel, Trans Asia Shipping Lines.
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 mouth.
While travelling by ferry is cheap, and relatively care-free compared to air travel, boat services can be unreliable. Ferries can sometimes be delayed anywhere between 24 to 48 hours because all the cargo and passengers has not yet boarded, or because of weather. If you need to make a deadline (such as an international flight), then fly instead of travelling by ferry.
7107 Islands Cruise offers a cruises from Boracay to Puerto Galera to Boracay, prices range from ₱2,000 - ₱10,000, children below than 3 years old are free to travel who is accompanied by 2 adults, children from 5 to 12 years old are given a 50% discount, who are accompanied also by 2 adults while senior citizens can avail a 20% discount. The cruise will tour around the Philippines in islands such as Boracay and Coron Island.
Hans Christian Andersen Cruise [formerly dead link] will take you on a voyage through the Philippines. They take you to empty beaches, local fishing villages, diving and snorkeling to explore the picturesque archipelagos of the Philippines. They offer a relaxed holiday atmosphere and you won’t have to worry about dress code.
Sun Cruises has tour packages to Corregidor Island in Manila Bay. Prices range from ₱2,000 for a day tour with a buffet lunch, to ₱3,000 for an overnight stay at the island. The tour guides are very informative, and the island is steeped in history, particularly about the battles that raged there during World War II. They also offer cruises around Manila Bay.
Jeepneys are common throughout the country and are by far the most affordable way to get around most major urban areas. They generally run on fixed routes, have fixed fares depending on distance (often about ₱8 for up to 4 km and an additional ₱1 per km), and will stop if you wave at them. Usually there are signs on the side of the vehicle indicating the route. Within Manila and other major cities, you will find multiple jeepneys per route so you rarely need to wait long to catch one.
Jeepneys are often quite crowded and generally not very comfortable (especially if you are tall), there is usually little space inside for luggage (though most have a roof rack), there may be pickpockets, and you might encounter annoying behavior such as drivers smoking or passengers engaging in loud conversations, However every visitor should try them at least once since they are definitely part of a "Philippines experience". For a budget traveller, they will likely be one of the most used transport options.
The original Jeepneys were based on jeeps left behind by the Americans after World War II; Filipinos lengthened the body and added benches along the sides to seat more people. Today most new jeepneys are based on imported used vehicles — anything from SUV to heavy truck, and mostly from Japan — but many older ones are still running. Jeepneys typically have seating for about 20 people, but they often carry 30 or more with people in the aisle or on the running boards. A few passengers can sit up front with the driver; these are the best seats, more comfortable and with a better view.
Some jeepneys have a conductor to collect the fares, but on others you pay the driver. It is fairly common for people sitting at the back to get other passengers to relay their money to the driver; this is easier if you have exact change. It is also common for passengers to clink coins against metal parts of the roof when they want off; the sound carries forward to the driver.
In some areas there are vehicles much like a jeepney, but built on a smaller chassis so they can carry only about a dozen passengers. Locals will usually call these multicabs, but travellers may use songthaew, the usual term for similar vehicles in some other parts of Southeast Asia.
In the provinces, jeepneys also connect towns and cities. For these longer trips there are often discounts for seniors or students, though not usually on trips within a city. For a trip of a few km from a city to a suburb or a few dozen km to a nearby town jeepneys are often the best way to travel. For longer journeys, however, buses are more comfortable.
Traysikels are tricycles, motorcycle-and-sidecar rigs; the motorcycles are typically Japanese machines in the 125-200cc range. In some places the sidecars seat four, in other places only two. In some of the smaller cities, these are the main means of transport within the town, and jeepneys are used only for journeys between towns. In a few areas tricycles are used for out-of-town journeys of up to about 25 km (15 miles) as well; one example is the trip from the port in Tagbilaran out to the resorts on Panglao Island.
These may not be to the liking of most foreigners, as they are cramped and quite open to noise and weather. In most places they are shared vehicles; expect to ride along with other people going approximately the same way and to take the odd detour as the driver diverts to deliver a passenger at his or her destination.
In towns the fares range from ₱3 per person up; most fares in any town are ₱8 to ₱50, depending mainly on the distance. In some places the fare is legally regulated, for example in Dumaguete, it is ₱9 anywhere within the town. In more rural areas, rates are different; for example on Olango Island almost any journey costs ₱120 per tricycle, however many people and however much luggage you have, and the run from Tagbilaran to Alona Beach on Panglao is ₱250-300. Sometimes, especially for longer runs, you will need to bargain over the fare, and some drivers will try to overcharge foreigners.
In general, most journeys are reasonably safe and pleasant, and quite cheap by foreign standards, but there can be problems. Some drivers may smoke while driving (despite smoking bans on public utility vehicles, including tricycles) or overcharge, and quite a few drive rather adventurously, frequently violating traffic rules, like illegal overtaking or ignoring tricycle prohibitions (primarily on heavily travelled highways). Some of the motorcycles are quite noisy, belch smoke or have inadequate headlights.
There is usually a luggage rack on the back. If you use it, make sure the driver ties your things down; otherwise they might be stolen or fly out when you hit a bump. Large or valuable luggage should ride in the passenger area; on tricycles with four-seat sidecars the front seat can be folded up to make room. You will usually have to pay extra for this, which is fair since the luggage prevents the driver taking more passengers.
You may find tricycles resembling auto rickshaws or tuk-tuks in some areas, especially in Mindanao; they have passengers sitting behind the driver instead on a separate sidecar. Auto-rickshaws sold by Bajaj can be sighted also in some areas. Electric trikes can be found at some areas, like in Manila.
In many areas, pedicab refers to a pedal-powered vehicle, either a bicycle-and-sidecar rig or a cycle rickshaw with two seats in back and the rider pedaling up front. In other areas, "pedicab" is used for motorized sidecar rigs as well.
While English in the Philippines is largely based on American English, there are a few terms and expressions peculiar to the local dialect of English:
Some spellings look odd to English speakers since they approximately follow Spanish conventions. Examples include traysikel (tricycle) and pulis (police); both are pronounced much like the English words.
The Philippines has two official languages: English and Filipino; both are used in education and most Filipinos speak at least some of both, though the levels in either vary quite widely. Filipino is a standardized version of the Tagalog language. Tagalog is the language spoken in the National Capital Region (NCR) or Metro Manila, and across much of southern and central Luzon.
In the northern provinces, Ilocano is the most common language used, while Kapampangan and Pangasinan are spoken in the Central Luzon plains. South of Metro Manila lies the Bicol Region, where Bicolano is the main local language.
The Visayas, forming the central section of the country, have their own language subgroup called the Visayan languages, which differ depending on the region. Cebuano is the most common Visayan language, and is mainly spoken in the islands of Cebu, Bohol and Negros (eastern part), and used to have more native speakers than Tagalog. The second most-common one is Hiligaynon (also known as Ilonggo), which is widely spoken in the islands of Panay, Guimaras and Negros (western part). Waray-Waray is the third most-common and is widely spoken in the Leyte-Samar islands.
On Mindanao, the main island of the south, the main local language is Cebuano, but a Spanish-based creole called Chavacano has a few million speakers in the region around Zamboanga.
All the Filipino languages are related to each other, and all are part of the Austronesian language group which also includes Malay, Indonesian, Javanese and various languages of the Pacific islands. A speaker of any of those will recognize some cognate words in any of the others, and some of the grammar is similar, but they are not mutually intelligible.
Most Filipino languages have been heavily influenced by other languages, most notably Spanish during the Spanish colonial period; there are many Spanish loanwords and the writing system uses Spanish spelling conventions (e.g. Tanjay is pronounced about like English 'tan high'). Hence, many Filipinos can understand a little Spanish. English has also had an influence and has contributed many loanwords.
English is an official language of the Philippines and is a compulsory subject in all schools, so it is widely spoken in the larger cities and main tourist areas. However, it is usually not the first language for most locals. The use of English isn't as widespread anymore on radio and free-to-air TV as it once was with only three TV channels using it on a full-time basis. However almost all broadsheet newspapers still use English. Tourists won't have problems using English when making inquiries at commercial and government establishments. A few simple phrases in Tagalog or any widespread regional language will come in handy when travelling to rural places as English proficiency is limited there. Taglish is spoken nowadays by the urban youth but its use is discouraged by language educators due to its improper form. It is a mix of Tagalog and English, and an example is shown below:
- Taglish: How are you na? Ok naman ako.
- Tagalog: Kumusta ka na? Mabuti naman ako
- English: How are you? I'm ok.
Spanish is no longer widely spoken, though many Spanish words survive in the local languages, and there are still around three million people who speak Spanish to varying degrees of fluency. A Spanish-based Creole language known as Chavacano is spoken in Cavite and in Zamboanga. The government is trying to revive Spanish by providing Spanish in public schools as an optional language. Younger Spanish-Filipinos tend to speak Filipino languages and/or English as their primary language.
Other ethnic groups have brought new languages to the country, particularly in more urbanized areas like Manila. There are Chinese groups who migrated largely from Fujian province some time ago and typically can speak Hokkien rather than Mandarin or Cantonese. They also use 'Lan-ang'; a localized variant of Hokkien with influences from the native Philippine languages, particularly Tagalog and any Visayan language.
Many Filipinos speak multiple languages. You should not be surprised, for example, to meet someone who speaks one or more regional Philippine languages (perhaps Ilocano or Cebuano) plus English, Tagalog and one or two picked up during stints as an overseas contract worker.
The Philippines can give you the tropical island experience of your life. Its beautiful sandy beaches, warm climate, century old churches, magnificent mountain ranges, dense rain forests, rich culture and smiling people are some of the attractions that you can see and experience on this archipelago composed of 7,107 islands. You can experience the country's rich and unique culture in different ways like touring old Spanish churches, joining colorful fiestas (festivals) and by enjoying exotic and tasty cuisine. But perhaps the greatest way to experience Filipino culture is by riding a jeepney.
Historical and cultural attractions
Manila is the capital of the Philippines; it was established during the Spanish colonial era. Despite being a city with modern skyscrapers, Manila still has its rich historical and cultural heritage. Its old churches, colonial structures, neo-classical buildings and historical landmarks give this city its unique charm.
The Spanish began colonizing the Philippines in the 1560s and held it until the Americans took over in 1898. Almost every town in the country has a few fine old buildings from that period, at least a Catholic church. A few have much more than that, whole districts full of old buildings including the remains of Spanish fortifications:
- Cebu City was the first Spanish settlement in the Philippines, and was the capital for a few years. Its Colon district has some of the country’s most important historical and heritage spots including Fort San Pedro and the Basilica of Santo Niño. The city's Sinulog Festival attracts thousands of tourists and pilgrims; it is one of the country's most popular festivals.
- Intramuros (Spanish for 'within the walls') is is the oldest district and historic core of Manila. Intramuros is home to Manila's finest and oldest structures such as the Manila Cathedral and Fort Santiago. Despite being heavily damaged during World War II, Intramuros still has its Spanish colonial character.
- Baguio is at a considerable elevation and was used as a summer capital to escape the heat of Manila.
Several towns have particularly fine collections of heritage buildings, including many heritage homes built for important Spaniards or for wealthy Filipino families. Many of these are still private homes and by no means all are open to the public, but some have become museums and others allow tours.
- Vigan, in the Ilocos Region of northern Luzon, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a Spanish colonial town though also with considerable Chinese influence. It may make you feel like you are somewhere in Latin America or Mediterranean Europe.
- Taal, in the Batangas region southwest of Manila, is the closest such town to the capital. It may be a convenient stop for those headed for the beaches of Puerto Galera, though it takes you off the direct route.
- Silay is on Negros, near Bacolod.
- Baclayon is on Bohol, near Tagbilaran.
Since the country was a Spanish colony for 300 years, Baroque churches can easily be found around the Philippines. These churches will look almost like those which you might see in Spain or elsewhere in Europe. Some of the most iconic in the country are:
- San Agustin Church in Manila
- Miag-ao Church in Iloilo
- Paoay Church in Ilocos Norte
- Santa Maria Church in Ilocos Sur
These churches were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site under the collective title Baroque Churches of the Philippines.
Beaches and islands
Beaches and diving are among the best-known tourist attractions of the country; with 7,107 islands there is certainly enough choice. Many beaches have bright white sand, but beige, gray, black or even pink sand are also found. Most of the diving is around coral reefs; many are reachable by just walking into the water, or on a day trip by boat from one of the resorts. A few such as Coron feature wreck diving and some such as Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park involve longer trips on live-aboard boats.
Boracay is the country's best-known beach resort area, has been rated one of the best islands in the world by several magazines, and attracts thousands of international and local travelers every year. It has powdery white sand beaches and azure waters, and is a highly-developed area offering a range of activities including scuba diving, snorkeling, windsurfing, kitesurfing, cliff diving and parasailing. After all of these activities, you can indulge in a relaxing massage right on the white sand beach or at one of the spas
If you want to avoid crowded beaches, head to Palawan. The beaches in the province are less developed, uncrowded and are well-preserved. The coastal town of El Nido is one of the best destinations that Palawan and the Philippines can offer. Its pristine beaches, crystal clear waters, steep limestone cliffs, stunning islets and diving spots can compete with any of the best in the world.
Coron Island boasts hundreds of limestone formations topped with dense rainforests. It is also popular for its exquisite beaches and World War II shipwrecks. Rent a kayak to paddle around the islands to see the beautiful and well-preserved seascape of Coron.
Aside from Palawan, you can also try Bohol, an island province which is also home to majestic sandy beaches. One of Bohol's top beach destinations is Panglao Island, which is being promoted as an alternative destination to Boracay. The island offers a wide selection of both luxury and affordable resorts.
Mactan Island in Cebu; Santa Cruz Island in Zamboanga; Pagudpud in Ilocos; Laiya Beach in Batangas and White Island in Camiguin are other popular beach destinations in the Philippines that are really worth visiting.
Sick of beaches? The Philippines has other offer stunning landscapes; aside from beautiful beaches, there are mountain ranges, dense jungles, majestic rice terraces, scenic lakes, picturesque waterfalls and hidden caves.
If we think of the Philippines, the usual things that goes into our mind are just group of islands with warm sunny days. The Cordillera Region is not the usual Philippine destination that we see on postcards and travel magazines. If you visit this mountainous region, take jackets and sweaters rather than just t-shirts, because this region is located in the cool highlands of the northern part of the country. Rice terraces are one of the most visited tourist attractions in the region, the world-famous Banaue Rice Terraces and Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras can be found here. These rice terraces were built almost 2000 years ago by ancient Filipinos and still maintain their beauty. Nearby is the town of Sagada in the Mountain Province. Known for its hanging coffins and limestone caves, this town is an ideal destination for backpackers.
Being a mountainous country, the Philippines offers countless choices of mountains for hikers and adventure seekers. The best mountain climbing destination in the country is the scenic Mount Apo in the Southern Philippines. Mount Apo is the highest mountain in the Philippines, and one of the most diverse areas; it is home to over 272 bird species, 111 of which are endemic to the area. The mountain also has four major lakes, these lakes are famous mountaineers camping site and a stopover towards the peak. Another popular mountain climbing destination is Mount Pinatubo in Tarlac. This mountain made global headlines as the second largest volcanic eruption of the 20th century. Today, it is one of the country's top climbing destination due to it's canyons, 4x4 terrain and its scenic caldera lake.
Head to the island of Bohol to see the famous Chocolate Hills, and no they are not made out of chocolate, they are grass-covered limestone domes that turn brown during the dry season, hence their name. There are more than 1,268 hills scattered in the area. The Chocolate Hills are one of the most iconic and popular tourist spots in the country. Another destination which is popular in Bohol is the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary in Corella, it is a 7.4-hectare forest sanctuary where over 100 tarsiers roam freely, here you can have a chance to get up close to the Philippine Tarsier, one of the smallest primates in the world.
Eskrima or Kali is a Filipino martial art that emphasizes using swords and sticks; it has been showcased in films such as Equilibrium. Training centers and schools that teach Eskrima are mostly found around Metro Manila.
Many foreigners such as Europeans, Chinese, Americans and Koreans choose to study and finish university in the Philippines because compared to other countries, Universities here are cheaper and offer the same system the Americans apply (K-12 from 2016, but some remain on the old K-10 system), major schools such as University of the Philippines, De La Salle University, Ateneo de Manila University, Far Eastern University and Adamson University are just some of the major universities with many provincial branches in the country. Of these, the University of the Philippines is considered the most prestigious in the country.
There are many former members of the US military studying in the Philippines. The Veterans Administration will pay for this provided the university is on their approved list.
Other international schools in the Philippines are also found and usually operated by British and other European diplomats, Japanese, Korean, Chinese and American immigrants and diplomats.
The country is also a hub for people seeking to learn English, mostly Chinese, Japanese and Koreans. Transport from those countries, living costs and tuition are all much lower than for the major English-speaking countries and, with some exceptions like Hawaii or Queensland, the climate is much more pleasant as well. The Philippines is one of the largest centers for learning ESL in Asia.
There are many English learning centers around the country; many are in Metro Manila (especially Taguig City), Bacolod, and Cebu, but there are some in all the major cities and in some of the resort areas.
There are some jobs for foreign teachers in these places, though they mostly use Filipino teachers and generally will not offer high salaries to foreigners. See Teaching English.
- Aerial Sports - An annual Hot Air Balloon festival is held in Clark, Angeles in Pampanga, other than Hot Air balloons on display, people gather in this event to do sky diving, many activities are also held other than sky diving and hot air balloons. The Festival is held between January and February.
- Basketball is the most popular sport in the Philippines, don't miss the PBA and UAAP basketball tournaments.
- Bentosa and Hilot are Filipino alternative ways of healing, Bentosa is a method where a cup cover a tea light candle then it flames out and it drains out all the pain on the certain part of the body, Hilot is just the Filipino way of massaging.
- Board sailing - Waves and winds work together making the country a haven for board sailors. Boracay, Subic Bay and Anilao in Batangas are the main destinations.
- Casinos: Metro Manila has a wide collection of casinos and entertainment destinations. Explore the Resorts World Manila, the country's first luxurious casino integrated resort, and the newly opened Solaire Resorts and Casino. The Entertainment City will be home to four integrated casino resorts. This development is expected to attract millions of rich Asian tourists and rival Las Vegas, Macau, and Singapore.
- Caving - The Archipelago has some unique cave systems. Sagada is one popular destination for caving.
- Festivals - Each municipality, town, city and province has their own festival, either religious or in honor of the city or a historical reason.
- See also: Festivals in the Philippines for more information.
- Golf - Almost every province has a golf course, it is a popular sport among the elite, rich and famous.
- Medical tourism - The Philippines supplies the world with many medical professionals with large numbers leaving the country every year for a better future abroad. This is indicative of the quality of medical education and medical tourism is on the rise too. Most come from America and Europe as compared to their home countries, healthcare here is much cheaper; as much as 80% less than the average price abroad. Most of the hospitals suggested for medical tourism are in Metro Manila. Alternative medicine is also popular with spas, faith healing and other fringe therapies widespread throughout the archipelago.
- National parks - National parks number around 60-70, they include mountains and coral reefs.
- Mountain biking - The archipelago has dozens of mountains and is ideal for mountain bikers. Bikes are the best mode of transportation in getting around remote areas. Some options include Baguio, Davao, Iloilo, Banaue, Mount Apo and Guimaras.
- Rock climbing - Apo Island, Atimonan, El Nido, Putting Bato, Wawa Gorge have the best sites in the archipelago for rock climbing.
- Sea kayaking - Caramoan Islands in Camarines Sur, Palawan, Samar and Siargao are popular.
- Spas are popular, with many options, spas are found near beaches, financial capitals, etc.
- Trekking - Mountain ranges and peaks offer cool weather for trekking and it might give you a sight of the beautiful exotic flora and fauna of the country. Mt. Kanlaon and Mount Pulag are good trekking spots.
- Visita iglesia - (Visita is Spanish for Visit, Iglesia is Spanish for Church = Visit Churches) done by mostly Filipino Roman Catholics to Churches, holy sites, shrines, basilicas etc. If you are religious try this, if you love art and architecture, churches are the best way to define what Filipino architecture.
- Whitewater rafting - There is good whitewater rafting in Mindanao, both in the north around Cagayan de Oro and in the south near Davao.
Scuba diving is spectacular in the Philippines. While there are many fine dive sites, including some in nearly every region of the country, two stand out as among the world's best:
- Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park is a Philippines National Park and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a large area of coral reef, mostly shallow water with a few small islets and a sensational range of marine life. It is generally reached on live-aboard boats operating from Puerto Princesa on Palawan.
- Coron has excellent wreck diving because the US Navy sank about ten Japanese ships in shallow water there in 1944.
There is a great variety of dive sites and many have 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.
Under Philippine law, any foreigner working must have an Alien Employment Permit issued by the Department of Labor. The paperwork is in general handled by the prospective employer and the employee picks up the relevant visa at a Philippine Embassy or Consulate. Working without a permit is not allowed and does not give you any labor protections. Furthermore, visas are checked upon departing the Philippines. Those who have overstayed without permission are subject to fines and, in certain cases, even jail.
It is possible for foreigners to earn casual money while 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 while knowledge of Filipino or Tagalog is considerably low. As of late 2010, the Philippines has overtaken India in the call center industry, and many international companies hire English fluent workers.
Most establishments pay monthly but informal jobs pay out variably either cash on hand or weekly.
Exchange rates for Philippine pesos
As of January 2019:
Exchange rates fluctuate. Current rates for these and other currencies are available from XE.com
The Philippine peso, denoted by the symbol "₱" (ISO code: PHP) is the official currency and in almost all cases the only currency used for normal transactions. US dollars and euros may be accepted in some circumstances, but don't count on it.
Peso bills come in denominations of 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1,000. One peso is equivalent to 100 centavos and coins come in 1, 5, 10 and 25 centavo variants in addition to the 1, 5 and 10 peso coins. The current notes have similar colors to their old counterparts, have the same people at the front (except for the 500-peso note which also features former President Aquino) but rather than historical sites at the back, these newer notes feature Filipino natural wonders and species unique to the country. Older versions of each note have been demonetized since December 2016.
Travellers usually see ₱20 and ₱50 bills, and ₱1, ₱5 and ₱10 coins as the most useful for common purchases, and centavo coins are nearly worthless, with convenience stores, supermarkets and bus conductors the few to hand them out as change. Shortchanging, usually by giving candies as change, was common due to the shortage of centavo coins, but they have been prohibited since 2017. Jeepney and taxi drivers usually follow a "no change" trick on morning hours, commonly indicated by a barya lang sa umaga sign, where you can only pay with coins (so they can have change later that day). If you catch that trick, get into a nearby convenience store or sari-sari store to split the note before taking a ride. Beware of fake high denomination notes: bills from ₱100 and above are common targets by counterfeiters.
It is illegal to enter or leave the Philippines carrying more than ₱50,000 of coins and banknotes without prior authorization by the BSP. Those without prior authorization will have to declare the excess money at the customs desk. Importing any amount of foreign currency is legal, but anything in excess of US$10,000 (or its equivalent) must be declared.
Money changers are common in malls and tourist areas, but less so elsewhere. A rule of thumb is that the more currency you wish to exchange, the more favorable the rates can be. Banks on the other hand are widely available to exchange currency but usually impose a minimum amount (usually around US$100), generally have worse rates than money changers, and have limited hours of operation, usually from 9:00 to 15:00 (sometimes 16:30) on weekdays. However, you can enjoy their air conditioning during a long wait. The notable exceptions are Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) and Banco de Oro (BDO) which may have longer operating hours (sometimes as late as 19:00) in some locations.
Don't exchange money in stalls along the streets as some of them might be exchanging your money for counterfeit money, contact Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (Central Bank of the Philippines or BSP) if you suspect the money you've been given is counterfeit. Money changers do exist at department stores, supermarkets and hotels but needless to say the rates are highly unfavorable to customers and some will only exchange into pesos.
ATMs and credit cards
Visitors can use the over 20,000 ATMs nationwide, most of which are connected to the local BancNet ATM network, to withdraw funds or ask for cash advances. Most banks will have at least one ATM on bank premises, while large banks like Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), Banco de Oro (BDO) and Metrobank also have large numbers of off-site ATMs in shopping malls and other commercial buildings, mostly in the cities. In rural areas, often the only available ATMs are from Land Bank of the Philippines or the Philippine National Bank (PNB), the only banks with a presence in all Philippine provinces.
International networks like Plus and Cirrus are accessible with many ATMs, with Cirrus being more predominant, although many ATMs support both. Some banks also support other cards, including American Express, Diners Club, JCB and China UnionPay. Withdrawals are often limited to ₱10,000-20,000 depending on the bank, with most local banks charging a usage fee of ₱200-250 for those transacting with foreign cards. The best ATMs to withdraw money from are at one of the ten HSBC branches nationwide (eight in Metro Manila, and one each in Cebu City and Davao), where you can take out ₱40,000 per transaction with no usage fee.
Credit card holders can use Visa, MasterCard, American Express, UnionPay, Diners Club and JCB cards in many commercial locations in the Philippines, especially in the cities and in tourist areas, but merchants usually require a minimum purchase amount before they start accepting credit cards. That said, do note that the Philippines is still largely a cash-based society, and smaller merchants are usually cash-only. Credit cards are generally not accepted for government-related transactions, and in rural areas, credit card acceptance can range from limited to virtually non-existent.
Pay close attention when using ATMs, even when using ATMs located within bank premises. While credit card fraud is uncommon in the Philippines, ATM tampering happens regularly. Obvious signs that an ATM has been tampered include loosely-installed keypads, larger-than-usual card slots, and wires or features that seem out of place. If you feel that the ATM you're using has been tampered, report this as soon as possible and use a different ATM.
Tipping is not required in the Philippines, except when the customer wants to show appreciation for services rendered. However, tipping is becoming more common especially in service-oriented places (spa, salon). In some restaurants and hotels, "Service Charge" (8%-12%) is included in the bill when issued; thus, a customer has the option to give an additional tip or not. In taxis, it is common to add ₱20-50 on top of the fare.
Travelling in Philippines is cheap (one of the least expensive places to visit in Asia and in the world.) For example a stay in a pension house, tourist inn or lodge can cost as low as ₱300 a night for a fan room or ₱500 a night for a air-conditioned room. A flight to Cebu from Manila and vice-versa will cost as low as ₱999. A flight from Manila to Davao can cost as low as ₱1595. Transportation is low as ₱7 for the first 4 km in a Jeepney. Bus fares are around ₱1.5 per km for an air-conditioned bus and 20% less for a non air-con bus.
Using the internet for an hour in an internet cafe ranges from ₱5 on a pisonet to ₱20 on larger establishments, depending on the Internet Cafe's location, a can of coke costs as low as ₱20 while a copy of the International Herald Tribune costs ₱70 and Economist as little as ₱160. In most restaurants, there is 12% Value Added Tax (VAT) usually included in the unit price but the service charge is often excluded and computed separately.
What's a pasalubong?
A pasalubong is a tradition practiced by Filipinos for a long time, a Pasalubong is something you bring to your friends and family as a souvenir, keepsake or gift from a place you have recently visited, nowadays Filipino immigrants from abroad as well as Filipinos who work outside their hometowns but within the Philippines bring pasalubong or send them mostly during Christmas, New Year, Birthdays, Holy Week and during summer vacations. Try this tradition if you're planning what to buy as a souvenir from the Philippines, Filipinos tend to be not selfish even co-workers, friends and neighbours as well as their co-worker's family, their friend's friends and their neighbour's neighbour (try giving pasalubongs to your enemies also, even the meanest person to them they'd also give them pasalubongs), it's funny but that's how Filipinos are. A Pasalubong consists the following, Food; usually delicacies and sweets, T-shirts, Souvenirs such as key chains, bags etc. they usually put all their pasulubongs into one box. This may be hard for you but as they say it's better to give than to receive, get tips from locals for what a typical pasalubong consists.
It isn't hard to find shopping malls in the Philippines: The country is home to a large number of shopping malls, from large to small and from modern to traditional, you can find it all here in the Philippines. It's a fact consumerism has been part of a Filipino's life, even things they don't need but are in sale and discount they'll buy it. The reason why the country hasn't been affected much by financial crisis is because of the circulation of money, even if Filipinos are broke they'll find a way to buy something at least in a week for themselves.
As stated above, living in the Philippines is cheap and shopping in the country is also cheap compared to Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand and Brunei. Sales tend to happen during pay day and lasts for 3 days and also during the Christmas season (in the Philippines Christmas season extends from September to the first week of January) in Department stores like The SM Store.
In the Philippines, Metro Manila is a great place for shopping. It is the main shopping hub of the country and is home to an extensive range of shopping centers. Metro Manila offers different types of shopping centers which are scattered around the metropolis, from modern and glittery shopping malls to traditional and busy markets, its all in Metro Manila. The Philippines is one of the ideal destinations for bargain shopping. Here you can find cheaper items that are sold at flea markets (tiangge) and open markets like Divisoria, Market! Market! and Greenhills, these markets are definitely the right place for a shopper who seeks bargains and cheap buys. But if you prefer buying luxurious and expensive clothes, bags, watches and jewelery, then the Ayala Center would be the right place for you, here you can find a variety of high-end shopping centers. The place is often compared to Singapore's Orchard Rd and Bangkok's Siam Square. From entertainment to shopping, they have it all there. Not far from Makati is the Bonifacio Global City, it is one of the growing business and shopping districts of the metropolis. It is home to several shopping malls, including Serendra, it is a piazza that offers lifestyle and luxury shops and often called the luxury lifestyle center of Metro Manila. The piazza features modern architecture that will make you think you're somewhere near the world of Star Wars. Stare, drool and be amazed at the public art displayed there. Coffee shops and tea shops are found around this area, as well as furniture and clothing stores. The 4 largest mall operators in the country are SM, Robinson's, Ayala and Gaisano with branches around the archipelago.
On major malls (except on organized bazaars), department stores, supermarkets, and brand-name stores, the tag price normally includes value-added tax (VAT) and any applicable sales taxes. On bazaars and tiangges, prices may be marked, but you can bargain for a better price. It is also common on bargain markets to get better prices if you buy two or more, common on clothing items.
- Antiques: Antique porcelain plates are found around Manila after the Filipino-Chinese trade however be careful when you buy antiques. Antique Santos or statues of saints including Jesus and the Virgin Mary are also sold. Streets of Makati, Ermita and Vigan (in Ilocos) mostly sell antiques
- Branded goods: Brand-name goods are sold in the Philippines at a price cheaper than in the West, but beware of the common knockoffs (the "class A" products) smuggled from China or produced by local factories creating all-bogus copies. Most designer goods stores have presence in the malls (and may have factories in the country), but this has not prevented some cheap bogus products that bypassed customs to make their way in the tiangge.
- Brass ware: Muslim gongs, jewel boxes, brass beds are other brass ware products. Just like antiques, tourists are advised to be careful in purchasing brass ware.
- Books and stationery: Filipino literature is amusing to read, English versions of Filipino novels are available in National Bookstore and Powerbooks, books tend to be much cheaper in the country compared to other countries. Stationery items are sold at a very low price as low as ₱10, however be careful as some items may contain high lead content, common on the dirt-cheap items sold in street markets.
- Clothes: Bargain clothes as low as are available in flea markets and ukay-ukays. Ukay-ukays sell second-hand clothes from other countries at a cheap price. If you prefer branded clothes, Metro Manila has a lot of foreign brand shops scattered around the city predominantly in the business district of Makati.
- Comics: Komiks or comics in English is one of the most popular forms of literature in the Philippines and can be bought as cheap as ₱10, but circulation is dwindling in the information age despite the very cheap price. Some comics have grew popular that TV and film adaptations are produced. Carlo J. Caparas and Mars Ravelo are two famous comic authors. They're available in newsstands and most of them are unfortunately in Tagalog, you might be lucky if you find an English version of it.
- Embroidery: Embroidery is a best buy because the most of the national dresses are embroidered from piña (pineapple) leaves and other raw material. Handmade ones tend to be more expensive than machine-made ones.
- Food: Buy dried mangoes, Goldilocks and Red Ribbon has pastries and sweets such as polvoron are also good to purchase. Native specialties are sold at pasalubong centers. Aside from pastries and sweets, buy condiments such as banana ketchup, shrimp paste (bagoong) as they are hard to find outside Asia. Don't miss the chocolates of the Philippines; Choc-nut and tablea, Choc-nut is like a powdered chocolate with a sweet taste and often sticky once it sticks to your gums, Tablea are chocolate tablets used for making hot chocolate.
- Jewelry: Silver necklaces and pearls are popular in the Philippines, however it is discouraged if you buy jewelry made out from endangered animals and corals, as they are slowly disappearing. Handmade jewelry made by indigenous tribes of the Philippines are available, as well as jewelry made from wood.
- Mats: Pandan leaves are weaved and made into a mat, mats tend to be different in each region in the Philippines, Mats in Luzon tend to be simple, while in Visayas, they're multi-colored, and in Mindanao, the Lumad tribes weave complex and difficult designs that often have meaning distinctive to their culture.
Movies and music
CDs containing music and Blu-ray DVDs containing either local or Western films are available in reputable chain stores inside malls, but the very cheap option are most likely outright pirated copies. The CDs or DVDs sold at very cheap prices as low as ₱10 are most certain to be bogus, either smuggled from China or pirated in the country; street markets, most notably the ones in Quiapo, Manila, are hotspots for open sale of pirated films. While locals living or working overseas might be able to bring counterfeit discs into the country they are residing, it is best not to follow their examples to avoid risking legal trouble on customs checks once you return home.
Supermarkets in the Philippines are dominated by these large chains, generally owned by Filipino-Chinese companies:
- SM Markets & Walter Mart - Owned by Filipino-Chinese tycoon Henry Sy, they are the biggest supermarket group in the Philippines with over 300 stores, with the SM Supermarket, SM Hypermarket, and Savemore being its flagship stores. It purchased the Philippine stores of Makro in the early 2010s. SM and Walter Mart are in partnership since the 2010s.
- Pure Gold and S & R Also Filipino-Chinese owned, it is the 2nd biggest supermarket chain with over 250 stores. It also bought the regional BudgetLane chain based in Antipolo. Its warehouse club store, S & R, is the Filipino answer to Costco and also the now-defunct Philippine operations of Makro.
- Robinsons - the 3rd biggest supermarket chain with over 200 stores. Is has since bought the Philippine operations of the Hong Kong-based Wellcome.
- Metro Gaisano - the 4th biggest supermarket chain with over 100 stores.
- Shopwise and Rustan's - Owned by the Rustan's Group, with a few stores scattered in Metro Manila and surrounding areas.
Local grocery stores exist in town centers, but they are prone to future closures as the larger chains open one or more stores. In less developed areas, local supermarkets or grocery stores remain strong.
Chain convenience stores are common in urban areas, and it is not unusual to see two stores of the same chain near each other. Major chains include 7-Eleven, with over 3000 stores and Ministop, with over 700 stores. There are also locally founded chains, like All Day with over 150 stores, and San Mig Food Ave, most of whose stores are rebrands of the Treats stores in Petron stations. Imported brands like Alfamart from Indonesia, and FamilyMart and Lawson from Japan have stores in the Philippines, and are expanding.
Many convenience are operated by a franchisee, if not directly by the larger managing company. Convenience stores in the Philippines generally have a wide variety of products, usually a subset of products sold in a grocery store, and fast food, that can be eaten at-store or outside store, as well as services like cell phone load, money transfer, courier service and bill payment. They mostly operate round the clock, but some, like some Alfamart stores or stores inside malls for example, only operate in specific hours of the day. Some stores may be found in a gas station, but they are mostly of a different brand, as stores with a brand tied with the oil company (e.g. Shell Select, Petron Treats) are dwindling in number.
Aside from those, traditional, sari-sari stores (small corner stores) are common, especially in the rural areas and the barangays, and they outnumber convenience stores outside urban areas. These are mostly family-owned stores usually found beside a road, and sell items that can be bought in grocery stores or general merchandise stores, but lacks the lavishness of ordinary convenience stores. They mostly have large advertisements, usually of cell phone "load", soft drinks, energy drinks, coffee, alcohol, and cigarettes, along with the store name below. Sari-sari stores also provide cell phone "loading" in addition to selling products.
What's in your menu?
Filipino cuisine has developed from the different cultures that shaped its history; it is like Southeast Asian cuisine but with Spanish influences. Though its cuisine is not as renowned as many of its neighbours, such as that of Thailand and 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 of thinking that Filipino food is 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.
Kamayan literally means Eating with Hands. Some Filipinos who were born and raised in rural provinces still eat with their hands, mostly at their homes during mealtimes. They would often say that Kamayan makes food taste better. Wash your hands clean before attempting this to avoid illnesses. Almost all Filipinos in the urban areas though use spoons, forks and knives. Eating with hands in public is not uncommon however if you're eating in a mid-range and splurge restaurant this may be considered rude.
To experience how the Filipinos eat in a budget way, Carenderias (food stalls) and Turo-turo (meaning Point-point, which actually means you point at the food you want to eat in the buffet table) are some of the options. Mains cost less than $1. Carenderias serve food cooked earlier and it may not always be the safest of options.
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.
The word diet is non-existent in the vocabulary of Filipinos or has never existed, as mentioned before they are laid-back people, they love to eat as much as they can as if there is no tomorrow. They spend most of their money on food, and a Filipino teenager might at least enter a fastfood chain two or three times a week, during fiestas in a city, town, barangay, purok or subdivision Filipinos would have big parties and it would last from noon to midnight when some of the people would end up being drunk, you can ask if you can join a fiesta in a home and some might welcome you as this is a tradition.
If you're visiting the Philippines, it is the best time to cut your so called diet and eat to your heart's content. The Filipino diet is sometimes a lot more similar to the west than the east, with Filipinos eating less fruits and vegetables, more oil, meat and sugar than people in neighboring nations; many Filipinos aren't health conscious. Cancer and heart-related diseases are the leading causes of death here. However if you visit rural areas, they use more fresh produce (i.e. vegetables, fruits, grains, etc.) and less meat and practice old Filipino medicine. In coastal areas, fish and many sorts of seafood are usually served and eaten.
Some Filipinos strictly use the serving spoon rule, sharing the belief with Indians that offering utensils or food that had come contact with someone's saliva is rude, disgusting, and will cause food to get stale quickly. Singing or having an argument while eating is considered rude, as they believe food is grasya/gracia or grace in English; food won't come to you if you keep disrespecting it. Singing while cooking is considered taboo because it will cause you to forever be a bachelor or a widow for life, another belief shared with the Indians. Conservative Filipinos share another belief with the Chinese that not finishing your food on your plate is taboo and rude, you'll often see Filipino parents scolding their children to finish their food or they'll never achieve good academic performance. Filipinos usually say a prayer before food is served, furthermore wait till the host invites you to start eating. Also, it is rude to refuse food that the host offers or leave the dining table while someone is still eating. While eating in front of Chinese/Japanese/Korean-Filipinos don't stick your chopsticks vertically upright into a bowl of food (refer to China, Japan, South Korea eat sections for more information).
Kanin at kakanin (rice and rice cakes)
Kanin means rice in Tagalog while kakanin means rice cakes.
- Sinangag is fried garlic rice, often mixed with vegetables, dried shrimps, dried fish strips, hotdogs or chorizos.
- Bibingka - rice cake with cheese and salted egg, it originates from Indian cuisine.
- Puto - Soft white rice muffins.
Pancit/pancit or noodles, an influence from Chinese cuisine and believed to give long life because of its length, often eaten in celebrations such as Birthdays and New Year. Below listed are some popular Filipino noodle dishes
- Pancit Batchoy/La Paz Batchoy is a noodle soup usually made from pork organs, crushed crunchy fried pork rind, shrimp, vegetable, chicken stock, chicken, beef and especially noodles.
- Pancit Bihon, sautéed noodles along with vegetables, pork and shrimp.
- Pancit Molo is a Filipino wanton soup however it doesn't have noodles in it.
- Pancit Palabok' noodles boiled then topped with atchuete also known as annatto seeds, shrimp, crushed crunchy fried pork.
- Pancit Hab-hab' Stir fried Rice noodles, served in a banana leaf. Eaten without utensils by placing directly to the mouth. The signature noodle dish of Lucban Quezon.
Silog and pankaplog
Usually eaten at breakfast, this is the Filipino version of a typical American breakfast of egg, bacon and pancakes. Silog is an contraction of the words Sinangag(fried rice) and Itlog(egg). They are not only sold in Filipino eateries and stalls but also in restaurants and fastfood chains such as McDonald's.
- Adosilog has Adobo
- Longsilog has longganisa or local pork sausage
- Tapsilog has tapa or cured beef
- Tocilog has tocino or cured pork
- Pankaplog A slang term for a breakfast that mainly consists of Pande Sal(bread), kape(coffee) and itlog
Ulam (main dishes)
Ulam means Mains in Tagalog.
- Adobo - chicken, pork or both served in a garlicky stew with vinegar and soy sauce as a base. It is arguably the national dish of the Philippines.
- Bopis - pork innards, usually served spicy.
- Burong Talangka - Filipino caviar, it is taken from Talangkas or Crabs.
- Calamares - fried shrimp/squid wrapped in breading.
- Camaron Rebusado - the Filipino version of tempura.
- Chicken Curry - A lot different from other curries because it isn't spicy unlike other curries. Aside from chicken, Crab curry and other varieties are also available.
- Dinuguan - a dark stew of pig's blood mixed with its innards. Usually served with a big green chili and best eaten with puto.
- Daing na bangus - fried dried milkfish, usually served for breakfast with garlic fried rice and fried egg.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Pakbet - a traditional meal of mixed vegetables usually containing cut tomatoes, minced pork, lady finger, eggplant, etc.
- Paksiw - fish or vegetables cooked with vinegar, ginger, garlic and chilli picante.
- Sinigang - soup soured usually with tamarind (but can also be by guavas or kamias), can be served with pork, beef, chicken, fish or shrimp.
- Tinola - chicken in ginger soup.
Spanish, Portuguese, Mexicans, Americans and other European and Mediterranean people introduced their cuisine to the locals and just like they did to the Chinese, they embraced it. While the Spanish occupied the Philippines, connections of the Mexicans and the Aztecs with the Filipinos started in the Manila-Acapulco trade, the people introduced to each other their native cuisine. American influence came during the American colonization.
- Arroz Caldo - Rice porridge, topped with egg, chicken liver and grind chicharon.
- Arroz de Valenciana - Paella; Filipino style.
- Biscocho - Sweet biscuit.
- Caldereta - Pork or Beef tomato soup with sausages and vegetables.
- Champorado - Introduced by the Mexicans but eventually in years the recipe changed by adding rice, sweet chocolate rice porridge. It is kind of like hot chocolate but with rice on it.
- Empanada - Stuffed pastry.
- Ensaymada - Sweet bread topped with cheese and butter.
- Leche Flan - Creme brulee (Custard Pudding).
- Menudo - Pork Stew.
- Spaghetti - Possibly brought to the Philippines by the American-Italians during the American colonization, this is a must try for pasta lovers not because they love it, but because it is so different from the Italian spaghetti. Unlike the Italian version, Filipino spaghetti is sweet, its ingredients include sugar and condensed milk. The Filipinos are meat lovers who obsessively add meat to their spaghetti, including hotdog, Spam (this is what ham is called in the Philippines as Spam is so popular) and corned beef/pork or minced beef/pork.
The Filipinos and Chinese traded with each other in the early times, then the Chinese finally began settling in the Philippines and introduced their cuisine and culture, the Filipinos embraced the Chinese heritage and started adapting it in their lives including food. Most of the dishes found below are served in Manila Chinatown and Filipino-Chinese fast food chains and eateries.
- Pansit Bihon' (米粉) - Stir Fried noodles with either prawns or pork in it.
- Hopia (好餅) - Mooncake; a sweet pastry dough with a filling inside it either yam, mung beans etc.
- Kiampong (鹹飯) - Fried Rice.
- Tikoy (年糕/甜粿) - Sticky rice cake, often eaten in New Year's Eve, believed that it would keep family ties strong.
- Lumpia (潤餅) - Spring Rolls.
- Taho (豆花) - Fresh tofu with brown sugar and vanilla syrup and pearl sago (pearl tapioca)
- Siomai (燒賣) - Dim Sum.
- Siopao (燒包) - Steamed buns with meat filling inside it.
- Mami (肉麵) - Noodle Soup.
- Lugaw (粥) - Congee made from Coconut milk and glutinous rice.
Fast food chains
America's influence is palpable in the Philippines, and you'll be hard pressed to find a mall without the requisite McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut, and even Taco Bell. Filipino fast food chains that capture the essence of Filipino food compete strongly for Filipino taste buds however, and they may be a safe place for the tourist to try the local fare. The following are a list of local fast food chains that have branches all around the Metropolis, and in many cases around the country.
- Jollibee. Jollibee is McDonald's rival in fast food in the country, it has over 1500 stores around the world. Yum Burger, Chicken Joy, Spaghetti, and Palabok. US$1-2 per serving.
- Greenwich Pizza. The second of Jollibee's trio fast food chains, Greenwich Pizzas are your typical fare, but once again with the slightly sweeter than usual tomato sauce. Some seasonal offerings may be on offer though, like the sisig pizza, so check the menu. US$2-3 per serving.
- Chowking. The Filipino version of Chinese food, also owned by Jollibee. For good sampling of their food, try the Lauriats, which feature a viand (beef, pork, chicken), rice, pancit (fried noodles with meat and veggies), siomai (dumplings), and buchi (a sweet rice ball covered with a sesame based coating. US$2-3 per serving.
- Tapa King. Tapaking is where you get the ubiquitous tapsilog (fried beef strips, fried garlic rice, and egg), along with other local delicacies. US$2-3 per serving.
- GotoKing. This is where you go to get the localized version of congee called goto and lugaw, with different kinds of toppings like chicken, roasted garlic, egg, etc.
- Mang Inasal. A relative newcomer, Mang Inasal actually brings a variety of barbecue called "inasal" into Metro Manila from the city of Iloilo. They offer other grilled meats, as well as soups like sinigang (a sour, tamarind based soup). US$1-2 per serving.
- Goldilocks. The place to go for your baked treats and sweets like mamon (a spongy round cake), polvoron (a tightly packed powdery treat) ensaymada (bread baked with cheese and sugar), and a host of other delicacies for those with a sweet tooth.
- Red Ribbon. This is where you will find different varieties of cakes, rolls, pastries, and even different pastas like spaghetti, carbonara, and palabok.
Arguably Filipino streetfood is one of the best however it may not be as clean as the ones you find in Singapore. Streetfood vendors have been criticized because of their unhygienic practices as well as unhealthy options but praised by many especially the youth because of its affordability and taste, nowadays streetfood is also found in malls but the traditional way of street vending still hasn't died out. Items are sold for as low as P5. Street food is usually enjoyed with beer, soda, juice or even Gulaman (Pearl Shakes) and is usually eaten during the afternoon till night.
- Adidas - More edible than the popular shoe, adidas is actually a slang used by the locals to refer to barbecued chicken feet. It is called adidas as feet is associated with shoes.
- Adobong mani - Salted roasted peanuts, usually sold in small paperbags by vendors.
- Betamax - Again people don't cook betamax and eat them -- it's another slang for pigs blood that has been barbecued. It is called betamax because its shape is cube-like and resembles a Betamax player.
- Barbecue - Either pork or chicken, barbecue remains one of the favorites. It isn't only eaten as street food, but sometimes with rice as a main during dinner.
- 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. Also served at festive occasions. A challenge for most Westerners, even adventurous eaters, but you will impress Filipinos if you eat balut.
- Banana cue - a popular street food made of saba (Plantain) bananas fried in very hot oil with caramelized sugar coating. The saba bananas can also be boiled instead of fried.
- Chickenballs - Chicken version of fishballs.
- Fishball - Something smells fishy? As the name suggests it is the fish version of meatballs, just like meatballs it is also deep fried.
- Ice candy - Ice candy is like a popsicle stick, it comes in different flavours such as mango which is actually the most common and popular. Sold in tiangges (flea markets) and sari-sari stores (small convenience stores in barangays) as well as in the streets. It is the common refreshment for locals during the summer.
- Inasal - The best inasal would be found in Bacolod, it is usually like grilled chicken but the sweet juicy version.
- Isaw - Chicken intestines barbecue.
- Kikiam - From the Chinese, it is pork meat with vegetables which is wrapped in bean curd sheets.
- Kwek-kwek - Quail eggs and chicken that had been battered in egg then fried, it is orange in colour.
- Penoy - same as balut, but without the embryo, just the yolk.
- Squidballs - Squid version of fishballs.
- Sorbetes - The Pinoy version of sorbet/ice Cream. Sold in different flavours notably; ube, vanilla, chocolate, mango, coconut, cheese and sometimes durian. Filipinos like to play with their food-- you'll see people dipping french fries in ice cream floats or people eating ice cream with bread. Don't leave the Philippines without trying some of the more unusual flavors. They are kind of exotic and perhaps weird, but tasty.
- Tenga - Tenga is Filipino for ear, it is pig's ear that has been barbecued.
Snack and baked goods
- Pandesal - Spanish for "salt bread", they are small buns usually made fresh in the morning, an alternative to rice for breakfast. They are usually eaten with a cup of coffee. Some people prefer to dip their pandesal in coffee.
- Chicharon - Pork rinds, crunchy snacks made from deep-fried pig skin. If you don't eat pork or have dietary restrictions there is chicken chicharon and sometimes fish chicharon.
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:
- Coconut - Although it's familiar, you should try the coconut of the Philippines, the country is the largest exporter of coconuts 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.
- Green mangoes, ripe mangoes', dried mangoes - Don't leave Philippines without trying green Indian mangoes with bagoong(shrimp paste), tasting ripe mangoes and buying dried mangoes as a pasalubong.
- Banana chips - Unlike the ones eaten in India, the Filipino version is a lot thicker and sweeter, try dipping it in ice cream.
- Buko pie - Pie with scraped coconut as filling.
- Cassava cake
- Egg pie - Pie with sweet, flan like filling
- Halo-halo - Halo-Halo means mix-mix in Filipino, is 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.
- Ice scramble - Crushed ice with condensed milk.
- Mais con hielo/yelo - A dessert of fresh sweet corn served in a glass mixed with crushed ice and milk.
- Sampaloc candy - salted and sweetened tamarind fruit.
- Turon' - Saba(Plantain) bananas in wrappers and fried and then topped with condensed milk or sugar.
- Turron - From Europe, a bar of cashew nuts with a white wafer.
Condiments and salads
- Achara - Pickled Papaya salad, it actually originates from South Indian cuisine.
- Banana Ketchup - During World War II, stocks of tomato ketchup ran out and people started complaining. So due to the high production of bananas, Filipinos thought of using banana instead of tomato. Don't worry: it doesn't taste like banana at all; it is kind of like sweet and sour ketchup. Try it with chicken, pork chops or spaghetti.
- Bagoong (shrimp paste) - Shrimp paste is popular throughout Southeast Asia. Some people get allergies from shrimp paste, but they still consume it despite the itchy skin problems it causes. Fish is used instead sometimes.
- Patis - Fish sauce.
- Radish salad - Salad based on radish, onion and sugar, enjoyed with fish.
Muslims will find it hard to find Halal food outside predominantly Muslim areas in the Philippines even though the country is one of the fastest emerging markets in exporting certified halal products. Ask if there is pork in the dish before eating it. Seventh Day Adventists would possibly find some vegetarian restaurants in the Philippines, mostly lurking in the commercial, financial and provincial capitals, and most of them use tofu instead of meat, Sanitarium products may be found in Seventh Day Adventists or Sanitarium hospitals. Hindus will find Indian restaurants which serve some vegetarian options around Metro Manila. Vegetarians and vegans will find it difficult to find a Filipino dish which is wholly vegetarian as most of the Filipinos love to add meat in every single dish they eat. Jews will also find it hard to find Kosher meals. However rabbis in the Philippines suggest some stores which sell Kosher food; visit Kosher Philippines [dead link] for advice.
Chilled drinks and juice
Due to the tropical climate of the Philippines, chilled drinks are popular. Stands selling chilled drinks and shakes are common especially in shopping malls. Fruit Shakes are served with ice, evaporated or condensed milk, and fruits such as mango, watermelon, pineapple, strawberry and even durians. Various tropical fruit drinks that can be found in the Philippines are dalandan (green mandarin), suha (pomelo), pinya (pineapple), calamansi (small lime), buko (young coconut), durian, guyabano (soursop) mango, banana, watermelon and strawberry, these are available at stands along streets, as well as at commercial establishments such as food carts inside malls. They are often served chilled with ice. Buko juice (young coconut) is a popular drink in the country, the juice is consumed via an inserted straw on the top of the buko or young coconut.
Sago't Gulaman a sweet drink made of molasses, sago pearls and seaweed gelatin is also a popular drink among Filipinos. Zagu is a shake with flavors such as strawberry and chocolate, with sago pearls.
Tea, coffee and chocolate
Salabat, sometimes called ginger tea, is an iced or hot tea made from lemon grass and pandan leaves or brewed from ginger root. Kapeng barako is a famous kind of coffee in the Philippines, found in Batangas, made from coffee beans found in the cool mountains. Try the Filipino hot chocolate drink, tsokolate, made from chocolate tablets called tableas, a tradition that dates back the Spanish colonial times. Champorado  isn't considered a drink by Filipinos, but it is another version of tsokolate with the difference of added rice. Records say that chocolate was introduced by the Aztecs to the Filipinos during the Manila-Acapulco trade.
Filipinos (except for observant Muslims) love to drink (and get drunk).
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.
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. Rum 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 one of the cheapest in the whole of Asia. A bottle of San Miguel bought at a 7-Eleven or Mini-Stop costs about ₱35-₱50. Regular bars will offer it for ₱50-60, and even in top-end bars and clubs, a bottle would cost about ₱100-200. A bottle of 750ml Absolut Vodka at the supermarket will cost about ₱750.
The most popular local rum, for both Filipinos and expats, is Tanduay. Their most popular rum is about ₱70 for a 750 ml (26 oz) bottle in a supermarket. When ordering rum and coke in a bar a double is often cheaper than a single because the rum is actually cheaper than the mixer. Tanduay also make several other rums, up to about ₱250 for Tanduay Premium, plus brandy, gin, vodka, whiskey and some flavored spirits. They have several competitors in about the same price range.
Rum fanciers may want to try Don Papa, from a company started by a former Remy-Cointreau employee and located in Negros Occidental, a province which produces much sugar. This is a premium product in a whole other price class, ₱1500 and up, but some aficionados consider it well worth it. It can be found in some of the larger supermarkets and in duty-free stores at major airports.
Housing options for tourists include hotels, resorts, condotels, apartelles, motels, inns, bed-and-breakfasts, and pension houses.
Hotels and resorts are usually for the higher-end traveller, although 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.
There is considerable variation in facilities offered. Cheaper places often have only fans instead of air conditioning, and no private toilet or shower. Even if you get a private shower, it may not have hot water, but this is not a big problem in a hot country. As elsewhere in Asia, bathtubs are rare both in private homes and in any but top-end hotels.
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.
The Philippines is almost blessed by every woes known to humankind: extreme weather, earthquakes, volcanoes, civil strife, corruption and crime. Most common fears are crimes, corrupt cops and Islamic terrorists. Western governments tend to give very stern warnings, but is often rooted on stereotypes and the sensationalist press, and are all deplored as bad for the country's tourism. Despite everything said by your home country, the Philippines is, by and large, peaceful except for some regions experiencing low-level insurgencies.
Most governments discourage travel in Mindanao because of the ongoing ethno-religious strife (see warning box above), but it is irrelevant to other areas of the country (though terror attacks have happened in Luzon or Visayas); security has been heightened almost anywhere, like airport-style security procedures and increased police visibility, but it is best seen as a show of resiliency. You are more likely to be killed in a traffic accident or tropical disease than in a terrorist attack.
Despite all the common stereotypes you hear from both overseas Filipinos and foreigners like the pasaway (scofflaw) attitude and widespread corruption, don't assume you can leave your mind back home and just go with the flow thinking you can get through the cracks of Filipino law. Being involved in a serious crime like illegal drug use or possession or illegal prostitution in the Philippines means some jail time and deportation. Conditions in Philippine prisons are poor, with overcrowded cells and high chances of contacting infectious disease; brawls are not uncommon, especially between rival gangs.
Petty crimes, like pickpocketing or bag snatching, are common, especially in crowded areas. You should not flash your valuables (especially Apple iPods and iPhones) because that risks theft. Carry small change and don't flash large bills. Pickpockets are common in the big cities. Manila is not a place for violent robbery, but the dreaded budol-budol style of robbery, where the victim is deceived and often hypnotized, to steal money or electronic gadgets, is a common practice. Beware also of similar modi operandi, especially the salisi style of robbery, where thieves use stealth, usually when you are not watchful of yours. Being involved in a crime will also introduce you to the cumbersome system of Filipino compensation, where a bribe is required for a case to be filed, but they are slowly disappearing under anti-corruption campaigns. Women are advised to travel in large groups and must use caution when out at night. Do not enter alleyways and remote areas at night.
In the cities, smash and grab (locally basag-kotse) theft are also widespread, so do not leave any valuables inside the car, especially not on the dashboard.
Snatching is prevalent also. Many cases of snatching are done by motorcycle riders (especially those in riding-in-tandem), and they mainly target people with shoulder bags. Sometimes, they will pull the bag along with the person for a few meters. Be careful when carrying expensive bags, as it may catch the attention of snatchers. Avoid wearing jewelry, especially earrings or rings, when going into crowded areas.
Driving can be a dangerous experience for foreigners. The most common road accidents in the Philippines involve motorcycles and tricycles, especially on rural highways, and most deaths are due to reckless passing or impaired driving, either drunk or sleep-deprived. Truck, bus, jeepney and tricycle drivers happily drive without regard to other traffic, with some taking drugs to keep themselves awake, leading to predictably dangerous results like head-on collisions or pileups. Roads vary in maintenance, and may be well paved to rutted or completely unsealed, especially in the underdeveloped provinces. Simple altercations in the road may even result in road rage or viral social media videos (and bashing and trolling), another unfortunate phenomenon, very common in the jammed roads of Metro Manila.
Road accident fatalities continue to rise, with 10,012 people killed on the roads in 2015, but it is rather less worse than the statistics on its Southeast Asian neighbors. Despite the first impressions you find when arriving on the country's large metropolises, the Philippines is not a car dependent country, with a car ownership rate at 3% (30 cars per 1000 people), but don't be surprised why accidents happen over and over again. A first encounter in a Philippine road mean getting into the nasty experience of local drivers like recklessly driven trucks, manic speedsters, unfixed potholes, suicidal motorcyclists and wandering pedestrians (or even farm animals in countryside roads), all sharing that long, wide piece of tarmac or concrete. It's easy to avoid yourself or your group to become a statistic and a bad news subject: hire a car with driver instead of driving on your own, do a full vehicle check before long drives (if you self-drive), securely fasten helmets when driving motorbikes, check bus operators (some carriers have drivers operating inhuman shifts, usually under the influence of drugs like shabu, and dilapidated second-hand buses), avoid overloaded jeepneys or tricycles, and don't be afraid to change buses, jeepneys or taxis if you find the driver unsafe.
Rules of the road do exist, but many locals ignore them happily; plus, corrupt traffic enforcers are reputed to extort large bribes, that foreigner have fell victim especially when driving around Manila. Drunk or sleep-deprived driving illegal parking, dangerous overtaking or swerving, and jaywalking, are all rife. Buses and jeepneys in large cities are notorious for following the "boundary" system, a commission paid depending on the number of passengers picked up, that don't help reducing traffic, so find some bus or jeepney drivers racing dangerously to pick up the most passengers and make stops in prohibited locations indicated by "no loading and unloading" signs.
A refrain for road accidents involving cars, buses and trucks are failing brakes. Always check the condition of the brakes (along with the lights, oil, water, air, gas, engine, and tires) before taking long drives by car. Ensure that you are not sleepy or drunk before driving, and always have a fellow driver to substitute you if you feel sleepy on a long drive. If taking buses, choose reputable carriers, though you cannot guarantee whether the drivers drive safely or the vehicles are safe, and if you see a hint the buses or their drivers are dangerous, don't ride.
The toll expressways are relatively safe, but remain cautious, as speedsters may be sighted in some areas, and swerving is commonplace. Some sections of expressways may become accident hotspots, such as portions of the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) of Bulacan and Pampanga, where smoke from grassfires in the dry season may cause a deadly pileup. Illegal pedestrian traffic may pose a danger in some sections of expressways, such as in the section of STAR Tollway (Southern Tagalog Arterial Road) in the rural part of San Jose, Batangas, and the South Luzon Expressway between Canlubang and Calamba exits in Laguna.
Corruption in the Philippines is slowly decreasing since the Freedom on Information order has been signed, but the negative image of the government remains; it is not unheard of locals talking about corruption at any level in the government, and corrupt activities remain a staple of the free media. Transparency International, as of 2016, states the Philippines has worse levels of corruption over its neighbors, Indonesia and Malaysia, but as long you don't bribe, corruption will not thrive.
Some locals may tell you of accounts about immigration officers asking for "tips", particularly on Manila airport. On most cases, they may greet you and then ask you to tip them before they stamp your passport, but OFWs and balikbayans, especially during the Christmas season, are more likely to encounter this practice. Immigration officials have been less corrupt since then, but be vigilant about rogue officers telling you are given a hold-departure order and you are barred from leaving the country: these are all bogus, and is an extortion scheme. As long you act polite, you can pass through the airport without any issue.
Law enforcement are striving to improve their public image, but their negative reputation for bribery remains. Police officers or traffic aides are known to extort bribes, even from minor violations (like littering in public or minor traffic violations), and some foreigners have fallen victim to corrupt cops. Fines for minor infractions are very easy to get around, ranging from ₱300 to ₱500 (about US$6-10 as of 2019), but cops may even ask for higher amounts, or threaten you to go to their station and talk to a superior. Police may even ask you a bribe them before filing a formal complaint, but things are slowly changing. Body cameras and more widespread video surveillance cameras are curbing street-level corruption, and thanks to the prevalence of smartphones and social media, you can grab one and video them, so you can have any evidence against if they do anything corrupt. If your car, bus, jeepney or tricycle stopped, it is the driver's responsibility; it is best not to get involved.
The bureaucracy is also plagued by corruption; customs officers are reputed to be the most corrupt, making it easy to smuggle items ranging from knock-off clothing items, illegal drugs, undeclared luxury cars, or even foreign garbage by paying a grease payment (padulas). Fixers are commonplace in many government offices, and the issue of red tape is rife. Acting polite, asking for a receipt, and smiling will avoid any problems when dealing with the bureaucracy. It is also worth to call the civil service complaint hotline 8888 or writing a polite complaint letter to the officer's superior. Suggestion boxes are also available, so feel free to write any feedback about their service even if it is worse.
It is advised to bring your passport, especially a photocopy, at all times, as random checks are not uncommon.
Begging is a serious problem in many cities, and it is not uncommon to find some people begging for money in tourist locations. Basically, beggars can be the clearly disabled people, homeless, untidy-looking street vagrants, child beggars, or penniless people hopping on buses or jeepneys to solicit money.
Legally, giving money to beggars are prohibited because of concerns of scams. You should watch out for child begging in front of you or people presenting to have no money or hopping on buses or jeepneys offering envelopes and money. Child beggars are often abducted children used by criminal rings. People presenting to be disabled or penniless (e.g. has a sick family member and needs money to pay the hospital bills, wants to go home and begs for money for a bus ticket back to their province), but it might be a racket by professional con artists or criminal groups.
Women in the Philippines are given more respect and protection, but Filipino society continues to maintain some conservative cultural aspects, and some Western customs can be unacceptable. Unfortunately, crimes against women remain a social problem, and highly publicized rape cases continue to make their way into the local news. Foreign women are rarely hassled, but keeping one's street smarts remains key to avoid trouble.
- Filipinos rarely show affection in public, except for holding hands while walking. Making out is very unacceptable, even for foreign couples, and you and your partner will just bother local sensitivities and even risk arrest for causing public scandal (with 6 months in jail). It's easy to say not to make out in the middle of Rizal Park, no matter how local couples are strolling in this popular refuge for romantic lovers.
- Watch out for gropers on crowded locations. Corridors inside indoor tiangges and ordinary cars on trains are common places for groping incidents to happen, and even unwary male travellers can be reported for accidentally groping women. Women are provided a separate car on commuter trains; in the LRT and MRT, it is the first car on one trainset.
- Avoid taking unlicensed white taxis. There are the reports of drivers who spray chemicals on the air-conditioning and the passenger falling asleep, and awaking with her bag and other valuables stolen. There were reports of women, especially call center agents, being robbed and raped by taxi drivers, who actually drive a stolen ("carnap") taxi. Be sure that the taxi has a driver ID, and be wary of suspicious drivers: when seeing something suspicious with a taxi or its driver, do not ride.
- Street harassment is a problem in large cities. Watch out for some men whistling, calling sexual names, or asking for phone numbers. Street harassment is made illegal in Manila and Quezon City, but don't guarantee you'll be safe. Sexual harassers on the streets tend to be found at small parks and street corners. Dressing down may help when in public, but don't count on it.
Avoid getting into fights. Filipinos are peace loving people, and mostly avoid confrontations, but they will be never be fair to foreigners challenging them on fights. Also avoid trying to break others' fights; just leave the job to the locals. Expect to be outnumbered like local criminals who attempt to escape a citizens' arrest; local police will not be willing to help you, given some having limited English skills.
Bar fights are common, and foreigners, commonly Koreans and Chinese, are often arrested due to those. Drunks can be violent, and there is the danger of amok behavior, given their tendency to paranoia and aggression.
All these said, foreigners rarely get into fights on the street. Most importantly, having a sense of shame is much valued in Filipino culture.
Gays and lesbians
Gays and lesbians will be fine in the Philippines as some of the younger tolerant generation are very accepting, but you should not be too indiscreet – a pair kissing in public may get stares or even verbal profanity. Also, in the countryside and with the 60 year old and older generation chances are they will condemn it. But nevertheless, Filipinos have their warm hospitality. Violence against gays and lesbians is rare.
Sex and prostitution
Many Filipinas eagerly seek out well-off men, both Filipino and foreign, as boyfriends or husbands. Foreign men are nearly all rich by local standards and will usually find themselves much more in demand than they would be at home.
Prostitution is illegal in the Philippines, but it is a thriving business. Published estimates suggest the country has several hundred thousand prostitutes. By no means all of those are professionals; a girl in a typical low-paid job can roughly double her income by sleeping with one guy a week, and some do just that on most weekends.
There are periodic crackdowns on prostitution, and penalties are harsh for those who are arrested—large fines, possibly prison, and likely deportation with a ban on returning to the country. Corrupt cops may target foreigners in order to extract large bribes, and prostitutes have been known for helping set up their customers for such schemes or scamming their customers in other ways. Also, as anywhere, sexually transmitted diseases are a large risk.
The commonest form of prostitution establishment is usually called a girlie bar or bikini bar in the Philippines, but similar places in Thailand are called go-go bars and some travellers use that term here. It is also fairly common to visit these clubs just to enjoy the show, a lot of scantily-clad dancers who compete to catch customers' eyes.
Enforcement of laws against sexual abuse of children (Republic Act No. 7610), including child pornography, and against human trafficking is much more vigorous than enforcement of prostitution laws, and the penalties are harsher. For people arrested on those charges bail is rarely granted, and it is almost certain to be denied for foreigners, so even someone who eventually beats the charge will usually spend months in jail. As in any prison, child molesters can expect to get a hard time from other inmates and little help from guards.
The age of consent was only 12 as of late 2017, but there was a motion before Congress to raise it to 16. Anyone caught with someone younger than that (not necessarily caught having sex, just caught with them in a hotel room or other private place) will be charged with rape and should expect a stiff prison sentence, followed by deportation. Having sex with someone who is both under 18 and 10 years younger than you is also illegal and likely to bring jail and deportation.
Apart from Philippine law, there is another quite serious legal risk. Most Western countries have laws that prohibit child sex even outside the country; a child molester could be prosecuted at home for actions in the Philippines. In these cases, it is the rules of the prosecuting country that apply; for example, a tourist under 23 having sex with a 13-year-old might be legal under Philippine law, but a court back home is extremely unlikely to see it as acceptable.
For human trafficking, penalties range up to life imprisonment.
The Philippines have a negative reputation for illegal drugs, and due to lax enforcement and less severe penalties (i.e. no death penalty), it has become a base for foreign illegal drug operations, most commonly involving ethnic Chinese escaping harsh drug laws in China of Taiwan. There is also a sizeable minority of other foreign nationalities involved in drugs in the Philippines, such as West Africans and Mexicans attempting to smuggle drugs even in transit.
Marijuana and shabu (crystal methamphetamine) are widely used in the country. However, they are also illegal and penalties are very harsh: you might well get a long prison sentence, followed by deportation. Even possession of drug paraphernalia, such as the small glass or steel tubes ("tooters") used to administer shabu, could get you arrested. Bail is rarely granted for drug offenses, almost never for trafficking or for possession of shabu, so even people who eventually beat the charge are likely to spend months in jail.
Authorities routinely raid drug dens and laboratories, especially those who produce or sell shabu. Under new (2016) President Duterte, shabu dealers (and sometimes users) are being shot in the streets without trial or even arrest; it's not clear to what extent other people involved in drugs may be at risk.
High-value party drugs, like ecstasy or designer drugs like "fly high", are common in the nightlife scenes in large cities like Manila and Cebu. Rave parties are also hotspots for party drugs and spiked drinks. Police treat such drugs harshly, and the effects of their use can be fatal.
Methamphetamine (shabu) is a powerful stimulant and a remarkably nasty substance, best avoided for many reasons. An overdose kills instantly and over-stimulation tends to burn out the body, especially the heart, so prolonged use can kill even without overdose. As the song says, "Speed kills!" Moreover the stuff is highly addictive. Also, the drug changes the personality of heavy users, giving them a pronounced tendency toward paranoia and aggressiveness.
The Philippines has its fair share of natural disasters and has the largest total number of natural disaster-related deaths in the world, with China coming in second place. Being in a geographical location prone to natural disasters, the Philippines is always frequented by typhoons, monsoon rains, floods, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions. Typhoons can occur any month, but the usual season is June to December, and can cause severe damage and deaths, like what happened in 2013, when typhoon Haiyan ("Yolanda") struck Visayas. Monsoons, whether it is the northeast monsoon (amihan) in January to March or the southwest monsoon (habagat), cause torrential rains at the months when they occur and can even cause floods, that can even reach depths that can drown, especially if worsened by a typhoon or other weather condition.
Monsoon rains and floods
Heavy rainfall, either caused by local thunderstorms or the monsoon winds influenced by typhoons, are considered part of the Philippine climate, and be prepared at times one of these strikes. The densely populated cities are not safe from the effects of rainfall and strong winds, so always be prepared for them at all times, even when these are not really expected.
The southwest monsoon between late May and early October primarily cause most heavy rainfall during the wet season, and floods are common on times, especially when a typhoon strengthens its. High-profile floods have occurred on the past years, from 2011, 2012, and 2015. Many vehicles may become stuck in floods worsened by high tide and clogged drainage. Classes are suspended usually as early as the previous day or in the midnight in expectation of heavy rainfall, but sometimes, they come late, when students has already left for school or already in class, resulting to public backlash. Even on times the southwest monsoon is affecting the Philippines, the sun may still shine on most times, but be prepared to bring an umbrella especially when cumulonimbus clouds are seen to form.
In some flood-prone areas, local governments have placed flood detection systems to help in evacuation of areas in case a flood is expected to come. For example, in Marikina, which experienced the floods cause by Typhoon Ketsana ("Ondoy"), the city government in that city placed flood monitoring systems on areas along the Marikina River to aid residents in evacuation in case the river overflows, such as in heavy rainfall caused by thunderstorms, monsoon rains, or typhoons. Yet, common sense comes first, and better avoid flood-prone areas when it is expected to flood.
Typhoons are always to be expected to come, as the Philippines is part of the typhoon belt, and their effects may vary, but the worse is the damages they can cause, especially when one is classified as a "severe tropical storm", "typhoon" and "super typhoon" (the last was an informal classification given by local media that was made official in 2014 by the local weather agency, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration, or PAGASA, at the wake of Typhoon Haiyan). Typhoons may cover a wide area, and may completely cover an island. Many destructive and deadly typhoons has passed over the Philippines, the strongest recorded to make landfall is Typhoon Haiyan, or locally, "Yolanda", in 2013, also the most destructive tropical storm in recent history.
Heavy rain and strong winds, usually mixing with each other on stronger storms, are associated with damage it can cause when a typhoon hits land, but the worst effects are on the coastal and mountainous areas, where storm surges and landslides can occur.
Typhoons are typically a threat when on land, but its biggest risks are at the open sea, where it can be capable of capsizing a ship (like the case of MV Princess of the Stars, which capsized in 2008 after Typhoon Fengshen ("Frank") passed.). Ships and interisland roll-on/roll-off (RoRo) ferries are not safe from the effects of typhoons, so does small watercraft, like boats. Ships and ferries are not allowed to sail once Typhoon Warning Signal No. 2 is raised. Cancel any trip by sea when a typhoon is expected, even if it will never hit ground.
The Philippines is also prone to tornadoes (ipo-ipo or buhawi), and one may form without early warning, especially out of a simple thunderstorm. There have been frequent cases of tornadoes in the Philippines, including waterspouts. In 2015, a tornado of unknown intensity hit parts of Manila, causing property damage as well as localized blackouts from downed power lines. Though tornadoes in the Philippines are not as frequent as in the United States, most of the basic safety advice applies, especially when outdoors. Most houses and buildings in the Philippines are made from concrete, so, severe damage is rather limited to peeled-off roofs, broken windows, and small debris, and makeshift structures are the most prone to the damage, much like how they are very susceptible to typhoons.
Earthquakes and tsunamis
The Philippines lies in a geologically unstable area between the continental Eurasian Plate and the subducting Philippine Sea Plate, and is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire. There is a high chance for any part of the Philippines to be struck by earthquakes.
Earthquakes are frequent, but most of them are weak and rarely perceptible. In case an earthquake, especially those rated at magnitude 6.0 and above hits, follow the basic advice: duck, cover, and hold. Hide and hold on any sturdy object while the shaking has not stopped. Follow posted evacuation plans when leaving buildings after the shaking stops, and never use the elevator or escalator. When an earthquake struck while you are outside, avoid standing near buildings, trees, electricity or telephone posts, or anything that may collapse or topple. If driving when an earthquake struck, pull over, but not under/near a bridge, flyover, overpass, tree, power/telephone post, or anything tall that may collapse/topple. In case the earthquake occurs under the sea, move to higher ground immediately, even when no tsunami advisory is present, as a tsunami may form especially if the quake has a magnitude that can form such waves that can cause severe damage and deaths if it strikes the shore.
Earthquakes may occur anywhere in the Philippines, but the area with the highest risk is Metro Manila and Southern Luzon, where the Valley Fault System are present. The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) have determined that one of the faults that form that mentioned system, the West Valley Fault, may move anytime and cause a magnitude 7.2 earthquake (called the "Big One") that can cause about 100,000 deaths and injuries and millions of pesos in damage. Routine earthquake drills are being performed in the areas surrounding the fault to ensure people in those areas are prepared in case disaster strikes.
Earthquakes causing large scale of damage, deaths and casualties in the past proves that the Philippines are prone to earthquakes, as seen in the 1990 Central Luzon earthquake and the 2013 Bohol earthquake. The Philippines is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, so, earthquakes are inevitable and may strike anytime and anywhere, without early warning.
Aside from earthquakes, tsunamis are a major risk in coastal areas, if not typhoons causing storm surges. Though rare, be prepared to evacuate coastal areas once a tsunami is about to strike, even when it is not a large one, as they can still cause damage. Most coastal areas are tsunami-prone areas, especially those found near undersea trenches that can trigger such.
Volcanoes can be a danger in the Philippines, owing to its location in the Ring of Fire, and most areas are prone to volcanic eruptions. There are 50 volcanoes in the Philippines to date, with half of them classified as active. The last high-profile eruption is of Mount Pinatubo in 1991, that spewed out ash and lahar that affected millions in the surrounding provinces and caused a global drop in temperature. Mayon, in Albay, noted for its perfect cone, is one of several active volcanoes that pose a danger with its frequent eruption. Taal Volcano in Batangas, noted as the smallest volcano in the world, is also dangerous when signs of impending eruption shows on its caldera lake.
The most active volcanoes are tourist destinations themselves, and volcano safety rules apply when hiking of climbing those. When volcano warnings are raised, pay close attention to any scheduled trail closures and never attempt to go inside designated exclusion zones.
Civil conflict, political violence, demonstrations, and terrorism
The Philippines has been struggling with insurgent groups such as Islamic separatists in Mindanao and communists, under the New People's Army (NPA), throughout its history. Mindanao, until today, is still facing issues with separatist insurgents, and traveling there poses safety concerns, with martial law in force since the siege of Marawi. In particular, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao remains unsafe for travel, and all non-essential travel is discouraged. While most major cities in Mindanao (Davao City, Cagayan de Oro, Zamboanga City) are relatively safe, you must travel at your own risk, as travel insurance is not accepted even in those places in case you get arrested, mugged or hospitalized there anytime.
The political situation in the Philippines may become volatile in election periods, and protests and political violence can occur. Foreign tourists in such periods are strongly discouraged from joining political demonstrations, especially in those periods, and avoid areas where they occur.
Demonstrations and riots are another common occurrence. The Legarda-Mendiola intersection (commonly referred to as Mendiola Bridge) in Manila is noted as common site of most demonstrations, both historical and recent, for its proximity to the Malacañang, but other locations in the provinces are not safe from them. While police may tolerate peaceful demonstrations, in many cases, many end as violent clashes with authorities and there are some cases of brutality from anti-riot police. Check reports from the free press, avoid going to most demonstrations and get away from sites where they occur. National law prohibits foreigners from participating in public political activities, and your embassy will not provide any help if you get arrested or injured; plus, you will be deported to your home country.
Terrorism is not very common but several high-profile terror attacks, usually bombings, have occurred in the past, like the 2000 Rizal Day bombings, the 2004 SuperFerry bombing, the 2005 Valentine's Day bombings, and the 2016 Davao City night market bombing. Take caution when travelling where terror threats are raised, and best avoid travelling in such situations, especially in heavily-populated cities. Security measures, even when tightened, may still be breached by terrorists.
Bomb jokes are not tolerated, and it is an easy way to get into legal trouble in public, especially in public transport facilities. Making bomb jokes can end you up into 6 months imprisonment, and deportation. Avoid any of these jokes, and you'll be fine.
As an American colonial legacy, the Philippines has a strong gun culture, but that does not mean you can carry any gun freely into the country for any purpose. The Philippines has strict gun laws, that you must obtain a license to possess one, and the process involves background checks, such as criminal history and mental capacity. A Permit to Carry is also required when bringing a handgun or pistol. All firearms must be declared to customs upon entry and exit.
Eating and drinking
Drink the readily available bottled water. Buko (young coconut) juice is also safe if they have not added local ice to it. Be wary 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 and other major cities is usually 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 water sold outside (by the roads) are more than likely used bottles filled with tap water, sealed then cooled.
Be careful of drinking pampalamig (cold drinks like Sago't Gulaman) as some vendors might be using Magic Sugar (Sodium Cyclamate), an artificial sweetener, which has been banned by the Philippine Government because of its adverse effects on health such as higher risk of getting cancer. It has been used as an alternative to ordinary sugar as it is much cheaper; call 911 if you encounter such a situation.
Street food isn't so safe to consume in the Philippines; hygienic standards aren't enforced much. It is better to eat street food as well as pampalamig inside malls and shopping centers than in streets as stalls in malls and shopping centers have better enforcement of cleanliness.
CDC advises that a risk of malaria exists only in non-urban areas below 600 meters on the islands of Luzon, Mindanao, Mindoro and Palawan. The Visayas are free of Malaria. Chloroquine is no longer a recommended malaria preventative for anywhere in the Philippines due to strains resistant to this drug. In general malaria is not common in the Philippines compared to Africa and the rest of Southeast Asia, and around half of the c. 40,000 annual cases are in a couple of discrete locations.
Dengue fever is common in the Philippines and cases increase every year, so it is advisable to apply mosquito repellents and wear long sleeved clothes whenever possible. A vaccine is now available, three shots six months apart. Watsons are a pharmacy chain with stores all over the country; most of their location offer dengue vaccine at ₱4000 per shot.
Rabies is also common among street animals in the Philippines, so get a vaccination for rabies if you haven't already, and if you're traveling with children, vaccinate them as soon as possible as they are of high risk of getting rabies because they tend to play more with animals.
Hepatitis A and B and C are a high risk in the country. There are vaccines for A and B, recommended for all travellers; there is not yet (mid-2015) a vaccine against C. Avoid contact with other people's blood — shared needles or even personal care items like razors or toothbrushes — since that is the main means of transmission for both B and C.
Japanese encephalitis is common, and vaccination is recommended. Avoid swimming in fresh water areas where you will have high risks of getting schistosomiasis (unless they are chlorinated). Leptospirosis is often contracted from recreational water activities, such as kayaking, in contaminated water.
Tuberculosis is very common in the countryside, so try to avoid individuals who cough or look weak and be careful about staying too long in villages that may be high in contagious people.
Bring anti-diarrheal drugs with you, as unsanitary conditions present a high risk for traveler's diarrhea. Gatorade or other "sport drinks" might relieve you from fluid loss. Drink bottled liquids if you are unsure of the water, and always wash your hands.
The quality of healthcare in the Philippines varies widely. While modern hospitals and clinics with well-trained doctors are certainly available in the major cities, the quality of healthcare often leaves much to be desired in smaller cities and rural areas. While Filipino citizens are covered by a universal government-funded health insurance scheme, this scheme is not available to foreigners, and hospitals will often require you to make payment upfront before they will commence treatment. The vast majority of Filipino doctors and nurses are able to speak English, with many having received their training in the US, so communication is generally not an issue for English-speaking foreigners.
Public hospitals in the major cities are usually of a decent standard, though they may not be as comfortable as what Western expatriates are used to back home. Private hospitals, on the other hand, provide excellent standards of care, though you will be paying a steep premium for their services. Nevertheless, they are still reasonably priced by Western standards, so most expatriates opt for private healthcare whenever possible.
Over the last seven years the rate of new HIV cases in the Philippines has been going up by around 20% per year. Through to the end of January , 2019, there were 63, 278 known cases of HIV in the Philippines, the Philippines Department of Health has said they could be 142,000 people in the Philippines living with HIV by 2022. There were 33,575 people on ART treatment by December 2018.The Philippines has a low rate of people going for HIV tests and a low rate of condom use. There are now over 60 HIV treatment hubs around the Philippines, which provide free antiretroviral drugs.
Other sexually transmitted diseases are more common than HIV. There are social hygiene clinics (STD clinics) in most City Health ofices all over the Philippines.
- See also: Electrical systems
Most of the Philippines is 220 Volt 60 Hz with mixed usage of both the American and European styles of plug. Most outlets do not include a ground, and multi-standard outlets, usually permitting both American and European plugs, are common. Americans will usually need a step-down transformer, as 120 (or 110) volt appliances may be destroyed when plugged in a Philippine outlet, unless the outlet, usually of the duplex type, is marked to allow 110 volts. Europeans can plug their appliances in Philippine outlets, if it is "multi-standard" (except for British plugs, that will require an adaptor, that may or may not include a ground, unless the outlet is an "universal" type), but, in some places, outlets only allow US style plugs, that an adaptor is needed. It's also best to bring items that work universally such as electronics marked with a 100–240 V 50/60 Hz compatibility to avoid voltage concerns.
Power is usually supplied by overhead lines mounted on poles, even in the cities, except in some private developments, where lines are buried for aesthetic reasons, athough it is more expensive compared to an overhead one. On large buildings, the power supply is carried through large conduits on the ceiling, walls, and floors, with four wires and a higher voltage. Since most lines are overhead, blackouts are inevitable when typhoons strike, linemen repair lines, or a pole breaks, though most lines use concrete or steel poles instead of wood because of their durability and strength.
Downtown Baguio (northern Luzon) uses 110 V, and is also 60 Hz. This doesn't extend beyond the center of the city. The airport, for example, is 220 V. If staying in the Baguio area, always ask first! If your equipment is 100–127 V, merely crossing a street corner can cause it to be damaged or even catch fire. There are no signs in Baguio indicating where 110 V ends and 220 V begins.
During the dry season (March to May), blackouts (or locally, "brownouts") are mostly expected, especially in Mindanao whose power grid (separated from the interconnected Luzon and Visayas grids) relies primarily on hydroelectric power plants, though the situation is changing slowly, with many fossil fuel and renewable energy plants becoming common. The same situation is also expected in off-grid areas, which may rely on local generators, that may lack fuel supply to run them. Yet, expect that blackouts may still happen, especially when multiple power plants shut down for maintenance. If on a hotel or any lodging, ask if they have a generator.
Television and video
Television and video in the Philippines uses NTSC, and an ongoing transition to digital television broadcasting will bring the end of NTSC broadcasting as the Japanese ISDB standard is being introduced. Region-coded DVDs are Region 3 (Southeast Asia), though virtually all Filipino movies are region free. DVDs sold can be found in major shopping malls, but counterfeit DVDs with no region coding remains common, despite routine raids by anti-piracy agencies.
Major networks that operate are ABS-CBN, GMA, and TV5, all operate in Filipino, which all compete for ratings making network wars part of Filipino culture from the corner of the street to your hotel reservations desk there would always be an argument which stations airs the best telenovelas (TV drama series). The three major stations air TV series to newscasts. ABS-CBN and GMA have regional stations who operate in their own major regional languages. There are also English-language TV channels, which are mostly available in cable TV, with a handful in free TV, such as CNN Philippines, ETC, Net25, and 2nd Avenue.
Most local broadcasters typically air only from 6 AM to 12 PM, but many cable channels, especially international stations, air for 24 hours. During Holy Week, local broadcasting differs drastically between Maundy Thursday and Holy Saturday, with different program schedules, which usually include religious programs, and some stations do not broadcast at all. Cable channels typically continues to air in regular programming in Holy Week.
Filipinos like to smoke as a pastime, and also as a social activity (especially along with drinking alcohol or gambling), though smoking is heavily regulated or completely banned in some areas. Smoking is more common for men, but some women can be seen smoking. Menthol cigarettes, including those using a menthol capsule hidden on the filter end (like Marlboro Ice Blast, Pall Mall or Fortune Tribal Mint Splash), are available, and are popular with women smokers.
Cigarettes (sigarilyo, or colloquially, yosi) in the Philippines are mostly cheap. For example, Marlboro are about ₱80 for a pack of twenty in a supermarket, ₱100 in a bar or a convenience store as of early 2018. Local brands are cheaper (often ₱50-60) and cigars are available as well. However, higher taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products are gradually making them more expensive. Many sari-sari stores also sell cigarettes by the stick, usually for ₱4.
On the streets, people walking or standing with a lighted cigarette and groups of men, especially drivers, smoking while talking, are common sights. Despite laws regulating tobacco use, smoking is still common, especially outdoors. Smoking is prohibited in indoor public places, public transport, restaurants, gas stations, and even in bars, except for smoking areas. Smoking in places where smoking is prohibited or in a non-smoking area may bring a fine of up to ₱5000. Smoking prevalence in the Philippines has been reduced to 25% as of 2018, but you can still spot people smoking just anywhere.
The smoking and purchase age is 18, and law prohibits sale of tobacco products to minors; tobacco packages are required to display graphic health warnings since 2016. Convenience stores strictly implement the smoking age, by requiring customers to present a photo ID for age verification, but sari-sari stores usually allow children and youth to buy cigarettes, usually as an errand by their smoking parents or even a pastime by students. In some places, such as in Metro Manila, authorities may prohibit a store (including convenience stores) from selling cigarettes because of nearness to a no-smoking zone, and such stores have posters pasted in the storefront, usually saying Ang tindahang ito at bawal magtinda ng sigarilyo ("This store is prohibited from selling cigarettes.").
Streets are commonly littered with cigarette butts. Many garbage cans do not have ashtrays or butt trays, so you may be tempted to throw them anywhere, on the sidewalk, the street, or even on grass, which may present a fire hazard. It is advisable to find a trash can marked to allow cigarette butts or bring a portable ashtray when smoking outside, though most locals will tend to throw butts anywhere.
Smoking bans are imposed on several cities and municipalities, like in Davao City, where it is completely banned. Yet, enforcement of smoking bans are mostly not overseen. A nationwide smoking ban came into effect in May 2017, further restricting where people are able to smoke. Even smoking in sidewalks are being banned, and designated smoking areas are required to be a enclosed, ventilated, area. Despite the new regulation, open-air smoking areas and smoking on sidewalks are still prevalent. But on some areas, smoking in public has being decreasing as smokers start to fear that they will be fined.
Electronic cigarettes are becoming popular as well, but they are started to be regulated just like any tobacco product. The vaping age is also placed at 18 (though minors vaping in violation can be sighted as well), and e-cigarette stores are now required to provide photo ID verification, and vaping is also prohibited along with smoking.
Embassies and consulates
Numerous municipalities, most notably the city of Muntinlupa, passed ordinances banning use of plastics and polystyrene (Styrofoam) for packaging, and it is encouraged to bring a reusable bag when shopping. Using plastics for packaging is punishable by a fine, but enforcement remains relaxed. The same goes with food packaging and utensils, but regulations for those vary by locality.
The foolproof method on know how to call someone by name is to ask them how to be addressed.
Filipino social and cultural norms are a unique mix of East and West, and you may find some behaviors relevant to East Asia and Latin America relevant if you travel to the Philippines. Filipinos may understand foreigners not conforming to local behavior, but it is worth understanding the intricacy of Filipino etiquette if you ask someone. Having a little respect brings you far. Customs and behaviors differ by province, but, by and large, city folk are more liberal, and rural folk are more conservative.
- 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".
- It is important to speak diplomatically. Avoid politically charged statements, as well as defamatory statements against businesses. Attempting to sue a business because of poor service or other negative allegations (unless they are not brazen enough to face a lawsuit) is not welcome, and acting confrontationally to locals will not bring you far.
- By and large, Filipinos maintain a culture of shame (hiya), and saving face is very important. Unless you are in a position of seniority, mistakes must not be pointed to avoid any embarrassment, and must be done politely and privately. Showing wealth and extravagance overtly is an easy way to lose the respect of your hosts or becoming a butt of jokes and envy.
- Collective responsibility is taken very seriously, as the local proverb roughly translated as "The pain of the little finger affects the whole body" says. Tolerating or not pointing out mistakes, especially on corporate settings, is expected to bring shame to everyone if you hold a senior position.
- As in neighboring countries, smiling is a way of communicating almost every emotion, and a sign of civility. Filipinos smile frequently than Westerners, but, as said, a smile may not communicate happiness. Plus, Filipinos have a tendency to use self-deprecating jokes; not smiling when you hear such jokes can be seen as a sign of snobbery and arrogance to the speaker, but by the way, don't do the same to locals, especially if the joke tackles sensitive issues that is certain to offend them.
- Locals in public places like restaurants, public transport, and malls speak loudly to signify happiness, and people in some provinces speak with a hard accent (e.g. in the Visayas and Batangas), that can be mistaken for angry speech or shouting. It is best to avoid to raising your voice to avoid offending locals and making them lose face. Talking on the phone in public can be considered rude, so does speaking loudly with older persons.
- Filipino culture values honorific language and emphasizes social distance, so it is important to follow some rules in conversations with locals:
- When talking in Filipino to people who are old enough to be your parents or grandparents, it is greatly appreciated to include po in your sentences; e.g.: salamat po.
- Special regard is give to the use on personal titles. It is polite to address people with their respective titles, including occupational titles like Dr. (or its feminine equivalent, Dra.), Engineer, Architect, Attorney, President, and the like, or family-specific terms like Ate (sister), Kuya (older brother), Lolo (Grandpa), Lola (Grandma), Tito (Uncle), and Tita (Auntie), which are sometimes used as affectionate titles outside family circles. Just using the first name without titles is considered endearing, except in informal situations.
- Like other Austronesian languages, Philippine languages keep a distinction between formal and informal "you" (e.g. Tagalog ikaw and kayo, Cebuano ikaw and kamo) Use the formal form if you are talking with superiors or unfamiliar persons; using the informal form to someone higher in social standing is a faux pas unless in an informal situation.
- Filipino value special respect for women and elders like their East Asian counterparts. Priority seats are provided in public transport, like buses, jeepneys, and trains. It is considered good etiquette to give you seat to women, elderly and students, even if you are not seated in priority seats.
- It is impolite to serve your own when drinking with a group. Filipinos generally drink in a group with a communal bottle, and it is considered polite to fill someone's glass when it is nearly empty (also see those about tagayan on #Drink)
- Filipinos are less punctual like their Hispanic and Latin counterparts; Filipino time is the general concept on time. It is acceptable or even fashionable to come late in an appointment, but Western norms prevail on business settings.
- You must remove your shoes when entering homes, 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.
- Blowing the nose is generally taboo, but not the case of picking the nose, as everyone does it anytime (exception are in more formal situations).
- Flatulence are just as rude as in most cultures. Expect someone to ask if you fart while in a group. It is just wise to control the urge to fart and go to a private location or a restroom to avoid making fun of yourself.
- Some Filipinos sip soup with slurping noises like the Chinese, but it is just as rude.
- The Philippines remains a conservative country, and public views of affection remains unacceptable. Locals may give foreign visitors leeway in regards to making out, but expect cold stares and whispering from everyone around. To put it simply, don't make out in public; there is even a risk of being jailed for 6 months for "grave scandal". Holding hands is more acceptable to locals, and you can see local couples doing it while outside.
- Filipinos usually count before pressing the shutter button when taking portraits, group photos or selfies, rather unknown and strange elsewhere; it's not known why they tend to do so, but most possibly because Filipinos hate the noisy shutter (many see the sound as intrusive) and counting indicates that you have snapped their photo. Unless you ask them politely or you are in the countryside who don't know that common practice , most likely you must do the same when they ask you to snap their picture, especially with smartphones, otherwise you're commiting a faux pas and you'll be asked to retake their photo.
- Queues or lines (pila) are valued; queue-jumping is considered unacceptable, unfortunately, respecting this has still not made its way to the local mentality, and you may find locals jumping in line, especially in public transport and large venues. It is best not to be tempted to cut lines like some locals; you may be refused entry or admission if you do so.
- When the national anthem Lupang Hinirang is played, like in cinema before a film starts, stand up and place your right hand in the chest. The rule has since been enforced strictly since 2018, and some locals have been arrested for not standing when the national anthem is sung.
The tropical climate also plays a factor in clothing choices. When temperatures hit the 30s, locals wear light to keep themselves cool, even under air conditioning indoors. When temperatures are under the 20s (e.g. in highland Baguio or Tagaytay), locals will wear warm, generally light jackets and sweaters alongside their ordinary clothes.
By and large, Filipinos, particularly women, dress more conservatively, and Westerners are in a big disadvantage of being tagged as a tourist even in big city scenes, where you will stand out next to throngs of office workers in corporate attire or students in school uniform (including those in college or university, which mostly enforce one). Shoulders, cleavage, and the midriff are rarely bared (crop tops are very out of place except as sportswear, but short straps, plunging necklines, and tank tops are common, especially among the youth), locals don't dress too skin-tight, and the knees are mostly covered, except in very informal situations. Filipinos are also updated in the latest fashion trends, and it's not uncommon to find local wearing the latest cool clothing, even if it's a "class A" fake bought from a flea market.
Filipino women dress more modestly like their other Asian neighbors. Short or skimpy shorts (pejoratively called pekpek shorts, as they expose the shape of the buttocks and bare the upper legs) and miniskirts/dresses are common casual wear by girls and young women, but are often associated with prostitutes by some locals and prohibited in formal venues. Women travellers are recommended to wear blouses along with jeans or a full-length skirt, or a dress, especially in cities where sexual harrasment is a risk.
The dress code for men is more relaxed, especially in cities and touristy areas. Shorts are acceptable, but locals prefer those that cover the knees. Sleeveless shirts are not uncommon, and Western tourists find it fine to wear one, yet, it is not fine to wear in a city center, where such clothing is sometimes stereotypically associated with slum dwellers and criminals.
Take heed of dress codes in places such as churches and government offices. Churches and religious sites are very strict about clothing matters, and things such as common exposing clothing items (short shorts/skirts/dresses, sleeveless shirts, backless dresses, halters), sportswear (specifically basketball jerseys), flip-flop slippers, or ripped and untidy clothing are specifically banned. Locals take the dress code seriously, so don't either try even outside of Mass or religious holidays, otherwise, expect to be talked about and be told to get out. Semi-formal dress is always dealing with the bureaucracy, otherwise you will be refused entry.
As a very religious country. public nudity is frowned upon (exceptions are perhaps some children in the slums or the men on the Oblation Run in the University of the Philippines Diliman campus), and nude sunbathing is unheard of and is prohibited. The same goes for going topless outside of the beach, where it is generally banned by local ordinance. At beaches, always expect to be dressed when swimming or sunbathing. Swimming trunks (for men), and a swimsuit or a bikini (for women), is general etiquette. Bathing with a shirt on is common with locals to avoid showing too much skin or to avoid getting sunburned, but if in doubt, ask, especially in resorts.
Filipinos can be noted for their religiosity; church attendance remains high, and religion plays an important part of everyday life. Filipinos respect the freedom of religion, and religious apparel are tolerated without comment. Agnosticism or atheism is very rare, and saying you don't believe in God is easily shrugged off with attempts to proselytize.
The most influential religion in the Philippines is Roman Catholicism, but Islam is a significant minority religion, concentrated in southern Mindanao. There are also other Christian denominations, including Iglesia ni Cristo, Ang Dating Daan, Jehovah's Witnesses, LDS Church, Seventh-Day Adventist Church, Baptist churches, and more; rural barangays can have a handful of them beside a Catholic chapel. Roman Catholic churches, cathedrals, basilicas and religious shrines, particularly those earthquake-proof Baroque churches built from the 18th century to the 19th century, are sights in their own right throughout the country. Most Catholics continue to attend Mass and join religious festivities, including the largest ones like the Feast of the Black Nazarene (January 9) and Feast of the Holy Child (Santo Niño, every January 16). Filipino Catholics are very conservative, and they also sent missionaries to serve countries experiencing a shortage of priests. Locals may ask you to attend Mass or church service, but you can decline their offer without offending them.
Filipinos also observe ancestor worship. You may find a central altar on many homes, no matter how they are devoutly Christian or Muslim; if you see a portrait photo, it is of a deceased family member. Many Filipino Chinese homes usually have Buddha figures, Chinese lucky charms (particularly the waving cat figure), a feng shui symbol (bagua), and incense; for Catholic Chinese, they stand alongside images of Jesus and the Virgin Mary.
In the provinces, faith healers (albularyo) persists; country folk still believe in miracle cures, amulets and black magic. Beliefs in indigenous deities also persist, and are followed until today in a syncretic fashion.
Filipinos take many superstitions and associated taboos seriously, especially in regards to spirits, luck, and mythological creatures; many Filipinos, even those without Chinese ancestors, also observe Chinese cultural taboos, like fear of the number 4. Some country-specific examples include:
- Eating chicken during New Year - A taboo by the Chinese, it is considered inauspicious to eat chicken during New Year, whether it be the Gregorian one or the Chinese one.
- Nuno (goblins): It is important to say tabi po, nuno when passing near locations where nuno (goblins) lives; not doing so can cause sudden manifestation of unexplainable illnesses.
- Usog: A greeting from a stranger to can bring unexplainable convulsions and fever, especially to a child; the curse is warded off by rubbing saliva to the child's abdomen.
- Walking near large trees: Many people believe large trees, like banyans (balete) are inhabited by kapre (cigar-smoking giants); you can be haunted if you approach them.
- Wedding gowns: A taboo by Hokkien Chinese, it is inauspicious for the bride to wear her wedding gown the day before the wedding, otherwise, it will not happen.
In addition, there are superstitions and taboos surrounding food and related actions, covered in #Eat.
The Philippines is a predominantly Roman Catholic country, although home to a large gay and lesbian community. Discretion is advised, as it is considered immoral by some to show public displays of affection between members of the same sex.
In the Visayas, "bayots" (or "bayuts" – the Tagalog/Filipino equivalent is "bakla") are flamboyant male homosexuals and are often very much in demand in occupations such as hairdressing, interior design and beauty therapy.
When working with people in the Philippines, it's important to remember that they often bring cultural influences into the workplace 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 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. 
In many of the larger cities extreme poverty is prevalent. It is illegal 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. At times, when children go up to foreigners they won't go away until you give something. To counter this, avoid swearing and just ignore them. They can understand swear words and might call on their friends to bug you even more.
Animal abuse and the environment
The Philippines has a thriving black market selling endangered species as pets or luxury souvenirs, and there are frequent raids on shops selling products from endangered species. Avoid buying rare pets, leather, feathers, dried sea creatures like starfish, fur and other products likely from illegal poachers. Customs take laws on endangered species seriously, and they may be confiscated at the airport.
Dog meat, especially asusena (a portmanteau of Tagalog aso and Spanish azucena) is best avoided for most reasons; you can find dog meat at restaurants in Benguet as traditional food by the Igorot people, but avoid it elsewhere. Slaughtered dogs may carry the deadly rabies virus, and can be a nasty experience if you get hospitalized.
It is also wise to avoid photo booths with animals, like snakes, as subjects, even in zoos. A tout will approach you, then pose for a photo with the animal, then pay an exorbitant fee. It is most likely the animal used is drugged and treated cruelly.
Respecting the environment is valued at most places in the country; carry your own trash, bring garbage bags when camping or picnicking, and practice recycling. It is also best not to bring up any thoughts about local environmental policy; locals have emotional views about environmental politics at most provinces (see the "Politics" section below).
Politics and sensitive issues
Filipino politics are heavily polarized; people are generally divided by their political allegiance, and while the general division as of 2016 is between the yellow (centrist liberals, the Daang Matuwid coalition, or derisively dilawan), orange (either nationalist conservatives under UNA or the ruling social democratic PDP-Laban) and the Makabayan ("patriotic", left-wing nationalist) blocs, Filipino politics are very complex under a multi-party system. To put it simply, yellow (or Liberal) bloc members believe in democracy and social equality, orange bloc members support nationalism and a status quo.
Unless you are informed about the political landscape, it is always unwise to assume what the person's views based on their political background. Filipinos are best aware of international issues, but it is wise to tread carefully if you want to bring up something politicized in the country.
Foreigners are discouraged from participating in politics publicly; joining a local demonstration can lead to deportation (see #Stay safe), but you are free to talk about local politics with your friends.
Filipinos have a strong sense of nationalism; Philippine politics have a lot of political gray areas, many being very sensitive among others, but you are free to talk about any of them if brought up politely.
- Ferdinand Marcos, his family, the associated regime, and the martial law years are emotional issues, best approached with caution. Views also differ by location: people in cities like Metro Manila and Cebu may publicly disapprove of the Marcos regime, but people in the provinces, especially in the Ilocos region, approve of him.
- Rodrigo Duterte's War on Drugs is a delicate political issue, and foreigners are prone to start careless conversations or make comments out of uninformed views. Avoid bringing up any human rights violations in the War of Drugs, like the extrajudicial killings and youth casualties under the police, as it is seen by Filipinos to discredit the Philippines' commitment to safeguard human rights. Mentioning Rodrigo Duterte's involvement in the Davao Death Squad or any negative comments about him can even make you declared persona non grata in Davao City, though local celebrities or opposition members are generally declared as such.
- Mentioning the American military presence in the country and war crimes during the Philippine-American War (e.g. Balangiga massacre, Battle of Bud Dajo and Bud Bagsak) are very sensitive issues, best avoided with locals. Bringing up Philippine and American diplomatic relations are generally fine, and most Filipinos approve of the Americans, except for some left-wing nationalists.
- Environmental politics is a very emotionally charged topic, and environmentalist sentiments are common in provinces promoting ecotourism and advocating environmental protection. If you feel compelled to voice out anti-environmentalist views or skepticism, expect some Filipinos to share opinions and expect a lose-win debate no matter how your arguments are strong enough. Locals know better how climate change is affecting the natural landscape than a foreigner knows.
- The Japanese occupation during World War II and Japan's failure to formally apologize for the thousands of "comfort women" and war survivors are also sensitive issues, the same with South Korea, but discussing Filipino-Japanese relation is just fine, unless you attempt to bring in Japanese war crimes. Elderly people tend to voice concerns when these are brought up.
- The Spratly Islands territorial dispute involving the Philippines, China and other countries around the South China Sea is best avoided. Also avoid referring the sea west of the Philippines as "South China Sea"; calling it West Philippine Sea is best advised to avoid inflaming local sensitivities.
- Corruption is an obviously common issue that foreigners fall into, especially with cops and public officials. Avoid assuming it is easy to bribe law enforcement due to the stereotypes you hear, or bring up the issue to locals. Except for a few bad apples, local police and government workers (including customs and immigration officers) no longer accept bribes despite the fuzz, and Filipinos are trying to forget this issue.
Remember, playing devil's advocate is frowned upon, and you will just end up losing face, whenever you Filipino hosts bring them up.
Ethnicity and race
While Filipinos have grown tolerance to people of other cultures, there still remain discrimination and stereotypes, commonly backed by negative jokes. The number of foreigners is not officially known, but there are lot of areas with a significant number of expat populations. There is increasing tolerance to non-nationals but there remain negative views: foreign behaviors like making out can cause public offense, and foreigners, particularly Koreans, are commonly arrested and deported for drunken aggression or rude behavior at immigration officers.
You should play safe when referring to certain ethnicities: Visayan (Bisaya) is an universal term to natives of Visayas, but can be an unfriendly call to a native of Cebu; it is also used as a slur by Tagalogs, especially in Manila, where they have a negative reputation for not using po in conversations. Some people in the Cordilleras see Igorot as a slur, and stick to more specific terms to avoid offense. Moro, a term dating from the Spanish era, is the umbrella term for all Muslim Filipino ethnic groups, but you can garner more respect if you use more specific terms.
Black-skinned people are often called Negro, regardless of nationality; even Negritos like the Aetas are used to be called like that. Black-skinned persons are not much discriminated, but can call unwanted stares or stereotyping. Sub-Saharan Africans are tend to be negatively associated with the West African drug trade.
The Philippines has a significant Chinese minority, concentrated in the large cities, but they are subjected to common stereotypes; they are also associated with triads involved in transnational crime, especially drugs, and there is some resentment against them for economic and political reasons. That being said, Filipinos have friendly relations with ethnic Chinese.
- Fire, Medical and Police Emergencies: 911 (formerly 117) by voice or text message.
The national Emergency Network Philippines (ENP) is 911, formerly called Patrol 117, and routes emergency calls originating anywhere in the Philippines' archipelago to the appropriate one of sixteen emergency call centers located in various cities throughout the nation. The 911 system is first used in Davao City, and soon became the national emergency number from August 2016 by Rodrigo Duterte, replacing "Patrol 117".
When a 911 call is made from a mobile phone, that call is automatically routed to the nearest emergency call center. However, calling 911 from a mobile phone or cell phone has additional credit depending on the mobile network subscribed, and 911 is plagued also by dropped calls or prank calls, that disrupt response to emergency calls.
- Philippine Coast Guard Action Center: +63 2 527-3880
- National Poison Control: +63 2 524-1078
- Motorist Assistance': 136 (Metro Manila only)
- Tourist hotline: +63 2 524-1728 and 524-1660
- Immigration hotline: 527
- Directory assistance: 187 or 114 (fee applies)
- Civil service complaint hotline: 8888
The country code for the Philippines is 63.
The International dialling prefix to make an overseas call from the Philippines is 00.
The area code for Metro Manila is 2.
Phone numbers in the Philippines have the format
+63 35 539-0605 where "63" is the country code, the next one, two or three digits are the area code and the remaining 7 digits are the "local" part of the subscriber number that can be called from within that particular area code using abbreviated dialing.
Mobile numbers in the Philippines must always be dialed with all 11 digits (including a "0" prefixing the "8nn" or "9nn" within the Philippines), no matter where they are being called from. The 8nn or 9nn is a mobile prefix, not an "area code", as such and the second and third digits (the nn part) denotes the original mobile network assigned. As is the case with most mobile numbers, they can also be called within or outside the Philippines using the international format:
Most toll-free numbers can not be called from outside Philippines but can be dialed using the format
You need to dial "0" in front of the geographic area code from outside that particular area code (but when still within the Philippines).
The cheapest way to call to and from the Philippines is by using Internet telephony (VoIP). There are several licensed VoIP providers in the Philippines. One of the most popular is Vodini Telecom .
Most Philippines toll-free numbers can not be called from outside the Philippines, so they are not listed in international format. eg:
1800 1855 0165
Mobile numbers in the Philippines must always be dialed with all 11 digits (including a "0" prefixing the "8nn" or "9nn" within the Philippines), no matter where they are being called from. The 8nn or 9nn is a mobile prefix, not an "area code", as such and the second and third digits (the nn part) denotes the original mobile network assigned. As is the case with most mobile numbers, they can also be called within or outside the Philippines using the international format as listed in our Philippines articles
There are two major companies operating GSM 900/1800 networks: Globeand Smart. Your home provider at home should have agreements with one of these providers so check with them before leaving home. Roaming may be quite expensive just as elsewhere however, pre-paid SIM cards of these networks are easy to acquire and cost as little as ₱30 and provide a cheaper alternative. If your unit is locked to your home service provider, cellphone repair shops in various malls have ways of unlocking (the typical fee to unlock is ₱300 but can go as high as ₱2,000 for certain units like a Blackberry). If you don't have a phone to begin with, a complete pre-paid kit with phone and SIM can be purchased for as little as ₱500. Phones that come with these sot of deals are usually locked to a local network provider, and you would 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. 3G technology is available through Globe and Smart, but is poorly implemented and often not properly operational especially outside urban areas. 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 or other major countries is $0.40 per minute. Local calls range from ₱ 6.50 per minute for prepaid calls (a new law was passed that will eventually require per pulse, i.e. rates per 6-seconds charging) but unlike other countries, you won't be charged for incoming calls. Text messages typically cost as low as ₱1 and the Philippines is usually tagged as the "texting capital of the world". International SMS is charged at a higher rate of between ₱15-25. Plans for unlimited call and SMS are offered by the networks are but unlimited calls are usually restricted to those made to parties within the same network.
Reloading (known in other countries as recharge/recharging or top-up/topping-up) 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 ₱100, ₱300 and ₱500.
Due to the wide use of mobile phones, pay phones are increasingly becoming obsolete and very hard to find. Phone cards are usually sold by shops which sell cellphone pre-paid loads and cards. Phone cards of one company can not be used with the other company's card operated phones.
- See also: Internet access
Internet access at broadband speeds are plentiful in city malls, much less so outside the cities, but are growing at a rapid pace. Internet prices depend primarily on where you surf and the medium used (e.g. Wi-Fi or wired). Internet services offered by hotels and shopping malls are expensive and can go up to ₱200/hour but neighbourhood cafes can be as cheap as ₱10/hour. Public Wi-Fi services in the Philippines provided by Airborneaccess.net and WiZ are likely to cost ₱100 for up to an hour. But if you want cheaper, there is an internet cafe chain in SM malls called, "Netopia", that has a land line internet connection for around ₱20 an hour. Coffee shops like Starbucks and Seattle's Best, as well as malls, usually carry Wi-Fi service and some are free to use. The SM and Ayala chain of malls also offer free Wi-Fi for up to , so you can sit virtually anywhere in the mall and access free wireless. On several government-owned public areas, like parks, free Wi-Fi had been implemented, yet, signal strength fluctuate.
In addition, you may want to consider buying a mobile broadband modem starting at ₱995 where service is also provided by Globe, Smart or Sun. Mobile broadband signals vary depending on the available infrastructure in your particular location but, in general, Smart has the largest network in the country, followed by Globe, and then Sun. It takes up to 24 hours for internet to be available on a new SIM card. Mobile broadband comes both in postpaid and prepaid variants. To buy a modem and subscription you will have to go to one of the larger cities - the small shops just selling cell phones and SIM cards aren't able to sell mobile broadband. "Loads" often cost just ₱20 an hour for most mobile internet modems. However, service is usually slower during certain times--especially in the evening--due to a high volume of people surfing. Even with a fast broadband dongle, service is then almost guaranteed to slow down to a standstill.
One word of caution in using public WiFi is: cybercriminals may exploit such networks to steal private information. Avoid using Wi-Fi to do online transactions, especially bank transactions, as personal data (especially ATM card numbers and PIN codes) entered may be monitored by criminals, but if unavoidable, remember to forget the public WiFi network after using, that cybercriminals will find it difficult to track you. Using a VPN is also advisable.
Internet cafes (locally called computer shops) are commonplace, though increasing cell phone ownership have been reducing their patronage. Most new Internet cafés are called pisonet (from their computers having a coin slot where a ₱5 coin is inserted, and opens the computer for 5 minutes), and are commonplace in residential settings, usually with the target population being teenagers, which likes to play online computer games such as DotA 2 or League of Legends. To use a computer in a pisonet internet café, you'll just insert a ₱5 coin on a slot in unit to get 5 minutes to use the Internet, and you may insert more to add more minutes, so, if you want to use the computer for a hour, you'll insert 11 more to get 55 additional minutes.
In order to send items via post, you will need to physically visit a post office and present your items to a teller as there are no postage boxes. Check out the Philippine Postal Corporation's (PHLPOST) website to find the post office(s) that serve your destination. Alternatively, you may be able to ask your hotel's staff to send your posts together with theirs, and in some provinces, some stationery stores also offer to sell postage stamps and receive posts.
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. Postal mail from abroad is often "lost", so don't send anything valuable.
English newspapers are available throughout the Philippines and there are also some Japanese and Chinese language options. The Daily Tribune, Malaya, Manila Standard, Manila Bulletin, Business World, Philippine Star, Philippine Daily Inquirer and Visayan Daily Star are some of the English language newspapers, mostly broadsheets.
Tabloid newspapers are mostly local-language ones, usually Tagalog/Filipino (but may be another local language in regional tabloids), but a few are published in English, such as People's Journal and People's Journal Tonight (the latter, however, has some news written in Tagalog).
Some restaurants offer newspapers for free reading, but only within their premises. Most newspapers are mostly sold by street vendors, but on several places, like malls, those are sold on newsstands. On public markets, newspapers are typically sold in general merchandise stores along with common groceries.