The Philippines is an archipelago of more than 7,000 islands located in the Pacific Ocean in Southeast Asia. It is a democracy of 95 million people whose unique character has been formed from a combination of influences from its Spanish and American colonisers, its Asian neighbours and native people.
This is best exemplified in the way the Filipinos talk about their national identity. The bayanihan, the spirit of kinship and camaraderie that they are famous for, Filipinos say they get from their Malay ancestors. Their close family relationships are from the Chinese and their piousness from the Spanish.
The Spanish ruled the Philippines for 350 years and left their mark in architecture, religion – most Filipinos are Catholic – the fiesta culture and the passionate nature of Filipinos.
When the Americans took control in 1898, education was a priority, which has resulted in high literacy rates across the country. Today, English is one of two official languages of the Philippines, making it the third-largest English-speaking country in the world.
The islands of the Philippines contain all the ingredients of an island paradise: jungle interiors, sandy coastlines, aquamarine waters and coral reefs. It is one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots and is rich in natural resources.
In recent years, the Philippines has experienced high levels of economic growth. Government strategies to stamp out corruption, relieve poverty and encourage investment have been received favourably by global investors.
When to go:
January to May are the best months to visit the Philippines, although some places, such as Cebu City, are pleasant year round.
- Visit the Philippines’ oldest city at Cebu City, known as the ‘Queen City of the South’. It is a commercial hub of the Philippines as well as a great spot for an island holiday.
- Take a boat trip down the exquisite Puerto Princesa Underground River, the world’s longest accessible underground river system. The river is a World Heritage-listed site and UNESCO claims this unique boat trip is unlike any you can experience anywhere else in the world.
- Trek through the Banaue Rice Terraces, another World Heritage-listed site. The rice terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras were first built 2,000 years ago and are still farmed in the same manner. Their natural beauty today illustrates that humans can live in harmony with the environment.
- Hike to North Luzon’s highest peak Mount Pulag, before white water rafting down the Chico River and discovering some undisturbed tribal villages. There are other good peaks and volcanoes for hiking in the Visayas, Mindoro and Mindanoa.
- Seek adventure in the summer party capital of the Philippines, Boracay, where you can kite surf, wind surf, reef walk and sail before over-eating on delicious seafood.
- Go caving on Samar Island, where you’ll see the best of the Philippines’ outstanding natural beauty.
- Paint the town red in the megacity of Manila. See the capital city in a colourful jeepney, the local taxis that are a surreal interpretation of US Army GI Jeeps.