Philippines Travel Guide



    Philippines Travel Information
    Philippines Travel Information

    The Land History The People Culture and Arts CuisineFirst Time Traveler's TipVisas Customs Currency Climate •  
    Shopping Utilities Newspapers& MediaBusiness HoursLanguageGetting Around Sightseeing Museums and Art
    Further Information


The Land                                                                                                                                                                                                                     << Back
The Philippines (Filipino: Pilipinas), officially known as the Republic of the Philippines (Filipino: Republika ng Pilipinas), is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam. The Sulu Sea to the southwest lies between the country and the island of Borneo, and to the south the Celebes Sea separates it from other islands of Indonesia. It is bounded on the east by the Philippine Sea. Its location on the Pacific Ring of Fire and its tropical climate make the Philippines prone to earthquakes and typhoons but have also endowed the country with natural resources and made it one of the richest areas of biodiversity in the world. An archipelago comprising 7,107 islands, the Philippines is categorized broadly into three main geographical divisions: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. Its capital city is Manila.

History
Several thousand years ago, the first settlers in the Philippines crossed shallow seas and land bridges from the mainland Asia to arrive in this group of islands. These were the Negritos or Aetas. Direct descendants of these people can still be found in Zambales province to the North of Manila. Several thousand years later, they were then 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 baranggay, came from. The settlers are believed to originate from neighbouring countries notably Malaysia and Indonesia.

The Philippines is the third largest English speaking country in the world. It has a rich history combining Asian, European, and American influences. Prior to Spanish colonization in 1521, the Filipinos had a rich culture and were trading with the Chinese and the Japanese. Spain's colonization brought about the construction of Intramuros in 1571, a "Walled City" comprised of European buildings and churches, replicated in different parts of the archipelago. In 1898, after 350 years and 300 rebellions, the Filipinos, with leaders like Jose Rizal and Emilio Aguinaldo, succeeded in winning their independence.

In 1898, the Philippines became the first and only colony of the United States. Following the Philippine-American War, the United States brought widespread education to the islands. Filipinos fought alongside Americans during World War II, particularly at the famous battle of Bataan and Corregidor which delayed Japanese advance and saved Australia. They then waged a guerilla war against the Japanese from 1941 to 1945. The Philippines regained its independence in 1946.

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The People
As of 2008, the Philippines has a population estimated at 96 million. From its long history of Western occupation, 300 years by the Spaniards and 30 years by the Americans, its people have evolved as a unique blend of East and West in both appearance and culture. But Filipinos are largely Malay in terms of ethnic origin (Austronesian or Malayo-Polynesian). However, many, particularly in the cities of Luzon and the Visayas, have heavy Chinese, Spanish, and American mixtures, whereas those living in the provinces are mostly of pure Austronesian origin (known as "native"). Many Muslims in Mindanao have Arab, Indian and Chinese mixtures. The four largest foreign minorities in the country are as follows: Chinese, Koreans, and Indian, and the Japanese. Also of significance are the Americans, Indonesians, and Arabs. Pure Spaniards, and other Europeans, form a very small proportion in the country's population.

Needless to say, the Filipino trait is a confluence of many cultures put together. Filipinos are famous for the bayanihan or spirit of kinship and camaraderie taken from Malay forefathers. They observe very close family ties which is said to have been passed on by the Chinese. Religion comes from the Spaniards who were responsible for spreading the Christian faith across the archipelago.

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.

Culture and Arts
The Philippines is a diverse country just like Singapore, making the country more of a Salad bowl. Every foreigner that has stepped in its history has taken the Asian identity of the Filipinos. People in the big cities, such as Manila, may seem heavily Westernized. However, many people from the city do come from rural areas and are still deeply rooted to traditional Filipino ways. Tribal people do their best to maintain their heritage and culture despite the unavoidable influence of modern western culture, travelling remote places and meeting tribes and experiencing their culture and heritage is the best way to see how the Filipinos lived before the arrival of the Spanish. Filipino culture can be seen in the Tinikling dance which also shows distinctive influence from the Indonesians, the dance is mistakenly known as the national dance because of its popularity, the dance is demonstrated by two or more people holding two or more bamboo sticks known as Kawayan, then they start moving the bamboo sticks as the dancers put their foot in between the bamboo sticks quickly out and in. Kamayan, a literal meaning for eating with hands, try this while in the Philippines , to experience the Filipino way of eating.

Cuisine
Philippine cuisine has evolved over several centuries from its Malayo-Polynesian origins to become a mixed cuisine with many Hispanic, Chinese, American, and other Asian influences that have been adapted to local ingredients and the Filipino palate to create distinctively Filipino dishes. Dishes range from the very simple, like a meal of fried salted fish and rice, to the elaborate, such as the paellas and cocidos created for fiestas. Popular dishes include lechón, adobo, sinigang, kare-kare, tapa, crispy pata, pancit, lumpia, and halo-halo. Some common local ingredients used in cooking are calamondins, coconuts, saba (a kind of short wide plantain), mangoes, milkfish, and fish sauce. Filipino taste buds tend to favor robust flavors but the cuisine is not as spicy as those of its neighbors.

Unlike many of their Asian counterparts, Filipinos do not eat with chopsticks; they use western cutlery. However, possibly due to rice being the primary staple food and the popularity of a large number of stews and main dishes with broth in Philippine cuisine, the main pairing of utensils seen at the Filipino dining table is that of spoon and fork, not knife and fork. The traditional way of eating with the hands known as kamayan is seen more often in less urbanized areas.

Tips for First-time Philippine Travelers

  • Generally speaking, it is important to travel light. Bring only what's necessary. Avoid the extra baggage. You don't want to pay exorbitant fees for your luggage service.
  • As in any foreign place, be careful with pickpockets. Some might act as a helpful stranger, but they're out to get something from you! It's good to be cautious at all times. Whenever going outdoors, being in a group is recommended.
  • If you're bringing kids with you, make sure to bring all the things they would need, like medicine, bottles of potable water (although many bottled water is available, it is always recommended to bring one), and one of your kids' favorite toys for their own receration.
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Visas and Passports
Nationals from the vast majority of countries can enter the Philippines without a visa for a period not exceeding 21 days, as long as they have a return ticket, as well as passports valid for a period of at least six months beyond the period of stay.

Nationals of Brazil and Israel are allowed to stay at the Philippines without a visa not exceeding 59 days. Holders of Hong Kong Special Administrative (SAR), British National Overseas (BNO), Portuguese Passports issued in Macau and Macau Special Administrative Region (SAR) passports are allowed to stay in the Philippines without a visa not exceeding than seven days.

If intending to stay longer, you should apply for a visa extension. Each visa extension is valid for 59 days, except the first which is 38 days (i.e 59-21). Effective 27 May 2009, all passengers regardless of citizenship or residence must fill-out the new machine-readable arrival-departure card which is issued by the airline. Unlike the previous scheme where arrival and departure cards are filled-out separately and independently from each other, the new card has a portion for arriving passengers, which will be given to the passport control officer and another part to be retained in the passport until departure. If you overstay, you can pay on departure a fine of Php1,000 per month of overstay plus the Php2,020 fee. To avoid all the hassle, before traveling get the longer visa from the embassy (or a consulate), as this saves you a couple of days hassle during your holiday. Contact the Philippine embassy or Philippine consulate of your country about the exact requirements for a visa application and opening hours of the consular section. When you arrive with a visa, show it to the immigration official, so that he will actually give you the 59 days, instead of the normal 21 days, on your arrival stamp.

Customs
Below items may be imported into the Philippines:
- 400 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250 grammes pipe tobacco
- 2 bottles alcoholic beverages of not more than 1 litre each

Note:
- Any person bringing foreign currency and other foreign exchange-denominated bearer negotiable monetary instruments (including traveler's checks) in or out of the Philippines in excess of US$10,000 or its equivalent, must accomplish a Declaration Form which may be obtained from, and after accomplishment submitted to, the Customs Desk in the Arrival or Departure Areas. Failure to do so is subject to sanctions.
- Also, the bringing in or out of the country of legal tender Philippine notes and coins, checks, money order and other bills of exchange drawn in pesos in an amount exceeding P10,000 without authorization by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas is prohibited.

Prohibited and Regulated Articles - The unlawful importation of prohibited articles (i.e., marijuana, cocaine or any other narcotics or synthetic drugs, firearms and explosives and parts thereof, gun replicas, obscene and immoral articles, adulterated or misbranded articles of food or drugs, gambling outfits and paraphernalia, used clothing and rags - R.A. 4653, elephant/ivory tusk products) or those which violate the Intellectual Property Rights Code, R.A. 8293 (i.e., DVDs, VCDs, other imitation products) and regulated items (i.e., transceivers, controlled chemicals/substances/precursors) regardless of quantity constitute a violation of Philippine Customs Laws and may subject you to criminal prosecution and/or fines and penalties.

Currency
The currency in the Philippines is the Peso (PhP) and the Centavo. 100 centavos = P1. Coin denominations are: 5, 10, and 25 centavos, P1, ,P5 and P10. Bill denominations are : 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1, 000 pesos. Foreign currency may be exchanged at your hotel, and in most of the large department stores, banks and authorized money changing shops. Exchanging money anywhere else is illegal and the laws are strictly enforced.

Most large stores, restaurants , hotels and resorts accept major credit cards including American Express , Visas and MasterCard. Traveller' s checks preferably American Express are accepted at hotels and large department stores. Personal checks drawn on foreign banks are generally not accepted.

Currency Restrictions - Import and exportlocal of currency (Philippine Peso-PHP): up to PHP 10,000.-. Exceeding amounts require an authorisation from the Central Bank of the Philippines. foreign currencies : up to USD 10,000.-, or its equivalent. Amounts exceeding USD 10,000.-, or its equivalent must be declared.

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Climate
The Philippines has a tropical maritime climate and is usually hot and humid. There are three seasons: tag-init or tag-araw, the hot dry season or summer from March to May; tag-ulan, the rainy season from June to November; and tag-lamig, the cool dry season from December to February. The southwest monsoon (from May to October) is known as the Habagat, and the dry winds of the northeast monsoon (from November to April), the Amihan. Temperatures usually range from 21°C (70°F) to 32°C (90°F) although it can get cooler or hotter depending on the season. The coolest month is January; the warmest is May.

The average yearly temperature is around 26.6°C (79.88°F). In considering temperature, location in terms of latitude and longitude is not a significant factor. Whether in the extreme north, south, east, or west of the country, temperatures at sea level tend to be in the same range. Altitude usually has more of an impact. The average annual temperature of Baguio at an elevation of 1,500 meters (4,900 feet) above sea level is 18.3°C (64.9°F), making it a popular destination during hot summers.Likewise, Tagaytay is a favored retreat.

Sitting astride the typhoon belt, most of the islands experience annual torrential rains and thunderstorms from July to October, with around nineteen typhoons entering the Philippine area of responsibility in a typical year and eight or nine making landfall. Annual rainfall measures as much as 5,000 millimeters (200 inches) in the mountainous east coast section but less than 1,000 millimeters (39 inches) in some of the sheltered valleys.

Shopping
It isn't hard to find malls in the Philippines, the 3 largest malls in the world are found in the country, 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 recent 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, shopping there is also cheap. Sales tend to happen during pay day and last 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 SM Department Store. Cheaper items are sold at flea markets and open markets where you can bargain the price like Divisoria, Market!Market!, Greenhills in Metro Manila. Ayala Center is often compared to Singapore's Orchard Rd, from Entertainment to shopping, they have it all there, located in the Financial district of Makati. Not far from Makati is Serendra, 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 and is located in Fort Bonifacio Global City, Taguig.

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 the summer and winter vacations.

Utilities
Electricity is 220 volts a/c. Many of the major tourist hotels also have 110 volt a/c outlets.

Water supply in Metro Manila and in all the other major cities are considered potable. Bottled purified water, spring water or mineral water is often supplied by hotels and resorts, and sold in all grocery stores.

Telephone service is modern and you can direct dial anywhere in the world. Public phones are plentiful. Public phones require a minimum of two one-peso coins for a local call.

Some Important Telephone Numbers: (24-Hour Hotline)
Police & Fire: 757 or 116
Emergency No.: 501- 650 or 501- 728
Directory Assistance: 114
National Operator: 109
International Operator: 108
Direct Dialing Assistance: 112

For other emergency numbers, please refer to Directory.
NOTE: It is advisable to always have the telephone number and the address of your embassy or consulate with you.

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Newspapers & Other Media
English newspapers are available throughout the country and there are aslo some Japanese and Chinese language options. The Daily Tribune, Malaya, Manila Standard, Manila Bulletin, Business World, Philippine Daily Inquirer and Visayan Daily Star are some of the English newspapers.

Philippine media uses mainly Filipino and English. Other Philippine languages, including various Visayan languages are also used, especially in radio due to its ability to reach remote rural locations that might otherwise not be serviced by other kinds of media. The dominant television networks ABS-CBN and GMA also have extensive radio presence. The entertainment industry is vibrant and feeds broadsheets and tabloids with an unending supply of details about celebrities and sensationalist scandals du jour. Drama and fantasy shows are anticipated as are Latin telenovelas, Asianovelas, and anime. Daytime television is dominated by game shows, variety shows, and talk shows such as Eat Bulaga, Showtime, and Wowowee. Philippine cinema has a long history and is popular domestically, but has faced increasing competition from American and European films. Critically acclaimed directors and actors include Lino Brocka and Nora Aunor for films like Maynila: Sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag (Manila: In the Claws of Light) and Himala (Miracle). In recent years it has become common to see celebrities flitting between television and movies and then moving into politics provoking concerns.

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Business Hours
Most businesses are open from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM weekdays and 8:00 AM till noon Saturdays.

Banks are open from 9:00 AM till 3:00 PM Mondays through Fridays. When banking in the Philippines, it is advisable to have your passport with you for identification.

The post offices are open from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM weekdays only. Stamps for postcards are frequently available from the Concierge Desk at most major hotels. The Philippines uses ZIP codes, please include them in addressing local mail.

NOTE: The Standard lunch hour is noon to 1:00 PM. Most businesses and government offices are closed.

Language
According to the 1987 Philippine Constitution, Filipino and English are the official languages. Filipino is a de facto version of Tagalog, spoken mainly in Metro Manila and other urban regions. Both Filipino and English are used in government, education, print, broadcast media, and business. Major languages recognized in the constitution include Bicolano, Cebuano, Ilocano, Hiligaynon or Ilonggo, Kapampangan, Pangasinan, Tagalog, and Waray-Waray. Spanish and Arabic are recognized as voluntary and optional languages.

Other languages such as Aklanon, Boholano, Chavacano, Zamboangueño, Cuyonon, Ifugao, Itbayat, Ivatan, Kalinga, Kamayo, Kankana-ey, Kinaray-a, Maguindanao, Maranao, Masbatenyo, Romblomanon, Surigaonon, Tausug, Yakan, and several Visayan languages are prevalent in their respective provinces.

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Getting Around
There are four modes of public transport in Metro Manila and surprisingly, they are easy to use.

By Bus : Both air-conditioned and regular buses travel most of the major routes in Metro Manila. On an air-con bus a short ride costs PhP 11.00, adding a few peso for every succeeding kilometer. The regular bus' minimum fare is PhP 9.00. Just tell the conductor where you are going and he will tell you how much it costs. Keep your bus receipt as it is your proof of payment.

By Jeepneys : Called "folk arton wheels," jeepneys ply most of Manila's secondary roads and even a few major thoroughfares. They're as much fun to ride on as they are to look at and you have to try one. Although there are regular stops, you can often just flag one down and hop on. Call out "bayad" (bah-yhad) and pay the driver. If you are too far back, pass your PhP 7.00 (minimum fare for the first 4 kilometers; 1 peso additional for every succeeding 500 meters) down. When you are ready to get off, call out "para" (pah-rah); wait till he slows down and get off.

By train : Within Metro Manila, there are networks of LRT (Light Railway Transport) and MRT (Metro Rail Transport) that connect various portions of the metropolis. The LRT network consists of two lines; the Purple line and the Yellow Line. The Megatren/Purple line covers stations from Santolan to Recto while the Metrorail/Yellow line covers the station from Monumento to Baclaran. Fares in the LRT range from Php12 to Php15. Tickets are available on purchase on the stations while ticket machines are installed in the Purple line. The MRT network covers the network from Taft Avenue to North Avenue, passing the financial center; Makati. The MRT is open from 5:00AM to 11:00PM with Midnight services extending to 1:00AM. Fares start from Php10 to Php15, a multi-use ticket can be purchased at Php 100. G-Pass, an alternative pass for the MRT launched by Globe Telecom, it can be purchased at Php 100 and have a free balance of Php50, however this isn't only exclusive to Globe users. The Philippine National Railways covers services in Metro Manila and provinces of Laguna, Batangas, Quezon, Camarines Sur and Albay.

By taxis : Taxis are generally available within the major cities but are usually not used for travel across the various provinces and regions. Some FX (shared taxis), however, 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 pesos 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! Moreover, don't be surprised if drivers want to bypass the meter during rush hour. Most taxis have the flag down rate of Php30 with each 300 meters cost Php2.50 while Yellow cab taxis are more expensive with a flag down rate of Php40 with each 300 meters cost Php4.00.

Note: Most of the taxi drivers nowadays charge people with fares not based on the meters, 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.

By car : There are major car rental companies such as Avis, Hertz and Budget have offices in Metro Manila, notably at the airport. These companies have chauffeur driven rentals available and prices are bound to be reasonable. Due to heavy traffic in Metro Manila, certain areas of the city have laws that restrict certain vehicles based on the day of the week and the ending number of your vehicle's license plate (this plan is called "Color Coding", though it has nothing to do with the color of your vehicle). For example: Cars with license plates ending in 1 or 2 cannot drive between the hours of 7AM and 7PM on Mondays on most main roads. 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.

Inter-island trips : Next to buses, ships are the cheapest modes of transports when getting around the country as fares are as low as Php1,000 if it's a trip lasting a day or two and Php600 if it's only a one hour trip.WG&A SuperFerry 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: Sulpicio Lines, Negros Navigation, Trans Asia Shipping Lines, and Cebu Ferries. 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.

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SIGHTSEEING

Casa Manila: A replica mid 19th Century house, recreating the Intramuros lifestyle of upper class Filipinos at this time. Corner Real and General Lunar Streets,Intramuros, Manila. Luzon
Chocolate Hills : Bohol’s most famous attraction: the area is named thus, because of the rich grass which covers them turns brown in summer. Carmen Town, Bohol.Visayas*
Colon Street: The oldest street in the Philippines located in the heart of Cebu. Cebu. Visayas*
Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery: The only underground cemetery in the Philippines; it served as a meeting place for the revolutionary leaders in Laguna.
Laguna, Luzon Island
Magellan’s Cross: The most historically-famous landmark in Cebu. Planted by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521, it marks the place where the first Christian Filipinos were baptized.
Cebu. Visayas*


PARKS & WILDLIFE

Katibawasan Falls: These 250-foot falls cascade down to a pool surrounded by orchids and other rich tropical flora- 4 km from Mambajao. Camiguin.Mindinao*
Maquinit Hot Springs : Located on a scenic beach corner, this is the premium hot spring in the Philippines. Palawan. Luzon*
Hidden Valley: A natural recluse is created within this 90-meter crater . A haven for lush jungle life, natural springs and still water pools. Accommodation available. Alaminos, Laguna.Luzon.
Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife: Quezon Avenue. Quezon City. Luzon.
Rizal Memorial Park: Within the lush park there are monuments, a skating rink and adventure playground. Free concerts every Sunday. Ermita, Manila.Luzon.


MUSEUMS AND ART GALLERIES

Museums & art galleries : Ateneo Art Gallery Quezon City
Tel: (02) 998 721
Metropolitan Museum of Manila
Tel: (02) 832 3645
National Museum Manila
Tel: (02) 494 450
Villa Escudero San Pablo City, Quezon City
Tel: (02) 521 8698


FURTHER INFORMATION

Department of Tourism: T.M. Kalaw Street, Rizal Park, Metro Manila
P.O. Box 3451
Tel: (02)523-8411
Fax: (02) 521 7374
Philippine Convention and Visitors Corporatiom: 4th Floor, Suites 10-17, Legasi Towers, 300 Roxas Boulevard, Metro Manila
Tel: (02) 525-93-18-27
Fax: (02) 521-61-65/ 525-33-14
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