For the past year my husband and I have been investigating, factually and spiritually, the beautiful islands of the Philippines. At the end of next month we finally get the opportunity to explore the lands, physically. Needless to say, a large part of my thoughts have been occupied by a place and people over eight thousand miles away.
In school, geography was never my strongest subject. How I wish now that I would have taken the opportunity then to be more disciplined in that subject. But nonetheless I am learning now, and in a much more exciting way. So in today’s Global Spotlight, the first of many, I would like to take the opportunity to share some things that I have learned about this particular region of the world. My hope is that you would discover or deepen your fascination with other countries on the globe.
The Philippines, officially known as the Republic of the Philippines, is a Sovereign state in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. It is commonly said that these islands were discovered and named by the Spanish. Like every region, the Philippines have experienced its share of heartache; the Spanish-American War, Philippine-American War, World War II, the Battle of Manila, and the People Power Revolution, just to name a few.
The Philippines now has a democratic government and has had fifteen presidents. However, the return of democracy and government reforms after 1986 were hindered by national debt, government corruption, coup attempts, a persistent communist insurgency, and Islamic separatists. Presently, the Philippines have a bicameral Congress, similar to the United States.
Philippine defense and security is handled by the Armed Forces (Air Force, Army, and Navy) as well as the Philippine National Police. There are numerous other militant groups, but their presence has decreased in recent years due to successful security provided by the Philippine government. The Philippines has been an ally of the United States since World War II. A mutual defense treaty between the two countries was signed in 1951. The Philippines is currently working to end its domestic insurgency with help from the United States. They are also an active member of the United Nations, the Human Rights Council, various Peacekeeping Missions, as well as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
The Philippines is divided into three island groups: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. As of March 2010, these island groups were divided into 17 regions, 80 provinces, 138 cities, 1,496 municipalities, and 42,025 barangays. The Philippines is an archipelago made of 7,107 islands with a total land area of approximately 120,000 square miles. Its 22,549 miles of coastline makes it the fifth longest coastline in the world. Most of the mountainous islands are covered in tropical rainforest and volcanic in origin. The highest mountain is Mount Apo. The country is estimated to have the second-largest gold deposits after South Africa and one of the largest copper deposits in the world. The Philippines is the world’s second-biggest geothermal producer behind the United States.
This country is one of the ten most biologically mega-diverse countries and is at or near the top in terms of biodiversity per unit area. The Philippines has a tropical maritime climate and is usually hot and humid. There are three seasons, the hot dry season or summer from March to May; the rainy season from June to November; and the cool dry season from December to February. The southwest monsoon is from May to October, and the dry winds of the northeast monsoon are from November to April. Temperatures usually range from 70°F to 90°F. Most of the islands sitting along the typhoon belt experience annual torrential rains and thunderstorms from July to October.
The economy of the Philippines is the 45th largest in the world, with an estimated gross domestic product of $216 billion. Its unit of currency is the Philippine peso (₱ or PHP). As a newly industrialized country, the Philippine economy has been transitioning from one based on agriculture to one based more on services and manufacturing. Despite enjoying continual economic growth during the first decade of the 21st century, as of 2010, the country’s economy remains smaller than those of its Southeast Asian neighbors Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore.
Population in the Philippines has increased 45% in the last twenty years. There are also approximated three million Filipinos living in the United States. The indigenous peoples of the Philippines consist of a large number of indigenous ethnic groups living in the country. They are the descendants of the original inhabitants of the Philippines who have managed to resist centuries of Spanish and United States colonization and in the process have retained their customs and traditions. Manila, Philippines is the 11th most populated city in the world.
Indigenous Tribes of the Philippines
Filipinos generally belong to several Asian ethnic groups but were later supplanted by arrivals of Chinese and Japanese in the northern islands, and Malays and Arabs in the southern islands. Later arrivals during the colonial period include Indians, Spaniards, Americans, as well as other European peoples. Intermarriage between the groups is evident in the major cities and urban areas, and their descendants are known as mestizos. There are 175 individual languages in the Philippines, 171 of which are living languages while 4 no longer have any known speakers. Filipino and English are the official languages.
Catholicism, Muslim, and traditional tribal religions are the most common religions. Philippine traditional religions are still practiced by many indigenous and tribal groups, often syncretized with Christianity and Islam. Animism, folk religion, and shamanism remain present as undercurrents of mainstream religion; while Buddhism, Taoism, and Chinese folk religion, are dominant in Chinese communities. There are also followers of Hinduism, Sikhism, Judaism and Baha’i.
The Philippines has a literacy rate of just over 90%. But the transportation infrastructure in the country is relatively underdeveloped. This is partly due to the mountainous terrain and the scattered geography of the islands, but it is also the result of the government’s persistent underinvestment in infrastructure. Buses, jeepneys, taxis, and motorized tricycles are commonly available in major cities and towns. As an archipelago, inter-island travel via watercraft is often necessary.
The culture there is a combination of Eastern and Western cultures. The Philippines exhibits aspects found in other Asian countries with a Malaysian heritage, yet its culture also displays a significant amount of Spanish and American influences. The Spanish have left an imprint notably seen in Filipino names, street and town names, and architecture. The common use of the English language is an example of the American impact on Philippine society as well as the influence of American pop cultural trends, seen in Filipinos’ love of fast food, film, and music.
Philippine cuisine has evolved over several centuries to become a mixed cuisine with many Hispanic, Chinese, American, and other Asian influences. Some common local ingredients used in cooking are calamondins, coconuts, saba (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 but use Western cutlery; although the traditional way of eating with the hands, known as kamayan, is seen more often in less urbanized areas.
In the Philippines, basketball is played at both amateur and professional levels and is considered to be the most popular sport. Arnis is the national martial art and sport. Today there are said to be almost as many Philippine fighting styles as there are islands in the Philippines. Filipino martial arts are incorporated into the physical education curriculum for high school and college students.
Capital: Manila Population: about 93 million Government: Democracy Official language: Filipino, English Poverty Incidence: about 23 million Geography: archipelago, 7,107 islands Total People Groups: 189 Unreached People Groups: 23
I have learned so much about this country, and I look forward to experiencing the culture for myself. It will be an adventure never to be forgotten!