The Philippines is a rich tropical archipelago
of 7,107 islands stretching gracefully over 1800 kilometers between the fifth
and twenty-second degrees north of the equator. Strategically positioned
east of the Asian mainland, and blessed with abundant natural resources,
the country has attracted traders, explorers and adventurers for centuries.
The country's total land area is approximately
300,000 square kilometers (115,800 square miles) and its coastline of more
than 34,400 kilometers (21,500 miles) is the fifth longest in the world.
Its territorial waters cover 212 million hectares.
The Philippines is bounded by three large
bodies of water: on the west and north by the South China Sea, on the east
by the Philippine Sea and on the south by the Celebes Sea.
The country's islands are divided into three
main groups: Luzon, Visayas
and Mindanao. Luzon is the major island to the north
where the country's capital, Manila, is located. The Visayas is a cluster
of islands in the middle of the archipelago. Mindanao is the southernmost
As it is located in the Pacific ring of fire-the
most volcanic region on Earth - the Philippines has more than 100 seismic
faults spanning both Luzon and Mindanao, as well as 22 active volcanoes and
27 potentially active volcanoes. Of these volcanoes, Mount Mayon in Albay,
with its nearly perfect cone, is the most active. Taal Volcano in Batangas
is considered the world's smallest volcano.
The Philippines ranks 23rd among the most
plant species-rich countries of the world, hosting 13,500 plant species,
or 5 per cent of the world total. Almost one-fourth of all these plant species
are endemic to the country.
One hundred and seventy thousand animal species
can also be found in the country. Of the 230 species of mammals in the islands,
98 are endemic. Among the many rare species that can be found in the Philippines
The Philippine Tarsier (the world smallest
The White-Winged Flying Fox (Pteropus
luecopterus, one of the world's rarest mammals)
The Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga
jefferyi, the world's largest eagle)
The Pygmy Goby (Pandaka pygmea, the
world's smallest fish) The Philippine Sailfin Lizard
(Hydrosaurus pustulatus, one of the
rarest lizard species in the world)
The Philippines also has one of the richest
collections of corals in the world, with 488 out of 500 species found in
the Apo Reef in Mindoro and the Tubbataha Reef in the Sulu Sea.Due to its
proximity to the equator, the Philippines enjoys tropical climate, with a
relatively constant temperature yearround. The country has two main seasons:
the dry (from December to May) and the rainy (from June to November).
VISITORS' IMPRESSIONS OF PHILIPPINE CULTURE
Written by Arlene Wright
The reactions of visitors from Western countries
who are making their first trip to the Philippines are nicely described by
Alfredo and Grace Roces in their book, Culture Shock Philippines.
Often Westerners will feel pleasantly surprised to find that English spoken
is widely, and the trappings of American lifestyle are everywhere
from Hollywood films to fast-food chains.
For many though, a delayed shock follows.
They may feel that while they are speaking the same language, they are not
communicating. This is because, unlike other Asians, Filipinos have a Western
veneer that can give a misleading or false impression. But if visitors to
the Philippines learn to understand the social amenities and the culture
dos and donts, they can minimize misunderstandings, recognize
friendly overtures, and avoid social gaffes.
The complexity and
contradictions in Filipino culture are due, in large part, to the foreign
values imposed by three hundred years of Spanish Catholic mores, and fifty
years of American free enterprise. Filipinos are gregarious, happy, generous
people, and it is not difficult to win their friendship. But visitors can
be taken aback by a Filipinos reaction to a serious situation. In
particular, while the Westerner might adopt a solemn or angry tone, the
Filipinos reaction is usually to give his most relaxed smile, or even
loudest laugh but this does not mean he is enjoying himself. Filipinos,
like most Asians, also stress public harmony and seem to have
ultra-sensitive feelers for hints of potential personal clashes.
Direct confrontation is frowned upon and public conflict is taboo because
someone is bound to lose face and this would lead to further trouble.
Filipinos are extremely tolerant people and
their hospitality is almost limitless. A little understanding and insight
will open doors and arms. To really know the Filipino, and to really feel
at ease in the Philippines, visitors need to probe past the Western veneer,
and then an entirely different world will reveal itself.
FILIPINO CULTURAL VALUES
by Arlene Wright
Many Filipino cultural values reflect the
desire to be together as a group.
One example is pakikisama. This is the
ability to get along in a group, and to enjoy camaraderie and togetherness.
One who understands pakikisama will yield to group opinion and sacrifice
individual welfare for group welfare. Another value that binds groups together
is utang na loob. This is the Filipino obligation to repay
a debt or favor upon request, and repay it with interest. Every Filipino
has utang na loob to someone, while others have utang na loob to him. Filipinos
also believe strongly in suki, which is the building of personal
bonds between businesses and customers and loyal patronage.
In the spirit of group togetherness, Filipinos
love to eat and celebrate with family and friends. When Filipinos move into
a new house, for example, they believe it is not proper to live there unless
it is blessed in the presence of friends who will wish them
prosperity. There is a religious ritual, sometimes a shower of coins tossed
for good luck, and then there is a feast. Another type of special feast is
the despidida, which is given in honor of someone who is leaving
for a long period of time. Anyone who comes into a windfall of money is also
encouraged to share a bit with family and friend as balato;
and to celebrate with a blow-out, which could be treating friends
at a restaurant or a feast at home. When guests depart, the Filipino custom
of giving them a parcel of food as a send-off gesture is called
pabaon. And travelers (even to nearby towns) are expected to
return with greeting gifts called pasalubong for
family and friends.
Like other Asians, Filipinos believe strongly
in saving face. This is why, in
response to an invitation, when a Filipino says
yes, it might mean yes, but could mean maybe, or
even I dont know. It is often difficult for Filipinos to
bring themselves to say no, and it is a good idea to confirm a dinner invitation
several times to ensure that they did not say yes because they could not
find a proper way to say no. Also tied to saving face are amor
propio, which means self respect; and hiya, which means
shame. A Filipino would be thought of as lacking amor propio if, for example,
they accepted criticism weakly or did not offer honored guests the proper
hospitality. Hiya is felt by those whose actions are seen as socially
unacceptable, and one of the ultimate insults in Philippine society is to
be labeled walang-hiya, which roughly translates to being
shameless. Everyone is expected to have hiya, and to win the respect of others
by conforming to community norms. Those who change allegiances for personal
convenience are seen as double-faced, and labeled balimbing
(after the many-sided fruit). Also, in order to save face, Filipinos are
not allowed to express anger or resentment, so their hostility can take the
form of withdrawal of cheerfulness from someone who has displeased them.
This silent treatment is known as tampo. After a cooling
off period, it is important to respond to this person with a friendly
overture or relations will deteriorate.
Another value that is common in Philippine
culture is bahala na; which means, literally, leaving things
to God. It indicates the Filipinos fatalistic view of life, and is
a way of coping with conflicts that can result from tight kinship within
groups. By adopting this attitude, one lets the circumstance take care of