The Philippines is a sovereign island country in Southeast Asia situated in the western Pacific Ocean. It consists of 7,107 islands that are categorized broadly under three main geographical divisions: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. The capital city of the Philippines is Manila and the most populous city is Quezon City; both are part of Metro Manila.
To the north of the Philippines across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan; Vietnam sits west across the South China Sea; southwest lies Malaysia in the island of Borneo across the Sulu Sea, and to the south the Celebes Sea separates it from other islands of Indonesia; while to the east it is bounded by the Philippine Sea and the island-nation of Palau. Its location on the Pacific Ring of Fire and close to the equator makes the Philippines prone to earthquakes and typhoons, but also endows it with abundant natural resources and some of the world's greatest biodiversity.
The nation's large population size and economic potential have led it to be classified as a middle power. It is a founding member of the United Nations, World Trade Organization, Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and East Asia Summit. It also hosts the headquarters of the Asian Development Bank. The Philippines is considered to be an emerging market and a newly industrialized country, which has been transitioning from being one based on agriculture to one based more on services and manufacturing.
Philippine culture is a combination of Eastern and Western cultures. The Philippines exhibits aspects found in other Asian countries with a Malay heritage, yet its culture also displays a significant amount of Spanish and American influences. Traditional festivities known as barrio fiestas (district festivals) to commemorate the feast days of patron saints are common. The Moriones Festival and Sinulog Festival are a couple of the most well-known. These community celebrations are times for feasting, music, and dancing. Some traditions, however, are changing or gradually being forgotten due to modernization. The Bayanihan Philippine National Folk Dance Company has been lauded for preserving many of the various traditional folk dances found throughout the Philippines. They are famed for their iconic performances of Philippine dances such as the tinikling and singkil that both feature the use of clashing bamboo poles.
The transportation infrastructure in the Philippines is relatively underdeveloped. This is partly due to the mountainous terrain and the scattered geography of the islands, but also the result of the lower investment of the government in infrastructure. The current administration under President Benigno Aquino III has been pushing to improve the country's infrastructure and transportation systems through various projects. Buses, jeepneys, taxis, and motorized tricycles are commonly available in major cities and towns.
Tourism is one of the major contributor to the economy of the Philippines.The Department of Tourism has the responsibility for the management and promotion of the tourism sector. On January 6, 2012 it launched a new slogan named "It's More Fun in the Philippines" and ranked third in world's best marketing campaigns according to Warc 100.
The country's rich biodiversity is the main tourist attraction of the Philippines. Its beaches, mountains, rainforests, islands and diving spots are among the country's most popular tourist destinations. The country's rich historical and cultural heritage is also one of the attractions of the Philippines.
As an archipelago consisting of 7,107 islands, Philippines has numerous beaches, caves and other rock formations. Tourist attractions in the country includes the white sand beaches of Boracay, named as the best island in the world by Travel + Leisure in 2012, commercial shopping malls located in Manila including the SM Mall of Asia, Festival Supermall, etc., Banaue Rice Terraces in Ifugao, historic town of Vigan, Chocolate Hills in Bohol, Magellan's Cross in Cebu, Tubbataha Reef in Visayas and others in the rest of the country.
The Philippines has a tropical maritime climate that 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 (79.9 °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 ft) above sea level is 18.3 °C (64.9 °F), making it a popular destination during hot summers.
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 in) in the mountainous east coast section but less than 1,000 millimeters (39 in) in some of the sheltered valleys. The wettest known tropical cyclone to impact the archipelago was the July 1911 cyclone, which dropped over 1,168 millimeters (46.0 in) of rainfall within a 24-hour period in Baguio. Bagyo is the local term for a tropical cyclone in the Philippines.
The Philippines has a simple literacy rate of 95.6%, with 95.1% for males and 96.1% for females. The Philippines has a functional literacy rate of 86.45%, with 84.2% for males and 88.7% for females in 2008. Literacy in females is greater than in males. Education spending accounts for 16.11% in the proposed 2015 national budget.
The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) lists 2,180 higher education institutions, 607 of which are public and 1,573 private. Classes start in June and end in March. The majority of colleges and universities follow a semester calendar from June to October and November to March. There are a number of foreign schools with study programs. A 6-year elementary and 4-year high school education is mandatory with an additional two years being added in 2013.
Several government agencies are involved with education. The Department of Education covers elementary, secondary, and nonformal education. The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) administers the post-secondary middle-level education training and development. The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) supervises the college and graduate academic programs and degrees as well as regulate standards in higher education.
In 2004, madaris were mainstreamed in 16 regions nationwide, mainly in Muslim areas in Mindanao under the auspices and program of the Department of Education. Public universities are all non-sectarian entities, and are further classified as State Universities and Colleges (SUC) or Local Colleges and Universities (LCU). The University of the Philippines is the national university of the Philippines.
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 was seen more often in less urbanized areas. However, due to the different Filipino restaurants that introduce Filipino food to other nationalities, Kamayan is fast becoming popular. This recent trend incorporates the use of "Boodle Fight" as coined by the Philippine Army, wherein banana leaves are used as giant plates mixing both rice and Filipino viands all together on top.
Ethnologue lists 186 individual languages in the Philippines, 182 of which are living languages, while 4 no longer have any known speakers. Most native languages are part of the Philippine branch of the Malayo-Polynesian languages, which is itself a branch of the Austronesian language family. The only language not classified as an Austronesian language is Chavacano which is a creole language of Mexican Spanish and is classified as a Romance language.
Filipino and English are the official languages of the country. Filipino is a standardized 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. However, most people outside cities do not speak much English. In most towns, either Tagalog or the local indigenous language is spoken. The Philippine constitution provides for the promotion of Spanish and Arabic on a voluntary and optional basis, although neither are used in the country on as wide a scale as in the past. Spanish, which was widely used as a lingua franca in the late nineteenth century, has since declined greatly in use, but is experiencing revival due to government promotions, while Arabic is mainly used in Islamic schools in Mindanao. However, Spanish loanwords are still present today in many of the indigenous Philippine languages.
Nineteen regional languages act as auxiliary official languages used as mediums of instruction: Aklanon, Bikol, Cebuano, Chavacano, Hiligaynon, Ibanag, Ilocano, Ivatan,Kapampangan, Kinaray-a, Maguindanao, Maranao, Pangasinan, Sambal, Surigaonon, Tagalog, Tausug, Waray-Waray, and Yakan. Other indigenous languages such as,Cuyonon, Ifugao, Itbayat, Kalinga, Kamayo, Kankanaey, Masbateño, Romblomanon, Malay, and several Visayan languages are prevalent in their respective provinces.
Languages not indigenous to the islands are also taught in select schools. Mandarin is used in Chinese schools catering to the Chinese Filipino community. Islamic schools in Mindanao teach Modern Standard Arabic in their curriculum. French, German, Japanese, Korean, Spanish are taught with the help of foreign linguistic institutions. The Department of Education began teaching the Malay languages Indonesian and Malaysian in 2013.