Fast Facts on the Philippines
The Philippines lies in the heart of the Asia Pacific region, with an area of 114,000 square kilometers. Comprising 7,107 islands, it is readily accessible to the different capitals of the world. Its main islands are Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. The South China Sea is on the west; Taiwan, China, Hong Kong and Japan are on the north. Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand are in the west. Southward are Borneo and Indonesia. Its unique location has made the Philippines the commercial, cultural and intellectual hub of Asia from the dawn of history.
Luzon, the largest island, houses Manila, the national capital and Makati, the financial center. In Luzon can be found the Banaue Rice Terraces in the north, a prehistoric engineering marvel considered the Eighth Wonder of the World as well as the centuries-old, Spanish era houses and streets in Vigan, Ilocos Sur which are both UNESCO World Heritage protected sites.
Visayas is where one finds the island-province of Cebu and Cebu City, the first Spanish settlement in Asia and second largest metropolis in the country, rivaling Manila in many ways. Here, in the province of Aklan, is Boracay, touted as the Best Beach in the World, with four kilometers of dazzling, powder-fine, white sand and warm, crystalline waters. In Bohol can be found the tarsier, the oldest insect-eating mammal and the smallest primate on the planet.
Mindanao, the second largest island, is becoming known as the country's food basket region. Home to Mt. Apo, the country's highest peak where the rare Philippine Eagle, the world's largest, dwells, it also nurtures the exquisite waling-waling, the queen of orchids.
Surrounded by water, the country has excellent diving destinations, breathtaking coral formations, and subterranean caverns and rivers. Just as enchanting are the array of different tribes and ethnic traditions, music and costumes as well as languages and dialects.
Traveling overland the entire length of the Philippines is now possible through the Pan Philippine Highway. Also known as the Maharlika Highway, the road network runs from Manila to Laoag City via Cagayan Valley in northern Luzon and from Manila to Davao in Mindanao via Bicol in southern Luzon and Samar and Leyte in eastern Visayas.
Twenty-six areas in Luzon and seven areas in the Bicol region, the Visayas and Mindanao have been designated Scenic Highways, all with comfortable amenities for the traveler.
Manila, Cebu, Davao, Subic, Clark and Laoag are the international gateways. The Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila is the premier gateway. It is served by more that 30 airlines which fly to different cities around the world. Cebu-Mactan International Airport (MIA) in Cebu handles regular flights from Japan, Singapore, and Australia as well as chartered flights from Hong Kong, the United States and other major travel markets. Davao International Airport in Davao handles regular flights from Indonesia and Singapore. Subic, Clark and Laoag International Airport in Ilocos Norte service regular and chartered flights from Taiwan and Mainland China.
In general, the Philippines has a liberal policy in the entry of foreign nationals who may visit the Philippines with or without visas, depending on their country of origin or place of residence. Naitonals from the People's Republic of China are required to obtain visas to enter the Philippines. Visas and special permits may be obtained from Philippine missions abroad.
The Philippine Embassy in Beijing and all Philippine Consulates General in China, introduced in February 2002 simplified visa guidelines for Chinese nationals travelling to the Philippines.
March to May is hot and dry, with temperatures ranging from 22-32. June to October is rainy. November to February is cool; temperatures range from 22-28C. Average humidity is 77%.
Airport and Facilities: The international airports have adequate traveler facilities; tourist information and assistance centers, duty-free and souvenir shops, hotel and travel agency representatives, car rental services, banks and automated teller machines, postal service, medical clinics and baggage deposit areas.
Currency Regulations: Visitors carrying more than US$3,000.00 are requested to declare the amount at the Central Bank of the Philippines counter situated at the customs area. Foreign currency taken out upon departure must not exceed the amount brought in. Keep all exchange receipts for record purposes.
Airport transfers: There are accredited fixed rate and metered taxis at the NAIA's Arrival Area. Other airports are served by metered taxis. All airports have counters for hotel transport and limousine service.
Airport Fees: At the NAIA and MIA, the amount of P750 is charged for international departure -- paid in Philippine Pesos or US dollars.
Duty-Free Shopping: Duty-free shops are located at the airports' departure and transit areas. Near NAIA is Duty-Free Fiesta Shopping Center, the country's largest duty-free outlet.
By air, Philippine Airlines, Air Philippines and Cebu Pacific provide daily services to major towns and cities. There are also scheduled chartered flights to major domestic destinations serviced by smaller commuter airplanes.
By sea, inter-island ships connect Manila to major ports. Ferry services connect the smaller islands.
By land, Philtranco connects Manila to Bicol in Southern Luzon to Samar and Leyte in the Visayas and Davao in Mindanao. Metered and fixed rate taxis are widely available in key cities nationwide. Jeepneys and buses are inexpensive ways of getting around most places. In Metro Manila, the fastest way of commuting is via the elevated railway system. LRT connects northern district of Monumento to the southern district of Baclaran. MRT connects north Avenue in Quezon City to Taft Avenue in Pasay City. The popular means of transport for short routes in the countryside is the tricycle (motorcycle with sidecar).
The peso (P) is the unit of currency, with P1=100 centavos. Bank notes come in denominations of P10, P20, P50, P100, P500 and P1000. Coins come in 5c, 10c, 25c, P1 and P5.
International credit cards such as Visa, Mastercard, Diners Club, Americard and American Express are accepted in major establishments in key cities.
A Government Tax ranging from 12-13.5% is charged by most hotels and restaurants. A 10% service charge is also normally included. Tipping is traditional. The standard practice is 10% of the total cost.
Filipino is the national language. English is the business language and spoken widely. A good number of Chinese Filipinos speak Putonghua or Minanhua.
The country has international direct phone and facsimile service, mobile phone sites, internet and e-mail facilities, and worldwide express delivery service. The postal system is efficient. Most national dailies are in English. There are five commercial-run, one government and one religious-run national television stations. Cable TV is available in hotels. Foreign publications are sold at major hotels, malls, and bookstores in Metro Manila and key cities.
Business and Banking hours
Private and government offices are open either from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. or from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Mondays to Fridays. Some private companies hold Saturday office from 9 a.m. to 12 noon. Most shopping malls, department stores and supermarkets are open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. There are 24-hour convenience stores and drugstores. Banks are open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. with automated teller machines (ATM) operating 24 hours.
Light, casual clothes and sturdy walking shoes are recommended. Warmer garments are needed for mountain regions. When visiting churches and temples, propriety indicates that shorts and scanty clothing be avoided. Formal occasions require dinner jackets and ties (or the native "barong tagalog") for men and cocktail dresses or long gowns for women.
In Metro Manila, key cities and major towns throughout the country, a wide selection of de luxe, standard, economy and pension-type accommodations is available. In island destinations, there is a proliferation of resorts ranging from "AAA", "AA" and A to "SIR" (special interest resort).
The Tourism Department has the home-stay program in 15 destinations outside Manila. The program offers visitors the comfort of modest homes and insight into Philippine life.
Tours and Special Interest Activities
Information and tour packages, itineraries, accommodations and special interest activities life golfing, game-fishing, diving and aquasports, trekking, spelunking and safari trips may be obtained from the Department of Tourism-accredited travel agents and operators or from the Tourist Information Center located at the ground floor of DOT Bldg. in Rizal Park, Manila. Telephone number is (632) 524-2384/524-1703.
New Year's Day, January 1; EDSA Revolution Day, February 24; Araw ng Kagitingan, April 9; Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, moveable; Labor Day, May 1; Independence Day, June 12; National Heroes Day, last Sunday of August; All Saints Day, November 1; Bonifacio Day, November 30; Christmas Day, December 25; Rizal Day, December 30.