Guest Author - Rachel Meneses-Ponce
An archipelago, the Philippines is comprised of about 7,107 islands. It is bounded by the West Philippine Sea (adjacent to South China Sea), Sulu Sea, Celebes Sea, and Philippine Sea. The three largest islands in terms of land area and population are Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
Being a tropical country, the climate in the Philippines is mostly hot and humid. March to May is the dry and hot period (sunny, best time to go to beaches). June to November is the rainy season (where nonstop rains brought about by monsoon and storms are experienced). December to February is the coolest period (cool and dry)- the best period for me.
Mineral resources like nickel, zinc, copper and chromite are abundant. There is also geothermal energy which partly supplies power needs of the country. Other natural resources are gold, natural gas, silver and cobalt.
The Philippines is noted for its bio-diversity and its coral reefs are one of the best in the world. Other than this, the Philippines boasts of exciting water attractions. Curious how it feels like walking in powdery, white sands at daytime and enjoy a vibrant night life in the evenings? Boracay (Panay Island) is the place. Is diving your thing? Do it at the beaches at Puerto Galera (Oriental Mindoro). On a honeymoon? Resort islands at Misibis Bay (Albay, Bicol Region) is a good place to be. Wakeboarding, kayaking, snorkelling, kite boarding are but a few activities you can do at the Camarines Sur Watersports Complex. Worth visiting are natural wonders like the awesome Puerto Princesa Underwater River in Palawan, recently chosen as one of the new seven wonders of nature in the world.
The Philippines is also blessed with rich fauna and flora. Endemic to the country are the likes of Tamaraw (bubalus mindorensis) dwarf buffalo, tarsier (the smallest monkey in the world), Philippine flying lemur, Palawan hornbill, Philippine eagle-owl (bubo philippensis), black-bibbed cicada bird (Coracina mindanensis), Sulu woodpecker (Dicaeum haematostictum), golden-capped fruit bat, the longest and biggest crocodile in captivity (nicknamed lolong, it is listed as such by the Guinness Book of World Records). For plants, there are: waling-waling (Euanthe sanderiana), a rare orchid found in Mindanao, pitcher flowers/plants like Nepenthes truncate (carnivorous plant), Nepenthes argentii (the smallest of its kind) and Sibuyan nepthentes.
Politically and administratively, there are 17 regions, 80 provinces and 39 chartered cities. Cebu City is the oldest city while demographically, Quezon City is the largest. Manila City is the capital where the seat of government is located. The Philippines is customarily called the Republic of the Philippines (Republika ng Pilipinas). Its citizens are called Filipinos (Pilipino and informally, Pinoy).
The population include indigenous peoples like the Igorots, Mangyans, Aetas, Lumads, Badjaos, Tuingians and the lesser known tribal groups in Palawan. Many lowland Filipinos have inter-racial lineage since mix marriages are accepted and fairly common.
Ethnicity is varied that is why there are about 175 languages spoken in the Philippines which Filipinos refer to as dialects. Of these, eight are major languages/dialects namely Tagalog, Cebuano, Hiligaynon (Ilonggo), Ilocano, Pampango (Kapampangan), Pangasinense, Waray and Bikol. The official and national language is Filipino which is largely based in Tagalog. English is the other official language. It is the medium of instruction in schools. Both languages are used in print and broadcast media, government, commerce and education in general.
Despite multi-ethnicity and its multi-cultural nature, the Filipinos are predominantly Catholic. Catholicism in the country is rooted to its colonial past under Spain. While considered the only Christian country in Southeast Asia, there are other religions that flourished alongside Catholicism. These are Islam, Protestantism, other Christian sects (Aglipayan is the most well-known), Buddhism. There is also the Iglesia ni Cristo (Church of Christ), a home-grown religious organization, founded and established by a Filipino, Mr. Felix Y. Manalo.
No matter what the ethnic background is, the Filipino people are known for their hospitality, generosity and geniality. They value family, the core pillar of Philippine society. They are inherently talented, excelling in music, sports, movies, even in math and science. They have also excelled in business where they exhibited industry, high level of literacy, dedication, loyalty, professionalism and a high sense of work ethics. Filipinos are naturally convivial and love celebrations. The Philippine calendar is studded with festivals and commemoration days, it would seem not a day passes without an occasion to celebrate for.