Philippines country profile Update 05/27/2024 

Philippines flag

The Philippines, officially known as the Republic of the Philippines, is an archipelagic country located in Southeast Asia. Situated in the western Pacific Ocean, it is comprised of 7,641 islands that can be broadly categorized into three main geographical divisions: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao Update 05/27/2024 .

Philippines map
Philippines map

The Philippines is bordered by the South China Sea to the west, the Philippine Sea to the east, and the Celebes Sea to the south.

It shares maritime borders with Taiwan to the north, Japan to the northeast, Palau to the east and southeast, Indonesia to the south, Malaysia to the southwest, Vietnam to the west, and China to the northwest.

With its diverse ethnicities and cultures, it ranks as the world’s thirteenth-most populous country. The capital city is Manila, and the largest city is Quezon City, both located within the metropolitan area known as Metro Manila.

The earliest inhabitants of the archipelago were the Negritos, followed by waves of Austronesian peoples. The adoption of Animism, Hinduism, and Islam led to the establishment of island-kingdoms ruled by datus, rajas, and sultans.

The arrival of Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who led a fleet for Spain, marked the beginning of Spanish colonization. In 1543, Spanish explorer Ruy López de Villalobos named the archipelago Las Islas Filipinas in honor of Philip II of Spain.

Spanish settlement, which began in 1565 through Mexico, led to the Philippines being ruled by the Spanish Empire for over 300 years.

Catholicism became the dominant religion, and Manila became a key center of trans-Pacific trade. The Philippine Revolution began in 1896, coinciding with the Spanish-American War of 1898. Spain ceded the territory to the United States, and Filipino revolutionaries declared the First Philippine Republic.

The subsequent Philippine-American War ended with the United States gaining control of the territory until the Japanese invasion during World War II. The Philippines achieved independence in 1946.

The country has experienced a turbulent history with democracy, including the nonviolent overthrow of a decades-long dictatorship.

The Philippines is considered an emerging market and a newly industrialized country, with its economy transitioning from agriculture to services and manufacturing. It is a founding member of the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, ASEAN, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, and the East Asia Summit.

The Philippines is also a major non-NATO ally of the United States. Its location as an island country within the Pacific Ring of Fire and close to the equator makes it prone to earthquakes and typhoons. The Philippines is rich in natural resources and is globally recognized for its high level of biodiversity.

Etymology

During the expedition led by Spanish explorer Ruy López de Villalobos in 1542, the islands of Leyte and Samar were named “Felipinas” after Philip II of Spain, who was then the Prince of Asturias. Over time, the name “Las Islas Filipinas” was used to refer to the Spanish possessions in the archipelago. Prior to Spanish rule, various names such as “Islas del Poniente” (Western Islands), “Islas del Oriente” (Eastern Islands), Ferdinand Magellan’s name, and “San Lázaro” (Islands of St. Lazarus) were used by the Spanish to refer to islands in the region.

During the Philippine Revolution, the Malolos Congress declared the establishment of the República Filipina (the Philippine Republic). From the Spanish-American War (1898) and the Philippine-American War (1899-1902) until the Commonwealth period (1935-1946), American colonial authorities referred to the country as the Philippine Islands, which was a translation of the Spanish name. The United States started transitioning from “the Philippine Islands” to “the Philippines” in the Philippine Autonomy Act and the Jones Law. The official title “Republic of the Philippines” was included in the 1935 constitution as the name of the future independent state and has been used in all subsequent constitutional revisions.

History

Prehistory (pre–900)

Evidence suggests that early hominins were present in the Philippines as early as 709,000 years ago. The discovery of bones in Callao Cave, specifically the Homo luzonensis species, indicates the existence of an unknown hominin species that lived around 50,000 to 67,000 years ago. The oldest modern human remains found in the Tabon Caves of Palawan, which have been U/Th-dated to 47,000 ± 11–10,000 years ago, provide insights into the early human habitation of the islands. Tabon Man, believed to be a Negrito, represents one of the earliest inhabitants of the archipelago and is thought to be descended from the first human migrations out of Africa. These migrations followed the coastal route along southern Asia to the now-submerged landmasses of Sundaland and Sahul.

Around 2200 BC, the first Austronesians arrived in the Philippines from Taiwan. They initially settled in the Batanes Islands, where they constructed stone fortresses known as ijangs, and gradually spread southwards to the rest of the Philippine islands and Southeast Asia. The Austronesians assimilated with the Negrito population, resulting in the formation of modern Filipino ethnic groups characterized by genetic admixture between Austronesian and Negrito groups. Jade artifacts dating back to 2000 BC have been discovered, including lingling-o jade items made in Luzon using raw materials sourced from Taiwan. By 1000 BC, the inhabitants of the archipelago had developed into four distinct societies: hunter-gatherer tribes, warrior societies, highland plutocracies, and port principalities.

Early states (900–1565)

The earliest known surviving written record in the Philippines is the Laguna Copperplate Inscription, dating back to the early 10th century AD. By the 14th century, several large coastal settlements had emerged as important trading centers and centers of societal changes. Some of these polities engaged in trade with other states across Asia. Trade with China is believed to have started during the Tang dynasty and expanded during the Song dynasty. By the second millennium AD, some polities in the Philippines became part of China’s tributary system. Indian cultural influences, including linguistic terms and religious practices, began to spread in the Philippines around the 14th century, likely through interactions with the Hindu Majapahit Empire. Islam was established in the Sulu Archipelago by the 15th century and gradually spread from there.

Between the 10th and 16th centuries, various polities were founded in the Philippines, including Maynila, Tondo, Namayan, Pangasinan, Cebu, Butuan, Maguindanao, Lanao, Sulu, and Ma-i. These polities generally had a three-tier social structure consisting of nobility, freemen, and dependent debtor-bondsmen. The nobility, led by individuals known as datus, were responsible for ruling autonomous groups called barangays or dulohan. In larger settlements or loose alliances, esteemed members would hold positions such as “paramount datu,” rajah, or sultan and govern the community. Warfare escalated during the 14th to 16th centuries, and the population density is believed to have been low during this period due to frequent typhoons and the Philippines’ location on the Pacific Ring of Fire. In 1521, Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan arrived, claiming the islands for Spain but was ultimately killed in the Battle of Mactan by Lapulapu’s men.

Spanish and American colonial rule (1565–1946)

Colonization of the Philippines began in 1565 when Spanish explorer Miguel López de Legazpi arrived from Mexico. Many Filipinos were brought to New Spain as slaves or forced crew members.

Spanish Manila became the capital of the Spanish East Indies in 1571, which encompassed Spanish territories in Asia and the Pacific. The Spanish employed a divide and conquer strategy to invade and unify the local states, consolidating most of the present-day Philippines under Spanish administration.

Ilustrados in Madrid around 1890
Ilustrados in Madrid around 1890

The Spanish converted the disparate barangays into towns to facilitate the conversion of the inhabitants to Christianity by Catholic missionaries.

From 1565 to 1821, the Philippines was governed as a territory of the Viceroyalty of New Spain based in Mexico City. After the Mexican War of Independence, it was administered directly from Madrid.

Manila became a significant hub of trans-Pacific trade facilitated by Manila galleons. During Spanish rule, the Philippines faced indigenous revolts and external military attacks, such as conflicts with the Dutch and Muslims in the south.

The administration of the Philippines was considered a burden on the economy of New Spain, and there were debates about abandoning or trading the colony.

However, the economic potential and strategic importance of the islands, along with the desire to continue religious conversion, led to its preservation. The colony received an annual subsidy from the Spanish crown, usually paid in silver bullion from the Americas.

British forces occupied Manila from 1762 to 1764 during the Seven Years’ War, but Spanish rule was restored afterward. The Spanish–Moro conflict against Muslim groups in the south lasted for several hundred years, and Spain gradually gained control over portions of Mindanao and Jolo.

In the 19th century, Philippine ports opened to world trade, leading to societal changes. The term “Filipino” expanded its meaning to include all residents of the archipelago, rather than solely referring to Spaniards born in the Philippines.

Revolutionary sentiments grew in the 1870s, inspired by the execution of three activist Catholic priests. The Propaganda Movement advocated political reform, and the execution of national hero José Rizal further radicalized the movement. The Katipunan secret society, founded by Andrés Bonifacio, sought independence through armed revolt, leading to the Philippine Revolution in 1896.

The Spanish–American War broke out in 1898, reaching the Philippines. Emilio Aguinaldo, who returned from exile, declared independence from Spain.

The islands were ceded to the United States by Spain in December 1898, following the war. The First Philippine Republic was established on January 21, 1899, but the United States refused to recognize it, leading to the Philippine–American War.

The war resulted in the deaths of a significant number of civilians due to famine and disease. After the fall of the First Philippine Republic, the Philippines became an American territory with the establishment of an American civilian government.

Under American rule, the United States extended its control over the islands, including the Sultanate of Sulu. They suppressed resistance from the Philippine Republic, secured areas that resisted Spanish conquest, and encouraged Christian settlement in predominantly Muslim Mindanao.

A national identity started to form, with Tagalog gaining prominence as the language. The Philippines gradually transitioned towards self-governance, leading to the establishment of the Commonwealth of the Philippines in 1935. The country was granted independence on July 4, 1946, with Manuel Roxas as the first president.

The Philippines faced challenges during World War II, with the Japanese occupation and subsequent liberation by Allied forces. The country became a founding member of the United Nations in 1945.

Independence (1946–present)

After the post-war reconstruction efforts, the Philippines faced various challenges during the presidencies of Ramon Magsaysay, Carlos P. Garcia, Diosdado Macapagal, and Ferdinand Marcos. Magsaysay’s presidency was successful in ending the Hukbalahap Rebellion, while Garcia implemented the Filipino First policy to promote Filipino-owned businesses.

Macapagal moved Independence Day to June 12 and pursued a claim on eastern North Borneo. However, Marcos’s presidency, which began in 1965, was marked by political repression, human rights violations, corruption, and economic instability.

Marcos declared martial law in 1972 and ruled by decree, leading to widespread censorship and political suppression. His cronies established monopolies in key industries, leading to economic crises and allegations of embezzlement.

The assassination of opposition leader Benigno Aquino Jr. in 1983 sparked widespread protests, and the fraudulent results of the 1986 snap presidential election led to the People Power Revolution. Marcos and his allies were forced to flee, and Aquino’s widow, Corazon Aquino, became president.

The return of democracy and government reforms faced challenges such as national debt, corruption, coup attempts, communist insurgency, Moro separatist conflicts, and natural disasters. Subsequent administrations, including Fidel V. Ramos, Joseph Estrada, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and Benigno Aquino III, grappled with economic growth, corruption scandals, political challenges, and peace agreements with rebel groups.

Rodrigo Duterte, who was elected president in 2016, launched infrastructure programs and an anti-drug campaign. While the campaign reduced drug proliferation, it has also been associated with extrajudicial killings.

The Bangsamoro Organic Law was enacted in 2018, establishing an autonomous Bangsamoro region. The Philippines faced further challenges with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, leading to economic contraction.

In the 2022 presidential election, Bongbong Marcos, son of Ferdinand Marcos, emerged as the winner, with Sara Duterte, daughter of Rodrigo Duterte, becoming vice president.

Geography

The Philippines is an archipelago consisting of approximately 7,640 islands, covering a total area of around 300,000 square kilometers (115,831 square miles). It may actually be larger when considering cadastral survey data.

The country stretches about 1,850 kilometers (1,150 miles) from north to south, bordered by the Philippine Sea to the east and the Sulu Sea to the southwest. It is surrounded by the South China Sea and the Celebes Sea.

The largest islands in the Philippines are Luzon, Mindanao, Samar, Negros, Palawan, Panay, Mindoro, Leyte, Cebu, Bohol, and Masbate, which make up about 95 percent of the total land area.

The coastline of the Philippines measures 36,289 kilometers (22,549 miles), making it the world’s fifth-longest. The country’s exclusive economic zone covers 2,263,816 square kilometers (874,064 square miles).

The highest mountain in the Philippines is Mount Apo on Mindanao, reaching an altitude of 2,954 meters (9,692 feet) above sea level. The Philippine Trench, running east of the archipelago, reaches a depth of 10,540 meters (34,580 feet) at the Emden Deep.

The longest river is the Cagayan River in northern Luzon, stretching for about 520 kilometers (320 miles). Manila Bay, where the capital city of Manila is located, is connected to Laguna de Bay, the country’s largest lake, by the Pasig River.

Being situated on the western fringes of the Pacific Ring of Fire, the Philippines experiences frequent seismic and volcanic activity. It is located in a seismically active region, with tectonic plates converging from multiple directions.

Although most earthquakes are too weak to be felt, around five earthquakes are recorded daily. Major earthquakes occurred in the Moro Gulf in 1976 and on Luzon in 1990. The country is home to 23 active volcanoes, with Mayon, Taal, Canlaon, and Bulusan having the highest number of recorded eruptions.

The Philippines possesses valuable mineral deposits due to its complex geological structure and high level of seismic activity. It is believed to have the world’s second-largest gold deposits, significant copper deposits, and the largest deposits of palladium. Other minerals include chromium, nickel, molybdenum, platinum, and zinc.

However, challenges such as poor management, inadequate law enforcement, opposition from indigenous communities, and past environmental damage have limited the exploitation of these resources.

Biodiversity Update 05/27/2024 

The Philippines is considered a megadiverse country, known for its exceptionally high rates of discovery and endemism. It boasts a remarkable biodiversity, with approximately 67 percent of species found in the country being endemic.

The Philippine rainforests, in particular, are home to a wide array of flora, including around 3,500 endemic plant species out of an estimated 13,500 plant species in total. The country is known for its diverse range of trees, with about 3,500 tree species, 8,000 flowering plant species, 1,100 fern species, and 998 orchid species identified.

In terms of fauna, the Philippines has a rich variety of wildlife. It is home to 167 terrestrial mammal species, 102 of which are endemic, as well as 235 reptile species (160 endemic), 99 amphibian species (74 endemic), 686 bird species (224 endemic), and over 20,000 insect species.

The waters surrounding the Philippines, which are part of the Coral Triangle ecoregion, are renowned for their unique and diverse marine life. The country has over 3,200 fish species, including 121 endemic species. Ongoing exploration continues to reveal new marine species.

The Philippines features eight major types of forests, including dipterocarp forests, beach forests, pine forests, molave forests, lower and upper montane forests, mangroves, and ultrabasic forests.

Forest cover in the Philippines has experienced significant decline over the years due to deforestation, primarily caused by illegal logging. Forest cover decreased from 70 percent of the total land area in 1900 to approximately 18.3 percent in 1999.

However, government reforestation efforts have helped reverse this trend, leading to an increase in national forest cover by 177,441 hectares (438,470 acres) from 2010 to 2015.

The Philippines places high importance on biodiversity conservation and has designated more than 200 protected areas, covering an expanded area of 7,790,000 hectares (30,100 square miles) as of 2023. Three sites in the Philippines are included on the UNESCO World Heritage List: the Tubbataha Reef, the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River, and the Mount Hamiguitan Wildlife Sanctuary.

Climate

The Philippines has a tropical maritime climate characterized by hot and humid conditions. It experiences three distinct seasons: a hot dry season from March to May, a rainy season from June to November, and a cool dry season from December to February.

The Philippines has a tropical maritime
The Philippines has a tropical maritime

The southwest monsoon, known as the habagat, prevails from May to October, while the northeast monsoon, called amihan, dominates from November to April. The coolest month is January, and the warmest is May.

Temperatures at sea level in the Philippines generally fall within the same range regardless of latitude, with an average annual temperature of around 26.6 °C (79.9 °F). However, in higher elevated areas like Baguio, situated 1,500 meters (4,900 ft) above sea level, the average temperature is lower at 18.3 °C (64.9 °F). The country experiences high humidity, with an average of 82 percent.

Annual rainfall varies across the country. The mountainous east coast receives as much as 5,000 millimeters (200 in) of rainfall, while some sheltered valleys receive less than 1,000 millimeters (39 in). The Philippines lies within the Pacific typhoon belt and is affected by approximately 19 typhoons in a typical year, mainly from July to October. Of these, around eight or nine typhoons make landfall. The wettest recorded typhoon in the Philippines occurred in Baguio from July 14 to 18, 1911, when it dropped 2,210 millimeters (87 in) of rainfall. Due to its geographical location, the Philippines is one of the ten countries most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

Government and politics Update 05/27/2024 

The Philippines has a democratic government and operates as a constitutional republic with a presidential system. The president serves as both the head of state and the head of government, and holds the position of commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The president is elected through direct elections and serves a six-year term. They have the authority to appoint and lead the cabinet.

The legislative branch of the government is bicameral, consisting of the Senate as the upper house and the House of Representatives as the lower house. Senators are elected at-large and serve six-year terms, while representatives are elected from legislative districts or party lists and serve three-year terms.

The judicial branch is headed by the Supreme Court, which is composed of a chief justice and fourteen associate justices. The president appoints these justices from nominations submitted by the Judicial and Bar Council.

In Philippine politics, prominent families, political dynasties, and celebrities often dominate the landscape. There have been attempts to change the government structure to a federal system, a unicameral legislature, or a parliamentary government since the Ramos administration.

Corruption is a significant issue in the country and is often attributed by historians to the padrino system that existed during the Spanish colonial period.

Foreign relations Update 05/27/2024 

The Philippines is an active member of various international organizations and maintains diplomatic relations with many countries. As a founding member of the United Nations, the Philippines holds a seat in the Security Council and participates in peacekeeping missions, particularly in East Timor. It is also a founding and active member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the East Asia Summit, the Group of 24, and the Non-Aligned Movement. The country has sought observer status in the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and was a member of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO).

With a significant diaspora of over 10 million Filipinos living and working in various countries, the Philippines wields soft power on the global stage. It has strong economic and security ties with the United States, with a Mutual Defense Treaty and agreements such as the Visiting Forces Agreement and Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement. However, under President Duterte, relations with the United States have somewhat weakened in favor of improved ties with China and Russia.

The Philippines has longstanding relations with China and significant cooperation between the two countries. Japan is a major bilateral contributor of official development assistance to the Philippines, and while there is some historical tension, relations have improved over time. Relations with Spain are influenced by historical and cultural ties. The presence of a large number of Filipinos working in Middle Eastern countries shapes relations with those nations, and issues related to the Muslim minority in the Philippines also play a role.

The Philippines has territorial claims in the Spratly Islands, which overlap with claims by China, Malaysia, Taiwan, and Vietnam. The 2012 Scarborough Shoal standoff between the Philippines and China led to an international arbitration case, in which the Philippines eventually won. However, China rejected the result and has made the shoal a symbol of the broader territorial dispute.

Overall, the Philippines engages in regional and international cooperation, participates in free trade agreements, and maintains relationships with a wide range of countries to advance its economic, security, and diplomatic interests.

Military Update 05/27/2024 

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is composed of three branches: the Philippine Air Force, the Philippine Army, and the Philippine Navy. It is a volunteer force, and its primary responsibility is to ensure the security and defense of the country. Civilian security, on the other hand, is the responsibility of the Philippine National Police under the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

As of 2022, the AFP had a total manpower of approximately 280,000 personnel, including 130,000 active military personnel, 100,000 reserves, and 50,000 paramilitaries. The defense budget in 2021 amounted to $4,090,500,000, which accounted for about 1.04 percent of the country’s GDP. The majority of the defense spending is allocated to the Philippine Army, which focuses on addressing internal threats such as communist and Muslim separatist insurgencies. However, this emphasis on internal security has led to a decline in the country’s naval capabilities over the years.

To address these challenges and improve its defense capabilities, the Philippines initiated a military modernization program in 1995, which was further expanded in 2012 to enhance its overall defense system.

The Philippines has faced ongoing struggles against local insurgencies, separatism, and terrorism. Significant progress has been made in addressing separatist movements in the Bangsamoro region, with the Moro National Liberation Front and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front signing final peace agreements with the government in 1996 and 2014, respectively. However, there are still militant groups, such as Abu Sayyaf, that have engaged in kidnapping foreigners for ransom, primarily in the Sulu Archipelago. Efforts to combat these groups have led to a reduction in their presence.

The Communist Party of the Philippines and its military wing, the New People’s Army, have been engaged in guerrilla warfare against the government since the 1970s. Although their military and political influence has diminished since the restoration of democracy in 1986, they continue to carry out ambushes, bombings, and assassinations targeting government officials and security forces.

Overall, the Armed Forces of the Philippines plays a crucial role in safeguarding the country’s security and stability, addressing internal threats, and maintaining law and order.

Administrative divisions Update 05/27/2024 

The Philippines is geographically and administratively divided into 17 regions, 82 provinces, 146 cities, 1,488 municipalities, and 42,036 barangays. These divisions serve as administrative units for governance and provide a framework for the delivery of public services and local governance.

The regions, with the exception of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), are primarily created for administrative convenience and to facilitate efficient governance. Each region is composed of several provinces and has its own regional government offices.

Among the regions, Calabarzon (Region IV-A), which is located in Luzon, had the largest population as of 2020. On the other hand, the National Capital Region (NCR), commonly known as Metro Manila, had the highest population density due to its concentration of economic activities and urbanization.

The Philippines operates as a unitary state, meaning that the central government has significant authority over the local governments. However, steps towards decentralization have been taken to devolve some powers and responsibilities to local governments. In 1991, a law was passed to grant greater autonomy and decision-making powers to local governments, allowing them to have more control over local affairs and the delivery of public services.

The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) is an exception to the unitary system. It was established as an autonomous region through the Bangsamoro Organic Law, aiming to address the historical grievances of the Muslim population in Mindanao and promote self-governance in the region.

These administrative divisions play a crucial role in facilitating governance, service delivery, and decision-making processes at various levels within the Philippines.

Demographics Update 05/27/2024 

As of May 1, 2020, the population of the Philippines was approximately 109,035,343 people. In 2020, about 54 percent of the population resided in urban areas. The capital city, Manila, and Quezon City, the most populous city in the country, are both located within the metropolitan area known as Metro Manila. Metro Manila is home to around 13.48 million people, accounting for 12 percent of the Philippines’ total population. It is the most populous metropolitan area in the country and the fifth most populous in the world.

The median age in the Philippines is 25.3 years, indicating a relatively young population. The majority, about 63.9 percent, of the population falls within the age range of 15 to 64 years.

The average annual population growth rate in the Philippines has been decreasing. Efforts by the government to further reduce population growth have been a topic of debate and contention. However, the country has made progress in reducing poverty, with the poverty rate decreasing from 49.2 percent in 1985 to 18.1 percent in 2021. Additionally, there has been a decline in income inequality since 2012.

These demographic trends and changes in the population composition have implications for various aspects of the country, including social services, infrastructure development, and economic planning.

Ethnicity Update 05/27/2024 

The Philippines is known for its substantial ethnic diversity, influenced by historical foreign interactions and the geographical division of the archipelago. According to the 2010 census, the largest ethnic groups in the Philippines were Tagalog, Visayans (excluding Cebuano, Hiligaynon, and Waray), Cebuano, Ilocano, Hiligaynon, Bikol, and Waray. Indigenous peoples in the country consisted of 110 ethnolinguistic groups, including the Igorot, Lumad, Mangyan, and indigenous peoples of Palawan.

Negritos are believed to be among the earliest inhabitants of the islands. They are considered an Australoid group, possibly descendants of the first human migration from Africa to Australia who were displaced by later waves of migration. Some Philippine Negritos also have genetic admixture from Denisovans.

The majority of ethnic Filipinos belong to various Southeast Asian ethnic groups and speak Malayo-Polynesian languages as part of the Austronesian population. The exact origin of the Austronesian population is uncertain, but it is believed that their language and culture spread through contact with Taiwanese aborigines and intermixing with the existing population.

Immigrants from the Spanish Americas arrived in the Philippines during the Spanish colonial period. Genetic studies have shown that a significant portion of Filipinos have modest European descent due to historical admixture. Filipinos have genetic markers reflecting Southeast Asian and Oceania heritage, Eastern Asian ancestry, as well as influences from Southern Europe, Southern Asia, and Native American populations from Latin America.

Filipinos of mixed-race heritage are referred to as Mestizos or tisoy, originally denoting Filipinos of European or Spanish descent. Chinese Filipinos, primarily descendants of immigrants from Fujian, number around two million and are well-integrated into Filipino society. Additionally, there are significant populations of Americans, Indians, Arabs, and Japanese Filipinos, including Christians who fled religious persecutions in Japan.

The diverse ethnic composition of the Philippines has shaped its culture, traditions, and societal dynamics, creating a vibrant and multicultural society.

Languages

The Philippines is linguistically diverse, with Ethnologue listing 186 languages, of which 182 are still actively spoken. Most native languages in the Philippines belong to the Philippine branch of the Malayo-Polynesian languages, which is a subgroup of the Austronesian language family. There are also Spanish-based creole varieties collectively known as Chavacano spoken in certain regions. The Philippine Negrito languages have distinct vocabularies that have survived the influence of Austronesian languages.

Filipino and English are the official languages of the country. Filipino, which is based on Tagalog, is primarily spoken in Metro Manila and is widely used in government, education, media, and business alongside a local language. English is also widely spoken and used in various domains. The Philippine constitution allows for the voluntary use of Spanish and Arabic, although their usage has significantly declined. Spanish loanwords still exist in Philippine languages, and Arabic is primarily taught in Islamic schools in Mindanao.

Additionally, 19 regional languages are recognized as auxiliary official languages and used as media of instruction in their respective regions. These languages include Aklanon, Bikol, Cebuano, Chavacano, Hiligaynon, Ibanag, Ilocano, Ivatan, Kapampangan, Kinaray-a, Maguindanao, Maranao, Pangasinan, Sambal, Surigaonon, Tagalog, Tausug, Waray, and Yakan.

The linguistic diversity of the Philippines reflects the rich cultural heritage and adds to the unique identity of its various regions and communities.

In addition to the languages mentioned earlier, there are several other indigenous languages spoken in specific provinces of the Philippines. These languages include Cuyonon, Ifugao, Itbayat, Kalinga, Kamayo, Kankanaey, Masbateño, Romblomanon, Manobo, and various Visayan languages. These languages have their own unique characteristics and are used by the respective communities in their daily lives.

Filipino Sign Language is the national sign language of the Philippines and serves as the language of deaf education in the country. It is an important means of communication for the deaf community and is recognized as an official language alongside spoken languages.

Religion

Although the Philippines is a secular state that upholds freedom of religion, religion holds significant importance for the majority of Filipinos. Irreligion is relatively low, and Christianity is the dominant religion, followed by approximately 89 percent of the population. As of 2020, Roman Catholics accounted for 78.8 percent of the population, making the Philippines home to the world’s third-largest Roman Catholic population and the largest Christian nation in Asia. Other Christian denominations include Iglesia ni Cristo (2.6 percent), the Philippine Independent Church (1.4 percent), and Seventh-day Adventism (0.8 percent). Protestants make up around 5% to 7% of the population.

Islam is the second-largest religion in the country, with 6.4 percent of the population identifying as Muslims according to the 2020 census. The majority of Muslims reside in Mindanao and nearby islands, with most adhering to the Shafi’i school of Sunni Islam.

A small percentage of the population, approximately 0.23 percent, follow indigenous religions, which often blend with elements of Christianity and Islam. Buddhism is practiced by about 0.04 percent of the population, primarily among Filipinos of Chinese descent. The Philippines is also known for sending Christian missionaries worldwide and serving as a training center for foreign priests and nuns.

Health

Healthcare in the Philippines is primarily provided by the national and local governments, although private payments account for the majority of healthcare spending. Per-capita health expenditure in 2021 was ₱9,839.23, and health expenditures constituted six percent of the country’s GDP. The 2023 budget allocation for healthcare was ₱334.9 billion. The Universal Health Care Act, enacted in 2019, facilitated the automatic enrollment of all Filipinos in the national health insurance program, aiming for universal healthcare coverage. Malasakit Centers, established in government-operated hospitals since 2018, offer medical and financial assistance to indigent patients.

The average life expectancy in the Philippines as of 2022 is 70.14 years, with males having a life expectancy of 66.6 years and females 73.86 years. Access to medicine has improved due to the increasing acceptance of generic drugs among Filipinos. The leading causes of death in the country in 2021 were ischaemic heart diseases, cerebrovascular diseases, COVID-19, neoplasms (cancers), and diabetes. Communicable diseases are often associated with natural disasters, particularly floods.

The Philippines has a total of 1,387 hospitals, of which 33 percent are government-run. Primary care is provided through 23,281 barangay health stations, 2,592 rural health units, 2,411 birthing homes, and 659 infirmaries across the country. The Philippines has been a major global supplier of nurses since 1967, with many nursing graduates seeking employment overseas. This brain drain poses challenges in retaining skilled healthcare practitioners within the country.

Education

Primary and secondary schooling in the Philippines consists of six years of elementary education, four years of junior high school, and two years of senior high school. The government provides free public education at the elementary and secondary levels, as well as at most public higher education institutions. Science high schools for talented students were established in 1963 to provide specialized education. The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) offers technical-vocational training and development programs. In 2004, the government initiated alternative education programs for out-of-school children, youth, and adults to improve literacy, including the mainstreaming of madaris (Islamic schools) in Muslim areas.

As of 2019, the Philippines had a total of 1,975 higher education institutions, with 246 being public and 1,729 being private. Public universities are non-sectarian and are classified as state-administered or local government-funded. The University of the Philippines (UP) system is the national university and consists of eight schools. The top-ranked universities in the country include UP, Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University, and University of Santo Tomas.

The Philippines has a basic literacy rate of 93.8 percent among individuals aged five years old and older, and a functional literacy rate of 91.6 percent among those aged 10 to 64. Education receives a significant proportion of the national budget, with ₱900.9 billion allocated for education in the ₱5.268 trillion 2023 budget.

Economy

The Philippine economy ranks as the 40th largest in the world, with an estimated nominal gross domestic product (GDP) of $401.6 billion in 2022. As a newly industrialized country, the Philippines has been transitioning from an agriculture-based economy to one with a greater focus on services and manufacturing. The country’s labor force stood at around 49 million in 2022, with an unemployment rate of 4.3 percent. Gross international reserves amounted to $100.666 billion as of January 2023. The debt-to-GDP ratio decreased to 60.9 percent by the end of 2022, indicating resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic. The official currency of the Philippines is the Philippine peso (₱ or PHP).

The Philippines is a net importer and a debtor nation. Its main export markets include China, the United States, Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore, with primary exports comprising integrated circuits, office machinery and parts, electrical transformers, insulated wiring, and semiconductors. Key import markets for the Philippines are China, Japan, South Korea, the United States, and Indonesia. Major export crops include coconuts, bananas, pineapples, and abaca (the world’s largest producer). The country was also the world’s second-largest exporter of nickel ore in 2022 and the largest importer of copra in 2020. The Philippine economy has experienced an average annual growth rate of six to seven percent since around 2010, making it one of the fastest-growing economies globally. This growth has been primarily driven by the service sector, though regional development has been uneven, with Manila benefiting the most. Remittances from overseas Filipinos play a significant role in the country’s economy, reaching a record of $36.14 billion in 2022, accounting for 8.9 percent of GDP. The Philippines is a popular destination for business process outsourcing (BPO), with approximately 1.3 million Filipinos employed in the sector, mainly in customer service. In 2010, the Philippines surpassed India as the world’s primary BPO center.

Science and technology

The Philippines boasts one of the largest agricultural research systems in Asia, despite relatively low spending on agricultural research and development. The country has made significant advancements in developing new crop varieties, particularly in rice, coconuts, and bananas. Notable research organizations involved in this field include the Philippine Rice Research Institute and the International Rice Research Institute, which focus on the development of new rice varieties and crop management techniques.

The Philippine Space Agency is responsible for maintaining the country’s space program. The Philippines acquired its first satellite in 1996 and launched its first micro-satellite, Diwata-1, in 2016 through the United States’ Cygnus spacecraft.

Mobile technology is widely embraced in the Philippines, with a high concentration of cellular phone users and a thriving mobile commerce industry. Text messaging, in particular, is a popular form of communication, with the country sending an average of one billion SMS messages per day in 2007. The telecommunications industry in the Philippines was dominated by the PLDT-Globe Telecom duopoly for over two decades, but the entry of Dito Telecommunity in 2021 has brought improvements to the country’s telecommunications services.

Tourism

The Philippines is a popular destination for foreigners seeking retirement due to its favorable climate and low cost of living. It is also highly regarded among diving enthusiasts, offering exceptional diving sites and experiences. Notable tourist spots in the country include Boracay, which was named the best island in the world by Travel + Leisure in 2012, El Nido in Palawan, Cebu, Siargao, and Bohol.

Tourism plays a significant role in the Philippine economy, although its contribution was lower in 2021 compared to 2019 due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, tourism accounted for 5.2 percent of the country’s GDP, whereas in 2019, it accounted for 12.7 percent. The tourism industry also provides employment opportunities, with 5.7 million jobs generated in 2019. In terms of international visitors, the Philippines attracted 8.2 million in 2019, representing a 15.24 percent increase from the previous year. The majority of tourists came from East Asia (59 percent), followed by North America (15.8 percent), and ASEAN countries (6.4 percent).

Infrastructure

Transportation

Transportation in the Philippines encompasses various modes, including road, air, rail, and water. Roads are the primary means of transportation, serving 98 percent of people and 58 percent of cargo. The country had approximately 210,528 kilometers (130,816 mi) of roads as of December 2018. The Pan-Philippine Highway is a key road network connecting Luzon, Samar, Leyte, and Mindanao. Inter-island transportation is facilitated by the Strong Republic Nautical Highway, a system of highways and ferry routes spanning 919 kilometers (571 mi) and linking 17 cities. Public land transport includes popular vehicles like jeepneys, as well as buses, UV Express, TNVS (Transport Network Vehicle Service), Filcab, taxis, and tricycles. Traffic congestion is a significant challenge, particularly in Manila and on routes leading to the capital.

Rail transportation in the Philippines is limited primarily to Metro Manila, Laguna, Quezon, and a short track in the Bicol Region. As of 2019, the country had a railway network of only 79 kilometers (49 mi), with plans for expansion to 244 kilometers (152 mi). Efforts are underway to revive freight rail to alleviate road congestion.

The Philippines has 90 national government-owned airports, including eight international and 41 principal airports. The busiest airport is Ninoy Aquino International Airport, formerly known as Manila International Airport. Philippine Airlines, the national flag carrier, and Cebu Pacific, a leading low-cost carrier, dominate the domestic air travel market.

Water transportation plays a crucial role in the Philippines, with a variety of boats used throughout the country. The most common type of boat is the double-outrigger vessel known as banca or bangka. Modern boats have transitioned from using logs and sails to plywood and motor engines. Boats serve purposes such as fishing and inter-island travel. The Philippines has over 1,800 seaports, with major ports located in Manila, Batangas, Subic Bay, Cebu, Iloilo, Davao, Cagayan de Oro, General Santos, and Zamboanga. These ports are part of the ASEAN Transport Network.

Overall, transportation infrastructure in the Philippines is continually evolving to meet the demands of its growing population and facilitate efficient movement of people and goods throughout the country.

Energy

In 2021, the Philippines had a total installed power capacity of 26,882 MW. The energy mix consisted of 43 percent from coal, 14 percent from oil, 14 percent from hydropower, 12 percent from natural gas, and seven percent from geothermal sources. The country is the world’s third-largest producer of geothermal energy, following the United States and Indonesia. Geothermal power plays a significant role in the Philippines’ energy production.

The San Roque Dam, located on the Agno River in Pangasinan, is the country’s largest dam, stretching 1.2 kilometers (0.75 mi) in length. Hydropower contributes to the overall energy generation in the Philippines.

The Malampaya gas field, discovered off the coast of Palawan in the early 1990s, has helped reduce the country’s reliance on imported oil. It supplies approximately 40 percent of Luzon’s energy needs and 30 percent of the country’s energy requirements.

During the 1970s, plans to harness nuclear energy were initiated in response to the 1973 oil crisis under the presidency of Ferdinand Marcos. The Philippines completed the construction of Southeast Asia’s first nuclear power plant in Bataan in 1984, with a designed capacity of 621 MW. However, political issues following Marcos’ removal from power and safety concerns raised after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster prevented the plant from being commissioned. The operation of the nuclear power plant remains a controversial topic in the country.

The energy landscape in the Philippines is continuously evolving as the government seeks to diversify its energy sources and promote sustainable and renewable energy generation to meet the growing demand for electricity.

Water supply and sanitation

Water supply and sanitation services outside of Metro Manila in the Philippines are primarily provided by the government through local water districts in cities or towns. In Metro Manila, water services are managed by Manila Water and Maynilad Water Services. Domestic groundwater users, apart from those using shallow wells, are required to obtain permits from the National Water Resources Board.

The majority of sewage in the Philippines is handled through septic tanks. According to the Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation in 2015, 74 percent of the population had access to improved sanitation, indicating significant progress between 1990 and 2015. As of 2016, 96 percent of Filipino households had access to an improved source of drinking water, and 92 percent had sanitary toilet facilities. However, the connection of toilet facilities to appropriate sewerage systems remains inadequate, particularly in rural and urban poor communities.

Efforts are ongoing to improve water supply and sanitation infrastructure across the country. The government, along with various stakeholders, continues to work towards expanding access to clean water and proper sanitation facilities, particularly in underserved areas and vulnerable communities.

Culture

The Philippines is known for its rich cultural diversity, which is influenced by its unique geography and history. The country’s fragmented geography has contributed to the development of distinct cultures across different regions. The long periods of Spanish and American colonization have had a profound impact on Filipino culture.

Spanish influence is deeply rooted in Filipino culture, evident in various aspects such as language, religion, and naming customs. The Philippines is predominantly Catholic, largely due to the Spanish influence during colonization. Many Filipinos bear Spanish names and surnames, which can be traced back to an edict in 1849 that mandated the adoption of Spanish naming conventions. Additionally, numerous locations in the Philippines have Spanish-derived names.

American culture has also left its mark on modern Filipino society. The use of English as a widely spoken language and the popularity of American fast food, films, and music are examples of the American influence. English has become an important language in education, business, and everyday communication in the Philippines.

Despite the strong Spanish and American influences, it is important to note that the Philippines is a culturally diverse nation with various indigenous groups. These indigenous communities, such as the Igorots, have managed to preserve their precolonial customs and traditions, showcasing the country’s cultural richness and diversity.

Over time, a sense of national identity has emerged, characterized by shared symbols, cultural practices, and historical narratives. The Philippines continues to celebrate and embrace its diverse cultural heritage, promoting unity and understanding among its people.

Values

Filipino values are deeply rooted in various aspects of personal relationships and social dynamics. These values are influenced by kinship, obligations, friendships, religion (particularly Christianity), and commerce. The overarching goal of these values is to promote social harmony and maintain positive relationships within a group.

One of the key Filipino values is “pakikisama,” which emphasizes the desire for acceptance and harmonious relationships within a group. It is motivated by a sense of belonging and the importance of fitting in. Building and maintaining personal alliances is highly valued in Filipino culture.

Reciprocity is another significant cultural trait known as “utang na loob,” which translates to a debt of gratitude. It is believed that when someone does a favor for you, you are indebted to them and should reciprocate their kindness. This internalized debt is seen as a lifelong commitment, and the expectation of repayment is deeply ingrained in Filipino culture.

Filipino society places great importance on the family unit. Loyalty, maintaining close relationships, and caring for elderly parents are deeply ingrained values. Many Filipinos working abroad often send remittances to support their families back home, highlighting the strong sense of familial responsibility.

Respect for authority figures and the elderly is highly valued in Filipino culture. Gestures like “mano” (placing the elder’s hand on one’s forehead as a sign of respect) and the use of honorifics like “po” and “opo” demonstrate reverence towards others. Terms like “kuya” (older brother) and “ate” (older sister) are used to show respect and establish a sense of hierarchy and familiarity.

Other important Filipino values include optimism about the future, pessimism about the present, concern for others, friendliness, hospitality, religiosity, self-respect, respect for others (especially women), and integrity. These values shape the behavior and mindset of Filipinos in various social contexts.

It is important to note that while these values are generally prevalent in Filipino society, individual beliefs and behaviors may vary. The Philippines’ cultural diversity also contributes to a wide range of value systems across different regions and communities.

Art and architecture

Philippine art is a fusion of indigenous folk art and foreign influences, particularly from Spain and the United States. Throughout history, art has served various purposes, including spreading Catholicism during the Spanish colonial period and reflecting the influence of racially superior groups.

During Spanish colonial rule, classical paintings with religious themes were prevalent. Artists like Juan Luna and Félix Resurrección Hidalgo gained prominence for their works that drew attention to the Philippines. The introduction of modernism in the 1920s and 1930s, led by artists like Victorio Edades, brought new artistic styles to the Philippines. Fernando Amorsolo, known for his pastoral scenes, also made a significant impact on Philippine art.

Traditional Philippine architecture is characterized by two main models: the indigenous bahay kubo (nipa hut) and the bahay na bato (house of stone), which developed under Spanish influence. However, architectural styles may vary in different regions of the Philippines. For example, in Batanes, houses were built with limestone to withstand typhoons.

Spanish architecture influenced town designs, often centered around a central square or plaza mayor. Many buildings from this period were destroyed during World War II. The adaptation of baroque architecture to withstand earthquakes resulted in the development of Earthquake Baroque churches, with four of them collectively recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Spanish colonial fortifications, primarily designed by missionary architects and built by Filipino stone masons, can be found in several parts of the Philippines.

American rule introduced new architectural styles, such as Art Deco, in the construction of government buildings and theaters. City planning efforts led by Daniel Burnham resulted in the creation of architectural designs and master plans for portions of Manila and Baguio. Neoclassical and Greek-inspired government buildings were constructed as part of the Burnham plan. The influence of Spanish and American periods is also visible in the architecture of Iloilo, particularly along Calle Real.

The blending of indigenous, Spanish, and American influences has shaped the diverse landscape of Philippine art and architecture, reflecting the country’s rich cultural heritage.

Music and dance

There are two main types of Philippine folk dance: those stemming from traditional indigenous influences and those influenced by Spanish culture. While native dances had declined in popularity, there was a revival of folk dancing in the 1920s. The Cariñosa, a Hispanic Filipino dance, is unofficially considered the national dance of the Philippines. Popular indigenous dances include the Tinikling and Singkil, which involve rhythmic clapping of bamboo poles. Contemporary dances range from delicate ballet to street-oriented breakdancing.

During the Spanish era, rondalya music featuring traditional mandolin-type instruments was popular. Spanish-influenced musicians primarily used bandurria-based bands with 14-string guitars. Kundiman, a genre of traditional Filipino love songs, developed in the 1920s and 1930s and experienced a revival in the postwar era. The American colonial period introduced Filipinos to U.S. culture and popular music. Rock music emerged in the 1960s and evolved into Filipino rock, encompassing various genres like pop rock, alternative rock, heavy metal, punk, new wave, ska, and reggae. The martial law period in the 1970s gave rise to Filipino folk rock bands and artists who played a significant role in political demonstrations. This decade also saw the emergence of the Manila sound and Original Pilipino Music (OPM). Filipino hip-hop originated in 1979 and gained mainstream popularity in 1990. Karaoke is also widely popular in the Philippines. From 2010 to 2020, Pinoy pop (P-pop) was influenced by K-pop and J-pop.

Theatrical drama in the Philippines was established in the late 1870s. Spanish influence introduced zarzuela plays (with music) and comedias, which incorporated dance. These plays became popular nationwide and were written in various local languages. American influence brought vaudeville and ballet to the Philippine theater scene. Realistic theater became dominant in the 20th century, with plays focusing on contemporary political and social issues.

Literature

Philippine literature encompasses works written in Filipino, Spanish, and English. Some of the earliest well-known works date back to the 17th to 19th centuries. These include Ibong Adarna, an epic about a magical bird attributed to José de la Cruz (Huseng Sisiw), and Florante at Laura by Tagalog author Francisco Balagtas. José Rizal, a renowned Filipino national hero, wrote the novels Noli Me Tángere (Social Cancer) and El filibusterismo (The Reign of Greed), which depict the injustices of Spanish colonial rule.

Folk literature in the Philippines remained relatively unaffected by colonial influence until the 19th century, primarily due to Spanish indifference. Most printed literary works during the Spanish colonial period were of a religious nature, although Filipino elites who later learned Spanish wrote nationalistic literature. The arrival of the Americans introduced the use of English in Filipino literary works. In the late 1960s, during the presidency of Ferdinand Marcos, Philippine literature was influenced by political activism, and many poets began using Tagalog, aligning with the country’s oral traditions.

Philippine mythology has been primarily passed down through oral tradition. Popular figures in Philippine mythology include Maria Makiling, Lam-ang, and the Sarimanok. The country has a rich collection of folk epics, with wealthy families preserving transcriptions of these epics as family heirlooms, particularly in Mindanao. One example is the Maranao-language epic called Darangen.

Media

In the Philippines, Filipino and English are the primary languages used in media, although broadcasting has shifted towards Filipino. Television shows, commercials, and films are regulated by the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board. Most Filipinos obtain news and information from television, the internet, and social media. The People’s Television Network (PTV) is the country’s flagship state-owned broadcast-television network. ABS-CBN and GMA, both free-to-air networks, were the dominant TV networks in the country. Philippine television dramas, known as teleseryes and mainly produced by ABS-CBN and GMA, have gained popularity in several other countries.

The history of film in the Philippines dates back to January 1, 1897, with the country’s earliest films being in Spanish. Local film-making began in 1919 with the release of the first Filipino-produced feature film, “Dalagang Bukid” (A Girl from the Country), directed by Jose Nepomuceno. The postwar era from the 1940s to the early 1960s is considered a high point for Philippine cinema. While the commercial film industry expanded until the 1980s, the 1962–1971 decade saw a decline in quality films. Critically-acclaimed Philippine films include “Himala” (Miracle) and “Oro, Plata, Mata” (Gold, Silver, Death), both released in 1982. In recent years, the Philippine film industry has faced challenges in competing with larger-budget foreign films, particularly Hollywood productions. However, independent and art films have thrived, gaining recognition domestically and abroad.

The Philippines has a large number of radio stations and newspapers. English broadsheets are popular among executives, professionals, and students, while Tagalog tabloids are popular, especially in Manila, due to their affordability. However, overall newspaper readership is declining. The top three newspapers in terms of nationwide readership and credibility are the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Manila Bulletin, and The Philippine Star. Freedom of the press is protected by the constitution, but the Philippines has been listed as the seventh-most-dangerous country for journalists due to unsolved murders of journalists.

The Philippines has a high internet usage rate, with its population being among the world’s top internet users. As of early 2021, around 67 percent of Filipinos had internet access, with the majority using smartphones. Social networking and watching videos are popular internet activities in the country. The Philippines has shown improvement in terms of innovation, ranking 59th on the Global Innovation Index in 2022, compared to its 2014 ranking of 100th.

Holidays and festivals

In the Philippines, public holidays are classified as regular or special. The holiday economics policy implemented in 2007 allows for the observance of public holidays on the nearest weekend to create long weekends. As of 2023, there are 11 regular holidays in the Philippines:

  1. New Year’s Day – January 1
  2. Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor) – April 10
  3. Maundy Thursday – April 6
  4. Good Friday – April 7
  5. Eid’l Fitr – April 21
  6. Labor Day – May 1
  7. Independence Day – June 12
  8. National Heroes Day – August 28
  9. Bonifacio Day – November 27
  10. Christmas Day – December 25
  11. Rizal Day – December 30

Festivals in the Philippines are primarily religious in nature, and most towns and villages have their own festivals, usually to honor a patron saint. Some of the better-known festivals include Ati-Atihan, Dinagyang, Moriones, and Sinulog. The Christmas season in the Philippines begins as early as September 1, and Holy Week is a solemn religious observance for the Christian population.

Cuisine

Traditional Philippine cuisine has its roots in Malayo-Polynesian origins and has evolved over centuries, incorporating influences from Hispanic, Chinese, and American cuisines to suit the Filipino palate. Filipino cuisine is known for its robust flavors, often combining sweet, salty, and sour tastes. Regional variations exist, but rice is generally the staple starch, although cassava is more common in some parts of Mindanao. Adobo, a dish of marinated meat cooked in vinegar and soy sauce, is considered the unofficial national dish. Other popular dishes include lechón (roast pig), kare-kare (peanut stew), sinigang (sour soup), pancit (noodles), lumpia (spring rolls), and arroz caldo (rice porridge). Traditional desserts, known as kakanin, are made from rice and include varieties such as puto, suman, and bibingka. Ingredients like calamansi (citrus fruit), ube (purple yam), and pili nuts are commonly used in Filipino desserts. Condiments such as patis (fish sauce), bagoong (shrimp paste), and toyo (soy sauce) are used to enhance the flavors of Filipino dishes.

Unlike some other East or Southeast Asian countries, Filipinos typically eat with spoons and forks rather than chopsticks. Traditional eating with the fingers, known as kamayan, is still practiced in less urbanized areas and has gained popularity through the introduction of Filipino food to foreigners and city residents. Kamayan sometimes involves the concept of a “boodle fight,” where banana leaves are used as large plates for communal dining.

Sports and recreation

Basketball is widely regarded as the most popular sport in the Philippines, played at both amateur and professional levels. The country has a deep passion for basketball, and it has a strong following among Filipinos of all ages. Boxing and billiards are also popular sports, with notable Filipino athletes like Manny Pacquiao and Efren Reyes achieving great success and bringing international recognition to the Philippines. Arnis, a traditional martial art, is considered the national martial art of the country. Cockfighting, known as sabong, is a popular form of entertainment, particularly among Filipino men, and has a long history in the Philippines. Video gaming and esports have also gained significant popularity, especially among the younger generation, while traditional indigenous games like patintero, tumbang preso, luksong tinik, and piko have seen a decline in popularity. Efforts have been made to preserve and promote traditional games, particularly in schools, with several bills being filed for that purpose.

In football, the Philippines men’s national team has participated in one Asian Cup, showcasing the country’s presence in the sport. The women’s national football team achieved a historic milestone by qualifying for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup, marking their first-ever participation in a World Cup event. The Philippines has been a consistent participant in the Summer Olympic Games since 1924, with the exception of the 1980 Games when they supported the American-led boycott. The country made history in 2021 when weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz won the Philippines’ first-ever Olympic gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics. The Philippines also made its debut in the Winter Olympic Games in 1972, becoming the first tropical nation to compete in the winter sports event.

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