Prior to Spanish colonization in 1521, the Filipinos had a rich culture and were trading with the Chinese and the Japanese. Spain's colonization brought about the construction of Intramuros in 1571, a "Walled City" comprised of European buildings and churches, replicated in different parts of the archipelago. In 1898, after 350 years and 300 rebellions, the Filipinos, with leaders like Jose Rizal and Emilio Aguinaldo, succeeded in winning their independence.
In 1898, the Philippines became the first and only colony of the United States. Following the Philippine-American War, the United States brought widespread education to the islands. Filipinos fought alongside Americans during World War II, particularly at the famous battle of Bataan and Corregidor which delayed Japanese advance and saved Australia. They then waged a guerilla war against the Japanese from 1941 to 1945. The Philippines regained its independence in 1946.
The Philippines is a vibrant democracy, as evidenced by 12 English national newspapers, 7 national television stations, hundreds of cable TV stations, and 2,000 radio stations.
The PHILIPPINES stands at the crossroads of the developed western world and the Orient. It lies in the heart of Southeast Asia, stretching more than 1,840 kilometers. Composed of 7,107 islands, the Philippines is readily accessible to the different capitals of the world. Its three main islands are Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
The South China Sea washes its western shores. Taiwan, China and Hong Kong are northern neighbors and further north is Japan. To the west lie Southeast Asian countries such as Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. An arm of the archipelago reaches out towards Borneo and at its feet stands the chain of Indonesian islands. To the east and south, the waters of the Pacific Ocean sweep its headlands, looking out towards Micronesia and Polynesia.
Its unique location has made the Philippines the commercial, cultural and intellectual hub of Asia from the dawn of history.
November to February is the coolest months and a good time to visit the Philippines as far as weather is concerned. Meanwhile, March to May is the summer months in the country and are classified as hot and dry. June to October is rainy, with the months between July and September characterized by typhoons.
The average temperature in the Philippines is 86degreesF / 30degreesC; average humidity is 77%. Some parts of the country such as Cebu and its neighboring provinces in the Visayas are warm and comfortable in all seasons and can be visited throughout the year.
Tourists can visit the Philippines without a visa if staying in the country for 21 days or less; provided tourists have a passport that is valid for at least 6 months and a return ticket or a ticket to another destination outside the Philippines. If you wish to stay longer you must obtain a Visa Extension either before your trip from a Philippine Consulate or Embassy. Or, once in the country, you may obtain it from the Bureau of Immigrations.
Upon arriving; Visitors are allowed to bring in duty free personal belongings, two cartons of cigarettes or two tins of pipe tobacco and up to one liter of alcohol. “Balikbayans” have separate rules and should check with the Embassy or Consulate in their home city.
You may bring in unlimited amount of foreign currency. Upon Departure; any antiques you may have acquired during your stay must be accompanied by a certificate from the National Museum. You may not take more than PhP5,000.00 (five thousand Philippine pesos) out of the country.
The currency in the Philippines is the Peso (PHP) and the Centavo. 100 centavos = P1. Coin denominations are: 1, 5, 10, and 25 centavos, P1, and P5. Bill denominations are 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1, 000 Pesos.
Foreign currency may be exchanged at your hotel, and in most of the large department stores, banks and authorized money changing outlets. Exchanging money anywhere else is illegal and the laws are strictly enforced.
Most large stores, restaurants, hotels and resorts accept major credit cards including American Express, Visa and Master Card. Traveler' s checks preferably American Express are accepted at hotels and large department stores. Personal checks drawn on foreign banks are generally not accepted.
Philippine Nationals are expected to pay for the Philippine Travel Tax upon departure from the Philippines. It is usually paid at the airport upon departure or; oftentimes, already included in the cost of the ticket when purchased. US Nationals and Permanent Residents (Green Card Holders) are exempt from the Philippine Travel Tax. US Permanent Residents need to secure a Travel Tax Exemption Certificate from the Philippine Tourism Authority at the Department of Tourism Building at TM Kalaw Street, Ermita Manila. The Philippine Travel Tax is PHP1,620.00 (approximately $35.00).
All passengers departing from the NAIA (Ninoy Aquino International Airport) are expected to pay the Airport Terminal Fee of PHP750.00 (approximately $17.00). No one is exempt from paying the Airport Terminal Fee.
Manila, Cebu, Davao, Clark, Subic, and Laoag are the international gateways, with the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila as the premier gateway. It is served by more than 30 airlines, which fly to different cities around the world. The 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 capitals. Davao International Airport handles regular flights from Indonesia and Singapore. The Diosdado Macapagal International Airport and Subic Airfield in Central Luzon service both chartered and cargo planes. Laoag International Airport in Ilocos Norte services regular flights from Taiwan and Macau. Website: www.philippineairlines.com.
Philippine Airlines (PAL), the national flag carrier and considered “Asia’s First Airline,” remains the country’s biggest airline company. It has the largest number of international flights to the Philippines as well as domestic flights. PAL links Manila to 14 cities in 8 countries, and flies regularly to 41 domestic destinations outside Manila.
Cebu Pacific Air (5J), the low fare leader in the Philippines, is the country's leading domestic airline with the lowest year-round fares, most number of destinations, most number of routes, most number of flights, most number of passengers flown in its domestic network and newest fleet of brand new Airbus A320s, Airbus A319s and ATR 72-100s. It links Manila to 21 domestic destinations and the Philippines to 12 international destinations with its direct flights. It also makes its international and domestic destinations virtually accessible to each other through its extensive connecting flight network. The airline currently operates hubs in Manila, Cebu, Davao and soon, in Clark. Website: www.cebupacificair.com.
Other airlines that presently fly the Philippine skies are Air Philippines, South East Asian Airlines, Laoag International Airlines, Zest Air (formerly Asian Spirit Airlines), and Pacific Airways – each serving popular tourist destinations at pocket-easy prices. For a more personal experience, chartered flights are available via small air companies such as Airspan Corporation (helicopters), A. Soriano Aviation, and Aerolift Philippines (small-to-medium-sized planes).
As the 7,107 islands of the Philippines are separated by different bodies of water, the sea plays an integral part in traveling to and within the country. A range of seafarers are available, from huge cargo ships to small ferry boats; take long trips that last for a day or two with regular ship lines or take shorter ones with ferries. Major cruise liners call on the port of Manila.
WG&A Lines, a partnership between William Lines and the Aboitiz Group, has launched its SuperFerry Program, an affordable but convenient alternative to the usually crowded vessels of other ship lines. Website: www.SuperFerry.com.ph.
The major cultural agencies of government are the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the National Historical Institute, the National Museum, The National Library, the Records Management and Archives Office, and the Commission on the Filipino Language. The Heads of these cultural agencies are all ex-officio members of the National Commission on Culture and Arts (NCCA) Board.