History & The People
Previously home to Indo-Malays and Chinese merchants, the Philippine islands were 'discovered' in 1521 by the Spanish, who christened the archipelago 'Felipinas' after their king of that time, Philip II. The Spanish were dominant for 333 years, until Asia's first nationalist revolutions, which began in 1896 and culmuninated in Philippine independence on June 12, 1898. The Americans then arrived and introduced their legal, educational, and democratic government systems. They turn, held sway until the onset of World War II in 1941, when the Japanese took over for four years, until the Americans returned, leading to lasting Philippine independence on July 4, 1946.
As might be expected from such a background of varied colonization, Filipinos are a racial mix of predominantly Malay stock, intermingled with Chinese, Spanish, American, and Arabic blood, as well as over 100 cultural minority groups sprinkled across the nation. Locals tend to be warm and welcoming toward foreigners of all stripes-Lonely Planet called Filipinos "the most ebullient and easy-going people anywhere," while Forbes.com ranked the Philippines as Asia's friendliest country.
The Philippines teems with 76 to 78 major language groups and over 500 dialects, 8 of which-Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilocano, Bicol, Waray, Pampango, Pangasinense, and Hiligaynon or Ilonggo-are sponken by the majority of Filipino citizens.
However, there are only 2 national languages, and one of them is English, which has for some time been the medium of instruction for higher education. The other official language is Filipino, which, like any living language, is in process of evolution, from its base of Tagalog and variety of loanwards. An odd but traveler-friendly result of this is that many locals who may not speak Filipino are often quite fluent in English.
Philippine currency consists of pesos and centavos, with one peso (PhP1 or simply P1) being equivalent to one hundred centavos. Bills come in 10-, 20-, 50-, 100-, 500-, and 1,000- peso denominations, while coins are in 1-, 5-, 10-, and 25- centavo, as well as 1-, 5-, and 10- peso demoninations.
Foreign currency may be safety exchanged at hotels, bank, authorized money-changing shops, and most big department stores; anywhere else is illegal. Most hotels, resorts, and large restaurants and stores accept major credit cards such as VISA, Mastercard, and American Express. Do note that personal checks are generally not accepted, while travellers' checks are typically only recognized at hotels and major department stores.
Telephone & Mobile Phone
By most foreigners, standards, cell phones are almost shockingly cheap in the Philippines, though it's worth noting that many models may not be useable or easily-chargeable in other countries. Prepaid cell phone lines are similarly inexpensive, though, so it's highly likely that purchasing a temporary phone for use while the country will be more economical than international roaming service. Globe, Smart, Bayantel, and PLDT are some of the most highly-regarded phone service providers.
The Philippine country code is +632. It's advisable to keep your embassy's or consulate's phone number and address with you at all times when travelling, and other important number you may wish to have include the following 24-hour hotlines.
- Police & fire departments: 757 or 116
- Emergency assistance: 501-650 or 501-728
- Directory assistance: 114
- National operator: 109
- International operator: 108
Local time in the Philippines is GMT+8 hours, even if you travel to other provinces.
Anyone departing from Philippine airport - except for children under the age of 2 and airline crew members - must pay a terminal fee before proceeding to the boarding gates, amounting to PhP200 for domestic flights and PhP750 for international travel.