Capital | Manila
Population | 101,833,938 (July 2011 est.)
Area | 300,000 SQ KM
Official Language | Filipino, English
Holidays | Independence Day, 12 June (1898); note - 12 June 1898 was date of declaration of independence from Spain; 4 July 1946 was date of independence from US
Currency | Peso (PHP)
Time Zone | UTC +8
Best Time to Visit | September to the middle of May (the typhoon off-season)
Connecting with the Culture | Landing on Boracay beach by boat. Absorbing the 17th-century atmosphere of Unesco-listed Vigan. Joining in the Mardi Gras fun at lloilo’s Dinagyang festival. Rubbing elbows with Pontius Pilate and Barabbas at Crucifixion re-enactments in Pampanga. Losing one’s sanity in Manila but finding reasons to return.
Read | Great Philippine Jungle Energy Café, a magical novel by the multi-award-winning Alfred A Yuson, or Pico lyer’s bitter-sweet insights in the Philippines chapter of this travelogue Video Nights in Kathmandu.
Listen | to Anak (Child), the international hit by Freddie Aguilar.
Watch | Back to Bataan, a wartime film about WWII, starring John Wayne and Anthony Quinn, with a Filipino cast.
Eat | dinuguan, a thick, black soup made of pig’s blood with either pork or chicken entrails.
Drink | guyabano juice, a refreshment made from the soursop fruit.
In a Word | Okey, pare ko (It’s cool, man)
Characteristics | Jeepneys’ San Miguel beer; barong shirts; Latin-souled Asians with Californian accents; Imelda Marcos’ shoes; ultra-hospitable people.
Surprises |Guimaras Island, for its delectable mangoes, ethereal islets and Trappist monastery where you might meet T-shirted and denim-clad monks.
NEWS ABOUT THE PHILIPPINES:
Tropical Storm Gener Slams Manila, Philippines
(HN, 6/28/12) - A storm, the southwest monsoon named "Gener" locally or "Saola" (its international name) & a shallow low-pressure area converged to produce swirling winds & driving rain that battered metro Manila, the capitol of the Philippines & a wide swath of Luzon Sunday night. Weather officials went to great lengths to explain the surprising intensity of the disturbance that toppled trees & downed electric wires, leaving wide areas of the city without power for hours. Floods forced evacuations, leaving many schools to suspend classes. Major dams in Northern Luzon released water to keep levels from reaching critical point after the nation's PAGASA Science Garden station chief said 96.8 millimeters of rains were recorded from 8am Sunday to 8 am Monday, a volume considered “intense to torrential.” The storm is now forecasted to head towards Taiwan. (Read more at MB.COM)
Typhoon AMBO (AKA, Mawar) Hits Philippines, 1st of Season
(HN, 6/7/12) - 5 people remain missing & 2 people were confirmed dead in the Philippines province of Occidental Mindoro as typhoon Mawar (Aka., AMBO) continued to affect parts of the country. It is the first such storm to hit the country this year & arrived just as the 2012-13 school year was beginning with millions of young people in nursery, elementary, high school & college levels expected to start Monday. 30 fishermen had to be rescued in Catanduanes after being reported missing as the typhoon gathered strength.
Packing maximum winds of 120 km/h the storm headed northeast at a slow pace of 13 km/h bringing rains which dumped 20-30 millimetres of water per hour over an area 400km wide in portions of Luzon, the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical & Astronomical Services (PAGASA) said. But while it is moving away from the country, authorities had begun monitoring another Low Pressure Area (LPA) at 1,190 east of Southern Mindanao they felt could exacerbate the effects of Mawar. About 20 storms batter the country each year. (Read more at The Manila Bulletin)