1. The entire landmass of the Philippines is made up islands, making it the second-largest archipelago in the world.
In fact, the Philippines has approximately 7,500 islands with only 2,000 of them inhabited and nearly 5,000 still unnamed on global maps.
2. There are about 175 languages spoken in the Philippines, with 171 of them considered “living,” while four tribal dialects have no known living speakers. The country’s official languages are Filipino (based on Tagalog) and English, with Cebuano and Ilocano also popular in some regions.
But when Filipinos interact with tourists and foreigners, it’s easy for them to speak English since it’s the fifth largest English-speaking nation behind the U.S., India, Pakistan, and the U.K.
3. About 11% of the population of the Philippines – more than 11 million people – work overseas. In fact, the Philippines is the top supplier of nurses in the world, with about 25% of all overseas nurses coming from the country. In the United States, Filipinos are the second-largest Asian-American group behind only Chinese.
4. Filipinos are crazy about basketball! You’ll see makeshift hoops erected on every street corner, young men commonly wearing NBA jerseys, and local teams playing in every community hall. Their professional league, The Philippines Basketball Association (PBS) is the second oldest in the world after only the NBA! In fact, a good number of players with U.S. college and NBA experience come to play in the PBA.
5. Filipino’s also love boxing with a passion, and when their most famous native son, Manny Pacquiao, fights, it’s like a national holiday. In fact, Filipinos are so supportive of “PacMan” that every time he has a boxing match, the Philippine National Police report that street crime drops to zero in Metro Manila, and the same is true in most of the country.
6. The Philippines produces and exports more coconuts than any country in the world, shipping off about 19.5 million tons of the fruit (called “buko”) every year.
7. While most of their Southeast Asian neighbors practice Buddhism, the Philippines is the only Asian nation that's predominantly Christian, with 90% practicing that religion (and about 80% of its population, Roman Catholic) because of its Spanish colonial influence.
8. Filipinos are very social, spending as much time as possible with family and friends. But they also stay in touch these days by exchanging a whole lot of text messages. In fact, it’s estimated that Filipinos send about 400 million text messages every day, adding up to about 142 billion texts per year, earning them the designation “the texting capital of the world.” That’s more than the total number of daily text messages sent in the U.S. and Europe combined.
9. One of the most remarkable geological formations in the world, the Taal Volcano consists of an island (Luzon) that contains a lake (Taal Lake) with a smaller island in the lake (Volcano Island) with a lake on that island (Main Crater of Taal Volcano) with another tiny islet (Volcano Island) inside! http://faq.ph/facts-about-the-philippines-that-will-blow-your-mind/
10. The Philippines population crossed the 100-million threshold in 2014, ranking as the 12th most populous country in the world. With an annual growth rate of about 2 percent, it’s also one of the fastest growing countries in the world.
11. Manila, the capital of the Philippines, ranks as the city with the highest population density in the world (and some of the worst traffic congestion!). In fact, Manila spans only 24 square miles but has 1,660,714 residents, giving it a population density of 55,446 people per square mile.
Metro Manila, comprising several other conjoined cities, stands at more than 12,877,000 people, making it one of the most populated metropolitan areas in the world.
12. The Philippines island of Palawan has been named one of the best island in the world by Condé Nast Traveler, Travel & Leisure, and other publications, thanks to it’s jaw-dropping natural beauty. Visitors can explore white sand beaches, swim in lagoons, enjoy island hopping in Coron and El Nido, find some of the best scuba diving in the world, and even traverse the underground river in the capital, Puerto Princesa, a UNESCO world heritage site and the second longest underground river in the world.
13. The country suffered one of the largest volcanic eruptions in history on June 15, 1991, when Mt. Pinatubo erupted only a couple hours from Manila. The blast was so powerful that it shot 10 billion metric tons of magma and 20 million tons of toxic sulfur dioxide into the stratosphere, 25 miles high. Mt. Pinatubo’s sent such a big mushroom cloud of ash into the atmosphere that it created a haze of sulfuric acid all around the world for two years, causing global temperatures to drop by 1 degree Fahrenheit!
Tragically, the eruption killed at least 847 people, injured 184, and left more than 1 million people homeless, as well as forcing an American air force base to be abandoned and relocated soon after.
14. Jeepneys are a unique form of transportation that many people in Manila and other places in the Philippines use every day. In fact, jeepneys were born from the thousands of army jeeps that the U.S. military left after World War II. Resourceful Filipinos extended the cabs to accommodate about 18 passengers for hot, bumpy and dusty rides through the streets.
As time went on, drivers adorned the jeepneys in colorful and creative designs to help them stand out, with flashing neon lights, paintings of favorite superheroes, basketball stars, cartoon characters, religious sayings, and just about every other gaudy decoration you can imagine. Still costing only about 8 Pesos (20 cents U.S.), about 50,000 jeepneys run daily in Manila alone, billowing thick clouds of black smoke. They don't have set routes, so passengers just jump on a jeepney going in their direction, pass a coin forward to the driver, and ring a bell when they want to get off.
15. Filipinos LOVE their shopping malls! In fact, they serve as community hubs since they’re clean, safe, and, most importantly, air-conditioned. Aside from the usual stores they also have countless food venues, gyms, grocery stores, banks, health clinics, nightclubs, parks, concert amphitheaters, and even churches inside their malls. In fact, the Philippines is home to three of the ten largest shopping malls in the world, The Mega Fashion Hall of SM Megamall (third-largest in the world, encompassing 5,451,220 sq ft), SM City North EDSA (fourth largest) and SM Mall of Asia (tenth largest).
16. Even among the countless natural wonders of the Philippines, the island of Camiguin stands out since it’s home to the most volcanoes per square mile of any island on Earth. Only about 14 miles long and 8.5 miles wide, Camiguin holds the distinction as the only island on the planet with more volcanoes (7) than towns (5). It's now a great tourist destination with white-sand beaches and friendly locals, but don't worry – the volcanoes have been dormant since the 1950s.
17. Travelers and vacationers flock to the paradise island of Boracay, known for having one of the best beaches in the world with powder-like white sand. Only 3.98 square miles, the island still receives about 1.5 million visitors from home and abroad every year, making it the most popular destination in the Philippines. In fact, Boracay has celebrated as the best islands in the world in a Condé Nast Traveler reader’s poll, as well as highlighted in Travel + Leisure Magazine, CNN, the New York Times Travel, and others.
Here are 50 facts about the best island in the world, Boracay.
18. Typhoons wreak havoc in the Philippines nearly every year, and in 2013, it was Super Typhoon Haiyan (called Yolanda locally) that ripped through the archipelago. Haiyan brought the strongest winds ever recorded at landfall as well as the strongest one-minute sustained wind speed of 195 mph. Sadly, it was also the deadliest typhoon in Philippines history, killing at least 6,100 people and displacing millions according to government reports (although locals estimate the death toll to be closer to 15,000, and a thousand people are still missing).
Coincidentally, I was living on Boracay when Typhoon Haiyan slammed the Philippines, and you can watch my home video of it here.
19. Politeness is an art form in the Philippines. Most foreigners will be referred to as “sir” and “mam” no matter their age. You’ll see younger people refer to the women and men a little bit older as “ates” and “kuyas” (aunt and uncle, respectively).
Filipinos respect and cherish their elders, and that shows in many ways in everyday life. For instance, seniors are addressed as “po” after please, thank you, and other exchanges, with the younger person taking the elder's hand and touching it to their forehead in a charming display of reverence called “mano.”
Elderly, disabled, and pregnant women even have their own line at banks, restaurants and taxi queues, allowing them to bypass the crowd.
However, their politeness can go a little too far, as you’ll rarely hear a Filipino come out with a direct “no” answer when you ask them a question, a trait that can create many challenging and hilarious situations for the foreigner!
20. Filipinos are warm, happy, and have a great sense of humor! In fact, the Philippines is one of the happiest countries in the world, ranking near the top on Gallup’s index. Filipinos also have an uproarious sense of humor, as joking, lighthearted banter, and even singing makes every day in their presence a true blessing. As some Filipino friends have pointed out to me, it’s an inherent trait that helps them cope with such poverty, hardship, and natural disasters. No matter the reason, life in the Philippines is all about smiling, laughing and enjoying every moment with those around you!
These are just a small portion of facts about the Philippines, which I find one of the most remarkable countries on earth! Follow this blog or email me to learn more!
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Norm Schriever is a best-selling author, expat, cultural mad scientist, and enemy of the comfort zone. He travels the globe, telling the stories of the people he finds, and hopes to make the world a little bit better place with his words.