The Philippines; an archipelago of thousands of tropical islands in South East Asia, is a bucket list destination for many travellers. But how well do you know the Philippines?
Officially Republic of the Philippines, with a population of over 110 million people covering an area stretching 1,850 kilometers (1,150 miles) – by anyone’s stretch of the imagination, this means a lot of diversity and culture.
Famous for powder soft white sand beaches, emerald waters, and lush green mountains, Moalboal Eco Lodge help you discover some quirky and fascinating facts. Hope you enjoy our compilation of Facts about the Philppines: 21 interesting, surprising and fun facts.
Language: Filipino, English
President: Rodrigo Duterte
Capital: Manila, Luzon
Currency: Philippine Peso written as ₱ or PHP
Climate: Tropical with Northeast monsoons November to April; and Southwest monsoons May to October
The Philippines are divided into three geographical divisions; Luzon in the North, Visayas in the Middle, and Mindanao in the South.
They are surrounded by four seas: Philippine Sea (east), Celebes Sea (south), Sulu Sea (West) South China Sea (North west)
If you want to find out more, read our article Things You Should Know Before Visiting the Philippines.
1. There are 7,641 islands
The official count is 7,641, which makes it among the largest archipelagos on the planet. There used to be 7,107 (as you will see embedded into the logo of Zabana rum), but an additional 534 islands were added in 2017. Only 2,000 of these islands are inhabited.
If you visited one a day, it would take you nearly 21 years to see them all.
2. “The Beach” was inspired by the Philippines
Leonardo Di Caprio’s 2001 hit movie The Beach may have been filmed in Thailand, but it was actually inspired the Philippines. The author, Alex Garland, was living in the Philippines when he wrote the book and was captivated by the geography of El Nido, Palawan.
3. There are 12 National Symbols
The Philippines doesn’t have just one national symbol, but has 12 to represent its traditions, ideas and its people. The national symbols passed through Philippine law include 6 declared by the constitution which are the Flag, Filipino Language, Coat of Arms, Great Seal, National Anthem, National Motto ("For God, People, Nature, and Country"). The following 6 were declared by executive order:
Bird – Philippine Eagle, also known as the monkey-eating eagle as it was believed to have fed on monkeys. It’s the largest of all eagles with a wingspan of nearly 7 feet. With an estimated 500 or less eagles remaining, they are critically endangered so killing one is punishable by 12 years in prison and a hefty fine.
Tree – Narra, a dark, hardwood known as Philippine mahogany
Flower – Sampaguita, a species of Jasmine
Sign Language – Filipino Sign Language, believed to be part of the French Sign Language, and strongly influenced by the American Sign Language.
Gem – Philippine Pearl (also known as South Sea Pearl), the oyster and pearl can be found on the reverse of the 1,000 peso note.
Sport – Arnis martial arts, a self-defence discipline using sticks and hand to hand combat
Note: The Philippine Eagle is an endangered species, learn more about the nation's iconic bird by visiting Philippine Eagle Foundation website.
4. The National Flag of the Philippines has great symbolic meaning
A flag not only represents a country, but it tells a historical story. The National Flag of the Philippines has great symbolic meaning:
5. The Philippines was a Spanish colony for over 300 years
The Philippines was a Spanish colony for 377 years.
It was on the island of Cebu in 1565 that the first Spaniards settled. Ferdinand Magellan, a Portugese explorer arrived in the Philippines in 1521 claiming the country for Spain, but settlers didn’t lay down roots until later. Magellan was later killed in battle by Lapu-Lapu and his men.
The Philippine Independence day is celebrated on 12 June, the day they declared their independence from Spain in 1898, however their history is not as simple as that…. read on to find out more!
6. America ruled the Philippines for 44 years
Although the Philippines declared their independence from Spain, this happened in the middle of the Spanish-American war, and Spain handed the Philippines over to the United States when signing the Treaty of Paris on 10 December 1898.
The United States would not recognize the First Philippine Republic (who objected to the terms of the Treaty of Paris), and so began the Philippine-American War between 4 February 1899 and 2 July 1902. America emerged victorious and ruled for 44 years.
This war and US occupation lead to the introduction of English as the primary language of government, education, business, industry and among upper-class families and educated individuals.
The United States granted the Philippines independence after World War II on 4 July 1946.
The jeepney, an iconic mode of local transportation became popular when they were abandoned here after the war.
Related Post: Jeepney Street Art in Moalboal
7. San Miguel is brewed in the Philippines
Beer drinkers may think San Miguel is a Spanish beer but it’s actually from the Philippines! San Miguel Pilsen (known locally as Pilsen) is served in small brown bottles, or you can opt for San Miguel Light (SML for short) which is light in calories, not alcohol content! If you prefer a flavoured beer there is Lemon or Apple San Miguel.
Also from the San Miguel brewery, for a hangover that kicks like a mule, try the super-strong Red Horse which has an ABV of 6.9%.
8. Some of the world’s largest shopping malls are in the Philippines
Shopaholics take note, the Philippines has five gigantic shopping malls which are listed as the largest in the world.
There are many different lists claiming to know the world’s largest, so it is unclear whether they are the third, fourth, seventh, or tenth, either way, they are huge!
9. The Philippines hold the patent to the karaoke Machine
Any visitor to the Philippines will know how crazy Filipinos are about karaoke, but did you know it’s a Filipino who holds the patent to the karaoke machine?
Although he didn’t invent the machine, Roberto del Rosario patented the “Sing Along System” in 1975, it’s for this reason some people believe he invented it (this accolade goes to the Japanese in 1971).
Old crooners beware – Frank Sinatra’s “My Way” is banned in some places following the murder of six people after singing it in bars. So before you ask to sing this popular classic, be sure to hit the right notes!
Fun Fact: The word “Karaoke” was born after an orchestra went on strike and a machine was used in its place. Karaoke means empty orchestra in Japanese.
10. Christmas is a season not just a day
11. Beware of the Fairies and Aswang
There are over 260 mythical beings from Philippine folklore. The Aswang are the most well known in the Cebu and Visayan region, and the most feared. When Filipinos speak of the Aswang, they are referring to Duwendes (which are dwarfs or hobgoblins), elves, fairies, shape-shifters or demons. It’s also a term loosely used to describe mythical beings with physical traits or habitats; vampires, wear-dogs, witches and ghouls which devour human corpses.
12. Baby You’re a Firework
Cebu City holds a Guinness World Record for the most amount of fireworks set off in 30 seconds. On 8 May 2010, 125,801 rockets were launched from 16 stacks of 8,000 fireworks. The event was organised by Pyroworks International and it only took 17 seconds for them all to successfully launch.
13. The Philippines holds a Guinness World Record in Basketball
Filipino’s love their Basketball, and The Philippines Basketball Association is the second oldest in the world after North America’s NBA. But did you know that the Philippines hold a Guinness World Record for the longest game of basketball ever played?
A charity event held at Meralco Gym, Manila between 24 - 29 March 2014, saw Walang Iwanan v Bounce Back play for a marathon match lasting 120 hours, 1 minute and 7 seconds. Not only did they enter the Guinness World Records, they helped to raised funds for victims of typhoon Yolanda.
Their Guinness World Record attempts with Basketball don’t end there. On 19 July 2019 in Pasay City, Manila, there was an attempt for the most number of people dribbling a basketball simultaneously. Despite 3,800 participants, they unfortunately failed to beat the record of 7,556 set 22 July 2010. Better luck next time guys!
14. Beauty pageants are huge in the Philippines
Beauty pageants are big news in the Philippines, from Little Miss Philippines to Miss World and Miss Universe.
Locals were particularly proud when Catriona Gray from Oas, Albay, Luzon region, was crowned Miss Universe on 17 December 2018. She was the fourth Filipina to win this title, and is the most successful Asian competitor, also winning Miss World, and Miss World Philippines in 2016.
In an interview after she was crowned, Catriona told reporters she drew inspiration for her dress from a mountain near her hometown. “This was inspired by Mt. Mayon. Mt. Mayon is a famous volcano located in my hometown in Albay, Bicol region in the Philippines. It’s known because it’s a perfect cone shape. That’s where we drew inspiration from, that magma”
15. The Philippines are the “Social Media Capital of the world”
Filipinos spend more time each day on Social Media than any other country in the world.
The 2020 annual study by creative agency We Are Social in conjunction with the social media platform Hootsuite, announced that the Philippines is the social media capital of the world for the third year running. “People in the Philippines top the daily usage charts, spending an average of 9 hours and 45 minutes per day online”.
16. The Yo-Yo was invented by a Filipino
The Yo-Yo is the world’s second oldest toy and has been around for centuries in China, Egypt and Greece, however the word “yo-yo” and the modern day version is thanks to Pedro Flores, a Filipino immigrant living in the US.
Filipinos became experts yo-yo makers carving them out of wood, and as a child, Pedro would play with a basic version of the toy.
In the 1920’s, Pedro Flores took this toy to the US, adapting the style of the yo-yo to what we know today. He began manufacturing it, became the first person to mass produce it from his small factory in California, and showed crowds of delighted people different tricks.
A smart businessman named Donald Duncan saw Pedro “perform”, bought the company, patented the name and rest as they say is history.
17. The Philippines is home to the world’s smallest primate
The Tarsier, a fluffy Yoda-like animal with eyes the size of saucers, is the world’s smallest primate. A picture of this extremely shy creature from Leyte and Bohol, is on the back of the 200 Peso note.
If you want to see these adorable, but extremely sensitive creatures whilst in the Philippines, please visit The Philippine Tarsier Foundation, Corella, Bohol. They are the main non-profit organisation who help protect the Tarsier, are recommended by National Geographic, and by ecotourism organisations DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) and DOT (Department of Tourism).
Tarsiers become very anxious when subjected to any of the above. When stressed, they have been known to commit suicide by bashing their head against a tree trunk. We saw Tarsiers on a night walk in Sulawesi, Indonesia and yes they are very sensitive.
As animal lovers, here at Moalboal Eco Lodge we implore you to put the welfare of these sweet creatures before your photographic needs. If you do visit, please be silent, and absolutely do not use the flash on your camera.
Want to know how to be a responsible tourist? Check out our Ethical Travel Post
18. Two of the world’s longest snakes are from the Philippines
The longest species of venomous snake in the world is a King Cobra, and the longest snake in the world is the Reticulated Python, both are found in the jungles of the Philippines.
The King Cobra’s average length is 3-4 metres (9-13 foot), but can grow up to 5.85 metres (19 foot). It weighs on average around 6kg (13lb). It’s one of few snakes in the world able to kill a human within a few minutes, as the venom injected completely knocks out the diaphragm and heart muscle.
The Reticulated Python has an average length of 4.78 metres (15.6 foot), but can grow up to 9 metres (29.5 foot). They weigh on average around 170 kg (26.7 stone or 374.7 lbs), are most nocturnal and generally not a threat to humans.
19. One of the Black Eyed Peas is Filipino
Rapper Apl de Ap was born Allan Pineda Lind in Angeles City, Luzon where he lived until he was 14 years old before moving to America. He has since returned to the Philippines as a Judge for the reality TV singing contest The Voice of the Philippines now in its fourth season.
20. Bruno Mars and Nicole Scherzinger (of Pussy Cat Dolls fame) are half Filipino
Hawaiian born Peter Gene Hernandez known globally as Bruno Mars is half Filipino. His mother Bernadette del Pedro Bayot was born in Manila, but stopped over in Hawaii on their way to emigrating to San Francisco when she was 10 years old. Her family thought Hawaii reminded her of the Philippines so they stayed.
It doesn’t matter where you’re from Bruno Mars, the world loves you “just the way you are”.
The stunning Pussycat Doll and X-Factor Judge Nicole Scherzinger was born in Hawaii to a Filipino father (Alfonso Valiente), and Hawaii-Russian mother.
21. World class, history making boxer Manny Pacquiao is from the Philippines
Possibly the most famous Filipino in the world is professional boxer, ex Military Colonel, and Senator of the Philippines Manny Pacquiao.
Highly regarded in the boxing world, he was named “Fighter of the Decade” for 2000s, and has more fans than Mayweather (5.2 million v 22.8 Instagram followers). On 20 July 2019 aged 40 years old, he won his 147th fight in his 24 year career beating Keith Thurman 10 years his junior.
Pacquiao is the first boxer in history to win major world titles in four of the eight "glamour divisions" of boxing: flyweight, featherweight, lightweight and welterweight, and also the first boxer ever to win world titles in eight weight divisions.
Manny Pacquiao became a Senator of the Philippines for a six-year term in 2016. In December 2016 and 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte said he wanted to “make Pacquiao his successor”, but the Senator doesn't want to make a bid to become the next President.
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