The Philippines is made up of more than 7,100 islands that together combine to form 299,764 sq. km., an area only about the size of Arizona, yet it has a population equal to a third of the U.S. It is the 12th most populated country in the world. There are three main island groups: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. The country’s capital is Manila and its time zone is GMT + 8 hours.
There are basically two seasons in the Philippines, wet and dry, though the dry season just means it doesn’t rain quite as much. March to May is the hot and dry season. June to October is the rainy season. The months of November to February are generally the coolest months of the year. Average temperatures range from 78°F /25°C to 90°F / 32°C, with the humidity level averaging at 77%.
There is a total of 95 million Filipinos as of the national census in May, 2011. Population growth is estimated at 2.36% annually. Luzon is the largest island group and accounts for more than half of the entire population. The country’s capital of Manila boasts a population of 12-18 million.
There are two official languages of the Philippines: Filipino and English. Filipino, which is based on the original national language of Tagalog, is the official national language today. English is also widely spoken and is the medium of instruction in higher education.
There are eight (8) major dialects spoken by the majority of Filipinos: Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilocano, Hiligaynon or Ilonggo, Bicol, Waray, Pampango, and Pangasinense. In addition to these major dialects, there are about 76 to 78 other major language groups, with as many as 500 more dialects.
About 80% of Filipinos are Catholic. The rest are made up of smaller Christian groups, Buddhists, and Muslims. Lumped into the “Christian groups” category are Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons (both growing rapidly), as well as a local Filipino cult known as Iglesia ni Cristo.
In general, the country uses the Metric System (kilometers for distance, and kilograms for weight), but other items tend to be measured in inches. Hardware stores will carry plywood in ½” and ¾” thicknesses, for instance, and pizzas can be ordered as 12” or 14”.
The common standard is 220 volts. Voltage converters are available for 110V appliances. Because of the frequent fluctuations in the electric current, it is advisable to use automatic voltage regulators to protect expensive appliances.
The Philippines’ monetary unit is the peso, divided into 100 centavos. One Philippine peso is approximately $0.022 US dollars, or ₩24.51 Korean won. (Exchange rates vary.)
The country is composed of three major island groups: Luzon, Visayas Region, and Mindanao. These island groups are then divided into 17 regions. Whenever someone refers to NCR (National Capital Region), they are actually referring to the Metro Manila area.
Within each region are Provinces (run by governors) and within each province are cities and towns (run by mayors.) Sections of larger cities are divided into barangays, which are run by a Barangay Captain, and within each barangay are the many neighborhoods known as subdivisions (also called villages.) Faith Academy is in REGION IV-A, also known as the CALABARZON region, which stands for the five provinces it covers: CAvite, LAguna, BAtangas, RIZal and QueZON.
- Blend in as much as possible. Avoid conspicuous behavior such as loud speech, arguing, running, lots of “body language”, etc.
- Dress casually, but not like a tourist. Avoid wearing or carrying valuables. Leave jewelry at home
- Men : Try to keep your wallet in a front pocket, not a back pocket.
- Women : Hold your purse under your arm against your against your body. Watch out for people trying to crowd against you and pushing you when riding escalators in the mall. Many people in the community have been victimized this way.
- Always leave your tentative schedule with your mission or a good friend. If you are away from home, someone should always know where you are.
- Avoid night travel.
- While Filipinos are friendly and ask many questions, be wary of giving out personal information. If it is a stranger, give vague information
- If traveling by a bus, be aware of your personal belongings, people around you, and all exits.
- Make sure your cellphone is charged and has load.