About the Philippines
A touch of Latin in Southeast Asia
With more than 7,100 islands, the Philippines is a large archipelago that stretches from below Taiwan (China) all the way to the northeastern tip of Borneo at the south. The country is generally divided into 3 island groups: Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
Hot, humid, and tropical, the Philippines climate may not accommodate the taste of all travelers, but it provides the right conditions for luxurious nature to thrive. From May to October, the southwest monsoon dominates, while from November to April, the dry winds of the northeast monsoon take over.
The Philippines covers a restless part of the world. Most of the mountainous islands are volcanic, and the country also lies within the typhoon belt of the Western Pacific. It also experiences frequent seismic and volcanic activities.
Extensive deforestation has left very little of the Philippines’ original forest cover. However, some rainforests persist on the island of Palawan, in the northern Luzon highlands (Cordillera Central), the Sierra Madre in the northeastern portion of Luzon and in the mountains of Mindanao.
Many of the birds, amphibians, and reptiles of the Philippines are endemic (found nowhere else in the world). Of the roughly 12,000 species of plants and fungi found in the Philippines, about 3,500 are endemic.
In the Sulu-Sulawesi ecoregion, in the southeast Philippines, thrives a rich variety of coral reefs and animals. This ecoregion, which also includes Indonesia and Malaysia, is of enormous ecological and economical importance, featuring productive ecosystems such as coral reefs, seagrass beds, and mangrove forests.
650 species of reef fishes, 5 of the world's 7 species of marine turtles, dugong, whales and many dolphins navigate these amazing seas daily.
Most Filipinos descend from Austronesian-speaking migrants who arrived around 3,000 BC from Taiwan, China. Today, ethnic groups include the Visayan, the Tagalogs, the Ilocanos, and the Palawan tribes. The Negritos are the original aboriginal inhabitants of the Philippines, with fewer than 30,000 people. Minorities include Chinese, Spanish, Americans, Europeans, Japanese, Koreans, and South Asians among others.
The Philippines is one of only 2 majority Roman Catholic countries in Asia (the other being East Timor). About 90% of Filipinos are Christians, but indigenous traditions and rituals still influence religious practice. A small percentage of Filipinos are Muslims ("Moros"), Buddhists, Jews and animists.
The Philippines is a newly industrialized country with an agricultural base, light industry, and service-sector economy. Industrial production includes food, beverages, tobacco, and pharmaceuticals among others, with heavier industries dominated by the production of cement, glass, industrial chemicals, and refined petroleum products etc.
However, long-term economic prospects are undermined by persisting poverty, inadequate infrastructure and education systems, and trade and investment barriers.
In 2004, life expectancy at birth (years) was 71 years, with adult literacy rates for those ages 15 and older at 93%.