The Philippines were discovered in 1521 by Spanish conquistadors who admired the paradisiacal islands they saw after many days of sailing. They named the islands after St. Lazarus. Later they were renamed after King Philip. The number of islands in the Republic of Philippines is 7102. Some of them do not have names.
If you ask Filipinos about the origin of the Philippine Islands, you will hear a beautiful legend. It says that long ago there was any land, just sky and water. One day a huge bird was flying over the sea. It had already been flying for many days and wished to find rest. There was any island for hundreds miles around. The bird decided to embroil the sea with the sky hoping for a wonder. The sea ran high trying to reach the sky. The sky threatened, gathered clouds and lightened. The struggle could last longer, but the sky was scared of waves almost reaching it and threw a handful of land to the sea. The land turned into thousands islands and waves start beating against them unable to rise higher. This was how the Philippines appeared.
The history of Philippines numbers tens of thousands years. Thus, the first people appeared here over 30 thousand years ago. The Philippines underwent several liberation rebellions and colonization attempts. Spaniards were the first, they were followed by Americans who helped Filipinos to throw off the Spanish power, and as it could be expected, the Philippines felt under American power. The last attempt was made by Japan, which took power over the islands for two years. Many things have changed since that time and they have democracy today. However, any leader of the Philippines have not brought yet great wealth to his people.
Geographical Location and Climate
The Philippines are located in the Western part of the Pacific Ocean between the northern part of Borneo Island and the south end of China. The largest islands are Luzon and Mindanao, which occupy approximately one third of the Philippines. The capital of the Philippines, Manila is located on Luzon. Other large islands are Palawan, Negros, Panay, Samar, Leite, and Mindoro. Only about 2000 islands of more than 7000 are populated. However, some islands are so small that they would not accommodate a small settlement of two or three houses. The islands are of volcanic origin, they are all tops of sea ranges. That's why the islands are rocky. Today, they still have active volcanoes. The most famous of them is Apo.
It is interesting that communication between islands is often easier than within one island. High ridges separate people more than the sea. Landscapes of all islands include mountains. The islands extend for 1850 km from north to south and for 900 km from east to west. Mountains and water are an integral part of all islands. The third component of the Filipino landscape is forest. It takes about one third of all land. Hundreds of valuable trees grow here. The most famous is nara. It's height reaches over 40 meters, its wood is very strong. Another famous tree is lauan, which bottom diameter reaches 6 meters. Those who see Filipino forest for the first time are usually under its impression. Even native inhabitants always take special knife called bolo with them to cut lianas and other sprouting, otherwise, it would be impossible to make a step in the forest.
The major part of the Philippines has tropical climate, the northern part has subequatorial climate. Despite the tropical climate is associated with exhaustive heat, here it is moderated by the sea proximity. The average temperature throughout the year is 23 to 28 degrees centigrade; zero temperature is possible only in the mountains but it rarely happens. The coldest months are November and December when the temperature falls down to 23 to 24 degrees. It can reach 35 degrees in the period from March to May. Actually, the year can be divided into two seasons: dry season from October to May and rain season from June to October, which is often accompanied by strong typhoons and earthquakes.
Culture and Population
The population of the Philippines is about 92 million people; most of them belong to Austronesians. The population falls into ethnic groups, the most widespread are Ilocanos, Pangasinans, Tagals, Bicols, and Pampangans. The native population of the Philippines, Negritos, form today no more than 30% of the total population.
The official language is Filipino, which is the mixture of English and Tagal. Besides, they have tens languages and dialects, the most widespread are Tagal, Hiligainon, Ilokano, Waray-Waray, Bicol, and Sebuano. Filipinos are very religious. 80% of the population are Catholics, 10% are Protestants, the rest profess Islam and Buddhism.
The Philippines' culture is very original and can be long talked about. It includes elements of both eastern and western cultures. The culture has been also much influenced by the religion: the power of the Catholic Church is clearly distinguished. They have various Christian festivals celebrated with much clat. Other holidays like New Year and military parades are of the same pageantry and scope. Fiesta is worth separate attention. Whether it is war, hunger, or devastation, they cannot prevent fiesta. In addition, each island and city has its own festival. Thus, they always celebrate something in the Philippines.
The local population is friendly and loyal towards visitors. Whatever happens, Filipinos find the reason for joy. They are always cheerful and try to find the way out of every situation. These people are full of buoyancy, so we can learn from them. No matter how friendly they are, visitors are required to honor their rites and traditions. As to the general image of Filipinos, opinions vary. Some consider them lovely people, other say they are driven by benefit. Irrespective of these words, Filipinos are famous by their hospitality. They always please their guests, often at their own expense.
Filipinos are very conservative by nature. Family values stand first for them. Family is very important for them and attitude towards elder people is worthy of respect. It is almost impossible to meet an old person in the street left to the mercy of fate.
The Filipino cuisine is much influenced by the geographical position of the country. Multiple seas and water bodies are an inexhaustible source of fish, seafood, and weeds. Tuna, crabs, mollusks, and shrimps are the small list of traditional components of Filipino dishes. Another integral element of each eating is rice. They eat it three times a day with various vegetables and seafood. Seafood is traditionally grilled; it can be previously soaked in vinegar, soybean sauce, or coconut milk. Filipino cuisine cannot be called sophisticated, it is quite simple.
As the Philippines have international population, every coming nation brought its dishes. Many ingredients were unavailable and they used analogs or substituted them for other products. Thus, they have pork, poultry, and other meat. Today's Filipino cuisine is very diverse. It includes adjusted and slightly changed Spanish, Chinese, and Malay dishes. Despite its simplicity, Filipino cuisine belongs to world's high cuisines offered in many European restaurants. This is largely explained by the original combination of products and exotic sauces that add sophisticated and unique flavor to the dishes.