History and People
The Philippines is the third largest English speaking country in the world. It has a rich history combining Asian, European, and American influences. Prior to Spanish colonization in 1521, the Filipinos had a rich culture and were trading with the Chinese and the Japanese. Spain’s colonization brought about the construction of Intramuros in 1571, a “Walled City” comprised of European buildings and churches, replicated in different parts of the archipelago. In 1898, after 350 years and 300 rebellions, the Filipinos, with leaders like Jose Rizal and Emilio Aguinaldo, succeeded in winning their independence.
In 1898, the Philippines became the first and only colony of the United States. Following the Philippine-American War, the United States brought widespread education to the islands. Filipinos fought alongside Americans during World War II, particularly at the famous battle of Bataan and Corregidor which delayed Japanese advance and saved Australia. They then waged a guerilla war against the Japanese from 1941 to 1945. The Philippines regained its independence in 1946.
Filipinos are a freedom-loving people, having waged two peaceful, bloodless revolutions against what were perceived as corrupt regimes. The Philippines is a vibrant democracy, as evidenced by 12 English national newspapers, 7 national television stations, hundreds of cable TV stations, and 2,000 radio stations.
Filipinos are a fun-loving people. Throughout the islands, there are fiestas celebrated everyday and foreign guests are always welcome to their homes.
The PHILIPPINES stands at the crossroads of the developed western world and the Orient. It lies in the heart of Southeast Asia, stretching more than 1,840 kilometers. Composed of 7,641 islands, the Philippines is readily accessible to the different capitals of the world. Its three main islands are Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
The South China Sea washes its western shores. Taiwan, China and Hong Kong are northern neighbors and further north is Japan. To the west lie Southeast Asian countries such as Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. An arm of the archipelago reaches out towards Borneo and at its feet stands the chain of Indonesian islands. To the east and south, the waters of the Pacific Ocean sweep its headlands, looking out towards Micronesia and Polynesia.
Its unique location has made the Philippines the commercial, cultural and intellectual hub of Asia from the dawn of history.
The first half of the year, from January to May, is the best time to visit the country. November to February is cool, while March to May is hot and dry. June to October is rainy, with the months between July and September characterized by typhoons. Average temperature is 78 degrees F/25 degrees C; average humidity is 77%. Some parts of the country such as Cebu, are warm and comfortable in all seasons and can be visited throughout the year.
For up-to-date weather information, visit the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Adminstration (PAGASA) website: www.pagasa.dost.gov.ph or call PAGASA 24-hour hotline (632)4338526.
The following are allowed duty-free: reasonable quantity of clothes, jewelry, and toiletries; two (2) cartons of cigarettes or two (2) tins of pipe and tobacco; two (2) bottles of alcoholic beverages not more than one litter each.
All passengers arriving in international airports of entry shall choose between the following types of channels with regard to their accompanied baggage:
GREEN CHANNEL – For passengers of international airlines with NOTHING TO DECLARE or having with them no goods for purposes of import duties or taxes, or having with them only goods which can be admitted free of import duties and taxes, and not having with them any good which are subject to import prohibition, restriction or regulation – they need not accomplish a Customs Declaration Form for purposed of clearing their accompanied baggage.
RED CHANNEL – For passengers of international airlines WITH GOODS TO DECLARE for purposes of import duties/taxes, or having with then goods above the exempted Customs limits, or having with them any goods or articles prohibited, controlled or regulated by several statutes – present a duly accomplished Customs Declaration Form together with their Passport of the passenger before commencing an examination or clearance of the accompanied baggage. (Source: Customs Administrative Order No. 02-2014)
Any individual (either Philippine residents or non-residents) is allowed to bring into or take out of the Philippines up to PHP 50,000 without prior written authorization from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP). In excess of this amount, prior BSP written authorization should be secured.
There is no quantitative restriction as to the amount of foreign currency as well as other foreign currency-denominated bearer monetary instruments (such as travelers’ checks, other checks, drafts, notes, money orders, bonds) that may be brought into or taken out of the country. But if the amount exceeds US $10,000 or its equivalent in other foreign currency, this must be declared in writing (with information on the source and purpose of the transport of such currency or monetary instrument) using the Bureau of Customs’ (BOC) prescribed Foreign Currency and Other Foreign Exchange-Denominated Bearer Monetary Instruments Declaration Form. The BOC declaration form is available at the BOC desk in the arrival/departure areas of all international airports and seaports in the Philippines. (SOURCE: www.miaa.gov.ph)
Visit the Bureau of Customs website at www.customs.gov.ph for more information.
The currency in the Philippines is the Peso (PHP) and the Centavo. 100 centavos = P1. Coin denominations are: 1, 5, 10, and 25 centavos, P1, and P5. Bill denominations are 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1, 000 Pesos.
Foreign currency may be exchanged at your hotel, and in most of the large department stores, banks and authorized money changing outlets. Exchanging money anywhere else is illegal and the laws are strictly enforced.
Most large stores, restaurants, hotels and resorts accept major credit cards including American Express, Visa and Master Card. Traveler’ s checks preferably American Express are accepted at hotels and large department stores. Personal checks drawn on foreign banks are generally not accepted.
Travel Tax and Airport Fees
Philippine Nationals are expected to pay for the Philippine Travel Tax upon departure from the Philippines. It is usually paid at the airport upon departure or; oftentimes, already included in the cost of the ticket when purchased.
Who may be exempted from paying the Travel Tax? Find out here: www.tieza.gov.ph
The Domestic Passenger Service Charge (DPSC – better known as the Passenger Terminal Fee) of PhP 200.00 for domestic travel has been incorporated in the airline tickets since August 1, 2012.
The International Passenger Service Charge (IPSC – better known as the Passenger Terminal Fee) of PhP 550.00 for international travel was also incorporated in the airline tickets starting February 1, 2015.
The integration of passenger service charge into the price of airline tickets was implemented simultaneously by all airlines. The integration will be by default for tickets purchased online or from ticketing offices and travel agents. Integration will be upon booking or ticket purchase, whether purchased in the Philippines or abroad. The scheme shall also recognize and honor all exemptions mandated by law.
Manila, Cebu, Davao, Clark, Subic, and Laoag are the international gateways, with the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila as the premier gateway. It is served by more than 30 airlines, which fly to different cities around the world. The Mactan International Airport (MIA) in Cebu handles regular flights from Japan, Singapore, and Australia as well as chartered flights from Hong Kong, the United States, and other major travel capitals. Davao International Airport handles regular flights from Indonesia and Singapore. The Diosdado Macapagal International Airport and Subic Airfield in Central Luzon service both chartered and cargo planes. Laoag International Airport in Ilocos Norte services regular flights from Taiwan and Macau. Website: www.philippineairlines.com
Philippine Airlines (PAL), the national flag carrier and considered “Asia’s First Airline,” remains the country’s biggest airline company. It has the largest number of international flights to the Philippines as well as domestic flights. PAL links Manila to 14 cities in 8 countries, and flies regularly to 41 domestic destinations outside Manila.
Cebu Pacific Air (5J), the low fare leader in the Philippines, is the country’s leading domestic airline with the lowest year-round fares, most number of destinations, most number of routes, most number of flights, most number of passengers flown in its domestic network and newest fleet of brand new Airbus A320s, Airbus A319s and ATR 72-100s. It links Manila to 21 domestic destinations and the Philippines to 12 international destinations with its direct flights. It also makes its international and domestic destinations virtually accessible to each other through its extensive connecting flight network. The airline currently operates hubs in Manila, Cebu, Davao and soon, in Clark. Website: www.cebupacificair.com
Other airlines that presently fly the Philippine skies are Air Philippines, South East Asian Airlines, Laoag International Airlines, Zest Air (formerly Asian Spirit Airlines), and Pacific Airways – each serving popular tourist destinations at pocket-easy prices. For a more personal experience, chartered flights are available via small air companies such as Airspan Corporation (helicopters), A. Soriano Aviation, and Aerolift Philippines (small-to-medium-sized planes).
As the 7,641 islands of the Philippines are separated by different bodies of water, the sea plays an integral part in traveling to and within the country. A range of seafarers are available, from huge cargo ships to small ferry boats; take long trips that last for a day or two with regular ship lines or take shorter ones with ferries. Major cruise liners call on the port of Manila.
You can go around the city in jeepneys, metered taxis, rapid transit systems like the Metro Rail Transit (MRT), tricycles or rent-a-car services.
Arts and Culture
The major cultural agencies of government are the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, the National Museum, The National Library, the Records Management and Archives Office, and the Commission on the Filipino Language. The Heads of these cultural agencies are all ex-officio members of the NCCA Board and all except the Commission on the Filipino Language are together under the National Commission on Culture and Arts.