Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Philippine Geographical Background


The Philippines is located at the heart of Asia. It is an archipelago consisted of 7, 107 islands with a total land area of almost 307,055 square kilometers. In terms of land area, the Philippines is as large as Italy, slightly smaller than Japan but larger than New Zealand.

The Philippines is divided into three main group of islands- Luzon (northern part), Vizayas (central part) and Mindanao (southern part). The biggest island is Luzon, with a total land area of 104,683 square kilometers is much bigger than South Korea. Due to the numerous islands in the archipelago, more than half of them are not officially named. Its northernmost point is only 125 kilometers south of Taiwan and the southernmost point is only 21 kilometers east of Borneo.

The Philippines is a rugged land of mountains and plains, bays and lakes, rivers and waterfalls, valleys and volcanoes. The highest peak, Mt. Apo at 2,954 meters above sea level is in Mindanao. The lowest portion known as the Philippine Deep at 11,518 meters, situated in the Pacific coast of the archipelago, is also one of the deepest spot in the world. The highest peak in the world, Mt. Everest, can be submerged in the Philippine deep and still leaving more than 2,439 meters of space to spare.


The "Pearl of the Orient", as it is popularly known throughout the world, speaks of the Philippines unique riches and beauty. Many times was it mentioned as the richest land in the world. Its fertile soil, capable of producing a wide variety of crops, the favorable tropical climate envied by the westerners and the rich natural resources are endowments not enjoyed by most countries in the world. With these natural endowments, needless to say, agriculture plays a vital role in the country’s development. Its fertile arable land is said to be at 180 million square kilometers, nearly 70 percent of the total land area. Of this arable land, more than 160 million square kilometers are forests. In Asia, the Philippines ranks third in forest reserves next to Indonesia and Japan. Unfortunately, the destruction of the rich Philippine forest, due mainly to illegal logging activities and the practice of kaingin, has been proceeding at the rate of 1,700,000 square kilometers per year. If this could not be prevented, at this rate, the Philippines would be totally deforested within a few decades.

As it is situated in the earthquake belt of the Pacific, the country is rocked from time to time by seismic tremors and volcanic eruptions. The Philippine Fault, the biggest of its seismic faults, runs from Luzon to Mindanao. Of the more than a hundred volcanoes in the country, 22 are said to be active. The most famous of these volcanoes are Mount Mayon in Bicol, which is known for its perfect symmetry; Taal Volcano, situated at the center of Taal Lake and reputed to be the smallest volcano on earth; and Mount Pinatubo whose eruption in 1991 is deemed as the world’s worst volcanic eruption of the 20th century. It left more than one million Filipinos homeless, and its fumes affected the weather and the ozone layer throughout the world.

The country has rich deposits of gold, silver, copper, and many other expensive metals and minerals. It has the biggest deposit of chromite, the largest deposit of nickel and one of the richest undeveloped iron ore deposits in the world. Gold, silver and other precious stones have been found all over the country in enormous amounts.

The Philippine climate is one of the best tropical climates in the world. In fact, it is one place on earth where flowers bloom all year round. There are only two seasons, the dry and the wet. March to June is the dry season. It is humid but tolerable. The average daytime temperature is at 30 to 35 degrees centigrade. The wet season is from June to October. Strong winds and heavy rains visit the islands of the Philippines during this season. Being situated close to the typhoon belt, preparing for the strong wind, rain, and floods has become a way of life during the wet season. If rain is a blessing, the Philippines is one of the most blessed countries. It hold the world s record for the heaviest 24- hour rainfall of 979 millimeters experienced in Manila on October 17, 1967.


The Philippine forests boast of its rich flora and fauna. It is a haven for almost 4,000 species of trees, about 10,000 species of flowering plants and ferns, 580 species of birds, and 25,000 species of insects. The biggest Philippine bird, Sharpe’s Crane (Cruz antigone sharpei) is almost as tall as a man. The monkey-eating eagle, found in the jungles of Mindanao is the largest eagle in the world. The Philippine Falconet (Microhierax erythrogonys), less than seven centimeters long is said to be the world’s smallest falcon. The smallest monkey in the world, the tarsius, the mouse deer, the smallest deer in the world which is located in Palawan and the Philippine tamaraw (Anoa mindorensis) of Mindoro are some of the unique animals that can only be found in the Philippine forests. The largest flower in the world, the pungapung can also be found in the Philippines. It has a diameter of 30 centimeters and grows in Mindanao’s forests. The most famous of the Philippine trees is the Narra (Pterocarpus indicus), also the Philippine national tree. Aside from its grand beauty and symmetry it is reputed for its durability, no doubt it has become a favorite material for furniture makers.


More than 2,000 species of fish are found in the Philippine waters. Both the biggest and the smallest fish in the world are found in the waters of the Philippines. The whale shark (Rhineodon typus), the largest fish, weighs several tons and measures 15.24 meters or more in length when fully grown. The dwarf pygmy (Pandaka pygmaea) the smallest fish in the world is less than 10 millimeters in length. The endangered Sinarapan (listichthys luzonensis), the smallest commercial fish in the world, can also be found in Lake Buhi, in the Bicol region. Aside from fish, other marine products such as shells, crabs, shrimps, corals, pearls are so abundant in the Philippine waters. Seafood lovers will surely find their delights, fresh and reasonably priced, wherever they are in the country.

It is said that close to twenty percent of the worlds more than 60,000 species of shells can be found in the archipelago. Not surprisingly, the rarest shell (Connus gloriamaris), the smallest (Pisidum) and the largest (Tridacna gigas) shell, are all found in the Philippine waters. Philippine pearls are also considered among the finest in the worlds. The largest pearl in the world, known as the "Pearl of Allah," measuring more than 22.86 centimeters long and 12.7 centimeters in diameter and weighing 6.3 kilograms was found by a Filipino diver in the Palawan sea. Its value was approximated at US$40-42 million as of May 1984.


Endowed with a variety of natural wonders, the Philippines is one of the world’s most beautiful countries. Its shorelines, home for many of the world s finest white-sand beaches, are among the most beautiful in the world. Its waters are so rich it is the sanctuary of abundant colorful and rare marine life. It’s 7,107 islands, from northern Luzon to southern Mindanao abounds with spectacular and unique sites. The most famous among these spots are the St. Paul’s subterranean river system in Palawan measuring 4, 380 meters and is regarded as the longest underground river system in Southest Asia; the Chocolate Hills in Bohol, which resemble scattered chocolate drops when seen from a high elevation; and the Banaue Rice Terraces in the Ifugao province, culled in with great symmetry from the mountains some 2,000 years ago by ancient Ifugaos and dubbed as the "Eight Wonder of the World."

These natural wonders are some of the reasons that enchant many foreign tourists to the Philippines. But what really attract these foreigners in the country are the ever-smiling locals and the warm hospitality of the Filipino people.


Geographically, the Philippines is situated at the heart of Asia, but by race and culture, the Filipino people are a unique blend of the East and the West. The influences brought about by the western colonization and the intensity and duration of its historical and cultural relations with other Asian nations have made them distinctly different and unique from other Asian people. As proven in many parts of the world, the Filipinos easily adjust to any culture – proof to its qualification to bridge the East and the West.

Predominantly Asian in race, Filipinos are a mixture of various race. The most dominant of which is the Malay race. Then there are the Indonesian, Chinese, Negrito, Spanish, Indian, and the American. The Philippines is the only predominantly Christian nation in Asia. More than 90 percent of its 72 million population are Christian of which 85 percent are Roman Catholic. The rest are Muslim, Buddhist and other ethnic beliefs. The Philippines is also one of the most literate nations in Southeast Asia. The literacy rate is at 89.27%. Though there have been efforts to Filipinize the American-patterned educational system, English remains to be the popular medium of instruction. English is spoken and can be understood in almost any part of the archipelago.

There are eight major native languages and more than 100 dialects spoken all over the country. The Tagalog–based Filipino is the national language, spoken by the majority of the population. Cebuano is widely used in the Visayas and Mindanao. Other major native languages are Bicolano, Kapampangan, Panggalatok, Ilokano, Hiligaynon, and Waray. In terms of political history, the Philippines has great contributions to the world. It is the first Asian nation to achieve independence by revolution and, hence the first Republic in Asia. It was also the first Southeast Asian country to have gained independence from the colonial powers after the Second World War. It has become the world’s role model for non-violent revolution when it succeeded in ousting a dictator through its "People Power." Lastly, the Filipinos are known to the world for their hospitality. Most of them will sacrifice comfort for the convenience of guests. They are well known for their very close family ties, high sense of gratitude (utang na loob) and their cooperative (bayanihan) spirit. Most important of all, Filipinos are considered to have very deep spiritual yearning and gift of faith. These gifts keep them emotionally intact even in times of great predicament. Though majority of the people may not be endowed with much material blessings, they are so much blessed in non-material things. Where in the world can you find people smiling in the midst of their suffering – well, only in the Philippines! No doubt, the Filipinos are considered as the "Happiest People in Asia."

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