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About the Philippines

Quick Facts

Population (projected 2010) 94.013 million

Land area: 300,000 square kilometers

Capital: Manila (population 1,660,714 as of 2007)


Helpful statistic links:

Bureau of Agricultural Statistics Department of Agriculture (

National Statistics Coordination Board (

National Statistics Office (



The Filipino people are basically of South Asian stock, although there has been extensive intermarriage with other populations from different countries - including China, India, the United States, Spain, among others - resulting in a great deal of stock blending.

About 79 indigenous ethnic groups make up the Filipino people. There are 120 distinct indigenous languages (with 500 variant languages or dialects) spoken by these ethnic groups. Thirteen languages are considered “dominant languages” because they are spoken by more than a million speakers: Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilokano, Hiligaynon, Waray-Waray, Kapampangan, Bikol, Albay Bikol, Pangasinan, Maranao, Maguindanao, Kinaray-a, and Tausug. The lingua francas are Filipino (the national language) and English. A Filipino will speak a least two of these languages.

The historical experiences of the Philippines in the last 500 years have contributed to create a pluralistic blend of Asian and Western cultures. The colonial rule by Spain (1576-1898) and the United States (1903-1946) have resulted in the deep entrenchment of Christian values in the Filipino identity, yet the dynamic cultural interaction with China, India, Indonesia, and Malaysia throughout the past centuries gives a distinct Asian texture to the heritage of Filipino culture.


Physical Geography

The Philippines, an archipelago of 7,100 islands at the fringe of the South China Sea, is in the region of Southeast Asia. The archipelago is divided into three island groups: the Luzon group (composed Luzon [land area of 105,000 square kilometers], Palawan, Mindoro, Marinduque, Masbate, and Batanes), the Mindanao island group (composed of Mindanao [land area 95,000 square kilometers], Basilan, Tawi-Tawi, and Sulu; and the Visayas (a large cluster of islands whose six largest are Bohol, Cebu, Leyte, Negros, Panay and Samar).

The Philippine archipelago is volcanic in origin, and the large islands are mountainous is terrain.


Political Geography

The Philippines is administratively divided into 79 provinces, each governed by a Governor. Each province has a provincial capital, which is the seat of government and is usually the center of commerce and services.

These provinces are grouped into 17 regions based on geographical proximity and cultural history. There are three special administrative regions: the National Capital Region (which consists of the 16 cities and 1 municipality making up Metro Manila), the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (comprised of Marawi City and the five predominantly Muslim provinces of Mindanao), and the Cordillera Administrative Region (comprised of the six provinces that are the cradle of the Igorot people).



The diversity of indigenous ethnicities of the Philippines (79 ethno-linguistic groups) has produced a complex and heterogeneous mix of cultures. Each ethnic group has a distinct heritage of language (79 ethnic languages with about 240 variants or dialects), costumes, folk lore and oral traditions, cuisine, dance, art and music, which were shaped by the group’s beliefs, value system, and relationship with the natural geography. In the period before the Spanish conquest of the Philippines, these groups developed in relative isolation with each other, owing to the archipelago’s insular and mountainous geography. However, Spain’s imposition of the Catholic religion, as well as a Euro-centric educational system and culture, influenced the indigenous cultures. The establishment of Spanish encomiendas and settlements, which evolved into towns and cities, caused migrations which forced indigenous groups to mix and homogenize.

Certain indigenous groups harmonized with the Spanish colonists and absorbed foreign influences. The peoples of the regions now known as Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog,Ilocandia, Bicolandia, and the Visayas were Hispanized, and their respective cultures developed nuances shaped by Catholicism, Spanish and Mexican traits.

Many indigenous groups which resisted Spanish influence and rule, or were left alone because of their geographic isolation, retained their way of life. The peoples of the island of Mindanao remained distinct because they were able to adhere to their Muslim faith and kept close cultural contact with kingdoms of Malaysia and Indonesia. The peoples of the Cordillera mountains fiercely retained their distinct mountain culture and beliefs, resisting evangelization by missionaries. Many aeta tribes remained nomadic, dwelling in mountain ranges.

Indigenous cultural identities remained intact despite western influences and Christianization.

Website references: National Commission on Culture and the Arts:



The Philippine archipelago was gradually settled by peoples migrating from the Asian mainland. Archeological finds suggest that Paleolithic hominids lived in the archipelago around 24,000 BCE. Migrations to the Philippines during the Neolithic Age included waves of Austronesians, the first of whom were the ancestors of the aetas, followed by groups of Southeast Asian peoples from 5000 to 1500 BCE.

Throughout the first millennium of the Christian era, settlers from present-day China, Malaysia and Indonesia settled in the Philippine archipelago, bringing their culture and religion, as well as trade with their places of origin, enriching the ethnic and cultural development of the indigenous peoples.

Organized states began to form around the second century, which had trade links with China, Java, Borneo, Thailand, india, and Arabia. Some prosperous states evolved into small kingdoms between the 7th and 15th centuries, thriving in present-day Pampanga, Manila Bay, Cebu, Iloilo, Pangasinan, Aparri, Laguna, and Sulu. Oral traditions and archeological findings suggest that exiles from the wars of the Majapahit Empire of Java settled in the Central Luzon area. Missionaries from Arabia began to arrive in the 11th century and spread Islam throughout Mindanao and the southern regions of Luzon.

The first recorded European encounter of the Philippines was the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan at Homonhon, Leyte in March 1521. Magellan’s involvement in a war between two rajahs resulted in his death in a battle in Mactan, Cebu in the following month. Spain undertook the military conquest of the Philippines in 1565 with the sending of Miguel López de Legazpi and an army, which landed in Cebu in February 1565. Legazpi formed an alliance with Datu Sikatuna of Bohol in March 1565, who provided support and supplies to the Spanish force, in return for the dispersal of the latter’s enemies. Legazpi conquered the island of Cebu in the following month, established a colonial settlement he named “Villa del Santisimo Nombre de Jesús”, from which he carried further military expeditions against neighboring islands. Subsequent additional forces from Mexico brought reinforcements and colonists which solidified Spanish control. Legazpi conducted further campaigns that conquered the area of Manila Bay, where he established a permanent settlement named Intramuros in June 1571, which became the seat of Spanish power and administration over the archipelago.

For the next centuries, Spain maintained the Philippines as a religious outpost and its base for trade with China. Missionaries spread Catholicism throughout the archipelago. From Intramuros, Spain launched military incursions against the Dutch in Indonesia, as well as religious missions to China, Japan, and other parts of Asia.

Spanish treatment of the Filipino people was harsh in many areas. Heavy taxation, the imposition of mandatory service in heavy labor, and abuses by the Spanish civil guard were hard on the people, especially the peasant class. Revolts sporadically broke out throughout the archipelago during Spain’s three-century rule, however, these revolts were generally severely dealt with. In the 18th century, members of the growing native bourgeoisie going to Europe for education came in contact with the liberal thought flourishing in that continent, and from their ranks came a group of dissident intellectuals who clamored for reformed in the colonial governance of the Philippines and representation of the Filipino people in Cortes Generales of Spain. In the 1870s, the Filipino intellectual émigrés in Europe, orchestrated their actions into a Propaganda Movement which lobbied for the liberalization of Spain’s colonial governance of the Philippines. The Propaganda Movement was led by Marcelo del Pilar, José Rizal, Graciano López Jaena, and Mariano Ponce. The Propaganda Movement failed, but their writings and thought were taken up by masses in the Philippines. José Rizal, who wrote the novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, as well as numerous essays and commentaries criticizing the corruption of the Spanish officials in the Philippines, became a widely-read sociopolitical thinker highly respected by the Filipino masses.

The failure of the Propaganda Movement convinced many Filipinos that the Spanish colonial government will never agree to social reform. In 1892, Andrés Bonifacio formed a secret society called the Katipunan whose aim was to gain independence by revolution. The society grew and attracted the proletarian class. In August 1896, Spanish authorities began the arrest of members, which preempted Bonifacio to start the revolution. On 26 August 1896, Bonifacio and members of the Katipunan tore their cedúlas (identity papers) at the town of Balintawak, and began the Philippine Revolution.

The Revolution spread to eight provinces (Manila, Cavite, Bulacan, Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Bataan, Laguna, and Batangas). The first year of the revolution went badly against the Filipinos, who were poorly armed, untrained, and loosely organized. But victories were scored by Emilio Aguinaldo, who led the revolutionary forces in the province of Cavite and successfully drove out the Spanish forces there by October 1896. In May 1897, Aguinaldo gained the leadership of the Katipunan.

By 1898, most of the province of Cavite had driven out Spanish forces, and on 12 June 1898, the revolutionary forces in Cavite under Emilio Aguinaldo declared the independence of the Philippines and established the Philippine Repubilc. In November 1898, delegates from the liberated areas of the Philippines assembled in Malolos, Bulacan and formed the Congreso Revolucionario (later called the Malolos Congress), which framed a Constitution (which was ratified on 29 November 1898 and signed into law on 23 December 1898). The Congress elected Aguinaldo president on 1 January 1899.  On 23 January, the Congress inaugurated the Philippine Republic with Aguinaldo as President.

Spanish control over the Philippines deteriorated as the revolution spread throughout the archipelago. The Spanish situation was exacerbated by its war against the United States, the conflict that is known as the Spanish-American War (21 April – 10 December 1898). In May 1898, the United States launched a surprise naval attack on the Spanish fleet in Manila, which resulted in the destruction of the Spanish Pacific fleet. The United States sent thousands of land troops around Manila to follow up with a land campaign, and these forces, coordinating with Filipino revolutionaries, laid siege to Manila from June to August 1898. The war ended when Spain, suffering defeats in the Pacific and Caribbean, was forced to end hostilities and signed  a peace treaty, ceding to the United States its colonies of the Philippines, Guam, Cuba and Puerto Rico.

On 21 December 1898, US President William McKinley made a declaration that the United States was annexing the Philippines. The United States maintained its troops in the Philippines after the surrender of Spain, tension developed between Filipino and American forces. Hostilities broke out when two American infantrymen shot and killed Filipinos on 4 February 1899, which were followed by American military incursions against Bulacan. The Philippine Congress made a formal declaration of war on 2 June 1899. American forces eventually defeated the Filipino military in the ensuing Philippine-American War, which ended when Aguinaldo was captured on 23 March 1901 and resulted in the fall of the Philippine Republic.

The United States instituted a civil government headed by an American Governor-General. The system of government, bureaucracy, school system, media, and other socio-economic institutions were patterned after American models. In 1916, the US Congress enacted the Jones Law, which officially declared that independence eventually will be granted to the Philippines, at a date which later will be set to 4 July 1946.

For more than 40 years, the Philippines was a territory of the United States, and was the latter’s base for military, trade, and diplomatic activities in Asia. The US colonial administration instituted executive, judicial, and legislative systems, as well as civil bureaucracy patterned after American institutions.

The United States allowed the Philippines to prepare itself for independence. On 15 November 1935, ten years before the scheduled granting of independence, the Philippines became a commonwealth with the United States. The Philippine Commonwealth, whose first president was Manuel Quezon, had quasi-independent status and was intended as the transition from American administration to full independence.

In the Second World War, Japan attacked the Philippines, landing its invasion force on 8 December 1941 and overcoming defense by the joint US and Philippine forces by April 1942. The Japanese conquest of the archipelago was quick and the ensuing occupation of the Philippines was harsh and brutal; but many guerilla resistance groups harried Japanese forces and hampered their operations. The US military campaign to retake the Philippines started on 20 October 1944, with the landing of forces on Leyte Island. By February 1945, most of the Philippines was retaken, with some isolated pockets of Japanese forces holding out until Japan’s surrender in August 1945.

Immediately after the Liberation, the Commonwealth Government was reconstituted, and the country undertook the task of reconstructing the war-damaged economy and infrastructure.  On 4 July 1946, the granting of independence was enacted by the US.

Website references: National Commission on Culture and the Arts:



Sectoral statistical about the Philippines is provided by the National Statistics Offices (NSO) at its website and by the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) at

GDP (2009 nominal terms): PHP 7.678 trillion (USD 169.419 billion)

GNP (2009 nominal terms): PHP 8.809 trillion (USD 194.373 billion)

Per capita GDP (Q4 2009): PHP 23,742

Per capita GNP (Q4 2009): PHP 26,684

Personal consumption expenditure (Q4 2009): PHP 17,413

Total Trade (2009, FOB Value): USD 81.528 billion

Imports: USD 43.092 billion

Exports USD 38.436 billion

Inflow of OFW remittances (2009): USD 17.348 billion


Employment rate (April 2010): 92.0%

Underemployment rate (April 2010): 17.8%



The climate of the Philippines is tropical and maritime, characterized by relatively high temperature, high humidity and abundant rainfall.

The mean annual temperature is 26.6 degrees Celsius. The coolest months fall in January with a mean temperature of 25.5 degrees Celsius. May is the warmest month with a mean temperature of 28.3 degrees Celsius.

The average monthly relative humidity varies between 71 percent in March and 85 percent in September. The combination of warm temperature, high relative and absolute humidities contribute to high sensible temperature throughout the archipelago. Temperature and humidity are at their highest levels from March to May.

Rainfall distribution throughout the country varies from region to region, affected by the direction of the moisture-bearing winds and the location of the mountain systems. The mean annual rainfall of the Philippines varies from 965 to 4,064 millimeters annually. Baguio City, eastern Samar, and eastern Surigao receive the greatest amount of rainfall while the southern portion of Cotabato receives the least amount of rain. At General Santos City in Cotabato, the average annual rainfall is only 978 millimeters.

The climate has two major seasons: the rainy (or monsoon) season (from June to November) and the dry season (December to May). The dry season may be subdivided further into the cool dry season (December to February) and the hot dry season (March to May).

Typhoons occur during the monsoon season. These storm systems originate in the region of the Marianas and Micronesian Islands of the Pacific Ocean which have the same latitudinal location as Mindanao. Their movements follow a northwesterly direction, generally traversing the latitudes of Luzon and the Visayas.



Benigno S. Aquino III is the fifteenth President of the Republic of the Philippines. He was elected in the 10 May 2010 national elections and was sworn into office on 30 June 2010. Information about the President may be accessed through the following websites:

The Office of the President

Official Gazette of the Philippines



Directory of the Philippine Government


Philippine Government agencies - click here

Philippine Medias - click here