Moving to the Philippines: What you need to know
Located in the Pacific Ocean, just above the equator is a country comprised of more than 7,000 islands, known for its pristine beaches, wonders of nature and its warm and hospitable people. Here’s what you need to know about the Philippines before settling in.
There are three main islands in the country, separated by water and a few scattered islands, namely Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
Luzon is for situated at the north and is also the biggest island of the three, where the country’s capital, Metro Manila is the centre hub of thriving economy and western-influenced culture. The country’s mid-region is a group of scattered islands collectively known as Visayas while its southern most part and second biggest island is called Mindanao.
Each main group of islands are split into sub-regions that group themselves according to their respective local dialects, geographical location and main resources that support the local economy and its municipalities. Every region has its own flourishing cities, mainly as a centre for businesses and local tourism but most regions are still rural and have only just began to embrace a slight improvement when it comes to modern civilization.
The Filipino people are known to be generous and hospitable by nature. Its people are also known to be hard workers, with a significant amount of its citizens working abroad as migrant workers. It is also one of the most populated countries in the world and running in huge families are considered the norm. Despite the troubled state of governance the widespread poverty, its people are warm and friendly are always welcoming of tourists.
Its long history of colonization by the Spanish, Americans and for a brief period of time, the Japanese, has made the country a mishmash of different traditions, values and customs. Christian faith was introduced under the Spanish colony in the 1800s and now more than 86% of its citizens refer to themselves as Roman Catholics. After the Americans’ invasion after the 300-year Spanish colonization ended shortly before the Second World War, the country had become a Commonwealth of the United States. Unsurprisingly, the mixed influences had trickled down to modern times from the Filipinos’ deep Christian faith to their love of fast-food American restaurant chain stores.
Its ties with the Chinese people and its neighbouring Asian countries has also penetrated into the Filipino culture, with the influx of Chinese, Indian and other Southeast Asian immigrants settling into the country in recent years. Despite the country’s slow but steady economic growth leading to a boom in western influence in the last few decades, its deeply Christian, conservative values and traditions are still widely practiced, making it more akin to countries in South America than its surrounding countries.
The Philippines only has two seasons: Rainy and Sunny season.
Its location above the equator in the vast Pacific Ocean makes it prone to monsoons and strong typhoons.
The best dates to travel would be around early March to early June when the summer season is in full swing and the temperatures can soar up to 40 degrees Celsius, depending on your location. If you prefer a cooler temperature and fancy a bit of fresh mountain air, head up to the Cordillera region, one of the most northern parts of the country, where the mountains covered by towering pine trees, can lead you up to more than 5,000 feet above sea levels. Baguio City is one of its famous cities, having made a rest and recreation stop for American soldiers during the invasion because of its milder weather where a scorching summer’s day can reach up to more than 30 degrees but can easily drop to a cool 12 degrees by sunset.
The rest of the year is rainy season, though some months, (November- February) are more favourable than others (Late June to October). Rainy season can be varied from the strength of the storm; some turn into a milder tropical storm as it passes through the Pacific Ocean to a much powerful hurricane. It is best to plan ahead while visiting during these months.
The national language is Filipino or Tagalog, with English coming a close-second that is widely spoken nationwide. The English language is taught in schools from a young age therefore the majority of the population can understand and speak it fluently; a great advantage for tourists. With the recent increase of other South East immigrants settling in, a significant amount of its residents can also speak Chinese, Korean and Japanese. Local dialects are spoken in more rural towns, more so by some of its native people but Filipino and English are still recognised even as you go further into more primitive areas within the country.
Food and Drink:
Compared to other Asian countries, Filipino cuisine remains relatively unknown. These days, with the hybrid of eastern and western influence in the culture, dishes often come with other cultural twist. Authentic Filipino dishes use local ingredients and can either be elaborate such as Pancit Palabok or Lechon or just fried meat with a side of steamed vegetables.
American fast-food restaurants like McDonald’s, Pizza Hut and KFC are among the many exports that are very popular with the masse. In some cities, many fast-food restaurants have at least three franchises in different parts of the city. Food is a big part of its people and there isn’t a shortage of restaurants anywhere, whether you’re looking for simple, authentic Filipino dishes, quick western food or even the more exotic ones if you’re up for an eating adventure.