The Philippine archipelago lies in the southeastern region of the Asia mainland. It is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, the Celebes Sea and the South China Sea. As of discoveries since 2016, it now consists of 7,641 islands and islets, of which only 2000 are inhabited, making it one of the largest archipelagos in the world. They are clustered into three major island groups of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. The capital of the Philippines is the City of Manila.
The country has a moderate tropical climate suited for the cultivation of export crops such as coconuts and pineapples. Other agricultural products are rice, sugarcane, mangoes, and bananas. Natural resources include: timber, petroleum, nickel, cobalt, silver, gold, copper and salt. Parts of the country are also mountainous, subject to eruptions and earthquakes from around 20 active volcanoes. It is often buffeted by typhoons or monsoon rains.
Republic of the Philippines was a Spanish colony for more than three centuries, but was taken over by the U.S. in 1898. Self rule in 1935 was followed by full independence in 1946. There are two official languages: Filipino (derived from Tagalog) and English. From eighty indigenous and spoken dialects, there are eight major languages.
The country is the only predominantly Christian country in Asia, a result of the Spanish colonization in the 16th century. The religions most commonly existing are Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam, and Buddhism, among others.
The Philippines is becoming a regional and global hub for shared corporate backroom operations especially for financial services such as accounting and bookkeeping, account maintenance, accounts receivable collection and payable administration, payroll processing, asset management, financial analysis and auditing, management consulting, inventory control and purchasing, expense and revenue reporting, financial reporting, tax reporting and other finance-related services. Industries are namely: electronics assembly, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, wood products, food processing, petroleum refining and fishing.
Philippine currency is the Philippine peso.
Filipinos are known for their caring ways, friendliness and hospitality. If one asks what the most important relationship for Filipinos is, the likely answer would be family. Social connectedness beyond the immediate family is also vital. Extended family includes non-related aunts, uncles, godparents and close friends.
Family events are of prime importance. Hosting and attending these are expected norms. Consider it an honor to receive an invitation. In special gatherings among friends and family, singing and karaoke is common since music is a huge part of Filipino life. Having an intrinsic talent that many Filipinos may boast of, they are internationally well-known as excellent musicians, performers, and singers.
Filipinos also have great respect for and place value on age. Parents and elders are greeted by a kiss on the cheek or by kissing the hand. They also speak respectfully to others by using their titles in their conversational addresses such as “Attorney Santos”, “Architect Reyes”, “Professor Ramos”. Sensitivity to these nuances at work and in social gatherings is recommended.
An engaging quality of the Filipino culture is the ability to laugh at and poke fun in situations. However, it is not meant to be interpreted as not taking a situation seriously. Rather, this is the action often taken with the intention of positively diffusing uncomfortable emotions in awkward moments. Knowing this will help a foreigner understand what would otherwise be easily misconstrued as inappropriate merriment.
Ever heard the phrase “It’s More Fun In The Philippines”? Strictly speaking, the Department of Tourism coined the slogan for the tourism campaign to not only feature the country’s top destinations but to also encourage tourists to experience the Philippines themselves. However, the phrase is often loosely used by locals in jest, especially when encountering aggravating situations, extraordinary people, bizarre commodities and the like. Instead of getting angry, it’s normal for them to try to lighten the mood and to let things be, when possible.
Filipinos also sensitively consider the other’s self esteem before making a response. Loud voices and harsh directness are considered disrespectful. Remember that the loss of face, or shame felt by the recipient of any correction is at any time overwhelming. In the workplace, such would especially be de-motivating. Allow a “way out” by waiting a few minutes to speak privately. Or perhaps say, “Could it be possibly done this way?” Not only would this better accomplish the intended goal, but it would also be a sure step towards earnest loyalty.
Learn more from our useful phrases, meeting etiquette, and cultural guidance articles.
Where to Live
Expatriate housing in the Philippines is generally concentrated within the national capital region called Metropolitan Manila, composed of sixteen cities and one municipality. By far, the most popular of these city choices are Makati City, Taguig City (inclusive of Bonifacio Global City), Quezon City, Muntinlupa City, all of which encompass or are closest to financial centers, commercial centers, or economic zones. Both new and old condominiums exist for rent (and sale), as well as single detached houses within gated villages or communities. These aforementioned cities definitely have a variety of choices for dining, leisure and entertainment, places of worship, including major hospitals.
More information regarding healthcare and giving birth and registration of birth/nationality can be found by following the links to the articles.
There are also many preschools, primary schools, and secondary schools, colleges and universities found in Philippines. Both local and international institutions are available. English is the main mode of communication in private schools. It is important to note that while a few expatriates may sometimes seek to enroll their children into elite local schools, Filipino class taught in the local language is a mandatory in their curriculum. As this can become a challenge, it is common for foreigners to adhere to international schooling for their children, despite the rather steep fees the various schools impose. As a rule, when relocating to the Philippines with matriculating children, it is recommended to search for schools prior to actual housing as this always helps in shortlisting the area where the family will choose to reside.
Traffic, Timeliness and Transportation
“Grabe Traffic!” (meaning severe traffic) is something exclaimed by locals far and wide. As a way to manage expectations, forewarning tourists, guests, clients and potential expatriates is a crucial factor in preparation of their arrival. Traffic, especially in Metro Manila is something that one must live with. Working around it and with it defines where you will decide to live, where you will choose to go, on what day of the week and at what time you need to leave, just to get to your destination promptly and in the most efficient manner. More than ever, many choose to live within 15-20 minutes walking distance away from work or from school. Otherwise, majority of their day is simply spent stuck in traffic.
In relation to this, one must understand the concept of bahala na (what will be, will be). Alas, most Filipinos are casual about being on time, because tardiness is looked upon with tolerance, traffic has become a great excuse. In order to adjust to bahala na, it would mean you would have to be the one adjust. Most fortunately, increasing international expectations in the major cities have been changing this view.
While Metro Manila has mass transportation in the form of buses, taxis, shuttle vans, light railway that ply the major thoroughfares, inner streets also have the local jeepneys, tricycles and pedicabs. Grabcar and Ubercar have become increasingly popular. Rental cars are also available. For domestic travel, it is most convenient to travel by air to other major cities and towns throughout the archipelago.
Our basic driving tips provides more information if you choose to drive.