The basics Population: 103 million Capital: Manila

While you’re there, please don’t… • curl your index finger back and forth to beckon someone; this is an insult. • be too concerned about time and schedules; many Filipinos place less emphasis on adhering strictly to a time frame. Before you go, read … Eye of the Fish by Luis H Fracia – these essays by a journalist who was born in Manila but raised in New York cover all kinds of issues facing Filipinos today. Playing with Water – Passion and Solitude on a Philippine Island by James Hamilton-Paterson – the author has lived on and off in the Philippines since 1979, including long stints on a small island where he lives off fish that he catches with the locals. Before you go, watch … Sisterakas – this Filipino comedy parody film is the highest-grossing film in the country’s history. Apocalypse Now – okay, it’s not about the Philippines, but the whole thing was filmed there, on the island of Luzon (where Platoon was also filmed). They said it “Tourism is a crucial industry that could employ millions of Filipinos, skilled and unskilled alike, across those 7,107 islands of the Philippines. From the current projection of 3.3 million tourist arrivals in 2010, our aim is to eventually attract 6 million tourists. In the process, we expect to create 3 million jobs in the next six years.” – former president Benigno Aquino III “... yes, the Philippines liberates my soul – I can fully be myself here. This place is the capital of romance – it has a certain chord (musical that is) that hangs in the air and my soul chimes with it ...” – anonymous “I want the people of the Philippines to be happy, even if they have nothing.” – Manny Pacquiao, professional boxer

Religion: An estimated 85% of the population is Roman Catholic, making the Philippines the only Christian nation in Asia. Emergency number: 112 or 911 (emergency services); 117 or 168 (police) The key dates 9 January: Feast of the Black Nazarene. Manila’s grand festival surrounds a religious icon, the Black Nazarene, and a procession by thousands of devotees. 24-31 March: HolyWeek. The most important holiday in the Philippines, lasting from before Palm Sunday to after Easter. Last Monday in August: National Heroes’ Day. Commemorates the beginning of the Philippine Revolution against Spain. The hot spots Popular destinations include Manila, Boracay, Cebu, Palawan, Bohol and Davao. Six World Heritage Sites include the historic town of Vigan and the Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park. Some itinerary ideas • Beach Focus: Manila – Legazpi – Donsol – Bohol – Cebu – Boracay • Palawan: Manila – Puerto Princesa – El Nido • City & Country: Manila – Sagada – Banaue Rice Terraces How to stay healthy • Incidents of dengue fever have been relatively high in the Philippines in recent years, so wear protective clothing and take lots of repellent. • Between June and November, the Philippines gets hit by an average of 20 typhoons a year. These can bring flash flooding and landslides. If you’re there in times of heavy rain, travel sensibly.



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