15 Interesting facts about the Philippines That You Should Know
The Philippines is a popular tourist destination for backpackers and travellers due to its pristine beaches, crystal clear water and teeming marine life. Whether you want to snorkel with whale sharks, sip coconuts on the beach or try your hand at some adventurous activities; this country has it all. There is something for every type of traveller in this incredible country, and it isn’t hard to see why it’s a bucket list destination! Here are 15 interesting facts about the Philippines you should know before planning your trip!
1. It is the second-largest archipelago in the world
The Philippines is made up of around 7,500 islands, which makes it the second-largest archipelago in the world, after Indonesia. Only 2,000 of these islands are actually inhabited and nearly 5,000 still aren’t even named on google maps!
The most popular islands in the Philippines include Cebu, Palawan, El Nido, Bohol, Coron and Siargao amongst others. Whether you want to live the party lifestyle or relax on a more chilled out island, there are plenty to choose from!
The island of Palawan has actually been named one of the best islands in the world by publications such as Condé Nast Traveler and Travel & Leisure. This is due to its incredible natural beauty, and once you visit this beautiful island you will see why. This island has some of the best dive sites in the world, pristine white beaches and plenty of island hopping tours for you to choose from!
2. A Jeepney is the most popular way to get around
A Jeepney is a jeep/bus and they are the most popular form of transport in the Philippines. Although they are known for being crowded, they are also a quirky and cheap way to get around. They are often covered with cool and colourful decorations and are a widespread symbol of Philippine art and culture. You will often see these vehicles adorned with neon lights and lots of paintings of basketball stars and superheroes.
The first Jeepneys were put together using surplus parts that were left behind by American troops after World War II. The local people then converted them into vehicles that could be used for public transport, and hold up to 20 people at a time. After World War II, the Philippine government didn’t establish a transport system which is why Jeepneys became the most popular way to get around.
In Manila alone, there are around 50,000 Jeepneys that run here and you can find them easily due to the clouds of black smoke that follow them along. Usually, these quirky vehicles don’t have set routes, so passengers just hop on to a Jeepney that is going in their direction and just ring the bell whenever they want to get off!
3. The Philippines is home to the world’s largest underground river
The world’s largest underground river is found in the Philippines. The Puerto Princesa Underground River is located in Palawan and is a popular tourist attraction. It is found within Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park and is a UNESCO listed heritage site. This river is the longest navigable underground river in the world and is one of the ‘new 7 wonders of nature’. On our 10 day Philippines Tour and 14 day Philippines tour, we visit this incredible location.
The river system here was created millions of years ago and flows underneath the St Paul Mountain Range. The caves were created as water channelled its way through the rock, and they stretch for around 24km under the mountain range. This makes it one of the most impressive cave systems in the world!
Another interesting fact about the Puerto Princesa Underground River is that it actually emerges from the sea. This makes part of the river tidal, which can affect the park’s opening times. If there has been excessive rain, rough seas or bad weather, it is likely that officials will close off the park for safety reasons.
4. The world’s largest pearl was discovered by a diver from the Philippines
About 15 years ago, a local Filipino diver had the surprise of his life whilst diving in the Palawan Sea. He came across the world’s largest pearl, which he found inside a giant clam. The pearl was two-feet long and weighed nearly 75 pounds.
The diver took it home and hid it underneath his bed, so he could keep it as a good luck charm. Now, the pearl is valued at a whopping $100 million. The second-largest pearl in the world is valued at around $35 million and was also found off the coast of Palawan. If you are looking to get rich, it looks like diving off the coast of Palawan might be your way there!
Pearls are the only gem in the world that grow inside a living organism. More often than not, they are found inside oysters and are very rarely found within clams. This makes this find even more special!
5. The country averages about 20 earthquakes a day
The Philippines is located along the pacific ring of fire, which is known for its earthquakes and volcanic activity. Due to where this country is located, the Philippines generally experience about 20 earthquakes a day. This is down to the country being located along a number of active earthquake fault lines.
Most of these earthquakes are incredibly minor, and often aren’t even felt by anyone. However, the country does still experience earthquakes that regularly result in fatalities and they have been hit with some disastrous earthquakes in the past.
The deadliest earthquake in the history of this country occurred in 1976 and was named the Moro Gulf earthquake. The initial quake was categorised as a magnitude 7.9, and it triggered a tsunami that came afterwards. The waves reached up to 9m in some areas, and it’s estimated that between 3,000-5,000 people died with local people believing it to be a lot more. In the end, 8,000 people were officially counted as killed or missing, 10,000 people were injured and 90,000 people were made homeless due to this devastating natural disaster.
6. There are around 300 volcanoes in the Philippines
The Philippines is home to around 300 volcanoes and that’s also because it sits on the pacific ring of fire. Around 22 of these volcanoes are currently active, with the majority of them being found on the island of Luzon.
The six most active volcanoes in the Philippines are Pinatubo, Mayon, Hibok-Hibok, Taal, Kanlaon and Bulusan. Some of these volcanoes have erupted over 30 times and collectively have caused 1000’s of fatalities.
The most recent volcanic eruptions occurred in July 2021, when Taal volcano erupted several times. Before then, the volcano’s last eruption was in January 2020 which ended up displacing over 350,000 people. 39 people were thought to have died due to illness and thick ashfall due to the eruption, and thousands more were left homeless.
7. Karaoke has a very strange history here
Karaoke is extremely popular in the Philippines and is a fun nightlife activity among the locals. Nearly every home in this country has a karaoke machine or a digital mic that can turn your own TV into a karaoke machine. Lots of restaurants and bars in the Philippines also offer karaoke and even videoke, which records their performances and gives them a score.
However, drinking often comes along with a karaoke night, to give you that dutch courage! This can mean fights break out, and it’s no different here in the Philippines. What does seem to be strange, is that there is a history of gruesome attacks in the karaoke world.
Between 2002 and 2012, it’s thought that at least twelve people were killed during or shortly after their own rendition of Frank Sinatra’s song “My Way”. In 2007, a security guard actually shot a 29-year-old man because he believed the man’s singing was off-key and he wouldn’t stop when asked! Many people in the Philippines now avoid performing “My Way” in public, and it isn’t hard to see why.
8. It is known as the ‘texting capital’ of the world
Filipino people are incredibly social, and love to spend time with friends and family. However, when they aren’t with their family they love to stay in touch by text messages.
It’s estimated that across the country, around 400 million text messages are sent every day which equates to around 142 billion texts per year. That daily number of text messages is higher than the United States and Europe combined, earning them the “texting capital of the world”.
9. The National bird is called the ‘monkey-eating eagle’
The national bird of the Philippines is called the “Philippine Eagle” or is otherwise known as the “monkey-eating eagle”. They have a wingspan of around 2 metres and can weigh up to 8kg, making them pretty huge! The Philippine Eagle is one of the largest birds of prey in the world, and one of the most powerful. Like their nickname suggests they do prey on monkeys, but also eat lots of other animals ranging from lizards to other small mammals.
These eagles are found only in the Philippines and they only live on 4 islands out of the 7,500. They can be found on the islands of Leyte, Luzon, Mindanao and Samar, with the majority of the population making their home on the island of Mindanao.
The Philippine Eagle is critically endangered, with an estimated population of fewer than 500 individuals. These eagles are one of the rarest bird species in the world and killing one can end up in a 12-year prison sentence.
10. There are around 175 languages spoken in the Philippines
Yep, you heard us right, 175 languages! 171 of these languages are considered to be “living” which means they are still used to this day. Four of the languages are tribal dialects and currently have no known living speakers.
The main languages in the Philippines are Filipino and English, whilst Cebuano and Ilocano are popular in some regions too. If you are visiting this beautiful country, and are an English speaker, more often than not you will have no problem communicating with the locals. This is because the Philippines is actually the fifth-largest speaking nation behind the United States, India, Pakistan and the United Kingdom.
11. Basketball is extremely popular in the Philippines
When it comes to sports in the Philippines, Basketball is incredibly popular. The Philippines Basketball Association (PBS) is actually the second oldest in the world, after the NBA!
The origin of basketball in the country came about in 1898 when American colonists introduced the sport as part of the Philippines school curriculum. It is still taught in schools and colleges throughout the country today and attracts many young athletes. The country holds numerous gold medals for basketball from all sorts of regional competitions, and they even won bronze at the 1960 FIBA World Championship.
If you wander around the streets in this country, you will find makeshift hoops on every corner and plenty of locals wearing NBA jerseys. There are local basketball teams found all across the country, and you will often see them playing games in community halls.
12. One of the worlds largest volcanic eruptions in history occurred here
The Philippines is no stranger to volcanic eruptions, with there being around 22 active volcanoes located around the country. Mt. Pinatubo is found in Luzon, and in 1991 it erupted to cause one of the world’s largest volcanic eruptions in history.
Mt. Pinatubo erupted twice during that year, and the explosions produced a column of ash and smoke which rose over 40km high. People were forced to flee the area, and in the end, around 100,000 people were left homeless. It is estimated that the eruption caused at least 300 deaths at first, and hundreds more as a result of disease in the evacuation camps. The eruption at Mt Pinatubo was the second-largest volcanic eruption in the 20th century, and its effects were felt for years afterwards.
However, you can now choose to hike up Mt. Pinatubo if you wish. The hike is roughly around 5.5km and takes about 2-3 hours depending on your fitness level. You can visit either as part of a tour or by yourself, but if you want to do it solo then you will have to visit the Santa Juliana Capas Tarlac Tourism Office.
13. The Philippines is the largest supplier of nurses to other countries
The Philippines is the largest supplier of nurses in the world. Around 25% of all nurses who work overseas come from the Philippines, and this is partly due to limited job opportunities in the country. In fact, about 11% of the population work overseas. That works out at about 11 million people!
14. It is the only Asian nation that is predominantly Christian
Whist the majority of other countries in Southeast Asia practice Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam, the Philippines is predominantly Christian. Around 90% of the population here are Christians, making it the only Asian nation where the majority of its population practice Christianity. This is primarily due to the Spanish colonization in the 1500s.
15. The yo-yo was invented in the Philippines
Although some versions of the yo-yo were around during ancient Greek days, it wasn’t until the 1920’s that this popular toy really came into action.
Pedro Flores was working in a hotel in California during the 1920s and was always found playing with a yo-yo on his lunch break. Guests started to pay him quite a bit of attention, and this sparked his interest in pursuing yo-yos as a future business idea.
He began to create a different version of the yo-yo, and these ones had a continuous string that you could twist around your finger. He created a better form of this unique toy than had been around previously, and because of that, the toy found increased popularity and a wider audience.
The Philippines is a unique and diverse country full of idyllic beaches, incredible dive spots and plenty of wildlife. We hope that these interesting facts about the Philippines have convinced you to visit this beautiful country. If travelling to this magical destination isn’t on your bucket list, then it needs to be! We’ve also put together the ultimate Philippines bucket list just for you, in case you want to start planning.
If you just want the fun part of travelling and don’t want to organise any of the boring bits, why not travel to the Philippines with us here at One Life Adventures. On our 10 day Philippines tour and our 14 day Philippines tour we will take you to all the best spots this country has to offer. We will head out on an island hopping tour, explore shipwrecks and camp on the beach.
Written By: Abbie Bevan
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