The People

The People

Origin and Culture

Majority of the population are from the Malay stock. Long before it was “discovered” in 1521 by the explorer Ferdinand Magellan, the archipelago – eventually named the Philippines after King Philip II of Spain – already had trading relations with the flourishing civilizations in the region. Spanish rule lasted for 333 years. American colonial rule followed and lasted for nearly 50 years. Many aspects of Philippine culture today reflect this varied cultural heritage.


The Philippines has one of the highest literacy rates in the world. At 94%, its literacy rate is the highest in Southeast Asia, and higher than Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Education is culturally very important to the Filipino, and is usually regarded as a means of moving up the social ladder. This importance can be seen in the number of schools and students in the country. Elementary schools numbered 39,312 in 2002 and secondary schools, 7,128. In school year 2001 – 2002, a total of 12.7 million students were enrolled in the elementary level, and 5.2 million in the secondary level.

The Philippines is one of the Asian countries with an edge in number of universities, colleges and institutions of higher learning. Colleges and institutes number about 1,389 and universities at about 100. Total enrollment in the tertiary level for school year 2001 – 2002 was estimated at 2.2 million.

Language and Skills

English is widely spoken and is the medium of communication in business and higher education. The Spanish and Chinese languages are also spoken by a small minority. Filipinos are highly trainable and adept at producing medium- to high-tech products. Both skilled and unskilled workers consistently rate well in quality of work per surveys of executives in the Asian region. The people have also recognized management capabilities, computer skills, craftsmanship, and design artistry.


Christianity is the predominant religion in the country, with the Roman Catholics comprising a major portion of the population. Dominant Protestant denominations include Baptists, Methodists, and Lutherans. Locally established Christian churches, namely, the Iglesia ni Kristo and the Philippine Independent Church, together with Islam and Buddhism, comprise less than 15% of the population.


Based on preliminary results of the year 2002 national census, the country’s total population has reached 79.5 million, and is estimated to increase at an annual rate of 2.0% from 2000 to 2005. With a total land area of 300,000 square kilometers, the country has a population density of 251 persons per square kilometer. Urban population, which has steadily increased over the last three decades, was counted at roughly 44.4 million, around 60% of total population. As of July 2002, the size of the labor force was estimated at 32.1 million, composed of persons age 15 years old and over. Of this number, 88% are employed.

The Land

The Philippine archipelago lies off the southeastern coast of mainland Asia. The Pacific Ocean bounds it on the east, the Celebes Sea on the south, and the South China Sea on the west and north.

The Philippines is made up of 7,100 islands and islets, making it one of the largest archipelagos in the world. The islands are grouped into three geographic areas: Luzon, the biggest island group where the capital city of Manila is located, Visayas, and Mindanao.

Topography is varied, consisting of lowlands, high mountain areas, and a coastline of 18,411 kilometers on which there are 60 natural harbors. Manila Bay, considered the country’s premier seaport facility, has an area of 1,970 square kilometers and a coastline of 192 kilometers.

The country has two distinct seasons: the dry season, from November to May, and the wet season, which covers the rest of the year. The different parts of the country experience varied weather conditions because of the general airstreams that cross the islands, namely, the monsoons and tradewinds. The average annual rainfall in the Philippines is about 2,030 millimeters. Temperature ranges from 23-32 degrees centigrade and humidity varies from 70%-85%, depending on the time of year.

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