Overview of the Philippines
The Republic of the Philippines is an archipelago consisting of some 7,100 islands and islets lying about 800 km off the southeast coast of Asia and stretching 1850 km from north to south. It is bounded by the Philippine Sea to the east, the Celebes Sea to the south, and the South China Sea to the west and north.
The Philippines takes its name from Philip II, who was king of Spain during the Spanish colonization of the islands in the 16th century. Manila is the biggest city and the national capital. It is located on Luzon, the largest island. Only about two-fifths of the islands and islets have names, and only 350 are larger than one square mile.
The Philippines is home to about 77 million people. Filipinos comprise 111 cultural and linguistic groups of Malayo-Polynesian origin, with varying degrees of Chinese, Spanish and American influences. About 90 per cent of Filipinos are Roman Catholic, with smaller numbers of Protestants and Moslems. The national language is Pilipino, although English is the language of commerce and politics.
Because it was ruled by Spain for 333 years and the United States for a further 48 years, the Philippines has many cultural affinities with the West. It is the fourth most populous country in which English is an official language and the only Christian country in Asia. Educationally, it is among the most advanced of Asian countries.
Filipino food reflects the country's varied history. Over the centuries, Chinese traders brought their culinary culture, Spanish colonizers added healthy touches of Castillan cooking, and U.S. colonization contributed convenience and fast food. Eating in the Philippines can therefore be an outstanding experience regardless of the traveler's budget. In recent years, a profusion of restaurants has emerged, many catering to continental European or exotic Asian tastes. There are some good Japanese restaurants, plus a smattering of Korean, Thai, Vietnamese and other establishments.