About the Philippines
The Philippines is easily accessible from the travel capitals of the ASEAN Region. Air travel time to Manila from: Singapore (3 hours), Kuala Lumpur (3 ½ hours), Bangkok (3 hours, 15 minutes), Jakarta (2 ½ hours), Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (2 ½ hours). For more information on tourist sites in the Philippines, log on to www.philippinetourism.com.sg/ and www.wowphilippines.com.ph
Geography and Population
The Philippines is an archipelago of 7,107 islands bounded by the South China Sea, the Philippine Sea, and the Celebes Sea. It is comprised of three main islands: Luzon, where the capital, Manila, is located; Mindanao, the largest island in the country; and Visayas, a cluster of small islands in the middle of the archipelago. The country has 79 provinces grouped into 16 regions.
The Philippines’ greatest asset is its people and their unique cultures. There are more than 100 ethno-linguistic groups in the Philippines, each having its own cultural and linguistic traditions drawn from common origins, but shaped distinctively by their own physical environment, historical experiences and exposure to foreign cultures. This diversity in the demographic make-up of the country and the various cultural influences it received from other countries produced a rich cultural landscape that is essentially Asian-Pacific in character but enriched by Hispanic-Latin and Euro-American influences.
Climate and Clothing
The Philippines has two seasons. The wet or rainy season takes place from June to October, and the dry season from November to May. Within the dry season, the cooler period is from November to February and the dry period is from March to May. Average temperatures ranges from 24 C (76 F) to 31 C (87 F) throughout the year.
Light casual clothes are recommended. When visiting churches, mosques and temples, propriety dictates that shorts and scanty clothing be avoided.
Filipino is the national language. English is the business language and is widely spoken.
The Philippines’ currency unit is the peso, divided into 100 centavos. Foreign currency may be exchanged at any hotels, big department stores, banks and authorized money changing shops accredited by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (Central Bank of the Philippines). International credit cards such as Visa, Diners Club, Mastercard, and American Express Card are accepted in major establishments.
Customs and Duties
Visitors are to fill in the Baggage Declaration Form before disembarking to facilitate Customs examination. The following are allowed duty free: reasonable quantity of clothing; jewelry and toiletries; 400 sticks of cigarettes or two tins of tobacco; two bottles of wine or spirits of not more than 1 liter each.
Philippine standard time is 8 hours ahead of the Greenwhich Mean Time.
Tipping and Taxes
Tipping is expected for many services. The standard practice is 10% of the total bill. Tipping is optional on bills that already include 10% service charge. A value added tax of 12% is added on product and service bills.
The power supply is reliable and is supplied at 220 volts A.C. 60 cycles. Most hotels provide 110-volt outlets. A plug with 2 flat parallel prongs is the norm.
Private and government offices are open either from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. or 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Some private companies hold offices on Saturdays from 9:00 am to 12:00 noon. Most shopping malls, department stores, and supermarkets are open from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm daily. There are 24-hour convenience stores and drugstores.
Banks are open from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm Mondays to Fridays, with automated teller machines (ATMs) operating 24 hours.