Context of Philippines


The Philippines ( (listen); Filipino: Pilipinas), officially the Republic of the Philippines (Filipino: Republika ng Pilipinas), is an archipelagic country in Southeast Asia. In the western Pacific Ocean, it consists of 7,641 islands which are broadly categorized in three main geographical divisions from north to south: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. The Philippines is bounded by the South China Sea to the west, the Philippine Sea to the east, and the Celebes Sea to the south. It shares maritime borders with Taiwan to the north, Japan to the northeast, Palau to the east and southeast, Indonesia to the south, Malaysia to the southwest, Vietnam to the west, and China to the northwest. It is the world's thirteenth-most-populous country, with diverse ethnicities and cultures. Manila is the country's capital, and its largest city is Quezon City; bo...Read more


The Philippines ( (listen); Filipino: Pilipinas), officially the Republic of the Philippines (Filipino: Republika ng Pilipinas), is an archipelagic country in Southeast Asia. In the western Pacific Ocean, it consists of 7,641 islands which are broadly categorized in three main geographical divisions from north to south: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. The Philippines is bounded by the South China Sea to the west, the Philippine Sea to the east, and the Celebes Sea to the south. It shares maritime borders with Taiwan to the north, Japan to the northeast, Palau to the east and southeast, Indonesia to the south, Malaysia to the southwest, Vietnam to the west, and China to the northwest. It is the world's thirteenth-most-populous country, with diverse ethnicities and cultures. Manila is the country's capital, and its largest city is Quezon City; both are within Metro Manila.

Negritos, the archipelago's earliest inhabitants, were followed by waves of Austronesian peoples. The adoption of Animism, Hinduism and Islam established island-kingdoms ruled by datus, rajas, and sultans. The arrival of Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese explorer leading a fleet for Spain, marked the beginning of Spanish colonization. In 1543, Spanish explorer Ruy López de Villaloboscode: spa promoted to code: es named the archipelago Las Islas Filipinas in honor of Philip II of Spain. Spanish settlement through Mexico, beginning in 1565, led to the Philippines becoming ruled by the Spanish Empire for more than 300 years. Catholicism became the dominant religion, and Manila became the western hub of trans-Pacific trade. The Philippine Revolution began in 1896, which became entwined with the 1898 Spanish–American War. Spain ceded the territory to the United States, and Filipino revolutionaries declared the First Philippine Republic. The ensuing Philippine–American War ended with the United States controlling the territory until the Japanese invasion of the islands during World War II. After liberation, the Philippines became independent in 1946. The unitary sovereign state has had a tumultuous experience with democracy, which included the overthrow of a decades-long dictatorship in a nonviolent revolution.

The Philippines is an emerging market and a newly industrialized country, whose economy is transitioning from being agricultural to service- and manufacturing-centered. It is a founding member of the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, ASEAN, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, and the East Asia Summit; it is a major non-NATO ally of the United States. Its location as an island country on the Pacific Ring of Fire and close to the equator makes it prone to earthquakes and typhoons. The Philippines has a variety of natural resources and a globally-significant level of biodiversity.

More about Philippines

Basic information
  • Currency Philippine peso
  • Native name Pilipinas
  • Calling code +63
  • Internet domain .ph
  • Mains voltage 220V/60Hz
  • Democracy index 6.56
Population, Area & Driving side
  • Population 109035343
  • Area 343448
  • Driving side right
    Prehistory (pre–900)

    There is evidence of early hominins living in what is now the Philippines as early as 709,000 years ago.[1] A small number of bones from Callao Cave potentially represent an otherwise unknown species, Homo luzonensis, who lived 50,000 to 67,000 years ago.[2][3] The oldest modern human remains on the islands are from the Tabon Caves of Palawan, U/Th-dated to 47,000 ± 11–10,000 years ago.[4] Tabon Man is presumably a Negrito, among the archipelago's earliest inhabitants descended from the first human migrations out of Africa via the coastal route along southern Asia to the now-sunken landmasses of Sundaland and Sahul.[5]

    The first Austronesians reached the Philippines from Taiwan around 2200 BC, settling the Batanes Islands (where they built stone fortresses known as ijangs)[6] and northern Luzon. From there, they spread southwards to the rest of the Philippine islands and Southeast Asia.[7][8] They assimilated with the Negrito, resulting in the modern Filipino ethnic groups which have a variety of genetic admixture between Austronesian and Negrito groups.[9] Jade artifacts have been dated to 2000 BC,[10][11] with lingling-o jade items made in Luzon with raw materials from Taiwan.[12] By 1000 BC, the inhabitants of the archipelago had developed into four societies: hunter-gatherer tribes, warrior societies, highland plutocracies, and port principalities.[13]

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    Prehistory (pre–900)

    There is evidence of early hominins living in what is now the Philippines as early as 709,000 years ago.[1] A small number of bones from Callao Cave potentially represent an otherwise unknown species, Homo luzonensis, who lived 50,000 to 67,000 years ago.[2][3] The oldest modern human remains on the islands are from the Tabon Caves of Palawan, U/Th-dated to 47,000 ± 11–10,000 years ago.[4] Tabon Man is presumably a Negrito, among the archipelago's earliest inhabitants descended from the first human migrations out of Africa via the coastal route along southern Asia to the now-sunken landmasses of Sundaland and Sahul.[5]

    The first Austronesians reached the Philippines from Taiwan around 2200 BC, settling the Batanes Islands (where they built stone fortresses known as ijangs)[6] and northern Luzon. From there, they spread southwards to the rest of the Philippine islands and Southeast Asia.[7][8] They assimilated with the Negrito, resulting in the modern Filipino ethnic groups which have a variety of genetic admixture between Austronesian and Negrito groups.[9] Jade artifacts have been dated to 2000 BC,[10][11] with lingling-o jade items made in Luzon with raw materials from Taiwan.[12] By 1000 BC, the inhabitants of the archipelago had developed into four societies: hunter-gatherer tribes, warrior societies, highland plutocracies, and port principalities.[13]

    Early states (900–1565)
    See caption 
    The Laguna Copperplate Inscription, the oldest known writing in the Philippines

    The earliest known surviving written record in the Philippines is the early-10th-century AD Laguna Copperplate Inscription.[14] By the 14th century, several large coastal settlements emerged as trading centers and became the focus of societal changes.[15] Some polities had exchanges with other states throughout Asia.[16][17] Trade with China is believed to have begun during the Tang dynasty, and expanded during the Song dynasty;[18] by the second millennium AD, some polities were part of the tributary system of China.[19][16] Indian cultural traits such as linguistic terms and religious practices began to spread in the Philippines during the 14th century, probably via the Hindu Majapahit Empire.[20][21] By the 15th century, Islam was established in the Sulu Archipelago and spread from there.[22]

    Polities founded in the Philippines between the 10th and 16th centuries include Maynila,[23] Tondo, Namayan, Pangasinan, Cebu, Butuan, Maguindanao, Lanao, Sulu, and Ma-i.[24] The early polities typically had a three-tier social structure: nobility, freemen, and dependent debtor-bondsmen.[16][25] Among the nobility were leaders known as datus, who were responsible for ruling autonomous groups (barangays or dulohan).[26] When the barangays banded together to form a larger settlement or a geographically-looser alliance,[16][27] their more-esteemed members would be recognized as a "paramount datu",[28][13] rajah or sultan,[29] and would rule the community.[30] Warfare developed and escalated from the 14th to 16th centuries;[31] population density is thought to have been low during that period[32] due to the frequency of typhoons and the Philippines' location on the Pacific Ring of Fire.[33] Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan arrived in 1521, claimed the islands for Spain, and was killed by Lapulapu's men in the Battle of Mactan.[34][35]

    Spanish and American colonial rule (1565–1946)

    Colonization began when Spanish explorer Miguel López de Legazpi arrived from Mexico in 1565.[36][37] Many Filipinos were brought to New Spain as slaves and forced crew.[38] Spanish Manila became the capital of the Spanish East Indies in 1571,[39][40] Spanish territories in Asia and the Pacific.[41] The Spanish invaded local states using the principle of divide and conquer,[42] bringing most of what is the present-day Philippines under one unified administration.[43][44] Disparate barangays were deliberately consolidated into towns, where Catholic missionaries could more easily convert their inhabitants to Christianity.[45][46] From 1565 to 1821, the Philippines was governed as a territory of the Mexico City-based Viceroyalty of New Spain; it was then administered from Madrid after the Mexican War of Independence.[47] Manila became the western hub of trans-Pacific trade[48] by Manila galleons built in Bicol and Cavite.[49][50]

    During its rule, Spain quelled indigenous revolts[51] and defended against external military attacks.[52][53] War against the Dutch from the west during the 17th century and conflict with Muslims in the south nearly bankrupted the colonial treasury.[54]

    Administration of the Philippines was considered a drain on the economy of New Spain,[52] and abandoning it or trading it for other territory was debated. This course of action was opposed because of the islands' economic potential, security, and the desire to continue religious conversion in the region.[55][56] The colony survived on an annual subsidy from the Spanish crown[52] averaging 250,000 pesos,[57] usually paid as 75 tons of silver bullion from the Americas.[58] British forces occupied Manila from 1762 to 1764 during the Seven Years' War, and Spanish rule was restored with the 1763 Treaty of Paris.[59] The Spanish considered their war with the Muslims in Southeast Asia an extension of the Reconquista.[60][61] The Spanish–Moro conflict lasted for several hundred years; Spain conquered portions of Mindanao and Jolo during the last quarter of the 19th century,[62] and the Muslim Moro in the Sultanate of Sulu acknowledged Spanish sovereignty.[63][64]

    Philippine ports opened to world trade during the 19th century, and Filipino society began to change.[65][66] Social identity changed, with the term Filipino encompassing all residents of the archipelago instead of solely referring to Spaniards born in the Philippines.[67][68]

    Revolutionary sentiment grew in 1872 after three activist Catholic priests were executed on questionable grounds.[69][70] This inspired the Propaganda Movement, organized by Marcelo H. del Pilar, José Rizal, Graciano López Jaena, and Mariano Ponce, which advocated political reform in the Philippines.[71] Rizal was executed on December 30, 1896, for rebellion, and his death radicalized many who had been loyal to Spain.[72] Attempts at reform met with resistance; Andrés Bonifacio founded the Katipunan secret society, which sought independence from Spain through armed revolt, in 1892.[73]

    Photo of a large group of men on steps. Some are seated, and others are standing; several are wearing top hats. 
    Ilustrados in Madrid around 1890

    The Katipunan Cry of Pugad Lawin began the Philippine Revolution in 1896.[74] Internal disputes led to the Tejeros Convention, at which Bonifacio lost his position and Emilio Aguinaldo was elected the new leader of the revolution.[75] The 1897 Pact of Biak-na-Bato resulted in the Hong Kong Junta government in exile. The Spanish–American War began the following year, and reached the Philippines; Aguinaldo returned, resumed the revolution, and declared independence from Spain on June 12, 1898.[76] The First Philippine Republic was established on January 21, 1899.[77] The islands had been ceded by Spain to the United States with Puerto Rico and Guam after the Spanish–American War.[78][79] The United States would not recognize the First Philippine Republic, beginning the Philippine–American War.[80] The war resulted in the deaths of 250,000 to 1 million civilians, primarily due to famine and disease.[81] Many Filipinos were transported by the Americans to concentration camps, where thousands died.[82][83] After the fall of the First Philippine Republic in 1902, an American civilian government was established with the Philippine Organic Act.[84] American forces continued to secure and extend their control of the islands, suppressing an attempted extension of the Philippine Republic,[85][81] securing the Sultanate of Sulu,[86][87] establishing control of interior mountainous areas which had resisted Spanish conquest,[88] and encouraging large-scale resettlement of Christians in once-predominantly-Muslim Mindanao.[89][90]

    Douglas MacArthur, Sergio Osmeña, and Osmeña's staff wading ashore in knee-deep water 
    General Douglas MacArthur and Sergio Osmeña (left) coming ashore during the Battle of Leyte on October 20, 1944

    Cultural developments strengthened a national identity,[91][92] and Tagalog began to take precedence over other local languages.[93] Governmental functions were gradually given to Filipinos by the Taft Commission;[94] the 1934 Tydings–McDuffie Act began the creation of the Commonwealth of the Philippines the following year, with Manuel Quezon president and Sergio Osmeña vice president.[95] Quezon's priorities were defence, social justice, inequality, economic diversification, and national character.[94] Filipino (a standardized variety of Tagalog) became the national language,[96] women's suffrage was introduced,[97][98] and land reform was considered.[99][100][101]

    The Empire of Japan invaded the Philippines during World War II,[102] and the Second Philippine Republic was established as a puppet state governed by Jose P. Laurel.[103][104] Beginning in 1942, the Japanese occupation of the Philippines was opposed by large-scale underground guerrilla activity.[105][106][107] Atrocities and war crimes were committed during the war, including the Bataan Death March and the Manila massacre.[108][109] Allied troops defeated the Japanese in 1945, and over one million Filipinos were estimated to have died by the end of the war.[110][111] On October 11, 1945, the Philippines became a founding member of the United Nations.[112][113] On July 4, 1946, during the presidency of Manuel Roxas, the country's independence was recognized by the United States with the Treaty of Manila.[113][114][115]

    Independence (1946–present)

    Efforts at post-war reconstruction and ending the Hukbalahap Rebellion during Roxas' and Elpidio Quirino's presidencies[116][117][118] were successful during Ramon Magsaysay's presidency,[119] but sporadic communist insurgency continued to flare up long afterward.[118] Under Magsaysay's successor, Carlos P. Garcia, the government initiated a Filipino First policy which promoted Filipino-owned businesses.[120] Succeeding Garcia, Diosdado Macapagal moved Independence Day from July 4 to June 12—the date of Emilio Aguinaldo's declaration—[121][122] and pursued a claim on eastern North Borneo.[123][124]

    In 1965, Macapagal lost the presidential election to Ferdinand Marcos. Early in his presidency, Marcos began infrastructure projects funded mostly by foreign loans; this improved the economy, and contributed to his reelection in 1969.[125][126] Near the end of his last constitutionally-permitted term, Marcos declared martial law on September 21, 1972[127] using the specter of communism[128][129][130] and began to rule by decree;[131] the period was characterized by political repression, censorship, and human rights violations.[132][133] Monopolies controlled by Marcos' cronies were established in key industries,[134][135][136] including logging[137] and broadcasting;[138] a sugar monopoly led to a famine on the island of Negros.[139] With his wife, Imelda, Marcos was accused of corruption and embezzling billions of dollars of public funds.[140][141] Marcos' heavy borrowing early in his presidency resulted in economic crashes, exacerbated by an early 1980s recession where the economy contracted by 7.3 percent annually in 1984 and 1985.[142][143]

    On August 21, 1983, opposition leader Benigno Aquino Jr. (Marcos' chief rival) was assassinated on the tarmac at Manila International Airport.[144] Marcos called a snap presidential election in 1986[145] which proclaimed him the winner, but the results were widely regarded as fraudulent.[146] The resulting protests led to the People Power Revolution,[147][148] which forced Marcos and his allies to flee to Hawaii. Aquino's widow, Corazon, was installed as president.[147]

    A huge ash cloud, seen from a distance 
    The June 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo was the second-largest terrestrial eruption of the 20th century.[149]

    The return of democracy and government reforms which began in 1986 were hampered by national debt, government corruption, and coup attempts.[150][151] A communist insurgency[152][153] and military conflict with Moro separatists persisted;[154] the administration also faced a series of disasters, including the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in June 1991.[155][156] Aquino was succeeded by Fidel V. Ramos, who liberalized the national economy with privatization and deregulation.[157][158] Ramos' economic gains were overshadowed by the onset of the 1997 Asian financial crisis.[159][160] His successor, Joseph Estrada, prioritized public housing[161] but faced corruption allegations[162] which led to his overthrow by the 2001 EDSA Revolution and the succession of Vice President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on January 20, 2001.[163] Arroyo's nine-year administration was marked by economic growth,[164] but was tainted by corruption and political scandals.[165][166] On November 23, 2009, 34 journalists and several civilians were killed in Maguindanao.[167][168] Economic growth continued during Benigno Aquino III's administration, which advocated good governance and transparency.[169][170] Aquino III signed a peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) resulting in the Bangsamoro Organic Law establishing an autonomous Bangsamoro region, but a shootout with MILF rebels in Mamasapano[171][172] delayed passage of the law.[173][174]

    Rodrigo Duterte, elected president in 2016,[175] launched an infrastructure program[176][177] and an anti-drug campaign[178][179] which reduced drug proliferation[180] but has also led to extrajudicial killings.[181][182] The Bangsamoro Organic Law was enacted in 2018.[183] In early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic reached the Philippines;[184][185] its gross domestic product shrank by 9.5 percent, the country's worst annual economic performance since 1947.[186] Marcos' son, Bongbong Marcos, won the 2022 presidential election; Duterte's daughter, Sara, became vice president.[187]

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    The Philippine penal system

    The legal system tends to be slow, and prison conditions are poor and dangerous. A falsely accused person could spend a long time in jail before being acquitted. Bail is often denied, especially for foreigners. Foreigners are sometimes given shorter sentences than those provided. For minor offenses, foreigners often serve only a few weeks before being deported. For serious crimes, however, a foreign citizen will be sentenced to a long term in jail, followed by deportation.

    Transitioning from years of dictatorship, neglect and economic stagnation toward democracy and development, the Philippines suffers from crime, corruption, and ongoing insurgencies. While foreign governments and the media exaggerates the threats, the country is, by and large, peaceful except for some regions experiencing low-level insurgencies. Crime levels in major cities are relatively comparable to those in American cities.

    The country has one of those having the most deaths from natural disasters known to humankind: earthquakes, tropical cyclones (typhoons), floods, and tropical diseases.

    The Philippines is quite low-income: unskilled jobs generally pay US$100-200 a month and even many good jobs are under $500. More or less all travelers will be perceived as rich by local standards. This makes you a prime target for thieves, scammers, prostitutes and corrupt officials. Do not make it worse by displaying a Rolex, an iPhone and a Nikon or by pulling out a stack of ₱1000 notes when you pay a restaurant bill.

    Law enforcement Police

    Hostage taking

    There have been cases where tourists are specifically targeted and taken as hostage by insurgent groups or former police officers, with the most notorious incident being the Manila hostage crisis of 2010, where a group of Hong Kong tourists was taken hostage on a bus, and the police's botched rescue resulted in 8 hostage deaths. Always be vigilant of your surroundings and don't venture out alone after dark.

     Police car in Manila

    The Philippine National Police (PNP) is responsible for law enforcement for the country, and their officers are easily identifiable through their dark blue uniforms. Some officers would be wearing a light blue collared shirt (with PNP insignia on the chest) or T-shirt (with PULIS printed behind); this includes those stationed at tourist locations and smaller Police Community Precincts (PCPs). PNP's traffic law enforcement arm, the Highway Patrol Group (HPG), who patrols national highways and rural checkpoints, wear the same uniform as most police, but may be wearing a reflectorized vest. Police vehicles are generally white, with many variations by local division, but most should have the word PULIS or PULISYA at the front, and a white license plate with red text.

    All police officers have nationwide authority. Many can speak English, but this depends on where you are in. Many are easily approachable, but some are not well-paid and therefore corrupt.

    Traffic police  Traffic police officer in San Fernando, Pampanga

    Aside from the PNP HPG, many cities and municipalities have their own traffic police force that enforce traffic law at the local level. Traffic police are generally called traffic enforcers or traffic aides. Uniforms vary by municipality, but many wear a cap and pants with reflectorized strips, and some don a vest for additional visibility. Many local traffic police forces have a bad reputation for corruption and poor training.

    While its constituent cities have their own traffic police, Metro Manila has a region-wide traffic law enforcement authority, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), which has constables who patrols the major thoroughfares. MMDA constables wear a bright blue uniform, and are mostly courteous and trained. Most now serve roles in controlling traffic at major intersections and traffic bottlenecks, and only a few write tickets for traffic law violations. In addition, they also enforce regional ordinances against smoking, spitting, urinating in public, littering and jaywalking.

    Barangay tanod

    In addition to police, barangays also have tanod, or village watchers, who are responsible for neighborhood policing. Most of them are unarmed, but some are armed with a bolo, a kind of machete. There is no standard uniform, but many wear a shirt with a vest, usually one bearing the barangay name, over it. Tanods, especially those in roadside outposts, will be happy to give directions should you get lost.

    Private security  A typical private security guard, assisting a vehicle leaving a parking spot.

    Private security guards are common on most establishments, especially malls, banks, transportation terminals, and government offices, and they will be mostly dressed in a white or navy blue shirt and black pants, and may also be armed with shotguns. Female guards may have the same uniform as males, but some would wear a black pencil skirt and hose. Some guards may have a black cap with badge. Most of them are friendly and approachable, but some are poorly trained, aggressive and corrupt.


    Crime, along with impunity and corruption within the police force, has increased since the return to democracy, and while the rate is relatively high by Western standards, they mostly happen within crowded or rough areas of large cities. Most common are pickpocketing, bag snatching, and hold-up robbery; flaunting high-denomination bills, designer bags, or personal gadgets puts you at risk for those. Beware of the budol-budol scam, where victims are hypnotized to follow the robbers' demands; it is common around Manila, but foreigners are rarely targeted. Getting involved in a crime might introduce you into the slow Filipino justice system.

    Smash-and-grab theft on parked cars (the basag-kotse modus operandi) is common, even in guarded parking areas, so do not leave anything valuable inside the car, especially on the dashboard.

    Distraction theft is uncommon, but they happen; such cases often involve dropping a coin (the laglag-barya scam), or intentionally sticking a piece of used chewing gum to a bus seat. In restaurants, one common scam involves staged beverage spills.

    Bag-snatching by motorcycle riders, especially those riding in tandem, is common. Sometimes, they will pull the bag along with the person for a few meters. Be careful when carrying expensive bags, as it may catch the attention of snatchers. Avoid wearing jewelry, especially earrings or rings, when going into crowded areas.

    Avoid getting into fights or confrontations with locals. Filipinos are generally smaller than Westerners, but being outnumbered by a group of three or even a mob is absolute trouble. Police, despite being able to communicate in English by and large, will not intervene on behalf of a foreigner in an altercation with locals. Getting into a fight with locals is a common cause for foreigners to be deported from the Philippines. Also avoid raising your voice; some simple arguments ended up with murder for causing the person to lose face and turn violent. Drunken locals can get violent and run amok, and bar fights are not uncommon, especially with East Asians. Filipinos are generally peace-loving people; showing hiya (saving face, literally "shame") and settling the issue diplomatically is better than getting into trouble.

    Filipino organized crime syndicates are almost never a threat to the ordinary traveler, and mostly focus on drugs, human trafficking and contract killing. Entering a run-down neighborhood of a large city, you could be assaulted by thugs in unprovoked kursonada attacks, but this is generally unlikely unless you look like a Filipino.

    Road travel  Traffic jam in ManilaSee also: Driving in the Philippines

    Over 11,000 people die from traffic accidents in the Philippines every year, and many crashes involve motorcycles and tricycles, especially on rural highways. Reckless driving, poor road maintenance, lax traffic enforcement, limited usage of traffic cameras and radar guns, a mix of brand-new and dilapidated vehicles on the streets, red tape and corruption in the licensing and registration process, and lack of driver education all contribute to the dangerous driving environment. Crossing the street is risky as pedestrian crossings are seldom followed. Driving at night is more dangerous as signs, markings, delineators, or lights are lacking, and some drivers do not lower their headlights. While the government has made attempts to improve the situation, manic speeders (kaskasero) and reckless drivers remain conmon. Driving is a dangerous experience for foreigners, but many get around without incident. Renting a car with driver is recommended but not necessary.

    Safety on provincial buses may not be up to international standards. Try to travel on reputable bus companies and avoid ordinary buses where possible. Ordinary buses are not only crowded and uncomfortable; the vehicle may be dilapidated and therefore unsafe for travel.

    Beware of unlicensed (colorum) jeepneys, vans, taxis and tricycles. Licensed vehicles have yellow and black license plates, and standard operator info, and route/service area markings; colorum vehicles have private vehicle license plates (either black or green text on white background, or green text on blue sky background) and no additional marking. Legitimate vehicles running outside of their marked route or service area without a special permit are also considered colorum. Avoid riding one of them unless they're the only form of transport available, as they tend to be overloaded, drivers might charge higher fares, and passengers are not insured should they get involved in a crash.


    Corruption is a serious issue in the country, and the kotong ("bribe") culture, also helped by the meager wages of officials, widespread red tape, and patronage, is prevalent within the police and the Philippine bureaucracy. The situation is not as bad as back in the 1980s and 1990s, but some forms of corruption continue to persist.

    Beware of immigration scams at Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Immigration officers might welcome you with a "Merry Christmas", even as early as August, and then ask you for "gifts" or a tip. More serious is the hold-departure order scam: a corrupt immigration official will tell you cannot leave the country because you were issued a hold-departure order (criminal travel injunction) and placed on an immigration blacklist for a crime you did not commit, and airport security will then come and hold you at their office until you bribe them. This rarely happens to foreigners, but might happen with returning Filipinos. Clarifying that a part of your name (especially the middle name) does not match those in the blacklist can help avoid this scam.

    While not as bad as before, Philippine law enforcement is infamous for street-level corruption. Police officers or traffic police are known to extort bribes. Fines for minor infractions are very easy to get around, ranging from ₱300-500, but cops may even ask for outrageous amounts, or threaten you to go to their station and talk with their superior. Police may even ask you for a bribe before filing a formal complaint, but this is no longer common. Body cameras and more widespread video surveillance cameras are curbing street-level corruption, and thanks to the prevalence of smartphones and social media, you can grab one and video them, so you can have any evidence against them. If the vehicle you're riding in gets pulled over, it is the driver's responsibility to handle the situation and best for you not to get involved.

    Philippine bureaucracy is also plagued with corruption. Acting polite, asking for a receipt, and smiling will avoid any problems. Consider calling the civil service complaint hotline 8888 or writing a polite complaint letter if you run into trouble with the bureaucracy.

    Carry your passport, or a photocopy of both the identification page and your visa at all times as random checks by police or immigration are not uncommon.


    Begging for money (and handling money to beggars) is illegal since the Marcos era, but you may encounter lots of beggars in almost every medium to large city in the Philippines. Beggars range from street children, the homeless, and people handling solicitation envelopes on buses and jeepneys.

    Nomadic Bajau (or Badjao, also known as the "Sea Gypsies") women and children also beg in port cities, but they can be found farther inland. In some regions, "Badjao" has become synonymous with beggars.

    Female travelers

    While women are respected in Filipino culture, crimes against women remain prevalent. Attitudes toward women remain conservative, and many Filipino men openly display machismo. While foreign women are rarely targeted for rape, there are chances you get groped by strangers, harassed by male bystanders and robbed when traveling alone in a taxi.

    While wearing short shorts, miniskirts, and other revealing clothes is fine in most parts of the country (except in the Muslim-majority regions), it makes you an target for opportunistic crime, and some places have outlawed wearing of any immodest apparel to combat rape and street harassment. A good rule of thumb is to observe Filipinas; in some areas they will be showing a lot of skin, but in others they will be covered. Foreign women need not go as far in either direction as the local lasses, but should go in the same direction.


    Despite prevailing conservative mores, the Philippines is very tolerant to homosexuals and is the most LGBT-tolerant nation in East Asia. Some cities, municipalities and provinces have passed ordinances protecting homosexual people, but a few places, like the Muslim-majority city of Marawi, have ordinances punishing homosexuality. LGBT people will be fine in the country, but you should not be too indiscreet – a pair kissing in public may get stares or even verbal profanity. Country folk, Moros (Filipino Muslims), and the elderly are more conservative and will condemn it. Violence against gays and lesbians is rare.

    Sex and prostitution

    Many Filipinas eagerly seek out well-off men, both Filipino and foreign, as boyfriends or husbands. Foreign men are nearly all rich by local standards and will usually find themselves much more in demand than they would be at home.

    Prostitution is illegal in the Philippines, but it is a thriving business. The country has several hundred thousand prostitutes. By no means all of those are professionals; a woman in a typical low-paid job can roughly double her income by sleeping with one or two guys a week, and some do just that on most weekends.

    There are periodic crackdowns on prostitution, and penalties are harsh for those who are arrested—large fines, possibly prison, and likely deportation with a ban on returning to the country. Corrupt cops may target foreigners in order to extract large bribes, and prostitutes have been known to set up their customers for such schemes or to scam their customers in other ways. Also, as anywhere, sexually transmitted diseases are a large risk.

    The commonest form of prostitution establishment is usually called a girlie bar or bikini bar in the Philippines, but similar places in Thailand are called go-go bars and some travelers use that term here. It is also fairly common to visit these clubs just to enjoy the show, a lot of scantily-clad dancers who compete to catch customers' eyes.

    Enforcement of laws against sexual abuse of children, including child pornography, and against human trafficking is more vigorous than enforcement of prostitution laws, and the penalties are harsher. For people arrested on those charges bail is rarely granted, and it is almost certain to be denied for foreigners, so even someone who eventually beats the charge will usually spend months in jail. As in any prison, child molesters can expect to get a hard time from other inmates and little help from guards.

    The age of consent is 12 as of 2019. Anyone caught with someone younger than that (not necessarily having sex, just caught with them in a private place) will be charged with rape and should expect a stiff prison sentence, followed by deportation. Having sex with someone who is both under 18 and 10 years younger than you is also illegal and likely to bring jail and deportation. There are also several other laws which make the situation quite complex; for a foreign visitor the safest course is to stay well away from anyone under 18.

    Apart from Philippine law, there is another quite serious legal risk. Most Western countries have laws that prohibit child sex even outside the country; a child molester could be prosecuted at home for actions in the Philippines. In these cases, it is the rules of the prosecuting country that apply; for example, a tourist under 23 having sex with a 13-year-old might be legal under Philippine law, but a court back home is extremely unlikely to see it as acceptable.

    Be careful when interacting with Filipino children, especially if you want to photograph or treat them. Some Filipinos will assume you are setting them up for trafficking, and child trafficking is a serious issue in the country.

    For human trafficking, penalties range up to life imprisonment.


    The Philippines have a negative reputation for illegal drugs; its location along major drug smuggling routes between Asia and the Americas, along with less harsh penalties, has made the country a base for drug transshipment by international crime syndicates.

    The most widely used drugs in the country are crystal methamphetamine (shabu) and marijuana (damo or tsongki in the local slang), and dealers selling them are common in the big cities. However, they are illegal and penalties are very harsh. Drug busts and sting operations are common, and you might well end up with a long prison sentence, followed by deportation. Possession of drug paraphernalia, such as glass or steel pipes ("tooters") used to administer shabu, could get you arrested. Bail is rarely granted for drug offenses, almost never for trafficking or for possession of shabu, so even people who eventually beat the charge are likely to spend months in jail. Also, since Duterte became president police and vigilantes have been shooting alleged shabu dealers without trial.

    Methamphetamine (shabu) is a powerful stimulant and a remarkably nasty substance, best avoided for many reasons. An overdose kills instantly and over-stimulation tends to burn out the body, especially the heart, so prolonged use can kill even without overdose. As the song says, "Speed kills!" Moreover the stuff is highly addictive. Also, the drug changes the personality of heavy users, giving them a pronounced tendency toward paranoia and aggressiveness.

    High-value party drugs like ecstasy (MDMA) and designer drugs like "fly high" are common in the nightlife scenes of large cities like Manila and Cebu. Rave parties are also hotspots for party drugs and spiked drinks. Police treat such drugs harshly, and using them can be fatal.

    Natural disasters

    The Philippines has many natural disaster-related deaths, second most in the world after China. Risks include typhoons, monsoon rains, floods, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions.

    Monsoon rains and floods

    Heavy rainfall — caused by local thunderstorms, typhoons or the monsoon winds — is part of the Philippine climate. The densely populated cities are not safe from the effects of rainfall and strong winds. In some flood-prone areas, local governments have placed flood detection systems to help in evacuation of areas in case a flood is expected. In any area, the best sources of information are local media, city or provincial governments and local residents.

    The southwest monsoon (habagat) between late May and early October causes most heavy rainfall, and floods are common at times, especially when a typhoon strengthens it. The northeast monsoon (amihan) in January to March can also bring heavy rain. Many vehicles may become stuck in floods worsened by high tide and clogged drainage.

    Even during the southwest monsoon, the sun may still shine most of the time, but be it may be wise to bring an umbrella, especially when cumulonimbus clouds are seen to form. Consider dual-purpose items; a hat or umbrella can protect against the tropical sun as well as against rain.

    Typhoons  Destruction in Tacloban after Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013

    Typhoons are fairly common, usually coming in off the Pacific, sweeping across parts of the country, then heading on toward mainland Asia. Heavy rain and strong winds, usually occurring together, can cause great damage, and secondary effects such as storm surges on the coast or landslides in the mountains can also be serious. Typhoons typically cover a wide area, affecting entire islands or large regions.

    A typhoon has two names in the Philippines, one assigned by an international weather-watching agency and another by the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration or PAGASA. For example, in 2013, the typhoon with strongest winds ever recorded at landfall, and the most destructive tropical storm in recent history, made landfall in Samar and devastated several other areas; it was known as "Typhoon Haiyan" internationally and "Typhoon Yolanda" in the Philippines.

    Typhoons are a threat on land, but there are also risks at sea, where they can capsize a ship. Ships and ferries are not allowed to sail once Typhoon Warning Signal No. 2 is raised. When a typhoon is expected, err on the side of caution and cancel your trip.

    Often flights are also cancelled because of high winds caused by typhoons. You may wish schedule connecting flights a few days apart so that if your first flight is cancelled you can take a later one and still make your connection.


    The Philippines also has tornadoes (ipo-ipo or buhawi), though they are not as frequent and destructive as in the United States. One may form without early warning, especially out of a simple thunderstorm. Some are waterspouts, formed at sea. Most houses and buildings in the Philippines are made from concrete, so severe damage is limited to peeled-off roofs, broken windows, and small debris. Makeshift structures are the most prone to damage, much like how they are very susceptible to typhoons.

    Earthquakes and tsunamis

    The Philippines lies in a geologically unstable area between the continental Eurasian Plate and the subducting Philippine Sea Plate, and is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire. There is a high chance for any part of the Philippines to be struck by earthquakes.

    Earthquakes (lindol) are frequent, but most of them are weak and rarely perceptible, and a few can even trigger tsunamis (explained further below). The last major one happened on October 2013, when a magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck the island of Bohol, destroying homes, toppling centuries-old churches, killed over 200, and also damaged some structures in neighboring Cebu province. Many buildings and structures are not designed to standards or retrofitted to withstand powerful tremors, and makeshift or substandard construction remains a problem.

    Earthquakes may occur anywhere in the Philippines, but the area with the highest risk is Metro Manila and Southern Luzon, where the Valley Fault System is present. The West Valley Fault may move anytime and cause a magnitude 7.2 earthquake (called the "Big One") that can cause about 100,000 deaths and injuries. Routine earthquake drills are being performed in the areas surrounding the fault to ensure people in those areas are prepared in case disaster strikes.

    Tsunamis are a major risk in coastal areas. Though rare, be prepared to evacuate coastal areas once a tsunami is about to strike. Most coastal areas are tsunami-prone areas, especially those found near undersea trenches that can trigger such.

    Volcanoes  Mayon erupting in 2009

    Volcanoes can be a danger in the Philippines, owing to its location in the Ring of Fire, and most areas are prone to volcanic eruptions. There are 50 volcanoes in the Philippines, and half of them are classified as active. The last high-profile eruption was Mount Pinatubo in 1991. It spewed out ash and lahar that affected millions in the surrounding provinces and caused a global drop in temperature. Mayon, in Albay, noted for its perfect cone, is one of several active volcanoes that pose a danger with its frequent eruption. Taal Volcano in Batangas, the smallest volcano in the world, is also dangerous when signs of impending eruption shows on its caldera lake.

    The most active volcanoes are also tourist destinations, and volcano safety rules apply when hiking of climbing those. When volcano warnings are raised, pay close attention to any scheduled trail closures and never attempt to go inside designated exclusion zones.

    Civil conflict

    The Philippines has been struggling with insurgent groups such as Islamic separatists in Mindanao and Communists, under the New People's Army (NPA), throughout its history.

    Non-essential travel to western Mindanao, which includes the Sulu Archipelago, Zamboanga Peninsula, and the mainland provinces of Bangsamoro, is discouraged as the security situation is far worse due to terrorism, piracy and Islamist insurgencies. While the situation has somewhat improved since the Marawi siege and the 2019 plebiscites, bombings and kidnappings continued to happen sporadically in 2020.

    The rest of Mindanao remains safe, but some countries still have advisories discouraging travel to the rest of the region due to violent crime and terrorism, and travel insurance or consular assistance may be limited if you travel there. The sparsely populated region of Caraga (which has Siargao island) is far safer than the rest of mainland Mindanao, but the jungle also harbors Communist rebels and is also one of the poorest regions in the country.

    Elsewhere in the country, Communist rebels, under the New People's Army (NPA) are a problem inland. They set up illegal checkpoints along rural roads and extort money from passing motorists, but they do not bother ordinary travelers, and are mostly targeting buses and cargo trucks.


    Terrorist acts targeting tourist destinations are rare, but there have been several high-profile attacks, usually bombings, in the past, like the 2000 Rizal Day bombings, the 2004 SuperFerry bombing, the 2005 Valentine's Day bombings, and the 2016 Davao City night market bombing. Since then, there has been no major bombing, except for sporadic incidents within Mindanao. While security has been increasingly invasive in light of those incidents, with airport-style procedures when entering malls, public transportation terminals, and the like, there's no need to be paranoid.

    Bomb jokes are considered a criminal act under Philippine law, punishable with 6 months in prison.

    Political unrest and protests  A demonstration at Mendiola St, Manila

    Demonstrations and protests are common, and often turn violent. Most rallies happen in Manila, particularly Mendiola St near Malacañang and Roxas Blvd near the U.S. Embassy. Avoid going into a place where a protest is being held. In addition, foreigners are prohibited from joining demonstrations, which is punishable with jail time and deportation.

    Occasional transportation strikes, usually involving jeepney drivers, can disrupt business regionwide or even nationwide. In the cities, be prepared to walk, take a taxi or tricycle, or carpool to get to your destination. Buses are less affected by strikes, but will be in limited supply as they absorb passengers affected by the strikes.

    Election periods can be violent, especially in the less-visited provinces. There will be a lot of checkpoints along highways, and alcohol consumption is usually prohibited during the day of the elections.


    As an American colonial legacy, the Philippines has a strong gun culture and the most permissive gun ownership laws in Asia, but that does not mean you can carry any gun freely into the country for any purpose. The Philippines has strict gun laws, that you must obtain a license to possess one, and the process involves background checks, such as criminal history and mental capacity. A permit to carry is also required when bringing a handgun or pistol. All firearms must be declared to customs upon entry and exit. Carrying a gun is usually prohibited days before and after elections.

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