The Republic of the Philippines is a fascinating archipelagic nation consisting of more than 7,640 individual islands. With more than 100 million people, it’s a significant Southeast Asian country with a rich history and diverse people.
This list aims to highlight some of the more interesting facts about the island nation, focusing with a focus on its history and the people who live there.
These ten facts don’t cover everything you should know about the Philippines, but it’s a great place to start learning about this amazing island nation.
10 Nearly 200 Languages Are Spoken Throughout The Islands
Most people know that the national language of the Philippines is Filipino, a standardized version of Tagalog. Still, that’s hardly the only spoken language in the country. Currently, there are 186 known languages spoken in the Philippines, with only four lacking any living speakers.
Filipino may be the national language, but it’s not the only one. English is also a national language of the Philippines, which is why it’s found throughout the country in government texts, educational materials, broadcast media, and just about anywhere text is written.
Because there are so many people in the Philippines who speak fluent English, it’s the fifth-largest English-speaking nation on the planet. This makes it an ideal destination for English-speaking tourists who are often surprised to find so many people speaking English in Southeast Asia.
Most of the spoken languages in the Philippines are native dialects that share similarities with Tagalog. Cebuano and Ilokano are the next most-spoken languages.
Additionally, there are 19 regional auxiliary official languages. In 2018, the Filipino Sign Language was recognized as the Philippines’ national sign language, so languages continue to evolve and grow in the country.
9 The Islands Were Colonized Numerous Times
People have inhabited the islands of the Philippines for thousands of years, but a somewhat disparate national identity didn’t materialize until the 10th century. This evolved into a center of trade right up to the point Ferdinand Magellan arrived and claimed the territory for Spain in 1521.
The Philippines would remain the “property” of other nations for the next 381 years. Spain maintained control of the Philippines via Spanish Manilla, which became the capital of the Spanish East Indies in 1571. Spain continued to govern the islands through the Mexico-based Viceroyalty of New Spain.
During the Seven Years’ War, Britain occupied Manilla, but the Treaty of Paris returned control to Spain, which held onto it until the Spanish-American War brought the conflict to the nation. That war resulted in the First Philippine Republic’s creation in 1899. However, the U.S. didn’t recognize the new government, which ultimately resulted in the Philippine-American War.
America won that war, and between 1899 and 1946, the Philippines remained under the control of the U.S. It was given Commonwealth status in 1935, and by 1946, the States finally recognized the Philippines as an independent nation via the Treaty of Manilla.
8 The Two Biggest Sports Are Basketball & Boxing
If there are two sports just about everyone in the Philippines loves, it’s basketball and boxing, both of which are sources of national pride. If you’re even remotely familiar with professional boxing, you know who Manny Pacquiao is and that he’s the Philippines’ favorite son.
Whenever Pacquiao steps into the ring, the entire country stops and takes notice — literally. Fights cause nearly the whole country to stop and turn on their televisions to catch a glimpse of PacMan throw his fists. There’s a lot of pride where Pacquiao is concerned, and for a good reason. The man is the only boxer to hold world championships across four decades.
Outside of boxing, the national interest tends to favor basketball. It’s difficult to find a home or street corner without a hoop. The sport was introduced during the American colonial period, and by the 1910s, the country had a men’s national team. Various leagues were established over the years, with the Philippine Basketball Association establishing in 1975.
The PBA is the second-oldest national basketball association in the world. Philippino players have played all over the world, and the nation is the third-largest basketball market in the world after the U.S. and China.
7 Home To Some Of The World’s Biggest Shopping Malls
Modern shopping malls may have gotten their start in the United States, but it wasn’t long before the concept of large enclosed shopping malls made its way to other countries. Filipinos love shopping malls, and the nation is host to three of the largest malls found anywhere in the world.
One of the main draws shopping malls have over other places is that they are clean, safe, and most importantly, they are air-conditioned. For this reason, malls often become important community hubs where people go to do everything from shop and eat to do their banking and attend church.
The largest mall in the country is The SM Megamall, which is the third-largest mall in the world. It has 5,100,000 square feet (474,000 square meters) of retail/commercial space. The mall has been expanded upon over the years to its current size, and it’s so large, there’s a tram that takes people to its various structures.
The SM Megamall can accommodate four million people at any given time, as it covers an area of some 25 acres (10 hectares). A 50-story office tower, dubbed “The Mega Tower,” is planned and will include a leasable area of an additional 1,337,000 square feet (124,200 square meters).
6 Christianity Is The Dominant Religion
Like most developed nations in Asia, the Philippines is a secular state that values freedom of religion. Unlike most countries in the region, the dominant faith practiced in the Philippines is Christianity, which claims around 86% of the 100 million+ inhabitants as adherents. This makes the Philippines the world’s third-largest population of Roman Catholics.
Christianity isn’t commonly practiced throughout Asia in such numbers, but there’s a very good reason it’s the dominant faith in the Philippines. When Spain colonized the islands in the 16th century, the country did what it did best at that time; it exported Catholocism. In much the same way South America became dominantly Catholic, so too did the Philippines.
Following Catholocism and other forms of Christianity, Islam is the second-largest practiced religion. The Muslim population was estimated to be around 10% of the population in 2014, with Sunni Islam under the Shafi’i school being the predominant denomination.
The Philippines boasts several historical religious sites, including UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Paoay Church, Baroque Churches of the Philippines, the San Agustin Church, and many others are beautiful places that show off the nation’s rich religious history.
5 The Philippines Has Some Unique And Dangerous Geography
Geographically, the Philippines is one of the most beautiful and interesting places on the planet. An island in the country boasts more volcanoes than it does cities, and because it’s made entirely of islands, it boasts a coastline of 22,548 miles (36,289 km)
One of the more fascinating features found in the archipelago is Vulcan Point, an islet within a lake on an island within a lake on an island. That’s a bit hard to follow, but it breaks down like this: An islet called Vulcan Point sits within a lake found at the Main Crater of Taal Volcano, which is on Volcano Island, which sits within Taal Lake on the island of Luzon.
It’s the Inception version of an island in a lake on an island in a lake on an island, and you’ve probably seen a meme or two about it. Speaking of volcanoes, the Philippines has more than enough to spare, as it sits on the western fringes of the Pacific Ring of Fire.
There are around 20 earthquakes every day, but most are too weak to notice. There are 26 active volcanoes, though the most well-known is likely Pinatubo, which experienced the second-largest volcanic eruption in the 20th century when it erupted in 1991.
4 The Capital City Has The Highest Population Density In The World
When it comes to cramming as many people as is inhumanly possible into a single city, you need to look no further than Manilla. The capital city of the Philippines is the most densely populated city on the planet. While it isn’t the largest city in the world, it’s ridiculously dense where people are concerned.
The 2015 Census put the population of Manilla (city proper) at 1,780,148 people. Now, that’s a lot of folks, but it’s relatively small compared to places like Delhi or Tokyo, as those cities are much larger. Manilla sits on only 16.56 square miles (42.88 square km). If you do the math, you’ll find that the population density is 111,002 people per square mile (42,857 per square km).
If you compare that with Tokyo, the city with the largest population globally, the numbers are insanely horrific. Tokyo boasts a population of 37.4 million people, but the city is spread over a much larger area. Tokyo’s population density sits at 6,158 people per square km, making it much less dense than Manilla’s city proper.
3 Home Of The Jeepney
When you make your way to the Philippines, you will encounter something unique yet familiar: the jeepney. Jeepneys make up the bulk of the Philippines’ public transportation system, and they are incredibly colorful and garish vehicles. The various ways people decorate them with kitsch and bright colors have made them an important cultural symbol of the nation.
Jeepneys are the result of American colonization and the second World War. Before the conflict, the nation used a type of share taxi called auto calesas (AC), though the bulk of them were destroyed during the war. When WWII came to an end, the U.S. left the islands to govern themselves, and as the U.S. military often does, it left a ton of vehicles behind.
American military jeeps that were left behind were used by the locals as a replacement for the ACs lost during the war, though they were heavily modified. The word “jeepney” became popular as a portmanteau of “jeep” and “jitney,” which was a popular slang term used in the 1940s for American taxicabs.
From there, the jeepney took on a life of its own, and over time, they became the colorful icons of the Philippines. The majority of jeepneys are used as public utility vehicles, though some are in private citizens’ hands.
2 The Texting Capital Of The World
While you might think that texting has taken over communication so much in your home country, unless that is the Philippines, you can’t claim to come from the “texting capital of the world.” That honor goes to the island nation, and as it turns out, the people there text much more than anyone else on the planet.
Filipinos are very social people, and they often enjoy talking and interacting with one another far more than people outside the nation might find necessary. It’s common for people to carry on extended conversations with everyone in their extended family, which can be a lot of people in the populous nation.
It is estimated that Filipinos keep in touch with their friends and family through around 400 million texts every day. That amounts to an estimated 142 billion per year! One of the reasons texting has taken over communications in this way is due to cost, as it’s much cheaper than making a phone call.
Of the 100+ million people in the country, it is estimated that 73% own a mobile phone. Seven percent share them, and the remaining population does without.
1 The Philippines Supplies The World’s Nurses
The Philippines is a densely-populated nation, and due to a variety of reasons, it’s a job-scarce environment. This tends to drive a high unemployment rate, which surged to 17.7% in April of 2020, so people often find themselves looking elsewhere for work. The healthcare industry has evolved to be particularly good at this where nurses are concerned.
Because of the poor working conditions found throughout the Filipino healthcare industry, many nurses find themselves looking outside the country for work. As a result, the country has developed into labor migration to overseas destinations to ease the tight labor market and open up opportunities elsewhere.
The Philippines has become the top supplier of nurses worldwide, as around 25% of all overseas nurses come from the country. There are around 460 nursing colleges in the Philippines that produce around 20,000 nurses annually.
According to statistics compiled in 2003, the country employs around 30,000 nurses every year in government and private agencies. Internationally, Filipino nurses number as high as 164,000, resulting in almost 85% of the total workforce working outside the country, and the number is steadily increasing.