Where are the Philippines?
The Philippines is a country in South Eastern Asia comprising of 7,107 tropical islands, around 80% of which are inhabited. The nation is divided into three regions; Luzon, the northern most region; Visayas, the middle collection of islands; and Mindanao, the southernmost islands.
What languages are spoken in the Philippines?
There are over 170 languages in the Philippines; some with overlapping words, many that are nothing alike, and plenty that aren’t even written! One official language of the Philippines is Tagalog, which I studied as a Peace Corps Trainee for two months during Pre-Service Training. The second official language of the Philippines is English. Most schools teach Tagalog, English, and even a local language! The most used (by population) language of the Philippines is Visayas (pronouncing the V like a B), though even this is broken into many smaller regional dialects. At my site, I am (attempting) to speak a version of Visayas, also known as Boholano native to the island of Bohol!
What about some history on the Philippines?
Before the Western invaders arrived, the Philippines was a mishmash of locals (human ancestors landed 67,000 years prior), Austronesians, and East Asian settlers. In 1565 the arrival of the Miguel Lopez de Legazpi marked the beginning of the Spanish colonization of the Philippines as a settlement. The ruling by the Spanish lasted until 1898, when Spain lost the Spanish-American war. The US established a territorial government to rule over the Philippines, which lasted until July 4th, 1846. Hence forth, July 4th in the Philippines is known as Republic Day or Philippine-American Friendship day. The combination of the relatively recent USA and Spanish colonies with the Austronesian origins of the Philippines has led to a modern Filipino languages littered with Spanish and English vocabulary.
What religions are practiced in the Philippines?
The Philippines is predominately Roman Catholic (~81%), followed by many different Protestant denominations (~11%), and a small amount practicing Islam (~5.6%). There are a few communities practicing Hinduism, Baha’i and Judaism, among other religions. Religion is very important to Filipinos and on a regular basis I get asked what my religion is or referred to as ‘the Jew’; it comes from a place of curiosity and kindness.
What is the weather like?
Everybody’s favorite question! Just being a stone’s throw away from the equator, the average temperature of the Philippines is a balmy 26.6°C or 79.9°F. In the mountains and around Nov-Feb cooler weather can be found. There is also a rainy season that lasts from July until November, where typhoons and monsoon rains are prominent in certain areas. As an archipelago, the Philippines is only slightly larger than Rhode Island in land size but takes up a geographical space the size of Japan. So despite the averages there is a lot of variability in climate from one island to the other!
What is the natural environment like?
Most people who come to the Philippines don’t come for the cities. They come for the waterfalls, caves, hills, mountains, sandy beaches, remote islands and the crystal clear blue waters that surround them! I’m living in a tropical biologist’s dream where some of the world’s best coral reefs and rainforests are at my fingertips. Unfortunately due to its location in the Typhoon Belt and the Ring of Fire, the ‘Pines is also prone to some of the worst natural disasters: typhoons, flood, landslides, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and tsunamis. On top of that, the Philippine Sea Plate (which cuts through the Philippines in the North and East) is subducting under its neighboring plates at a rate of 16cm a year! If you’re okay with all that, it’s definitely worth a visit!
And lastly, what is the Peace Corps history in the ‘Pines?
Peace Corps has been serving in the Philippines since 1961 (the PC’s first year) and has volunteers located in Luzon and the Visayas. Mindanao does not have any volunteers or even US government officials because of political unrest in that region. There are currently 176 volunteers serving in three sectors: Education; Children, Youth and Families; and Environment. The Philippines has seen 8,975 US Peace Corps Volunteers as of now!
For more information on the Peace Corps Philippines program click here: https://www.peacecorps.gov/philippines/