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PHILIPPINES

The Philippines, known as the Pearl of the Orient Seas, is located in Southeast Asia, just across the South China Sea from Hong Kong and south of Taiwan. With more than 7,000 islands, the Philippines has an island to suit every taste, with a rich history forming a friendly and welcoming people. Combine this with an area home to an astounding 1200 species of marine life from macro species to pelagic fish. It’s a destination that brings awe and wonders upon every visit.

HISTORY & CULTURE

The Philippines is the third largest English speaking country in the world. A Spanish colony for more than three centuries and named after the 16th-century Spanish king - it was taken over by the US in the early 20th century after a protracted rebellion against rule from Madrid. Spanish and US influences remain strong, especially in terms of language, religion, and government. Self-rule in 1935 was followed by full independence in 1946 under a US-style constitution.


It has a rich history combining Asian, European, and American influences. Prior to Spanish colonization in 1521, the Filipinos had a rich culture and were trading with the Chinese and the Japanese. Spain's colonization brought about the construction of Intramuros in 1571, a "Walled City" comprised of European buildings and churches, replicated in different parts of the archipelago. In 1898, after 350 years and 300 rebellions, the Filipinos succeeded in winning their independence.
In 1898, the Philippines became the first and only colony of the United States. Following the Philippine-American War, the United States brought widespread education to the islands. Filipinos fought alongside Americans during World War II, particularly at the famous battle of Bataan and Corregidor which delayed Japanese advance and saved Australia. They then waged a guerrilla war against the Japanese from 1941 to 1945. The Philippines regained its independence in 1946.


Filipinos are a freedom-loving people, having waged two peaceful, bloodless revolutions against what were perceived as corrupt regimes. The Philippines is a vibrant democracy and fun loving, as throughout the islands, there are fiestas celebrated every day and foreign guests are always welcome to their homes.


The Filipinos are divided geographically and culturally into regions, and each regional group is recognizable by distinct traits and dialects - the sturdy and frugal Ilocanos of the north, the industrious Tagalogs of the central plains, the carefree Visayans from the central islands, and the colorful tribesmen and religious Moslems of Mindanao. Tribal communities can be found scattered across the archipelago. The Philippines has more than 111 dialects spoken, owing to the subdivisions of these basic regional and cultural groups. Historically, the Filipinos have embraced two of the great religions of the world - Islam, and Christianity. Islam was introduced during the 14th century shortly after the expansion of Arab commercial ventures in Southeast Asia. Today, it is limited to the southern region of the country. Christianity was introduced as early as the 16th century with the coming of Ferdinand Magellan in 1521. Protestantism was introduced by the first Presbyterian and Methodist missionaries who arrived with the American soldiers in 1899. Two Filipino independent churches were organized at the turn of the century and are prominent today. These are the Aglipay (Philippine Independent Church) and the Iglesia Ni Kristo (Church of Christ) founded in 1902 and 1914, respectively. Recently the Aglipay signed a covenant with the Anglican Church. The Iglesia ni Kristo has expanded its membership considerably. Its churches, with their unique towering architecture, are landmarks in almost all important towns, provincial capitals, and major cities.

TYPES OF DIVING

The Philippines offers opportunities for every level of diver matched to both tourist hotspots and deserted destinations. This includes a wide range of accommodation, which is available from ultra-luxurious dive resorts to budget bungalows. Several scuba hotspots, including Apo Island and Tubbataha, are only reachable by liveaboard. Because of this, liveaboards are the most convenient way to dive the Philippines. Typical dive safaris last from four to 10 nights and the best time to dive in the Philippines is from November to April, with a “high season” over this period as well.

WHAT TO SEE DIVING

The 7,107 islands of the Philippines are spread over 115,000 square miles (300,000km²). This area is home to an astounding 1200 species of marine life. Many of these are macro species, but the Philippines is also known as a pelagic fish destination. Thresher sharks can be seen at Malapascua; Tubbataha Reef is home to a variety of shark species, and Donsol is the destination for whale shark lovers. Several scuba hotspots, including Apo Island and Tubbataha, are only reachable by liveaboard.

The Philippines has thousands of dive sites. These are spread out mostly around the Luzon and Visayas regions. Whatever your dive experience, you are sure to be spoilt for choice.

In the Luzon region, nearby Manila, Puerto Galera is the perfect place to begin your scuba adventure. With easy beach entries and plentiful macro life, thousands of divers use the area to get certified every year. For those in the Manila region and looking for wreck diving, Subic Bay offers divers with an advanced certification the chance to get up close and personal with sunken WWII warships.

Further south in the Luzon region, wild Palawan has a variety of WWII warships and planes lie at depths of 66 feet (20 meters) and more. Today, soft corals, turtles, a plethora of fish species and sea snakes call the wrecks home.

Divers interested in Pelagic Fish should make a point of heading to the central Visayas. In Malapascua, visitors can see skittish thresher sharks while Oslob has a resident population of whale sharks. The biodiversity doesn’t end there. Moalboal, Balicasag and Apo Island are world-class dive sites rich in marine life such as schools of jacks, sardine balls, rays and the occasional shark.


To cap, the Philippines is a great area for spotting barracuda, emperor fish, scorpion fish, moray eel, tuna, batfish, Moorish idol, trevally, and flute mouth. On the more unusual side of things, the Philippines is also home to lionfish, triggerfish, pygmy seahorses, trumpet fish, mantis shrimp, unicorn fish, wrasse, squid, parrot fish, and octopus. Sightings may include whale sharks, manta rays, eagle rays, devil rays and sharks such as hammerheads and thresher sharks.

APO REEF & CORON
This unique area combines some of the best wreck diving on earth with staggering natural beauty. Coron’s wrecks and the surrounding area are steeped in history which makes it an intriguing destination.
BICOL
Paradise awaits in Bicol where you can dive with whale sharks and manta rays every morning and relax on pristine beaches every afternoon. Suited to all levels, Bicol is the perfect diving getaway.
BOHOL
With superb wall dives, colorful coral, and calm currents, Bohol has become an increasingly popular diving destination in the Philippines. From macro to pelagics, the marine life of Bohol awaits.
CEBU
Cebu boasts spectacular diving with unique experiences like thresher shark dives at Malapascua, mighty schools of sardines at Moalboal and whale shark sightings.
LEYTE
With superb corals and the allure of the ever-elusive whale shark, Leyte has become one of the Philippines’ premier destinations. From graceful pelagics to macro oddities, Leyte is sure to delight.
MALAPASCUA
Best known for its thresher shark sightings, Malapascua should be on the bucket list of any big fish aficionado. This tiny island offers some of the world’s most highly rated dive sites.
MINDANAO
As the Philippines’ last diving frontier, Mindanao offers dive sites for every level. Advanced divers can enjoy deep wrecks, while beginners will appreciate easy beach entries. 1000 species await.
MINDORO
With 75% of the world’s coral species, the second largest coral reef in the world and a huge variety of dive sites, Mindoro is a diving paradise that offers the ideal dive for every skill level.
PALAWAN
Palawan will impress the most jaded diver with its beautiful reefs, stunning World War II shipwrecks and the glory that is Tubbataha Reef.
SIQUIJOR
Seemingly made for underwater photography, Siquijor is a macro-lovers dream with walls full of coral. Adventure seekers will also enjoy the island’s world-class night diving opportunities.

DIVE CONDITIONS

You can dive year-round in the Philippines, but there are three distinct seasons that affect dive conditions. December through March is the northeast monsoon that can bring strong winds. April through June is usually dry with warm days and little wind. July through November is the southwest monsoon, which is wet but the water is warm. Water temperatures vary between 73-86°F (23-30°C). Underwater visibility varies though these periods as well, from 5 to 25 meters, with the season of November to April being the most visited, for the best conditions.

WEATHER

The tropical climate includes three distinct seasons. From July to November, the southwest monsoon brings wet weather and warm water. December to March is the northeast monsoon which is associated with strong winds. While April to June is usually dry with little wind. High season is November to April in the south. Water temperatures vary between 73-86°F (23-30°C), while air temperatures range from 77-90°F (25-32°C).

WATER TEMPERATURE

Water temperatures vary between 73-86°F (23-30°C).

AIR TEMPERATURE

The first half of the year, from January to May, is the best time to visit the countryside. November to February is cool, while March to May is hot and dry. June to October is rainy, with the months between July and September characterized by typhoons. The average temperature is 78 F/25 C; average humidity is 77%. Some parts of the country such as Cebu, are warm and comfortable in all seasons and can be visited throughout the year.

RAIN FALL

The mean annual rainfall of the Philippines varies from 965 to 4,064 millimeters annually. Baguio City, Eastern Samar, and eastern Surigao receive the greatest amount of rainfall while the southern portion of Cotabato receives the least amount of rain. The rainy seasons starts in June and lasts till October. September and October are often the typhoon season in the Philippines.

HOW TO GET THERE

Ninoy Aquino International Airport (MNL, Manila), Clark International Airport (CRK, Manila), Mactan-Cebu International Airport (CEB, Cebu) and Kalibo International Airport (KLO, Boracay) are all well-connected by international flights originating in Europe, North America and Australia. Once in the country, visitors can use local ferries to travel locally. Cebu Pacific and AirAsia offer low-cost inter-island flights.

Airlines flying to the Philippines include Philippines Airlines, Qantas, Cebu Pacific, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Air China, Malaysia Airlines, Qatar Airways, Silk Air, Jetstar Asia, Air Asia, Thai Airways, China Airlines, Japan Airlines.

If you are leaving the Philippines from Mactan-Cebu International airport, you'll need to pay a departure tax of 750 Pesos or the equivalent in US dollars. If you leave via Manila International airport, there is no departure tax.

NOTE: The Philippines has a strict policy on hand luggage. Flying with regulators in your hand luggage is not allowed on domestic flights and departing on some international airlines. As a universal request, it's best to place your regulators in your packed checked luggage.

VISA CONDITIONS

For those with diplomatic or bilateral agreements with the Philippines:
1. Unexpired passport;
2. Unexpired entry visa; and
3. Validly-issued return ticket.

Non-visa required travelers shall be admitted an initial 30-days.

For those without bilateral agreements with the Philippines:
Unexpired passport;
1. Unexpired entry visa; and
(Philippine Foreign Post (PFP)-listed highly restricted aliens shall secure visa only at the PFP in their country of origin or legal residence.)
2. Validly-issued return ticket.

Note: The passport shall have at least six months’ validity beyond intended stay unless the person belongs to a non-visa required country who may be admitted into the Philippines with less than six months’ valid passports upon arrival and whose embassies/consulate extend or renew their passports in the Philippines.


Details are here:  Philippines Bureau of Immigration

If you arrive with the wrong type of visa or break other immigration laws, you'll likely be detained. Offenders face jail sentences, fines and/or deportation and may also be prohibited from entering the Philippines in the future. Make sure you have a valid visa and remain aware of your visa status throughout your stay. If you have any concerns about the status of your Philippine visa or if you want to extend your visa, check with the Philippines Bureau of Immigration.

LOCAL KNOWLEDGE

Currency
The currency in the Philippines is the Peso (PHP) and the Centavo. 100 centavos = P1. Coin denominations are 1, 5, 10, and 25 centavos, P1, and P5. Bill denominations are : 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1, 000 pesos. Foreign currency may be exchanged at your hotel, and in most of the large department stores, banks and authorized money changing shops. Exchanging money anywhere else is illegal and the laws are strictly enforced. Most large stores, restaurants, hotels, and resorts accept major credit cards including American Express, Visas, and MasterCard. Traveller's checks preferably American Express are accepted at hotels and large department stores. Personal checks drawn on foreign banks are generally not accepted.

Electricity
220 volts a/c is the common standard. 110 volts a/c is also used, especially in major hotels. Plug type: A, B, C

Water
Water supply in Metro Manila and in all the other major cities are considered potable. Bottled purified water, spring water or mineral water is often supplied by hotels and resorts and sold in all grocery stores.

Time Difference
Local time is GMT +8 hours.

Airport Taxi
Passenger Terminal Fee is levied on all passengers embarking on:
1. International travel : Php750.00
2. Domestic travel: Php200.00

Place of payment: Airport of departure.
Exempt:
1. Children under 2 years of age.
2. Transit passengers remaining in the transit area and not leaving the airport.
3. Crew members.

Anti-Smoking Law in Enclosed Places, etc.
MANILA, Philippines -Section five of the Tobacco Regulation Act of 2003 (Republic Act 9211) prohibits the carrying of any lighted tobacco product in public vehicles, schools, health centers, elevators, cinemas, malls and in places where fire hazards are present. Smoking is also banned in recreational facilities for minors. Fines imposed on violators of this section range from P500 to P10,000.

Languages
Two official languages - Filipino and English. Filipino which is based on Tagalog, is the national language. English is also widely used and is the medium of instruction in higher education.

TRAVEL TIPS
• Never leave home without your rain gear, umbrella, and heavy clothing during the rainy months from June to October as well as when setting out to the mountainous areas.
• When shopping in a public market, it is perfectly acceptable to haggle for the cheapest price.
• English is the most widely spoken next to Filipino/Tagalog, the national language. Learning the basic local phrases may come in handy. Over 111 local dialects are spoken in the country.
• Comfortable yet sturdy footwear are best, as traveling the islands will often involve some walking.
• When headed to the remote areas, come prepared with an insect repellant and even your own water in handy containers. Always have the island map with you.
• Prepare to hop in a jeepney, tricycle, or pedicab – exotic modes of land transport that are the most commonly available for going around. Always bring loose change when taking public transport.
• Know the transport schedules. Some destinations are only being serviced intermittently, not to mention extreme weather conditions that will affect these schedules.
• Air-conditioned taxis should cost PhP40 on the meter. An extra PhP2 will be added for every 500 meters.
• Casual clothing is acceptable inside churches and business offices. Dining establishments and hotels impose no dress code but shorts and slippers are deemed improper.
• For formal occasions, the traditional Barong Tagalog, the Philippine national costume for men, is just as suitable as the suit-and-tie.
• When traveling by car, be mindful of the number coding ordinance for vehicles that is being implemented strictly in selected cities.
• Adapt to local customs; accept local differences. The Filipinos are divided culturally into regions, each with its own distinct traits and traditions.
• Tipping is expected for many services. The standard amount is 10% of the total bill. Tipping is optional on bills that include a service charge, which is often 10% as well of the total bill.
• Be sure to sample the endless variety of native delicacies and local cuisine, which differ in every region. The Philippines is made up of 7,107 different flavors that you will want to take home with you.
• Finally, enjoy!



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