You probably already know about the Philippines’ abundance of islands, pristine beaches, breathtaking mountains, gorgeous diving spots and jaw-dropping lagoons. However, if you want to learn more about the Pearl of the Orient Seas, you’re in the right place. From popular culture to national quirks, discover 12 things about the Philippines you might not have known before.
1. English is more widely spoken than you think.
More people speak English in the Philippines (52 million speakers) than in Australia (26 million). Only the United States, India, Pakistan, and the UK boast more English speakers than the Philippines. On a related note, English is the only language that has more non-native speakers than native ones.
2. Speaking of languages…
…there are between 120 to 187 languages in use in the Philippines, including Tagalog, Cebuano and Ilocano. While native dialects are used for communication across the country and in popular culture, the government and school system operate primarily in English.
3. More than just bricks and mortar.
Manila City Hall is shaped like a coffin with a cross on it when viewed from the top. Helicopter ride, anyone?
On the subject of buildings, “The Ruins” in Bacolod is considered the Taj Mahal of the Philippines. Don Mariano built the mansion in honour of his beloved wife, Maria. As proof of his unwavering love for her, he had their initials moulded on every column inside the mansion. Now that’s a lot of Ms.
4. Be wary of inverted Filipino flags.
When the Filipino flag is upside down, i.e. the red stripe above the blue one, it means the country is at war. Interestingly, in 2010, The U.S. Government had to apologise for displaying an inverted Philippine flag in a meeting hosted by President Barack Obama that was attended by President Benigno Aquino III. So if you’re ever in the Philippines and spot an inverted flag, take cover.
|Did you know? The first-ever Filipino flag was sewn in Hong Kong. Delfina Herbosa de Natividad, a niece of Dr Jose Rizal, and mother/daughter team Marcela and Lorenza Agoncillo are credited with the historic feat.|
5. Camiguin is a hotspot for volcanoes
In the Island province of Camiguin, the number of volcanoes (seven) exceeds towns (five). Not surprisingly, the island has the most volcanoes per square kilometre in the world. However, all seven volcanoes have remained dormant since the 1950s. Phew.
6. Check your money
In August 2020, instead of saying “Rodrigo Roa Duterte”, a batch of P1,000 banknotes went into circulation with the words “Rodrigo Boa Duterte” printed in error. And this isn’t the first time it’s happened in the Philippines. Back in 2005, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) recalled P100 notes that misspelt then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s name as “Arrovo”. The BSP noted that they only released about 1,000 bills into general circulation, and these have shot up in value over the years thanks to demand from collectors.
live lay the King
Even though President Ferdinand Marcos died in 1986, he wasn’t properly buried until 2016. The former leader of the Philippines lay “on ice” while successive governments argued whether or not he should be buried in the cemetery reserved for Filipino heroes. Finally, Marcos was buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, a Heroes’ cemetery in Metro Manila.
8. You’re always in good hands
The Philippines produces the highest number of nurses in the world. Between 1903 and 1940, the US established a study abroad scheme called the pensionados program. As a result, many Filipinos qualified as nurses.
While some stayed in America for employment, others returned home to help set up nursing schools. After World War II, when the United States experienced a shortage of nurses, they naturally turned to the Philippines. Many Filipinos emigrated to the US as a result.
Confused by Paypal and other remittance providers? You needn’t be. Read our guide on how to send money to the Philippines and get advice on transferring large amounts, cash home deliveries and more.
9. The Philippines created a world first
Yes, the Philippines gave us the first LGBTQ political party in the world. In 2003, the Ang Ladlad (meaning “out of the closet” in Filipino) was created by writer Danton Remoto. In doing so, Danton started the only LGBTQ political party at the time.
10. Pinoys have a day dedicated to their national heroes
In addition to Philippine Independence Day in June, the country has a separate celebration called National Heroes Day in August. The festival highlights the sacrifices of those most responsible for Filipino independence, like Emilio Aguinaldo and Andres Bonifacio.
11. PacMan is a national obsession
Not the computer game Pac-Man but PacMan, the affectionate name for boxer Manny Pacquiao. Filipinos love boxing with a passion, and when their most famous son, Manny, fights, it’s like a national holiday.
Filipinos are so supportive of “PacMan” that every time he has a boxing match, the Philippine National Police report that street crime drops to zero in most parts of the country. Now a Senator in the Philippines, Pacquiao, who is 42, continues to fight and is tipped to run for President in 2022. Kapow.
12. Filipinos can’t say ‘no’
Have you heard about the Filipino tradition, custom or maybe even a quirk that’s frustrating and confusing at the same time? It’s the inability of Filipinos to say ‘no’ or outright refuse an invitation or suggestion. Filipinos, in general, don’t like confrontations, and many avoid saying ‘no’ at all costs. Instead, they’ll give the Tagalog or other equivalent to a ‘maybe’, ‘alright’, ‘let’s see’ or something even less contentious.