30 interesting facts about the Philippines

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The most interesting facts about the Philippines, from a world record for breastfeeding to the Selfie Capital of the World.

Interesting facts about the Philippines include its remarkable rice terraces
Interesting facts about the Philippines include its remarkable rice terraces (Shutterstock)

Fast facts

Official name: Republic of the Philippines
Population: 110,818,325 
Area: 300,000 sq km
Capital city: Manila
Major languages: Filipino (Tagalog), English
Major religions: Roman Catholic 80.6%, Protestant 8.2%
Time zone: UTC+8 (Philippine Standard Time)
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

Interesting facts about the Philippines

1. The Philippines are an island nation in Southeast Asia, located approximately 500 miles (800km) off the coast of Vietnam in the Pacific Ocean.
– Source: Britannica

2. The Philippine archipelago is made up of 7,641 islands.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

3. The Philippines is the world’s second-largest archipelagic state by population after Indonesia, and the third-largest by area after Indonesia and Papua New Guinea.
– Source: United Nations (1992) The Law of the Sea – Practice of Archipelagic States. UN: New York

Islands in the Philippines
Several interesting facts about the Philippines stem from its geography (Shutterstock)

4. For decades, it was believed there were only 7,107 islands, but in 2016, the national mapping authority reported that over 500 new islands had been discovered, although not all have been verified.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

5. Despite being made up of over 7,000 islands, the majority of the population lives on just 11 of them.
– Source: BBC News

6. Archaeological evidence suggests the Philippines has been inhabited for over 700,000 years.
– Source: Nature Journal

7. The Philippines were a Spanish colony for more than three centuries from 1542. In 1898, they were ceded from Spain to the US following the Spanish-American War.
– Source: BBC News

A map of the Philippines
A map of the Philippines (Shutterstock)

8. The country was named after a 16th-century Spanish king, King Phillip II, after explorer Ruy Lopez de Villalobos visited some of the islands in 1543.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

9. The Philippines is the only country in Southeast Asia that was subjected to European colonialism before it developed a dominant culture or a centralized government of its own.
– Source: Brittanica

10. Many Filipinos have Spanish names because of a 19th-century Spanish decree that required them to use Spanish surnames. Parents often name their children after the saint whose feast day was on the day of their birth.
– Source: National Geographic

11. The Filipino flag is made up of blue and white horizontal stripes and a white triangle featuring a golden sun and three stars. The blue stands for the willingness to sacrifice oneself for freedom, red for courage and the white for liberty. The stars and the sun and its rays represent various regions of the country.
– Source: Britannica

The flag of the Philippines
The flag of the Philippines (Shutterstock)

12. When the flag is inverted or flown upside down, it signals the nation is in a state of war. In 2010, the US had to apologise for accidentally flying the Philippine flag upside down during a presidential event in New York.
– Source: Reuters

13. The Philippines is located along the Ring of Fire, a belt of active volcanoes and earthquake epicentres bordering the Pacific Ocean. Up to 90% of the world’s earthquakes and 75% of the world’s volcanoes occur within the Ring of Fire.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

14. The Philippines is home to Taal Volcano, one of 16 Decade Volcanoes. Decade Volcanoes have been identified by the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth’s Interior (IAVCEI) as the most dangerous volcanoes on the planet due to their history of destructive eruptions and proximity to populated areas.
– Source: Discover Magazine, BBC News

Taal Volcano with smoke and ash
Taal Volcano (Shutterstock)

15. The Philippines also straddles the Pacific typhoon belt. Annually, an average of nine typhoons hit the Philippines with around five of these classed as destructive. As such, the country is the most exposed in the world to tropical storms.
– Source: CIA World Fact Book

16. In 1946, after decades of American rule and three years of Japanese occupation during the Second World War from 1941 to 1944, the islands finally gained full independence and were renamed Republic of the Philippines.
– Source: BBC News

17. The Philippines is famous for its Jeepneys. Jeepneys are colourful buses usually decorated with religious and nationalistic artwork. They are the country’s cheapest and most popular mode of public transport. However, recently they’re being phased out to ease city congestion.
– Source: The Guardian

A Jeepney on a road
A Jeepney (Shutterstock)

18. The Philippines endured nearly a decade of martial law from 1972 until 1981 under President Ferdinand Marcos. After 20 years of rule, Marcos was driven from power in 1986.
– Source: BBC News

19. In 2014, Makati City in Manila was named the Selfie Capital of the World with 258 selfie-takers per 100,000 people – more than second-placed Manhattan in New York.
– Source: Time Magazine

20. Filipinos love karaoke and almost every Philippine home has a karaoke machine. In fact, it was Filipino inventor Roberto del Rosario who developed the Karaoke Sing-Along System in 1975.
– Source: BBC Travel

21. The UNESCO-listed Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras are one of the most famous sights in the country. The contoured rice terraces have existed for over 2,000 years.
– Source: UNESCO

Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras
Rice Terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras (Shutterstock)

22. The Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River is thought to be the world’s longest navigable underground river at 24km (15mi) long.
– Source: Rough Guides

23. The Philippines saw the largest ever papal event when, in 2015, as many as seven million people flocked to see Pope Francis deliver an open-air Mass in Manila.
– Source: Reuters

24. The Cebu sardine run sees millions of sardines migrate along Panagsama Beach in the Moalboal region. Mass fishing is prohibited, so it’s possible to swim and dive with the giant shoals of fish.
– Source: Lonely Planet

A shoal of sardines
The Cebu sardine run (Shutterstock)

25. The yo-yo was invented in the Philippines. There are examples of yo-yos existing in ancient cultures including in China (circa 1000 BC) and Greece (circa 500 BC), but the first yo-yos manufactured in America in the early 20th century were made by Pedro Flores (1896-1964), a Filipino immigrant who eventually sold the trademark to the Duncan Yo-Yo Company.
– Source: The Atlantic

26. The Philippines set the world record for simultaneous breastfeeding when around 10,000 mothers fed their babies at the same time. The event was organised to highlight the nutritional benefits of breastfeeding.
– Source: Reuters

27. The Philippines is one of 17 megadiverse countries in the world. Megadiverse countries are the world’s most biodiversity-rich countries.
– Source: The Telegraph

The Filipino jungle
The Philippines is a megadiverse country (Shutterstock)

28. The Philippines are home to the world’s longest snake. The reticulated python typically weighs 75kg (165lb) and can grow longer than 7m (23ft) and is known to attack humans.
– Source: National Geographic

29. The Philippines has the longest Christmas season in the world: from September to January. The festive season is marked by traditional masses, light displays and family gatherings.
– Source: CNN

30. In 2016, the world’s natural giant clam pearl was discovered in the Philippines. Weighing 34kg, the pearl was actually found 10 years ago by a fisherman who was unaware of its value. It easily surpassed the previous record-holder, the Pearl of Lao Tzu, which weighs 6.4kg and was found in the Philippines in 1934.
– Source: BBC News, The Atlantic

Every effort has been made to verify these facts about the Philippines. However, if you find an error or have any questions, please contact us.