21 Phenomenal Facts About the Philippines You Might Not Know!

Boats in the Philippines

Picture the Philippines and you’re likely to get lost in images of dreamy beaches, turquoise water and island escapes. However, there is way more to this Southeast Asian archipelagic country than that!

This list of facts about the Philippines will reveal unknown insights about the country, reiterating why this is one amazing destination which should definitely be on your bucket list! 

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21 Fun Facts About The Philippines 

1. Fertilised duck embryo is the national street snack

Known locally as ‘balut’, this cheap street eat certainly won’t be for everyone! Balut is a fertilised duck egg, incubated for 2-3 weeks before being steamed and finally eaten. Although many westerners baulk at the idea of slurping down partially developed duck, it is a very popular delicacy in Southeast Asia and especially in the Philippines.

To eat balut like a local, you should first make a hole in the shell, season the inside with salt and give it a swirl. Suck out the broth through the shell before peeling it off to expose the meat. You can eat everything inside, from the yolk to the chick. Although the white is edible, a lot of people don’t like it because it is very tough.

You can check out more unusual Asian food here. Will you be trying any of them on your next visit?! 

Balut egg
If you can get past its appearance, balut is meant to be very nice!

2. The positioning of the Filipino flag indicates whether the country is at war

The national flag of the Philippines is very interesting. On the surface, it looks much like other flags, however, when you see it being flown upside down, this indicates that the country is in a state of war. 

On the flag, there are horizontal bands of blue and red, with a white equilateral triangle at the side. In the triangle, there is a yellow sun. It has eight rays of light emitting from it, each designed to represent a province. Also in the white triangle, there are three yellow stars which represent the main island groups. 

Filipino flag
The flag of the Philippines has a lot of hidden meaning.

3. Camiguin Island in the Philippines is home to more volcanoes than towns

Photos of this island province look just like they’ve fallen out of the pages of a Nat Geo magazine. Located in the Bohol Sea, this idyllic island is known for its distinctive pear shape and sweet lanzones (a type of Asian fruit).

Its status as a volcanic island has led it to be given a rather Game of Thrones nickname… ‘Island Born of Fire’. There are seven volcanoes on the island versus just five towns and it has the highest number of volcanoes per square kilometre anywhere on the planet!  Luckily for the residents, there hasn’t been an eruption since the mid-1950s.

Camiguin Island
Camiguin Island is also called the ‘Island Born of Fire’.

4. There are between 120-187 languages spoken in the Philippines

The standardised form of the Tagalog language (known as Filipino) has been dubbed the national language of the country. It sits alongside English as the other official language. Interestingly, the Filipino government works mostly in English. 

Along with Tagalog, Cebuano is also commonly spoken. Together, these two languages are spoken by around 50% of the population. Despite this, it is only the two official languages, Tagalog (a.k.a Filipino) and English, that are taught in the education system. 

Filipino child
There are over 100 languages spoken in the Philippines!

5. The Philippines boasts the world’s longest underground river

Located 75km north of Puerto Princesa, lies the longest underground river in the entire world. In 2011, the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River was christened as one of the New7Wonders of Nature by UNESCO, cementing its status as a natural marvel. 

The Underground River Cave measures in at more than 24 km long and the part with the underground section of the Cabayugan River spans 8.2km. Travellers can visit Puerto Princesa River as part of a tour or independently. 

Groups head towards Puerto Princesa Underground River
Puerto Princesa River is a must-see attraction in the Philippines.

6. Many Tagalog words are the same as the Spanish equivalent

The ethnic Tagalog people make up a quarter of the population in the Philippines. Many Tagalog words derive from Spanish words, a hark back to the Spanish colonisation of the Philippines. A few examples of words that are the same in both languages include:

  • O – meaning ‘or’
  • Basura – meaning ‘trash’ or ‘rubbish’
  • Regalo – meaning  ‘gift’ or ‘present’
  • Merienda – meaning ‘snack’
  • Tío/Tia – meaning ‘uncle/aunt’
In the late 16th century, Spanish was the official language in the Philippines.

7. Unlike other Asian countries, the Philippines is predominantly Catholic

Asia is a hugely varied continent which has birthed many religions, including Taoism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Sikhism among others. Hinduism and Islam are the most populous religions in Asia as a whole.

In the Philippines, the dominant religion is Catholicism. It is the only country in Southeast Asia which is Christian. More than 86% of the population identifies as Roman Catholic and religion is still a big influence in the country.

Church in the Philippines
An old church in the Philippines.

8. The Philippines is the second-largest archipelago in the world

Considering that the Philippines is well known for being an archipelagic country of over 7,000 islands, it may surprise you to discover that it is actually not the largest archipelago in the world. 

That accolade goes to the Malay Archipelago situated between the Pacific and Indian Oceans. It spans both the territorial waters of Indonesia and Malaysia, being home to more than 25,000 islands. And you thought 7,000 was impressive! 

In case you were wondering, the largest archipelagic country in the world is Indonesia, which is home to over 17,000 islands!  

Islands of the Philippines
The Philippines is an archipelagic country.

9. Jeepneys are the primary mode of transportation in the Philippines

These gaudy jeep cum buses are a national treasure in the Philippines. Created from military jeeps which were left by the Americans in 1946, the Filipinos fitted them with benches and adorned them with bright colours and designs. 

Similar in appearance to the Mexican chicken buses, they are used to give commuters lifts around Filipino cities. Although they are looking more and more retro with every year that passes, jeepneys still outnumber normal buses ten to one!  

These jeepneys look like they’ve been featured on ‘Pimp My Ride’!

10. The Philippines is one of the world’s 17 megadiverse countries

Exhibiting a huge amount of biodiversity, the Philippines is one of seventeen countries which has been deemed to be megadiverse. This means that it is home to at least 5,000 endemic species of plants. It also borders marine ecosystems,  

Ranking fifth in the world for the number of plant species, the Philippines houses 5% of the entire planet’s flora. Alongside its incredible plant diversity, there are also 700 threatened species living there, including the Visayan Warty Pig

The Philippine tarsier is another unique animal endemic to the country.

11. The Philippines has an LGBT political party 

Ang Ladlad was founded in 2003 and was the Philippines first ever LGBT political party. In Tagalog, Ladlad means ‘coming out’ and their motto is ‘Bukas isip. Bukas puso.’ This means ‘Open mind. Open Heart’.

As the Philippines is a predominantly Catholic country, the founding of this party made international news. The party have not been able to make much headway in a political sense, but the mere presence of such a party could be an indication that more traditional religious ideas are beginning to fall away, even if it is just in niche circles. 

LGBT pride
There is a growing LGBTQ+ movement across the whole of Asia.

12. A monkey-eating eagle is the national bird

If you’ve read this far, you already know that the Philippines is a megadiverse country. One of the incredible birds that call this archipelago home is the Philippine eagle, a macaque-eating soarer of the skies. 

The eagle has a shaggy crest with a brown and white plumage, making it easy to recognise. Unfortunately, the Philippine eagle is critically endangered, meaning your chances of spotting one in the wild are pretty low. 

Owing to their cherished national status, if you are found to have killed a Philippine Eagle, you could be sentenced to 12 years in prison, as well as being slapped with a hefty fine. 

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13. 13 is an unlucky number

Triskaidekaphobia as a concept isn’t all that unusual. Fear of the number 13 has permeated cultures everywhere but is believed to have stemmed from Christianity. During the Last Supper, Jesus shared his bread with his 12 apostles. The 13th person in the room was Judas, the individual who would later betray Christ. The superstition about the number 13 was believed to have started with this. 

As the Philippines is a strongly Christian country, it is no wonder that these beliefs are so prominent there. In fact, you will rarely find the 13th floor in the Philippines, because people would be too superstitious to use it. 

Door number 13
Would you dare to go through door number 13?

14. The Philippines supplies more nurses globally than anywhere else

Nurses are always in high demand the world over which is why so many nurses are sourced from overseas. But did you know that the Philippines supplies more nurses internationally than any other country?

To find the reason for this, you need to scroll back to between 1903 and 1940, when the United States created ‘the pensionados’ scheme. This study abroad programme aimed to train internationals as nurses.

Many of the Filipinos that headed to the States to qualify as nurses stayed to work but a huge number also went home and founded their own nursing schools. This lead to a boom in the industry and cemented Filipino nurses as some of the world’s best and most in-demand. 

Ducks doctors and nurses
The Philippines is the world’s largest supplier of nurses!

15. There are 20+ earthquakes every day in the Philippines

Situated on the western edge of the Ring of Fire, the Philippines is a country rocked by freak weather events. The country sits along not just one but five different fault lines, meaning that earthquakes are common.

Experts estimate that there are 20+ earthquakes every day across the country, however, many of them are too weak to be felt. This would indicate that they are below a magnitude of two.

Arguably, the strongest and most deadly earthquake on record in the Philippines occurred in 1979 in the Moro Gulf. Measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale, this earthquake caused devastation across the islands, sadly killing at least 5,000 people. 

Pacifico Beach, Siargao, The Philippines
The Philippines sits on five different fault lines.

16. Boracay closed to tourists because of over-tourism in 2018

The paradise island of Boracay is the jewel in the Philippines’ crown. However, the popularity of this beautiful island retreat has served to cause its undoing, with ever-increasing numbers of visitors travelling to the area. 

In recent years, many travellers claim that the island has been ‘ruined’, characterised by litter and hoards of people. After a visit, the government of the day dubbed Boracay a ‘cesspool’ and vowed to take action. In 2018, the island actually closed to visitors for six months, in a desperate attempt to revitalise it.  

When the island later reopened, it came with a host of new regulations. Rules such as ‘do not vomit in public’ were introduced to reduce the party culture but others such as ‘all sandcastles will be regulated by the government’ are a little less obvious in intention! 

The beautiful Boracay Island.

 17. The Philippines is home to the planet’s longest snake

The reticulated python is the longest snake in the world. It can be found in the jungles of the Philippines, as well as in other Asian countries, including Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, to name a few. 

With (maybe questionable) reports of some reaching up to 10 metres in length (that is longer than a giraffe is tall!), these slippery characters kill by constriction. Usually, they will hunt small mammals and birds if they can get them, however, they are one of the only snake species to have been classified as a danger to human life.

The reticulated python is one of the only snakes to prey on humans and they are responsible for more than a handful of deaths around the world. In 1932, a teenage boy was eaten by his pet python which was 7.6 metres long. His shape was recognised inside the snake. 

Reticulated python
You wouldn’t want to find one of these bad boys in your shower!

18. When Pacquiao fights, there is no street crime in Manila

Manny Pacquiao, affectionately dubbed PacMan by Filipinos, is nothing short of a national treasure. The professional boxer has a unique way of bringing people together and according to local media, the streets are made safer when he fights.

According to the Philippines National Police, no crime was committed in Metro Manila during the legendary fight between Pacquiao and Mayweather Jr. In fact, there were only a few incidents recorded across the country as a whole!

If your love for PacMan extends beyond his boxing skills, you might be interested to know… Manny Pacquiao actually ran for President of the Philippines in 2022!

Manny Pacquiao
Could Manny Pacquiao be the President of the Philippines one day?

19. San Miguel is not a Spanish beer – it’s Filipino

With a name like San Miguel, you could be forgiven for assuming that this beer is Spanish. However, this world-famous lager is actually from the Philippines! 

The story of San Miguel beer starts back in 1890 when it was first produced by La Fabrica de Cerveza de San Miguel. After receiving the Royal Grant from the Spanish king to make beer, the company opened its first brewery in the centre of Manila. 

In 1963, the company was renamed the San Miguel Corporation, to signal its expansion into other markets. The beer was introduced in Spain in 1946. Despite its global gallivanting, San Miguel is still the best selling beer in the Philippines today. 

Beer on table
San Miguel beer dates back to 1890!

20. Alex Garland’s book The Beach was inspired by the Philippines 

The Beach, Alex Garland’s debut novel, has become a cult classic. Read by backpackers everywhere, this tale of hedonism follows Danny as finds he paradise and then himself, all through the wonders of travel.

This travel book became so popular that it was even adapted into a film starring Leonardo Dicaprio. The film was shot at the now renowned spot of Maya Bay on the Thai island of Koh Phi Phi, causing visitor numbers to boom. 

However, it wasn’t the islands of Thailand that inspired Garland to pen this novel, it was actually the archipelagic province of Palawan in the Philippines. 

Although Palawan is still very popular, it doesn’t see crowds like Maya Bay!

21. In the Philippines, they have banana flavoured ketchup

Love it or loathe it, we’ve all heard of ketchup. But have you ever heard of banana ketchup?! A condiment unique to the Philippines, this fruity ketchup is made from sugar, spices, vinegar and banana. 

Even weirder than that, its natural colour is yellowish-brown but during the manufacturing process, it is dyed to make it look more like the traditional tomato ketchup that we all know and love. 

Much like standard ketchup, this condiment will be used to accompany fries, hot dogs, burgers, omelettes and various other meat-based dishes. Will you be trying this on your next visit to the Philippines?!

Banana flavoured ketchup
Banana ketchup… yuck or yum?

Got a great fact about the Philippines that we’ve missed off of our list? Let us know in the comments!

Sheree Hooker | Editor @ South East Asia Backpacker + Winging The World

Sheree is the awkward British wanderluster behind wingingtheworld.com, a travel blog designed to show that even the most useless of us can travel. Follow Sheree’s adventures as she blunders around the globe, falling into squat toilets, getting into cars with machete men and running away from angry peacocks. In recent years, Sheree has also taken on the role of editor at South East Asia Backpacker.

Find her on: Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

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