The climate in the Philippines is a tropical one that has 3 seasons. The warm season runs from March to June with temperatures reaching up to 36 degrees Celsius with high humidity, after this the wet season arrives wich will run until October. This is when average temperatures are up to 28 degrees celcius with rain and showers throughout the day. This can be from a couple of hours a day to sometimes the whole day. After the rainy season the cool season arrives with temperatures around the 30 degrees Celsius wich will run until March. This is also the season with the lowest humidity.
If you go into the mountainous regions during the cold season you may want to consider taking a sweater as it does get rather cold during the evening.
Historically the waves of various multicultural people (Spanish, Chinese, Indonesians, Malays etc.) have influenced the country in many ways. It required a lot of time to venture out and explore the 7000-plus islands. It is the contrasts in this all that makes the Philippines so interesting. The variety of multicultural people has brought a multiplicity of languages. 70 to 80 significantly different dialects are spoken.
During the Spanish occupation from 1521 until 1821 Spanish was taught in schools. Spanish was removed from the curriculum between 1968 and 1970 but is still spoken today by a small percentage of the population. In many dialects traces of Spanish can still be found, the influences have not disappeared. Spanish words are still used in sentences during conversations. English became huge and very important in the Philippines during the American era. Since the declaration of independence from the USA in 1946, English has remained the language of politics and commerce. It is also the medium of instructions in schools, starting from nursery school until university. English until now has remained the language accessible to all, the wealthy, the elite, upper and middle class but also of the underprivileged. Newspapers, magazines, television, news and radio announcements, government statistics and commercial establishments are evidence of the use of the English language. Even in huge malls, shops sell goods described in English. What amazes me and a lot of foreigners is that even in supermarkets (whether large or small scale) all items are written and specified in English.
At present Tagalog (Pilipino) is widely spoken as the national language of the Philippines. But, English is like the second language and remains the best language for international communication.
What to bring
Take as little as possible with you. You can get practically anything you need in the Philippines. It would be better than having to drag everything with you. Because of climate variations, shops in the Philippines carry a wide range of clothes. There are many types of clothing readily available according to your preference. Everything you are used to at home is available here and then some.
One great tip is to bring a bottle of insect repellent, this will help when you get annoyed of the flying insects by day and so as in the middle of the night, and when your in the tropics you can never get away with this crawling-flying-creepy creatures, but don not let this things hold you back because everywhere in the world they are always around us, it is just a matter of getting yourself used to it but with the protection of repellent you can make things a lot more comfortable.Nowadays though, there are a lot of supermarkets selling the local variety of OFF (an insect repellent).
What to wear
Casual wear is always acceptable and practical when touring around the Philippines. When you are going out (dining or special occasions), being dressy is advisable and sometimes even required. But this is no different from the rules in any other society. So do not show up at a fancy 5-star restaurant wearing slippers.
It is also a very important thing to have yourself immunized before leaving your country of origin. Your doctor should have a chart with shots that are needed when traveling to the Philippines. If you want to enjoy your stay in the Philippines, it it advisable to make sure you are properly immunized. For expatriated filipinos, it does not mean you do not need the shots, it still pays to be protected and immunized before you leave, because your body is used to your adopted country. Do not risk yourself thinking that just because you were born in the Philippines, your body metabolism has still got the same defense-mechanisms of when you were living in the philippines. Remember that even for ex-filipinos time is needed to adjust to your former enviroment.
It is recomemded that you take out a good travel insurance.Make sure you are well covered for medical expenses, remember that if you have to go into the hospital you are required to have a cash deposit before you are admitted. It can also be very handy with flight delays or lost luggage. Also make sure that all your valuables are covered. Many insurances only cover up to a certain amount in their policy. If this is the case, check out the possibilities of extra coverage. It may cost you a bit more, but then again in the end it may be worth it. It is up to you to make that decision.
A couple of tips from personal experience. Never put any valuables or money in your check-in luggage. They are not covered by insurance that way. Also make some digital photos of your valuables and travel documents (passport etc.) and store them online on photobucket.com. That way you can always show them to the police in case you loose them. One final tip: if you take expensive new looking equipment with you, have them registered by customs before you leave your country of residence, that way you are not liable for taxes upon return if you cannot prove that the items were in your possesion before your trip.
Your travel agent can arrange insurance for you if you ask him/her.
Filipino people are amongst the highest rated in Asia, they are friendly, kind, hospitable, sociable and tolerant. You can be assured of a warm welcome wherever you go, regardless of class or status. The Philippines is the country where people wear a smile.
Things to remember
No matter what nationality you are or country you come from. If you are a white male tourist you will be tagged with the same name Joe. It will always be Hey Joe or Hello Joe. There are only two solutions to it. Either ignore it, and continue on your usual way. Or learn to accept it. Try not to make a big deal out of the fact that they call you Joe. Calmness will always get a better response than being rude or angered towards the name-caller. Just nod and smile and the problems will disappear ;)
Food and drinks
Food in the Philippines is generally a thumbs up. In accordance with your preference a wide variety of food is available. If you live by the stick-to-what-you-know-strategy, there is all kinds of western cuisine, ranging from Italian or French cuisine to the wonders of fastfood like McDonalds and Burger King. For those who are adventurous but still like familiarity, there is typical Asian food, like fried rice in a Chinese restaurant. Last but definitely not least, there is filipino cuisine, a definite recommendation. Filipino food is incredibly diverse and offers a great experience for your tastebuds!
As for junkfood, the Philippines is truly a paradise. Of course the familiar junkfood chains can be found like Dunkin Donuts and Dairy Queen. But the Philippines also has a lot of homeland specialties that you are bound to love (Otap, Rosquillos, Masareal etc). Goldilocks is a haven for all the people with a sweet-tooth, lots of cakes and goodies for incredibly low prices.
Now when it comes to beverages, let us start with the basics. Water in the Philippines is clean and drinkable (as long as you are in towns). People born and raised in the Philippines are used to drinking this tap-water. Foreigners and former residents who have lived abroad for long periods of time (based on our experience) should probably drink mineral water. If you have any intention of drinking tap-water you should pre-boil and purify it first. In restaurants order bottled mineral water. If you find yourself not being able to handle filipino tap-water, ensure that when drinking in a restaurant you do not have ice blocks in your drinks. Ice blocks are often made of tap-water.
Besides water all the stuff you are used to drinking is available in the Philippines too. From Coca Cola to Starbucks, it is all there. Try filipino specialties like fresh coconut milk or buko juice.
This issue happens all around the world. Wherever there are tourists, thieves will emerge. Keep an eye on your valuables if you are at crowded or busy places. Do not dress up too flashy and do not pull a B.A. Baracus (A-team) by wearing a ton of gold jewellery. Looking like a big spender is like having a huge rob-me-sign stamped on your forehead. Try not to act like you are worth a million bucks by waving and flashing money around. This just creates unwanted attention and singles you out as a target for pickpockets. Keep money safe in your front pockets or somewhere where you can keep an eye on it. You could wear a pouch around your neck or under your clothes. Keep shoulder bags, cell phones, Ipods, digital cameras etc. in body contact. Never ever leave them unattended. Pickpockets are so skillful and the blades they use to slash at straps are quiet and quick. Once again, do not let your gadgets out of your sight and guard your valuable possessions. Do not let thieves spoil your holiday!
Avoid walking in very quiet dark streets or alleys on your own. Especially late at night or after you have had some drinks. Alcohol raises the risk of potential self-endangerment. If a total stranger walks up to you and offers to guide you anywhere you wish to go, keep a healthy level of skepticism. Be careful who you choose to trust, because you might end up getting robbed. If you are planning to venture out into rural or mountain areas, to check out the countryside, always make sure you have someone accompanying you. Be it a friend, or someone recommended by a friend, just so that they can guide you around a bit. If along the way you encounter heated arguments that become physical, do not be a hero or try to mediate. 9 out of 10 times you are putting yourself in danger as well. Rely on your feelings, if you sense trouble walk away for your own safety. Many people who have had a few too many beers get loud and aggressive, watch your back around them.
Mass Media and communications
Advanced and efficient communication facilities are available and reliable. Business establishments and hotels offer services to cater to you individual needs, computers, message and parcel handlings and worldwide express delivery companies.
Public payphones can be found in all hotels, business establishments, shopping malls and any commercial centers. But in this day and age most people already own cell phones, so the demand for payphones may not be that high anymore.
When it comes to printed media there is no difference with the rest of the world. There are daily newspapers, published in English, which are circulated nationwide. The largest in circulation are: the Daily Tribune, the Manila Bulletin, the Manila Times, the Philippine star and the Sun Star.
The same big magazines that are published abroad can be found within Philippine borders, the Times Magazine, Newsweek, Cosmopolitan, Vogue etc. It can all be found in the Philippines.
Radio and TV are fixtures in pretty much every household. Both operate on commercial bases with corporate backing. They rely on advertisements as a major income source, so as in most countries your favorite show will be interrupted with ad-blocks.
In the Philippines, the dominant religion is Roman Catholic; there are a few different religions which in fact are basd on Christianity. South of the archipelago, Muslim religion is also widely common. Relgion has been the center of dicussion on which one to believe in. Many wars have been fought over religion. The truth is, they are all the same. Teaching us all the good things in life, the way our forefathers and their forefathers before them taught them then, and the choice is yours.Catholics in the Philippines started off when the Spaniards landed on the shores of Limasawa Island in Leyte dated 1521. This also when the Spaniards brought with them their religion, they passed it on to the locals, who in turn also carried it on to the neighboring islands of the Philippines, from then on, the Spaniards took over the Philippines for over 300 years and so was their beliefs.Today, every town in the Philippines has its own Roman Catholic Church. The towns celebrate their own annual feast day base on the Patron Saint. Each church has different patron saint so every town celebrates at different times of the year. The festivity is usually 9 days prior, when Church prayers called the novena starts. Some towns have bigger population Barangays that have their own small churches and celebrates their own festivity as well, this is how devoted the Filipino people are to the religion.