Size: 115,830 sq mi (300,000 sq km)
The Philippines are located in the SW Pacific Ocean, in the Malay Archipelago off the SE Asia mainland. It comprises over 7,000 islands, extending 1,152 mi (1,855 km) from north to south, between Taiwan and Borneo, and 688 mi (1,108 km) from east to west. Approximately 400 are permanently inhabited. The 11 largest islands; Luzon, Mindanao, Samar, Negros, Palawan, Panay, Mindoro, Leyte, Cebu Bohol, and Masbate, contain about 95% of the total land area. The capital city of Manila is located on the island of Luzon.
The Philippines are chiefly of volcanic origin. Narrow coastal plains, wide valleys, volcanoes, dense forests, and mineral and hot springs further characterize the larger islands. Earthquakes are common.The Philippines are entirely within the tropical zone. Manila, with a mean daily temperature of 79.5°F (26. 4°C), is typical of the climate of the lowland areas. The highlands, however, have a mean annual temperature of 64°F (17.8°C).
The republic is divided into 72 provinces and 61 chartered cities. In addition to Manila, other important centers are Quezon City , also on Luzon; Cebu, on Cebu Island; Iloilo , on Panay; Davao and Zamboanga , on Mindanao; and Jolo, on Jolo Island in the Sulu Archipelago.
With their tropical climate, heavy rainfall, and naturally fertile volcanic soil, the Philippines are predominantly agricultural. Rice, corn, and coconuts take up about 80% of all cropland. Livestock and fishing are common occupations. The Sulu Archipelago is noted for its pearls and mother-of-pearl shell.
Manufacturing is concentrated in metropolitan Manila, near the nation's prime port. Textiles, pharmaceuticals, and chemicals are manufactured, and the assembly of electronics and automobiles is important. Other industries include food processing and petroleum refining. Chief exports are electronics and telecommunications equipment, lumber and plywood, machinery, garments, coconut products, copper, and sugar. The chief trading partners are the United States and Japan.
The great majority of the people of the Philippines belong to the Malay group and are known as Filipinos. Other groups include the Negritos and the Dumagats. There is also a small Chinese minority. The Filipinos live mostly in the lowlands and constitute one of the largest Christian groups in Asia. Roman Catholicism is professed by over 80% of the population.
Some 70 native languages are spoken in the Philippines. The official national language is Pilipino. A considerable number of Filipinos speak English, the nation's second language.
*Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, Copyright (c) 2003.