Welcome to the Philippines, touted as the Pearl of the Orient Seas, an archipelago of 7,107 islands nestled in the center of Southeast Asian trade. Located at 13°N 122°E, it is the second largest archipelago in the world with an area of 300,000 square kilometers (115,800 square miles).
Large bodies of water surround the Philippines, with the Bashi Channel in the northern border, the Pacific Ocean in the east, the West Philippine Sea (also known as the South China Sea) in the west, and the Celebes Sea in the south.
Made unique by its varied cultural inheritance from the successive colonization of world powers (Spain, USA, Japan), the country bridges the East and the West, making it an ideal gateway to Southeast Asian travel.
Because it’s an archipelago, the Philippines is the only country in Southeast Asia that has no land boundaries and is instead, bordered by waters in on all sides. Its neighboring countries include the following: Taiwan and Japan in the north; Palau in the east; Thailand, Vietnam and China in the west; Malaysia and Indonesia in the south.
In the heart of the country, one will find the smallest province in Southern Luzon, the heart-shaped island province of Marinduque considered to be the geodetic center of the Philippines.
The Philippines is divided into three main geographic groups of islands: Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, made up of 17 regions and 80 provinces.
The Regions of Luzon
I – Ilocos Region
II – Cagayan Valley
III – Central Luzon
IV-A – CALABARZON
IV-B – MIMAROPA
V – Bicol Region
CAR – Cordillera Administrative Region
NCR – National Capital Region
The Regions of Visayas
VI – Western Visayas
VII – Central Visayas
VIII – Eastern Visayas
The Regions of Mindanao
IX – Zamboanga Peninsula
X – Northern Mindanao
XI – Davao Region
XII – SOCCSKSARGEN
XIII – CARAGA
ARMM – Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao
A Tropical Paradise
Located near the equator, the Philippines has a tropical climate with two prevailing weather systems: the northeast monsoon and the southwest monsoon. During the transition period, the easterlies take center stage.
|Weather System||Local Term||Characteristics||Season||Prevailing Months|
|Northeast Monsoon||Hanging Amihan||Cold And Dry||Warm And Moist||October – March|
|Southwest Monsoon||Hanging Habagat||Warm And Humid||Rainy Season||July – September|
|Easterlies||Hanging Silanganin||Warm And Moist||Transition Period|
Locally known as amihan, the northeast monsoon is characterized by cold and dry weather. However, light rains are still possible over the northern and eastern sections of the country. During the months of October to late March, exploring the western portions of the Philippines is recommended.
Meanwhile, the rainy season starts with the onset of the southwest monsoon or habagat, which brings warm and humid weather from July to September. Head on to the eastern side of the country if your vacation lands on these months.
From late March to June, the easterlies, which are winds coming from the east, affect the weather. Passing over the Pacific Ocean, these gather enough moisture to bring cloudiness and thunderstorms, mostly over the eastern section of the country. At this time, it’s best to visit destination in the western or the central areas of the archipelago.
The country has four climate types identified by the weather bureau, The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration or PAGASA.
Climate Type 1: Dry from November to April
Wet from May to October
Climate Type 2: No dry season
Expect rainfall from November to January
Climate Type 3: Seasons are not very pronounced.
Relatively dry from November to April
Wet from May to October
Climate Type 4: Rainfall is more or less evenly distributed throughout the year.
According to PAGASA, the country has only two seasons—Wet or Rainy and Dry.
|TEMPERATURE||COOL||COOL||Getting hot||HOT||HOT||HOT||LESS HOT||LESS HOT||LESS HOT||Getting cool||COOL||COOL|
Sitting Astride the Typhoon Belt
The country is located beside the Pacific Ocean, and is within the typhoon belt. In fact, according to the Time Magazine website, the Philippines is the most storm-exposed country in the whole world.
Annually, an average of 19 to 20 tropical cyclones, locally known as bagyo, enter the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR) with 6 to 9 of these making landfall or crossing the Philippine landmass.
Based on wind speed, PAGASA has categorized tropical cyclones into four categories.
Category Wind Speed
Tropical Depression Up to 61 kph (kilometers per hour) near the center
Tropical Storm 62 to 118 kph the center
Typhoon 118 to 220 kph near the center
Super typhoon Greater than 220 kph
Based on these, PAGASA raises Public Storm Warning Signals (PSWS) to guide the public in taking precautionary steps.
The Philippines is included in the Pacific Ring of fire, a 40,000-kilometer horseshoe-shaped seismically active belt of volcanoes and earthquake epicenters around the edges of the Pacific Ocean.
With a string of 452 volcanoes, the country is home to the majority of the world’s dormant and active volcanoes, some of which provide off-the-beaten-track destinations for adventurous travelers.
Situated in the southern part of Luzon, near the tri-point of the provinces of Zambales, Tarlac and Pampanga, Mount Pinatubo went down in history when it erupted in June 1991, considered as one of the world’s largest eruptions of the 20th century, characterized by damaging pyroclastic flows, ash deposits and lahar.
The summit’s crater lake shimmers in blue and green and can be reached through hiking. Tourists also get a chance to interact with the natives of one of the oldest indigenous tribes in the Philippines through the Aeta Village.
Best time to visit: December to May. Hiking is allowed only in good weather since the rains can render the lahar-made terrain unstable.
World-renowned for its perfect cone shape, Mayon Volcano is located in Legazpi, Albay, and is one of the country’s most active volcanoes.
Its most destructive explosion happened in February 1, 1814, when it buried the town of Cagsawa and nearby areas with flowing lava. Today, its ruins are one of the main features of the town tour.
Mayon Volcano was declared as a National Park and a Protected Landscape by the government in 1938. Trekking in the volcano is allowed only when the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Philvolcs) deems it safe. Tours above and around the volcano are also available, which involve chopper and all-terrain vehicle (ATV) rides.
Best time to visit: March to May. Preferably before sunrise or sunset.
Source: Taal Volcano, Tagaytay Image source: The Wandering Angel of Flickr.com/CC
With 33 historical eruptions since 1572, this is the second most active volcano in the Philippines. One does not need to be an experienced mountaineer to trek this unique geologic wonder, which features craters and lakes, albeit it is one of the most closely monitored volcanoes in the region.
Best time to visit: October to May. One can take a side trip to Tagaytay in the Cavite province, which offers a good view of the Taal lake and volcano island.
Source: wikimedia commons
Straddling the provinces of Negros Occidental and Negros Oriental, the Kanlaon Volcano is the highest mountain in the Visayas, and is part of the Negros Volcanic Belt. One of the country’s most active volcanoes, it boasts of numerous hot springs and waterfalls, making it a favorite spot for climbing enthusiasts.
Best time to visit: February to May. However, with constant fog in its upper elevation, rains are likely to occur.
Looming over the Davao province, Mount Apo is the highest mountain in the Philippines. Apo literally translates to “master,” which makes the mountain the “Master of all Mountains”
Despite its elevation of 9,692 feet, this inactive volcano is a popular hiking destination among both local and foreign travelers.
Best time to visit: The local government recommends the summer months and October although the mountain can be climbed and trekked all year round.