Chapter 1 - Introducing the Philippines - Physical Features

The Philippines, a country of some 80 million people, is strategically located at the heart of Southeast Asia. Situated between Taiwan, China and Hong Kong in the North, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand in the West, the Pacific Ocean in the east and Borneo in the South, this archipelagic nation is composed of 7,107 islands.

One symbol that is distinctively Filipino - the jeepney!

Physical Features

Terrain: The Philippines archipelago is bounded by the Pacific Ocean in the east and the South China Sea in the west. In land area, it occupies some 300,000 square kilometers (117, 187 sq. mi);

The Philippine Archipelago is one of the largest island groups in the world and is divided into three major areas that correspond broadly to the ethnicity of the human population. These three groups are Luzon in the north with a total area of 104,687.80 sq. km.; the Visayas in the central region, 57,201.92 sq. km.; and Mindanao in the south, occupying a further 94,630.10 sq. km.

This island chain stretches more than 1500 km from north to south and more than 1000 km from west to east. Less than 400 of the islands are permanently inhabited.

The extensive and volcanic mountain ranges provides a country noted for the grandeur of its scenery albeit such grandeur comes at a price in terms of the human habitat. The narrow coastal plains and valleys often make for a harsh environment in which to eke out a living especially in the more remote rural areas.

In all some 65% of the country is classified as mountainous with the remainder consisting of narrow coastal plains and interior valleys and uplands.

The Philippines is situated on an active plate fault (the Philippines Plate) and as a consequence, seismic and volcanic activity is common and can sometimes be devastating. Tidal waves and flooding are among the other natural hazards that have to be factored into daily life.
Philippines map
Climate: The Philippines enjoys a tropical climate, with a normal average year-round temperature of 27°C (82°F). There are two pronounced seasons --- dry and wet.

Between January and May, the climate is generally dry with only occasional rain showers. This changes with the onset of the wet season in June and which peaks in July and August and then falls off slowly to the end of the year. During the wettest months rain is an almost daily occurrence. Consequently the climate becomes a lot more humid at this time albeit slightly cooler.

The northern monsoon prevails between December to February resulting in cool and mild weather, the southwest monsoon dominates from May to October and is responsible for bringing the rain. Typhoons can hit at any time but are most prevalent during the rainy season.
graph for Climate
Full climatic data is available in chart and table (spreadsheet) form from the statistical section of the MCA Virtual Philippines website.

Time Zone: (Standard Time): The Philippines is on a single time zone. 120° East Meridian Time, which is eight hours in advance of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT). Then of course there is "Filipino Time" - you will quickly learn about it if you are here for any length of time.