10 interesting facts about the Philippines

Our travels in the Philippines was an amazing experience. The country's got it all: paradise-like beaches, a variety of yummy traditional foods, but best of all, the Filipinos!

The Pinoys (nickname for Filipinos around the world) are well known for their hospitality and friendliness. They are what makes the country so special. As well as the warm hearted people we met, here's our other 10 interesting facts about this incredible country:

#1 Your social media will explode!

After spending time with Filipinos, your social media following will just explode. The Filipinos are so enthusiastic about their Instagram and Facebook that they were ranked as THE highest selfie takers in the world by Time Magazine in early 2014.

In the study carried out by Time Magazine, Makati City (in Metro Manila) was crowned the selfie capital of the planet, with 258 selfies taken per 100,000 people. The full breakdown of Time Magazine's list shows Cebu City ranked 9th place, Quezon City (also in Metro Manila) at #59 and Iloilo City at #72.

The Filipinos are one of the tech savviest people we've met with almost everyone of every age posting something on some form of social media; since visiting we've seen a massive jump in our social media following!

Philippines interesting facts: selfies selfies selfies!
Taking lots of selfies with Filipinos young and old during our visit at The Underground River in Palawan

#2 Jollibee: the essence of the Filipino spirit

Jollibee is THE fast food chain, known and loved in the Philippines. The restaurant serves up gems like the Amazing Aloha Burger (with bacon and pineapple) or the Tuna Pie (in place of Apple Pie).

It started out as an ice cream parlour in 1975, opened by Filipino, Tony Tran in Quezon City (in Metro Manila). It then evolved to become a fast food restaurant selling hot dogs and burgers.

Jollibee mascot with founder Tony Tran
The Jollibee mascot posing with founder Tony Tran

We love the cute, busy bee mascot, which represents the Filipino spirit: hard-working, optimistic and ‘jolly’ as explained by founder Tony Tran in his interview with the Economist paper.

Jollibee is not only popular throughout Asia, but also in North America, the Middle East and expected to hit Europe in 2017-18.

Filipino interesting facts: Jollibee!
Stefan with the Jollibee mascot in one of the many chains in Manila

#3 Jeepney public transportation

Jeepneys are the most popular way of getting around in the Philippines. They are colourful and crowded. One of the apparent origins of the word jeepney, is from the words jeep and knee because passengers sit so closely together (if you even manage to get a seat!).

Over crowded jeepney breaking down
An overcrowded jeepney breaking down just outside El Nido in Palawan

They were initially made from the US Military jeeps left over after the Second World War. They have since been developed into this colourful public service industry ubiquitous throughout the country. Just stay well clear from one if you see it tearing through traffic (we were warned on a few occasions).

Sebastien posing with jeepney in Palawan
Sebastien getting ready to ride this sexy jeepney around Palawan island

#4 Pretty colourful tricycles

The tricycle is another popular way of getting around in small towns and rural parts of the Philippines.

Tricycles are literally motorbikes with a sidecar attached to them to carry passengers. The engines of the tricycles range from around 50-125cc so when approaching a steep climb, we would have to get out to reduce the weight to help it climb.

We had lots of tricycle fun when we (almost) succeeded hijacking this particularly colourful one in El Nido.

Posing with colourful tricycle in El Nido
Hijacking this colourful tricycle in El Nido for another day of adventure

#5 Bangka boats

The bangka is popular throughout the Philippines. It is like a canoe, supported by two outriggers made from bamboo (called katig) on each side acting as a support and stabiliser for the vessel hub.

The vessel hull is made from marine plywood and painted with several coatings of epoxy paint. The smaller ones can be manoeuvured by paddles and the larger ones with an engine.

Bangka boats are also used by the Maori in New Zealand (called waka ama), Hawaii (called wa'a) and Indonesia (called jukung). This was the first time we encountered them in our travels in Asia and they became one of our defining memories of a Filipino secluded island beach.

Sebastien with bangka boat at Carubao island
Sebastien posing in his slice of paradise on Carubao island with a bangka boat

#6 Karaoke: a Filipino invention

Life lesson tip: never ever dare take on a Filipino at karaoke. They will floor you!

These guys are genetically programmed to be amazing singers from the moment they leave the womb, yet they’re so modest about it – and that’s how they catch you out he he he!

The karaoke was first invented by Japanese musician, Daisuke in 1971, but it was Filipino, Roberto del Rosario who first patented the Karaoke Sing Along System in 1975 and subsequently commercialised it.

Roberto del Rosario
Roberto del Rosario was the first person to patent the karaoke music box in 1975

Karaoke is so popular in the Philippines that it is even used commercially to promote grocery items in supermarkets, as we found out when we visited the SM Megamall in Ortigas (Metro Manila). You can be sure if you’re with Filipinos, attention may very well turn to karaoke!

Karaoke Stef Seb
Joining in the Filipino spirit and hitting the karaoke bars in Manila

#7 Strong hispanic and USA influences

The Spanish colonised the Philippines from 1521-1898 and then the USA also left their mark from 1898-1946.

The spoken and written English is all Americani-zed, so ordering a glass of waaaaaa-der (ie in a US accent) will get you further than our British twang of war-ter, which only led to a fit of giggles…

As a result of the Spanish, you will notice words like fiesta (party) and guapo (a hot guy) commonly used. Some of the popular Filipino foods also have Spanish influenced names, like adobo (meaning ‘marinade') and lechon (suckling pig).

Catholicism is still the main religion in the Philippines with over 76 million of the world’s Catholics (the highest after Mexico and Brazil). As a result, Papal visits draw huge crowds and we noticed certain beliefs and practises are still followed, like skipping the unlucky 13th floor in high-rise buildings:

No 13th floor in our Manila condo
Christian traditions in the Philippines: no 13th floor in our high rise condo we stayed at in Manila

#8 The Filipino flag shows war or peace

The Filipino flag is the only one in the world, which can determine whether the country is at peace or at war, depending on how it is flown. It has a white triangle with a sun surrounded by 3 golden stars representing the 3 island groups (Luzon in the North, the Visayas in the centre and Mindanao in the South).

Then it has a strip of red and blue:

  • when the country is at peace, the flag is flown with blue on top.
  • when at war, it is reversed with red on top:
The unique Filipino flag
The unique Filipino flag which depending on how it's flown shows if the country's at peace or at war

#9 Anti wang wang measures!

When we arrived in Manila Naia airport for our first time, we noticed a sign warning this was a No “Wang Wang” zone:

A No Wang Wang sign at Manila airpor
Naia International airport in Manila is a No “Wang Wang” zone!

This made us giggle as we first thought this was a joke or a preventative measure to stop men exposing their wangers in public. But the immigration officer explained to us it is actually an expression used to prevent queue cutting.

The phrase wang wang in fact derives from the sound police car sirens make. But some self-important people would mount fake police sirens to their cars, use them to wang wang and cut their way through heavy traffic.

The wang wang mentality and wang wang culture were catch phrases coined by President Benigno Aquino III in his speeches as part of his commitment to stamp out corruption and abuses of power.

President Aquino III in action
President Aquino III coined the “wang wang” phrase during his speeches

#10 The Filipinos: the best thing about the Philippines

The Filipinos are such warm hearted and welcoming people that you will leave craving to return to them. Fact!

Cheesy-ness aside, the OFWs (or Overseas Filipino Workers) are in fact the country’s largest and best export, due to the large amounts of remittances sent home each year.

Filipino Xmas party in Bangkok
A very Filipino Christmas in Bangkok with this lovely group of OFWs

Remittances from OFWs account for around 11% of the Filipino economy. It’s become such an important industry that each year, the government teaches thousands of people the skills they need to get jobs abroad.

This explains why the Pinoys are such an international bunch and why we’ve been so fortunate to meet so many of them around the world.

Posing with friendly Filipinos in Palawan
Posing with the very friendly staff of Flower Island Resort in Palawan

Travel with us as we swam our way through Boracay and Palawan in our Philippines travel video:



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31 thoughts on “10 interesting facts about the Philippines”

  1. Love seeing these photos and I enjoyed your story about El Nido. Were you able to visit Coron as well? If you haven’t been there, I highly recommend visiting Coron, Palawan.

  2. Haha I love the bit about social media exploding!! Maybe that’s the best strategy for boosting my following, visit the Philippines!

  3. Wow, I just got back from the Philippines myself. I have relived the entire trip on your blog. I too did the Underground River and tours A and C in Palawan. My lover is in the Philippines so I will be going back this December. I will visit some of the places I didn’t see that you mentioned, the bed and breakfast for sure in Palawan. Thanks.
    Love you guys.

  4. Wow! Thanks for visiting our country you guys. I came across you on my Facebook newsfeed and so now I’m following you!

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