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PHILIPPINES

“Pearl of the Orient Seas”- the Philippines is an archipelago of 7,107 islands divided into three incredibly diverse island groups - Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao that are home to enormous limestone karsts jutting out of the sea, active volcanoes and delightful little critters. It is an enchanting country blessed with a stunning array of extensive mountain ranges, highlands, valleys, inland and coastal plains dotted with sandy beaches and mangrove swamps, lakes and rivers that carve canyons through the mountains. From the rice terraces of North Luzon to the underworld of Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park and the mysterious underground river of Palawan- the country boasts a prestigious collection of six natural and cultural sites.

Located between the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean in southeastern Asia with an area of about 300,000 square kilometers, 35% of the land area of Philippines is covered with tropical forests. The remarkable rich diverse fauna comprises a great many endemic species including the tamaraw (Mindoro dwarf buffalo), the tiny tarsier, Philippine eagle or monkey-eating eagle, mousedeer, Philippine eagle-owl, Philippine tube-nosed fruit bat and the Visayan warty pig to name just a few. Over 500 species of hard and soft corals and over 2000 species of fish, the most popular the "butandings" whale-sharks turn the Philippine waters into an incredible sight.

Four cultural heritages- Asian, European, Mexican and American have imparted a vigorous artistic community to the Philippines. Folk arts such as San Nicolas cookie mold carvings, Pabalat or Pastillas wrapper cutting art, Taka or paper mache, Pagbuburda or needlework, Singkaban or bamboo art tell us about the creative nature of the Filipinos. Native dances like tinikling, binasuan, maglalatik are part of a tribal rite or sacrifice, native feasts and festivals. Traditional music is played on wind, stringed, and percussion instruments like the kulibit (tube zither with bamboo-husk strings), kudyapi (two-stringed plucked lute) and the git-git (wooden three-string bowed instrument). People show immense skill in woodcarving, weaving fabrics and jewelry-making from pearl, red hornbill beaks, plants, and metals. Kut-kut, an exotic art form is the result of merging of three ancient styles of sgraffito, encaustic and layering. An exclusive cultural heritage of the Maranao native inhabitants is the okir pattern curved in hardwood and metals in curvilinear lines.

Exuberant fiestas (festivals) like Ati-atihan, Pasungay, Panagbenga, Paraw Regatta, Pista’y Dayat, Pahiyas Sa Quezon, San Fernando Giant Lantern Festival and many more rage across the country throughout the year. These fiestas mix in elements of Catholicism with festivities, feasts and indigenous drama.

The cuisine of the Philippines is fascinating with each island rendering its own flavor to a series of native dishes. Sukang iloco (vinegar derived from sugarcane), a part and parcel of every Filipino kitchen, is used for marinating, braising, glazing and as a table dip. White rice is a must with every meal of the day including breakfasts. Adobo (pork stewed in garlic, soy sauce and vinegar), one of the most popular Filipino dishes, is the national dish.


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