Metro Manila · What 'Manila' Stands For

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Manila stands for a couple of things such as Politics, Economy and Crime. The most important things a Megacitizen has to know about this city are summarized below in some easy-to-remember paragraphs. With that in mind, go out and make experiences of your own - and let us know about it!

Religion

The Filipino people are very religious. With the population mostly composed of Roman Catholics (around 70 percent) and other Christian representations, the country is the only Christian nation in the whole of Asia. There are other religious groups such as Muslims and Buddhists. Interestingly, since the Philippines was originally a pagan society, Roman Catholics often merge tribal traditions with Catholicism. 

In Metro Manila, catholic masses are well-established in the halls or patios of many Shopping Malls. The biggest Christian domination apart from the Catholic Church is the Iglesia ni Cristo (Tagalog for Church of Christ). It was founded in 1914 in the Philippines. The increasing number of their characteristic neo-Gothic churches is a sign for its ongoing growth. While Luzon and the Visayas are are predominantly Catholic, Mindanao is mainly shaped by the Muslim faith.  

In the South of the country, in large parts of Mindanao, a conflict has been taking place for the last decades with its roots in the 19th century. Muslim dominated parts are clashing with government law enforcement and military since 1899 - after the Americans ended the Spanish colonial rule in the Philippines. This is the reason why many embassies have constant warnings issued for tourists traveling to Mindanao. As the largest city in Mindanao, Davao has not only a lot to offer but is also safe for travelers.

Culture

Philippine culture is a mishmash of Malay, American, Spanish, and oriental influences. The modern Tagalog or Filipino, the national language, is composed of the classic Tagalog, which was originally only spoken in the area around Manila, and a lot of Spanish and English words incorporated, in particular for everyday objects (“mesa”, “silya”) and modern inventions (“telepono”, “tricycle”). Since the country was a former colony of the United States, most Filipinos speak and understand English albeit some are not all fluent. English is common language in areas like higher education, business and politics. All in all, around 170 languages and dialects can be found in the Philippines. Many of them are also heavily influenced by Spanish. The constitution recognizes several languages like Cebuano and Ilocano as auxiliary official languages.

The Filipino people in general are very friendly and hospitable, the latter characteristic even being blamed by some as one of the reasons why Spain conquered the Philippine Islands so easily. The atmosphere is quite festive in the Philippines and whatever the celebration, it always seems like there is a celebration going on, by default – although this may sound like another cheap cliché – with karaoke, dancing and plenty of food. But these mini celebrations are nothing compared to the real fiestas celebrated in each region, festivities in honor of the local patron saints or the celebration of a great harvest.

Although the Filipino people are not really united when it comes to politics and other matters, the country somehow fights and even prays as a collective during competitions such as international singing contests, beauty pageants, or boxing where Filipinos or even half-Filipinos are involved. The current national hero is without a doubt the boxing champion Manny 'Pacman' Pacquiao. When he has a fight, the whole country gathers in front of the TV, and streets and MRT trains in Manila are empty and quiet just for once.

Filipinos like other Asian nations put their family first no matter what - including the extended family. Aside from being family oriented and religious, Filipinos are very laid back. In fact, it is difficult for many locals to be on time for meetings - also because of the traffic situation in Manila. Because this is so prevalent, it has already earned a name: Filipino time. Filipinos always have a very positive outlook. In fact, according to a 2012 survey done by the University of Michigan, the Philippines ranks as the 38th happiest nation in the world just behind the French.

The Philippines is famous for its tropical fruits that it exports to other parts of Asia and the world. One of the most popular fruits is the Philippine Mango. You can eat it with a spoon, as part of a green salad, try the sweet and delicious dried version, or drink it as a fruit shake. But the Filipino´s favourite version is stripes of unripe green Mango dipped in salty Bagoong, a paste of fermented fish or shrimps. Although it takes some getting used to, it is a must-try street food for foreigners!

Power

The Philippines is a republic governed by a President. Since it was patterned to the government of its former colonial power the United States, the country also has a Senate and a House of Representatives. Although senators, congressmen, governors and mayors are public servants, the abuse of power and corruption is prevalent in the Philippines. This of course is not a hundred percent accurate since there are public servants who have nothing in mind but to serve their constituents. The President of the Philippines has more power over his or her jurisdiction as compared to the President of the United States.

Population

Metropolitan Manila also known as the National Capital Region (NCR) is a metropolitan region that encompasses the city of Manila and its surrounding cities and towns including that of Caloocan, Las Piñas, Makati, Malabon, Mandaluyong, Marikina, Muntinlupa, Navotas, Pasay, Pasig, Parañaque, Quezon City, San Juan, Taguig, Valenzuela and the Municipality of Pateros. This part of the country is the most populous as compared to the twelve defined metropolitan areas in the Philippines. Statistics show that it is the 11th most populous metropolis in the world. As of the 2010 census, Metro Manila’s population reached nearly 12 Million, comprising over 10% of the total population of the Philippines. The numbers have grown since then, adding up to an estimated 25 million people in Greater Manila, which includes the densely populated provinces surrounding the Metro area. The Philippine population hit around 97.6 million in 2011 as estimated by the Commission on Population. According to the agency, the population growth in the country is 2.04% and by 2014, there will be 101.2 million Filipinos.

Progress

The Philippines is among the poor Asian nations, even though it was one of the most powerful in the region in the mid-60s up to the early-80s. Due to bad politics and corruption the Philippines’ growth as a nation, in terms of economic stature, is heavily reliant on Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) who send money back home. Statistics show however that the younger generation is also helping in improving the country’s Gross Domestic Product thanks to the growth of the BPO industry in the country. Historically, from the year 1998 until 2012, the GDP growth rate averaged 1.0800% in the Philippines. The newly industrialized country exports textiles, garments, and electronics and automobile parts.

The industrialization aims at reducing the “brain drain” of the country, which as in other developing countries is quite a problem in the the Philippines; the number of Filipinos trained in science and technology who leave the country for overseas jobs has more than doubled in the last twelve years.

Crime

With most of the crime occurrence in the country happening in Metro Manila and other big cities in the Philippines, the Philippine countryside is relatively safe. Businessmen that were surveyed regarding crime occurrence in the Philippines say that the crime rate is a major business constraint. Corruption still remains as one of the biggest issues though, especially when it comes to increasing the number of investors in the islands. Crimes that happen in the Metro Manila area often involve robbery. Check our Security & Safety section for more information.

Liberty

The Philippines is one of the most democratic countries in Southeast Asia. The Philippine media can basically report anything to the point of either compromising certain military activities to extremely useless news reporting. Citizens of the Philippines can pretty much say what they want and stage protests in the streets. During the time of the President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo however, activists went missing or were discovered killed. Until now, the number of killed journalists in the country is quite high as compared to other countries, according to Reporters without Borders. In 2013 more journalists (8) have only been killed in Syria (10) and Iraq (10), doubling the number of killed journalists in the country as compared to 2012.

What stands out about the Philippines is that unlike in many of its neighboring countries, the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) community thrives, at least in Metro Manila. Those who are members of this unofficial group are accepted by the general population.