Tell us where you're from... Introducing the Philippines

A‍t PLS we are proud to work with a diverse community of teachers and we want to showcase their home countries by presenting some interesting information about them. In this post our team of Tagalog teachers explore the Philippines and the facts, myths, and traditions that relate to this beautiful country. 




There are between 120 and 175 individual languages spoken in the Philippines, with 171 of them considered “living,” while four tribal dialects have no known living speakers. The country’s official languages are Filipino (based on Tagalog) and English, with Cebuano and Ilocano also popular in some regions. The Philippines is the fourth-largest English-speaking nation behind the U.S., India, Pakistan (English as a first or second language). Politeness is an art form in the Philippines. From the moment Filipinos are born, they are already taught how to be respectful by using these simple catchphrases—“po” and “opo”, words that end sentences when addressing elders. Most foreigners will be referred to as “sir” and “mam” no matter their age.


‍‍The People

The population of the Philippines is forecast to hit 110 million by 2020, and 125 million by 2030. The current population of the Philippines is 110,452,101 based on projections of the latest United Nations data. About 11% of the population of the Philippines – more than 11 million people – work overseas. In fact, the Philippines is the top supplier of nurses in the world, with about 25% of all overseas nurses coming from the country. In the United States, Filipinos are the second-largest Asian-American group behind only Chinese. In the UK, there are more than 22,000 Filipinos working in the NHS.


‍A Brief History - Las Islas Filipinas

The Philippines is the only Asian nation that is predominantly Christian, with 90% practicing that religion (and about 80% of its population, Roman Catholic) because of its Spanish colonial influence. The Philippines was named after King Philip II of Spain. Spanish explorer Ruy López de Villalobos, during his expedition in 1542, named the islands of Leyte and Samar "Felipinas" after Philip II of Spain, then the Prince of Asturias. Eventually the name "Las Islas Filipinas" would be used to cover the entire archipelago.


The Philippines were colonized by the following:

Spanish settlement and rule (1565–1898)

British occupation (1762–1764)

American rule (1898–1946)

Japanese occupation (1942 and 1945)

The Philippines gained independence on 4 July 1946. The country’s official name is the Republic of the Philippines.



Tikbalang, the mysterious half-horse creature

Tikbalang is a tall, bony humanoid creature with the head and hooves of a horse. Tikbalang traces back 4000 years ago, with roots in Hinduism. It originated from an Indian cultural influence spread throughout the Philippine regions through trade routes.

This creature of Philippine folklore is believed to hang out in the mountains and forests of the Philippines. It can lead the travelers astray and play tricks on them such as making them return to an arbitrary path no matter how far they have gone or turned. To counteract the Tikbalang’s bad intention, one has to wear her/his clothes inside out.

Primitive people in the Philippines believed in animism. They believed that every creature such as the trees, stones, water, mountain, sun, the moon had a spirit and power. Their power could do good or harm you. For travelers not to be harmed, they have to respect the Tikbalang who lives at the foot of large trees looking around for anyone who dares to do unkind acts to their territory.


‍Anting-anting, the Philippine amulet

The ancient pre-colonial Filipinos believed in the power of anting-anting even long before the Spaniards came. The natives worshipped their ancestral god, anito or bathala. Because of their strong spirituality, it was not hard for them to accept that anting-antings possess a variety of powers. Their view about the powers and mysterious concepts of the anting-anting were strengthened when the colonial Catholicism was introduced by the Spaniards which provided symbols of the Holy Spirit (Ispiritu Santo), Holy Trinity (Santisima Trinidad), Holy Family (Sagrada Familia), Virgin Mother (Virgen Madre), the Eye, and many more —into the credo of anting-anting.

‍Anting-anting can be engraved, worn as a neckpiece, and depicted in many other forms. A religious cult in Mount Banahaw believed in the great powers of Infinito Dios (Bathala), the ancient Tagalog God that they drew Bathala on their vests. They believed that the image of Infinito Dios caused bullets to be redirected when the American forces were invading them.


Maria Makiling, the Princess at Mount Makiling

Maria Makiling is a mountain goddess (diwata) sent by Bathala in Mount Makiling to protect and oversee the mountain. She was first known as Makiling but Maria was added by the Spanish to rebrand her as a converted Catholic.

There are numerous versions of the Maria Makiling legend. One superstition is that you can only pick enough fruits that you can eat and never bring home some as this may anger the diwata. If Maria Makiling is angered, she can make you get lost, be bitten by insects or be pricked by thorns. To prevent one from facing the predicament, throw away the extra fruits and turn your clothes inside out. Another superstition is when a man disappears in the forest, it is said that Makiling has fallen in love with him, has taken him into her house to be her husband.

There are other stories that depict Maria’s kind-heartedness. Maria is said to live in the village and interacts with the villagers regularly. Mothers in the village would bring their sick children to her. Maria recognizes that the children are sick because of extreme hunger due to poverty so she gives the villagers some ginger, produce from the mountain which by the time the villagers get home, it turns magically into gold.




Filipinos tend to show respect toward the older members of society. One custom that demonstrates this high esteem held for elders is the pagmamano. This practice is one of the oldest and most notable among Filipino traditions. Mano means hand in Spanish, and pagmamano is done by briefly touching the hand of the elder to a younger person’s forehead as a way of showing respect.



Bayanihan is another custom that truly captures the strong sense of community Filipinos have. This is a practice where members of the community help a neighbor transfer houses. Traditionally, bayanihan meant your neighbors literally carrying your entire kubo (native nipa hut) on their shoulders to the new location of your new home.



Colorful and festive local celebrations are also popular traditions. Every town in the Philippines, whether big or small, holds a fiesta. A popular feature of Philippine fiestas is an abundance of food, where locals throw open their doors to visitors while elaborate street celebrations take place.



Anna C.

Soccy P. 

Thelma C.


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