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The Philippines A Unique Nation

The Philippines is an archipelago of more than 7,100 islands, with a total land area of 115,707 square miles. In terms of land area, the Philippines is almost as large as Italy, larger than New Zealand, twice as big as Greece and very much larger than Britain.

The Philippines is a rugged land of mountains and plains, bays and lakes, rivers and waterfalls, valleys and volcanoes. Its irregular coastline stretches 10,850 statute miles, twice as long as the coastline of the US.

A glance at the world map will show that the Philippines has a very strategic location. No wonder that foreign powers who colonized the islands at various eras became the greatest world power after their coming - and declined after their leaving. Because of its strategic location, the Philippines is destined to play a great role in the world, possibly its greatest role in the near future.

The lowest spot in the world is the "Philippine Deep", situated off the Pacific coast of the archipelago. It is 37,782 feet deep, or 2,142 feet lower than the "Marianas Deep". Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world, can easily be submerged in the "Philippine Deep", with 8,754 feet of space to spare.

The Philippines is one of the richest countries of the world. God has given the archipelago all the ecology needed to support a great nation fertile soil, good tropical climate; and rich natural resources.

The Philippines is also one of the most beautiful lands on earth for having scenic panoramas and natural wonders which delight visitors from all corners of the world.

Between Samar and Leyte is the picturesque San Juanico Strait, "the narrowest strait in the world". Manila Bay, with the historic Corregidor Island standing guard at its entrance, is one of the finest harbors in the Asian world.

Terrible typhoons (strong winds and heavy rains) lash the islands of the Philippines annually, especially those close to the Pacific Ocean. The country holds the world's record for the heaviest 24-hour rainfall of over 38.5 inches, which occurred in Manila on October 17, 1967.

Agriculture is the greatest industry of the Filipino people. The potential farming area of the Philippines is 18 million hectares (40,000,000 acres), of which only one-third is cultivated. Among the countries of the world, the Philippine ranks first in coconut and hemp production, second in sugarcane, and fifth in tobacco.

Philippine rivers, lakes and seas teem with fish, shells, pearls, corals, seaweed and other forms of marine wealth. Both the largest and the smallest fish in the world are found in the Philippines. According to marine biologists, the world's largest fish is the whale shark (Rhineodon typus), which is 50 feet or more in length and weighs several tons when fully grown. The smallest fish in the world is Pandaka pygmaea (dwarf pygmy). Its average length is 9.66 millimeters (.38 inches), being 3 millimeters smaller than the famous sinarapan (tabyos) formerly the "smallest fish in the world."

The world's rarest and most expensive shell, called "Glory of the Sea" (Connus gloriamaris), is found in the Philippines. Also found in the archipelago are Tridacna gigas, the world's largest shell which has a length of one meter and weighs 600 pounds,

and Pisidum, the smallest shell in the world, which is less than one millimeter long. The world's largest pearl, called "The Pearl of Allah," was found in the Philippines in 1934 at the Palawan Sea by a Muslim diver. It is 9.5 x 5.5 inches and 14 lbs., and worth US$3.5 million. It was given by the local Muslim chief to an American from California, Wilburn Dewall Cobb, for saving his sick son's life in 1936.

The country has rich deposits of gold, silver, iron, copper, lead, manganese, zinc and other metals. It is one of Asia's greatest gold-producing regions. Copper mining is another old industry in the Philippines. The greatest iron-bearing area in the Philippines is Surigao, whose iron ore deposit is estimated at one billion tons, being one of the richest undeveloped deposits in the world. In Masinloc, Zambales exists the biggest deposit of high quality chromites in the world. The world's largest deposit of nickel has been discovered in recent years in Nonoc Isle, of the coast of northern Mindanao.

The Philippines perches precariously on the so-called "ring of fire" of the Pacific which means the country is rocked from time to time by earthquakes, seismic tremors, and volcanic eruptions. Now the Mount Pinatubo volcanic eruption in June 1991 is deemed as the world's worst volcanic eruption in the 20th century. Pinatubo in Zambales Province has replaced the Krakatoa volcanic eruption in Indonesia as the worst recorded volcanic calamity to date. It caused damaged to six nearby provinces and 4 cities worth over P3.3 billion. Some 250,000 families or more than 1 million people were injured or left homeless. It totally destroyed the US Clark Air force Base in Pampanga. Global dust spewed by the volcano has blocked sunlight and affected weather and ozone layer throughout the world.

The Philippines abounds in animal life. Most useful of the Philippine animals is the carabao (water buffalo), the farmer's best friend. Gentle as a domestic pet and slow as a turtle, it is a reliable work-animal like the elephant and is used for tilling rice fields.

More than 750 species of birds, more than those in Australia, Japan, or any other country of Southeast Asia, are found in the Philippines. The largest eagle in the world, called the monkey-eating eagle, is found in the jungles of Luzon and Mindanao. When full grown, it measures five and a half feet in height with a wing span of seven feet. As one of the endangered species of animals in the world, it has attracted the attention of conservationists. Now, it is the national bird of the Philippines.

Other interesting birds in the Philippines are the kalaw, which the Spanish colonizers called the "clock of the mountains" because it makes a loud call from the mountains at noon daily; the wood-thrush, sweetest troubadour of the Philippine skies; the katala, which talks and sings like a human being; the tiny Philippine falconet, measuring only about two and a half inches long, said to be the world's smallest falcon; the Palawan peacock pheasant which struts gracefully like adagio dancer.

Four unique animals in the world are found in the Philippines. They are the tamaraw of Mindoro, which looks like a dwarf carabao and is fierce like a tiger; the tarsius of Bohol, which is reputed to be the smallest monkey in the world; the mouse deer of Palawan, which is the world's smallest deer and the zebronkey, half-zebra and half-donkey, which was bred at the Manila Zoo in 1962.

There are about 25,000 species of insects in the Philippines. The largest Philippine insect is the giant moth, which has a wing span of one foot.

Millions of flowers of all colors and scents bloom all year-round throughout the Philippines. For this reason, many authors call the archipelago the "Land of Flowers". There are about 10,000 species of flowering plants and ferns in the Philippines. Among the beautiful flowers are the lovely sampaguita, the charming cadena de amor, the romantic gardenia, the milky-white camia, the bewitching dama de noche, and the majestic bougainvillea of various colors. The largest flower in the world is the
















The Philippines is one of the world's most beautiful countries which God has embellished with scenic beauty and natural wonders. World famous are the Banaue Ifugao Rice Terraces in northern Luzon, built more than 2,000 years ago by the hardy Ifugao farmers on the massive slopes of the mountains, these terraces rise in gigantic steps toward the clouds. If placed end to end, they would extend 14,000 miles - almost ten times longer than the famous Great Wall of China - more than half of the earth's circumference.

The crowning glory of the natural wonders of the Philippines is Mount Mayon in Albay Province, Southern Luzon. Its majestic beauty thrills all beholders. It surpasses the famous volcanoes of the world in beauty, for it possesses the most beautiful symmetrical volcanic cone. Another Philippine volcano which fascinates global tourist is the tiny Taal Volcano at the center of Lake Taal in Batangas. It is reputed to be the smallest volcano on earth.

The Philippines is the first Republic in Asia, being the first Asian nation to achieve independence by revolution and establish a Republic, led by General Emilio Aguinaldo in 1898-1901.

The Filipinos are predominantly Christian in the Asian region. The Philippines has served as Christianity's lone citadel beneath Asian skies and the light from which the gospel of Jesus Christ has been preached to other Asian countries.

Filipinos are unique for culturally assimilating four heritages - the indigenous Asian, the European, the Latin and the American heritage.

Filipinos are known for their talent in languages. This is exemplified by Dr. Jose Rizal, Philippine national hero, who knew twenty-two languages. According to the findings of Summer Institute of Linguistics of the University of North Dakota (headed by Dr. Richard S. Pittman), there are 55 languages and 142 dialects in the Philippines.

The Filipinos are also the only nation in Asia who speak English and Spanish and have a literature written in these two foreign languages. As a matter of fact, Filipinos take pride in being the third largest English-speaking nation in the world.

The Philippines is the most literate nation in Southeast Asia. The present rate of literacy in the Philippines is 89.27%, the highest among the Southeast Asian nations and also higher than the Arab nations of the Middle East. The main cause for the high literacy in the Philippines is the passionate love of Filipinos for education. As the last governor-general of the Philippines, Frank Murphy, said: "No people ever accepted the blessing of education with more enthusiasm than the Filipino."

Filipino women enjoy the greatest freedom and the highest status among the women in Asia. Economically, politically, and socially, they are considered as the equal of men. They were the first Asian women to enjoy the right of suffrage - to vote in elections and to be voted into public office. Finally, Filipino women are also distinguished for their beauty. Evidently, the blending of Asian, Mexican, Spanish, American blood makes the "mestiza" type of Eurasian-Filipina glamorously lovely and talented, enabling many of them to win in various international beauty contests.

Filipinos rank among the bravest peoples on earth. They valiantly resisted the Spanish, American and Japanese invaders of their native land. To them courage is a badge of manhood, and it has been shown in Filipino soldiers' service during battles and wars. More recently, millions of Filipinos armed only with their faith and courage peacefully won over tanks, armored carriers and planes during the "People Power" Revolution of Feb. 22-25, 1986.

Owing to the effect of their beautiful country, Filipinos are passionately romantic and artistic. They are ardent in love as they are fierce in battle. They are highly intelligent, and according to Dr. David P. Barrows, an American educator, they have "quick perceptions, retentive memory, aptitude and extraordinary docility" making them "most teachable persons."

The Filipinos are also noted for their adaptability, endurance and resiliency. Throughout the ages, they have been lashed by all kinds of suffering - invasions, revolts, revolutions, wars, earthquakes, typhoons, volcanic eruption and epidemics. Probably few peoples on earth, with the exception of the Jews, the Chinese and the Russians, have suffered as much as the Filipinos. Unlike the Polynesians of the Pacific and the Indians of the Americas, they have not vanished in contact with the Europeans. They can assimilate any civilization and thrive in any climate. Against the winds of adversities which regularly visit their land, they simply bend, but never break for they have the durability of the narra (mahogany) tree and resiliency of the bamboo.