Philippines Facts - Compassion International

Compassion has been making a difference in the lives of children in need in the Philippines since 1972. Through our work there, we gather Philippines facts about children in need and the community of the Philippines. These Philippines facts and statistics provide a good overview of the reality of poverty and how Compassion is releasing children from poverty in Jesus' name.

Poverty is a common problem in the country of the Philippines but Compassion is working to change this. The Philippines facts tell a discouraging story, but Compassion is bringing hope in the midst of this discouragement. With your involvement, our programs are changing the statistics one child at a time.

Don't let the hopelessness of Philippines facts overwhelm you. You can make a difference to a child in the Philippines today!


Compassion partners with churches to help them provide Filipino children with the opportunity to rise above their circumstances and become all God has created them to be.

Compassion's work in the Philippines began in 1972. Currently, more than 84,000 children participate in more than 350 child development centers.

Learn About the Philippines

The history of the Philippines can be divided into four distinct phases: the pre-Spanish period (before 1521), the Spanish period (1521-1898), the American period (1898-1946), and the years since independence (1946-present).

Pre-Spanish Period

The first people in the Philippines, the Negritos, are believed to have come to the islands 30,000 years ago from Borneo and Sumatra, making their way across then-existing land bridges. The Malays settled in scattered communities called baranggays, which were ruled by chieftains known as datus. Chinese merchants and traders arrived and settled in the ninth century. In the 14th century, Arabs arrived, introducing Islam in the south and extending some influence even into Luzon. The Malays, however, remained the dominant group until the Spanish arrived in the 16th century.

Spanish Period

Ferdinand Magellan claimed the Philippines for Spain in 1521, and for the next 377 years, the islands were under Spanish rule. This period was the era of conversion to Roman Catholicism. A Spanish colonial social system was developed, complete with a strong, centralized government and considerable clerical influence. The Filipinos were restive under the Spanish and this long period was marked by numerous uprisings. The most important of these began in 1896 under the leadership of Emilio Aguinaldo and continued until the Americans defeated the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay on May 1, 1898, during the Spanish-American War. Aguinaldo declared independence from Spain on June 12, 1898.

American Period

Following Admiral Dewey's defeat of the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay, the United States occupied the Philippines. Spain ceded the islands to the United States under the terms of the Treaty of Paris (December 10, 1898) that ended the war.

A war of resistance against U.S. rule, led by Revolutionary President Aguinaldo, broke out in 1899. Although Americans have historically used the term "the Philippine Insurrection," Filipinos and an increasing number of American historians refer to these hostilities as the Philippine-American War (1899-1902) and in 1999, the U.S. Library of Congress reclassified its references to use this term. In 1901, Aguinaldo was captured and swore allegiance to the United States and resistance gradually died out. The conflict ended with a Peace Proclamation on July 4, 1902.

U.S. administration of the Philippines was always declared to be temporary and aimed to develop institutions that would permit and encourage the eventual establishment of a free and democratic government. Therefore, U.S. officials concentrated on the creation of such practical supports for democratic government as public education and a sound legal system.

On July 4, 1946, the Philippine Islands became the independent Republic of the Philippines, in accordance with the terms of the Tydings-McDuffie Act. In 1962, the official Independence Day was changed from July 4 to June 12, commemorating the date independence from Spain was declared by General Aguinaldo in 1898.

Post-Independence Period

The early years of independence were dominated by U.S.-assisted postwar reconstruction. A communist-inspired Huk Rebellion (1945-53) complicated recovery efforts before its successful suppression under the leadership of President Ramon Magsaysay. The succeeding administrations of Presidents Carlos P. Garcia (1957-61) and Diosdado Macapagal (1961-65) sought to expand Philippine ties to its Asian neighbors, implement domestic reform programs and develop and diversify the economy.

Since 1986, when the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos was toppled, the Philippines has enjoyed relative political stability and steady economic growth.

The Philippine Government faces threats from several groups, some of which are on the U.S. Government's Foreign Terrorist Organization list. Manila has waged a decades-long struggle against ethnic Moro insurgencies in the southern Philippines, which has led to ongoing peace talks. The decades-long Maoist-inspired New People's Army insurgency also operates through much of the country. The Philippines faces increased tension with China over disputed territorial and maritime claims in the South China Sea.

Source: The World Factbook, 2014.


The typical school year runs from June to March. Although attendance is compulsory through secondary school, it is common for young people to drop out and work as field hands, even as early as the fifth grade.

A typical Filipino family considers education the ticket to a more prosperous and easy life. Most parents are so convinced that education is their economic salvation that they are willing to sell land and properties to afford tuition and school expenses. Private education costs easily range up to P45,000 (U.S.$1,028). And, tuition fees are 20 to 40 percent less in public education institutions offering the same disciplines.

The government provides free elementary and secondary education. However, the insufficiency of classrooms, teachers and textbooks cannot guarantee quality education in public schools.


The constitution provides for freedom of religion and the government generally respects this right. The government at all levels strives to protect this right in full and does not tolerate its abuse, either by governmental or private sectors. There is no state religion, and the constitution provides for the separation of church and state.

Catholicism in the Philippines is unique from the rest of the world. It adheres to the ancient worship rites and practices of early animistic Filipinos. Although ancient Filipinos were scattered into different and diverse clans and worshiped in diverse ways, generally they all worshiped a number of deities for every natural phenomenon. With the advent of Catholicism, these gods were "converted" into biblical saints. Patron saints were assigned and prayed to for every need and area of life. For instance, the virgin Mary is given reverence and accorded with worship.

Although the most predominant religion, Catholicism has been made vulnerable to religious scrutiny. Evangelical Christianity is more popular due to both political and social developments, besides religious. The leading local religious sect is the Iglesia ni Cristo (Church of Christ), which boasts a membership of more than 1 million.

The government permits religious instruction in public schools with the written consent of parents, provided there is no cost to the government. Local public schools also allow church groups to teach moral values during school hours. Attendance is not mandatory, and various churches rotate in sharing classroom space. Interested groups may distribute free Bibles in public schools.

Source: International Religious Freedom Report, released in 2012 by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.



The Philippines is rich in historical plays, handicrafts, handbags, basketry and woodcarving.


Folk dances are popular, including tinikling (the use of bamboo poles and rhythmic jumping).

Holidays and Festivals

All Saint's Day, Nov. 1: Catholic Filipinos remember loved ones by decorating graves with flowers, favorite foods of their loved ones, and candles.

Christmas and New Year: Filipinos celebrate the Noche Buena (midnight watch) both Dec. 24 and 31. Favorite foods, such as roasted chicken or pork with noodles, are prepared and topped off with sweets. Fireworks are lit and gifts are opened at midnight.

Holy Week (the week before Easter), March/April: During this week, Filipinos enjoy processions and street theater.

Sports and Games

Sipa is considered the national sport of the Philippines and is played by two to four people passing a small rattan ball back and forth. It is typically controlled by the feet, but every part of the body except the hands and arms may be used. Both the footbag and the sports that use it are sometimes referred to as "hacky sack."

The national unofficial sport in the Philippines is basketball. It is so popular among Filipinos that virtually every baranggay (a small government unit, similar to a village or town) in the country has at least one basketball court.

Among the other sports where the Filipinos have gained international recognition are billiards (notably nine ball), 10-pin bowling, boxing and chess.

Typical Foods

Filipinos eat rice, sweet potatoes, vegetables, bananas, bread, soup, fish or chicken.

Leche Flan (custard)

  • 2 cups evaporated milk
  • 8 egg yolks
  • 1 tsp. lemon rind
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup caramel sauce 

Beat the egg yolks in a bowl, adding milk, sugar and flavoring. Pour into a 1-quart mold or a pie dish. Place dish in a large pan filled with water below the rim of the dish. Bake for 1 hour at 375 degrees. Cool, then slice.


Here are some ways to say the same thing in the many different dialects in the Philippines:


  • Magandang umaga (Good morning)
  • Magandang hapon (Good afternoon)
  • Magandang gabi (Good evening) 


  • Maayong aga (Good morning)
  • Maayong hapon (Good afternoon)
  • Maayong gabii (Good evening)


  • Naimbag nga agsapa (Good morning)
  • Naimbag nga aldaw (Good afternoon)
  • Naimbag nga rabii (Good evening)
Compassion in the Philippines

Child Sponsorship Program

In the Philippines, weekdays are devoted to school activities so children typically meet at the child development center for 4 to 8 hours on weekends. At the center children are given a meal (lunch) and snacks. A meal usually consists of fish or meat, vegetables and rice. Snacks could include bread, soup or another local delicacy.

Typical extracurricular activities include camps, sporting events, field trips and talent shows. The older children participate in these activities approximately twice a month, more often than the younger children. Vocational training and income-generating skills training are also part of the regular program activities at the child development center.

Visit the Compassion blog to learn more about our work in the Philippines, to experience the country through the eyes of a child and to get a sense of what rural living and urban life in the Philippines is like. You can also view a series of Missions in Action webisodes highlighting our work in the Philippines.

Philippines Facts and Figures
Capital Manila
Population 107,668,231 (2014 estimate)
Languages Two official languages: Filipino (based on Tagalog) and English; eight major dialects: Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilocano, Hiligaynon or Ilonggo, Bicol, Waray, Pampango and Pangasinan
Religions Roman Catholic 80.9%, Muslim 5%, Evangelical 2.8%, Iglesia ni Kristo 2.3%, Aglipayan 2%, other Christian 4.5%, other 1.8%, unspecified 0.6%, none 0.1% (2000 census)
Literacy rate
Definition: Age 15 and over can read and write.
Male: 95%
Female: 95.8.7%
(2008 Census)
Percentage of population using improved drinking water sources Urban: 92.7%
Rural: 92.1%
(2011 estimate)
Percentage of population using adequate sanitation facilities Urban: 79.2%
Rural: 69.3%
(2011 estimate)
Climate Tropical marine; northeast monsoon (November to April); southwest monsoon (May to October)
Percentage of population urbanized 48.8% (2011 estimate)
Life expectancy Male: 69.52 years
Female: 75.59 years
(2014 estimate)
Under-5 mortality rate 30/1,000 (2012 estimate)
GDP per capita $4,700 (2013 estimate)
Monetary unit Philippine peso (PHP)
Number of people living with HIV/AIDS 14,800 (2012 estimate)
Percentage of population living below $1.25 a day 18% (2007-11 study)

Sources for facts: The World Factbook, 2014; The State of the World's Children, 2014