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The Philippine Archipelago

The Philippines is an archipelago of 7,107 islands north of the equator. It is reputed to be the world's second largest archipelago after Indonesia. Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao are the three major island groups of the archipelago. The country has a total land area of 300,439 square kilometers and is about the size of Italy but larger than Cuba, Costa Rica or the British Isles. It lies between latitude 5 deg N and 21 deg N and longitude 116 deg E and 127 deg E.

The archipelago stretches 1,854 kilometers from north to south. At its widest point, it spans 1,100 kilometers. The northernmost island, Y'ami in the Batanes group, is 240 km south of Taiwan; the southernmost island, Saluag in the Tawi-Tawi group, is 50 km east of Malaysian Borneo. On the north it is bounded by the Bashi Channel, on the south by Sulu Sea and Celebes Sea, on the east by the Pacific Ocean, and on the west by the South China Sea. Many of the 7,107 islands are little more than rocks, reefs, or sandbanks. Some 4,600 are named and 1,000 are inhabited. Only 46 are larger than 100 square km.

The largest island, Luzon, occupies the northern portion. In the middle, the Visayas consist of about 6,000 islands, including Samar, the third largest in the country. Mindanao, the second largest island, is in the south. The two largest islands, Luzon and Mindanao, account for 65 percent of the total land area and 60 percent of the country's population of more than 70 million people.

Volcanoes, Earthquakes and Typhoons

Many of the islands are of volcanic origin. There are more than 50 volcanoes distributed throughout the archipelago but only 18 of these are active. Located in the central plain of Northern Luzon, Mount Pinatubo which has been dormant for 600 years erupted on June 12, 1991. It continued erupting for five days and gained notoriety for being the most devastating volcanic explosion of the 21st century.

Numerous fault lines crisscross the archipelago, making it one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world. In July 1990 one of the worst earthquakes struck the country with a magnitude of 7.7 on the Richter Scale. It's epicenter was in Baguio City. The country is also regularly visited by an average of 20 typhoons annually. There was a year when 32 different typhoons ravaged different parts of the country.

The Philippines consist of majestic mountain peaks, white sand beaches, lush green countrysides, and a generally warm climate. There are only two pronounced seasons in most parts of the country - wet and dry.

Metro Manila

The capital of the Philippines is Manila, which has been expanded into what is now called Metro Manila. It encompasses Manila, seven other cities, and nine municipalities. Metro Manila is the seat of the national government, and the heart of the country's business, economic, social, cultural, and educational activity. It is the major crossroads of international trade and commerce.

Local Government Units

Local government units are the province, city, municipality, and barangay. Provinces, cities, and municipalities can only be created by an act of the Philippine congress. A barangay may be created by the concerned provincial board or city council. There are 78 provinces in the Philippines and 38 of these are in the Island of Luzon, 16 in the Visayas, and 24 are in Mindanao. Currently, there are 61 cities throughout the country.

Cordillera Administrative Region

The Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) was created out of the Ilocano regions of Ilocos and Cagayan in 1987. The region was envisioned to be one of the anchors of the "Northwestern Luzon Growth Quadrangle" and was designed to accelerate the socio-economic growth of the north-central part of the Island of Luzon. It was also foreseen that it would preserve the unique cultural heritage of the Ilocano-speaking people and fortify their ethnic solidarity. This region encompasses the City of Baguio and the following five provinces:


The province of Abra occupies the western portion of the Cordillera region in northern Luzon. It is landlocked on the north by Ilocos Norte, on the east by Kalinga-Apayao, on the west by Ilocos Sur and on the south by Ilocos Sur and the Mountain Province. It has an area of 3,975 sq km and a population of 184,743. The capital is Bangued and there are 27 towns in the province.

Abra has an extremely rugged terrain, with mountains and hills rising along its perimeter and interior. The plains are drained by the Abra River, which flows northward from Mt. Data in the Mountain Province. The climate is characterized by two distinct seasons: dry from November to April, and wet the rest of the year. Abra's inhabitants are mostly descendants of Ilocano settlers and members of the Tingguian tribe. Due to frequent intermarriages between the two cultures, many Ilocanos today are actually Christianized Tingguians. The predominant languages are Ilocano and Tingguian.


The province of Benguet occupies the southern tip of the Cordillera Mountain Range in northern Luzon. It is bounded on the north by Ilocos Sur and the Mountain Province, on the east by Ifugao and Nueva Vizcaya, on the west by La Union, and on the south by Pangasinan. Benguet has an area of 2,655 sq km and a population of 485,546. The capital is La Trinidad. It has one city (Baguio) and there are 13 towns in the province. The province is a plateau with an average elevation of 1,500 m above sea level. It has a rugged and sloping terrain, dotted with hot springs and cut by rivers that drain into many valleys. Mountains rise from the plateau. The second highest mountain in the Philippines at 2,930 m, Mt. Pulog, is found in Benguet. The province possesses a pleasantly cool climate. Like the western half of Luzon, Benguet has wet and dry seasons of equal duration, but experiences heavy rainfall because of its elevation.

Benguet is the homeland of three tribes, collectively referred to as Igorots. The Ibaloi live in the southeast, the Kankanai in the northwest, and the Kalanguya in the east. The Igorots are divided by dialect. Ibalois speak Nabaloy, which is similar to Pangasinense; Kankanais speak Kalkali, which is related to the Bontoc dialect.


The province of Ifugao is in the Cordillera Central Mountains of northern Luzon. It is bounded on the north by the Mountain Province, on the east by Isabela, on the west by Benguet, and on the south by Nueva Vizcaya. The capital of Ifugao is Lagawe and the province has an area of 2,718 sq km. It has 10 towns and a population of 149,161.

Ifugao is home of the famous Banaue Rice Terraces. The extensive mountain ranges that dominate the landscape have been terraced by hand for growing rice because there is hardly any level land. Even the nearby villages are on the mountain slopes. The province's location high in the mountains and its forest cover account for its temperate climate. A short dry season lasts from January to April and it can be very wet during the rainy season. The natives of Ifugao are relatively short, well-built and have acuired a reputation as fierce fighters and headhunters. They speak a dialect also called Ifugao.


The province of Kalinga-Apayao is in the northernmost Cordillera region. It is landlocked by Cagayan on the north and east, and also partly by Isabela on the east, by Abra and Ilocos on the west, and by the Mountain Province on the south. The province has an area of 7,048 sq km. There are 15 towns and it has a population of 211,775. It is surrounded by mountain peaks and is divided into three areas centered around the Chico River: the mountainous western portion of the river's basin, the valley of the river and its tributaries, and the level plains between the river and Cagayan province. The climate is relatively dry from November to April and generally wet the rest of the year.

Kalinga-Apayao is clearly divided along tribal lines: the Kalingas and the Apayaos. The Kalingas were once fierce headhunters and they are still a proud people. The Apayaos, known as Isnegs get their name from the river where they get their food.

Mountain Province

The Mountain Province is a landlocked area in the Central Cordilleras. It is bounded on the north by Kalinga-Apayao, on the east by Isabela, on the west by Abra and Ilocos Sur, and on the south by Benguet and Ifugao. The province has an area of 2,097 sq km and its capital is in Bontoc. There are 10 towns in the province and it has a total population of 116,535. Towering peaks and sharp ridges are the main features of the central and western landscape of the province. The eastern part is characterized by gradually sloping and rolling foothills. Mountain Province is very wet from June to October and dry from November to May.

The people are mainly Bontoc Igorots, with Ilocano migrants from neighboring provinces. The natives are industrious farmers who were once regarded as the most belligerent of the mountain tribes. Although they are Christians, they still cling to their traditional beliefs and rituals.

Map of Downtown Baguio - The downtown map of Baguio portrays Burnham Park and the surrounding area.

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