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Country Overview

The Philippines lie off the southeast coast of Asia between Taiwan and Borneo in the Pacific Ocean and South China Sea. They are composed of 7107 islands and islets (7108 at low tide). The warm waters offer the attractions of sunbathing, swimming and diving through a dramatic display of coral gardens and spectacular marine life. Luzon is the largest and most northerly of the main islands. The spectacular landscape is made up of the mountainous north, the flat vistas of the central plain and lakes and volcanoes in the southern pensinsula. Manila, capital and hub of the nation has been a port for hundreds of years. Places of interest include San Augustin Church and Manila Cathedral, which offers an excellent view of the harbour. Hundred Islands, lying off the coast of Pangasinan, are made up of 400 islets surrounded by coral gardens and white sand beaches. This area is ideal for swimming and fishing. Mindanao, the most southerly island, has a very different feel from the rest of the country. In the southwestern tip is Zamboanga City, considered by some as the most romantic place in the Philippines and a favourite resort amongst tourists. The city is noted for its seashells, unspoiled tropical scenery and magnificent flowers. Local dishes include kare-kare (an oxtail stew in peanut sauce served with bagoong) and sinigang (meat or fish in a pleasantly sour broth). On most evenings there are cultural performances by local artists in the many performing arts venues. Many of the top hotels offer lavish music spectacles ranging from string quartets to show bands.
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The Philippines was named after the Crown Prince Philip II of Spain. He was reputed to be an extreme introvert, austere, humorless, and unpopular. Dubbed the "Spider of the Escorial" because he seldom left his palace, Philip II reigned over the vast Spanish empire handed down by his father, Charles V, and was a leading patron of Catholicism. He was elegant and slender and, in his youth, good-looking.

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