But, as you might suspect, there's more to the Philippines than meets the eye. When you're aware of the tidbits below, it can lead to some pretty interesting conversations with Filipinos and non-Filipinos alike. For example, did you know that:
There's no single Filipino archetype
It's no surprise that the Philippines is a melting pot of cultures, considering its history of colonization, and the fact that it's comprised of over 7,000 islands. In Luzon alone, there are no less than eight major ethnic groups: Ilocanos, Bicolanos, Tagalogs, Kapampangans, Pangasinenses, Gaddangs, Ibanags and Sambals. There are also the smaller tribal groups, like the Igorot, Ilongot, Mangyan and Tagbanwa. Each of these groups has their own dialect, set of beliefs and culture.
Those groups, in turn, are further divided into smaller sub-groups based on social class, age and other differentiating factors. For example, being able to speak "coño," a variant of Taglish/Engalog is considered the mark of an educated/rich person. Likewise, you can tell who's a native speaker of Tagalog, and who isn't, by their accents (e.g. pronouncing "opo" as "upu").
That's why, even for Filipinos, it's hard to say what makes someone "Pinoy" and what doesn't. A Filipino from the provinces will be very different from a Filipino based in the city, and the same goes for the differences between Ivatans and Zamboangueños. In other words, it's important to be careful about stereotyping any single trait as "uniquely Pinoy."
The Philippines is the "social media capital of the world"
Despite having the slowest Internet speed in Southeast Asia, Filipinos blow away the competition when it comes to using sites like Facebook. There are a couple of reasons for this.
First, knowing "who's who" is important in Filipino culture. The more friends/followers/acquaintances you have, the easier it is to navigate the padrino-based structure of society. Granted, "network with as many people as you can" is universal career advice, but in countries like the Philippines, connections often trump everything else.
Second, Filipinos have a wide range of options in terms of mobile and broadband plans. The country's major telecommunications firms often try to one-up each other by offering bigger and better service packages, and Filipinos are only too happy to take advantage of them.
The Philippines is home to many unique animals
Back in 2000, a group of researchers started a study on mammals native to Luzon. They discovered that, out of the 56 non-flying species of mammals on the island, 52 were found nowhere else on Earth. Some of these new species are cloud rats, shrew-like rodents that eat earthworms and mice with ankle-length whiskers.
The researchers theorized that, since Luzon was an isolated land mass to begin with (rather than one that broke off from mainland Asia), it may have contributed to the phenomenon of "endemism" on Luzon. So the next time you wander anywhere in the Philippines, keep your eyes peeled. Who knows, you might just make the next major biological discovery, and even have a species named after you!
Filipinos love to make (and break) world records
Let's face it: Filipinos love the spotlight. Given the opportunity to gain international attention (for all the right reasons, of course), they'll be more than happy to take it.
At the start of 2016, for example, the Christian group Iglesia ni Cristo broke three Guinness World Records: (1) the largest fireworks display; (2) the largest number of sparklers lit at the same time; and (3) the longest sparkler line lit in relay. And if this list of craziest Pinoy world records is anything to go by, Filipinos will use every resource at their disposal to gain their 15 minutes of fame.
The Philippines has some of the largest shopping malls in the world
Out of the 10 largest shopping malls in the world, three are located in the Philippines: SM Megamall, SM City North EDSA and SM Seaside City Cebu. If you count SM Tianjin in China, which is touted as "Asia's largest shopping center," that makes four record-breaking malls by a Philippine-based company. How's that for making a mark on the world?
The Philippine jeepney was a product of World War II
If there's one form of transportation unique to the Philippines, it's the jeepney. Much like the people who ride it, the jeepney is colorful, loud yet reliable. You could say it's the national transportation of the Philippines, as it's the embodiment of Filipino ingenuity and pragmatism.
Also, it came about because of World War II. When the Philippines finally gained independence, and American soldiers decided to leave the country, those soldiers left military jeeps behind. Since the jeeps couldn't be utilized for their original purpose anymore, Filipinos decided to convert them into something that's more apt for the times — namely, a mode of public transportation that's still being used to this day.
And that's it for today's roundup on the Philippines. If you know of other things that set the Philippines apart from other countries, let's bounce ideas off each other in the comments!