The Philippines constitutes an archipelago of 7,107 islands with a total land area of 300,000 square kilometers (116,000 square miles), about the size of Italy or Arizona. The country comprises three island groups: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. The port of Manila on Luzon is the national capital and second-largest city after its suburb Quezon City.
The islands are volcanic in origin. Most of the mountainous areas were once covered in tropical rainforest. The highest point is Mount Apo on Mindanao at 2,954 meters (9,692 feet), about the same as Colorado’s Diamond Peak. The country lies within the Western Pacific’s typhoon belt and the Pacific Ring of Fire. The Philippines experiences frequent seismic and volcanic activities, though most are too weak to be felt. The local climate is hot, humid, and tropical. The average annual temperature is 26° C (80° F). There are three recognized seasons: the summer, March to May; the rainy season, June to November; and the cold season, December to February.
Nationals from the United States and all SANREM CRSP host countries do not need special visas to travel to the Philippines for business and tourism purposes if the stay is not longer than 21 days. Each traveler must hold a valid ticket for his or her return journey to port of origin or next port of destination, and a passport valid for at least six months beyond the period of stay.
The Philippines has two official languages: English and Filipino, which is based on the Tagalog language. The vast majority of local residents speak English, which is widely used around the country, particularly in big cities. It is also used in government, media, and commerce. Street signs and billboards will likely be in English, but public service messages may be in Filipino. Practically everyone you meet will understand English, even if he or she is not completely fluent. The Philippine currency is the peso. One U.S. dollar equals about 40 pesos. The Philippines is eight hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time. That is, at noon Wednesday in Manila, it is 4 a.m. in London and 11 p.m. Tuesday in Washington, D.C. The Philippines does not observe Daylight Savings Time.