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Philippine General Geography

At a Glance

The Philippines is the 2nd largest archipelago in the world. It is located in south east asia, just below Taiwan and on top of Malaysia. It was it earned the name Pearl of the Orient” from western travelers. It is composed of 7,107 islands. The Philippines is divided into three main island groups (three stars and a sun remember?). The Total land area is 300,000 km2

Each island group can be subdivided into regions (most possibly categorized by ethnicity. And I use the term “culture” loosely here. I generalize the culture by what language is used by the majority of the population within the region)

The 3 Stars


Luzon is the biggest group of islands in the Philippine Archipelago. It consists of Luzon itself, (which is the biggest island out of the Philippine’s 7,107) the Batanes and Babuyan islands up north, Catanduanes, Marinduque, Masbate, Romblon, and Mindoro in the south.)

Luzon Regions:

  • Ilocos
Most of the region’s inhabitants are of “Ilocano” culture, hence the region is often called “Ilocandia” which roughly means “Land of the Ilocanos”

  • Cagayan Valley
A culture slightly similar to the “Ilocanos”, since most of it’s early inhabitants came from the Ilocos region. Cagayan valley boasts of the fiercest tribal warriors in the Philippine history, some of which are known to be headhunters
  • Central Luzon
This is composed mostly of plains. It has a mix of Ilocano, Tagalog, and Pampangeno culture. The abundance of plains in this region made farming the choice of income, and hence claiming the title of “Rice Bowl of the Philippines” since rice is the produce of choice for farmers here.
  • Calabarzon
So called since the region is made up of 5 provinces (CA – Cavite, LA – Laguna, BA – Batangas, R – Rizal, ZON – Quezon). Tagalog is the main culture here, so this region is also often called “Katagalugan”.

  • Mimaro
This region has mix of Tagalog and visayan culture. Like Calabarzon, Mimaro region’s name came from the names of its provinces (MI – Mindoro, MA – Marinduque, RO – Romblon). Mindoro is divided into two provinces Occidental Mindoro, and Oriental Mindoro)
  • Bicol
Since a majority of the region has Bicol culture, this region is often called “Kabikulan” or “Bicolandia”. Bicolanos are known for their love of spicy dishes.
  • Cordillera
Cordillera is the treasure mine of the Philippines. It has many mineral mines thanks to it’s mountainous geography. Most of the inhabitants are Igorots, whose culture is akin to the Ilocanos.


Visayas is the smallest group of island out of the three in terms of land area. It can be divided into 3 regions: western, central, and eastern. All three groups are surrounded by coastal waters, so marine life abounds this region. It was in this region that Ferdinand Magellan stumbled upon the Philippines.

Visayas Regions:

  • Western
Western visayas has the most number of cities. It includes 2 of the highly urbanized cities in the country: Iloilo City and Bacolod City. It’s culture primarily consists of the Ilonggos and Cebuanos. It also now includes the province of Palawan, which was formerly included in the Luzon region.
  • Central
Central Visayas consists only of 4 provinces, namely Negros Oriental, Siquijor, Bohol, and Cebu – one of the most progressive provinces in the Philippines. The culture mainly composes of Cebuano and the Warays – a group known for both their gentle hospitality and fierce personality.
  • Eastern
Eastern Visayas consists of 6 provinces, but can be defined as a group of two large islands: Samar and Leyte, and the island province of Biliran. Waray culture dominate here.


Mindanao Region is composed of the most southernmost islands in the Philippines. It’s home to most of the Moslem inhabitants of the country. In spite of this, Christianity is still the major religion. It also has a very colorful history since in the past, this region was where sultanates abound.

Mindanao Regions:

  • Zamboanga
Some still call this Region Western Mindanao as it was officially called by then. It once became a republic of its own in 1898. It’s culture is dominantly Chavacano, which is highly influenced by Spanish culture.
  • Northern Mindanao
This region’s inhabitants are mostly Cebuano’s and Waray. This is understandable since it is close to the Visayas region. More than half of the region is forestland. The province of Camiguin has been renowned to be the origin of the best mangoes and lanzones fruits. Cagayan de Oro City in Misamis Oriental is the most common place of trade.
  • Davao
Davao is the Mindanao Region’s Manila. It is the melting pot of various cultures composed of Cebuanos, Ilocanos, Ilonggos, and the locals such as the Bagobos and Manobos.
  • SoCCSKSarGen
So called because it is an acronym for the region’s four provinces and it’s premiere city – SOuthern Cotobato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, SARanggani, and GENeral santos city. It’s culture is one of the oldest in the country, wherein some of the most indigenous inhabitants of the Philippines live. Tribes of the Manobos, Tboli, and Balaan have been around even before the Spaniards arrived.
  • Caraga
Composed primarily of the province of Agusan and Surigao, "Caraga" came from the word “Kalagans”, supposedly of Visayan descent. Early explorers feared the Kalagans for being Brave and Fierce combatants.
  • ARMM
ARMM stands for Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. It’s provinces are mostly Moslem, and home to the primarily Moslem city of Marawi. It’s the only region in the Philippines where it has an own government.

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