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Geography of the Philippines

The Republic of the Philippines is an archipelago, which lies in Southeast Asia, comprising 7,107 islands with a total land area of 300,000 km² about 1000 of its islands are inhabited, and less than one-half of these islands are larger than 2.5 km². The archipelago is around 8oo km from mainland Asia and is located between Taiwan and Borneo. Luzon and Mindanao are the two largest islands.

Map of the Philippines
Map of the Philippines 

The archipelago is divided into three island groups: Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. The Luzon islands include Luzon Island itself, Palawan, Mindoro, Marinduque, Masbate and Batanes Islands. The Visayas is the group of islands in central Philippines, the largest of which are: Panay, Negros, Cebu, Bohol, Leyte and Samar. The Mindanao islands include Mindanao itself, plus the Sulu Archipelago, composed mainly of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

In terms of its political geography, Philippines is divided into a hierarchy of local government units with 81 provinces as the primary unit. The provinces are further subdivided into cities and municipalities, which are in turn, composed of barangays. The barangay is the smallest local government unit. Philippines is also divided into 17 regions with all provinces grouped into one of the 16 regions for administrative convenience. The National Capital Region (NCR) however, is divided into four special districts.

Being part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, the islands of the Philippines are volcanic in origin and mostly are mountainous. Mount Apo in Mindanao is the highest point in the country which is 2,954 meters above sea level. The second highest point is Mount Pulag in Luzon.

Many volcanoes in the country are active. The most devastating eruption was that of Mount Pinatubo in 1991. Mount Mayon is another active volcano and is famous for its perfectly shaped cone. Taal Volcano, on the other hand, is the world’s smallest volcano.

The country’s most extensive river systems are the Pulangi River which flows into Rio Grande de Mindanao; the Agusan River in Mindanao which flows north into Mindanao Sea; the Cagayan River in northern Luzon which is the longest river in the country; and the Pampanga River, which flows south from east into Manila Bay. The Laguna de Bay, located east of Manila Bay, is the largest freshwater lake in the Philippines.

The Philippines has a tropical climate dominated by rainy and dry seasons. The summer monsoon brings heavy rains to most of the archipelago from May to October, while the winter monsoon brings cooler and drier air from December to February. Manila and most of the lowland areas are hot and dusty from March to May. The country sits astride the typhoon belt, and it suffers an annual attack of dangerous storms from July to October. The areas mostly affected are northern and eastern Luzon, and the Bicol and Eastern Visayas regions, but Manila gets devastated periodically as well.

The most populous cities in the Philippines are:

City Region Province Area in km² Population
Quezon City National Capital Region Second District 166 2,679,450
City Of Manila National Capital Region First District 39 1,660,714
Caloocan City National Capital Region Third District 53 1,378,856
Davao City Davao Region Davao Del Sur 2,444 1,363,337
Cebu City Central Visayas Cebu 315 798,809
Zamboanga City Zamboanga Peninsula Zamboanga Del Sur 1,415 774,407
City Of Antipolo CALABARZON Rizal 306 633,971
City Of Pasig National Capital Region Second District 48 617,301
Taguig City National Capital Region Fourth District 45 613,343
City Of Valenzuela National Capital Region Third District 47 568,928
City Of Dasmariñas CALABARZON Cavite 90 556,330
Cagayan De Oro City Northern Mindanao Misamis Oriental 413 553,966
City Of Parañaque National Capital Region Fourth District 47 552,660
City Of Las Piñas National Capital Region Fourth District 33 532,330
General Santos City (Dadiangas) SOCCSKSARGEN South Cotabato 493 529,542

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