Why geography has everything to do with how and why Philippine Cuisine developed.
Where is the Philippines?
The Philippines is in southeast Asia. It's an archipelago of 7,107 islands, only 2,000 of which are inhabited. The Philippines' neighbors are Indonesia and Malaysia to the south, Vietnam to the west and China and Taiwan to the north. The South China, Sulu, Celebes and Philippine Seas surround the islands. The Philippine Sea is part of the Pacific Ocean, bordering the islands' eastern shores.
The seas have eased trade between people of independent, cooperative societies in present-day neighboring countries since at least the third century. That is over 1000 years before the Spanish arrived, by the way.
And even before that? How did the Philippines begin?
Currently, scientists don't agree on the geological genesis of the Philippines. Was it volcanic activity, or tectonic plate shifts, or by Ice Age melts that submerging land bridges connecting legendary Lemuria to the west or to present-day Taiwan?
Relatedly, historians disagree on who the first pre-historical inhabitants of present-day Philippines were. Physical evidence shows that the first humans settled in the islands at least 67,000 years ago.
Situated between the Tropic of Cancer and the equator, the Philippines has a tropical climate. The seas surrounding the islands contain a broad diversity of fish, shellfish and various marine life. The islands have mountain ranges, many rivers and freshwater lakes. The land itself is also verdant with five volcanos and a lush rainforest, now dwindling due to agricultural development.
Two thousand years ago, one of the 180 indigenous ethnic groups of the Philippines, the Ifugao, built the Banaue Rice Terraces, steppes carved out of the Cordillera Mountains that maximized and irrigated flat, arable land for rice. Like many other Asian cultures, the major food staple of Philippines was and is still rice.
How many people live there today?
Approximately 100 million people live in the Philippines. It's the seventh most populated country in Asia.
The most populous cities are Manila (the nation's capital) and Davao City in the country's south.
Today, there are approximately eight million indigenous people in the Philippines, comprising 60 to 80 tribes, though the 2010 national census proved to be unreliable in its consistency of collecting ethnicity data and collecting information from people living in remote areas.
In addition to the Filipino population living on the islands, it's estimated that anywhere from nine to 12 million Filipino citizens live abroad. Economic conditions have led them to seek their livelihoods elsewhere.
How many languages are spoken?
There are approximately 150 spoken languages in the Philippines. Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilonggo and Ilokano are spoken by the most households, according to the most recent government census. English is also broadly spoken and is one of the languages of instruction.
"The Philippines." Street Food Around the World: An Encyclopedia of Food and Culture. First edition. 2013. Print.
"The Indigenous World, 2014." International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs. Accessed September 14, 2014. http://www.iwgia.org/images/stories/sections/regions/asia/documents/IW2014/PhilippinesIW2014.pdf