This website is primarily about the island of Cebu. Here is just a quick overview about the Philippines. If you are looking for detailed and good information about the Philippines, you probably want to surf to one of the sites given at the bottom of this page.
The Philippines is a republic. It is a proud republic. Now, in richer countries, the word "Philippines" often conjures up a primarily negative image, of indigent slum dwellers sifting through heaps of burning garbage, of vicious fighting with machetes, of uncontrolled criminality, of corruption and incompetence, of basically everything a country should not be - sort of like the exact opposite of Switzerland.
Filipinos in general are not aware of this bad press. We are immensely proud of our country. To us, the word "Philippines" conjures up images of the heroes who fought the Spanish and brought us independence, incredibly brave and talented men all of them. Even though, true, a lot of us are desperately trying to get out of the country, when we hear the word "Philippines", we feel relaxed and contented, because we know that even the poorest Filipinos are more civilized and polite than most inhabitants of other countries.
The Philippines is Catholic. Of course, officially, the Muslims in the southern islands of Mindanao and Sulu are equal citizens of the Philippines, and Catholicism and Islam have equal standing. This is not the reality. The reality is that all of the Philippines is purely Catholic, but the territory of the country happens to cover some bits which are Muslim, and which are doing their darndest - as they have been doing for hundreds of years - to tear themselves away from the rest of the Philippines.
The Philippines is not just Catholic, it is extremely Catholic. At any location or occasion of importance to Catholics, such as a site in Israel or a ritual in Rome, you will see a lot of Filipinos in the crowd, probably outnumbering the other nationalities. This doesn't mean, however, that everyone in the Philippines is conservative. In fact, the reverse is true; Filipinos can afford to engage in liberal activities because the whole point of Catholicism is that your sins are forgiven if you are faithful and go to Mass.
People say that Filipinos are friendly. This is not necessarily the case. We are normal; it's just that everyone else is just so incredibly cold and unfriendly compared to us. Filipinos travelling in Europe or China are often shocked because nobody ever smiles and everyone is so incredibly dour.
Apart from the Muslim areas - which, as explained above, are not really part of the Philippines - Filipinos of all ethnic types consider themselves an integral part of the nation, and no-one in their right mind ever mentions autonomy or independence. Foreigners sometimes wonder how a nation comprised of hundreds of ethnic groups which all speak mutually unintelligible languages can live in peace with each other. While there is some rivalry between the groups - for instance between Cebu and Manila, especially when a basketball game is on - we all share equally in the national identity, because, languages aside, all Filipinos basically have the same values and priorities. We all love to sing, to dance, and to have a great time.