Allison's Book Bag

Introducing the Philippines!

Posted on: June 10, 2014

My step-mom is originally from the Philippines. For that reason, I found of interest one of the newest nonfiction books available at my local school district’s multicultural library. After further inquiry, I discovered there were a few titles about the Philippines which I could review, and I borrowed all of them.


Anne-SchraffTwo of the books are general introductions to the Philippines and are the ones which I’ll focus on this week. One is written by Anne Schraff whom I’ve posted information about below and the other is written by Derek Zobel for whom I couldn’t find any information.

Schraff started getting paid for her writing in her college days. Since then, she has written hundreds of stories and over eighty books.

Her father died when she was three. Schraff and her brother were raised by their single mother in lower-income level neighborhoods. Her background is her greatest inspiration when writing.

Some criticism has been leveled against Schraff because she is not a minority and therefore her view is not genuine. In an interview with California Readers, Schraff explains that she lived in a multicultural neighborhood, including African Americans, Mexican Americans, Arab Americans, and Filipino Americans.


To prepare you for my two reviews, I’m providing an overview of the Philippines using facts I garnered from those two borrowed books.


Where Is It?

Let’s start with location. The Philippines is an island country in the southwest Pacific Ocean. It lies just southeast of the continent of Asia and forms a chain of more than seven thousand islands. No other countries border it. All of the islands together would form a country about the size of Nevada.

Who Lives There?

Its inhabitants are called Filipinos. There are over eighty ethnic groups, the most common of which is Malay, and therefore over eighty languages. Historically, the Malay population is descended primarily from the earlier Malayic-speaking tribes, who founded several ancient maritime trading states. Filipino is based on the language of Tagalog, an Austronesian language. Everyone learns Filipino and English, two of the official languages.

What is the Geography Like?

Sandy beaches ring the islands. Coral reefs lie in the shallow waters. If you travel further inland, you’ll find hills or mountains. Mountain ranges are more common on the bigger islands. Mount Apo has the biggest peak and is actually an active volcano. According to the two books I read, the Philippines is covered with lush tropical rain forests. National Geographic Kids notes, however, that tall grasses are replacing the forests, which are disappearing due to logging, mining, and developments. The Philippines lies on the western edge of the Ring of Fire, an area where a large number of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur in the basin of the Pacific Ocean.

What is the Weather Like?

The Philippines lies in the tropic zones. Temperatures reach 80 degrees Fahrenheit most of the year. The rainy season is between May and November.

What about the Wildlife?

More than 200 species of mammals live there. The national bird, the Philippine eagle, eats monkeys and is endangered because of deforestation. Other vulnerable species include the binturong, or Asian bear cat, and the tamaraw, a species of small water buffalo found only on Mindoro. One of the more unique animals is the tarsier, which is related to monkeys. It has large eyes and froglike legs. Lemurs glide from tree to tree in the Philippines. Hundreds of species of birds also live there, for all or part of the year.

How do People Get About?

Transportation in the Philippines is relatively underdeveloped, partly due to the country’s mountainous areas and scattered islands. Jeepneys are the most popular mode of public transportation. Originally made from U.S. military jeeps left over from World War II, Jeepneys are small franchised buses that carry passengers on regular routes with flexible schedules. Motorized tricycles are especially common in rural areas, and are built around imported motorcycles. One variety has a cab completely enclosing the motorcycle and rider. These accommodate three to four passengers and luggage or boxes can be placed on the roof. Another variety for passengers has a motorcycle on the left side and a side car on the right side. Usually both the cycle and sidecar are covered, but not always by the same roof. Trains, taxis, and buses are important modes of public transport in urban areas. To get from island to island, Filipinos use planes or boats.

What do Filipinos Eat?

Filipinos eat rice almost every day. Adobo is the most popular meal. Halo-halo is a desert of fruit chunks, ice, and gelatin. For snacks, they eat sticky rice cakes and suman or rice cakes wrapped in fruit. Dishes that include fish are a specialty. Food has Spanish and Asian flavors.

What is Schooling Like?

Under the former basic educational system of the Philippines, children started school at age six and attended for ten years. Afterwards, one could continue education in technical or vocational schools, or in higher education institutions like universities. However, this system is being replaced by a K-12 one. Filipinos take a lot of classes and a lot of tests. Most schools have gardens that students farm. Families throw big parties for students who do well. Although attending school is required, some Filipinos live where there aren’t any schools.

How do Filipinos entertain themselves?

Filipinos enjoy sports and outdoor activities. The most popular sports are basketball and boxing. Native to the Philippines is sipa, a game played by two teams, indoors or outdoors, and on a court that is about the size of a tennis court. The aim of the game is to kick a soft ball made out of rattan fragments, back and forth over a net in the middle of the court. Dances such as tinikling and binusian are popular. Tinikling is a pre-Spanish dance from the Philippines that involves two people beating, tapping, and sliding bamboo poles on the ground and against each other in coordination with one or more dancers who step over and in between the poles in a dance. In binusian, dancers balance jars that hold candles on their head. Favorite games include boka-boka or flying kites and luksong tinik or jumping bodies.


Most of the online resources which Schraff listed in her guide are now defunct. One still exists: Philippines Travel Pictures.

Other sites which I found of interest include:

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