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Known as Southeast Asia's "Pearl of the Orient," the Philippines is an archipelago of 7,107 islands. The northern side of Luzon is the mountainous region of the country and is home to the capital, Manila. In the middle is Visayas, home to the country's best beaches. Capping of the country's diversity is the southern region of Mindanao, where most of the Muslim population resides. Wherever visitors go, they are welcomed by the warm smiles and hospitable nature of Filipinos.
A Cultural Buffet
Filipino culture is similar to neighboring Asian countries but is also dominated by Spanish and American influences. The official language, Filipino, borrows Spanish terms and most locals have Spanish surnames. Many Filipinos are updated with American pop culture and have adopted the system of fast food chains. The adaptation of foreign culture is what makes Filipino culture strangely familiar and unique at the same time.
Filipinos express their hospitality best in holding their festivals and serving their local dishes. Popular foods include adobo, kare kare, lechon, and crispy pata. Within the major cities are authentic Italian, Japanese, and Chinese restaurants comparable to their original.
Popular Filipino culture may have foreign influences but provincial tribes have retained their historical identities and cultures. The indigenous tribes' traditions have survived the reign of Spanish and American colonization. The most notable of these tribes are the Ifugaos, who were responsible for carving out the Banaue Rice Terraces from the mountains. The Banaue is fed from an ancient irrigation system in the rainforests located above the terraces.
The southern islands of Mindanao are the most distinct of Philippine cultures, having kept the Islam influence from Arab traders in the 13th century. The presence of Muslim culture is cultivated by the Maranao, Tausug, and Banguingui ethnic groups.966