Thousands of Islands filled with vibrant culture, optimism, and mother nature’s beauty. The flowing waterfalls of Biliran, brilliantly, white sand beaches of Boracay, infamous Chocolate Hills of Bohol, breathtaking rice terraces of Banaue, and all the beauty of rural Filipino villages will astonish any curious intern. The Philippines is an untapped paradise of opportunities for growth and development. With a world of social issues to attend to interns, interested in anything from Politics and Sociology to Non-Profit Administration and Health Care, will find rewarding internship placements throughout the naturally wonderful Philippine Islands.
Geography & Demographics
The Philippines is divided into three main regions, Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. Manila, the nation’s capital, is located in the northern region. The former capital city, Quezon City, is actually larger than Manila and located in the same region, although it no longer holds the significant title. Cebu City lies in the western Visayas, and is one of the country’s only other major cities. Highly overpopulated for its thousands of islands, many of which are completely uninhabited or submerged during high tides, the Philippines has a population of around 100 million people.
Class stratification in the country is horrendous. There are billionaires and there are even more people who live on less than a single U.S. dollar a day; some individuals live in mansions and have homes or apartments across the country, while others hardly have a roof over their head at night. The island topography leads the majority of the population struggling with a lack of resources, although the country has a wealth of natural agricultural goods. With a long history of Spanish rule, followed by half a century of American colonization, the Philippines is still classified as a developing nation. Poverty is the largest social issue in the country, although issues such a pollution and sanitation also negatively affect the majority of Filipinos.
The Philippines is not for those who cannot bear steaming heat almost any month out of the year. The months of October to March are often cooler, in comparison to the rest of the year, but individuals from places distant from the equator will hardly notice a difference from summer temperatures. During most days of the year the country experiences temperatures well over 75 degrees Fahrenheit, with high humidity and short rain showers at least once a week. The rainy season in July, sometimes lasting into August, provides some relief from the heat post-storm, but it doesn’t take long for the temperature to rise after a cooling shower. Nights typically cool off, especially from September to March. The months of May and June are by far the warmest months, where temperatures regularly reach 100 degrees fahrenheit with the humidity in almost any part of the country.
Interns traveling to the Philippines should pack lightweight clothes and always remember modesty for business wear and casual wear alike. Business professional clothing is slightly less formal in the Philippines, and hardly requires a business suit. Keep in mind that despite any temperature outside, almost any large business, organization, or corporation will invest a great deal of money into blasting air conditioning throughout their offices.
Food & Culture
Many dialects are spoken throughout the Philippines, some Filipinos know five different dialects and can travel fluidly between regions, while others know only one. Those who only know one can obviously still navigate their home nation, by using the national dialect, Tagalog (also known as Filipino). English is the language of instruction beginning in Kindergarten, while Tagalog is taught as a subject of study. The majority of school children and university students can speak English effortlessly. Check the region you are going beforehand and see if you can pick up a few simple phrases, thank you, please, and hello, in the local dialect. In Tagalog, where is the bathroom, “Saan ang banyo?” is obviously a must know phrase. But knowing “Salamat po” (thank you) and “Ano ang pangalan mo?” (what is your name), will also be helpful.
Philippine pesos (PHP) are worth less abroad, but foreign currency will be worth much more in the Philippines, check what currency you are being paid in if you’ve attained a paid internship. ATM’s are conveniently located in bigger cities, but nonexistent in small town. However, Western Union offices are prevalent anywhere.
Filipinos love to eat! Food at local markets, whether raw or ready-to-eat, is extremely affordable and the more local the food is the more delicious it can be. Any intern should try street foods, local eateries, and food from markets, because they are always more authentic than Filipino fast food. Each meal is served with rice traditionally, and paired with various vegetable and meat dishes. A very common dish eaten on birthdays and special occasions is pancit, rice noodles with vegetables and meat, often put in between sliced bread. Another nationally known dish is adobo, a delightful mixture of sauces and spices, which vegetables or meat are cooked in. Foreigners will find some interesting and unique dishes and street foods to try in the Philippines, because Filipinos are all about using every single part of an animal or food, so nothing goes to waste.
Eating a home-cooked Filipino meal is incomparable. Filipinos are extremely hospitable and love to give food to their guests, so interns should take up any offer they get for a traditional meal at a coworkers or friends home. Overall, the Philippines is a highly Catholic nation, so their family relationships, values, and cultural activities reflect their religion quite greatly. But, they are also open-minded and respectful when it comes to alternative beliefs and ways of living. Filipinos will never challenge a superior or elder because they value respect and politeness very highly. They have titles for nearly every type of person, Ate (older relative/friend), Kuya (older relative/friend), Mana (Ma’m), Mano (Sir), Nanay (Mother), Tatay (Father), and the list goes on so that interactions always signify an element of respect and recognition.
Things to Do
Interns should expect to be invited to many fiestas throughout any stay in the Philippines. Fiestas are celebrated in each city, province, community, and village throughout the year, on the day that is considered their patron saints feast day. Dancing, karaoke, drinking, parades, and food are overflowing at these events, and are one of the best cultural experiences out there for visitors in the Philippines. The numerous beaches all around the country are also “must-see” items for any visitor, almost any beach expresses the nation’s untouched natural beauty flawlessly.
Interning in the Philippines
Business relationships and friendships remain more fluid in the Philippines. Colleagues may spend the day at the office, dinner at a restaurant, and then share drinks at a bar, even amidst their superiors. This makes office relations more laid back, and in general Filipinos are not focused on promptness or being overly formal in their interactions (except of course when it comes to addressing their elders or superiors by name). Business expectations uphold that individuals should always use their initiative and have the ability to be independently successful. Filipinos do not like confrontation so it is best to act friendly and approachable when expressing a complaint or looking for feedback.
Salaries are lower in the Philippines in compared to Western Nations, so if paid, interns should not expect to receive Western wages. However, living costs, regardless of accommodation, and eating costs are much lower making reduced wages easily liveable. It is also common practice for lunch, and other snacks or unquantifiable bonuses, to be provided at businesses or organizations as part of unofficial compensation.
Due to prevalent social issues in the Philippines, internships at non-profit organizations in the charity sector are the most popular internship type. These types of internships are normally what an intern makes them, benefiting interns by giving them the ability to shape their placement in to their desired experience. Internships with local government offices are also available sparingly, but usually require much more paperwork to secure. Health internships available in the Philippines allow students and experienced healthcare professionals alike with unparalleled on the job experience. Filipinos tend to be quite open to letting interns try out almost anything, giving beginner healthcare professionals the opportunity of a lifetime.
If unpaid, interns from almost any country in the world can stay in the Philippines for extended periods on a standard tourist visa with little to no problems, as long as they continue to renew their visa at various times.