Filipino Community Profile

More than 7,000 islands make up the Philippines, but the bulk of its fast-growing population lives on just 11 of them.

Much of the country is mountainous and prone to earthquakes and eruptions from around 20 active volcanoes. It is often buffeted by typhoons and other storms.

The Philippines – a Spanish colony for more than three centuries and named after a 16th century Spanish king – was taken over by the US in the early 20th century after a protracted rebellion against rule from Madrid.

Filipino Community Profile
First Issue: February 2016

Country Background

Official Name: Republic of the Philippines
The Philippines is an archipelago of 7,107 islands with a total land area, including inland bodies of water, of approximately 300,000 square kilometers (115,831 sq mi). Its 36,289 kilometers (22,549 mi) of coastline makes it the country with the 5th longest coastline in the world. It is located between 116° 40′, and 126° 34′ E longitude and 4° 40′ and 21° 10′ N latitude and is bordered by the Philippine Sea to the east, the South China Sea to the west, and the Celebes Sea to the south. The island of Borneo is located a few hundred kilometers southwest and Taiwan is located directly to the north. The Moluccas and Sulawesi are located to the south-southwest and Palau is located to the east of the islands.1



The population of the Philippines has been steadily growing for many years. In 2014, it was the 12th most populated country in the world, between Mexico and Ethiopia, and continues to grow at a rate of 1.89% per year.

To figure out how many people live in The Philippines in 2014, we can look at data provided by the Philippines National Statistics Office. Projecting this data forward, using the 1.89% growth rate, gives us a 2013 population of 98,734,798 and 2014 population of 100.6 million in The Philippines. The United Nations population projections are slightly lower, around 100.1 million. Based on the 2010 census results, the population increased nearly 16 million from the 2000 census results. The growth rate has slowed slightly from the previous census, down to 1.89% from 2.34%. The next census in the Philippines is scheduled for 2015.

The Philippines’ largest city is Quezon City, which contains 2,679,450 people. It forms a part of the wider Metropolitan Manila area, which is comprised of 16 cities and has an overall population of 11,553,427 people. To make things even more complicated, in Manila the entire Greater Manila urban area spills out beyond the boundaries of Metro Manila and is reported to contain around 25 million people – a quarter of the Philippines entire population.

Other major cities include Manila itself (pop: 1,660,714), Caloocan (pop: 1,378,856) and Davao City (1,363,337). Of these, only Davao City is outside of the Metropolitan Manila area.2

The history of the Philippines is believed to have begun with the arrival of the first humans using rafts or primitive boats (balangay boats) at least 67,000 years ago as the 2007 discovery of Callao Man suggested. Negrito tribes first inhabited the isles. Groups of Austronesians later migrated to the islands.

Eventually various groups developed, separated into hunter-gatherer tribes, warrior societies, petty plutocracies and maritime-oriented harbor principalities which eventually grew into kingdoms, rajahnates, principalities, confederations and sultanates. These were greatly influenced by Hindu religions, literature and philosophy from India. States included the Indianized Rajahnate of Butuan and Cebu, the dynasty of Tondo, the august kingdoms of Maysapan and Maynila, the Confederation of Madyaas, the sinified Country of Mai, as well as the Muslim Sultanates of Sulu and Maguindanao. These small maritime states flourished from the 1st millennium. These kingdoms traded with what are now called China, India, Japan, Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia. The remainder of the settlements were independent barangays (municipalities) allied with one of the larger states.

The first recorded visit by Europeans is the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan. He sighted Samar Island on March 16, 1521 and landed the next day on Homonhon Island, now part of Guiuan, Eastern Samar. Spanish colonisation began with the arrival of Miguel López de Legazpi’s expedition on February 13, 1565 who established the first permanent settlement in Cebu. Much of the archipelago came under Spanish rule, creating the first unified political structure known as the Philippines. Spanish colonial rule saw the introduction of Christianity, the code of law and the oldest modern university in Asia.

Spanish rule ended in 1898 with Spain’s defeat in the Spanish–American War. The Philippines then became a colony of the United States.

American rule was not uncontested. The Philippine Revolution had begun in August 1896 against Spain, and after the defeat of Spain in the Battle of Manila Bay began again in earnest, culminating in the Philippine Declaration of Independence and the establishment of the First Philippine Republic. The Philippine–American War ensued, with extensive damage and death, and ultimately resulting in the defeat of the Philippine Republic.

The United States established the Insular Government to rule the Philippines. In 1907, the elected Philippine Assembly was convened as the lower house of a bicameral legislature and in 1916 the U.S. Federal Government formally promised independence in the Jones Act. The Philippine Commonwealth was established in 1935, as a 10-year interim step prior to full independence. Before independence, World War II began and Japan occupied the Philippines. After the end of the war, the Treaty of Manila established an independent Philippine Republic.

In 1972, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos imposed martial law. Following the assassination of the Ninoy Aquino, Marcos held snap elections in 1986 and subsequently fled the country during the People Power Revolution which installed Cory Aquino as president and re-established democracy.

In the 21st Century, the Philippines is the 12th most populous country of the world, part of ASEAN, a key ally of the United States, with an economy dominated by fishing and agriculture with a growing business process outsourcing (BPO) industry and nearly 10% of the population abroad as overseas Filipino workers.3

Ethnicity, language and religion

According to the 2000 census, 28.1% of Filipinos are Tagalog, 13.1% Cebuano, 9% Ilocano, 7.6% Bisaya/Binisaya, 7.5% Hiligaynon, 6% Bikol, 3.4% Waray, and 25.3% as “others”, which can be broken down further to yield more distinct non-tribal groups like the Moro, the Kapampangan, the Pangasinense, the Ibanag, and the Ivatan. There are also indigenous peoples like the Igorot, the Lumad, the Mangyan, the Bajau, and the tribes of Palawan. Negritos, such as the Aeta and the Ati, are considered among the earliest inhabitants of the islands.

Filipinos generally belong to several Asian ethnic groups classified linguistically as part of the Austronesian or Malayo-Polynesian speaking people. It is believed that thousands of years ago Austronesian-speaking Taiwanese aborigines migrated to the Philippines from Taiwan, bringing with them knowledge of agriculture and ocean-sailing, eventually displacing the earlier Negrito groups of the islands.

Being at the crossroads of the West and East, the Philippines is also home to migrants from places as diverse as China, Spain, Mexico, United States, India, South Korea, and Japan. Two important non-indigenous minorities are the Chinese and the Spaniards.

The Chinese, mostly descendants of immigrants from Fujian, China after 1898, number 2 million, although there is an estimated 18 million Filipinos who have partial Chinese ancestry, stemming from pre-colonial Chinese migrants. Intermarriage between the groups is evident in the major cities and urban areas.

At least one-third of the population of Luzon as well as a few old settlements in the Visayas and Zamboanga City at Mindanao, have partial Hispanic ancestry (from varying points of origin and ranging from Latin America to Spain). Recent genetic studies confirm that a moderate of amount of Filipinos possess partial European and Latino ancestry.

Other important non-indigenous minorities include Indians, Anglo-Americans, and Koreans. Descendants of mixed couples are known as mestizos.

There are some 120 to 175 languages in the Philippines, depending on the method of classification. Four others are no longer spoken. Almost all are classified as Malayo-Polynesian languages, while one, Chavacano, is a creole derived from a Romance language. Two are official, while (as of 2015) nineteen are official auxiliary languages. The indigenous script of Philippines (Baybayin) is no longer used, instead Filipino languages are today written in the Latin script because of the Spanish and American colonial experience.4

The Philippines is a secular state. In 2013, Catholic Church data in the Philippines showed that about 79% of the population professed Catholicism. Roughly 37% of Catholics regularly hear Mass and 29% consider themselves very religious. Protestants are estimated to be more than 4% of the total population. More than 3% of the total population are members of Iglesiani Cristo and the Philippine Independent Church form less than 3%.

Islam comprises more than 10% of the total population according to the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) in 2011 and a majority of whom live in the Bangsamoro region. Most of them practice Sunni Islam under the Shafi’i school.

An unknown number of Filipinos are irreligious but may form as high as 10% of the population. About 9.2% of Catholics think of leaving the church. An estimated 2% of the total population practice Philippine traditional religions. Buddhism is practised by around 1%. The remaining 2% of the population is divided between a number of religious groups including Hindus, Jews, and Baha’is.

Family Values
The Philippines is known to be a family centred nation. The Filipinos recognise their family as an important social structure that one must take care of. They give importance to the safety and unity of one’s family. The Filipino family is so intact that it is common for members of the same family work for the same company. It is also common to find the whole clan living in the same area as that the Filipinos are afraid to be too far from their own family.

People get strength from their family, thus a child may have several godparents to ensure his future in case his parents will not be there for him. They also do not let their elders live too far away from them. The Filipinos take care of their elders by taking them into their homes. Unlike the Westerners, the Filipinos do not send their elders to nursing homes to be taken care of. They believe that when their elders are unable to live alone, the time has come for them to pay their respects and to be able to serve their parents just as they were cared for when they were younger.5

In relation to parenthood, bearing male and female children depends on the preferences of the parents based on the expected roles that each gender would assume once grown up. Both genders are expected to become responsible members of the family and their society. Women in the Philippines are expected to become caring and nurturing mothers for their own children.

Female Filipinos are also expected to lend a hand in household work. They are even anticipated to offer assistance after being married. On the other hand, Filipino men are expected to assume the role of becoming the primary source of income and financial support of his family.

Education and Economy

Education in the Philippines is managed and regulated by the Department of Education, commonly referred to as the DepEd in the country. The Department of Education controls the Philippine education system, including the curriculum used in schools and the allocation of funds. It also regulates the construction of schools and other educational facilities and the recruitment of teachers and staff.

Before Philippine Independence in 1946, the country’s education system was patterned on the system of its colonial powers, Spain and the United States. However, after Philippine independence, its educational system changed radically.

From 1945 until 2011, the basic education system was composed of six years of elementary education starting at the age of 6, and four years of high school education starting at the age of 12. Further education was provided by technical or vocational schools, or in higher education institutions such as universities. Although the 1987 Constitution stated that elementary education was compulsory, this was never enforced.

In 2011, the country started to transition from its old 10-year basic educational system to a K–12 educational system, as mandated by the Department of Education. The new 12-year system is now compulsory, along with the adoption of new curriculum for all schools. The transition period will end with the 2017–2018 school year, which is the graduation date for the first group of students who entered the new educational system.

The Economy of the Philippines is the 39th largest in the world, according to 2014 International Monetary Fund statistics, and is also one of the emerging markets. The Philippines is considered as a newly industrialised country, which has been transitioning from one based on agriculture to one based more on services and manufacturing. In 2014, the GDP by Purchasing power parity was estimated to be at $692.223 billion.

Primary exports include semiconductors and electronic products, transport equipment, garments, copper products, petroleum products, coconut oil, and fruits. Major trading partners include the United States, Japan, China, Singapore, South Korea, the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Germany, Taiwan, and Thailand. The Philippines has been named as one of the Tiger Cub Economies together with Indonesia, and Thailand. It is currently one of Asia’s fastest growing economies. However, major problems remain, mainly having to do with alleviating the wide income and growth disparities between the country’s different regions and socioeconomic classes, reducing corruption, and investing in the infrastructure necessary to ensure future growth.

Filipinos in Australia

Restored Traditional Philippines House, Shepparton
While most Philippines-born settlement in Australia is comparatively recent, records show that in 1872, Filipinos worked as divers in the pearling industry in Broome and Thursday Island. By the early 1900s, there were about 700 Philippines-born people in Australia, mainly in Western Australia and Queensland.

Immigration restrictions from 1901 led to the exclusion of non-Europeans from entry to Australia resulting in a decrease in Philippines-born settlers in Australia. By the 1947 Census, there were only 141 Philippines-born people in Australia. This increased in the 1950s, when Filipino students entered Australia under the Colombo Plan with many remaining after graduation.

The gradual easing of immigration restrictions from 1966 together with the 1972 declaration of martial law in the Philippines led to the rapid growth of the Philippines-born population in Australia.

During the 1970s and 80s, many Filipino women migrated as spouses of Australian residents, under the then Family Reunion Program, and then most Philippines-born settlers were sponsored by a family member. Over the last twenty years, many have migrated as skilled migrants.

The Philippines-born and Filipino community is one of the fastest growing in Australia.6

The Filipino Community in Shepparton

Filipino ladies in dress in the Philippines House, Shepparton

Filipino migrants started to arrive in early 1980’s, mostly Filipino women married to Australian husbands. From 2007, skilled migrants started arriving with their families. There are about 300 families of mixed marriages with an average of 2 children in a family and up to 50 Filipino families with an average of 3 kids. The Filipino community in Shepparton would have an average of 1,350 people.

Language and Religion
There are 2 main Filipino dialects spoken by the Filipino community – Tagalog and Visayan. Most Filipinos have English as a second language since this is being taught in schools in the Philippines. The Philippines is the only Christian nation in South East Asia, therefore most Filipinos are either Catholics, Protestants or Baptists.

Most Filipinos come from overseas have tertiary or university qualifications. Skilled migrants are also proficient in English so therefore find it easy to assimilate in their respective jobs.

Before 2007, most Filipino arrivals, although they have had tertiary education have worked or are still working in the agriculture industry. From 2007, skilled migrants started arriving with their families mostly working in the dairy farms, automotive industry, fabrications and in health, ie. nurses and doctors.

There are no significant issues in the Filipino community. Thereare two Filipino community groups, providing support, camaraderie and social cohesion among members.

For some Filipino women who are married to Australian husbands or have Australian partners, they may have children back in their country of origin whom they want to come and join them in Australia and this can pose a problem.

Higher Education
Filipino community also has identified a need of a tertiary education pathways for International students in Shepparton. Most of the Filipino families in Shepparton are well established and have sound financial backgrounds. They are keen to support the rest of their younger family members or extended family members to come to Australia for their further/higher studies. However, since there are no educational intuitions for International students in Shepparton or a good public transport service between Shepparton and Melbourne they are reluctant to promote study in Australia as an option for their families overseas.


Filipino Australian Friendship Association
John Nisbet – President
Phone: 0409 597 911
Secretary: Cynthia Gorry
Phone: 0449 077 849
Australian Filipino Club
Ian Lennie – President
Phone: 5852 2997
Secretary: Evangelina Lennie
Phone: 5852 2997

© Ethnic Council of Shepparton and District

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