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Facts about this page

At a Glance

  • The Republic of the Philippines, an archipelago nation situated in Southeast Asia, is the 12th largest country in the world by population (100M), and 39th in terms of GDP (US $278B).

  • The Philippines is one of the few westernized countries in Asia (democratic government, majority Catholic population, English-speaking).

  • It is one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia, but is a relatively under-developed market with an average WSW Market Saturation Score of 1.28 (between infancy and semi-mature).

  • Roughly 40 VCs/angels/incubator/accelerators have invested in at least one local internet-related tech startup.

  • No startup has surpassed $100M in valuation/exit, although there are a handful of startups in the $30M range.

Taking A Closer Look

The Philippines was not a unified island nation like it is today. From prehistoric times all the way to before the arrival of the Spanish, the islands that comprised of the modern-day Republic of the Philippines were inhabited by distinct ethnic groups.They intermingled with each other (through trade, marriage, war, etc.), as they did with the other cultures and empires of ancient Southeast Asia.

The Spanish Empire made their first contact with the people of the islands in 1521 in the person of Ferdinand Magellan. By 1565, several Spanish expeditions have brought most of the archipelago into their dominion. It was named Las Islas Filipinas in honor of King Philip II of Spain. Apart from some interruptions from external powers and locally instigated revolts, the Spanish governed the islands for nearly four hundred years. One of their most notable influences to Philippine culture is Roman Catholicism, which is still the dominant religion in the country (80%).

The United States took over after purchasing the country from Spain via the 1898 Treaty of Paris. The Americans contributed significantly to the systems and institutions of the Philippines including government, judiciary, finance, and education. When World War II broke out, the Empire of Japan invaded and occupied the Commonwealth of the Philippines from 1942 until they were defeated by the Allied Forces in 1945.

Since the first Philippine Republic in 1898, there have been 15 presidents that took office. One notable leader was President Ferdinand Marcos, who held office for 21 years (1965 - 1986), his regime having been extended beyond constitutional limits through martial law. He was ousted in a revolution in 1986 led by a coalition of the Catholic Church, Corazon C. Aquino (widow of exiled and assassinated Senator Benigno Aquino, Jr.), and her allies. She was installed as the 11th President of the Republic of the Philippines, shortly after.

In late 1890s to early 1900s, Chinese from Fujian, China fled to other parts of the world to escape Japanese rule. The Sino-Japanese War during World War 2 also influenced migration. As one of the small island countries near China, a substantial number of Chinese from the Fujian region arrived and settled in Manila, Philippines to do commerce. To blend with the locals, they have even gone as far as changing their surnames and taking on more common first names. Binondo, an enclave located within the heart of Metro Manila, is the oldest Chinatown in the world and a center of commerce and entrepreneurship for ethnic Chinese.

The Philippines is one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia with a Baa3 investment rating from Moody’s. However, the country is still a relatively small market, and a majority of the citizenry lives in poverty, with more than a quarter of the population living below the poverty line.

To uplift themselves from their current economic status, many Filipinos resort to working overseas to earn wages significantly higher than what local jobs would pay. Over 10M Filipinos live and work abroad, and some have taken a further step and immigrated to their host countries. Remittances from these overseas Filipinos represent 13.5% of the country’s GDP.

In the recent decade, the country has also benefited from a rapidly growing offshoring and outsourcing industry. The Philippine BPO industry was projected to have provided nearly a million jobs and US $16BN on 2013. This dramatic growth is attributed to relatively low labor costs and a well-educated pool of English-speaking professionals.

In a nutshell, Filipinos are regarded as a warm and congenial people, by Western standards. English (closer to the American variety) is widely spoken, and is used in mass media, legal contracts, and laws. 80% of the population subscribe to Roman Catholicism, and 10% are from other Christian denominations. Spanish and American influences are prevalent in modern Philippine society.

Metro Manila, the country’s capital region and center of government and commerce, has nearly 11.9M people, and is the 28th largest economy of all urban agglomerations in the world. However, there are cities outside Metro Manila that exhibit significant economic activity such as Cebu City in the Visayas and Davao City in the Mindanao region.