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Philippines

The Philippines became a Spanish colony in the 16th century, and then a U.S. territory and commonwealth after the Spanish-American War in 1898. It became independent of the U.S. in 1946. The name derives from King Philip II of Spain.

The Philippines show more western influence than any other country in the Far East. English is an official language, along with Filipino (Tagolog), and the predominant religion is Roman Catholic. The currency is the peso, worth about 44 to the U.S. dollar.

The country used to be an American military bastion. Clark Air Force Base and the Subic Bay Navy Base were, respectively, the largest and second largest U.S. overseas bases. All that came to an end in 1991 when nearby Mount Pinatubo eruped, smothering both Subic and Clark under tons of volcanic ash and debris.

The Philippines, with a tropical climate, have done a great deal to attract tourists in recent years. In Manila, the capital city, the visitor can enjoy high class dining, shopping and nightlife, and visit the Corregidor Peninsula, the famous last bastion in the early days World War II.

PORTS OF CALL

Subic Bay

U.S. Navy ships still call at Subic Bay, on the island of Luzon about 50 miles from Manila. The site of the Navy base is now Subic Bay Freeport Zone, and has a number of attractions. There is the Subic Bay Marine Exploratorium, where visitors can observe dolphins, whales and sea lions in their natural habitat.

Divers can explore the magnificent underwater world of Subic Bay and come face-to-face with not only with its rare marine inhabitants, but also a taste of history. Shipwrecks there date back to the Spanish and American eras, and include some U.S. Navy ships.

Subic Bay has the Mango Graveyard, a forest of bizarrely shaped "driftwood" that couldn't withstand the high sulfur content spewed by Mount Pinatubo during its 1991 eruption There is colony of over 10,000 bats with giant, six-foot wingspans. One species, found only in the Philippines is known as a "flying fox" and another is the "fruit bat," so called because it eats only plants and is essential for the pollination that keeps the tropical forests healthy.

Aside from the many natural attractions of Subic Bay, visitors can complement their stay with activities like jogging, playing tennis or enjoying a round of golf. There is a fully-equipped gym, swimming pools, basketball courts, go-kart and car race tracks, a shooting range, skating rink, mini-golf course, bowling alley and equestrian center. At the end of the day, top it off with a taste of the exciting Subic nightlife at the bars, casinos, billiard halls and video arcades.

Cebu City

Another port of call is Cebu City, about 400 miles south of Manila, also a former U.S. Navy base. Cebu City is the capital of the island and province of Cebu, and the second largest city in the Philippines. Its attractions include dining, shopping and a brimming nightlife, plus the artistically oriental Taoist Temple, and a cross left by explorer Ferdinand Magellan when he claimed the island for Spain.

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