The Philippines extend 1,152 mi (1,855 km) from north to south, between Taiwan and Borneo, and 688 mi (1,108 km) from east to west, and are bounded by the Philippine Sea on the east, the Celebes Sea on the south, and the South China Sea on the west. They comprise three natural divisions—the northern, which includes Luzon and attendant islands; the central, occupied by the Visayan Islands and Palawan and Mindoro; and the southern, encompassing Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago. In addition to Manila, other important centers are Quezon City, also on Luzon; Cebu, on Cebu Island; Iloilo, on Panay; Davao and Zamboanga, on Mindanao; and Jolo, on Jolo Island in the Sulu Archipelago.
The Philippines are chiefly of volcanic origin. Most of the larger islands are traversed by mountain ranges, with Mt. Apo (9,690 ft/2,954 m), on Mindanao, the highest peak. Narrow coastal plains, wide valleys, volcanoes, dense forests, and mineral and hot springs further characterize the larger islands. Earthquakes are common. Of the navigable rivers, Cagayan, on Luzon, is the largest; there are also large lakes on Luzon and Mindanao.
The Philippines are entirely within the tropical zone. Manila, with a mean daily temperature of 79.5°F (26. 4°C), is typical of the climate of the lowland areas—hot and humid. The highlands, however, have a bracing climate; e.g., Baguio, the summer capital, on Luzon, has a mean annual temperature of 64°F (17.8°C). The islands are subject to typhoons, whose torrential rains can cause devastating floods; 5,000 people died on Leyte in 1991 from such flooding, and several storms in 2004 and 2006 caused deadly flooding and great destruction.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.