The Philippines is an island country in South East Asia, comprising 7,641 islands. The islands, located in the Pacific Ocean, are broadly divided into three principal geographical divisions; Mindanao, Visayas, and Luzon.
According to the Commission of Population, the Philippines has an estimated population of 107.2 million people as of December 2018, making it the world's 13th most populous country. With a total area of approximately 115,000 square miles, the country has an estimated population density of 870.2 persons per square miles, making it the world’s 42nd most densely populated country.
Luzon, the world’s 14th largest island by area, is the Philippines’ most populated island with a population of over 50 million people or 52.5% of the country’s total population. It is home to Quezon and Manila, the two most populous cities in the country. Mindanao is the second-largest island group, with a population of about 25.5 million people, while the Visayas is the smallest island group with about 19.4 million people.
Five Biggest Cities In The Philippines
Up to one-third of the Philippines, population resides within Metro Manila. The metropolitan area comprises 16 cities, including the three most populous cities in the country, namely Quezon, Manila, and Caloocan. Metro Manila is particularly populous because it is the seat of government as well as the country’s cultural, educational, and economic hub. Besides the three cities above Davao and Cebu cities complete the list of the five biggest cities in the Philippines. But, what makes these cities so populated?
1. Quezon City
Although Quezon City is not the country’s capital, it is the biggest city in the Philippines by population, with about 2.9 million residents. The city was founded by Manuel L Quezon, the Philippines’ second president. It served as the country’s official capital between 1948 and 1976. Although Quezon was only founded in 1939, it has experienced dramatic population growth within a short time. Its population surpassed that of Manila in 1990 and was the first city to pass the 2 million mark. The city’s population is expected to reach 4 million by 2025-2030.
Quezon City is a highly urbanized area and hosts several government offices, including the House of Reps and the seat of the Vice President. Besides, it is also home to some of the largest education institutions in the country, including Ateneo de Manila University and the University of the Philippines Diliman. QC also has several attractions, including Quezon Memorial Circle. Therefore, Quezon City is not only populous because it is highly urbanized, but also because it is an educational, cultural, and entertainment center.
Most capital cities around the world are some of the most populated areas in their respective countries. The City of Manila is not different. It is the second-most populated city in the Philippines, with a population of approximately 1.78 million people. However, it is the world’s most densely populated city proper, with a population density of about 107,520 persons per square miles. Its population density is much higher than some of the world’s largest cities, such as Kolkata, Mumbai, Paris, Tokyo, and Shanghai.
Manila is the political, economic, and educational, and ecclesiastical capital of the Philippines. Its population has increased significantly since the turn of the 20th century as more people moved from rural areas to the cities to seek opportunities. It became the first city in the country to cross the one million mark (1960 census). However, Manila’s population has fairly stabilized, with an alternating decrease and increase witnessed in recent census years. The trend may be a result of the population growth experienced by the suburbs.
3. Davao City
Davao City is the largest city by population outside Metro Manila, with approximately 1.6 million people. It experienced approximately 60% growth in population from one million in 1995 to 1.6 million in 2015. Davao became the first city in Mindanao to cross the one million mark and remains the islands’ largest city. According to the population projection, Davao will surpass Manila to become the second-largest city in the Philippines by the next official census.
Several factors have contributed to the city’s dramatic population growth in recent years. Davao is a first-class highly urbanized city, meaning that it is a high-income city with opportunities for growth and better living standards. It is the main industry, commerce, and trade hub of Mindanao. Besides being a highly urbanized area, Davao is also the Philippines’ largest city by land area, with 943.48 square miles. Its population density is lower than some of the largest cities in the Philippines, making it an attractive place for people looking to settle in not-so-crowded cities.
The City of Caloocan is the third-largest city within Metro Manila and the country’s fourth-largest, with a population of approximately 1.58 million people. It covers an area of approximately 21.54 square miles and is bordered by both Quezon and Manila cities. Although Caloocan is a small city, it has a population density of 74,000 persons per square miles, making it one of the most crowded places in the Philippines.
Caloocan’s proximity to Manila, the country’s capital, and Quezon, and its location within the highly urbanized Metro Manila, makes it a preferred settlement. The city also boasts of industrial and commercial activities and a large residential area, making it a highly urbanized center.
5. Cebu City
The City of Cebu is Visayas’ largest city and the country’s 5th largest by population, with a population of about 922,600 people. It is located in Cebu island of Central Visayas Region and is the administrative region’s regional center. Cebu City covers an area of approximately 121.62 square miles, with a population density of 7,600 persons per square mile.
Cebu is Metro Cebu’s central area and a significant center for education, trade, and commerce in Visayas island group. It is also the province of Cebu’s seat of government. Besides, it accounts for 80% of the country’s total domestic shipping companies, making it an attractive city to settle in.
The Philippines’ Population Trend
Besides Manila, most cities in the Philippines have experienced a steady increase in population. Cities such as Quezon are expected to have a population of about 4 million people by 2025 and 2030 census, while Davao’s population will surpass that of Manila. Overall, the country experienced a 1.72 population growth rate between 2010 and 2015 compared to a 1.9% growth rate between 2000 and 2010. The government, through Reproductive Health Law, has tried to reduce the population growth rate. But, the move has been a contentious issue since 2013.
The high population in the cities is already proving to be a challenge to the local authorities. The crime rate is directly related to the increasing demographics. As the country's population increases, especially in urban areas, the number of job opportunities also decreases, forcing most jobless people in the Philippines to settle for the crime. Between 2010 and 2015, Manila recorded an average of 9,100 crime cases per year.