Biggest Cities In The Philippines

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The skyline of Manila, the second most populated city in the Philippines.
  • One-third of the Philippines' population reside within Metro Manila.
  • Manila, the country's capital, is the most densely populated city in the world.
  • Davao City is the biggest city outside the Metro Manila.
  • Quezon's population is expected to reach four million by 2025 and 2030 census.

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

An aerial view of the largest city in the Philippines, 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.

2. Manila

A bustling weekend scene at Ilaya Street, Manila. Image credit: Michael D. Edwards/Shutterstock.com

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

Aerial View of Davao city, the capital of Mindanao island. Image credit: Alexpunker/Shutterstock.com

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.

4. Caloocan

A busy street in Caloocan City. 

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

Panorama of Cebu city. Image credit: Joyfull/Shutterstock.com

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.

Cities In The Philippines By Population

RankCityPopulation (2015) Population Density

(number of individuals per square km, 2015)

1Quezon City2,936,11617,000
2Manila1,780,14842,000
3Davao City1,632,991670
4Caloocan1,583,97830,000
5Cebu City922,6112,900
6Zamboanga City861,799580
7Taguig804,91515,000
8Antipolo776,3862,500
9Pasig755,30016,000
10Cagayan de Oro675,9501,600
11Parañaque665,82214,000
12Dasmariñas659,0197,300
13Valenzuela620,42213,000
14Bacoor600,60913,000
15General Santos594,4461,200
16Las Piñas588,89418,000
17Makati582,602 [x]27,000
18San Jose del Monte574,0895,400
19Bacolod561,8753,500
20Muntinlupa504,50913,000
21Calamba454,4863,000
22Marikina450,74121,000
23Iloilo City447,9925,700
24Pasay416,52230,000
25Angeles411,634 [vi]6,200
26Lapu‑Lapu408,1127,000
27Imus403,7856,200
28Mandaluyong386,27618,000
29Malabon365,52523,000
30Mandaue362,65414,000
31Santa Rosa353,7676,500
32Baguio345,3666,000
33Iligan342,618420
34Tarlac City342,4931,200
35Butuan337,063410
36Biñan333,0287,700
37Lipa332,3861,600
38Batangas City329,8741,200
39San Pedro325,80914,000
40General Trias314,3033,900
41Cabuyao308,7457,100
42San Fernando306,6594,500
43Cabanatuan302,2311,600
44Cotabato City299,4381,700
45Lucena266,2483,300
46San Pablo266,0681,300
47Tagum259,4441,300
48Puerto Princesa255,116110
49Malolos252,0743,700
50Mabalacat250,799 [ix]3,000
51Navotas249,46328,000
52Tacloban242,0891,200
53Olongapo233,0401,300
54Talisay227,6455,700
55Ormoc215,031350
56Meycauayan209,0836,500
57Marawi201,7852,300
58Pagadian199,060530
59Legazpi196,6391,300
60Naga196,0032,300
61Valencia192,993330
62San Carlos188,5711,100
63Panabo184,599730
64Calbayog183,851210
65Kabankalan181,977260
66Santo Tomas179,8441,900
67Koronadal174,942630
68Malaybalay174,625180
69Tanauan173,3661,600
70Dagupan171,2714,600
71Bago170,981430
72Toledo170,335790
73Digos169,393590
74Sorsogon City168,110610
75Roxas167,0031,800
76Trece Martires155,7134,000
77Cadiz154,723290
78Surigao City154,137630
79Tuguegarao153,5021,100
80Sagay146,264440
81Ilagan145,568120
82Ozamiz141,828830
83Mati141,141240
84Kidapawan140,195390
85San Jose139,738750
86Danao136,4711,300
87Santiago134,830530
88Calapan133,893540
89Tabaco133,8681,100
90Urdaneta132,9401,300
91San Carlos132,536290
92Dumaguete131,3773,900
93Dipolog130,759540
94Cauayan129,523390
95Silay126,930590
96Gingoog124,648220
97San Juan122,18021,000
98San Fernando121,8121,200
99Carcar119,6641,000
100Bayawan117,900170
101Naga115,7501,100
102Isabela112,788500
103Iriga111,757810
104Ligao111,399450
105Laoag111,125960
106Tabuk110,642160
107Gapan110,303670
108Baybay109,432240
109Himamaylan106,880290
110Tagbilaran105,0512,900
111Samal104,123350
112Catbalogan103,879380
113Bayugan103,202150
114Cavite City102,8069,400
115Talisay102,214510
116Tayabas99,779430
117Tacurong98,316640
118Balanga96,061860
119Guihulngan95,969250
120Masbate City95,389510
121Bislig94,535280
122Escalante94,070490
123Alaminos89,708550
124Victorias87,933660
125Maasin85,560400
126Dapitan82,418210
127Muñoz81,483160
128Passi80,544320
129Tanjay80,532300
130Bogo78,120750
131Bais76,291240
132Lamitan74,782210
133Cabadbaran73,639340
134Tagaytay71,1811,100
135Oroquieta70,757300
136Sipalay70,070180
137Borongan69,297150
138La Carlota64,469470
139Tangub63,011390
140Candon60,623590
141Tandag56,364190
142Batac55,201340
143Canlaon54,509320
144Vigan53,8792,100
145El Salvador50,204470
146Palayan41,041400

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