The Lost Continent of Atlantis – Philippines

The Lost Continent of Atlantis – Philippines

Traditions, highlights, and history of an archipelago

The Philippines are believed to be inhabited since land bridges connecting the islands to Malaysia and China were still there, about twenty-five thousand years ago. Various waves of immigration populated the archipelagos next. From Indo-China sailors brought copper and bronze and built the rice terraces at Benaue in northern Luzon. Malaysian developed the agriculture and introduced the water buffalo. Trade with China began in the first century C.E. when Filipino ores and wood were traded for finished products. Since 1380, Islam colonized the Sulu Islands and Mindanao extending its influence not up to Luzon when Ferdinand Magellan arrived in 1521.

With its docks and skyscrapers, the capital Manila has a completely different lifestyle with respect to the many and diverse islands of the country.

Philippines Manila

During my stay in the island of Bohol I have enjoyed the island time and lifestyle made of simple gestures and traditions. Filipinos believe in the need for social acceptance and feel that education can provide upward mobility. However, there is a huge gap between the 2 percent of the population that is wealthy and the masses who live in poverty; indeed, wealthy people lead western lifestyles: they travel abroad frequently and pride themselves on the number of Westerners they have as friends. Moreover, houses and furnishings show a person’s social position. Because of the closeness of the immediate family, all familial ties are recognized; thus, anyone who is remotely related is known as a cousin. Indigenous tribes live in clan groups, but marriage into another clan may mean that the individual is considered dead to the clan. Finally, people have a strong sense of belonging to a place. 

Traditional houses in rural areas are nipa huts constructed of bamboo and roofed with leaves from palm trees or corrugated metal; cinder blocks are the most commonly building material used. Notwithstanding, such islands are literally fermenting during diving days as it represents one of the main activities for tourist and islanders. Indeed, agriculture, forestry, and fishing are the occupations of 40 percent of the thirty million people who are employed. Fifty percent of the population lives below the poverty line.

The waters of the Philippines comprise nearly 1 million square miles of sea, a major part of which is in the Coral Triangle, an area that contains the world’s highest #coral diversity and that includes Malaysia, Indonesia, Papua, and the Philippines.

Coral Triangle Map

Such waters contain more than 2,500 species of fish and over 500 species of coral, making the Philippines a biodiversity hotspot. Indeed, underwater life is colorful and variegated even more than expected.

Hard corals are made of a rigid calcium carbonate (limestone) and appear very much like rocks. Each polyp secretes a hard exoskeleton made up of calcium carbonate and a chalky internal skeleton that stays in place even after they die. As each generation of polyps dies and their exoskeleton remains, the coral grows a bit larger and because each polyp is so small, hard corals grow at a very very slow rate. Hard corals are scientifically known as “scleractinians”.

Soft corals do not produce an exoskeleton, but they do have tiny sclerites, or hardened body structures, that aid biologists in identifying particular species. Almost all harbor symbiotic algae which rely on photosynthesis to produce food for the corals, but they will also eat pretty much anything that happens by in the water column. Within soft corals, many forms of life are busy with their daily haunting occupations.

During the night, the sea seems apparently quiet; instead, life continues to flourish. The ornate ghost pipefishSolenostomus paradoxus, is a false pipefish whose name comes from the Greek paradoxos, referring to this fish’s unusual external features. Most species have a relatively long period spent floating around in the ocean as plankton, reaching almost adult length before they finally settle onto the reef.  This means that they have a wide geographic range since they can travel long distances after they are born.  It is often found in pairs living along side crinoids (feather stars) and occurs in a rainbow of color forms.  This species mimicks soft corals, hydroids, whip corals and gorgonian corals and predates small mysid shrimps. 

The most notable feature of thresher shark is the long, whip-like upper lobe of their tail, which is known as the caudal fin. In total, there are three species of thresher sharks: The common thresher (Alopias vulpinus), pelagic thresher (Alopias pelagicus) and the bigeye thresher (Alopias superciliosus).


Culture of the Philippines. Retrieved from

Tresher Sharks. Retrieved from

Ghost pipefish facts. Retrieved from

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