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Philippines Mabuhay


Manila, Cebu, Philippines

Program Description

"Mabuhay" is the Pilipino word for "welcome" (there are two national languages: English and Pilipino).  American control instituted the American education system with English as the language of instruction and as a result English is widely spoken and understood.  Approximately 77% of the Filipino population view the United States in a positive light, and Philippine-born immigrants and ethnic Filipinos represent the second largest Asian ethnic group in the United States (after Chinese).

"Mabuhay" is an organizing principle of the program which is built upon experiential learning.  There is no traditional classroom instruction.  In essence, the program is field-based eco-tourism with instruction occurring wholly within local settings and situations; we literally "get with the people." 

The instruction is supplemented by the aid and expertise of local professionals, international experts, and indigenous guides in combination with unfettered access to everyday folk.  The program is intensely physical and students will travel and live in parallel with local people and, like them, without the comfort of air-conditioning.  Long and physically demanding hikes(3-6 hrs/hike) bring participants into contact with volcano and mountain environments, and urban excursions and scuba diving challenge individual fitness.  Direct physical contact and observation of such things as volcanic landscapes and steam vents, self-built housing and urban squatter settlements, slash-and burn agriculturalists, solid waste disposal, and coral reef conservation and preservation create a phenomenal learning experience, simultaneously humanizing issues of environment and development while  exposing their deep contradictions, complexities, and challenges.

This program is best intended for any Geographic Science and IDLS majors (especially Math and Science concentrators) and Geographic Science minors.  The program is, however, open to all majors and undeclared students.  Academic credit earned in the Philippines can be applied to the JMU Asian Studies minor degree.  Student participants who are Nursing majors have self-described the program as a life-changing experience and have achieved  phenomenal success within its structure.  Other successful student participants have represented ANTH, PSYC, and ISAT.

Successful program participants are extremely comfortable with the outdoors, are personally open and open-minded, adventurous, and unfazed and tolerant of differences in service and comfort, and of visual and cultural differences and non-western practices.

Location Description

The Republic of the Philippines is an archipelago of more than 7,100 islands spread over an area approximately the size of California.  Situated completely within the tropics, the topography offers great variation: high elevation mountains, vast rice paddy agricultural valleys, and many coral reef environments.  The physical environment is equally diverse due to its location and offers contact in tropical rainforest, experiences in human-environment interaction (in both positive and negative contexts) and seismic activity and both dormant and active volcanoes.

The Philippines has a rich pre-Columbian history of trade and contact, a very long and influential period of colonial administration and subjugation by the Spanish, a lengthy period of control by the Americans, as well as a brief, but devastating occupation by the Japanese in the Second World War.  Even sixty years after independence, the United States and Philippines enjoy a close and cooperative political relationship that includes shared military operations.


Johnathan Walker | | IDLS
Morgan Benton | | ISAT

Additional Items to Consider

Student participants in this program are required to apply for tourist visas at a cost of $30.00.  Immunizations are strongly recommended for Hepatitis A and B, and Typhoid, and you should ensure that your Tetanus is up to date.  The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends prophylaxis for Japanese encephalitis.  There is no malaria risk in the Philippines, however, mosquito repellant is a must because of the presence of dengue fever; which can be fatal.

Application Process

Official transcript required for first-semester transfer students and non-JMU students.

Application Deadline


All dates are tentative and subject to change


IDLS 391 : Study Abroad: Focus on the Philippines (3 credits)

IDLS 395 : Physical Science and Environment (3 credits)* pending approval

IDLS 486: Special Topics: Poverty and Development in the Philippines (3 credits)