Cities of the Philippines

We often talk on this site about various cities in the Philippines.  Davao often is a topic, because several LiP writers live in Davao.  Other places like Manila, Cebu, General Santos and others are also regularly mentioned.  But, what is a City in the first place? How do these Cities compare to each other?  How about a few statistics about these places?  Today, let’s have an overview of what a City is in the Philippines, how big these various cities are, etc.

What constitutes a City?

Well, in the Philippines, there are specific criteria for what places are considered Cities.  Beyond that, there are also different types and classifications of cities as well.

Philippine Cities consist of several levels.  The smallest element of a City is the Barangay, sort of what westerns might call a neighborhood.  Next, a number of Barangays put together from a District.  For example, in Davao, Districts would include Bajada, Matina, Lanang, etc.  The next level above the District is the entire City itself.  So, for example, I live in Barangay 10A, Poblacion District, Davao City.

Davao City Hall
Davao City Hall

City Governments are composed of a Mayor, a Vice Mayor, City Council (Sangguniang Panlungsod) and a Judicial system.

There are actually several different types of Cities:

  • Highly Urbanized Cities:  Minimum of 200,000 Population, and an income of at least P50 Million.  The Philippines has 33 Highly Urbanized Cities, of which 16 are in Metro Manila.
  • Independent Component Cities:  Cities which are not included as part of the Province that surrounds them.  For example, Cotabato City lies in the midst of Shariff Kabinsuang Province.  However, Cotabato City is not part of the Province, nor part of any Province.  It is an independent City.  Imagine if the City where you live was not part of the State that you lived in!  Like, for example, if New York City was not considered part of the State of New York.  This is an Independent Component City.
  • Component Cities:  Component Cities are Cities that are still included as part of the Province that they occupy.  For example,  Tagum City is still considered part of the Province of Davao del Norte.

As I said, Highly Urbanized Cities must have an income of at least P50 Million.  However, Highly Urbanized Cities are further classified, based on the Income:

  • 1st Class Cities:  Income of P300M or more.
  • 2nd Class Cities:  P240M up to P300M
  • 3rd Class Cities:  P180M to P240M
  • 4th Class: P120M to P180M
  • 5th Class: P60M to P120M
  • 6th Class: Under P50M

Currently, there is a case ongoing in the Courts where some former towns were turned into Cities, but they do not meet the Income Requirements to be Cities.  The Supreme Court has ruled that these Cities must revert back to being towns again.  However, the decision is not yet final, as it must go through reconsideration still.  So, these Cities are kind of in limbo right now.

The Top 10 Largest Cities (Population wise) in the Philippines are:

  1. Quezon – more than 2.5 Million Residents (Part of Metro Manila)
  2. Manila – more than 1.6 Million Residents (Part of Metro Manila)
  3. Caloocan – more than 1.3 Million Residents (Part of Metro Manila)
  4. Davao – more than 1.3 Million Residents (Part of Metro Davao)
  5. Cebu – around 800,000 Residents (Part of Metro Cebu)
  6. Zamboanga – around 800,000 Residents
  7. Antipolo – more than 600,000 Residents
  8. Pasig – more than 600,000 Residents (Part of Metro Manila)
  9. Taguig – more than 600,000 Residents (Part of Metro Manila)
  10. Valenzuela – more than 500,000 Residents (Part of Metro Manila)

In addition to Cities, there are twelve Metropolitan Areas in the Philippines.  A Metropolitan Area is a larger group of Cities and Towns that compose a larger area.  Metropolitan Areas in the Philippines are:

  1. Metro Manila – Population more than 11 Million
  2. Metro Cebu – Population of more than 2.3 Million
  3. Metro Davao – Population of more than 2 Million
  4. Metro Cagayan de Oro – Population of more than 1.1 Million
  5. Metro Angeles – Population of more than 900,000
  6. Metro Iloilo – Guimaras – Population of more than 750,000
  7. Metro Bacolod – Population of more than 700,000
  8. Metro Naga – Population of more than 650,000
  9. BLIST (Baguio, La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablan, Tuba) – Population of more than 500,000
  10. Metro Batangas – Population of more than 400,000
  11. CAMADA (Calasiao, Mangaldan, Dagupan) – Population of more than 300,000
  12. Metro Olongopo – Population of more than 300,000

So, this is a look at Cities and Metro Areas of the Philippines.  I hope this helps put some of discussions on the site into perspective.

Post Author: MindanaoBob (1353 Posts)

Bob Martin is the Publisher & Editor in Chief of the Live in the Philippines Web Magazine. Bob is an Internet Entrepreneur who is based in Davao. Bob is an American who has lived permanently in Mindanao since May 2000. Here in Mindanao, Bob has resided in General Santos City, and now in Davao City. Bob is the owner of this website and many others.

How to Move to the Philippines Manual


  1. chasdv says

    Hi Bob,
    A difference i've noticed between the UK and PI.
    Here a Mayor is little more than a figure head and has little power,the City Council Officers wield the power.
    In PI the Mayor has all the power.

    regards Chas.

  2. Paul says

    Hi Bob – Not being a "city type," I'd rather forgo the hustle and bussle and live in one of the 33 barangays of our 4th class municipality. There seems to be a little difference in how locales are arranged and named, though. We have sitios which, for all intensive purposes, are "places" or "familiar/separately identifiable areas" Our barangays are looked upon as "villages" (formerly called barios prior to the Marcos Administration) and are made up of a number of sitios. There are many inter-relationships in a barangay – almost everyone is related to some degree. The municipality is made up of the barangays. We have a "town proper" that consists of four barangays – the Poblacion – and LGU entities and offices are located primarily in Poblacion Uno (at least that's where ours is!).

    As Chas. says, the Mayor has the power! Thank goodness he's a relative, too! 😉

  3. says

    hmmm also it states that Tagum is a 1st class city and the provincial capitol of Davai Del Norte but your statistics say it should be a 2nd or 3rd class city ?

  4. Danny says

    Kamusta ka Bob,

    This is interesting, and I guess that makes Davao City a 1st Class City with the amount of money earned?
    I like the number of people living in Maasin, I like the small town feel better, BUT I hear Giasano's is looking into setting up shop in Maasin now near the new dry market that was just built, and also plans for a mall now. But that is just talk now. A friend from Facebook said she visited Maasin City a year ago I believe and stated "Maasin City is a hussling and bussling little town"..that sounds good to me. :)

    Maasin City is a 4th class city in the province of Southern Leyte, Philippines. It is the capital city of Southern Leyte. According to the 2007 census, it has a population of 79,737. Maasin City has 70 barangays.

    Danny :)

  5. says

    Hi Bob. I read an article on this mornings Mindanao Examiner about the city of Davao, would you agree with it, or what would be your take on this. Quote:

    "Davao is one of the most dangerous places in Mindanao with hundreds of unresolved summary executions and extrajudicial killings in recent years. But authorities blamed gang war as behind the murders mostly of ex-convicts and petty criminals"

    Generally speaking I suppose all cities universally have a certain amount of danger, some more than others, but reading something like this would have a detrimental effect on visitors to Mindanao. I would like to hear some comments. My 2 favourite reads in the mornings when I am able to, are LIP and the Mindanao Examiner, just to keep in touch. Regards, Jack

  6. says

    Hi Tommy, yes the hi-Jack part is always a dodgy issue, maybe I should change my name to Joe or something. I always thought that Davao was a relatively safe and modern place, unfortunately I never seemed to have the time to visit even though I always want to go there while I'm in Misamis Occidental.

    When I read this particular paragraph this morning I was really kind of shocked, that's why I wanted other opinions, so my good thoughts about Davao have been re-cofirmed. Thanks for the reply Tommy. Regards Jack

  7. says

    Hello Bob! So you are from Mindanao? Great! You really give good information, you share your knowledge and that is really awesome! Its my first time to visit your blog and guess what!?!? I am now bookmarking this site, and subscribing to the feeds. This is really cool! I hope you give more info for us. Nice!

  8. stevo says

    Hello Bob, Davao is definitely a safe place, a lot safer than where I live in Illinois. Sure. people will come up to you, beggars, etc, but that is everywhere. If you don't want to give, just ignore them and move on. I will be visiting next year, and look forward to it. I can taste the good coffee now……

  9. says

    Very interesting Bob. I had picked up bits and pieces of that on my visits through the years. Thanks for tying it all together. 😎

  10. andy says

    Hi Bob I think you know that I will be living in Leyte in town
    ( city ) of Isabel. Now it is very hard to find much on internet about the area, But I know last cencus in 2000 was a little over 35,000 and now something like 50,000. But supposedly change to a first class city. Never even knew what that might mean until I read this article. They have two very large industries and say employment is very high. But still Merlin had to travel to another town to find Western Union. hehe Maybe what I read was written be there mayor to intice tourist. I guess I will find out in 6 days. I only have 6 weeks to decide where I am going to settle. At least my Brother is there now and will be there when I get there. Great to be a teacher in America and get 3 months off, hehe Oh things I am not sure if I like?? Last week they had typhoon and My Brother was stuck at his Wifes Aunts house for two days, instead of his new house he just spent the last year having built.

  11. andy says

    Bob I just rechecked and you are right. Isabel is a 1st class municipality in the province of Leyte, Philippines. It will be some time I guess before I will know the difference. Thank you for making me recheck. By the way besides population, what does even that term mean? 1st class municipality.

  12. JR Tingson (a.k.a. P says

    Hi, Bob!

    Just dropping in to say Hello!

    I think one of the main differences between a town or municipality and a city in the Philippines is the presence of a big mall (especially SM Mall!) ha! ha! just kidding. Well, it's a trend I think. For instance, Santa Rosa City in Laguna (also known as the Detroit of the Philippines because of its several car-manufacturing plants and is the neighbouring city of our "little" town), recently built one of the biggest SM Malls in the Southern Tagalog area, comparable to the big ones in Manila, Cebu or Davao. Henry Sy and other shopping mall magnates here are probably going to put more in emerging cities in the Philippines. (And not so long ago, Santa Rosa was just a town like ours but has put up several industrial areas.)

    By the way, that's a lovely picture of the Davao City Hall!

    Cheers! :)

  13. Phil R. says

    I'm living in Talasay barangay and I think I will stay here too not the big city type :) …Phil n Jess

  14. David says

    Hi Bob,
    I have been in the Philippines 3 time in the last 7 months. Manila the first visit (wow…so busy) and Bicol my last 2 visits. I am looking into relocating to the Philippines sometime in the next few years but I would like to find a small city, under 300,000 people, but also with most of the services for a comfortable. Any suggestions? Bicol is nice but I am looking to widen my options. I am engaged to a wonderful Filipina. She is coming to Canada for a couple of years with me while I secure our future but we both wish to return to Phil after that. Can't wait to hear form you.

  15. says

    i bet to disagree in including naga city , it is not a highlly urbanized city , kindly check the wiki , in fact its population is less than 200,000, and it is not the regional center of bicol region , it is legazpi city

  16. raining says

    im a filipino and living here in davao since i was born.i went to other country in asia and lived there for three years.i also tried living in part of luzon.i could say that Davao is still a great city for me after coming home.i also could say that davao is clean compared to other cities of philippines.there may be killings happen but in any part of the world,it also has.i appreciate the big trash bin anywhere ,around the city or in baranggays.although there are some who litter but the self discipline living more than 20 years here,i wasnt been a victim of pick pocket people.i wasnt been hurt by someone along the looking forward to more progress of our city.thank you for this site.

  17. raining says

    im a filipino and living here in davao since i was born.i went to other country in asia and lived there for three years.i also tried living in part of luzon.i could say that Davao is still a great city for me after coming home.i also could say that davao is clean compared to other cities of philippines.there may be killings happen but in any part of the world,it also has.i appreciate the big trash bin anywhere ,around the city or in baranggays.although there are some who litter but the self discipline living more than 20 years here,i wasnt been a victim of pick pocket people.i wasnt been hurt by someone along the street.i used to walk along the streets day and night by myself without fear when i was younger.but the thing i want to have here in davao is a great amusement park or sducational museums or looking forward to more progress of our city.thank you for this site.

  18. SAM says

    Hi Bob, What can you say about Surigao City, is it a safe place to live? i heard that it is a chinese colony and is booming. Do you have any info?
    Thanks Bob and have a nice day. Today tomorrow and in the future.

  19. says

    Hi Paul – There are lots of regional differences, so I don't know how it is up north, but down here a Sitio is a street or road. Same down here, the Pobloacion is the "City Proper" or "Town Proper" or in other words the main downtown area.

  20. says

    Hi Tommy – I am just not sure… one thing I know is that there is always a lot of jockying around trying to get higher status, as it means more money for the city. Maybe they are counting population in a different way?

  21. says

    Hi Danny – I like a small town too, but here in the Philippines when you live in a small town, it is very hard to get the products and services that you might want. We lived in GenSan for two years, and this was our main complaint living there. There were times we had to drive to Davao (2-3 hours) just to buy butter and cheese. And, GenSan had 3 or 4 malls already at that time! 😆

  22. says

    Hi Jack – I totally disagree with that! As a matter of fact, Davao is ranked as the safest city in the Philippines by a number of authoritative publications these days. I will go anywhere in the City of Davao any tim of the day (or night) by myself without any fear, or even a second thought. I have not read the article (can you provide a link?) so I don't know the context of that paragraph. However, that paragraph standing by itself is absolutely absurd.

    I know the person who owns Mindanao Examiner, he is a friend. It shocks me that he would say such a thing. Was he quoting what somebody else said? How was that statement arrived at?

  23. says

    Hi Jack – I just went and read the article. I don't see how a journalist can really write something like that, no facts to back up the statement. Don't worry about visiting Davao, you can be sure that it is very safe.

  24. Rey says

    Hi Jack,

    The link you provided has a malware in it "flashandburn". Nevertheless you can still visit the site as long as you have adequate firewall protection.

  25. says

    Hi Jack …wow don't want to say that too loud in a airport … how many times you heard that ? … anyway my name is Tommy and i am a disabled man that has researched with Bob & Feyma's help quite thoroughly, as you can imagine, the safety aspect of visiting Davao and the surrounding area.

    and i can attest to every word Bob says, not only did I experience a very friendly response from just about everybody i met in Davao, but i felt safer there then in Chicago.

    I mean there are armed guards in allot of places – would you do anything to anyone knowing there is a cop a block away with a M-16 ? the reality is Davao may just well be one of the safest places i have been Bob had detailed reports available and he is reputable and reliable

  26. Rey says

    Hi Jack,

    Normally, most malwares don't manifest itself unless it gets detected. Some browsers like chrome and IE8 can detect it, others not and most antivirus programs detects it also if the definitions is constantly updated. I'm just giving a heads up here just in case, as what has recently happened to a forum i visit often and some people there were caught unaware that some had to resort re-formatting their HD.

    Sorry for the OT Bob.

  27. Henry says

    Jack – Listen to Tommy on this one! I currently live in Chicago and just from my two visits to Davao, I am more comfortable in Davao! And I am preparing to relocate there within 2 (or 3) years. Chicago is my birthplace, but it's gotten too "challenging" to live here, let alone raise a family. My fondness of Davao has greatly increased thanks to Bob (and Feyma) and the comments posted here.

    Bob – Another informative article, sir! I especially like the photo of City Hall! Hard to believe I was standing there 2 months ago! Goodness, I miss Davao.

  28. says

    Hi Tommy – Thanks for backing me up! Yes, I believe that Davao is as safe as anywhere in the world! I'm glad that what I told you proved to be true for you!

  29. Jim Hannah says

    Hi Tommy,

    As long as you are sensible and keep yourself as inconspicuous as possible (as anywhere), Davao is a very safe city (relatively). I've only once felt uncomfortable, and that was when taking pictures with an expensive camera near the Royal Mandaya Hotel. I felt that all eyes were on me, because I was conspicuous I guess; an easy target, and I was conscious of that. I would feel exactly the same in some areas of London too! As for the guns, you have a point, though in reality, there is probably only a small chance that they have any bullets, and an even smaller chance that the guards would know how to aim the thing anyway. Don't worry, just keep a low profile, stick to open public places as far as possible, and enjoy the experience.

  30. says

    Hi Henry – I'm glad we've had a chance to meet on your last two trips, although each time was too short of a meeting! Next time, let's get together and actually do something! 😆

  31. says

    Hi Jim – I'm just curious… why do you think the guns that the guards carry have no bullets? Believe me, the vast majority (I would guess all) do have bullets! I have seen those guns used before too! The guns that I have seen used were used by guys who knew how to aim them too.

  32. Jim Hannah says

    Well, we know a guy who was employed as a security guard at one of the major banks. On his first day, his 15 minute induction training was summarised by him as "hold this gun and stand at the door looking menacing". He apparently tried to look as menacing as he could for a man who had only ever held a revolver once in his life previously, and he held that bulletless gun each working day for the next eight years before he retired.

    Mind you, I don't think I'd try to commit any robberies, just in case his was an isolated case.

  33. says

    Hi Kebby – Ha ha… just look at my picture… I am a white man! So, of course I cannot be "from Mindanao". I am originally from the United States. 😆

  34. Campbell Dixon says

    Mr. Bob, you are really a white man. I thought you had just been overusing the Likas Papaya soap'

  35. says

    Yah I knew it, of course, just thought you have already migrated to the Philippines and chose Mindanao as a living area. By the way, nice site really!

  36. Leilani♥ says

    Kuya Bob, I never understood why our town is rated 4th class..thanks for enlightening me.

    Dan- Your friend is right. Maasin is definitely a “hussling and bussling little town.” IMO, Maasin offers the conveniences of the city and at the same time it has the advantages of a small town-no traffic jams, easy access to nature, and the likelihood to actually experience the gift of peace and quiet. I think it’s a great place to live overall.

  37. says

    Hi andy – Hmmm….. I don't think that Isabel is a city, at least I can find no indication that it is. Are you sure they aren't trying to become a "first class municipality" instead of a "first class city"? That's two different things. Good luck with your move!

  38. says

    Hi Andy – The difference is that one is called a City and one isn't! 😆 There are some issues about how much money they get from the National government.

  39. says

    Hi David – I am not sure that what you are asking for actually exists. A small city that still has the services that will make you comfortable. I lived in GenSan for 2 years when we first moved to the Philippines. It was about 400,000 population at that time. I simply found the amenities available there to be lacking. Small town? I might recommend Bogo, where Rusty lives. I went there a few months ago, and I liked it a lot. Very small town feel.

    For you, David, I would say that your best bet is to do a little traveling and see what feels good to you when you visit. If you would like me to gather more information for you, I do offer consulting services about matters like this.

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