The Philippines Research Outline that I mentioned in my previous post contains a very useful record selector. It is clear from this record selector that to find births, deaths, marriages or parents (the basic data of the family tree) I need to look at the civil registration and church records. Secondary sources include the census, military records, cemeteries, and probate records.
Let's concentrate, for the time being, on civil registration, church records, census, and cemeteries - the most promising record types, it seems. Some of these I will be able to consult in a family history center here in Europe, others I have to consult when I am in the Philippines.
The National Statistics Office (NSO) maintains and keeps the civil registration since 1932 (the date the civil register was introduced). Many records from 1932-1945 were lost in the second world war. The NSO has a useful FAQ on civil registration.
The Family History Library has filmed all NSO records and some other records, e.g. Copies of civil registration, 1922-1931, Kawayan, Leyte.
The FHL does not have church records from the villages in which I am interested. I need to find out if they still exist, where they are kept, and if I can consult them there. I probably need to get in touch with the parish administration.
To visit a cemetery I obviously have to be in the Philippines. Last year we visited the local cemetery in the village my wife came from. Her maternal grandparents were buried there (I posted a photo of their tombstone). Next time we are in the Philippines we will go there again, to visit her father's grave.
Other graves will be more difficult to visit, unfortunately. My parents-in-law came from different remote regions: Biliran and northern Samar.
The Records Management and Archives Office has cemetery records in its collection, which are filmed by the FHL. I expect these are mostly from the Manila region: I doubt that cemetery records from small villages in rural areas ended up in Manila (if these were even kept at all). The FHL catalog confirms that.
The Records Management and Archives Office, the Philippines' equivalent of the National Archives, keeps census records. These are filmed by the FHL. Censuses are not indexed yet. In the 19th century censuses covered Luzon and the central Visayas region, so I may be out of luck here (I'm researching the eastern Visayas). Indeed, the FHL has no censuses from Leyte (which included the Biliran region at the time). They do have an 1896 census from Samar, though.
The official languages of the Philippines are English and Tagalog. Modern sources will be in these languages (mostly English, I expect). Languages spoken in the region I research are Waray-Waray and Visayan. Older church records are in Spanish. According to the Philippines Research Outline, there are also records in Latin, French, Dutch, and Hebrew.
I expect the vast majority of records will be in English and Spanish. English is not a problem. I know some high school Spanish, and with the help of a dictionary I expect I can understand most Spanish records too.