This study reports on a community health survey conducted among > or =30 year old rural residents of San Antonio, Nueva Ecija, Philippines, to serve as a basis for tailoring health programs for hypertension in the community. The focus of the analyses is the assessment of the prevalence of and risk factors for hypertension. A cluster survey was conducted among 336 residents in May 1998. Sixty clusters were drawn from areas comprising the town using probability proportionate to size sampling technique. Seven households were visited per cluster and one respondent was randomly chosen for interview and measurement of blood pressure, height and weight in each household. Eighty-four percent of eligible respondents participated. Hypertension prevalence was 23%. Only 42% had been diagnosed with hypertension (i.e., had been told and prescribed anti-hypertensive medication by their physician). Forty-seven percent reported taking anti-hypertensive medication (33 were prescribed by a physician while 4 were by self-medication) but only 17% of those identified as being hypertensive had it under control. Logistic regression showed that age > or =50 (p = 0.000), family history of hypertension (p = 0.004), and body mass index > or = 25 (p = 0.003) were significantly associated with hypertension. This study documents the prevalence and predictors of hypertension in a previously understudied population. In the absence of fully implemented programs to prevent and control hypertension, the current prevalence is only expected to increase, leading to substantial increases in morbidity and mortality and health care cost.