Typhoon Bopha, with central winds of 75mph and gusts of up to 93mph, battered beach resorts and dive spots on Palawan island.
Hardest hit was the southern island of Mindanao, where Bopha made landfall on Tuesday. It triggered landslides and floods along the coast and in farming and mining towns inland.
Interior Minister Manuel Roxas said 300 people were missing.
"Entire families were washed away," Mr Roxas, who inspected the disaster zone, said.
Most affected areas were cut off by destroyed roads and collapsed bridges and army search-and-rescue teams were being flown in by helicopter.
Power was cut and communications were down.
According to tallies provided by military and disaster agency officials, 283 people were killed.
Thousands of people were in shelters, and officials appealed for food, water and clothing. Dozens of domestic flights were also suspended.
The governor of the worst-hit province, Compostela Valley, in Mindanao, said waves of water and mud came poured down mountains and swept through schools, town halls and clinics where residents had sought shelter.
The death toll in that province alone stood at 160. In nearby Davao Oriental province, where Bopha made landfall, 110 people were killed.
"The waters came so suddenly and unexpectedly, and the winds were so fierce," the Compostela Valley governor, Arthur Uy, said, adding that damage to agriculture and infrastructure was extensive.