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The Republic of the Philippines is a country of South East Asia, located in the western Pacific Ocean some 1,210 km (750 mi) from mainland Asia. It consists of the 7,107 Philippine Islands and forms in physical geography a part of the Malay Archipelago. The 333 years as a Spanish colony (1565-1898) and 48 years as an American protectorate (1898-1946) have been the greatest influences on Philippine culture. It is, with East Timor, one of the two predominantly Catholic nations in Southeast Asia; with 83% of the population belong to the Roman Catholic Church; with a futher 12% Protestant Christians. This makes the country the biggest Christian population in the Asia - Pacific region with 95% belong to the Christian fate. It is also one of the most westernized nations in the region with a unique blend of East and West.

The Philippines was the most developed country in Asia immediately following World War II, but has since lagged behind other countries because of poor economic growth, government confiscation of wealth, widespread corruption, and neo-colonial influences. Currently, the country attains a moderate economic growth, buoyed by remittances by its large, diasporic overseas Filipino workforce, booming information technology, albeit in a constricted IT category—call center services outsourced from the United States—and cheap but highly unionized labor in other sectors. The country's major problems include an ongoing Muslim separatist movement in southern Mindanao, communist insurgencies in rural areas (New People's Army), historically inconsistent government policies, and environmental degradation due to rainforest depletion and marine and coastal pollution.

The country suffers from overpopulation due to having a high birth rate, which is far above the replacement rate and until recently was one of the highest in all of Asia. The government and the Catholic church have clashed over the issue of different methods for population control - artificial (contraceptives, sterilization, etc.) vs. natural methods (abstinence and spacing) respectively.

The Philippine Islands lie between 116° 40' and 126° and 34' E. longitude, and 4° 40' and 21° 10' N. latitude. It is bordered on the east by the Philippine Sea, on the west by the South China Sea, and on the south by the Celebes Sea. The island of Borneo lies a few hundred kilometers to the southwest and Taiwan directly north. The Moluccas and Celebes are farther south and on the eastern side of the Philippine Sea is Palau.

Republika ng Pilipinas
Republic of the Philippines
Flag of the Philippines The Philippines: Coat of Arms
(National Flag) (National Coat of Arms)
National motto: Maka-Diyos, Maka-kalikasan, Makatao at Makabansa
(Filipino: For the Love of God, Nature, People and Country)
Location of the Philippines
Official languages Filipino and English [1]
Capital Manila
Largest city Quezon City
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 71st
300,000 km²
 - Total (2004)
 - Density
Ranked 12th
Independence Declared from Spain: June 12, 1898 (Official)

Declared from the United States: July 4, 1946 (Recognized)

GDP (2003)
  - Total
  - Total
  - GDP/capita
  - GDP/capita

$352.18 billion (25th) (PPP)
$80.57 billion (43rd) (nominal)
$4,321 (103rd) (PPP)
$989 (118th) (nominal)
Currency 1 Philippine peso (piso) = 100 centavos (sentimos)
Time zone UTC +8
National anthem Lupang Hinirang (Land of the Morning)
Internet TLD .ph
Calling Code +63


Main article: History of the Philippines

Ancient Times

Human fossil records indicate that the Philippines may have been inhabited for thousands of years. Its aboriginal population, collectively known as the Negritos or Aetas, crossed prehistoric land or ice bridges to eventually settle in the islands' lush forests. Other migrants from the Malay Peninsula and Indonesian archipelago, and from Indochina and Taiwan, settled around the turn of the first millennium.

Asian interaction, Buddhist Kingdoms

Chinese merchants arrived in the 8th century. The rise of powerful Buddhist kingdoms precipitated trade with the Indonesian archipelago , India, Japan and Southeast Asia. Factional fighting among the kingdoms of Southeast Asia weakened their strength. In the meantime, the spread of Islam through commerce and proselytism, much like Christianity, brought traders and missionaries into the region; Arabs set foot in Mindanao in the 14th century. When the first Europeans arrived, led by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521, there were rajahs as far north as Manila, who historically were tributaries of the kingdoms of Southeast Asia. However, the islands were essentially self-sufficient and self-ruling.

Spanish colonization

The Spanish claimed and colonized the archipelago in 1565 led by the Spanish Conquistador Miguel López de Legaspi who sailed from New Spain (present-day Mexico), arrived and settled in Cebu. Ruy de Villalobos named the archipelago "Las Islas Filipinas " after King Felipe II. Priests and Augustinian friars marched with Spanish soldiers from island to island establishing forts and preaching christianity. Roman Catholicism was immediately introduced and would come to be adopted by the majority of the population, through missionary work, as well as the Laws of the Indies and several restrictive edicts. Some resistance came from tribal groups in the highlands and the Muslim separatism, a trend that rages on today. Sporadic rebellions and violence erupted in the coastal populations throughout the next three centuries in response to colonial abuses and lack of reforms. The new territory was ruled from New Spain, and a burgeoning Manila Galleon or Manila-Acapulco galleon trade began in the 16th century.

Spanish challenges

Serious challenges to Spanish rule began in 1761 when Spain involved herself in the Seven Years' War (1756-1763) declaring war on Great Britain. In 1762, colonial forces of the British East India Company captured Manila after a fierce struggle. In accordance with the 1763 Treaty of Paris ending the war between Great Britain against Spain and France, The Philippines was returned to Spain. Defeat from the hands of British however, inspired resistance from Filipino rebels such as Diego Silang who in 1762 expelled the Spanish from the coastal city of Vigan. The Spanish, tied down by fighting with the British and the rebels during the Seven Years War were unable to control the raids of the Moros of the south on the Christian communities of the Visayan Islands and Luzon. Thousands of Christian Filipinos were captured as slaves, and Moro raids continued to be a serious problem through the remainder of the century. The Chinese community, resentful of Spanish discrimination, for the most part enthusiastically supported the British, providing them with laborers and armed men who fought de Anda in Pampanga.

Economic Society of Friends

After Spanish rule was restored, José Basco y Vargas one of the ablest of Spanish administrators, was the governor from 1778 to 1787, and he implemented a series of reforms designed to promote the economic development of the islands and make them independent of the subsidy from New Spain. In 1781 he established the Economic Society of Friends of the Country, which, throughout its checkered history extending over the next century, encouraged the growth of new crops for export--such as indigo, tea, silk, opium poppies, and abaca (hemp)--and the development of local industry. A government tobacco monopoly was established in 1782. The monopoly brought in large profits for the government and made the Philippines a leader in world tobacco production.

Rizal, the Propaganda Movement, and the Revolution

The islands' economy began to open up during the 19th century. The rise of an ambitious, more nationalistic Filipino middle class, consisting of educated native Filipinos, Philippine-born Spaniards and creoles, Spanish mestizos and an economically entrenched Chinese mestizo community, signaled the end of complete domination by the Spanish. Enlightened by the Propaganda Movement to the injustices of the Spanish colonial government, they clamored for independence. José Rizal, the most famous propagandist, was arrested and executed in 1896 for acts of subversion. Soon after, the Philippine Revolution broke out, pioneered by the KKK (Kataastaasan at Kagalang-galangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan) or Katipunan, a secret revolutionary society founded by Andres Bonifacio and later led by Emilio Aguinaldo. The revolution nearly succeeded in ousting the Spanish by 1898.

The U.S. connection

That same year Spain and the United States fought the Spanish-American War, after which Spain ceded the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico to the United States for US $20 million through the Treaty of Paris. The Filipinos had by then declared independence, and this led to the Philippine-American War that officially ended in 1901, though sporadic fighting continued until 1913. The islands were made a U.S. territory with little self-government until 1935, when their status was upgraded to that of a U.S. Commonwealth. Independence was finally granted in 1946, after the Japanese had occupied the islands during World War II. The following period was marred by post-war problems; civil unrest during the unpopular dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, ousted in 1986; and later, the continuing problem of communist insurgency and Muslim separatism.


Main article: Politics of the Philippines

National Government. The government of the Philippines, loosely patterned after the American system, is organized as a representative republic, with the President functioning as both head of state and government, as well as being the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The president is elected by popular vote to a term of 6 years, during which he or she appoints and presides over the cabinet.

The bicameral Philippine legislature, the Congress, consists of the Senate and the House of Representatives; members of both are elected by popular vote. There are 24 senators serving 6 years in the Senate while the House of Representatives consists of no more than 250 congressmen each serving 3-year terms.

The judiciary branch of the government is headed by the Supreme Court, which has a Chief Justice as its head and 14 Associate Justices, all appointed by the president.

International Relations. The Philippines is a founding and prominent member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). It is also an active participant of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), a member of the Group of 24 and one of the 51 founding members of the United Nations on October 24,1945.

The Philippines is currently in a dispute with Taiwan, China, Vietnam and Malaysia over the oil- and natural gas-rich Spratly Islands and with Malaysia over Sabah. The Sultan of Sulu, who received the territory as a gift after having helped the Sultan of Brunei defeat a rebellion, has given the Philippine Government power to reclaim his lost territory. To this day, the Sultan of Sulu's family still receives "rental" monies from the Malaysian Government.

See also:

Regions and Provinces

Map of the Philippines
Map of the Philippines

Main articles: Regions and Provinces of the Philippines

Local Government. The Philippines is divided into a hierarchy of local government units (LGUs) with the province as the primary unit. As of 2002, there are 79 provinces in the country. Provinces are further subdivided into cities and municipalities, which are in turn, composed of barangays. The barangay is the smallest local government unit.

All provinces are grouped into 17 regions for administrative convenience. Most government offices establish regional offices to serve the constituent provinces. The regions themselves do not possess a separate local government, with the exception of the Muslim Mindanao and Cordillera regions, which are autonomous.

Go to the articles on the regions and provinces to see a larger map showing the locations of the regions and provinces.


¹ Names are capitalized because they are acronyms, containing the names of the constituent provinces or cities (see Acronyms in the Philippines).

² These regions formed the former Southern Tagalog region, or Region IV.


Main article: Geography of the Philippines

The Philippines constitute an archipelago of 7,107 islands with a total land area of approximately 300,000 km². The islands are commonly divided into three major groups: Luzon (Regions I to V + NCR & CAR), Visayas (VI to VIII), and Mindanao (IX to XIII + ARMM). The busy port of Manila, on Luzon, is the country's capital and second-largest city after Quezon City.

The local climate is hot, humid, and tropical. The average yearly temperature is around 26.5° Celsius. Filipinos generally recognise three seasons: Tag-init or Tag-araw (the hot season or summer from March to May), Tag-ulan (the rainy season from June to November), and Taglamig (the cold season from December to February).

Most of the mountainous islands used to be covered in tropical rainforests and are volcanic in origin. The highest point is Mount Apo on Mindanao at 2,954 m. Many volcanoes in the country, such as Mount Pinatubo, are active. The country is also astride the typhoon belt of the Western Pacific and is struck by about 19 typhoons per year.

See also Ecoregions of the Philippines


The , the nation's currency.
The Philippine peso, the nation's currency.

Main article: Economy of the Philippines

In 1998 the Philippine economy — a mixture of agriculture, light industry, and supporting services — deteriorated as a result of spillover from the Asian financial crisis and poor weather conditions. Growth fell to 0.6% in 1998 from 5% in 1997, but recovered to about 3% in 1999 and 4% in 2000. The government has promised to continue its economic reforms to help the Philippines match the pace of development in the newly industrialised countries of East Asia. Heavy debt (public debt at 77% of GDP), is hampering efforts to improve the economic situation. Budget allocation for servicing of debt is higher than the budget for the Department of Education and for the military combined.

The strategy includes improving infrastructure, overhauling the tax system to bolster government revenues, furthering deregulation and privatisation of the economy, and increasing trade integration with the region. Prospects for the future depend heavily on the economic performance of the two major trading partners, the United States and Japan, and a more accountable administration and consistent government policies.


From the article: Demographics of the Philippines

According to Philippine government statistics and current census data, some 95% of the population is ethnically Malay, descendants of immigrants from the Malay Peninsula and Indonesia, who arrived long before the Christian era. The most significant non-native ethnic minority are the Chinese, who have played an important role in commerce since the 9th century when they first arrived in the Philippines for trade. Mestizos, those of mixed race, form a tiny but economically and politically important minority. Small communities of expatriates, and Negrito forest tribes that inhabit the more remote areas of Mindanao, constitute the remainder.

The people of the Philippines are collectively known as Filipinos. Throughout the colonial era the term "Filipino" originally referred to the Spanish and Spanish-mestizo minority. The definition, however, was later changed to include the entire population of the Philippines regardless of ethnic origin. In Filipino slang the noun becomes Pinoy, a backformation of [pili]PINOY. The feminine form is Filipina and Pinay respectively.

The Philippines is the most ethnically diverse country in Asia. While in recent decades the government has worked to make the country more culturally homogenous, this is made difficult by the linguistic diversity of its inhabitants. A majority of the population is divided among eight major Malay-based ethnic groups, that as stated above constitute approximately 95 percent of the population. The largest groups are the Cebuanos (24%), Tagalogs (24%), and Ilocanos (11%), with the Pangasinense, Kapampangan (Pampango), Hiligaynon (Ilonggo), Waray-Waray, and Visaya making up the rest.

The remaining 10 percent includes minority groups in the highland regions and the ethnic Filipino Muslims of Mindanao, as well as small foreign communities. The Aeta or Negritos, once active for thousands of years in the islands, have vanished into the interior rainforests. Their fate mirrors many indigenous groups around the world such as the Australian Aborigines and Native Americans. Many Aeta Filipinos were absorbed by the invading ethnic-Malay Filipinos or isolated by systematic displacement.

In the 100 years since the 1903 Census of the Philippines, the population has grown by a factor of eleven.

See also:


More than 170 languages are spoken in the Philippines and almost all of them belong to the Western Malayo-Polynesian languages. The official languages are Filipino and English.

Since 1939, in an effort to develop national unity, the government has promoted the use of the official national language, Filipino, which is based on Tagalog. Filipino is taught in all schools and is gaining acceptance, particularly as a second language for a diverse population. English, which was introduced under U.S. rule, is treated as the second official language and is used extensively in government, education and commerce.

Spanish was the official language of the Philippines from 1565 to 1987. With just 2,658 speakers (1990 census), Spanish has declined due to lack of interest and government guidance on preserving and promoting the language to the whole population. Only the Spanish-Filipino mestizo community continues its practice. The sole existing Spanish-Asiatic creole language, Chabacano, is spoken by numbers in the south-western region of Mindanao.

Other languages spoken in Philippines include Chinese (Mandarin, Hokkien and Cantonese) among members of the Chinese and Chinese-Filipino communities, in their Chinatowns and community-based schools where the medium of instruction is in bilingual Mandarin/English, and Arabic among some members of the Muslim population

See also:


Main article: Culture of the Philippines

The culture of the Philippines is blended with Spanish and native Malay cultures. Along with this the Roman Catholic religion plays a very important part for the majority of the Filipino population.

Throughout the pre hispanic era, no distinct national cultural identity was shaped. The reason for this was partly due to the existence of an exorbitant native cultures,ethnicity and the many languages spoken in the country which is estimated today to be around 170 distinct languages, in addition to each of their many different dialects. The isolation between neighbouring populations — whether from village to village or island to island — also greatly contributed to this lack of a unified identity.

The arrival of the Spanish in 1565 brought with them Spanish culture and language and soon imposed Roman Catholic religion on the native Malay population. Priest and Augustianian Friars missionaries accompanied by Spanish soldiers soon marched from island to island eager to spread Christianity. They employed indigenous peoples as translators, creating a bilingual class known as ladinos. These individuals, notably poet-translator Gaspar Aquino de Belen , produced devotional poetry written in the Roman script, primarily in the Tagalog language. Pasyon is a narrative of the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ begun by Gaspar Aquino de Belen. Later, the Spanish ballad of chivalry, the corrido, provided a model for secular (nonreligious) literature. Verse narratives, or komedya, were performed in the regional languages for the illiterate majority. They were also written in the Roman alphabet in the principal languages and widely circulated.

In addition, the classical literature (José Rizal, Pedro Paterno) and historical documents (national anthem, Constitución Política de Malolos), were written in Spanish, which ceased to be an official language. The Philippine writers, Claro M. Recto among the more prominent, continued writing in Spanish until 1946.

The Philippines has many national heroes. Considered the first to repel western aggression was Lapu-Lapu of Mactan Island, who killed Ferdinand Magellan. Dr. José Rizal (born June 19, 1861, in the town of Calamba, Laguna), "Pride of the Malay Race" Philippine National Hero, mastered 22 languages including Catalan, Chinese, English, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Japanese, Latin, Malay, Sanskrit, Spanish, Tagalog, and other native dialects; he was an architect, artist, educator, economist, ethnologist, scientific farmer, historian, inventor, journalist, linguist, musician, mythologist, nationalist, naturalist, novelist, ophthalmic surgeon, poet, propagandist, sculptor and sociologist. The first Asian Secretary-General for the United Nations General Assembly was a Filipino - Carlos Pena Romulo. In more recent times, the Philippines has produced major sports heroes, such as Manny Pacquiao of boxing fame, and multi-champion billiards player Efren "Bata" Reyes.

Baroque Churches of the Philippines and Historic Town of Vigan are the cultural World Heritage Sites. However, during World War II, much of the city of Intramuros was destroyed but rebuilt in postwar time. Other World Heritage Sites include "The Rice Terraces" of the Cordillera, considered the 8th wonder of the world.

See also


The Philippines is a member of the following associations:

See also:

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Last updated: 05-17-2005 03:44:20