The Philippines is officially known as the Republic of the Philippines. The Philippines which is located in Southeast Asia is called the Pearl of the Orient seas. The country is endowed with natural resources and made it one of the richest in terms of of biodiversity in the world. The archipelago consists of 7,107 islands, with the main group of islands called Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. The capital city is Manila and the national language is Pilipino (the pure form of the dialect Tagalog). Spoken Tagalog is actually a mixture of the Tagalog dialect, Spanish and English.
The country has an estimated population of about 92 million people, making the Philippines the world's 12th most populous country. Millions of overseas Filipinos are working worldwide as Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) who remit about $17 billion in 2009. Multiple ethnicities and cultures are found throughout the islands.
The earliest human remains in the country place it at around 24,000 years ago. The Negritos were some of the archipelago's earliest inhabitants. Successive waves of Austronesian peoples from Malay, Hindu, and Islamic people settled in various islands that resulted in about 105 dialects. Trade of the inhabitants with the Chinese opened other cultural influences.
The Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 discovered the Philippines and claimed the islands for Spain. In the name of the cross, the people were introduced to Christianity. During the Manila–Acapulco galleon trade, some Filipinos who manned the Spanish fleet fled to Mexico and the mainland US. Accordingly, sailors settled in St. Malo, Lousianna where they were then called the Manila men.
Meanwhile, the abuse of the government and the religious stoked several revolts that unfortunately ended in the execution of leaders. In 1872, patriotic priests—Mariano Gomez, Jose Burgos, and Jacinto Zamora (known as Gomburza) were executed. This inspired a propaganda movement in Spain, organized by Ilustrados led by Marcelo H. del Pilar, Mariano Ponce and Jose Rizal. Rizal, considered the Philippine national hero was eventually executed in Luneta on December 30, 1896. Andres Bonifacio in 1896 started the Philippine Revolution with a revolutionary group called the Katipunan. Emilio Aguinaldo, the leader of a faction of the Katipunan, the Magdalo of Cavite province, eventually became the leader of the revolution. Aguinaldo declared Philippine independence from Spain in Kawit, Cavite on June 12, 1898. However in the 1898 Treaty of Paris, the islands were ceded by Spain to the United States for US$20 million dollars. This marked the entry of the US in Asia and eventually the start of the Filipino-American war. The war ended when Aguinaldo was captured.
The Philippines was a commonwealth of the US until the country gained independence after WWII. During the war, the Philippines was the site of two of the fiercest battles of WWII – Bataan and Corregidor. The surrender of Corregidor spawned the famous Bataan Death March where 72,000 American and Filipino soldiers serving in the US Armed Forces in the Far East were forced to march about 60 miles to the internment camp. About 20,000 soldiers perished during the march due to the abuse at the hands of the Imperial Japanese Army.
The Philippine government is based on the US republican system of government. Most of the past Philippine presidents were educated in the US including Cory Aquino and current president Gloria M. Arroyo. The country was beset with natural catastrophes and flagrant corruption that has set back the country’s economy behind most Asian countries. With the new president-elect Noynoy Aquino, there is a new ray of hope for the rise of the Philippines that will alter the history of the islands for the better