The Philippines is an archipelago, or string of over 7,100 islands, in southeastern Asia between the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean. The two largest islands, Luzon and Mindanao, make up for two-thirds of the total land area. Only about one third of the islands are inhabited.
Map created by National Geographic Maps
PEOPLE & CULTURE
Filipinos are predominantly of Malay descent, frequently with Chinese and sometimes American or Spanish ancestry.
Many Filipinos have Spanish names because of a 19th-century Spanish decree that required them to use Spanish surnames, or last names. Parents often name their children after the saint whose feast day was on the day of their birth.
Elementary education in the Philippines starts at age seven, is required by law, and lasts for six years. Secondary education begins at age 13 and lasts for four years; undergraduate college instruction typically is four years.
The islands are home to many species of flowering plants and ferns, including hundreds of species of orchids. Tall grasses have replaced the forests, which have disappeared due to logging, mining, and development.
The Philippines are inhabited by more than 200 species of mammals, including monkeys, squirrels, lemurs, mice, pangolins, chevrotains, mongooses, civet cats, and red and brown deer, among others.
The binturong, or Asian bear cat, was once prominent, but now this furry mammal is vulnerable. The tamaraw, a species of small water buffalo found only on Mindoro, is critically endangered.
Hundreds of species of birds live in the Philippines, either for all or part of the year, including peacocks, pheasants, doves, parrots, kingfishers, sunbirds, tailorbirds, weaverbirds, and hornbills. The endangered Philippine eagle, which eats monkeys, is barely surviving deforestation.
Filipinos elect their president. The president is the head of state and the commander-in-chief of the armed forces and serves a six-year term.
The economy is based on agriculture, light industry, and services. The country produces bananas, rice, coconuts, corn, fish, mangos, pineapples, sugarcane, pork, and beef.
Ferdinand Magellan first landed in the Philippines in 1521. The name Philippines comes from Philip II who was the king of Spain during the 16th century when the country became a Spanish colony.
The Philippines was granted to the United States in 1898 following the Spanish-American War. In 1935 the Philippines became self-governing, but their independence was delayed by World War II and the invasion of Japanese troops.
The islands were liberated by U.S. forces in 1944-45, and the Republic of the Philippines was proclaimed in 1946, with a government patterned on that of the United States.
In 1965 Ferdinand Marcos was elected president. He declared martial law in 1972, which lasted until 1981. After 20 years of rule, Marcos was driven from power in 1986. Corazon Aquino became president and instituted a period of democratic rule in the country.