The Philippine Islands are made up of over 7,000 islands in the northernmost group of the Malay Archipelago. The Philippines are the summits of submerged volcanoes, about 20 of which are active. Earthquakes are fairly common. Mountain peaks dominate the smaller islands. On larger islands such as Luzon and Mindanao, valleys and open plains with large rivers run between mountain ranges. Of all the islands 2,000 are inhabited. The Philippines have a tropical climate with plentiful rain. During the rainy season, from May to November, typhoons occasionally cause great damage. Rich mineral deposits include gold, copper, and iron. About one-third of the land is covered by forests containing banyan, palm, and rubber trees. Bamboo, cinnamon, clove, and pepper plants grow wild. Manila hemp plants, also called abaca, yield fiber for textiles and cord.
The population of the Philippines is now over 74,000,000. Filipinos are divided according to language and religion. Larger groups include the Visayans, the Tagalogs, and the Ilocanos. The official language is Filipino, but English is commonly used. 87 languages and dialects are spoken. Roman Catholicism is the predominant religion. Education is free and compulsory.
Although soil quality is poor, agriculture employs more than two-fifths of workers. Subsistence crops are rice, corn, cassava, and sweet potatoes. Copra, sugarcane, and tobacco are the principal commercial crops. Lumbering, marine fishing, and mining are important industries; manufacturing has expanded. The unit of currency is the peso (24.29 pesos equal U.S.$1; 1992).
Under the 1987 constitution, the chief executive is a president elected to a single six-year term. The elected legislature consists of a senate of 24 members, serving six-year terms, and a house of representatives with a maximum of 250 members, serving three-year terms.
The first people in the Philippines are thought to have come from China and the Malay Archipelago Large groups from China and Vietnam arrived, then people arrived from the Malay Peninsula and the Indonesian islands. By the 5th century AD, a new Filipino civilization had emerged from the mixture of cultures. In the 13th century, Islam became established in the southern islands.
The first Europeans arrived in 1521. Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan landed during his attempted circumnavigation of the earth in the service of Spain and was killed by Chieftan Lapulapu on Maktan, near modern Cebu City. A Spanish expedition in 1542 named the islands in honor of the future King Philip II, and during the late 1560s Spain gained control. Roman Catholic religious orders came to the islands. Conversions were rapid; the church secured land, wealth and power. THe people were kept in ignorance and poverty. No Bibles were available.
The Philippines remained relatively quiet until the late 19th century, when societies were organized to resist Spanish authority. In 1896 an armed revolt began, but it was halted in 1897 after the Spanish agreed to reforms. Independence was decalred on June 12, 1898. As a result of the Spanish-American War in 1898, however, Spain ceded the Philippines to the United States. The rebels then fought America in the Philippine-American War and lost.
This war lasted from 1899 until 1902, when U.S. civil government replaced military rule. Agitation for independence continued, led by Filipino government figures such as Manuel Luis Quezon, Sergio Osmeņa, and Manuel Roxas. In 1934 the U. S. promised complete Philippine independence by 1946, with a commonwealth government until then. Quezon was elected president in 1935 and 1941.
During World War II (1939-1945), Japanese forces occupied the Philippines. In 1944 U.S. troops recaptured the islands. Independence was achieved on July 4, 1946, when the Republic of the Philippines was proclaimed.
Cooperation with the United States became the keynote of postwar policy. In 1947 the United States was awarded long-term leases on military bases. Resistance to U.S. influence did occur: Communist guerrillas action began soon after China was taken over by communism. A series of presidents served over the years till in 1965 Ferdinand Marcos won the presidency. Rapid economic development brought prosperity during Marcos's first term. His second term, however, was troubled by civil unrest, including revolts by Communist rebels and Islamic separatists. Marcos declared martial law in 1972 and thereafter ruled by decree.
President Marcos ended martial law in 1981 and won a new term as president. Opposition to his rule continued to grow, however. In 1983 opposition leader Benigno Aquino was murdered. In the 1986 presidential elections, Marcos defeated Aquino's widow, Corazon, but reports of election fraud stirred such opposition that Marcos fled the country.
Corazon Aquino became president in 1987, but military unrest and economic discontent threatened her government despite U.S. backing. In 1992 the Philippine government rejected a treaty that would have allowed the United States military to remain at bases in the Philippines, so all U.S. military left the country.
The 1992 presidential election was won by Fidel Valdez Ramos, who pursued an ambitious economic reform program with wide popular support. Ramos was the first non-catholic elected president and served the country well with great accomplishments in peace and order as well as economic recovery.
In 1998 Joseph Estrada, former movie actor, was elected president with strong Roman Catholic church support. Since that time economic conditions have moveded up and down, but generally have stayed positive despite the uncertainty in other southeast Asian nations. All in all, Bible Christianity has grown in leaps and bounds in the country.