Geography: The Philippine archipelago is composed
of 7107 islands comprising a total land area of about 300,000 square
kilometers and a total coastline of around 34,539 kilometers. In size,
it is bigger than Great Britain and twice the size of Greece. The entire
archipelago is divided into three major groups of islands which are
Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. Five prominent bodies of water surround the
archipelago, namely: the Pacific Ocean, the Philippine Sea, the South
China Sea, the Sulu Sea, and Celebes Sea.
Climate: The Philippine's tropical climate has a relatively high
humidity, mild temperature, abundant rainfall and gentle winds with
three pronounced seasons: wet or rainy season from June to October; cool
and dry from November to February; hot and dry from March to May.
Language: There are 11 cultural and racial groups, each with it's
own language. The major linguistic groups are Tagalog, Ilocano, Cebuano,
Hiligaynon, Bicol, Waray, Pampango and Pangasinan. English is widely
used in government, business, and as a medium of instruction in schools.
Spanish, Arabic and Chinese are spoken by only a minority of the
History: Long before the Europeans came to Asia, the Filipinos
were already civilized. They possessed a Malayan civilization which had
been enriched by Indian, Chinese and Arabic influences. On March 16,
1521, Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese voyager in Spain's service, made
the first European contact with the Filipinos after which followed three
centuries of Spanish Colonial rule. Towards the end of the 19th century,
Jose Rizal, a multi-faceted genius led the reform movement. Rizal is the
country's national hero and is regarded as Southeast Asia's first martyr
to nationalism. On June 1898, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo declared the
independence of the Philippines from Spain at Kawit, Cavite. That
independence was short-lived, however, since the American again
colonized the country for almost 50 years. On July 4, 1946, independence
was gained from the Americans. The colonial experience wrought under the
Spanish and American administration has left it's mark on Filipino
religion, language and culture.