Map of Philippines
The oldest known inhabitant of the Philippines was the Callao Man dating back 65,000 years ago. The second oldest was the Tabon Man of Palawan, whose skeletons were carbon-dated to over 24,000 years ago. The first know migrants are known to be that of the Austronesians that came from Taiwan in 4000 BCE.
The first European inhabitants arrived on the islands in 1521, through the expedition of Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan, who claimed the land for Spain. Colonization, however, only occurred in 1565, through the efforts of Spanish explorer Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, who arrived from Mexico and established a settlement on the island of Cebu. The Philippines was pretty much an Islamic region when the Spanish arrived, who were the ones responsible for naming the archipelago, in honor of King Philip II of Spain.
From 1521 until 1821, the Philippines was a territory of Spain. During the span of over 300 years, the country was opened to international trade. First was the trade route to Acapulco, which brought fruits and crops from the Americas to the Philippines. By the 19th century, the country was open to world trade, bringing with it shifts in society, creating incredibly rich Spaniards and mestizos and further divided the social classes.
During the Spanish reign, schools and universities were built, as well as hospitals and many infrastructure. Roman Catholicism was also spread throughout the country, converting majority of the Philippines to Christianity. In 1898, the country was sold to the United States for an amount of $20 million, in accordance to the Treaty of Paris. On the same year on June 12, the Philippines had also declared independence from Spain, which the US did not recognize, leading to the Philippine-American war.
By 1935, the US had granted Commonwealth status to the country but plans on developing the nation were halted by the Japanese invasion during World War II. When Allied Troops defeated the Japanese, the country was then given full independence from the US on July 4, 1946. However, the Philippine government regards June 12, 1898 as its official independence date.
The Philippines is an archipelago located on the farthest Western part of the Pacific, and also the farthest eastern country in Asia. It is an archipelago made of 7,107 islands, with 3 main islands called Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. The islands are located in the Pacific Ring of Fire, which means it is susceptible to earthquakes and its proximity to the equator exposes the country to a number of tornadoes each year. But despite these plausible natural calamities, the country is also endowed with abundant natural resources.
The highest peak is Mt. Apo, found on the island of Mindanao, which is at 9,692 feet above sea level while the deepest point is the Philippine Trench, which is the 3rd deepest point in the world.
The country is made of 17 regions, 81 provinces, 144 cities, 1,491 municipalities, and 42,028 barangays or small communities. The head of the state is the president, elected by popular vote through national elections. The government is democratic, and governed through a constitution. The president, who stays in office for 6 years on a single term, appoints his own cabinet and also holds the position of commander-in-chief of the army. The Senate is the upper house of the government while the lower house is the House of Representatives. The judicial system is governed by the Supreme Court, with the Chief Justice its presiding officer.
Thousands of tropical islands make the Philippines a tropical paradise. Aside from its spectacular beaches and natural wonders, the country is also filled with historical monuments and buildings.
The most popular island in the country is Boracay – a small island of white sand beaches and crystal blue waters. Its bustling nightlife is legendary, making it the perfect party paradise for locals and tourists. The Chocolate Hills on the island of Bohol consists of over 1,000 small hills that look like chocolates during dry season. Its origin has never been explained and remains as one of the country’s most visited places. The San Agustin Church in Manila is the oldest stone church in the country and boasts of the best example of Mexican-influenced interiors in the Philippines. And lastly, the Banaue Rice Terraces is a prehistoric engineering marvel that is a must-see. Carved mountain ranges are used for rice planting, which was created over 2000 years ago. The site is still being used for planting rice until today.
There are over 600 public schools in the country, with over 1000 private institutions. Elementary education is compulsory and free public elementary and high school are provided. The nation’s university is the University of the Philippines, which is the nation’s top ranking school. The oldest is the University of Sto. Tomas, which is also the oldest university charter in Asia, having been built in 1611. According to the QS University Rankings, the University of the Philippines is currently ranked as the 67th best university in Asia.
The people of the Philippines make up the largest diaspora in the world, with over 12 million Filipinos spread all around the cities of the world. The country is the text capital of the world, with an average of 450 million text messages sent every day. It is also the only Christian country in Asia.