Explore the Philippines
The Philippine archipelago's position in Southeast Asia has given it a role as a cultural crossroads, a place where over centuries Malays, Chinese, Spaniards, Japanese, Americans, and others have forged a unique cultural and racial blend. The history of the Philippines as a distinct political entity is relatively short...
When Spain claimed the islands as a colony in the early 1500's (and named them after the Spanish - and later also Portuguese - king), the new colony was actually a conglomeration of mostly unrelated tribal and ethnic groupings (many with long and rich cultural histories of their own) scattered over some 7,000 islands.
For the Spaniards, control of Manila's superb deep-water harbor to shelter its treasure-laden galleons making the long trek from China and India back to Europe - and the opportunity for Spanish priests to convert the islands' residents to Catholicism - represented the primary appeal of the Philippines, and in both those endeavors their ambitions were realized.
Spain grew rich and the Philippines became Asia's only Christian nation. However, and in spite of an often-brutal occupation, Spain lost - and was never able to re-establish - effective control of most of the countryside outside central Luzon after being defeated by England in the Seven Years War in 1762.
Spain's colonial rule came to an end after almost 400 years following their defeat by the US in the Spanish-American War in 1898. The Americans, initially welcomed as liberators but soon recognized as another occupying foreign army, inherited the continuing guerrilla war for independence in spite of harsh attempts to create - and control - a unified "country".
During World War II the Philippines was occupied by the Japanese Imperial Army, who drove the Americans out but who were themselves unable to completely quell the fierce Filipino resistance. The Japanese forces were driven out by combined Filipino and American action in 1944...
After finally securing independence from the US in 1946 the nation we now know as the Philippines finally emerged united, although in the southernmost islands an active secessionist movement continues to this day.
The Philippines stretches for 1,850 kilometers from about the fifth to the twentieth parallels north latitude. Eleven islands make up 94% of the Philippine land-mass, and two of them - Luzon and Mindanao - together with the Visayan Islands that separate them, represent the three principal regions of the nation identified by the three stars on the Philippine flag.