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    This low-lying country has historic ties to India and Pakistan, but today maintains a wholly unique culture. Explore Bangladesh!

  • Indonesia!

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  • Jordan!

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History of the Philippines

WARNING: Terrorist threats continue in the Philippines, please read this travel warning before going!

The Philippines today is a mix of dozens of ethnic groups; many of whom intermarried, while others remained somewhat isolated. Although people have been living on the island that today consist of the Philippines for thousands of years, the first great outside influence came in the 300s with Malays, Indians, and others venturing inland as trade expanded into this region. This influence came slowly as the people first just arrived and left for trading purposes, but later became more permanent as their influence rubbed off on the locals, particularly in the form of Buddhism and Hinduism being introduced.

Until the centuries later the islands remained isolated and unique as most outside influences were contained to a particular region or island. During this time, particularly beginning in the 900s, a number of islands rose up to regional power. Today's Manila bay was a major trading hub to both Japan and China as rulers in various other regions, such as Cebu became quite powerful.

This isolated trend continued for centuries, proven in the 1400s with the introduction of Islam to the southern islands, in particular Mindanao. This religion took strong hold in Mindanao, but failed to spread beyond these southern islands.

In 1521 Ferdinand Magellan arrived on his round the world expedition and, although he was killed in the Philippines, he claimed the islands for Spain. This led to colonization of the islands, which was a relatively simple feat considering each island was isolated from the next so there was no unifying force of resistance. It was during this time that the islands became known as the "Spanish East Indies" or "Filipinas," after King Philip II of Spain and hence the name "Philippines" was born.

The Spanish introduced Catholicism and education among other changes. Both were well received by the locals and today the country remains primarily Catholic. From the Spanish perspective, though the islands were not profitable. Perhaps only because the islands were needed as a stronghold in Spain's wars with the Dutch and British did they maintain control over the Philippines.

Throughout the 1700s and 1800s the Spanish continued their emphasis on education, religion, infrastructure, and communication on the islands. Although many view Spanish rule as mostly positive, in the late 1800s independence movements were arising.

The Spanish-American War ended in 1898 with Spanish defeat and the United States' takeover of the islands. The Filipinos fought this, but the US was too powerful and wanted to maintain control over the islands. After a brief war and much debate, the US decided to grant the Philippines independence over a long transition period, ending with complete freedom in 1946. Unlike the Spanish, the Americans' focus was on economic development and they made the Philippines are bigger player in the Far East's economic markets.

Before gaining full independence (although they had partial independence in 1935), the Philippines were attacked by the Japanese during World War II (WWII). This attack came quickly and a united resistance movement within the archipelago nation quickly fell to the Japanese. Despite this, there was much guerilla warfare among the locals and they continued to fight and attack Japanese military outposts throughout the war. Due to this, the Filipinos were never completely defeated, but the constant battle over the duration of the war caused immeasurable damage and loss of life on the country.

At the conclusion of the war, the Philippines was granted full independence, but with independence and after recovering from the war, the political situation was disjointed and parties fought each other for power as some even resorted to guerilla movements. This inconsistency and fast political turnover continued through the 1960s.

The 1970s saw further protests, until the country was locked down under Martial Law. This worked for some time, but they didn't appease the people's demand for change. For the next decade or so, tensions continued and varying groups fought for different issues. There were constant attempts to overthrow the government and political stability was non-existent.

Since the late 1980s and early 1990s tensions have decreased. Muslim groups seeking independence have stopped much of their violence and the constant string of attempted coups has trickled to an occasion coup attempt now and again. The people still accuse the government of corruption and the economy is still stagnant, but the country seems to be heading in the right direction according to most observers and Filipinos.

This page was last updated: July, 2012