The Republic of the Philippines (Tagalog: Republika ng Pilipinas), or The Philippines (Tagalog: Pilipinas), also known as the Pearl of the Orient Seas, is an independent sovereign nation of southeast Asia. It lies 1,210 km (750 mi) away from mainland Asia consisting of 7,107 islands and forms a part of the Malay Archipelago.
The Spanish claimed and colonized the archipelago in 1565 led by the Spanish conquistador, Miguel López de Legaspi who sailed from New Spain (present-day Mexico), arrived and settled in Cebu. Ruy López de Villalobos named the archipelago "Las Islas Filipinas" after King Felipe II. Augustinian and Franciscan friars marched with Spanish soldiers from island to island establishing forts and preaching Christianity.
Roman Catholicism was immediately introduced and would come to be adopted by the majority of the population, through missionary work, as well as the Laws of the Indies and several restrictive edicts. Some resistance came from tribal groups in the highlands and the Muslim separatism, a trend that rages on today. Sporadic rebellions and violence erupted in the coastal populations throughout the next three centuries in response to colonial abuses and lack of reforms. The new territory was ruled from New Spain, and a burgeoning Manila Galleon or Manila-Acapulco galleon trade began in the 16th century.
Serious challenges to Spanish rule began in 1761 when Spain involved herself in the Seven Years' War (1756-1763) declaring war on Great Britain. In 1762, colonial forces of the British East India Company captured Manila after a fierce struggle. In accordance with the 1763 Treaty of Paris ending the war between Great Britain against Spain and France, The Philippines was returned to Spain. Defeat from the hands of British however, inspired resistance from Filipino rebels such as Diego Silang who in 1762 expelled the Spanish from the coastal city of Vigan.
The islands' economy began to open up during the 19th century. The rise of an ambitious, more nationalistic Filipino middle class, consisting of educated native Filipinos, Philippine-born Spaniards and creoles, Spanish mestizos and an economically entrenched Chinese mestizo community, signaled the end of complete domination by the Spanish. Enlightened by the Propaganda Movement to the injustices of the Spanish colonial government, they clamored for independence. José Rizal, the most famous propagandist, was arrested and executed in 1896 for acts of subversion. Soon after, the Philippine Revolution broke out, pioneered by the KKK (Kataastaasan at Kagalang-galangang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan) or Katipunan, a secret revolutionary society founded by Andres Bonifacio and later led by Emilio Aguinaldo. The revolution nearly succeeded in ousting the Spanish by 1898.
That same year Spain and the United States fought the Spanish-American War, after which Spain ceded the Philippines, Cuba, Guam, and Puerto Rico to the United States for US $20 million through the Treaty of Paris. The Filipinos had by then declared independence, and this led to the Philippine-American War that officially ended in 1901, though sporadic fighting continued until 1913. The islands were made a U.S. territory with little self-government until 1935, when their status was upgraded to that of a U.S. Commonwealth. It was during the Commonwealth years that the Philippines sent to the United States House of Representatives a non-voting Delegate, much the same as the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the United States Virgin Islands currently do. Independence for the Philippines was finally granted in 1946, after the Japanese had occupied the islands during World War II. The following period was marred by post-war problems; civil unrest during the unpopular dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos, ousted in 1986; and later, the continuing problem of communist insurgency and Muslim separatism.
The Philippines was the most developed country in Asia immediately following World War II, but has since lagged behind other countries because of poor economic growth, government confiscation of wealth, widespread corruption, and neo-colonial influences. Currently, the country attains a moderate economic growth, buoyed by remittances by its large, diasporic overseas Filipino workforce and booming information technology.
The country's major problems include an ongoing Muslim separatist movement in southern Mindanao, the New People's Army communist insurgencies in rural areas, historically inconsistent government policies, rising crime levels, and environmental degradation such as rainforest depletion and marine and coastal pollution. The country also suffers from overpopulation in its urban centers due to lack of jobs in the rural areas and having a high birth rate, which is far above the replacement rate and until recently was one of the highest in all of Asia.