|Background: The Philippines were ceded by Spain to the US in
1898 following the Spanish-American War. They attained their independence
in 1946 after being occupied by the Japanese in World War II. The 21-year
rule of Ferdinand MARCOS ended in 1986 when a widespread popular rebellion
forced him into exile. In 1992, the US closed down its last military bases
on the islands. The Philippines has had two electoral presidential
transitions since Marcos' removal by "people power." In January
2001, the Supreme Court declared Joseph ESTRADA unable to rule in view of
mass resignations from his government and administered the oath of office
to Vice President Gloria MACAPAGAL-ARROYO as his constitutional successor.
The government continues to struggle with ongoing Muslim insurgencies in
Government type: republic
Currency: 1 Philippine peso (P) = 100 centavos
Geography of the Philippines
Location: Southeastern Asia, archipelago between the Philippine Sea and the
South China Sea, east of Vietnam
People of the Philippines
The majority of Philippine people are of Malay stock, descendants of Indonesians and Malays who migrated to the islands long before the Christian era. The most significant ethnic minority group is the Chinese, who have played an important role in commerce since the ninth century, when they first came to the islands to trade. As a result of intermarriage, many Filipinos have some Chinese and Spanish ancestry. Americans and Spaniards constitute the next largest alien minorities in the country.
About 90% of the people are Christian; most were converted and Westernized to varying degrees during nearly 400 years of Spanish and American rule. The major non-Hispanicized groups are the Muslim population, concentrated in the Sulu Archipelago and in central and western Mindanao, and the mountain groups of northern Luzon. Small forest tribes live in the more remote areas of Mindanao.
About 87 native languages and dialects are spoken, all belonging to the Malay-Polynesian linguistic family. Of these, eight are the first languages of more than 85% of the population. The three principal indigenous languages are Cebuano, spoken in the Visayas; Tagalog, predominant in the area around Manila; and Ilocano, spoken in northern Luzon. Since 1939, in an effort to develop national unity, the government has promoted the use of the national language, Pilipino, which is based on Tagalog. Pilipino is taught in all schools and is gaining acceptance, particularly as a second language.
English, the most important nonnative language, is used as a second language by many, including nearly all professionals, academics, and government workers. Only a few Filipino families retain Spanish usage.
Despite this multiplicity of languages, the Philippines has one of the highest literacy rates in the East Asian and Pacific area. About 90% of the population 10 years of age and older are literate.
Population: 87,857,473 (July 2005 est.)
SOURCES: The World Factbook, U.S. Department of State
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