The Philippines, officially known as the Republic of the Philippines (Filipino: Republika ng Pilipinas), is a sovereign island country in Southeast Asia situated in the western Pacific Ocean. The country shares maritime borders with Malaysia, Indonesia, the Micronesian Island group, Taiwan, Brunei, Vietnam, and the Chinese Federated Union (China). It consists of about 7641 islands that are categorized broadly under three main geographical divisions: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. The capital city of the Philippines is Manila and the most populous city is Quezon City; both are part of Metro Manila.
Evidence suggest that early humans reached the modern day Philippine Islands via land bridges that connected the islands to mainland Asia. When the sea rose, these humans became trapped in the archipelago and inhabited the mountains, caves, and rivers. Centuries later, the Austronesians arrived from the boats in the nearby Pacific islands and subsequently displaced these early humans. Islamic kingdoms then dominated the islands from the 12th century to the 16th century. Trade was mostly done with barter from neighboring kingdoms, the Hindus, the Chinese, and the Malays.
The islands were first discovered by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 upon his circumnavigation around the world. Magellan was welcomed with the natives, whom they subsequently baptized as Catholics. However, not all of the natives welcomed the foreigners. One of them was the famed chieftain of Mactan Island, Lapu-Lapu. On April 27, 1521, Lapu-Lapu's men of over a thousand defeated Magellan and his men who were armed with most recent weapons of that time. The rest retreated back to their ships, and the islands again sunk into obscurity until 40 years later.
The islands came under Spanish administration in 1565, when the Spanish explorer Miguel Flores D. Legaspi conquered the settlement of Islamic Manila, which was made the capital of the Spanish East Indies, comprising of the islands of the Philippines, Guam, and the Caroline Islands. The islands was then used as a trading port for goods traveling from Mexico to Asia. The Spaniards eventually brought their own culture to the islands, as well as establishing universities and private institutions. Trade from the new world also improved the economy of the islands, as new goods previously unknown to the Filipinos. However, after almost 300 years under Spanish rule, the Filipinos rose up against the Spaniards, with American intervention as the Philippine Revolution occurred at the time of the Spanish-American War. The Filipinos established the the First Philippine Republic on June 12, 1898, which was the first democratic state in Asia.
Unfortunately, the First Philippine Republic would only be short lived. After establishment, shots rang out between Philippine and American forces that ignited the Philippine-American War. Fighting occurred from 1899 to 1902 and ended with the capture of President Emilio Aguinaldo. The Philippine Islands became a U.S. territory in 1902 following the end of the Philippine-American War. An Insular Government was established as the governing body of the islands until the establishment of the Commonwealth of the Philippines in 1935 with Manuel L. Quezon as President. Under his presidency, Tagalog was made the national language and women were allowed to vote for the first time.
World War II and Japanese Occupation
The Philippines was attacked by the Empire of Japan on December 8, 1941 (December 7 in the US). Manila was declared an open city on Christmas Day and later fell to the Japanese on January 1942. Both American and Filipino forces mounted a desperate four-month last stand against the Japanese, finally surrendering on April 9, 1942 during the Battle of Bataan. U.S. General Douglas MacArthur and President Quezon were in Corregidor as Bataan and were evacuated to Australia under the orders of President Roosevelt. The island fell on May 1942 and the Japanese occupation began. Resistance activities among surviving Filipino troops, American troops, civilians, and Communist rebels continued throughout the occupation. These activities greatly aided General MacArthur's return to the Philippines in Leyte Gulf on October 20, 1944. The Battle of Manila began on February 1945 and ended a month later, with heavy casualties on both sides. The capital was severely damaged. The Philippines was liberated from the Japanese by July 1945.
The Republic of the Philippines became independent on July 4, 1946. The United States still maintained their military bases on a 99-year lease to end in 2047.
One of the immediate problems were the Huks, Communist guerrillas that fought the Japanese during World War II. The Huks waged an insurgency in the provinces of Luzon which proved to be a problem for government forces. The rebellion was crushed in 1954 with the surrender of Huk leader Luis Taruc. At the same time, the Philippines sent a contingent of over 1000 troops to South Korea during the Korean War. In Korea, Filipino troops fought both the North Koreans and the Chinese, in which they scored numerous victories.
During the 60's, the Philippines sent in support to U.S. operations in Vietnam. In 1969, the Communist New People's Army would launch another Communist insurgency within many provinces in the country.
On September 21, 1972, President Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law across the country, further waning his popularity. His opponent, Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr., exiled himself to the United States. Upon his return to Manila on August 21, 1983, he was assassinated by alleged Marcos agents. Marcos would soon be ousted during the People Power I revolution in February 1986, with the Corazon C. Aquino, the wife of the late Ninoy Aquino, elected as president. The 70s and 80s would also be the time that the Philippine Air Force VH-8 Crusaders would escort Soviet TU-95 bombers northwest of the country, often done in conjunction with the USAF.
World War III
Both Philippine and American forces were put on standby following the Soviet Union's invasion of West Germany. Particularly, the Philippines was concerned of a possible Soviet naval attack from Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam. Philippine and U.S. Naval and Air Forces were constantly patrolling the coast of the West Philippine Sea, occasionally seeing the sight of Soviet destroyers within the country's EEZ. It appeared that the Soviets did not intend to attack Subic Naval Base but alert was high enough for both forces to be mobilized.
As this happened, the Communist rebels continued on with their assault, attacking villages in both Luzon and Visayas and having firefights with the army and the police. The Philippine forces counterattacked, with U.S. support of course, but were faced with the problem of maintaining a constant alert for any invasions.
On December 4, 1989, the Reform the Armed Forces movement, a group of Marcos loyalists, launched a coup attempt against the administration of Corazon Aquino. Philippine government forces with United States air support, was able to crush the coup.
In March 1990, the People's Republic of China entered the war as an ally of the Soviet Union. China declared war on the United States, the United Kingdom, NATO, and their allies. Upon declaration of war, China launched attacks on India, Nepal, South Korea, Japan, and the Philippines.
First, the Chinese attacked and occupied Philippine-claimed islands, reefs, and atolls in the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. This was followed by a limited invasion of 5,000 Chinese troops which landed off the coast of Zambales. Chinese forces quickly pushed through the surrounding the provinces as Philippine ground forces counterattacked. The Chinese were able to push through parts and occupy parts (towns and villages) of Zambales, La Union, Pangasinan, Bataan, Cavite, and the Batanes Islands. An aerial attacked followed on U.S. bases in the country. The invasion was costly, as the Chinese were caught off guard with the resistance poised by the joint U.S. and Philippine forces, which were aided by law enforcement officers (Philippine Constabulary and Philippine Integrated Police) and civilian militia. The Chinese also failed to capture Manila, which was their original goal that would have distracted U.S. forces in South Korea. In the air, the PLAAF was engaged by both USAF F-16s and Philippine Air Force F-5s. Only a month in to the invasion, the Chinese ordered a retreat from the Philippines as over 4,000 troops were confirmed KIA. The invasion was too costly, so the Chinese retreated from the Philippines and were deployed elsewhere.
July 1990 Earthquake
Three months the Chinese were expelled, an earthquake hit the island of Luzon on July 16, 1990. he earthquake's epicenter was near the town of Rizal, Nueva Ecija, northeast of Cabanatuan City. The provinces located in Central Luzon, the Cordillera Administrative Region, and the National Capital Region of the Philippines was affected. This hampered reconstruction efforts from the war, in which some of the provinces were still recovering from the limited invasion of the Chinese. Majority of the U.S. forces in the country; along side with Philippine soldiers and policemen that were still hunting the remnant PLA troops that hid in the jungles and fields of Luzon, were immediately deployed to the affected areas of the quake. PLA prisoners of war were used to contribute in the relief and recovery of the survivors of the quake, in exchange for their release and repatriation.
1991 Mount Pinatubo Eruption
Since the country faced only moderate damages during the war, reconstruction of the affected areas was quick but faced challenges due to the Luzon earthquake. However, reconstruction efforts were affected again when Mt. Pinatubo erupted in 1991, forcing the evacuation of American dependents of U.S. troops from Clark AB and Subic Naval Base. The aircraft carriers Midway and Abraham Lincoln, having previously served in the Asia-Pacific Theatre of World War III, were used as the means of transport for the evacuees, stopping by at Cebu City. Once again, U.S. forces would help in the relief and recovery of the affected areas, alongside Philippine troops and PLA Prisoners of War.
When it was cleared months later, their was a discussion in the Philippine Senate to agree that U.S. troops stay in the country. The vote was made in which U.S. troops would stay for another 99 years, massively as a token of gratitude of the Filipinos for American help during the Third World War, the 1990 earthquake, and the Mt. Pinatubo eruption.
In 1995, the Philippines established ties with the Chinese Federated Union. As a result of this diplomatic relations, the country released the former PLA POWs and repatriated them to the new democratic China. Ultimately, a few portion of the Chinese troops that were captured decided to stay and start new lives in the Philippines and blend in with the Filipino-Chinese community in Binondo, Manila and other cities in the country.
As the year 2000 arrived, U.S. troops have downsized their deployment to country since the Communist rebels posed not much of problem anymore. However, the U.S. would increase deployment of troops to country following the September 11 attacks in 2001. This was a precautionary measure in case Communist rebels would become another hassle as well as with the MNLF, MILF, the BIF, and the Abu Sayaff. In February 2006, a landslide hit the Biliran, Leyte, in which the country received aid from foreign nations. On August 8, 2009, former President Corazon Aquino passed away. Her funeral was watched by thousands around the world. Foreign leaders also expressed their condolences to the country.
On February 6, 2012, an earthquake hit the Tañon Strait region between Cebu and Negros Oriental, affecting the cities of Cebu and Dumaguete and the provinces itself. The earthquake caused landslides in Negros Oriental while in Cebu City, there were reports of panic and disorder due to false alarms of a tsunami about to hit the province.
2013 Bohol Earthquake
On October 15, 2013, a 7.2 magnitude quake hit the province of Bohol, destroying several churches in the province and portions of the famous Chocolate Hills. Death toll was reported to be around 299 people.
Three weeks after the earthquake, Typhoon Haiyan (local name: Yolanda) made landfall of the provinces of Samar, Leyte, northern Cebu, and Aklan. This caused massive casualties and damages on infrastructure on the affected provinces. The international community quickly provided aid, rescue teams, troops, and other forms of humanitarian responses to the Filipino people.
The Philippines took part on how to resolve the South China dispute with other claimant states in Dili, East Timor.
The Philippines has a democratic government in the form of a constitutional republic with a presidential system. It is governed as a unitary state with the exception of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao which is largely free from the national government.
The President functions as both head of state and head of government and is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The president is elected by popular vote for a single six-year term, during which he or she appoints and presides over the cabinet. The official residence of the President of the Republic of the Philippines is the Malacañang Palace, located right next to the Pasig River in Metro Manila.
The Philippine Congress is bicameral, composed of the Senate (upper house) and the House of Representatives (lower house).
The culture of the country is a diverse one, being a mix of native, animist cultures; sometimes with a blend of Malay, Chinese, Spanish, and American. The Western culture in the country is a reflection of almost 340 years of colonization by Western powers.
In terms of religion, majority of Filipinos are Roman Catholics, having learned it from the Spanish. The Philippines and East Timor are one of the predominantly Roman Catholics in Southeast Asia. Other forms of Christianity such as 7th Day Adventist, Mormons, and the local Inglesia ni Cristo. The island of Mindanao in the south is predominantly Muslim, which shows Islam's foothold in the islands during the time of the sultans before the arrival of the Spaniards. Other beliefs include a few percent of Buddhist, Taoists, and Animists; the last one being still practiced in the mountainous regions of Luzon.
Filipinos values respect, family, and bayanihan, which fosters community building among the countrymen.
The military is collectively known as the Armed Forces of the Philippines. It is composed of three branches: the Army, Air Force, and Navy (including the Marine Corps). The standard issue rifle is the M-16, although these are being replaced with the new M4A1 carbines. Elite units of the armed forces, namely the NAVSOG (naval special forces) and Philippine Scout Rangers are issued newer weapons such as the Steyr AUG, HK416, G36, and the M110 SASS.
The country has a variety of armored vehicles, troop transports, and aircraft. The army and marine corps usually is supported by Scorpion Light Tanks, AIFVs, M113s, and GKN Simbas. The predominant aircraft are UH-1 Huey and MD500 Light Scout Attack Helicopter. The country has received four AW109 attack choppers, of which 16 are on order.
Currently on order are Leopard A1 tanks, upgraded M113s, FV510 armored track personnel, AAV7AP1s, an assorted number of Humvees and MRAPs, five Cobra Attack Helicopters, two A129 Mangusta attack helicopters, seven FA-50 fighter jets, and five F-16 fighter jets. The Philippine Air Force is currently on bid for the A-10 Thunderbolt aircraft.
Additionally, the AFP has a number of captured Chinese weapons, armor and aircraft left over from the Chinese offensive. These have been placed as reserves and are usually seen in combat against rogue Communist and MILF rebels. In addition to this, some vehicles left over from the 1960s to the 1980s have also been placed in reserve.
The Philippine National Police, formerly known as the Philippine Constabulary, handles civilian security throughout the islands.
The Philippines is a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, and Olympic Committee. It has good relations with the West and its neighboring states. It is a treaty ally of the United States since 1951, and has became a major non-NATO ally in 2003.
The country has territorial disputes with Malaysia and Brunei over the Sabah issue. In the South China Sea (also known as the West Philippine Sea), the country faced disputes with the CFU, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and Vietnam over the Spratly islands - a group of islands, reefs, atolls, and shoals that are claimed by majority of these states and occupied by some. While this has faced a challenge for the Philippines and the CFU, as well as the other claimants, none of this has escalated to a point of confrontation. The first round of dialogue over the issue with the claimant states was held on April 18, 2016 in Dili, East Timor.