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By Beachcomber, retrieved from Wikipedia
Nov 4, 2003, 07:54
The Republic of the Philippines is an island nation consisting of an archipelago of 7,107 islands, lying in the tropical western Pacific Ocean about 100 kilometers southeast of mainland Asia. Spain (1521-1898) and the United States (1898-1946), colonized the country and have been the largest influences on Philippine culture. It is, with Timor-Leste, one of the two predominantly Christian nations in Asia and one of the most westernized —a unique blend of East and West.
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, overpopulation and widespread corruption. Currently, the country attains a moderate economic growth, buoyed by remittances by its large, diasporic overseas Filipino workforce, booming information technology industry, and cheap labor in other sectors. The country's major problems include an ongoing Muslim separatist movement in southern Mindanao, communist insurgencies in the north, and environmental degradation due to rainforest depletion and marine and coastal pollution.
The Philippine Islands lie between 116° 40' and 126° and 34' E. longtitude, and 4° 40' and 21° 10' N. latitude. It is bordered on the east by the Philippine Sea, on the west by the South China Sea, and on the south by the Celebes Sea. The island of Borneo lies a few hundred kilometers to the southwest and Taiwan directly north. The Moluccas and Celebes are farther south and on the eastern side of the Philippine Sea is Palau.
Human fossil records indicate that the Philippines may have been inhabited for thousands of years. Its aboriginal population, collectively known as the Negritos or Aetas, crossed prehistoric land or ice bridges to eventually settle in the islands' lush forests. Successive waves of migrants from the Malay Peninsula and Indonesian archipelago, and from Indochina and Taiwan, began to pour in around the turn of the first millennium, pushing the aboriginal population into the interior or absorbing them through intermarriage.
Chinese merchants arrived in the 8th century. The rise of powerful Buddhist kingdoms precipitated trade with the Indonesian archipelago, India, Japan and Southeast Asia. Factional fighting among the kingdoms of Southeast Asia weakened their strength. In the meantime, the spread of Islam through commerce and proselytism, much like Christianity, brought traders and missionaries into the region; Arabs set foot in Mindanao in the 14th century. When the first Europeans arrived, led by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521, there were rajahs as far north as Manila, who historically were tributaries of the kingdoms of Southeast Asia. However, the islands were essentially self-sufficient and self-ruling.
The Spanish claimed and colonized the islands in the 16th century and named it Filipinas after King Felipe II. Roman Catholicism was immediately introduced and imposed, sparking deep resistance from tribal groups in the highlands and the Muslim separatism that rages on today. Sporadic rebellions and violence erupted in the coastal populations throughout the next three centuries in response to colonial abuses. The new territory was ruled from New Spain (Mexico) and a burgeoning galleon trade began in the 18th century.
In 1781, Governor José Basco y Vargas established the Economic Society of Friends of the Country and make it independent of New Spain
The country opened 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 Spanish colonialism in the islands. 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 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 to the United States for US$20 million. The Filipinos had by then declared independence and the subsequent assertion of American control led to the Philippine-American War that officially ended in 1901, but fighting continued well into 1913. Independence 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.
National Government. The government of the Philippines, loosely patterned after the American system, is organized as a representative republic, with the President functioning as both head of state and government, as well as being the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The president is elected by popular vote to a term of 6 years, during which he or she appoints and presides over the cabinet.
The bicameral Philippine legislature, the Congress, consists of the Senate and the House of Representatives; members of both are elected by popular vote. There are 24 senators serving 6 years in the Senate while the House of Representatives consists of no more than 250 congressmen each serving 3-year terms.
The judiciary branch of the government is headed by the Supreme Court, which has a Chief Justice as its head and 14 Associate Justices, all appointed by the president.
International Relations. The Philippines is a founding and prominent member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). It is also an active participant of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), a member of the Group of 24 and one of the 51 founding members of the United Nations on October 24, 1945.
Local Government. The Philippines is divided into a hierarchy of local government units (LGUs) with the province as the primary unit. As of 2002, there are 79 provinces in the country. Provinces are further subdivided into cities and municipalities, which are in turn, composed of barangays. The barangay is the smallest local government unit.
All provinces are grouped into 17 regions for administrative convenience. Most government offices establish regional offices to serve the constituent provinces. The regions themselves do not possess a separate local government, with the exception of the Muslim Mindanao and Cordillera regions, which are autonomous.
The Philippines constitute an archipelago of 7,107 islands with a total land area of approximately 300,000 km². The islands are commonly divided into three groups: Luzon (Regions I to V + NCR & CAR), Visayas (VI to VIII), and Mindanao (IX to XIII + ARMM). The busy port of Manila, on Luzon, is the country's capital and second-largest city after Quezon City.
The local climate is hot, humid, and tropical. The average yearly temperature is around 26.5° Celsius. Filipinos generally recognise three seasons: Tag-init or Tag-araw (the hot season or summer from March to May), Tag-ulan (the rainy season from June to November), and Tag-lamig (the cold season from December to February).
Most of the mountainous islands used to be covered in tropical rainforests and are volcanic in origin. The highest point is Mount Apo on Mindanao at 2,954 m. Many volcanoes in the country, such as Mount Pinatubo, are active. The country is also astride the typhoon belt of the Western Pacific and is struck by about 19 typhoons per year.
In 1998 the Philippine economy — a mixture of agriculture, light industry, and supporting services — deteriorated as a result of spillover from the Asian financial crisis and poor weather conditions. Growth fell to 0.6% in 1998 from 5% in 1997, but recovered to about 3% in 1999 and 4% in 2000. The government has promised to continue its economic reforms to help the Philippines match the pace of development in the newly industrialised countries of East Asia.
The strategy includes improving infrastructure, overhauling the tax system to bolster government revenues, furthering deregulation and privatisation of the economy, and increasing trade integration with the region. Prospects for the future depend heavily on the economic performance of the two major trading partners, the United States and Japan.
According to government statistics and current census data, some 95% of the population is ethnically Malay, descendants of immigrants from the Malay Peninsula and Indonesian archipelago, and the most significant ethnic minority group are the Chinese, who have played an important role in commerce since the 9th century. Mestizos, Filipinos of mixed race, form a tiny (2%) but economically and politically important minority. Small communities of expatriates (both Asian and Western), and Negrito forest tribes that inhabit the more remote areas of Mindanao and Zambales, constitute the remainder.
To avoid constant conflict and disputes, other data compiled from a source which as yet remains unnamed will be mentioned. This unnamed source has placed the Malay component of the demographics of the Philippines to a reduced 70% of the population from the 95% agreed upon by Filipino government sources, recent Filipino census data and international static agencies. The remaining 30% is then claimed to be distributed by people of the following ancestries; Spanish 3% (c. 2.5 million); Indian 5% (c. 4.3 million); Arab 3% (c. 2.5 million); Chinese 10% (c. 8.6 million); Americans of any race 1% (c. 860 thousand); aboriginal Negrito 1% (c. 860 thousand); Japanese 1% (c. 860 thousand), other non-Malay tribal populations 5% (c. 4.3 million); all others 1% (c. 860 thousand).
The people of the Philippines are known as Filipinos. Throughout the colonial era the term "Filipino" originally referred to the Spanish and Spanish-mestizo minority. The definition, however, was later changed to include the entire population of the Philippines regardless of ethnic origin. The Philippines is the most ethnically diverse country in Asia.
In the 100 years since the 1903 Census of the Philippines, the population has grown by a factor of eleven.
Foreign languages spoken include English, Chinese (Mandarin,Hokkien, and Cantonese),Arabic (among some members of the Muslim population), and Spanish which ceased to be an official language in 1973 and is now spoken by less than 0.01% of the population; 2,658 speakers (1990 Census).
Since 1939, in an effort to develop national unity, the government has promoted the use of the official national language, Filipino, which is based on Tagalog. Filipino is taught in all schools and is gaining acceptance, particularly as a second language for a diverse population. English is seen as the second official language and is used extensively in government, education and commerce.
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Throughout Filipino history, no distinct national cultural identity was shaped. The reason for this was partly due to the existence of an exorbitant number of languages spoken throughout the country, estimated today to be around 80 distinct languages, in addition to each of their many different dialects. The isolation between neighbouring populations — whether from village to village or island to island — also greatly contributed to this lack of a unified identity.
In addition, the classical literature (José Rizal, Pedro Paterno) and historical documents (national anthem, Constitución Política de Malolos), was written in Spanish, which ceased to be an official language. The Philippine writers (Claro Mayo Recto is the most important of them), continued writing in Spanish until 1946.
Nowadays, rather than being national in nature, the cultural development of the Philippines had been local. Despite this and despite their variety, a common aspect that most Filipino cultural traditions share today is that they have all been enriched and influenced both by Asia and the West, from China, Malaysia, Spain and the United States, to Islam and Christianity.
Baroque Churches of the Philippines and Historic Town of Vigan are the cultural World Heritage Sites. However, during World War II, much of the city of Intramuros was destroyed.
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