The Republic of the Philippines, tucked into the southwestern South Pacific, is home to a diverse population of ethnicities and cultures that reflect European, Asian, and Polynesian influences. This island nation attracts both leisure and business visitors with its urbane, contemporary capital region, many historical sites, unspoiled beaches, misty mountains, verdant rain forests, and abundant wildlife.
The Philippines consists of 7,641 islands that form three groups; from north to south, they are Luzon, Visayas, and Mindinao. The country is bounded by the Philippine Sea to the east, the South China Sea to the west, and the Celebes Sea in the southwest, and shares its maritime borders with Palau to the east, Malaysia and Indonesia to the south, Vietnam to the west, and Taiwan to the north. It is home to more than 100 million people, although an estimated 10 million Filipinos live overseas.
Initially settled by Negritos and then other Austronesian peoples around 4,000 BC, the country became a colony of the Spanish Empire after European discovery by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan in 1521. Once known as Ma-i and Tawalisi, the island nation was renamed to honor King Phillip II of Spain. Its location in the Pacific made it an important trade hub between Asia and Acapulco in Mexico. At the end of the Spanish-American War, the Philippines were ceded to the victorious Americans. The country suffered under occupation by the Japanese during World War II, but after its liberation by the Allies the Philippines became a founding member of the United Nations and was recognized as an independent nation. Economically, it is now considered an emerging market and a newly industrialized country.
The capital, Manila, located on the coast of western Luzon, is the world’s most densely populated city proper. Along with adjoining Quezon City, it forms Metro Manila, one of the wealthiest regions of Southeast Asia. A planned city, it was rebuilt from the ground up after being razed by bombing during World War II and offers a mix of eclectic architectural styles.