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History of Philippines

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Negritos and Indons were already living on other islands when Malay peoples migrated from Borneo to Panay Island in the 13th century. Malay fiefdoms spread throughout the islands, including Luzon, and were often at war with one another. Muslim missionaries gained a presence in the 14thand 15th centuries among Malays who had spread south to the island of Mindanao.

Magellan, the islands’ first Western contact, encountered in1521 the warring fiefdoms of the north and the Islamic society of the south. He claimed the entire area for Spain. China, Japan, and other countries tried to conquer the Philippines, but Spain maintained control for nearly four hundred years. José Rizal, writer and patriot, helped inspire a revolt against Spain in 1896. Spain lost a war to the United States and turned the Philippines (not a part of the original conflict) over to U.S. control in 1899. Preferring self-rule, the Filipinos, led by Emilio Aguinaldo, tried to repulse U.S. troops. Internal strife continued until 1901, when U.S. control formally began. Japan invaded the Philippines in 1941 and remained until U.S. forces returned near the end of World War II.

On 4 July 1946, the Philippines became an independent republic, but the United States maintained a military presence until 1992. Through the 1960s, unrest over inequality between landowners and tenant farmers threatened government stability and inspired revolutionary movements that remained active well into the 1990s. In 1972, President Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law and ruled by decree, effectively controlling all opposition until 1986. During the Marcos regime, corruption increased and the standard of living for the poor did not improve.

The peaceful People’s Power Revolution drove Marcos from power in 1986. His elected rival, Corazon Aquino, took office and tried to reform the government and economy. Unable to reach many of her goals, she did not run for reelection in 1992, but elections were peaceful and democratic. Aquino’s successor, Fidel V. Ramos, inherited a weak and inefficient system during a time when the country was plagued by natural disasters. However, his success at meeting these challenges allowed candidates loyal to him to win majorities in both houses of Congress in 1995. Ramos negotiated a 1996peace agreement with the Muslim separatist Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), ending 26 years of conflict; however, fighting with other splinter separatist groups continues.

Elections in 1998 brought Joseph Estrada to the presidency, but charges of corruption forced him to relinquish his position to the vice president, Gloria Arroyo, in January 2001. Arroyo was reelected in May 2004 and withstood the opposition’s attempt to impeach her on charges of corruption and electoral fraud in 2005. Other challenges that have faced her administration include a lackluster economy, hostage crises, natural disasters, and separatist and religious violence.


“Republic of the Philippines.” CultureGrams World Edition. 2008.

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