The Philippines was inhabited first by the Negritos, so named by the early Spanish explorers because of their dark complexions and small statures. Later waves of people arrived from present-day Taiwan, Malaysia and Indonesia. In 1521, Ferdinand Magellan landed in the Visayas and later met his demise during a dispute with indigenous people in Cebu. A later Spanish explorer named the archipelago after King Philip II. In 1565, Miguel Lopez de Legaspi established the first Spanish settlement in Cebu and in 1571 in Manila defeated the Muslim Rajah Sulayman, heralding over 300 years of Spanish rule.
The Spanish used the Philippines as a port and shipyard for the lucrative galleon trade. They also converted the native population to Catholicism, and today the Philippines remains Asia’s only predominantly Catholic country. In 1898, a revolution against Spanish rule brought about the establishment of the first Republic under General Emilio Aguinaldo. Independence was short lived, as the United States soon took control of the islands. It wasn’t until 1935 when the Philippines was granted autonomy, in preparation for full independence in 1946.

This plan was interrupted by World War II, as Japan occupied the Philippines between 1942 and 1945. Peace was finally declared in 1946. In the 1950s and 1960s, the country’s economy developed rapidly, with strong financial and military support from the United States. In 1965, Ferdinand Marcos was elected president and initiated substantial development projects. Facing political opposition and the end of his term, in 1972 he declared martial law and grew into an increasingly corrupt dictator. During the late days of his rule, economic growth slowed and much of the country’s wealth disappeared into the hands of his family and cronies. Throughout the late 1970s and 1980s, the country also suffered from communist and Muslim insurgencies in the south. Finally, in 1986, the People Power Revolution ousted Marcos and his family. Now more than twenty years after the revolution, the Philippines continues to aspire towards greater prosperity and political maturity.