The Philippines is made up of 7,100 islands with many distinct cultures. For three hundred years, the Philippines was a colony of Spain. Despite speaking several different languages, 90 percent of the population share a common way of life and practice Christianity. The remaining 10 percent consists of many small groups, none of whom are Christian.
As early as 40,000 years ago, the first modern humans roamed the Philippines, which were then still linked to Asia by land bridges exposed during the Ice Age. Agriculturalists arrived from Taiwan between 3000 and 2000 BC . Some of their children and grandchildren migrated to colonize Indonesia, Madagascar, and the Pacific Islands.
The Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan (c.1480–1521) first visited the islands in 1521 on behalf of Spain. Spain saw the islands as a good place to build a base, and sent several expeditions. The Spanish brought the Catholic religion to the people of the islands, and European ways that had both good and bad results. Islanders frequent revolted against Spanish abuses. On the other hand, Catholic Filipinos stood with the Spanish against invaders and their own rebellious brethren.
In 1896, members of a secret society launched a revolution to end Spanish rule. On June 12, 1898, Filipinos proclaimed their independence. The United States moved to take possession of the islands for their strategic value. A war resulted, dragging on for years and causing the death of an estimated one million Filipinos. American rule introduced mass education in the English language. Japanese invasion and occupation of the Philippines during World War II (1939–45) devastated the country. The United States granted the Philippines independence in 1946.
For the next forty-five years, the Philippines struggled to establish a democratic government. The election of President Fidel Ramos in 1992 brought the country some stability and launched a period of economic growth.