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Comprised of 7,107 islands, the Philippine islands are found in the south of China, nestled between Borneo to the south and Taiwan to the north.  Even with so many thousands of islands, only about 2,000 are inhabited.  Additionally, just 500 of the islands are larger than one kilometer square.  Interestingly, just nine of the islands make up 90% of the land area, which include: Cebu, Leyte, Luzon, Mindanao, Mindoro, Negros, Palawan, Panay, and Samur.

 For the past two million years, the earth has completed 20 glaciation cycles, which are ice ages.  During this time, glaciers accumulate on land in the form of ice, which actually causes the world’s ocean levels to drop!  In fact, when the last ice age was at its peak, the ocean waters around the Philippine islands dropped around 50 meters lower than what you would find today. 

About 18,000 years ago, the climate of the earth began to warm.  Then around 8,000 years ago, the oceans finally started to regain the normal, high levels of water.  Another interesting fact about the Philippines is that pre-hominid or hominid species to include Australopithecus or Homo erectus have not been found.  Scientists estimate that humans did not arrive in the Philippines until 40,000 years ago around the same time they arrived in New Guinea and Australia. 

Similar to these two other countries, the Philippine islands never jointed to southeast, Asian mainland although when the tide was out and the ocean levels low, the water barrier was quite a bit less.  Archeologists found the first human remains on the island of Palawan around 22,000 B.P.  However, there were also tools found but these could be dated to somewhere around 30,000 B.P. 

Originally, people living in the Philippine islands were Aeta or Negritos ancestors.  Called Australo-Melanesians, they had dark skin and their hair was brown with very tight curls.  Their physical build was small and short.  Like Pygmies living in Africa, it was believed that the Aeta or Negritos easily adapted to the tropical jungles where they lived.  Famed for excellent hunting skills, these people would band together in small groups of family to find food.  These groups were very organized but had informal leadership. 

Although the Aeta and Negritos were typically found throughout the Philippines, today, you would only find them in the remote areas of the highlands such as Luzon, Mindanao, Negros, Palawan, and Panay. 

The Philippines had two completely different eras of colonial domination, consisting first of the Spaniards and then Americans.  Because of this, many people refer to the Philippines as “400 years in a convent and 50 years in Hollywood.”  Interestingly, each era started with naval actions with the first being in 1521. 

At this time, Ferdinand Magellan, a Spanish explorer, discovered the Philippines islands while enjoying a voyage around the world.  Unfortunately, for Magellan, he soon got involved with the local politics, which led to his murder by Lapu Lapu, a tribal chieftain that has since been honored as being the first Filipino to resist being ruled by anyone foreign. 

Until 1898, the Philippine islands were under the control of Spain at which time they became the only official overseas colony of the United States, second only to the victory led by Admiral George Dewey in the Manila Bay when the Spanish fleet were overcome.  Then, after the Spanish-American War, a United States Filipino war broke out.  This war did not end until the United States captured the Filipino leader, Emilio Aguinaldo while in negotiations.  Even so, Aguinaldo did extract a promise made in 1946 for independence.  This very promise remained in tact despite intervening occupation and war. 

One of the most well known aspects of Philippine history started in1965 when Ferdinand Marco was elected President, and then re-elected in 1969.  Because he was not permitted to seek a third term under the current constitution, martial law was declared in 1972 and the constitution rewritten.  For the following 15 years, the government under Marcos was considered one of the most corrupt ever in the entire world.  It is estimated that Marcos siphoned approximately $10 billion US from the Philippine treasury while at the same time, this part of Asia were living in the highest poverty level. 

With the people becoming more and more upset, an unscheduled election was called by Marcos in 1986.  As you can imagine, he lost although he had made quite an effort to take all the votes.  Now defeated, Marcos fled country and then just three short years later, died.  Although the ensuing leaders did make some progress in bringing the country out of such horrific disarray, it was again faced with corruption in 2001 when President Joseph Estrada was accused of embezzling millions of dollars. 

Removed from office, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo too office and made a vow to see to it that Estrada was brought to trial, although faced with violent opposition of his supporters.  Macapagal-Arroyo also had another item on her agenda – dealing with the Islamic terrorists that had been in operation in the south of the Philippines islands.  These terrorists had already kidnapped many people, sadly some being innocent tourists. 

Today, the islands are still breathtakingly beautiful and the people, warm and inviting.  Still just a small fraction of islands are inhabited but just as with many places around the globe, modern technology has helped move the islands forward and creating a better economy.  While many people travel to the Philippines for vacation because of the fabulous weather, pristine beaches, and tropical atmosphere, you do need to check before you travel to ensure there are no travel alerts.


 

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