The Philippines indigenous peoples originated in Southeast Asia, probably from the Malay peninsula. A variety of political structures existed, from tribal societies to small monarchies ruled by princes. Early on, commercial links were established between the Philippines and places such as China and the East Indies. The first known European to arrive were led by the explorer Magellan in 1521 (he was actually killed there). Four decades later, the Spanish began their conquest of the region. Manila dates back to 1571 and the city quickly became an important stop for trade between the Orient and Mexico. Though the Philippines had long been Muslim, the Spanish managed to convert nearly the entire population to Christianity (except for some of the southwestern area, where Islam continued to thrive). Though the Spanish empire viewed the Philippines as important, their rule was semi-eclipsed by the Catholic Church which became both wealthy and powerful in the Philippines. Eventually, the islands passed from Spanish rule to US control (after the Spanish American War in 1898) and after the US suppressed the Philippines initial bid for independence in a bloody six-year conflict, independence was finally granted in 1946. Politically, the Philippines has faced some rocky times in the second half of the 20th century. Ferdinand Marcos became president in 1966 and proceeded to concentrate extraordinary power in that office (he also extended it to his wife, Imelda). Corruption, poverty, and general unrest worsened until Marcos was forced to flee the country in 1986. Mrs. Corazon Aquino, widow of marcos opposition leader Benito, was declared president. Her decision not to run for reelection in 1992 resulted in an election victory for Fidel Ramos. The economy of the Philippines has been strong, emerging relatively unscathed from the Asian crisis of 1997-98. In 1999, Joseph Estrada was elected president.

More History