The Philippines ( fi-lə-peenz; Filipino: Pilipinas [ˌpɪlɪˈpinɐs]), officially known as the Republic of the Philippines (Filipino: Repúblika ng Pilipinas), is a sovereign island country in Southeast Asia situated in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan; west across the South China Sea sits Vietnam; southwest is the island of Borneo across the Sulu Sea, and to the south the Celebes Sea separates it from other islands of Indonesia; while to the east it is bounded by the Philippine Sea and the island-nation of Palau. Its location on the Pacific Ring of Fire and close to the equator make the Philippines prone to earthquakes and typhoons, but also endows it with abundant natural resources and some of the world’s greatest biodiversity. At 300,000 square kilometers (115,831 sq mi), the Philippines is the 64th-largest country in the world, consisting of an archipelago of 7,107 islands that are categorized broadly under three main geographical divisions: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. Its capital city is Manila while its most populous city is Quezon City; both are part of Metro Manila.
With a population of at least 99 million people, the Philippines is the seventh-most populated country in Asia and the 12th most populated country in the world. An additional 12 million Filipinos live overseas, comprising one of the world’s largest and most influential diasporas. Multiple ethnicities and cultures are found throughout the islands. In prehistoric times, Negritos were some of the archipelago’s earliest inhabitants. They were followed by successive waves of Austronesian peoples who came from Malay, Indian, and Islamic states. Various nations were established under the rule of Datus, Rajahs, Sultans or Lakans. Trade with China also introduced Chinese culture and settlement, which remain present to this day.
The arrival of Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 marked the beginning of an era of Spanish interest and eventual colonization. In 1543, Spanish explorer Ruy López de Villalobos named the archipelago Las Islas Filipinas in honor of Philip II of Spain. The Spanish Empire began to settle with the arrival of Miguel López de Legazpi from New Spain (present day Mexico) in 1565 who established the first Spanish settlement in the archipelago, which remained a Spanish colony for more than 300 years. This resulted in the predominant religion in the country to be Roman Catholicism and it is one of two countries in Asia; the other being East Timor. During this time, Manila became the Asian hub of the Manila–Acapulco galleon trade.
As the 19th century gave way to the 20th, there followed in quick succession the Philippine Revolution, which spawned the short-lived First Philippine Republic; the Spanish–American War; and the Philippine–American War. In the aftermath, the United States emerged as the dominant power; aside from the period of Japanese occupation, the United States retained sovereignty over the islands. After World War II, the Treaty of Manila recognised the Philippine Republic as an independent nation. Since then, the Philippines has had an often tumultuous experience with democracy, with popular “people power” movements overthrowing a dictatorship in one instance, but also underlining the institutional weaknesses of its constitutional republic in others. The Philippines currently has one of Asia’s fastest growing economies, and the nation’s large population size and economic potential have led it to be classified as a middle power.
The name Philippines is named in honor of King Philip II of Spain. Spanish explorer Ruy López de Villalobos during his expedition in 1542 named the islands of Leyte and Samar Felipinas after the then Prince of Asturias. Eventually the name Las Islas Filipinas would be used to cover all the islands of the archipelago. Before that became commonplace, other names such as Islas del Poniente (Islands of the West) and Magellan’s name for the islands San Lázaro were also used by the Spanish to refer to the islands.
The official name of the Philippines has changed several times in the course of the country’s history. During the Philippine Revolution, the Malolos Congress proclaimed the establishment of the República Filipina or the Philippine Republic. From the period of the Spanish–American War (1898) and the Philippine–American War (1899–1902) until the Commonwealth period (1935–46), American colonial authorities referred to the country as the Philippine Islands, a translation of the Spanish name. From the 1898 Treaty of Paris, the name Philippines began to appear and it has since become the country’s common name. Since the end of World War II, the official name of the country has been the Republic of the Philippines.