Philippine Islands became a Spanish colony during the 16th century;
they were ceded to the US in 1898 following the Spanish-American War.
In 1935 the Philippines became a self-governing commonwealth. Manuel
Quezon was elected president and was tasked with preparing the country
for independence after a 10-year transition. In 1942 the islands fell
under Japanese occupation during WWII, and US forces and Filipinos
fought together during 1944-45 to regain control. On 4 July 1946 the
Republic of the Philippines attained its independence. The 20-year rule
of Ferdinand Marcos ended in 1986, when a "people power" movement in
Manila ("EDSA 1") forced him into exile and installed Corazon Aquino as
president. Her presidency was hampered by several coup attempts, which
prevented a return to full political stability and economic
development. Fidel Ramos was elected president in 1992 and his
administration was marked by greater stability and progress on economic
reforms. In 1992, the US closed its last military bases on the islands.
Joseph Estrada was elected president in 1998, but was succeeded by his
vice-president, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, in January 2001 after
Estrada's stormy impeachment trial on corruption charges broke down and
another "people power" movement ("EDSA 2") demanded his resignation.
Macapagal-Arroyo was elected to a six-year term as president in May
2004. The Philippine Government faces threats from three terrorist
groups on the US Government's Foreign Terrorist Organization list, but
in 2006 and 2007 scored some major successes in capturing or killing
key wanted terrorists. Decades of Muslim insurgency in the southern
Philippines have led to a peace accord with one group and an ongoing
cease-fire and peace talks with another.
The two official languages are Filipino and English
; there are also eight major
, Ilocano, Hiligaynon or
Ilonggo, Bicol, Waray, Pampango, and Pangasinan.