When Magellan came upon the island of Homonhon in 1521, he claimed these islands in the name of king Philip II of Spain and named them Felipinas, the Philippines. Little did he know then the treasures of those yet unexplored isles, a bounty of verdant mountains rich with gold and ore, of emerald islands ringed with meandering beaches, of forests alive with wondrous flora and fauna, of fertile lands, spectacular sunsets and temperate climes which have bred a warm, smiling people who would be known the world over for their overwhelming hospitality.

Indeed, the early Filipinos were accustomed to welcoming visitors to their shores. When the second wave of Spanish conquistadores started converting and colonizing these islands, they found well-developed settlements conducting trade relations with the Chinese, the Arabs, and other Islamic seafaring merchants.

Recognizing the potential of these strategically located islands, the Spaniards established a colonial government in Manila in 1571 and from here, ruled the country and the galleon trade for nearly 333 years. Though peaceful by nature, the freedom-loving Filipinos resisted, and staged Asia's first nationalistic revolution in 1896. After several attempts, the Philippines declared her first independence on June 12, 1898.

This republic was short-lived, however-the Americans took over. They introduced, among other things American, the democratic process, public education and infrastructure. World War II interrupted the course of events, and the Japanese captured the Philippines. The Americans liberated the islands in 1945, and recognized Philippine independence on July 4, 1946.

The years of foreign domination have molded a people resilient to change, a people who have assimilated foreign cultural influences and blended them into their own to create one distinct from any other in the world. From the Spaniards, the Filipinos have cultivated a deep sense of religiosity, combining this with primeval, animistic beliefs to produce some of the world's most passionate and ritualistic religious celebrations. From the years of American rule, they have adopted the democratic form of government and have acquired a flair for the English language. The Philippines is the third largest English-speaking nation in the world, and Filipinos place a premium on college education. They have taken the G.I. jeep, transforming it into a colorful, uniquely-Filipino means of public transport-the jeepney.

The Philippines is divided into three major island groupings -- Luzon in the north, Mindanao in the south, and in between, the Visayas. Metro Manila, in Luzon, is the seat of government, and the heart of the country's business, economic, social and cultural activity. It is the major crossroads of international trade and commerce.

Hospitality is a by-word in every Filipino home, a trait reflected in the warm welcome accorded visitors. In major cities and towns all over the country, first-class accommodations and facilities, modern shopping centers, and an endless selection of international cuisines conspire to make the visitor feel perfectly at home.

( © 1996) Produced by Filweb for the Department of Tourism, San Francisco

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