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History of the Philippines for Kids

by Dell Markey

The Philippines is a nation made up of more than 7,000 islands in the Pacific Ocean off southeast Asia. The country has a diverse population made up of the descendants of Africans, Australians, Asians, Arabs and Europeans who migrated and settled there. Eight languages are spoken in the Philippines, with Filipino and English the most common.

Origins

According to Everyculture.com, Negritos -- a group of Africans living in Asia -- were likely the first settlers of the Philippine Islands. Chinese merchants developed towns there in the third century, followed by merchants from Japan, Arabia and the East Indies in the 14th century. Arab merchants introduced Islam to the southern Philippines in the 1380s. During this time, the Philippines were not a single nation with their own government. Individual towns were loosely ruled by the groups who lived there.

Spanish Colonial Period

According to World History Project, the first European to reach the Philippines was Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan in 1521 while he attempted to sail around the world. Shortly after that, Spain sent expeditions to conquer and colonize the island. Spain introduced Catholicism and a system in which landowners, who were mostly Spaniards, made all of the important decisions for everyone. The natives of the Philippines resented the Spanish rule and often fought many battles trying to gain their independence from Spain.

American Era

During the Spanish-American War, the United States provided weapons and aid to Filipinos who were fighting against the Spanish. When the United States won a major naval battle in Manila Bay in 1898, many Filipinos hoped they would be granted their independence. Instead, Spain gave the Philippines to the United States as part of the agreement that ended the war. Filipino rebels fought the Americans, but most made peace after their leader was captured and declared loyalty to the United States in 1902. The American government, for their part, agreed to give the Philippines independence by 1946.

World War II

In December, 1941, Japanese forces attacked the Philippines. Philippine and American forces fought back, but were unable to stop the Japanese from conquering the country. The Japanese promised the Philippines independence and set up a government made up of Filipinos who were willing to work with the Japanese. The Japanese military was cruel to the Filipino people. Many Filipinos continued to fight against the Japanese by using guerrilla warfare -- small, fast attacks designed to harass the enemy -- until U.S. and Philippine forces retook the Philippines in 1945.

The Republic of the Philippines

The United States granted independence to the Philippines on July 4, 1946, and the Republic of the Philippines was born. The Republic of the Philippines, however, recognizes June 12th -- the day rebels declared independence from Spain -- as their official independence day. The first president of the new republic was Manuel Roxas. Ferdinand Marcos was president of the Philippines longer than anyone else. He was elected in 1965, but in 1972 he stopped elections and used the military to rule the country until 1986. The reason he gave for stopping free elections was that Communist and Islamic rebels were attacking the country. In 1986, Marcos called for an election. He won the election, but many of the Filipinos believed he had cheated. Protests forced him to leave the country. Shortly afterward, Corazon Aquino became president of the Philippines. Since then, the Philippines has had regular elections and chosen its own leaders.

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