1. Overview

o      Population

o      Landscapes

o      Climate

2.  Development Through Time

o      Pre-Colonial Life

o      Spanish Colonial Period

o      American Colonial Period

o      Japanese Occupation

·        Independence

3.      Demographic Analysis based on Population Data Sheet

·        Population Growth

·        Under 15 / Over 65

·        Infant Mortality

·        Percent Urban

·        GNI PPP

4.      Human Setting

o      Language

o      Religion

o      Urban Society

o      Rural Society

5.  Modern Philippines

o      American Military Withdrawal

o      Economy

o      Problems

6.  References

7.  Review Questions


The Philippines also known as the Republic of the Philippines is inhabited by 88.7 million people (PRB, 2007) spread out over 7100 islands.  Those 88 million people can be categorized into three island groups.  The Luzon and Mindoro in the north, the Visayan in the center, and the Mindano which is the second largest in the south parts of the islands. Those three island groups can be separated into 17 different regions, 81 provinces, 136 cities, and over 41,995 barangays, which is the form of village in the Philippines.  Over half of Philippines population lives on the island of Luzon.  The capital Manila is located on that island with a population of 1.6 million.

The Philippines make up over 7100 islands that have a land area of 300,000 square kilometers or 1116,000 square miles.  The islands are located north of Indonesia, west of Vietnam, and south of Taiwan.  Only 460 of those islands are larger than one square mile making many of them inhabit table (Pulspher, p. 511). Most of the mountainous islands used to be covered in tropical rainforest, but now most of the Philippine islands face deforestation from the expanding population.  The Philippines are also known for their volcanic activity as the islands are located in the ring of fire, an area with hot volcanic activity.  The highest point is Mount Apo at 2,954 meters and located on the Mindanao Island.  The islands also lie in the typhoon belt of the Western Pacific and have an average of 17 typhoons for year as a result from that (Pulspher, p. 496).

The climate of the Philippine islands could be classified as an A climate, hot, humid, and tropical.  The average temperature hovers around 75 degrees Fahrenheit to 80 degrees.  The Philippines have made three distinct seasons, the Tag-init, the hottest season, Tag-ulan, the rainy season, and Taglamig, the cold season.  Those seasons occur from Late February to May, June to November, and December to February respectively (Rowntree, p. 546).

Development through time

The first people in the Philippines are thought to have come from China and the Malay Archipelago about 250,000 years ago. Large groups from China and Vietnam arrived between 7000 BCE and 2000 BCE. After the 3rd century BCE, people arrived from the Malay Peninsula and the Indonesian islands. By the 5th century AD, a new Filipino civilization had emerged from the mixture of cultures. In the 13th century, Islam became established in the southern islands. Pre-colonial life was made up of small communities called barangay. The community elders made the laws for the village. The population lived off the land and began to grow steadily. The earlier Filipinos were accomplished in farming, fishing, conducting trade, and basket weaving. Influence from the outside world came from China in the form of trade.

In 1521, Ferdinand Magellan sailed upon the Philippines. Five years later a Spanish explorer named Miguel Lopez de Legaspi came to the islands and named them the Philippines after Phillip, the King of Spain. The Philippines was forever changed by the Spanish influences. Language and religion are the most lasting influences on the islands. Spanish architecture can be seen throughout the islands. Spain controlled the islands until 1898.

In 1898 the United States acquired control of the Philippines from the outcome of the Spanish-American War.  They wanted these islands because of their location that would lead to a gateway to trade with Asia.  It made the majority of the population Roman Catholic, highly concentrated land ownership, an enormous amount of exports to the Americas including sugar, tobacco, and pineapple.  The colonial rule also brought Spanish and English as primary languages, and Spanish names became common. 

In 1941, the Empire of Japan invaded the islands and became the third colonial power. American and Filipino military forces were defeated and forced to surrender. During the Japanese occupation, Japanese forces harassed the Filipinos. The infamous Batton Death March took place and thousands of Filipinos and hundreds of American troops were killed. When it was over, Americans returned to retake the islands. Finally, in 1946 the islands were granted formal independence (Bautista, pp. 10-15).

Even after the U.S. gave independence to the Philippines in 1946, they stayed there by having large military bases, Clark Air Force Base and Subic Bay Naval Base,  although both of those bases were closed in the 1990’s from the eruption of Mount Pinatubo

Once the Americans no longer maintained control of the islands, the Filipinos created a democracy based on that of the United States. In 1965, Ferdinand Marcos was elected president. Civil unrest erupted in 1972, including revolts by Communist rebels and Islamic separatists. Marcos declared martial law and ruled by decree until Martial Law was lifted in 1981. Marcos won another term as president in 1981. After the 1986 election, Marcos was accused of election fraud and forced to resign.  Soon after, he and his wife fled to Hawaii. Corizone Aquino, widow of a former political enemy of Marcos, was elected the new president. Aquino lead the movement known as "People Power," which involved spreading wealth more evenly among the people and won the support of key military leaders. She served as president for six years and was replaced by Fidal Ramos, the former Chief of Staff of the Military under Marcos (Rowntree, p. 573-4).  After Ramos stepped down in 1998, Joseph “Erap” Ejercito Estrada, a former Filipino actor, replaced him.  Earlier this year, Estrada was indicted on charges of “economic plunder” for building an illegally obtained fortune of $80 million and using an alias to hide the money.  He was imprisoned and replaced by the current president, Gloria Arroyo (BBC News, September 3, 2001, online).

Demographic Analysis based on Population Data Sheet



2007 Population (millions)


Projected Population by 2025 (millions)


Projected Population by 2050 (millions)


Projected Population Change (2007-2050) (%)


Natural Rate of Increase (%)


Births per 1,000 population


Deaths per 1,000 population


Net Migration Rate per 1,000 population


Percent of Population Age <15


Percent of Population Age 65+


Infant Mortality Rate (%)


Percent Urban


According to the population data sheet the Philippines have an increase of population growth. It is projected that by 2050 the population will have nearly doubled from 88.7 million to 149.8 million.  That large increase in growth can be attributed to the now thriving economy, which was once in turmoil from corruption and the Asian economic crisis that affected much if not all Asian countries.

The percent of the population under 15 is 35 percent and the population of people over 65 is 4% which leads to believe this country will greatly expand within the next 10 years from all the younger people having children.

The infant mortality rate of 27/1000 is not substantially high for such a country.  With its birth and death rate at 27 and 5 respectively would put this country into the low stationary stage which is characterized by high birth rates and low death rates with no sign of birthrates decreasing.

The number of people moving from rural areas to urban areas is increasing as this country is trying to move more towards other major exports other than rice, tobacco, pineapple, and other agricultural items.  The percent of urban population being 48% and only having that number increasing from the expanding metropolitan cities taking over once rural areas and rainforests.

The GNI PPP for the Philippines is $5,980 quite low for a country that was once going to be considered the second strongest economy in Southeast Asia before the economic crisis in the late 1960’s.  Now that number is equal to third world countries or worse.  That number if put in perspective with the United States would be greatly under the poverty line.

Human Setting

Although Filipino and English are the official languages of the country, there are more than 170 different languages being spoken throughout the islands.  Many Philippines can speak and write both English and Filipino.  Filipino is the dominant language though, being considered the “de facto” standardized version of Tagalog that is spoken in the metropolitan area Manila.  With the strong Spanish colonization, Spanish once was the official language of the country, but started to decline in the 1950 after the U.S. had control of the control for some years.  Only about 1 percent of the population still speaks Spanish (De Blij, p. 530)

The dominant culture is still Roman Catholic with over 83 percent of the people practicing it, followed by 9 percent protestant, and only 5 percent Muslim.  Surprising since its neighbor Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim state.  The majority of the Muslim population is located in the south islands of Mindanao and other urban areas.  There is a small group of island southwest of Mindanao called, the Sulu Archipelago where there is a Muslim-based insurgency that has kept that part of the Philippines in turmoil.  The Philippines are well known for there Baroque churches, which are a western cultural style church mainly focusing on 17th century architecture (Rowntree, p. 569).

Urban areas in the Philippines are expanding rapidly and making many of the once trading/port cities into concrete playgrounds.  In the capital of Manila you will find many of the old temples and architecture of Southeast Asia, but also find many new industrial buildings, hubs, etc…  Along with Manila is the Quezon City, the former capital of the Philippines and also the most populated city is where urban development thrives.  One other thing that makes these urban areas thrive is from the Philippines free-trade zone that has brought over 200 companies including the main Asian hub for Federal Express.

Agriculture is the main source of income. Half of the Philippine population is engaged in agriculture. Plantation life is the norm among farmers in the Philippines, and the main crop they produce is cane sugar. Bamboo, cinnamon, clove, and pepper plants grow wild. Outside Manila hemp plants are grown. Also called abaca, they yield fiber for textiles and rope. Small villages dot the landscape and the major problem they face is poverty. For the most part the small villages have some sort of electrical power, either by gas-powered generators or a public power grid. The rural areas must make vast improvements in order to make the quality of life the same as in the cities. Pockets of poverty are visible in the cities as well, but nothing like the rural areas (Rowntree, p. 553). 

Modern Philippines

American military presence began in the Philippines after the Spanish-American War in 1898.  The Americans finally withdrew entirely in 1993.  The naval base at Subic Bay was closed, and the large Clark air base in Angeles was destroyed in the 1991 Mt. Pinatubo volcanic eruption. In the wake of the base closures, the local populations around both bases struggled to survive economically.  However, many believed this marked the real beginning of Filipino independence. Currently, Subic Bay is a free port and has attracted investors from around the world. The mayor of Olongapo, Richard Gordon, hopes that Subic Bay will become the next Hong Kong. In Angeles local businessmen plan to rebuild the airbase and make it a viable entry point into the nation (Rowntree, p. 554).

The economy of the country is diverse. Half of the working population is engaged in agriculture; rice, corn, cassava, and sweet potatoes are the principal crops, with rice being considered the king crop. Copra, sugarcane, and tobacco are the principal commercial crops. Lumbering, marine fishing and mining are important industries; manufacturing has expanded in recent years. Manufacturing includes processed foods, clothing and textiles, electronic equipment, chemicals, and refined metals. Mineral resources of the nations are nickel, zinc, copper, cobalt, gold, silver, iron, and chromate. The islands have one of the world's greatest stands of commercial timber, a major export (Pulsipher, p. 511).

Today the nation faces several problems both domestically and internationally. In the wake of the Asian economical downturn, the economy has staggered. Corruption remains a problem with certain government officials. Sexual abuse of women and children remains a problem, mostly as a result of the illegal sex industry that thrives off the poor economic conditions of the victims. Another problem is the rapid deforestation of the islands.  Around the turn of the twentieth century, ¾ of the islands were covered with untouched forests.  In 1990, the amount of land covered by forests was down to 2.3 percent of the total land area.  If these trends continue, a major source of the islands’ income may be depleted (Pulsipher, P. 496). Other problems facing the country, along with many other Southeast Asian countries, are a booming population, which is continually growing, and a pace of development so fast many have trouble keeping up.


de Blij, H.J. (2002).  Geography: Realms, Regions, and Concepts (Tenth Edition). New York: John Wiley & Sons Incorporated.

Pulsipher, L.  (2000).  World Regional Geography.  New York: W.H. Freeman & Company.

Rowntree, L.  (2000).  Diversity Amid Globalization.  Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall Incorporated.

Population Reference Bureau. World Population Data Sheet. 2007.

Marston S., Knox P., Liverman D.  (2002). World Regions: Peoples, Places, and Environments. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey. Prentice Hall Inc.

“Philippines.” Wikipedia. 9 April 2008.  Wikipedia Foundation, Inc. 9 April 2008.  <>

BBC News {Online}(2001).  Estrada Case: Bank Accounts Frozen.  [Online].  Available:  ( [November 2, 2001].


1. The Philippine Islands are in what category of the Koeppen climate classification? a. Continental; b. Maritime; c. Tropical; d. None of the above.

2. What are two lasting Spanish influences? a. Arts and sciences; b. Fishing and manufacturing; c. Language and religion; d. Architecture and finance.

3. What is the predominate religion in the islands? a. Islam; b. Catholic; c. Buddhist; d. Hindu.

4. What city serves as the major port city? a. Cebu; b. Olongapo; c. Davao City; d. Manila.

5. What is the major problem the rural areas face? a. Poverty; b. Drought; c. Corruption; d. Drug use.

6. Why was the American Air Force base called Clark closed? a. Flood; b. Treaty Expiration; c. Volcanic Eruption; d. Fire.

7. What economic activity accounts for 50% of all labor in the Philippines? a. Manufacturing; b. Agriculture; c. Finance; d. Ship Building.

8.  Which Filipino president was forced to resign as a result of election fraud? a. Marcos; b. Estrada; c. Arroyo; d. Ramos

9.  What former city use to be the capital of the Philippines? A. Manila; B. Quezon; C. Cebu; D. Aklon

10.  What is the GNI PPP of the Philippines? A. $7,985; B. $8,362; C. $5,980; D. $4,109

11.  What is the “king” crop of the Philippines? A. Rice; B. Pineapple; C. Beans; D. Squash

12.  What Asian company has its hub located on the island? A. Sony; B. Samsung; C. Nokia; D. Federal Express

13.  When did the United States gain control of the Philippines and the year they gave Philippines their independence? A. 1875:1975; B. 1898: 1976; C. 1974: 1946; D. 1898:1946

Submitted by Paul Turgeon on 12-07-99.  Updated by Andrea Westerbuhr on 11-05-2001.  Updated by Dennis Lammers on 4-9-2008