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The first inhabitants of the Philippines arrived from the land bridge from Asia over 150,000 years ago. Throughout the years, migrants from Indonesia, Malaysia, and other parts of Asia made their way to the islands of this country. In the fourteenth century, the Arabs arrived and soon began a long tradition of Islam. Many Muslims are still living in the Philippines today. In 1521, Magellan claimed the land for Spain, but was killed by local chiefs who did not want Spain's inhabitance.
However, the Spanish returned in 1543 and named the land Filipinas after King Philip II. Spain soon after began their control. At the time of the Spanish American War the colonial government in the Philippines was administered by a Governor-General selected in Spain. The Philippine islands were used to reward the king's favorites who could return home enormous fortunes from natives and foreign immigrants via a system of taxation that savored of blackmail and confiscation. The Governor-General had a cabinet composed of the Archbishop of Manila, the Captain-General of the army and the Admiral of the navy stationed in the colonies. The administrative power lay with the Governor-General and the Archbishop, and the religious orders of the Spanish Catholic Church were the practical controllers.
The climate of the Philippines, which is tropical, subjected to violent monsoons, seasons of drenching rains, and an almost intolerable heat lasting from March to July, has made it necessary to change continually the Spanish administrators. By 1571, the country had control over the islands, except for any Islamic areas. The Filipinos lived in settlements called barangays before the colonization of the Philippines by the Spaniards. As the unit of government, a barangay consisted from 30 to 100 families. It was headed by a datu and was independent from the other groups.
Usually, several barangays settled near each other to help one another in case of war or any emergency. The position of datu was passed on by the holder of the position to the eldest son or, if none, the eldest daughter. However, later, any member of the barangay could be chieftain, based on his talent and ability. He had the usual responsibilities of leading and protecting the members of his barangay. In turn, they had to pay tribute to the datu, help him till the land, and help him fight for the barangay in case of war.
There were four classes of society. They were the ruling class (datu), the freemen and notable persons (maharlika), the commoners (timawa), and the dependents and slaves (alipin). The alipin were of two kinds: the aliping namamahay, who were household servants, and the aliping saguiguilid, who were slave workers. Agriculture was the early Filipinos' main means of livelihood. They also grew an abundance of rice, sugarcane, cotton, hemp, coconuts, bananas, and many other fruits and vegetables.
Land cultivation was by tilling or by the kaingin system. With the kaingin system, the land was cleared by burning the shrubs and bushes. After that, it was planted with rice and other crops, which were watered by irrigation ditches. There were public and private lands. Those along the mountainsides and less arable lands were public property. They were open to everyone who wanted to till them. Private lands were usually exclusively for nobles and datus.
Other industries were fishing, mining, lumbering, poultry raising, shipbuilding, and weaving. Fishing was particularly thriving for the settlements along rivers and seas. Domestic trade existed among the barangays and the islands. The Filipinos' foreign trade was with China, Japan, Thailand, Borneo, Sumatra, Cambodia, and other islands of old Malaysia. The barter system was used in business transactions because there was no currency.
Today, the Philippines has a currency system that involves pesos and centavos, in which 100 centavos equals a peso. In July 1997, as a result of the Hong Kong stock market crash, all the currencies in Southeast Asia, including the Philippine peso, suffered steep falls in value against the US dollar. One dollar will convert to 55 pesos in the Philippines. The original inhabitants of the Philippines decided they wanted independence, and fought against the Spanish during the Spanish-American War. The Spanish gave into defeat and therefore, the Philippines declared itself independent of any power.
However, the United States thought otherwise and purchased this land for $20 million from Spain. In 1935, the US decided to give the Filipinos independence and so Manuel Quezon was sworn in as president, as the process for full independence began. The Japanese invaded the Philippines and ruled from 1942-1944 until the US invaded, which won the Philippines its independence completely in 1946. Ferdinand Marcos became president in 1965 and ruled until 1986. However, he was not well liked and accused of fraud, and an assassination of someone who opposed Marcos lead to protests.
In 1986, an election saw Marcos and his opponent, Cory Aquino, the widow of the assassinated, both claim victory. The widow was powerful enough to spark enough civil unrest throughout the country to make Marcos flee. Aquino established a democracy, but was lagged with economic problems. She was succeeded by Fidel Ramos in 1992. Ramos did try to help the slumping economy and clean the country from its corruption and difficulties. In 1998, Ramos was replaced by movie star Joseph Estrada, more famous for his acting abilities than anything political. He promised the people a better economy, but ended up putting more money in his pocket than anywhere else.
He was impeached and put on trial. The current president today in the Philippines is Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The Philippines 2000, was a strategy and a movement; it was the Filipino people's vision of development by the year 2000. As envisioned, the Philippines by the year 2000 would have the decent minimum of food, clothing, shelter, and dignity. The major goal of Philippines 2000 was to make the Philippines the next investment, trade, and tourism center in Asia and the Pacific. The Philippines 2000, as a movement, started to gather momentum in the form of multi-sectioned consultations.
These consultations were geared to pave the way for the Philippines' entry into the 21st century. Today, involved in these endeavors are people from government, business and private sectors, labor, and other sectors forming a "strategic alliance". Today, the Philippines, an independent nation of about 70 million people, is becoming one of the most progressive countries in Asia. The Philippines has rebounded from the economic debacle that former dictator Ferdinand Marcos had put her into. Investors from the United States, Japan, Malaysia, and other nations in Asia are bringing in millions of dollars as investment in factories, recreation establishments, and other businesses.
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