Before the 16th century, the 7,600 islands of the Philippines was a unified territory of local tribes, fishing communities, and native kingdoms, with an incredibly diverse array of languages, religions, and cultures.
In 1521, Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan landed in Samar Island on his expedition around the globe. He named the islands “Archipelago of San Lazaro,” but Magellan was killed by a native rebellion by a Datu tribe king on Lapu Lapu in present-day Mactan Island near Cebu.
But Spain continued to send expeditions to the islands, looking to reap resources and wealth. On the fourth expedition, a Spanish commander named Ruy Lopez de Villalobos renamed the islands “Philippines” after the heir to the Spanish throne, Prince Philip (who became King Philip II).
As Spain continued to colonize the Philippines, their cultural influence led to mass Catholicism, as well as a privileged wealthy class of landowners that kept local Filipinos under thumb. The first rebellion was spearheaded by the Propaganda Movement led by Dr. Jose Rizal, although he was captured and executed in 1896.
On May 1, 1898, the Spanish-American War broke out over a conflict over Cuba. American military forces led by Navy Admiral George Dewey attacked the Spanish Navy in Manila Bay. Spain surrendered, ceding the Philippines to the U.S. along with $20 million as part of the Treaty of Paris that ended the war.
But as soon as June of 1898, Filipinos led by Emilio Aguinaldo declared their independence from the U.S., leading to a guerrilla rebellion that lasted until 1901, when Aguinaldo was captured and forced to declare allegiance to the U.S.
1989 That year, William Howard Taft was appointed the first U.S. governor of the Philippines.
In 1916, the U.S. set up an elected Filipino legislature with a House of Representatives and Senate through the Jones Law.
1934 was the year that the U.S Congress passed the Tydings-McDuffie Act, officially establishing the Philippines as a Commonwealth but also pledging their independence by 1946.
That Independence was granted on July 4, 1946, establishing the Republic of the Philippines.
Most of us know the date, December 8, 1941, as the day Japanese forces bombed Pearl Harbor. But it’s less known that only hours later, the Japanese also invaded the Philippines.
On May 6, 1942, completely overwhelmed U.S. Filipino forces surrendered to the Japanese, resulting in the Bataan Death March and years of horrific treatment of POWs and even civilians, despite mass underground resistance.
But in October 1944, expelled U.S. General MacArthur returned to the Philippines and ceremoniously liberated the nation from its Japanese chokehold.
Shortly after, Manuel Roxas of the Nationalista Party was declared the first President of the Republic of the Philippines on July 4, 1946. However, he died only two years later.
In 1961, newly sworn-in President Diosdado Macapagal changed Philippines Independence Day to June 12, the day Emilio Aguinaldo declared independence in from the Spanish in 1898.
Notorious President Ferdinand E. Marcos took office in 1965 and later was re-elected to a second term, the first president in the Philippines to do so. While his administration started with mass public works that endeared the people, it soon turned to accusations or corruption and scandal.
In 1972, Marcos declared Martial Law for the country before he had to give up power at the end of his term, kicking off a bloody 21-year dictatorial rule where his opponents were imprisoned, tortured, and killed.
In 1986, a popular uprising usurped the Marcos regime, sending him and his wife, Imelda, into exile in Hawaii. (It was then that she was found to have more than 5,000 pairs of shoes and other ridiculous extravagance.)
A quick election installed Corazon “Cory” Aquino, wife of exiled and murdered opposition leader Benigno Aquino, as the next president. Under Aquino, the people saw restored civil liberties, the re-institution of Congress, and a new Constitution.
But corruption continued to plague Philippines politics, and in 2001, President Joseph Estrada was arrested and tried by the Anti-graft court. In 2007, he was convicted and sentenced to 40 years imprisonment, the first President of the country to be convicted of a crime.
But his sentence didn’t last long, as only six weeks later, Estrada was pardoned by President Arroyo, and later got back into politics, becoming Mayor of Manila.
Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III, called “Noynoy” or “Pnoy,” won the presidential election in May of 2010, marking the people’s choice in the first computerized national election in the Philippines.
In June 2016, Rodrigo Duterte became president in a landslide at the polls. Formerly the mayor of the city of Davao, where his legendary thug tactics turned it into one of the safest and cleanest cities in Asia (unless you crossed him), he’s derided internationally for his bloody war on drugs and extra-judicial death squads, although he’s often hailed as a hero at home.
In mid-2017, the southern City of Marawi was besieged by Philippines Islamic Extremists, reportedly aided by Isis, causing hundreds of thousands to flee their homes. But order was restored and the city was returned to stablilty after months of bitter street-to-street fighting and bombing campaigns under President Duterte.