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The Philippines is an archipelago that consist 7,107 islands with a total land area of 300,000 square kilometers (115,831 sq mi). The 11 largest islands contain 94% of the total land area. The largest of these islands is Luzon at about 105,000 square kilometers (40,541 sq mi). The next largest island is Mindanao at about 95,000 square kilometers (36,680 sq mi). The archipelago is around 800 kilometers (500 mi) from the Asian mainland and is located between Taiwan and Borneo.
The islands are divided into three groups: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. The Luzon islands include Luzon Island itself Palawan, Mindoro, Marinduque, Masbate and Batanes Islands. The Visayas is the group of islands in the central Philippines, the largest of which are : Panay, Negros, Cebu, Bohol, Leyte and Samar. The Mindanao islands include Mindanao itself, plus the Sulu Archipelago, composed primarily of Basilan, Sulu Island, and Tawi-Tawi.
The Philippines’ aboriginal inhabitants arrived from the Asian mainland around 25,000 B.C. They were followed by waves of Indonesian and Malayan settlers from 3000 B.C. onward. By the 14th century A.D., extensive trade was being conducted with India, Indonesia, China, and Japan. Ferdinand Magellan, the Portuguese navigator in the service of Spain, explored the Philippines in 1521. Twenty-one years later, a Spanish exploration party named the group of islands in honor of Prince Philip, who was later to become Philip II of Spain. Spain retained possession of the islands for the next 350 years. The Philippines were ceded to the U.S. in 1899 by the Treaty of Paris after the Spanish-American War. Meanwhile, the Filipinos, led by Emilio Aguinaldo, had declared their independence. They initiated guerrilla warfare against U.S. troops that persisted until Aguinaldo’s capture in 1901. By 1902, peace was established except among the Islamic Moros on the southern island of Mindanao. The first U.S. civilian governor-general was William Howard Taft (1901-1904). The Jones Law (1916) established a Philippine legislature composed of an elective Senate and House of Representatives. The Tydings-McDuffie Act (1934) provided for a transitional period until 1946, at which time the Philippines would become completely independent. Under a constitution approved by the people of the Philippines in 1935, the Commonwealth of the Philippines came into being with Manuel Quezon y Molina as president.