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Area: 300,000 sq km
Population: 92 million
Languages: Tagalogue, English
Religions: Catholic, Christian, Islam, Aglipayan
GNI per capita: US$1,890
Currency: PHP (Philippine peso);1USD = 44.4 pesos

The Philippine Islands became a Spanish colony during the 16th century; they were ceded to the US in 1898 following the Spanish-American War. In 1946 the Republic of the Philippines attained its independence. Many cultures have contributed to the Filipino population, creating a mosaic that reflects both Eastern and Western influences. Most Filipinos are an ethnic mix of Malay and some Chinese, Indian, Spanish, and American ancestry. 

More than 7,000 islands make up the Philippines, but the bulk of its fast-growing population lives on just 11 of them. Much of the country is mountainous and prone to earthquakes and eruptions from around 20 active volcanoes. It is often buffeted by typhoons and other storms. Although it once boasted one of the region's best performing economies, the Philippines is saddled with a large national debt and tens of millions of people live in poverty. The economy is heavily dependent on the billions of dollars sent home each year by the huge Filipino overseas workforce. Many people live in rural fishing and farming communities. Food production is minimal and usually just enough to keep children fed. 

Poverty affects both urban and rural communities. Access to health care is extremely poor in rural villages, while urban dwellers face high unemployment. Though most Filipinos are literate, the country’s economic hardships mean that many children lack opportunities for a quality education.