For such a remote country, the Philippines have been somewhat of a crossroads of civilizations for thousands of years, and inhabited even well before then. ‘Archeological and paleontological evidence suggests that Homo sapiens existed in Palawan,’ one of the more than 1,700 islands comprising the country, ‘about 50,000 years ago. These inhabitants are called the Tabon Man. During the Iron Age, Austronesian-speakers came from South China and Taiwan via land bridges and settled in the Philippines. Ethnic Chinese merchants arrived in the 8th century.’ After that, the country was ‘discovered’ by the Portuguese, and was, in one way or another, inhabited by ‘Japanese, Portuguese, Dutch and British forces, all of whom also had an interest in the Philippines.’
Many countries around the world, of course, were colonized by various groups of people. But what makes the case of the Philippines so interesting is its location, 750 miles from continental Asia, and for that reason not on the normal land-trade and conquest routes of some other Asian countries. But it nonetheless served as the Pacific base for any number of colonial powers for much of its existence. Today, however, the Philippines is a sovereign nation presided over by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.