Flag - National Anthem - Geography - History - Government

The Flag

Flag description: two equal horizontal bands of blue (top) and red with a white equilateral triangle based on the hoist side; in the center of the triangle is a yellow sun with eight primary rays (each containing three individual rays) and in each corner of the triangle is a small yellow five-pointed star.


During his exile in Hongkong in 1897, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo designed the Filipino flag as it looks today. The flag was sewn by Dona Marcela Marino de Agoncillo with the help of her daughter Lorenza and Mrs. Delfina Herbosa de Natividad (niece of the Philippine National Hero - Dr. Jose P. Rizal). It was first raised during the declaration of Independence on June 12, 1898 in Kawit, Cavite.

It was made of silk with a white triangle containing a sunburst of eight rays at the center, a five-pointed star at each angle of the triangle, a blue field and a red field. The white triangle stands for equality and fraternity; the blue field for peace, truth and justice; and red field for patriotism and valor. The eight rays of the sun stand for the first eight provinces that the colonizers have put under martial law. The three stars symbolize Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

The Philippine National Anthem

Musical Score of the Philippine National Anthem (pdf format)


Bayang Magiliw, Perlas ng Silanganan
Alab ng Puso sa dibdib mo'y buhay

Lupang Hinirang, Duyan ka ng magiting,
Sa manlulupig di ka pasisiil.

Sa dagat at bundok,
Sa simoy at sa langit mong bughaw,
May dilag ang tula
At awit sa paglayang minamahal.

Ang kislap ng watawat mo'y
Tagumpay na nagniningning;
Ang bituin at araw niya
Kailan pa ma'y di magdidilim.

Lupa ng araw, ng luwalhati't pagsinta,
Buhay ay langit sa piling mo;
Aming ligaya na pag may mang-aapi
Ang mamatay nang dahil sa iyo.

The Philippine National Anthem is a product of revolution, a response to the need of the revolutionary times that gave birth to it. And this need arose in 1898, when the revolution against Spain was in its second year and a Filipino victory was in sight.

Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo astutely recognized the need for national symbols to rally the nation against the enemy. On June 5, 1898, he commissioned Julian Felipe , a Cavite pianist and composer, to work on a march for the revolutionists. Felipe worked on the assignment for six days and on June 11, sitting in front of a piano in the Aguinaldo living room, played his music before the presidente and his lieutenants. Named by Felipe the Marcha Filipino Magdalo (after Aguinaldo's nom de guerre and his faction in the Katipunan), the music was adopted on the spot and renamed the Marcha Nacional Filipina (Philippine National March).

The national anthem was heard publicly for the first time on June 12, 1898, when, standing on the balcony of his Kawit mansion, Aguinaldo proclaimed Asia's first independent republic before a cheering throng. Two rallying symbols were presented to the infant nation that day. Also displayed for the first time was the national flag, unfurled to the stirring strains of the marcha nacional played by the band of San Francisco de Malabon (now Heneral Trias) whose members had learned the music the day before.

But still without words, Felipe's music was simply a march. It could not be sung. The need for lyrics was just as great as there was for the music. In December 1898, the Philippines was ceded by Spain to the United States of America in the Treaty of Paris. Having thrown off Spanish rule, the Filipinos found themselves under new colonial masters, the Americans. In February of 1899, the Filipino-American War erupted.

The defiant lyrics to march the stirring strains of Felipe were supplied by Jose Palma, a 23-year old soldier who was as adept with the pen as he was with the sword. He wrote a poem entitled "Filipinas" and this was wed to the Felipe composition. The anthem was readily taken by the young nation at war. But on March 23,1901, the war with America ground to a halt with the capture of Aguinaldo in Palanan, Isabela.

The first half of the century were years of humiliation for the Filipinos and their anthem. The American administors discouraged the singing of the anthem and in the 1920s, Palma's original spanish lyrics underwent several English and Tagalog translations. The most popular were the following versions, one in English by Camilo Osias and M.A.L. Lane and one in Tagalog.

In 1956, a new version penned by the Surian ng Wikang Pambansa (Institute of National Language) was adopted. These are the official Filipino lyrics sung all over the country today and given wider propagation through radio, television and cinema.


Location, Boundaries, Land Area

The Republic of the Philippines is an archipelago of 7,107 islands lying on the western rim of the Pacific Ocean and north of the equator.

The northern part of the country is separated from Taiwan by the Bashi Channel. It is bounded on the east by the Philippine Sea, on the south by the Celebes Sea, and on the west by the South China Sea.

It is approximately 6,290 kilometers away from Australia or, in terms of travel time, seven hours by plane from Sydney to Manila, the capital city of the Philippines.

The total land area is about 298,170 square kilometers (114,830 square miles).


The Philippines is composed of three major islands known as Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. The largest island is Luzon, followed by Mindanao and the Visayas group. The Visayan region is composed of about 6,000 islands, including Panay, Samar, Cebu, Leyte and Bohol. Mindanao encompasses about 400 islands.

The islands extend about 1,850 kilometers from north to south and almost 1,127 kilometers from east to west. The coastlines of all the islands are extremely irregular, measuring about 36,289 kilometers in length.

Of volcanic origin, the Philippines is generally mountainous. Mountain ranges extend north to south, running parallel to the coasts and, in many places, bordering them.

The mountains in Luzon include the Sierra Madre, Cordillera Central, the Caraballo Mountains and the Zambales Mountains. In the second largest island, Mindanao, are the Diwata Mountains and the mountain ranges in southern Mindanao including Mount Apo (a volcano) which, at 2,954 meters, is the highest point in the Philippines.

Seismic disturbances are often experienced in the islands that include 20 active volcanoes. The most recent volcanic eruptions were in 1993 (Mayon Volcano in the Bicol Region, southeastern Luzon, dormant for 600 years) and in June 1991 and July 1992 (Mount Pinatubo, central Luzon).

The larger islands have a more diversified topography, with rivers, broad plains and level, fertile valleys in the interior. Luzon has the Cagayan Valley (a plain about 80 kilometers wide, the Central Plain (extending from Lingayen Gulf to Manila Bay), the Cagayan River (longest river in Luzon), Abra River, Chico River, the large Laguna de Bay, Agno River, Pampanga River and Bicol River. Mindanao contains the Mindanao Valley (the largest lowland area), the Agusan River the Rio Grande de Mindanao (known in its upper course as the Pulangi).


The Philippines lies within the tropics and has a mean annual temperature of about 27ºC. Rainfall averages 2030 millimeters per year in the lowlands. On most islands of the Philippines, the rain season occurs during the summer monsoon, from May to November, when the wind blows from the southwest; the dry season occurs during the winter monsoon, from December to April, when the wind blows from the northeast. From June to October, typhoons sometimes appear in the Philippines.

Natural Resources

The Philippines contains about 19 percent arable land and 46 percent forests and woodlands. Aside from being endowed with forest resources it has also rich deposits of minerals, principally gold, copper, iron, chromite, manganese, salt and coal. Other minerals are silver, lead, mercury, limestone, petroleum, nickel and uranium.

Mangrove trees and nipa palms grow in coastal swamps and coarse grasses cover many areas of the uplands. The forests contain trees such as banyan, palm trees, rubber trees and indigenous hard wood trees such as the apitong, yakal, lauan, camagong, ipil, narra, and mayapis. Bamboo, clove, and pepper plants grow in the wild, as do numerous species of orchid. Abaca or Manila hemp yields the fibrous material for making cordage, textiles, and hats.

The most important animal species include the domesticated water buffalo called the carabao, several species of deer, wild and domesticated pigs, the mongoose, and a variety of humped cattle. Reptiles are numerous, and the islands contain about 760 species of birds, including colorful parrots. Coastal waters teem with marine fauna, particularly mollusks, for which the Philippines is noted. Pearl oysters are harvested in Sulu Archipelago from which are extracted the famous lustrous Sulu pearls.

Major Cities

Manila, the capital city, is the country's chief port and main commercial center.

The last official census in 1990 showed that Manila proper had a population 1,601,234, while the greater metropolitan area had 7,948,398. Quezon City, which forms part of the Manila metropolitan area, holds a population of 1,669,776, and served as the country's capital from 1948 to 1976. Davao, a provincial capital and seaport, contains 843,607 people. Cebu, a seaport and trade center for the agricultural and coal-mining industries, has 610,417 people. Zamboanga, also a seaport has 442,000.

History of the Philippines

The first humans in the Philippine Islands are thought to have come from the Asian mainland some 250,000 years ago, during the Ice Age, but few remains from that time have been discovered. Afterward, other peoples migrated to the islands, among them the negroid Aetas, who probably arrived about 25,000 years ago. A Mongoloid people from Southeast Asia followed about 10,000 years later. All are thought to have reached the islands across a land bridge that no longer exists. Larger groups of people from the regions of present-day China and Vietnam arrived from about 7000 BC to 2000 BC. The largest migrations to the islands, however, probably occurred after the 3rd century BC. The latest arrivals were people from the Malay and Indonesian archipelagos and the Polynesian islands. These migrants brought iron tools and technologies that included glassmaking and weaving as well as seafaring skills.

In the 5th century AD a new Filipino civilization had emerged from the mixture of cultures. Traders from as far away as India became frequent visitors to the islands. Competing influences from the Middle East, India, and China brought many changes in the economy and social life. Several primary industries, such as mining and metallurgy came into being. Gold and Silver, coins and pearls were utilized as media of exchange. By the 12th century, the powerful Sri Vijayan Empire had extended its reach from its Sumatran base to the Philippines. Starting in the 14th century, Islam spread through the southern parts of the archipelago and became firmly established there. Trade with merchants of the Chinese Ming dynasty is thought to have been established by the 15th century.

On 17 March 1521, the Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan, in the service of Spain, landed on the Homonhon Islet, near Samar Island. He was later killed in Mactan Island of Cebu in a clash with native warriors led by a chieftain named Lapu-Lapu.

The Philippines was a prize catch for Spain which, at that time, was locked in a fierce struggle for world colonization with Portugal. The archipelago was named Felipinas for Spain's King Philip II.

After the successful expedition in 1564 of Spain's Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, an administrative center was established in 1572 in Manila. Representatives of various Roman Catholic religious orders, such as the Augustinians, Dominicans, Franciscans, and Jesuits, to convert the population. They were successful only in Luzon and the Visayas because the Moslems resisted the Spanish efforts.

Upon the overthrow of Spanish rule in Mexico by the Mexican War of Independence in 1821, the Philippines was put under the administrative control of Madrid. When three Filipino priests were executed for nationalist activities, a group of reformists, led by Dr. Jose Rizal, formed the Propaganda Movement in 1892 that would later pave the way for the Philippine Revolution.

Rizal was a doctor by profession as well as a man of letters. While essentially a political moderate, his writings were critical of Spanish repression and aroused the ire of the Spanish colonial authorities. He was executed on 30 December 1896 and became the martyred symbol for Filipino aspirations to independence and self-rule. Rizal's death brought the Katipunan (Tagalog for "association") movement led by Andres Bonifacio to the fore, seeking to establish independence by open revolt. Armed hostilities commenced on 26 August 1896 when the revolutionaries tore their certificates of identity (cedulas) in repudiation of Spanish rule.

The revolution, under the leadership of Emilio Aguinaldo was initially successful.

However, events were soon overshadowed by outbreak of the Spanish-American War on 21 April 1898. On 12 June 1898, with the Spanish retreating to the walled city of Intramuros, Aguinaldo was able to declare Philippine Independence and to establish a government with himself as President of the first republic in Asia. However, this independence was undermined by the terms of the Treaty of Paris (December 10, 1898) which governed the cessation of hostilities between Spain and the United States. In that treaty, Spain ceded the entire archipelago to the United States in return for $20 million. On 21 December 1898, the United States proclaimed the establishment of American military rule in the Philippines. Aguinaldo and the nascent Philippine republic refused to acknowledge American domination and went to war with the Americans on 04 February 1899. Filipino resistance to American rule was weakened after Aguinaldo's capture on 23 March 1901 but sporadic warfare continued up to 1905.

The United States established a civil government in 1902. In 1935 a commonwealth government was established complete with a Constitution, with Manuel L. Quezon as the first commonwealth president. He was reelected in 1941.

World War II broke out in 1941. Japan annexed the Philippines after a heroic battle with Filipino-American forces making a last stand in Bataan and Corregidor. With the surrender, Filipinos took to the hills and waged a guerilla war for four years. In 1945, American-led forces liberated the Philippines.

President Quezon had died in 1944, and Vice President Sergio Osmena succeeded him as President. On 23 April 1946, Roxas was elected president, with Elpidio Quirino as vice president. On 04 July 1946, the US flag was lowered for the last time as the Philippines was finally granted independence.

In addition to the problem of economic rehabilitation, the new state was faced with internal strife. In central Luzon the Hukbalahaps, or Huks, a Communist-led group of former guerrillas against the Japanese, organized a rebel government with its own military, civil, and administrative procedures. Demanding collectivization of farmlands and the abolition of tenant farming, the Huks became a powerful force in Luzon.

Vice President Quirino, who became acting president on the death, in April 1948, of President Roxas, won a term on his own in 1949. The Huk rebellion continued to gather momentum in 1949 and 1950.

In the presidential elections, held on 10 November 1953, former Defense Minister Ramon Magsaysay won a decisive victory over the incumbent Quirino, and because of his vigorous conduct of the campaign against the Huks, the back of the rebellion was broken, although it was not entirely suppressed.

Magsaysay died in an airplane crash on 17 March 1957 and on the next day Vice President Carlos P. Garcia was sworn in as president. Garcia was subsequently elected president, and Diosdado Macapagal, an opposition Liberal party candidate, was elected vice president. Macapagal was elected president in 1961, but in the elections of 1965 he lost to the Nationalist candidate, Ferdinand Marcos.

Rapid development of the economy brought prosperity during Marcos's first term, and he was easily reelected in 1969. His second term, however, was troubled by civil unrest, caused by increasing Communist ideological influence. By the early 1970s two separate forces, the Communist New People's Army and the Moro National Liberation Front, a Muslim separatist movement in the south, were waging guerilla war on the government. The unrest and criminal depredations were cited as excuses for the declaration of martial law in 1972. Congress was dissolved, opposition leaders arrested, and strict censorship imposed. Marcos thereafter ruled by decree.

A new constitution was promulgated in January 1973, but transitional provisions attached to it gave Marcos continued absolute powers, and elections were indefinitely postponed. President Marcos officially ended martial law in 1981 but maintained a tight grip on the country. Opposition to his rule, however, continued to grow. In 1983, opposition leader Benigno Aquino returned to Manila from exile in the US and was assassinated by a military escort sent by Marcos to arrest him.

The assassination dramatically increased opposition to Marcos' rule and his mandate was called into question. Marcos called for presidential elections in February 1986 with Aquino's widow, Corazon, running against him. With his attempts to cheat exposed by Church and citizen groups, Marcos lost the support of his Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile and the Armed Forces Deputy Chief of Staff General Fidel Ramos.

The two led an uprising of military reformists who declared their allegiance to Corazon Aquino. Marcos sought to crush the uprising by sending an armored tank column against the rebels. However, more than three million Filipinos massed in the streets preventing the tanks from reaching rebel encampments. This display and a rocket attack by rebel helicopters on the presidential palace convinced Marcos to flee. He went into exile in Hawaii and later died there.

Aquino was sworn in as President and won the enactment of a new constitution in February 1987. Although she won a vote of confidence in legislative elections that May, military unrest, coupled with popular discontent at the slow pace of economic reform, continued to threaten her government.

In the May 1992 presidential election Aquino endorsed the eventual winner, her former defense secretary, Fidel Valdez Ramos. Ramos, a West Point graduate and a veteran of both the Korean and Vietnam Wars, assumed office with the Philippines on the verge of economic recession. Industry was crippled by a shortage of electric generating plants.

The Administration pushed through a series of dramatic legislative measures aimed at privatizing massive infrastructure programs and further liberalizing the economy. By end of 1993, the establishment of sufficient power generating capacity, privatization efforts and the conversion of the Subic Naval Base into an industrial estate and free port ushered in a flood of foreign investment. By 1994 and 1995, the economy began exhibiting dramatic growth and looked poised to compete with those its prosperous Southeast Asian neighbors.

The Asian financial crisis, which began in late 1997, slowed the resurgent Philippine economy. However, due to the economic reforms that had already been put in place and a democratic system that assured transparency of governance, the country was able to weather the crisis well.

In May 1998, Joseph Ejercito Estrada was elected as President and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was elected Vice President. The Estrada Administration placed emphasis on three major objectives: reduce poverty, preserve law and order and fight graft and corruption.

However, in November 2000, a motion to impeach him was passed by Congress and the impeachment trial commenced presided over by Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Hilario Davide. On 16 January 2001, following a NO vote by 11 out of the 22 Senators that composed the impeachment court, a second People Power revolution was staged at EDSA demanding his resignation from office. On 20 January 2001, the Supreme Court unanimously declared the position of President vacant and Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was sworn in as President. She became the 14th President of the Philippines, the second woman to be swept into Presidency by a peaceful People Power Revolution (EDSA II).

The Philippine Government

As mandated by the 1987 Constitution, the Government of the Republic of the Philippines operates under a presidential system. There are three branches of government, namely: the Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary.

The Executive Branch

The Executive Branch is composed of the President, Vice President, Department Secretaries and other officers of the Executive Department.

The President is both chief of state and head of government. The President and the Vice President are elected on separate tickets by popular vote for 6-year terms.

The last presidential elections was held on 11 May 1998 and the next will be held in May 2004. During that election, Joseph Ejercito Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo were elected President and Vice President, respectively. However, on 20 January 2001, following the staging of a second People Power Revolution (EDSA II) that demanded the resignation of Estrada, the Supreme Court declared the position of President vacant and swore in Vice President Gloria MACAPAGAL-ARROYO as the 14th President of the Philippines.

The Legislative Branch

The bicameral Congress of the Philippines is composed of 24 Senators and 250 members of the House of Representatives. The Upper House is led by the Senate President while the Lower House is led by the Speaker of the House.

One half of the Senate is elected every three years. The members are elected by popular vote to serve 6-year terms.

The House of Representatives are composed of members elected by popular vote to serve three-year terms and of a number of sectoral representatives appointed by the President.

The last Senate elections was held on 11 May 1998 and the next will be held in May 2004. During the last elections the LAMMP won 12 seats, Lakas 5, PRP 2, LP 1 and others 3. The Senate now has only 23 members when one seat was vacared with the election of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as Vice-President. At the House of Representatives, LAMMP won 135 seats, Lakas 37, LP 13, Aksyon Demokratiko 1 and others 35.

The Judicial Branch

The Judicial Branch is cmposed of the Supreme Court and other lower courts established by law. The 15-member Supreme Court is appointed by the President upon the recommendation of the Judicial and Philippine Bar Council.

The Constitution bars the President from seeking a re-election after serving a single term of six years. The Vice President can seek re-election after serving the 6-yar term. The Senators can be re-elected for two consecutive terms while the Representatives can be re-elected for three consecutive terms.

Capital: Manila

Administrative divisions: 72 provinces and 61 chartered cities*; Abra, Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Aklan, Albay, Angeles*, Antique, Aurora, Bacolod*, Bago*, Baguio*, Bais*, Basilan, Basilan City*, Bataan, Batanes, Batangas, Batangas City*, Benguet, Bohol, Bukidnon, Bulacan, Butuan*, Cabanatuan*, Capiz*, Cagayan, Cagayan de Oro*, Calbayog*, Caloocan*, Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur, Camiguin, Canlaon*, Capiz, Catanduanes, Cavite, Cavite City*, Cebu, Cebu City*, Cotabato*, Dagupan*, Danao*, Dapitan*, Davao City* Davao, Davao del Sur, Davao Oriental, Dipolog*, Dumaguete*, Eastern Samar, General Santos*, Gingoog*, Ifugao, Iligan*, Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Iloilo, Iloilo City*, Iriga*, Isabela, Kalinga-Apayao, La Carlota*, Laguna, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Laoag*, Lapu-Lapu*, La Union, Legaspi*, Leyte, Lipa*, Lucena*, Maguindanao, Mandaue*, Manila*, Marawi*, Marinduque, Masbate, Mindoro Occidental, Mindoro Oriental, Misamis Occidental, Misamis Oriental, Mountain, Naga*, Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, North Cotabato, Northern Samar, Nueva Ecija, Nueva Vizcaya, Olongapo*, Ormoc*, Oroquieta*, Ozamis*, Pagadian*, Palawan, Palayan*, Pampanga, Pangasinan, Pasay*, Puerto Princesa*, Quezon, Quezon City*, Quirino, Rizal, Romblon, Roxas*, Samar, San Carlos* (in Negros Occidental), San Carlos* (in Pangasinan), San Jose*, San Pablo*, Silay*, Siquijor, Sorsogon, South Cotabato, Southern Leyte, Sultan Kudarat, Sulu, Surigao*, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, Tacloban*, Tagaytay*, Tagbilaran*, Tangub*, Tarlac, Tawitawi, Toledo*, Trece Martires*, Zambales, Zamboanga*, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur

National holiday: Independence Day, 12 June 1898

Constitution: 2 February 1987, effective 11 February 1987

Legal system: based on Spanish and Anglo-American law

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

Political parties and leaders: Laban Ng Masang Pilipino or LAMP (Struggle of the Filipino Masses) [Joseph ESTRADA, titular head; Eduardo "Danding" COJUANGO, chairman, Edgardo ANGARA, party president]; Lakas [Raul MANGLAPUS, chairman, Gloria MACAPAGAL-ARROYO, secretary general, Jose DE VENECIA, party president]; Liberal Party or LP [Raul DAZA, president, Jovito SALONGA, chairman, Florencio ABAD, secretary general]; People's Reform Party or PRP [Miriam DEFENSOR-SANTIAGO]; Aksyon Demokratiko or Democratic Action [Raul ROCO]

International organization participation: APEC, AsDB, ASEAN, CCC, CP, ESCAP, FAO, G-24, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, NAM, OPCW, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNU, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO

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