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To understand Filipinos, the late Filipino writer Carmen Guerrero Nakpil gave an eloquent summary to a foreign correspondent that the Filipino is a result of “300 years in the convent and 50 years in Hollywood.”

The country’s 116.5 million population is 80 percent Roman Catholic, underscoring the depth of three centuries of Spanish colonization. 

History written by Western colonizers starts with the “discovery” of the Philippines by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan under the Spanish flag on March 16, 1521 and the naming of the country after King Philip II in 1543 by another Spanish explorer, Ruy López de Villalobos.

 Archaeological data, however, trace the country’s beginnings to more than 50,000 years ago with villagers showing developed culture and structure of governance. The predominant religion then was Islam, which is still being practiced by 6.4 percent of Filipinos.

The Philippines is an archipelago of almost 7,641 islands which attributes to the inhabitants’ diversity but, at the same time, a tough challenge to unity. There are more than 120 spoken languages in the country. Filipino, the standardized form of Tagalog, has been declared the national language but English is more widely spoken throughout the country.

Public education was introduced in the Philippines during almost five decades of the American colonial period by American teachers who arrived in 1901 aboard the ship USAT Thomas. Thus, they were referred to as Thomasites.

Generally, Filipinos value education as a means to improve their lives. The deterioration of public education has been a serious concern the past years with the Filipinos’ dismal scores in international assessments.

But the Filipinos do excel in using the internet.

Eighty-three percent of the country’s population are internet users and most of them are on social media, with Facebook being the most preferred platform. Filipinos spend an average of nine hours a day online, ranking third in the world in that practice.

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