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.
The Philippines – a Spanish colony for more than three centuries and named after a 16th century Spanish king – was taken over by the US in the early 20th century after a protracted rebellion against rule from Madrid.
Spanish and US influences remain strong, especially in terms of language, religion and government. Self-rule in 1935 was followed by full independence in 1946 under a US-style constitution.
The US is a close ally and has provided military aid to help combat Muslim and communist insurgencies.
- Republic of Philippines
- Capital: Manila
- Population 96.5 million
- Area 300,000 sq km (115,831 sq miles)
- Major languages Filipino, English (both official)
- Major religion Christianity
- Life expectancy 66 years (men), 73 years (women)
- Currency Philippine peso