Pacific Ocean archipelago located to the NE. of Borneo; is between 4 ° 40′-21 ° 10 ′ of lat. N. and 116 ° 40′-126 ° 34 ′ long. E. It constitutes a possession of the United States of America, governed by a governor general appointed by the president of the United States and assisted by 6 departmental secretaries, 5 of whom are Filipinos. Legislative power is exercised by a senate (24 members elected by general and direct vote, plus 2 appointed by the governor general) and by a chamber of deputies (94 members elected by general and direct vote, plus 9 by the governor general). It is made up of 7083 islands, which have a total area of 297,905 sq km. The main islands are: Luzon, sq. Km. 105,708; Mindanao, 95,586; Samar, 13,271; Negros, 12,698; Palawan, 11,655; Panay, 11,520; Mindoro, 9826; Leyte, 7240; Cebu, 4390; Bohol, 3973; Masbate, 3250. The first two alone represent 67% of the total area. The islands between Luzon and Mindanao are called the Visayan Islands. There are numerous other groups of smaller islands, such as the Calamian, between Palawan and Mindoro; the Cagayan, in the Sulu Sea; le Sulu in SO. of the Zamboanga peninsula (Mindanao), the Batan to N. of Luzon. These groups identify many inter-island seas.
Exploration. – It is likely that China had trade with the islands ab antiquo. The West, on the other hand, learned of their existence only when Francisco Serrâo, during the Portuguese expedition to the Moluccas of Antonio de Abreu (1512), landed by shipwreck in Mindanao. But the archipelago was revealed to Europe by Magellan, who landed on the Malhu islet in 1521; and twenty years later Ruy López de Villalobos discovered other islands, which he gave the name of Islas Filipinas. More important is the Spanish expedition of Miguel López de Legazpi, who founded Manila in 1571. Subsequently Spain instituted the periodic dispatch of a galleon from Mexico to Manila; and in 1596, Francesco Carletti took advantage of it, who, coming from Acapulco, stayed with his father for almost a year in Manila. The Augustinian father Sebastian Manrique, Portuguese, also stayed there for a long time in 1637-38; and described it in his report. In 1687 W. Dampier discovered the northern group of the Batan Islands. Alessandro Malaspina, who arrived there with two Spanish ships in 1789, after his great American navigation, also recognized the hydrography of the archipelago. We also owe important contributions to the knowledge of the archipelago to the missionaries. First the Augustinians, in 1565; then the Franciscans, in 1577, including Giovanni Battista da Pesaro, who stayed there for two years, then the Dominicans (1579) and the Jesuits (1581). The latter have the leper colony of Culion with about 5000 lepers and in Manila the astronomical and meteorological observatory well known for reporting against typhoons.
Two Frenchmen, J. Montano and A. Marche, traveled extensively in the Philippines between 1879 and 1885, with important scientific results; the Montano also made the first ascension of the Apo volcano. Mayon volcano was ascended in 1902 by Barton and Bubar, Americans; and Mount Halcon, on Mindoro Island, already unsuccessfully attempted, was climbed by EA Mearns, an American. Having acquired the archipelago (1899), the United States promoted a large number of studies of all kinds, in addition to hydrographic, cartographic and magnetic works organized by the “Coast and Geodetic Suriey”.
Religious organization. – We have already mentioned (see above: Exploration) the contribution that the Augustinian, Franciscan and Jesuit missionaries made to the knowledge of the archipelago. In addition to these, we should mention the Recollect missionaries, who arrived in the Philippines in 1600, and the Dominicans (from 1587), who acquired great authority through the famous University of Manila, a center of civil and religious studies and culture. Unlike other colonies, where the progress of Christianity was proportionate to the gradual destruction and disappearance of the indigenous element, in the Philippines this element has gradually been elevating and transforming, to the point of becoming almost entirely Christian. In the penultimate census, Christians reached nine tenths of the population (see above: Ethnology).
The organization of the church began from the very first time of the occupation. Manila was erected into a diocese and made a suffragan of Mexico in 1578. But soon it had to do to itself. Following the erection of the new dioceses of Cebu, Nueva Cáceres and Nueva Segovia, it was declared a metropolis (1595). In this way it continued until 1865, in which year the diocese of Jaro was erected with territory extended to the two islands of Panay and Negros. Then, in 1910, while religious assistance was provided to the residents of Paragua and the surrounding islands through the erection of the apostolic prefecture of Palawan, entrusted to the hermits of St. Augustine, four other dioceses were created: that of Calbayog, mainly for the two islands of Samar and Leyte; that of Lipa for the provinces of Batangas, Laguna and Tayabas; that of Tuguegarao for the north-east of the island of Luzon, and that of Zamboanga for almost the entire territory of the large island of Mindanao. Lately with part of the territory of the dioceses of Manila and Nuem Segovia, also on the island of Luzon, where the population is densest and where the Christian life is more intense, the diocese of Lingayen was erected (1928).
Thus there are ten dioceses which, with Manila as metropolis, constitute the ecclesiastical province of the Philippines. To these dioceses we must add the apostolic prefecture of Palawan. Also to be added are some permanent missions entrusted to some religious, operating under the responsibility of the ordinaries and aimed at the settlement of some savage tribes of the interior.