Historians believe the Philippines dates back to the Paleolithic age. Based on the archeological artifacts recovered, the Filipino society and culture were fairly developed prior to contacts with other countries. Filipinos had commercial relations early on with China, Indo-China, Malaysia, India, and Arab countries. Chinese silk, porcelain, jars, gold, ivory, and beads were traded for wax, bird's nest, teakwood, rattan, pearls, precious stones, and other marine and forest products.
Ferdinand Magellan came to the Philippines on March 16, 1521 and claimed the country for the Spanish crown. A colonial government was established in Manila in 1571. Spain introduced changes in the political, social, and cultural life of the people. One of these is Christianity. In 1896, the Filipinos staged the first nationalistic revolution in Asia against the Spaniards. The 1896 Revolution was the culmination of revolts against Spanish oppression. The death by musketry of Dr. Jose Rizal, who led the reform movement, fueled the fires of revolution.
On June 12, 1898, leaders of the revolution declared the country a sovereign state and proclaimed the first Republic of the Philippines. Meanwhile, Spain declared war against the United States over Cuba and was defeated. As an offshoot, the Philippines was ceded to America by Spain through the Treaty of Paris.
Under American rule, agriculture, commerce, and trade rapidly developed. Among the changes they introduced were: the modernization of transportation and communication, the improvement of banking and currency, the American system of education, literature, language, arts, and sciences.
At the outbreak of the Second World War, Japan occupied the country. In 1945, the Americans liberated the country and granted it independence on July 4, 1946.
The Republic of the Philippines was proclaimed on July 4, 1946, with Manuel Roxas as President. Massive rehabilitation and rebuilding out of the devastation brought about by the war was started. In 1972, Martial Law was declared by then President Ferdinand Marcos. Political repression and economic deterioration during the Martial Law Years resulted in the historic "People Power" Revolution of February 25, 1986. This led to the proclamation of Corazon C. Aquino as President of the Philippines.
President Aquino moved to restore all the democratic institutions in the country. A Constitution, ratified on February 2, 1987, provided for a tripartite system: the Executive, the Legislative, and the Judiciary. This was the type of government before Marcos declared Martial Law and adopted a modified parliamentary government. Aquino also restored freedom of speech, press, and assembly.
On June 30, 1992, Fidel V. Ramos became the 12th President of the Philippine Republic. President Ramos, a hero of the 1986 EDSA uprising, anchored his government on twin themes of people empowerment and global excellence as the engines of economic growth and social equity.
On the 100th anniversary year of the Proclamation of Philippine Independence, Joseph Ejercito Estrada became the 13th President of the Philippines. In his inaugural address at the Rizal Park in Manila on June 30, 1998, President Estrada resolved to prioritize during his administration, among others, the creation of an environment of peace and order in which business does well and food security for the majority of the Filipino people.
On 20 January 2001, Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Aroyo became the 14th President of the Republic of the Philippines after the ouster of her predecessor Joseph Estrada through a people power revolution similar to the historic edsa 1986. Her peaceful assumption into office as President of the Philippines was greatly brought about by the acknowledgement by the military and the police of civilian supremacy. Her inaugural speech at the Edsa Shrine focused on her core program of government which cover the fight against poverty, improve the moral standards in government and society, true reforms in party politics and programs and promotion of good work ethics.
On 10 May 2010, Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Cojuangco Aquino III won the Presidential elections, and became the 15th President of the Republic of the Philippines, a move in his political career stirred by the sentiments of the people after his mother, former President Cory Aquino, died in 2009. He took his oath of office on June 30, 2010. Some of the laws that he immediately signed were the banning of the use of siren or "wangwang" in the streets for no serious reason, and the voiding of "midnight appointments" in government positions. He also established the "Truth Commission" to investigate graft and corruption, and abuses of the government of Pres. Gloria Arroyo.