The Philippines consists of an archipelago of over 7,000 islands, with a combined shoreline longer than the US. Colonised by the Spanish in 1521, the country takes its name from king Philip of Spain. In 1898, it became a colony of the United States, as a result of which it is now the third largest English speaking country in the world. Filipinos have a rich and colourful culture, combining Asian, European, and American influences, and the country's natural physical beauty is making it an increasingly popular destination for travellers.
Many of the islands don't even have a name, and the Philippines seems to float on its own in the Pacific. Separated from Indonesia and Indochina by miles of ocean, the country's history is relatively undramatic; unlike many of its neighbours, it has not seen the rise and fall of dynasties. This may be due to the archipelago's linguistic, cultural and racial diversity - over 111 dialects are spoken in its various regions.