GEOGRAPHY: The island nation covers 116,000 square miles—a bit more territory than Arizona—spread out over more than 7,100 islands in the South China Sea east of Vietnam.
DEMOGRAPHICS: The Philippines has about 100 million people, 12th in the world between No. 11 Mexico and No. 13 Ethiopia. The country is young: The median Filipino—half older, half younger—is 23 years old, compared with 37 in the United States. More than 80 percent of the Philippine people are Catholic, and 5 percent are Muslim. Literacy is high: more than 95 percent of the population age 15 and older can read and write. Average life expectancy at birth is 69 for men and 75 for women.
POLITICS: The former Spanish and later American colony has been independent since July 4, 1946. The Philippines is a democracy with an elected president and a Congress comprising a House of Representatives and a Senate. The capital is Manila. The country spent nine years under martial law during the dictatorial reign of President Ferdinand Marcos, who was ousted in the non-violent "People Power" uprising of 1986. The country has struggled off and on with a communist insurgency and a rebellion in the southern region of Mindanao, where Muslims seek autonomy or independence.
TIES TO AMERICA: In 1898, the United States seized the Philippines from Spain in the Spanish-American War. Filipinos rose up in rebellion against American rule from 1899 to 1902. Some of the bloodiest fighting took place on the island of Samar, which was hit hard by Typhoon Haiyan. Since independence, the Philippines has maintained close ties to the United States. More than 1.8 million Philippine-born people live in America. They account for nearly 16 percent of Asian-born American residents, behind only China and India.
ECONOMY: The Philippines was largely unscathed by the global financial crisis. Its economy grew 6.8 percent last year, second to China among major Asian economies, and is expected to match that pace this year. The Philippines last year had a $431 billon economy, No. 32 in the world, measured by gross domestic product. Its GDP per person was about $4,500, No. 165 in the world. The economy benefits from money sent back to the Philippines by 4 million to 5 million Filipinos working overseas. The Philippines suffers from pockets of poverty and from endemic corruption: It scores 34 out of 100 on Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index, which measures the perceived level of government corruption; a score of 100 indicates that the government is seen as clean. The Philippines ranked well below average, 105th out of 174 countries ranked.
Sources: CIA World Factbook, U.S. State Department, U.S. Census Bureau, International Monetary Fund, Transparency International, World Bank.