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PHILIPPINE ISLANDS, the most northern group of the Indian archipelago, belonging chiefly to Spain. They embrace an area of 112,500 sq. m., from lat. 5° 24' to 19° 38' N., and from lon. 117° 21' to 126° 8' E., and are bounded N. and E. by the Pacific, S. by the Celebes and Sooloo (or Mindoro) seas, and W. by the China sea. The group consists of 9 larger and nearly 1,200 small islands, most of the latter being little more than bare rocks, raised to the surface by volcanic action. The larger islands (exclusive of Palawan), with their area and population, as estimated by Dr. Meyer in 1871, are as follows:

ISLANDS.  Area in sq. m.   Population. 



Luzon 41,121   4,540,191 
Panay 4,742  1,052,586 
Cebú 2,215  427,356 
Leyte 3,592  285,495 
Bohol 1,190  283,515 
Negros 3,480  255,873 
Sámar 5,028  250,062 
Mindanao   33,377  191,802 
Mindoro 3,940  70,926 


AmCyc Philippine Islands.jpg

The entire group is divided into 43 provinces, subdivided into 852 cantons, with a total population of 7,451,352. Luzon, the largest and best known island, is separated from the island of Sámar by the strait of San Bernardino. (See Luzon, and Manila.) Mindanao, the most southern of the islands, has a coast line exceeding 1,000 m. Irregularly shaped, as are most formations of the group, it has a peninsula which stretches upward of 150 m. from the main part; its length from N. to S. is 275 m.; greatest breadth, exclusive of the peninsula, 140 m. In the interior is a large lake, about 30 m. long and 18 m. wide, of which little is known on account of the mountainous character of the country. The Spanish settlements are chiefly on the N. slopes. Mindoro is about 100 m. long, with an average breadth of 40 m. It has high but gently sloping mountains, the coasts being lined with low forest hills. The Malay settlements on the coast are few and insignificant. Panay is about 100 m. long, and its greatest breadth is 80 m.; its W. coast is well populated and cultivated; the interior is intersected by a steep mountain range. Negros is 130 m. long and 25 m. broad; it is mountainous, and has but few settlements. Cebú measures 140 m. from N. to S., but averages little more than 15 m. in width; it is well cultivated by a considerable number of settlers. Bohol, or Bojol, E. of Cebú and W. of Leyte, extends about 45 m. from W. to E., with an average width of 25 m. Leyte extends about 120 m. from N. to S., with an average breadth of 30 m. Sámar is 150 m. long, and its greatest breadth is 75 m. The greater part of this island is covered with high mountains. Masbate, the largest of a group called the Bisayan islands, measures about 85 by 15 m.; area, 1,225 sq. m. Palawan or Paragua, only the N. E. portion of which is included in the Spanish government of the Philippines, is 275 m. long with an average width of 20 m.—The geological features of the whole group are the same. Many mountainous parts abound in metals; gold is found in the sand of the rivers; iron, copper, coal, and sulphur may be obtained in most of the islands; mercury has been found in Luzon. The climate is hot, but tempered by great and fertilizing moisture. The rainy season lasts from May to November. The heaviest rains fall in July. The mean summer temperature is between 80° and 82°, the mean winter temperature between 70° and 72°. On the W. coasts very heavy rains fall during the S. W. monsoon, frequently flooding the soil and causing great damage; on the E. shores the mountain ranges keep the atmosphere clear and dry. The returning monsoon, on the other hand, which begins in October, moistens and fertilizes the E. slopes. A great part of Luzon is subject to typhoons, which blow between May and December and last from six to eight hours, often causing great destruction to the shipping and property on shore.—The agricultural products of the Philippines include sugar, indigo, tobacco, rice, millet, maize, sago, hemp, and coffee. Tobacco thrives, and forms a staple export in the shape of Manila cigars. Rice is widely cultivated, and forms the principal article of food of the bulk of the population. Fruits and vegetables introduced from more temperate regions grow well. The trees with which many of the mountains are covered furnish various kinds of valuable timber, as well as dye woods and gums. Among the animals are strong buffaloes, which are caught and trained when young, and used as beasts of burden and for all purposes of tillage and husbandry; small but hardy horses, introduced by the Spaniards; goats, pigs, sheep, and large numbers of water fowl as well as domestic poultry. There are no wild beasts, but crocodiles and snakes infest the lakes and marshes. Swallows build edible nests in the chalk cliffs; parrots and pigeons are met with in all the islands. The sea and rivers abound with fish, which the Malays prefer to meat.—The population is extremely mixed. The pure Spaniards do not exceed 5,000 in all, but there are many Creole Spaniards, metis, Chinese; Chinese half-breeds, and Mohammedans from the East Indies. The Malay Indians form the bulk of the population, and are divided into two tribes, the Tagals and the Bisayans. They make matting, straw hats, cigar cases, baskets, cloth and tissues of every sort, cordage, and leather, and are clever workers in gold, silver, and copper; the women are especially expert in needlework. Their agricultural implements are very simple, and their plough is remarkable for its lightness and efficiency. The race called negritos by the Spaniards were probably the aboriginal inhabitants of the Philippines, and are still found in considerable numbers on the mountains. They appear to be gradually dying out, and when the Spaniards first landed had already been driven back by the Malays to the mountainous parts. (See Negritos.) The Spanish laws for the Indians are extremely simple. Every township annually elects a deputy governor, who acts as mayor, justice, and magistrate. In important affairs he is dependent upon the governor of the province, the latter being subordinate to the captain general, whose seat of government is at Manila; the other important islands are presided over by lieutenant governors. Every male inhabitant must, besides paying a small personal tax, give 40 days' labor annually to the public works department; besides which, in some parts of Luzon, the polistas or coolies (numbering 957,427 in 1871) must cultivate tobacco for the government, but from this service they may purchase exemption.—The Philippines were discovered by Fernando Magalhaens in 1521; but the Arabs had already established communication with these islands by sailing along the shores of India, and thence crossing the bay of Bengal. Magalhaens was killed on one of the islands. In 1564 Philip II. sent a squadron under Lopez de Leguaspi from Mexico, which first landed at Cebú, and soon subdued it. In 1570 a second fleet sailed from Panay for Luzon, and finally, after repeated engagements with the native chiefs, effected a settlement on the bay of Manila. In the following year the Spanish admiral proclaimed Manila the capital of these possessions for his royal master, after whom they were thenceforward called. With the exception of fruitless attempts on the part of the Dutch and the Chinese during the 16th century to obtain a footing on the islands, which had meanwhile opened a valuable trade with Japan, the Spaniards remained in undisturbed possession till 1762, when the English stormed Manila under Admiral Cornish and Sir William Draper. The city saved itself from plunder by agreeing to pay a ransom of $5,000,000. The smaller islands long suffered severely from the attacks of pirates, who had always infested those seas. In 1851, however, their depredations were checked by a successful naval expedition against the island of Sooloo, the sultan of which was deposed, and a permanent Spanish settlement was established there. The Philippine islands were explored in 1863 by Mr. Semper, and more recently by the German naturalist Dr. Meyer. Many restrictions still hamper commerce, and only four ports are open to foreign shipping: Manila and Saal in Luzon, Zamboanga in Mindanao, and Iloilo in Panay.