More than 7,000 islands make up the Philippines, but the bulk of its fast-growing population lives on just 11 of them. Much of the country is mountainous and prone to earthquakes and eruptions from around 20 active volcanoes. It is often buffeted by typhoons and other storms.
Two presidents of the Philippines were forced from office by "people power" in the space of 15 years.
In 1986, President Ferdinand Marcos stepped down after mass demonstrations accompanied allegations of electoral manipulation.
In January 2001 President Joseph Estrada relinquished power following months of protests. He was charged with plundering the economy for his own benefit, found guilty of massive corruption and jailed for life in September 2007. He won a presidential pardon. The church's influence is strong in Asia's largest Catholic nation.
Philippines Tourist Attractions
On the southern island of Mindanao, rebels have been fighting for a separate Islamic state within the mainly-Catholic country. The decades-long conflict has claimed more than 120,000 lives. Martinique
Sporadic violence has continued despite a 2003 ceasefire and peace talks. Other Muslim separatists, the Abu Sayyaf group on Jolo, have a history of violence towards hostages, and the government has declared all-out war on the rebels.
Though it once boasted one of the region's best-performing economies, the Philippines is saddled with a large national debt and tens of millions of people live in poverty.
The economy is heavily dependent on the billions of dollars sent home each year by the huge Filipino overseas workforce.
The Philippines has the highest birth rate in Asia, and forecasters say the population could double within three decades. Governments generally avoid taking strong measures to curb the birth rate, not wishing to antagonise the Catholic Church, which opposes artificial methods of contraception.
The Philippines - a Spanish colony for more than three centuries - is named after a 16th century Spanish king. The territory was administered by the US in the early 20th century. Western and Asian influences have shaped Filipino culture.Overview
Full name: Republic of the Philippines
Population: 88 million (UN, 2007)
Area: 300,000 sq km (115,831 sq miles)
Major languages: Filipino, English (both official)
Major religion: Christianity
Life expectancy: 70 years (men), 74 years (women) (UN, 2007)
Monetary unit: 1 Philippine peso = 100 centavos
Main exports: Electrical machinery, clothing, food and live animals, chemicals, timber products
GNI per capita: US $1,300 (World Bank, 2006)
Internet domain: .ph
International dialling code: +63