The following is an excerpt from Nelson’s Encyclopaedia (undated but thought to be circa 1913).
A group, over 3,000 in number (only 350 of which are inhabited), in the E. Indian Archipelago, extending from 4°40′ to 21°10′ N. lat. and 116°40′ to 126°34′ E. long. Area, 127,853 sq. m.
Besides smaller isles, the group includes Luzon, Mindanao, Samar, Negros, Panay, Mindoro, Palawan, Leyte, Cebu, Bohol, and Masbate. Pop. (1911) 8,276,802, 25,000 being Americans and Europeans, and over 50,000 Chinese, Manila, in Luzon, is the capital. All the islands are very mountainous, and most of them volcanic in origin. In Luzon, Mt. Mayon (8,280 ft.) and in Mindanao, Mt. Apo (10,312 ft.) and Macaturin, are active volcanoes. In Negros, the Canlaon volcano is in constant eruption. Mindanao contains the great lakes of Lingausan and Buluan, and that of Lanao, an extinct crater.
Earthquakes are extremely frequent throughout the archipelago; one almost destroyed Manila in 1863. Alluvial gold is found in the majority of the islands, particularly in Mindanao and Luzon. Lignite is widely distributed. Copper is found in Luzon. Iron, quicksilver (in most), and sulphur are worked. Lead, petroleum, and platinum exist in Cebu. The climate is tropical, but is tempered by sea-breezes. The annual temperature ranges between 61° and 97°. The average at Manila is 80°, while the daily range is only about 15°. The rainfall at Manila is about 70 inches a year, seven-tenths of which falls in the monsoon season (June to October). Cyclones are frequent. The centres of the islands are covered with forests. The flora is similar to that of Malaya, but indicates a transition between it and the Chinese region. The balete, the Indian banyan, is very common, and grows to an immense size. Palms are numerous; the spice trees, cinnamon, clove, and pepper are found. Rice is the the staple food; bananas and all tropical fruits abound. Mangosteens and durians grow in Sulu and Mindanao. Tea and cocoa grow well. Hemp is much grown, and pineapple fibre yields the beautiful piña native fabric. Mammals are very scarce. In Luzon special forms of ratlike animals (Chrotomys, Celænomys, and Crunomys) occur, apparently forming a link with the zoology of Australia and New Guinea. Fruitbats are very numerous. Edible birds’ nests are exported to China, especially from Palawan. Some of the molluscs grow to an enormous size. In the Sulu Is. are extensive beds of pearl-oysters. For the year ending June 1911 the exports were valued at £7,955,726 and the imports at £9,966,744. The chief exports are hemp, copra, sugar, tobacco, and bêche de mer.
In January 1910 there were 512 m. of railway in the islands, and some 570 m. under construction. There are also some 7,000 m. of telegraph line and cable in and between the islands. Manila has cable connection with Hong-Kong, with Guam I., whence further cables run to Japan, and to Midway I., the Hawaii Is., and San Francisco. There is a university at Manila.
The natives of the islands may be roughly divided into those of Malayan origin, Indonesians, and Negritos The last are probably the aborigines. The great mass of the population are of Malayan race. The now reduced Moros (Mohammedans) of Mindanao and Sulu were formerly fierce pirates and slave dealers. The Tagalogs of Luzon and Mindoro are one of the more important Christian peoples. Of long-settled Malay stock, they had, before the coming of the Spaniards, attained a considerable degree of civilization. The Bisayans (Visayas), called Pintados or ‘the painted people,’ by the older writers, are held to be akin in race and in language to the Tagalogs. They inhabit the islands from Luzon to Mindanao, including a large portion of the latter. There are many wilder tribes, such as the Igorrotes, in Luzon – a people much addicted to tattooing, who are thought to have an admixture of Mongolian blood.
The Portuguese navigator Magellan was killed on the island of Mactan on April 27, 1521. In 1565-71 the islands were invaded and occupied by the Spaniards.The preaching friars then made the Malayan native nominal converts. Manila was refounded in 1571 as the Spanish capital. Mindanao was nominally conquered in 1597. The large Chinese population revolted and were massacred at Manila in 1603, or expelled. In 1762 Manila was captured by the British, and held until 1764. There were revolts against Spanish rule in 1872 and in 1896. Then Aguinaldo took the field, but after the pacification in 1897 retired to Hong-Kong. In 1898 the Spanish fleet was destroyed in Manila Bay, the capital surrendering to the Americans on August 13. By the treaty of Paris. Dec. 10. 1898. the Philippine Is. were awarded to America. Aguinaldo, however, proclaimed a ‘Philippine republic,’ and kept up a guerilla warfare, which did not entirely end with his capture on March 23, 1901. The supreme power is in the hands of a governor-general. There is also a Philippine Commision of nine members (including four natives) and a Philippine Assembly. There are thirty-nine provinces, each with a governor.