The over 7,000 islands that make up the Philippines share a culture that is deeply influenced by Spanish culture, having been a Spanish colony for three centuries; the Philippines remain the largest Catholic country in Asia. The Spanish-American war ended Spanish rule and led to the inauguration of Emilio Aguinaldo as the first President of the Philippines until 1901, when the United States claimed the Philippines as its colonial territory. Full independence was granted in the Treaty of Manila in 1946. Prominent political figures from the Philippines include Imelda Marcos, the extravagant and controversial wife of President Ferdinand Marcos, and Corazon Aquino, who was a powerful voice for reform and the first woman to become President of the Philippines.
The literature of the Philippines richly reflects its historical development. Jose Rizal, who was executed by the Spanish colonial government in 1896, was a Filipino patriot who strongly advocated for reform through political activism and in literature. His best known work is Noli Me Tangere. F. Sionil José, one of the most widely-read Filipino writers, focuses on class struggle and the effects of colonialism on the Philippines. Contemporary Filipino writers include Merlinda Bobis, author of White Turtle, and Miguel Syjuca whose novel Ilustrado won the 2008 Man Asian Literary Prize.
The cinema of the Philippines is amongst the most established in Asia with its first film screening in 1897. Ramona Diaz’s documentary Imelda tells the story of The Philippine’s most controversial and debated political figure Imelda Marcos. Auraeus Solito stirred emotions in his provocative feature film The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros, a story of an impoverished Filipino boy and his love for a policeman. Director Brillante Mendoza has gained international acclaim for films like Kinatay and Serbis. Other prominent directors include Mary J. de los Reyes, Gil Portes, Adolfo Alix, Jr, Jeffrey Jeturian, and Lav Diaz.