The mountainous archipelago of the Philippines lies between the Philippine Sea and the South China Sea, east of Vietnam in Southeast Asia. A wealth of islands (7,107 in all) comprise the country, with main island groups of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. A Spanish colony in the 16th century, it was ceded to the United States in 1898. After Japanese occupation during World War II, the Republic of the Philippines attained its independence on July 4, 1946.
Over 90 million people reside on the islands today, with more than 11 million in the capital of Manila, but Davao City is the largest according to land. For adventurous explorers, St. Paul National Park in the province of Palawan is home to the longest underground river system accessible to man. The whale shark, the largest fish in the world, is known to swim off the coast of the Philippines. Finally for the food lover, the popular Pancit Lucban, noodles made from rice flour, are sold by street vendors on a piece of banana leaf, sans utensils, for your slurping pleasure.