The Philippines were claimed in the name of Spain in 1521 by Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese explorer sailing for Spain, who named the islands after King Philip II of Spain. They were then called Las Felipinas. The Americans took control of the Philippines upon defeating Spain in the Spanish-American war of 1898. During World War II, the islands were occupied by the Japanese. Toward the end of the war, the Americans returned, and following the war, the Philippines were granted independence. The country known today as the Republic of the Philippines lies right in the heart of Southeast Asia, between the Pacific Ocean and the South China Sea. The Philippines has 7,107 islands extending more than 1,700 kilometers (1,056 miles) in the direction of the Equator. The islands are divided into three main areas: Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. Luzon is the major northern island; it is there that you will find the capital, Manila. The Visayas, is the middle cluster of islands featuring tropical beaches scattered throughout warm seas. Mindanao is the southernmost group of islands and has a diverse topography. There are five major mountain systems and the same number of peninsulas as well as valleys, lakes and regions of dense forests and swamps.
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