The Republic of the Philippines is an archipelago consisting of more than 7,000 islands and islets lying about 800 km off the southeast coast of Asia and stretching 1,850 km from north to south. It is bounded by the Philippine Sea to the east, the Celebes Sea to the south, and the West Philippine Sea to the west and north. Manila is the biggest city and the national capital. It is located in Luzon, the largest island. Only about two-fifths of the islands and islets have names, and only 350 are larger than one square mile.The Philippines is home to about 102 million people. Filipinos comprise of 111 cultural and linguistic groups of Malay-Polynesian origin, with varying degrees of Chinese, Spanish and American influences. About 90 percent of Filipinos are Roman Catholic, with smaller numbers of Protestants and Muslims. The national language is Filipino, although English is the language of commerce and politics.Because it was ruled by Spain for 333 years and the United States for a further 48 years, the Philippines has many cultural affinities with the West. It is the fourth most populous country in which English is an official language and the only Christian country in Asia. Educationally, it is among the most advanced of Asian countries.Filipinos are warm, hospitable and fun-loving people. Throughout the islands, there are fiestas celebrated everyday and foreign guests are always welcome to their homes.