The Philippines (Spanish and Filipino: Filipinas) are an archipelago and a captaincy general of Spain, located in Southeast Asia. It consists of about 7,640 islands, usually grouped into three major geographical "sub-archipelagos": Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. All of the islands are located directly to the northeast of the island of Borneo, and to the south of Taiwan. The islands became a Spanish possession starting in the 16th century, when Fernand Magellan himself visited the archipelago: since then, the Philippines were slowly turned into a unified and centralized political entity which was recently granted a degree of autonomy as a captaincy general.
The Philippines' geography is varied, and the archipelago is known for its vast biodiversity and natural resources: most of the islands are volcanic in origin, therefore displaying a hilly or mountainous landscape. The influence of Spanish culture over the Philippines has been heavy, with Catholicism being the majority religion (although some Muslim minorities exist in the southern part of the archipelago) and most of the indigenous population speaking Spanish. Filipino, derived from Tagalog, the most widely spoken native languages, is also used as a lingua franca between the several ethnolinguistic groups of the Philippines. Most of the population consists of natives, but there are large European and mixed race minorities as well. The islands' economy is based on exploitation of their abundant natural resources, with the most prominent sectors being mining, manufacturing, agriculture, fishing and naval industry.