Philippines: Timeline

For the past two centuries, the Philippines has been ruled by three foreign powers and a homegrown dictator. But it also has fought for the right of self-rule, seen "people power" conquer tyranny, and at times was a model of democracy in Asia. Officials may seek to build on the bright spots in the island nation's history as they face a restive Muslim minority seeking self-rule, terror from kidnapping bandits and the trial of a former president.

1521 Ferdinand Magellan claims the Philippines for Spain.

1565 Spain formally organizes the Philippines as a Spanish colony.

1898 With the United States winning the Spanish-American War, Philippines rebel leader Emilio Aguinaldo declares the Philippines independent on June 12, which will be recognized in the future as the Philippines' Independence Day. However, amid uncertainty, several imperial powers begin vying for influence in the Philippines. And following its defeat, Spain cedes the Philippines to the United States.

1899-1901 The United States subdues a battle for independence led by Emilio Aguinaldo.

December 1941 Japan drives U.S. forces from the Philippines after its surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and occupies the Philippines for most of the remainder of World War II.

1945 U.S. forces retake the Philippines.

July 4, 1946 The United States grants independence to the Philippines, a predominantly Roman Catholic country with a minority of several million Muslims concentrated on smaller southern islands. Some of the Muslims, known locally as Moros, had expressed a desire for autonomy.

1965 Ferdinand Marcos is elected president.

1972 The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) begins a separatist rebellion in the Philippines' Muslim-dominated southern islands. After actions by newly organized separatist and communist forces, and the allegedly staged assassination attempt of a government official, President Ferdinand Marcos declares martial law on Sept. 21.

1973 President Ferdinand Marcos adopts a new constitution and consolidates his hold on power.

1983 Opposition leader Benigno Aquino is shot in the head and killed as he arrives in Manila after three years in exile and a previous stint of imprisonment under Marcos.

1986 Amid public outrage over a rigged election, the so-called "people power" revolution topples the long-entrenched, authoritarian regime of Ferdinand Marcos, who flees the Philippines for the United States on Feb. 25, 1986. Corazon Aquino, widow of Benigno Aquino and Marcos' election opponent, becomes the Philippines first female president. … The MNLF, the Muslim separatist group, enters into peace negotiations with the Philippines government.

1991 The Abu Sayyaf group emerges in the Philippines, ostensibly to support the generations-long battle for an independent Muslim state in the southern islands. The group, led by Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani, an Islamic preacher from the Philippines island of Basilan who fought in the war to expel the Soviets from Afghanistan, espouses a more conservative religious ideology than the country's leading Muslim separatist group, the MNLF. Abu Sayyaf launches a string of kidnappings, killings and attacks on Christian and government targets. Authorities soon will claim the Abu Sayyaf attacks are becoming less about ideology and more about financial gain.

June 1991 Mount Pinatubo, on the heavily populated Philippine island of Luzon, erupts after three decades of dormancy, killing hundreds of people and leaving nearly a half-million temporarily homeless.

Apr. 4, 1995 Abu Sayyaf members are blamed for massacring 52 villagers in the small southern Philippine town of Ipil, which is largely Christian, and terrorizing others.

1996 The MNLF and its leader, Nur Misuari, agree to a peace deal with the government after decades of violent rebellion. However, a splinter group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) rejects the agreement and continues to fight. Both groups say they are unaffiliated with the smaller, but more radical, Abu Sayyaf group.

Dec. 19, 1998 Abu Sayyaf leader Abdurajak Abubakar Janjalani is killed in a gunfight with authorities.

April 2000 Abu Sayyaf kidnaps 21 people, including 10 Westerners, from a resort on the Malaysian island of Sipadan.

August 2000 Abu Sayyaf abducts Jeffrey Schilling, a U.S. citizen.

Jan. 20, 2001 President Joseph Estrada is removed from office amid allegations of corruption. He is replaced by his vice president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

April 2001 Jeffrey Schilling, an American held hostage by Abu Sayyaf, is released.

May 1, 2001 About 50,000 supporters of deposed President Joseph Estrada stage a failed attempt to storm the presidential palace in Manila.

May 27, 2001 Abu Sayyaf kidnaps three U.S. citizens and 17 Filipinos from a resort off the coast of the southern Philippine island of Palawan and demands ransoms. The Americans are Guillermo Sobero, of Corona, Calif., and Martin and Gracia Burnham, missionaries from Wichita, Kan.

June 12, 2001 Abu Sayyaf spokesman Abu Sabaya claims the group beheaded Guillermo Sobero, an American it was holding hostage, as an "independence day gift" for President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of the Philippines.

July 8, 2001 Philippine authorities arrest Nadzmie Sabtulah, also known as Commander Global, saying he is a high-ranking Abu Sayyaf leader and his capture is "a great setback" for Abu Sayyaf.

Sept. 24, 2001 President Bush includes Abu Sayyaf among groups targeted in an executive order to freeze financial assets of suspected terrorists.

Oct. 1, 2001 Former President Joseph Estrada goes on trial on plundering charges, which constitute a series of criminal acts resulting in at least $1 million of illegally acquired wealth. The charge carries a maximum penalty of death, and the trial could take a year or more.

Oct. 5, 2001 The U.S. government withdraws officials from the southern Mindanao region of the Philippines, as the State Department cites Abu Sayyaf in a travel advisory warning Americans not to visit the region.

Oct. 12, 2001 U.S. Embassy officials in Manila confirm headless skeletal remains found Oct. 8 in a Basilan island jungle were those of Guillermo Sobero, an American kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf in May.

Nov. 20, 2001 U.S. President George Bush tells visiting Philippines President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo that the U.S. will help fight Abu Sayyaf. He agrees to ask Congress for millions of dollars for the effort, and vows to reporters the U.S. will act "in any way [Arroyo] suggests in getting rid of Abu Sayyaf."

Nov. 24, 2001 MNLF leader Nur Misuari, wanted in the Philippines after allegedly renewing his fight for Islamic independence in the southern part of the country, is arrested in Sabah, Malaysia, for entering that country without official documents.

Nov. 26, 2001 A Philippines cable television station broadcasts an interview with Martin and Gracia Burnham, a Wichita, Kan., couple held by Abu Sayyaf. The interview, which the station says was made the prior day, marks the first glimpse of the couple on videotape since their abduction on May 27.