The culture of the Philippines is a combination of cultures of the East and West. Filipino identity was created primarily as a result of pre-colonial cultures, colonial influences, and foreign traders intermixing and gradually evolving together. In pre-colonial times, the Philippines was a divided set of nations, islands, and tribes being ruled by their own kings, chieftains, lakans, rajahs, datus, and sultans. Every nation has its own identity and some are even part of a larger empire outside of what is now the Philippines. Manila, for example, was once part of the Islamic Sultanate of Brunei, and the Sulu Archipelago was also part of the Hindu Majapahit. The advent of colonial rule in the islands marked the beginning of the Philippines as an entity, a collection of Southeast Asian countries united under the Spanish East Indies.
Chinese influence has been felt throughout Southeast Asia through trade, specifically by the Ming dynasty and other earlier dynasties from as early as the 9th century. The blending of indigenous, colonial and external influence is very evident in the historic arts and traditions of the country.
The Philippine archipelago was first settled by Negritos; today, although few in numbers, they preserve a very traditional way of life and culture. After them, the Austronesians arrived on the archipelago. The Austronesian culture is strongly evident in the ethnicities, languages, cuisine, music, dance and almost every aspect of the culture. These Austronesians engaged in trading with other Austronesians, particularly in the neighboring nations in Maritime Southeast Asia. They also traded with the Mainland Southeast Asia, as well as Japan, China, the Indian subcontinent and Arabia. As a result, some of these cultures marked their influences on Filipino culture. This gradually evolved with indigenous belief systems and developed into Anitism, which became the dominant religion for more than a millennium.
The Spanish Empire, via the Viceroyalty of New Spain, conquered the islands between the 16th and 19th centuries (Batanes is one of the last places to be colonized in the mid-1800s), resulting in Roman Catholicism to spread and dominate throughout the archipelago and influenced the religion and beliefs of the natives. Then, the Philippines became a U.S. territory for almost 50 years. Influence from the United States is manifested in the wide use of the English language, media and in the modern culture and clothing of present-day Philippines.