The Republic ofthe Philippines
************************************** The Philippines to American Arrival **************************************
The original Filipinos came from southern China, but before the Chinese arrived from their heartland further to the north. Instead the Filipinos relate to the Polynesians, and the Philippines represents one of the first steps of the Polynesians on the long road that leads from Southern China as far as Hawaii and even Easter Island (sorry, no tours). In the Philippine islands, they found small groups of dark-skinned hunters and gathers who remain today, in small bands, in the hills out of reach. When the more modern Chinese arrived in China, the Philippines lost this point of contact with the mainland. Further social development awaited the building of an active trade between China and India after 600 A.D. India, not China, dominated this trade, and Indian traders profoundly influenced such states as Chamla (see Central Vietnam ) for a reference. Within the area of Indonesia and Malaysia, several strong kingdoms and empires, include Sri Vija (668-1372) and Majapajit (1292-1487), and the Sultunate of Molucca (1402-1513) arose with the sole purpose of taxing and exploiting that trade. The Philippines remained an unimportant, occasional part of these empires. A quick glance at the map should show why. The Indians sailed with the trade winds and hugged the coast. They could hardly avoid strong kingdoms located on Java (Majapajit), Sumatra (Sri Vija), or Malaysia (Molucca), but they typically sailed far west of the backwater Philippines. The Philippine islands remained petty kingdoms, somewhat influenced by Indian culture and beliefs, but essentially tribal. The advent of Ferdinand Magellan changed Philippine history though at first it seemed a misadventure (see the Cebu tour for a brief overview. The Spanish conquered the Philippines in 1561 and kept it by accident. When the Pope made the famous Treaty of Tortessilas in 1500, which divided the world in half, he intended to give Portugal the East and Spain the West. Brazil, however, lay to east of his line, and the Philippines to the West. The Spanish did relatively little in the Philippines beyond making money. Their interests centered on trade with China and Spanish. During the year, Chinese junks and lesser Spanish vessels travelled to and from the Middle Kingdom. Yearly, then, a fleet of galleons, loaded with Chinese good where travel to Acapulco. Mules then carted the goods intended for Europe across Central Ameria for shipment to Spain. Despite the apparent cost, the Spanish made a fabulous amount of money, due to the high demand for Chinese goods. Locally, the Spanish seldom ventured beyond Manila. They granted the local chiefs hereditary titles and allowed them to govern. These local notables inter-married with the Spanish and Chinese traders to to form the mixed race upper class that continues to dominate the Philippines even today. The most lasting impact of the Spanish concerned Catholicism. Quickly the main Spanish orders, the Franciscans, Jesuits, and Dominicans, converted the Philippines. As in Mexico, however, this speedy conversion often meant that many local folk beliefs became absorbed in the local brand of Catholicism. The southern island of Mindoro, already converted by Islamic Malaysians, resisted this conversion and does so to this day. Considering how readily Malaysia and Indonesia converted to Islam, likely another twenty years would've made the Philippines so Islamic as to resist the Catholics and possibly reject the Spanish. This must seem ironic since the Filipinos, today, probably rival any country for devoted Catholicism.
Ironically, the Americans landed in the Philippines directly after the defeat of the Spanish ground forces by Filipino guerillas. The war frenzied Americans had declared war on Spain to free Cuba, but Dewey's fleet struck the Spanish first in Manila Bay. When the dust of a long resistance war (1899-1901) lifted, the US ruled the Philippines and had ended all resistance, including that led by Philippine President Aguinaldo. The US, sometimes, seemed accidental imperialists in the Philippines. They changed the structure of government, but the same rich faces remained in power, using money to buy votes. They built schools for everyone, but still the poor needed to leave school to work for the rich. For a long time, at least 1930 onward, the US simply tried to leave. World War II simply interrupted the US departure. During the war, many of the upper class aided the Japanese. Many Filipinos, however, particularly the poor, fought on the US side. Thinking of it objectively, one can hardly make many quick moral decisions on this: why choose one colonial master over another? Significantly, the resistance grew in force as the true, brutal nature of Japanese rule became apparent. The US, after restoring itself, quickly withdrew from its last "colony."
Or did the US leave? Even after independence, the US continued to own a vast naval base at Subic Bay and Clark Air Force Base, both on Luzon. Further, the US clearly viewed the Philippines as an active part of its anti-Communist posture, bombing Vietnam and Korea from the islands. Nor did it hesitate to throw its weight around in other ways, using its influence to help elect Magsaysay (depicted fictionally in The Ugly American ) and flying bombers overhead during attempted coups. Marcos's long dictatorship certainly corresponded with US interests. Marcos said the right Cold War messages, fought the rebels, and took the money (from everyone apparently) and traded with the US. Reagan supported Marcos to the very end, even after it became clear the true extent of Marcos's misrule and graft. The departure of Marcos, led many Filipinos to demand the closing of the bases and my visit coincided with the dying embers of that argument (in 1992). To put it bluntly, the Filipino politicians demanded in public for the US to leave, and in the back room used this to up the price charged to the US for renting the facilities. Finally, the price simply became too high, especially when Singapore and Japan would host US troops for free. Common people in the Philippines really couldn't understand the logic. While they claimed to love the Americans, they disavowed Colonialism. Though they claimed to hate the bases, they welcomed the troops to stay. Probably, this represents a typical "anti-Colonial" ambiguity, but, as an American, again, I never claimed we owned any colonies in the first place.
A final factor needs consideration in touring the Philippines: the high number of Filipinos who don't actually live in the Philippines. Dedicated Catholicism leads to a high birthrate. Lack of opportunities, leads to an excess population, and this leads to emigration. You find Filipinos everywhere. Partly this stems from a genuine work ethic. Just as importantly, Filipinos feel a very high sense of family duty, sometimes best met by sending money home to loved. Finally, though, the Filipinos, more than any other Asians, have a familarity with American culture. These factors make them the domestics in the Middle East and the entertainers in Asia. Probably no country on Earth gets such a high percentage of its GDP from checks sent home (20% or higher). This national wandering comes with positives and negatives. Of course, it boosts the national economy, but mainly in simply allowing Filipinos to buy more foreign goods. In a more negative way, it takes the pressure off the politicians, who don't have to deliver any of the real reform that would end the conditions that afflict Philippines. Basically, the youngest and brightest, those on the planes would logically lead the way to a new Philippines, but instead they fly away.I visited the Philippines in the winter of 1991. This was the year AFTER the Philippines decided not to renew the bases contract.
Manila is one of those really massive cities in Asia that seems to defy logical planning. While this tour concentrates on the central city, the suburbs go on and on. In Metro Manila, you find the poor living in the streets. With Manila's climate, you can live in the streets. They live in cardboard boxes, wood, and cast-off anything with site of mansions. Contrary to what you hear, however, they seem constantly in search of work and willing to do almost anything. While, like most, I don't like big cities, I like Manila more than most. People seem to try to stay on their best, most polite behavior in the crowds. Only in Manila, of all Asia, could I spend an hour sipping a beer (with the ice thrown in) talking in English to a homeless man and not feel particularly depressed.During my visit, every problem seemed attibutable to "Mr. Marcos," as people said. Marcos, however, built this light rail system that worked.
This shows the paddlers on the way to Pacsarjan Falls. I felt a little guilty making them paddle, but not when they persisted in asking for tips, fawning, and complaining.
Most of my friends who left the Republic wouldn't even want to see a scale model of Mount Pinatubo which destroyed Clark Air Force Base. Prior to its eruption scientists considered the volcano dormant!
This houses the University of San Carlos. The Philippines seems to have more universities per square mile than almost any country, a sign of the deep respect that Filipinos have for higher education.
The Rizal monument honors a man who led first a conventional and later guerilla struggle against US rule. Filipinos consider him a national hero for his resistance to imperialism.
I spent some time talking to a man here only to find he lived in the park. In Manila, many poor people live in the divided space between the two lanes of the main highways in houses made of cardboard and scraps.
City Hall holds a somewhat ironic motto that no one should come to power without the will of the people. Before Acquino, probably no leader actually came to power with the consent of the people.
This shows the entrance to Manila's Chinatown. As in other parts of Asia, the Chinese business community plays an important role in commerce. In the Philippines, however, perhaps appropriately, a lot more intermarriage took place with other races, so that most upper class Filipinos (including Acquino) have at least some Chinese blood, along with some Spanish.
The grafitti of the time shows the unpopularity of the idea of the "Joint Use Treaty" which would allow American ships to dock at Filipino ports. Youth saw this as a way for the US to gradually get back in the Philippines on the same basis as previously.
Tourists sometimes ride in this things, not Filipinos. Most historians credit the presence of horses in the 19th Century with the persistence of a number of diseases. Not only that, no one wants to walk in horse *&$%&. Tourists, please vote with your hard-earned dollars and boycott the horse carts.
It says something about the Filipinos that Manila Cathedral, not Fort Santiago, functions as the national monument and the center of postcards.
This shows Manila's other symbol, the jeepney. Since Toyota Land Cruisers constitute the bulks, one might call them "Landneys." The jeepney owner decorates his machine with endless trinkets, religious madellions, and folk art.
When Dewey's sleek fleet of American vessels entered Manila harbor, the decrepit Spanish fleet let off a withering fire that fell every which way. Dewey calmly waited and then told his chief officer:
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