As some of you may know, I recently took a much needed vacation. I travelled with my wife and son to the Philippines for just over 3 weeks so that Heidi could see her family again, I could visit her province for the first time, (the military would not let me travel there while stationed at Clark), and so my son could experience how other people live. Aside from my wife who was born and raised there, it was an eye opening experience for us all.
I have no idea what crosses through people’s minds when the subject of the Philippines is brought up. Could their only knowledge of the Filipino people be the boxer Manny Pacquiao, or could it be the news reports regarding the new Filipino President Duterte’s alleged human rights violations?
My intent in writing these short articles are to share some experiences I had while visiting the Philippines, and hopefully educating the people of this country regarding these amazing people. Don’t get me wrong, everything was not a bed of roses while I was there, but overall I came home with a newfound respect and love for, both the country, and the Filipino people.
Knowing that there are many living in this country who could not find Idaho or any of the other states in America without a map with the state names on it, I am relatively certain that there are a good many who could not find the Philippines on a world map without help. There are probably many who are not aware that the Philippines consist of almost 8,000 islands and comprise over 115,000 square miles of land. If you were to superimpose the Philippines over a map of the United States it would span from Louisiana up to Kansas, with it spreading east and west into Texas and Mississippi.
The population of the Philippines is over 100 million people, roughly 1/3 of that of the U.S. yet all those people are living in a land mass 30 times less than the U.S. It is the 7th most populated country in Asia and the 12th most populated country in the world. Most are also probably not aware that there are 182 spoken languages in the Philippines, with Tagalog being the national language all Filipino’s are taught in school.
The Philippines have always been strategically important and have been colonized and invaded many times throughout their history. In 1521 Ferdinand Magellan landed in the Philippines and claimed it for Spain. Magellan was later killed at the battle of Mactan in Cebu. Then in 1565 Miguel Lopez de Legazpi arrived and established the first lasting colony on the island of Cebu. From there, along with a coalition of Visayan and Hispanic soldiers, he chased the Muslims out of Manila.
Under Spanish rule the Philippines came together as a nation rather than a group of individual islands, each with its own distinct culture and language. Spanish influence is still felt in the Philippines with many words in the Filipino languages having their origin in Spanish.
The Philippines also came under U.S. rule after the islands were ceded to the U.S. after the conclusion of the Spanish American War in 1898. In 1935 the U.S. granted Commonwealth Status to the Philippines and was in the process of preparing them for independence when the Japanese invaded them in World War II. During World War II the Filipinos suffered numerous atrocities at the hands of the Japanese. My wife told me stories her grandfather had told her regarding how the Japanese would kill all the people of a village and then cut off the breasts of the women and then impale them on pikes as a warning not to resist Japanese occupation.
Eventually, after the Battle of Leyte, the Allied Forces were successful in liberating the Philippines from Japanese occupation. The U.S. then established a permanent military presence in the country with both Clark Air Base and Subic Bay Naval Base being the two primary locations where U.S. forces were stationed. This continued until the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991, causing the U.S. to abandon their bases and turn them over to the Philippine government.
This is just a part of the history of the Philippines that many in the U.S. are unaware of. Now that I’ve shared this information with you, let’s move on to my personal experiences while on vacation in that amazing country…