Jack and I have been in the Philippines a little over 4 days and so far we have learned a couple things. It’s hot here! Very hot! And humid (my hair is huge). It’s shockingly beautiful (except Manila). Jack is a natural surfer. I am not! And all the signs are in English.
I have had Filipinas helping me since Hunter was born. I could not have survived without them. I am ashamed to discover how little I know about the country these wonderful people came from.
It has an interesting history. When Magellan came here in 1521 he claimed all the islands for Spain (though he had no idea there were over 7000). And then he got busy converting the locals to Catholicism. He proved surprisingly successful, managing to sway a large number of tribal chieftains. But not all. Chief Lapu-Lapu was having none of it, and killed Magellan in a battle on Cebu Island.
But Spain desperately wanted these islands both to establish a foothold in Asia and to expand their burgeoning empire. They kept sending troops, missionaries and governors. By 1571 they controlled it all. And did so for the next 300 years.
That was left to the Americans who bought the country from Spain for $20 million in 1898. The Americans had been supporting the Philippine Revolution for independence. But once the Spanish left, the American President William McKinley decided the locals were unfit to self govern and it was his duty to civilize them. The Filipinos were not thrilled and went to war against the Americans.
They lost. The Americans took over. But they did agree to gradually hand over independence. In the mean time they set about building bridges, roads, sewage systems and, most significantly, schools. Like the churches left by the Spanish, schools are everywhere and they all teach English. Along with Filipino (basically the Tagalog dialect) it is an official language. It has been great for Jack and I; we can communicate with everyone. It also explains why the signs are in English. Over 150 other languages are spoken in various parts of the country.
True to their word, the Americans established a democratic political system and gradually began handing over power to the Filipino people. Beautiful Manila, the Paris of Asia, the Pearl of the Orient, became the capital of the Commonwealth of Philippines. It had wide boulevards lined with beautiful houses. It was the center of trade and a hub of art deco design. That was until World War Two hit.
The Japanese didn’t just bomb Pearl Harbor when they attacked the US. They also bombed the Philippines. And occupied the country for 4 years. The disastrous General Douglas MacArthur promising “I shall return” after fleeing the invaders. Return he did. Determined to recapture the Philippines, he attacked the already suffering city of Manila. The destruction of Manila during the war has been compared to that of Hiroshima and Dresden. Utterly ruined, it has yet to recover and its beauty is lost.
Luckily for Jack and I we were only there a few hours and spent most of that time asleep. Instead of exploring the city we drove north for 6 hours through gorgeous, green and sparsely populated countryside until we reached La Union. We have rented a small house right on the beach of this surfing mecca. With the help of our fabulous instructors, Mila and Ago, and perfect waves we have discovered Jack is as talented as I am not. Fortunately I am an expert at lounging and having massages, so no complaints!