the philippines

jack by our pool at sunsetJack 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.

casket shopReally… every sign is in English.  Even for things that have to be just for locals, like casket shops. Of which there seem to be many!

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.

church on the beachBut 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.

jesus n manilaApart from religion, where the Spanish had a huge impact (90 % of the country is Christian and there are churches everywhere), they had surprisingly little influence on the modern country.

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.

slog the drive to la unionThey 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.

manila trafficThe 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.jack surfing

me surfingLuckily 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!surfer boy


  1. Julie thrilled you are still enjoying travelling. Never too old to keep learning in a broad sense.kay

  2. You really read the history of the Philippines and I like it because I’m a filipino, I just want to add about Magellan and Lapu Lapu , Lapu Lapu killed Magellan in the battle of Mactan and Lapu Lapu beheaded Magellan and hide the head. After the American bought Philippines from Spain and it’s became the commonwealth of the USA as you can on our old coin that we carry the American eagle at the back of our coin.but corrupt official don’t want us to be usa citizen.and he commented that he rather see the filipino starving rather than under the USA .but this official died in USA of tuberculosis . Now they kick out the big military base in Asia because they want to be paid for billion dollars year and us government move out and mount pinatubo erupted then after they clean it . They used for Freeport .and established many big factory and make more revenue.

  3. Hi Julie;

    Thank you for your great blog this morning. I replied immediately, but now have a message that you may not have received it. Let me know, and I’ll re-send if necessary.


  4. Hi Julie, I just love to read your blogs, keep them coming!,, Big hug and enjoy

    3369 The Crescent Vancouver BC V6H 1T6 Canada

  5. Why could I not have had you as a History teacher ? The whole story in just a few paragraphs – everything but the story of the Igorots. You are amazing. . .how do you learn all the relevant facts so quickly ? (And your judgments on individuals like McArthur are spot-on). I nominate you to revise all of our history texts. Do keep it coming. . .and continue to enjoy Bernie

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