The Philippines are made up of 7,107 separate islands, each of
whom historically celebrated their own chieftain and island culture.
Magellan landed in the 16th century to claim the Philippines for
Spain. As this declaration did not please the Filipinos, they killed
him. Eventually Spain triumphed and named this archipelago for King
Phillip II of Spain. After three centuries of missionary work by
conquistadors and monks, today's population is over 80% Roman Catholic.
(Islam had been introduced in the 14th century by Arab traders and
today is practiced mostly in the southern islands, such as Mindanao.)
The US took over during the Spanish-American War, when it defeated
the Philippine navy in Manila Bay. In 1942, the Japanese occupied
the Philippines, until they were liberated by Macarthur, who set
up shop in the grand old Hotel Manila. We toured the Intramuros
district, the centuries old Spanish walled city, which eventually
evolved into places of dreadful internment for political prisoners,
those attempting to gain freedom for the Filipinos and later for
WW II POWs. Gleaming skyscrapers line modern Manila harbor towering
over traffic jammed streets of tricycle taxis and jeepneys. (Jeepneys
are recycled leftover WWII jeeps, now converted into outrageously
decorated buses that are a major arm of Manila's mass transportation
system.) McDonald patrons pass through carbine-armed security guards.
At the open market, naked toddlers crouch on littered sidewalks
and the open hands of sorrowful-eyed children reach out to underscore
the vast population of Filipino "have nots" existing in the shadows
of skyscrapers, marking Manila's affluent financial district. Indeed,
one of Manila's razor-sharp contrasts!