All I Can Recall About the Philippines, Even if I Was Tortured


What can I remember about the Philippines off the top of my head?

By Ostrander

28 May 2013

I am shamefully ignorant of the Philippines.

Here is what I know off the top of my head:


Hey, their flag really does have a sun on it!

  • Its flag has a sun in it, and its capital is Manila.  The people mostly speak Tagalog.
  • It has a simmering conflict with Muslims in the southern island of Luzon.  The Muslims have won non-contiguous areas of semi-autonomous self-rule.

(I’m impressing myself so far.  I remembered more than I thought possible.  Maybe I could pass the Philippines’ citizenship test!)

  • I had a dream once about riding in an old steamship in the shimmering waters of Manila bay, and I saw an old naval fort on an island in the bay that isn’t used anymore.  I’m not sure if this was a dream or an old History Channel show (back when the History Channel actually showed historical documentaries instead of the dreadful American Pickers, Pawn Stars, and Storage Wars that now plague that channel 24-hours per day).
  • The US snatched the archipelago from Spain in 1898 after the Spanish-American War, and this imperialism caused quite a controversy at the time in the US. (And probably in the Philippines, too, I guess, but the history books have little to say about that.)


    “Shine them boots and git a haircut!” Old memories traumatize my mind!

  • General Leonard Wood, good buddy of Theodore Roosevelt, ruled the islands in the 1910’s and 1920’s, I think.  Wood was supposedly popular in the Philippines, but I get the impression, based on old photographs (that is, on purely superficial prejudices), that Wood was an inflexible martinet, prone to temper tantrums.  I admit that these impressions are likely false, and I must claim a great ignorance of Leonard Wood’s personality, but old prejudices fit so comfortably sometimes, however ridiculous, like a worn-out pair of old long johns.
  • The US lost the Philippines during World War II.  I think MacArthur abandoned the islands to the advancing Japanese, much to the humiliation of the US.  But he redeemed himself a few years later, and we accepted Filipino independence after the war ended.
  • The US left a bunch of Jeeps in the Philippines, and the locals gussied them all up into a bunch of taxicabs for tourists that are still driven today.


    This man fought World War II in the Philippines until 1975 or so.

  • Four or five Japanese soldiers continued to fight World War II in the Philippine jungles long after the war had ended.  They slaughtered goats and cats and stole muumuus from old women’s clotheslines.  All but one of them either died or surrendered, but this last soldier fought World War II with unrelenting gusto until 1975 or thereabouts.  His old commanding officer had to fly to the island and formally release this dedicated soldier from his duty.  The old soldier moved back to Japan, and I think he is now the world’s oldest man, and he recently climbed Mt. Everest for the third time.


    What sort of lunatic thought up the balut recipe? (I looked up the name after writing the article.)

  • The Filipinos like to eat nasty, old fertilized eggs that they bury in the ground for maybe two years, and then they exhume them to slurp up the old, disgusting chicken embryo as a treat.  I can’t remember what this treat is called.
  • A friend of mine told me about how he was stationed in the Philippines in the sixties and some little street urchin snatched the watch off his wrist.  My friend chased after the kid, screaming after him, and a policeman nabbed the young thief, restored the watch to my friend, then smashed the kid’s hand with his pistol so he wouldn’t steal anymore.  I don’t know if this story is true or not, but my friend tells it over and over again.
  • Didn’t the Philippines recently elect a female prime minister?  Or maybe that was some other country?  I cannot recall.

And that’s about all I can remember about the Philippines.  I guess I’d fail their citizenship test after all.


6 thoughts on “All I Can Recall About the Philippines, Even if I Was Tortured

    • Hi, Rosemarie! Well, I had failed to think up a post this week. Normally I plan an article in my head for some time, be it hours or sometimes days. Then I write it up, tweak it for a day or two, adding this or that, if I have the luxury to do so. Some articles only get half written and put on the shelf until I can think of what to do with them. But it was a dry week for inspiration. 🙂

      In this case, something (I can’t remember what) triggered a memory about those Japanese holdouts in the Philippines, which led to thoughts about the stories that my longtime Marine friend tells from time to time, which led to other memories about the Philippines. At that point I decided that it might be amusing, if only to myself, to make a list of all of the things I could remember about the Philippines, correct or otherwise. When the list grew long enough, I tweaked it for about an hour, then made it my belated post for the week.

      I also like to think that a Filipino who read this little thrown-together article might be amused at my ignorance of the country. Or perhaps bemused. I do consider geography a hobby, and history also, and unfortunately my knowledge of the Philippines is sketchier than it ought to be. I must brush up!

      Thanks for your question, Rosemarie; it’s nice to be able to explain this somewhat unusual article.

    • Well, I must admit when you mentioned this that I had no idea who this was. I could not resist looking her up immediately after reading your question, though, and now I have seen her image, I think I must have read about her before, perhaps while reading about her husband President Ferdinand Marcos (though I’d forgotten all about him, too). She keeps running for high office, but her association with the former dictator likely dooms her chances, I’d think. But I don’t think I was thinking about her, and after doing some research, I have no idea who I could have been thinking about. Probably I’d read some news stories about Presidents Corazon Aquino or Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, but I can’t even be sure of that.

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