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Manila musings

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Fort Santiago in Intramuros

A recent visit to Mardid made me think of my trip to Manila back in June. Interestingly, just like Madrid, Manila – known then as Maynila – used to be a Muslim settlement until Spanish general Miguel López de Legazpi paid a visit to local ruler Rajah Sulayman in 1571 and established a colonial city. History of the Philippines from that point on was aptly described by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stanley Karnow as “300 years in a Catholic convent, and 50 years in Hollywood.” He brilliantly spells out the details of Spain’s three centuries long dominion over the archipelago and America’s foray into a colonial adventure there in his book In Our Image: America’s Empire in the Philippines.

Even though I had never been to the Philippines before, Manila filled me with a strange sensation of multiple dimensions of déjà vu. First, there is the Spanish influence over architecture, especially in the historic district of Intramuros. Looking at the Manila Cathedral I had to pinch myself and kept repeating: “I’m not in Mexico, I’m not in Mexico.” Incidentally, during the Spanish colonial period that’s where the Philippines were administered from rather than by Spain proper. The Manila-Acapulco galleon trade route brought Far East riches to the Americas and flourished from 1571 until 1815, ended by the Mexican War of Independence. Read the rest of this entry