Myth Of The 20th Century – Episode 5: The Philippines, Crucible of Empire

Welcome to the Myth of the 20th Century. The podcast airs on Fridays.

— Brought to you by —

Adam Smith, Alex Nicholson, Hank Oslo, Mark Brown, and Nick Mason.


The Philippines has for centuries sat at the crossroads of foreign empires, serving as the gateway to the Pacific for the Moro, Spanish, American, and Japanese empires. As President Duterte considers aligning his country with the Chinese while leaving the relationship open to the Americans in the 21st century, we look back at the forces that shaped the Philippines in the 20th, starting with America’s invasion of the islands to displace the Spanish.


1897- Theodore Roosevelt becomes Assistant Secretary of the Navy
1898- February- USS Maine blown up
1898- April- US declares war on Spain
1898- May- Dewey destroys Spanish fleet in Manila Bay, troops land in Cuba, Battle of San Juan Hill
1898- December- Treaty of Paris
1899- Insurgency begins in the Philippines
1901- McKinley shot by anarchist, Theodore Roosevelt assumes presidency
1902- Insurgency ends, Philippines given semi-autonomy
1899-1913- Moro Rebellion
1935- Commonwealth status granted
1941-44- Japanese occupation
1944- Battle of Leyte Gulf, Americans rout occupying Japanese forces
1946- Treaty of Manila, Philippines becomes independent of the US
1965-86 – Ferdinand Marcos rules
2016- Rodrigo Duterte wins presidency


– The Battle of Leyte Gulf, Battlefield, Season 2, Episode 5 (1996),
Scalp Dance: Indian Warfare on the High Plains, 1865-1879, Goodrich (2002)
– Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, Perkins (2005)
– A War of Frontier and Empire – The Philippine-American War, 1899-1902, Silbey (2008)
– The American Peril, Hardcore History 49, Carlin (2013)
– How To Explain The Rise Of Rodrigo Duterte, Yuray (2016),
– A Closer Look At The Rise Of Rodrigo Duterte, Montilla (2016),

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  1. Always so glad to see new episodes of this show arrive, I’ve been hooked since the first one.

  2. We’ve got more for you coming. Thanks for listening.

  3. SecretForumLurker February 7, 2017 at 1:53 pm

    If you look at microfilm of actual NY Times headlines from late 1890s, the drama in Cuba was a huge story. They built an argument for intervention in multiple news outlets. It was high drama and the Spanish did screw up.

    Lost opportunity to cite how Marcos’ downfall was similar to the other military juntas around the world in the ’80s.

  4. William Walthall February 7, 2017 at 5:20 pm

    Almost no one in the Philippines speaks Spanish, The Spanish actually discouraged natives from learning Spanish, rather than imposing it on them like they did in the Americas. The Spanish Ruling class were actually mostly Mestizos who were born in Mexico, or pure Spanish but born in Mexico.

    Tagalog is the language spoken by the Tagalog tribe, who happened to live in the area which became the capital (Manila). There are more English speakers in the Philippines than Tagalog speakers, as English is taught in schools. The other two trade languages are Cebuano(Visayan) and Illocano.

    Marcos’s dictatorship was a disaster because of the large scale corruption that Spanish culture left behind. Insurgencies were also serious problems hampering efficiency. To this day, there is a Communist rebel army, Two different Islamic Nationalist armies, a couple different ISIS affiliated groups, and a communist, Catholic anti-Muslim army.

    American Colonization brought the greatest period of economic development in their history. They are developing today, but there are serious problems in the country which they did not have in the past. The Americans sent tens of thousands of teachers and missionaries to establish schools and protestant churches. They tried to train the Philippine Military, but they all fled as soon as the japanese invaded. They are much better guerrilla fighters than standard soldiers.

    Part of the impetus behind imperial exploration in the Pacific was the fact that in the age of Steam Power you needed to have stations where you could load coal into your ships. That is why to this day America possesses islands like Guam and Midway (hawaii), and many other sandbars we fought the japanese for in the pacific.

    The Philippines has many of their problems because they are a racial and ethnic aggregate. You have negrito groups, Indonesian groups, Malay groups, and then Three mixed race mestizo classes, Philippino Chinese, Philippino America, and Philippino Spanish. Between these six groups, there are over 200 languages, across seven thousand islands.

    The Spanish Spread Catholicism in the lowland areas, where the Malay Groups lived, and there has been a huge amount of syncretism with the original animistic groups. The Americans sent missionaries to the indonesian head-hunting and cannibal tribes that the Spanish were afraid to go to, and to this day many of these groups are various forms of protestant. Some of the negrito groups were converted to Evangelicanism in the 80s and 90s by a wave of american Fundementalist missionaries. All groups possess significant numbers of people who still practice the traditional animistic spirit worship. The southern part of the country is technically majority muslim, but it is more cultural, many people have never even heard of the name Mohammed. It’s more about not eating pork and dressing like an Arab, and they are basically still animists.

    I like the podcast, but It would spread farther if you all did a little more research ahead of time. It doesn’t sound good to have to look up the language of the country on wikipedia in the middle of the show.

    Many of the problems the country has

    1. Thanks for a good writeup.

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