THE ISLANDS: America's Imperial Adventure in the Philippines by Emily Hahn

THE ISLANDS: America's Imperial Adventure in the Philippines

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A chatty, jumbled little chronicle--compiled partly from the author's acquaintance with the Philippines, mostly from recourse to this or that book (the Encyclopedia Britannica among them)--which is hopelessly over-its-head in attempting to deal with its ostensible subject. On the basis that the Philippines was a Spanish and then an American possession, Hahn refers to the Islands as ""a Western country set down in the Orient""--a totally misleading characterization (applicable only, in part, to the Filipino elite) which also unwittingly bespeaks a colonialist mentality. But in fact the book is largely an American show: once past the clumsy, roundabout account of American annexation (in preference to giving the country independence as a protectorate), Hahn's old history books provide her with tales galore of American governors-general, American health officials, and American entrepreneurs. Plus: American investigations of the Islands' administration and American debates about what to do with them. Come the Philippines' 1935 elevation to commonwealth status, we hear at length--typically--about the controversy over whether incoming president Quezon should be accorded a mere 19-gun salute or the 21-gun salute due a true head of state. (""Nineteen guns or nothing,"" cabled FDR--and Quezon had to be persuaded to turn up.) After World War II, full-fledged independence arrives ""bang on time""; and (except for a three-page Afterword) the book ends, with less of a bang than a thump. As it happens, a spirited, discerning account of American-Filipino relations is one feature of Sentimental Imperialists (p. 927), by James C. Thomson, Jr., and others; but even without that superior choice, this would be a marginal compendium of unevaluated period lore.

Pub Date: Oct. 5th, 1981
Publisher: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan