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The Beatles, the Philippines and President Marcos….


Fifty years ago in 1966 the Philippines fell out of love with the Fab Four. It was also the year that John Lennon made two comments, one which was to be his eventual downfall.

In July 1966 the Beatles toured the Philippines. Little did they know that the dictator President Marcos and his wife Imelda were accustomed to (and expected) absolute attention; and they certainly didn’t take kindly to the fact that the Beatles refused an invitation to attend a breakfast reception at the Presidential Palace.

Their manager Brian Epstein politely declined the invitation on the grounds that it was the group’s policy not to accept official invitations. Marcos took this as a personal snub to his family, and consequently revealed this perceived insult to the media, who ran with it, implying that it was also a snub to the Filipino people.

Subsequently all police protection was removed from them. The group and their entourage had to reach Manila airport unguarded. Their road manager Mal Evans was assaulted, and the band encountered a hostile crowd.

Although they managed to board the plane, Evans was removed, and Epstein was forced to hand over all the group’s Philippines earnings before they were all permitted to leave the country.

It led to John Lennon remarking that should he ever return to the country, he “would fly over it with an H-Bomb”. Biographies have suggested that they were all lucky to escape with their lives. 

Of course we can argue now that perhaps the Beatles were not familiar with international diplomacy, but they relied on their manager to manage, and the manager made a decision. Yet the times were different. Marcos was all powerful, and this unwitting act of disrespect was a personal insult which he successfully manipulated his people to generate sympathy for him. It’s a classic example of one man exercising power for his own ends. Indeed, this event is not so much about the Beatles, but about pride and power. It’s about a despot who assumed that his power was omnipotent. 

It would be another eighteen years before the Filipino people finally realised that this was power absolute and had the courage to rebel in 1984.

Of course, John Lennon did not make that remark directed at the Filipino people. At the time he was only 25 years old. Marcos in contrast was nearly 50 years old – so who do you think should have been the wiser? His wife was 37 at the time, and many would argue that she’s still none the wiser. 

Yet this was to be the catalyst of John Lennon’s demise. Three months earlier, in March 1966,he was reported in the London Evening Standard, during a fairly innocuous interview as stating that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus. This was picked up by right-wing religious conservatives in the US, and exploited. It further fuelled the anger in the Catholic dominated Philippines, which even today they wrongly regard as the blue touch paper which set the firework off.

Through clever propaganda, instigated by Marcos, the Filipino people, half a century later, believe that their antagonism to the Beatles was because of Lennon’s Jesus statement. It could not be further from the truth.

The story had no merit until a US teen magazine naively ran with it on their front cover, resulting in an evangelic radio station WAQY in Birmingham, Alabama announcing that it wouldn’t play anymore Beatles music and that they were going to burn their records. This led to a domino effect, and other radio stations followed suit.

The English brushed off his comments in the newspaper at the time – they were considered of no relevance, and merely the ranting’s of a young man. Not a single word of complaint came from the Church of England or the Roman Catholic Church.

In August when the situation had reached a rolling-stone momentum which threatened the existence of the group, John Lennon was forced to apologise twice – stating that he was not boasting about the fame of the Beatles, and he never intended to cause offence to people of religious faith. It happened in Chicago and proved to be the last Beatles tour.

So let’s put the record straight – here and now! The Filipino people didn’t get angry with the Beatles because of what John Lennon said. They were manipulated and encouraged by a state-run media, controlled by a demigod dictator, who was snubbed by the most popular band of the age. He felt insulted, and it struck at his pride. Such was his bitterness that he ensured that his countrymen would feel the same pain and humiliation.

He controlled the media, the military and the government and therefore he controlled the minds of the people. It is he and his cronies that the Filipino people should be angry with – not the Beatles.

Today, the Beatles are revered in the Philippines and there isn’t one karaoke bar which is not playing a Beatles song and not one Filipino crooner who doesn’t attempt to sing one.

As Paul acknowledged – it wasn’t the people, but the regime that caused the problems, and he’s actually proud in hindsight that it was the Beatles which snubbed the Marcos family and dented their pedestal.


March 20, 2016 Posted by | Arts, Culture, Current Affairs, Education, Events, History, Religion, The Beatles, The Philippines | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

President Aquino and the wheelchair joke in New Zealand

AquinoI have a bone to pick with President Aquino of the Philippines.

I know that he is the son of the assassinated Benigno, I know he is the son of Cory who came
to power after Ferdinand Marcos was exiled due to the People Power Revolution, and I sympathise
with his attempts at changing the corrupt mentality which pervades Philippines

I even understand his bitter annoyance at his predecessor Gloria

So why am I upset with him? After all, surely he represents
the new face of the Philippines? A man on a mission, keen to drag his country
into prosperity, moving forward yet embracing his nation’s culture. Yes, well,
let's pause on that for a moment.

Continue reading

October 25, 2012 Posted by | Culture, Current Affairs, Education, Olympic Games, Politics, The Philippines | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Philippines Phoenix?

Well its official. Benigno Aquino III is proclaimed as the President of the Philippines. A month after the national elections the count was finally concluded. Aquino-crop

After an automated voting system designed to expedite accuracy and fairness, it has taken a month to officially count the votes. The result being that he won with 15 million votes, five and a half million more than his nearest rival.

He is a politician not renown for his political acumen nor for his conventionality, but his heritage has struck a chord with the electorate. He sailed on a campaign to end poverty and corruption, so to say he has a tough challenge would be an understatement. But perhaps more so because the people hark back to the legacy of his parentage.

27 years ago his father Benigno (Ninoy) was assassinated as he descended the steps of the aircraft which brought him back to Manila after exile in the USA. This was the catalyst of the Marcos overthrow, and heralded the people power revolution which brought Corazon, his mother, to the presidency. It is this lineage – a father murdered, a mother a president, and the removal of the infamous Marcos regime that now hangs over the new leader and fuels great expectation. But it won't be an easy ride.

This is not the blog to expound theory or analyse Philippines political history – there are greater sources. But for sure, here and now at stake is the soul of the Filipino, and his country's place in the world. At stake is his pride and identity after years of debilitating and relentless mismanagement and corruption which has seen his nation fall from being an Asian tiger in the 1990's to an exploited, underachieving shadow of its former self.

If politics is cricket, then lets hope that this batsman can hold his crease, protect his wicket and hit some corkers. Lets hope he has a great team around him. A cricket match is a series of tests, and never won after the first. But this is not about an urn of ashes – but it is about a phoenix – a remarkable bird of spirit, wonder, colour and courage which rises from them. Lets hope this is not just a myth!

June 9, 2010 Posted by | Cricket, Culture, Current Affairs, Events, History, Politics, The Philippines, Travel | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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