Bonds between U.S. and Philippines run deep

U.S. and Filipino soldiers fought side by side to liberate the Pacific during World War II. The U.S.-Philippine mutual defense treaty dates back to 1951. The countries have collaborated for a quarter-century in the global war on terror.

But the close relationship between the United States and the Philippines does not rest on military ties alone. They share democratic values, free market economies and a language (Filipino is the national language, but English is an official one as well). “The U.S.–Philippine friendship is built on shared sacrifices and shared values,” says U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim.

Soldiers moving into assault positions (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Markus Castaneda)
Philippine Marines assume positions during annual U.S.-Philippines Balikatan (“shoulder to shoulder”) military exercise in May 2018.  (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Markus Castaneda)

The people-to-people ties are many. Nearly 4 million Americans are of Philippine ancestry. Some 650,000 Americans visit the island nation each year for vacations or business. And 220,000 other U.S. citizens — including many Filipino veterans of U.S. military service — reside there.

The Philippines was among the first countries to which President John F. Kennedy sent Peace Corps volunteers in 1961. The Fulbright scholar exchange program with the Philippines is the oldest of the uninterrupted U.S. Fulbright programs.

Three people moving large concrete jackstone into water (Peace Corps)
Peace Corps volunteer Theresa Lewis (left) helps fishers build an artificial reef. (Peace Corps)

Many times, the two allies have stood together in times of difficulty. The Philippine police helped American authorities find the perpetrator of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. The U.S. delivered millions in humanitarian aid after Super Typhoon Yolanda in 2013. The U.S. military provided intelligence and reconnaissance support to the Philippine military when it drove Islamic militants out of the city of Marawi in 2017.

“There’s so much common history,” says Jose Manuel Romualdez, the Philippine ambassador to the United States.

In the latest Pew Research Center global public opinion survey, 5 of 6 Filipinos held a favorable view of the United States. No other country gives a more positive response. More than three-quarters of Filipinos express confidence in President Trump, a higher rate than in any other country.

Man standing with arms crossed under archways (© Paolo Luca/Philippine Arts in Venice Biennale)
University of Cincinnati architecture professor Edson Cabalfin, curator for the Philippine Pavilion at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale, attributes his career trajectory to his Fulbright fellowship. (© Paolo Luca/Philippine Arts in Venice Biennale)

The 3.9 million Filipino Americans are the third-largest Asian ethnic group in the United States. Filipino newcomers’ transition to life in the United States is eased “because they have such fluency not only in English language but U.S. culture,” says Evelyn Rodriguez, a University of San Francisco sociologist.

Ambassador Romualdez says the relationship between the two countries has matured and has never been better. In the past, Filipinos “looked up to the United States as our big brother,” he says. Now “it’s more like longtime friends and allies. When we do something, we consult each other.”