By Michelle Melgar and Karin Keller, interns
The Philippines has had a long history of occupations, wars, and foreign influences. This month we’re celebrating Filipino-American History month which was officially recognized by the United States House of Representatives and Senate in November 2009. Similarly to many other ethnicity history months, the purpose is to spread awareness as well as celebrate an often marginalized group.
Archipelago, the technical term for a group of islands, is how the Philippines were referenced prior to its colonization by Spain in the 16th century. The Philippines were named after King Philip II of Spain by Ruy Lopez de Villalobos, a Spanish explorer who reached the Philippines in 1542. Shortly thereafter, Manila became a major port exporting silk, spices, porcelain, and other goods to Spain primarily by way of Mexico. Skip about 350 years into the future to the Spanish-American war, where the Philippines, as a result, became a United States colony. During the second World War, it became a war zone—occupied by the Japanese but still recognized in the United States as a U.S. territory. The Philippines’ independence was finally recognized in 1946 following World War II and was the first Southeast Asian country to do so. Historically, the Philippines hasn’t had it easy, but their people are proud and fierce, as they should be, and October is a month to recognize that.
Relative to this month is the memoir by Filipina author, Evelyn Chapman Castillo. The memoir, titled And They Returned, details Castillo’s family’s experience during the Japanese occupation of the Philippines during WWII. And They Returned is told through multiple points of view from the perspective of those involved and recalls the beginning effects of the war within the country up to the landing of MacArthur in Leyte as well as the after effects following the Japanese defeat.
Although there are many books and novels written on World War II, this memoir provides a unique personal account on the events that took place during the Japanese occupation of a country which is seldom recognized in history books. World history is vast and rich, so much so that it is incredibly difficult to include everything, and unfortunately the Philippines seems to be overlooked more often than not. And They Returned is a story of survival and a people’s determination to protect their home and fellow countrymen during a time when war ravaged the country and the world. It is a moving tale of hope during history’s bloodiest war, as well as a strong and impactful read by debut author Evelyn Castillo. Celebrate Filipino-American History month by picking yourself up a copy!
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