At the heart of the Indo-Pacific region are the disparate nations of Southeast Asia, a dynamic group of post–colonial nations that consciously guard their hard-earned autonomy in a theater of great powers. And at the very core of that pivotal region is the Philippines, which straddles the Western Pacific, the South China Sea, and the interlocking seascapes that constitute the maritime heartland of Asia.
Blessed in geography, Manila stood at the heart of the Galleon trade at the onset of modernity, connecting the New World to the complacent empires of the Orient, which were yet to come to terms with the advent of European imperial expansion.
At the turn of the twentieth century, the Philippines became America’s first and only colony in Asia. And since then, the two nations have become inseparable.
Under America’s relatively benign colonial rule, the Southeast Asian nation, previously part of the Spanish imperium for more than three centuries, transformed into the region’s first liberal democracy and second most developed nation (only behind Japan). At the onset of post–colonial age, the Philippines boasted Southeast Asia’s most modern military, top universities and shiniest public infrastructure, occupying the position the city-state of Singapore enjoys today, albeit writ large.
Read the full article in The National Interest.