To mark the 2-day historic state visit of U.S. President Barack Obama to the Philippines this week, let’s now visit the Embassy of the United States in Manila (official website, Wikipedia). The embassy’s main Chancery Compound is located at address 1021 Roxas Boulevard in Ermita, Manila near Rizal Park, and sits on reclaimed land facing the Manila Bay. The U.S. Embassy is possibly the best known of all foreign embassies in the Philippines and is a favorite protest target among local militant groups opposed to U.S. foreign policy in the Philippines.
Because the Philippines is the largest among the former colonies of the United States, the U.S. Embassy in Manila is one of the most significant diplomatic institutions in both countries and is designated as an historic property by the National Historical Commission as well as a culturally significant place by the U.S. State Department. The Manila Embassy is among the largest operated by the U.S. State Department (the equivalent of the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs) employing about 300 Americans and 1,000 Filipino employees, and it houses the only foreign office of the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs due to both countries’ shared military history in World War II.
The U.S. Embassy began its existence in 1940 as the residence and office of the U.S. High Commissioner to the Philippines, after the Commonwealth of the Philippines was inaugurated. Before then, the office of the American Governor-General (the predecessor to the High Commissioner) was at the Malacañang Palace. And since the palace had to be turned over to President Manuel L. Quezon, a location along Dewey Boulevard (now Roxas Boulevard) was selected for the High Commissioner. The Chancery Building was designed by Filipino architect Juan M. Arellano whose works include the Metropolitan Theater, the Manila Central Post Office, and the Legislative Building (which now houses the National Museum).
During World War II, the Imperial Japanese Army invaded the Philippines and drove the Americans out. They captured Manila on January 2, 1942 and subsequently, the compound became the Japanese Embassy to the Philippines when the Japanese installed a puppet republic in the country in 1943. On February 22, 1945 during the Battle of Manila, the American forces reclaimed the compound and Gen. Douglas MacArthur raised the U.S. flag there again. After the War, the compound served as the center for the Japanese war crimes trials in the Philippines. Finally, when the United States granted the Philippines its independence on July 4, 1946, the High Commissioner’s office became the U.S. Embassy and Paul V. McNutt, who was the last High Commissioner, became the first United States Ambassador to the Philippines.
In addition to the main Chancery Compound, The U.S. Embassy also maintains the larger Seafront Compound, also located along Roxas Boulevard at address 1501, but found further south in Pasay beside the Cuneta Astrodome and in front of the Pasay City Hall. The annex provides support to the main compound such as providing residences to embassy employees, and also houses other offices such the Veterans Affairs Office.