The first open settlement of Jews in the Philippines occurred in the late 1870s. Jews slowly trickled in to the country following the opening of the Suez Canal, which allowed freer trade between Europe and the Far East. On June 12, 1898, the Spanish-American War left the Philippines in American hands, which would prove to be of some significance during World War II.
In 1935, the Philippines became a Commonwealth, meaning a semi-autonomous state. The President of the Commonwealth at that time was Manuel Luis Quezón y Molina, who openly supported the immigration of Jewish refugees. The U.S. government, which still had ultimate control over the Philippines, had reservations about allowing too many refugees to settle in the Philipinnes, concerned that it was being used as a means of sidestepping the U.S. quota-driven immigration restrictions. In total, a little over 1,000 Jews actually made it to the Philippines before the Japanese invaded in 1941.
The Japanese were part of the Axis Powers--allied with the Nazis. Ironically, this meant that most German Jewish refugees residing in the Philippines were left alone, but American Jews living there faced internment.
In 1946, America granted the Philippines its independence. After the war, many of the refugees moved elsewhere, but a small Jewish community remained, and today there are several hundred Jews who reside there.
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