Since the English edition of this book first came into my possession, it seemed obvious to me that it should be published in Spanish. Fortunately, after some frustrated attempts, the ever-ready publisher Siruela saw fit to take it on. It is a small book and, therefore, doubly interesting, and not only because of what Baltasar Gracián summed up with the sparkling phrase: “Lo bueno, si breve, dos veces bueno” (“what is good, if brief, is good twice over”). There is another factor, or perhaps two, to take into account. The first is that La Plata y el Pacífico illuminates an essential chapter of universal history, that is, the first stage of economic globalization along the axis of the Pacific via the Manila Galleon or Nao de China, an episode largely unknown to the wider public, whether of English-, Spanish- or Chinese-speaking backgrounds.
The Spanish translation of The Silver Way: China, Spanish America and the Birth of Globalisation, 1565–1815—the story of the Manila Galleon—with a new introduction by Elvira Roca Barea: “It explains to us not only what it meant in the past but what it still means today to understand the present and even the future of relations between East and West, and very especially, China’s relationship with Latin America.”
The World War II fighting on Mindanao, the southernmost and second-largest island of the Philippine archipelago, rarely gets mentioned in conventional histories of the Pacific War, even in those histories that focus on the battles in the Philippines. Still less do those histories recount the heroic struggle of the Moro resistance fighters who conducted a costly insurgency against the conquering armies of Imperial Japan from 1942 to 1945. Thomas McKenna, an anthropologist who lived and worked in Moro communities on Mindanao, tells the story of one of the unsung heroes of the resistance, Mohammad Adil, in his new and groundbreaking book Moro Warrior.
One of the phrases in a reviewer’s regular toolkit is “You’re unlikely to read another book quite like this one”, either this year or in some number of years to come. But in the case of Man Asian Literary Prize-winner Miguel Syjuco’s long-awaited second novel and stinging political satire, I Was the President Mistress!!, one can deploy the phrase with considerable confidence that it is in fact true.
If any journalist has a claim to be the doyen of the international press corps in East Asia, it would be Philip Bowring. In this timely book, he turns his gaze on the Philippines, just now in the throes of an election for a replacement to the controversial Rodrigo Duterte. Any election can be consequential, but Bowring says this time around, there is “no escaping the need of the country to overcome seven decades of under-performance in social and economic spheres compared with almost all its east and southeast Asian neighbours.”
2019 marked the five-hundred year anniversary of the launch of Ferdinand Magellan’s voyage around the world–a milestone marked by commemorative sailings, museum exhibitions, and a joint submission from Spain and Portugal to UNESCO. Two years later, the Philippines marked their own commemoration of Magellan’s voyage: the 500th anniversary of his death at the hands of local leader Lapu-Lapu.
Felipe Fernández-Armesto doesn’t think much of Ferdinand Magellan. Particularly galling is that the famous explorer’s “renown seems impregnable” despite the fact that “his failure was total”.