In This Review

America's Boy: The Rise and Fall of Marcos and Other Misadventures of U.S. Colonialism in the Philippines
America's Boy: The Rise and Fall of Marcos and Other Misadventures of U.S. Colonialism in the Philippines
By James Hamilton-Paterson
Henry Holt, 1999, 496 pp

An English expatriate who has lived for 20 years in the Philippines, Hamilton-Paterson has a unique perspective for explaining Filipino politics. In the spirit of a novelist, he conjures a make-believe composite Philippine village to make vivid the despair of common Filipinos during Ferdinand Marcos' rule. This world is harshly ruled by self-centered politicians, who in turn are controlled by an indigenous oligarchy and an arrogant America. With a delight in contrariness, Hamilton-Paterson insists that the received wisdom has exaggerated Marcos' flaws, most of which were standard Filipino political practices. But he also adds that an America blinded by anticommunism only encouraged this behavior. Whereas other observers glorified Corazon Aquino and her democratic "People's Power" movement, he saw her as continuing the same style of autocratic government. His approach for understanding Filipino politics perfectly captures the blend of the heroic posturing, gossip, scandal, mythmaking, and general deviousness so central to that political culture. The book's weakness, however, is that it does not sort out from the fantasies of the politicians and the public what really happened. What comes through instead are the lively prejudices of an extraordinarily imaginative mind.