That was a case when a notable group came to the Philippine back in 1966, only to draw the ire of the nation and barely escape intact.
The visitors were young men from Liverpool, England who were in a band called “The Beatles” and this is their story.
The Beatles landed in Manila on July 6, 1966 in the midst of the Marcos regime, booked to play two concerts at Rizal Memorial Stadium as part of their world tour. Accustomed to VIP pampering, they were instead bullied into a car by airport authorities to go handle their visas, forced to leave their luggage on the tarmac.
“I hated the Philippines. We arrived there with thousands upon thousands of kids, with hundreds upon hundreds of policemen – and it was a little dodgy,”said drummer Ringo Star later.
“It was really humid, it was Mosquito City, and we were all sweating and frightened. We had a whole row of cops with guns lining the deck around this cabin that we were in on the boat” said George Harrison.
The Beatles were not only worried about the “menacing military fellas” around them and their boorish treatment but concerned that the small pharmacy of narcotics in their suitcases had been discovered (they hadn’t.) But, things went from bad to worse when the greatest band in the world snubbed the First Lady, Imelda Marcos.
The First Lady had sent an invite to the band to join her at the Presidential Palace at 11 am the morning of their show, and then again for a luncheon at 3 pm. However, it seems that Paul, John, Ringo, and the rest of the band never got word of that invite. Their promoter, Ramon Ramos, didn’t pass on the invite to the band’s manager since he was worried they’d decline, in part because the band was slated to start their concert only an hour later, at 4pm.
However, it was big news to everyone else in Manila the next morning.
The Manila Sunday Times, local TV stations, and radio shows covered the snub of the First Lady in detail. The band’s manager, Brian Epstein, quickly scrambled to do some damage control, filming an apology for Chanel 5 in which he explained that the band hadn’t known about the invites. But it never aired, as the state-controlled media blacked out the broadcast.
Of course, Imelda Marcos was used to being treated with reverence and exaltation, not being stood up so rudely, and especially after she planned a grand 200-guest party just for the Beatle’s visit. There would be consequences to the Beatles’ bad etiquette, for certain.
When the Beatles arrived at Manila International Airport, they found even more vicious demonstrators ready to antagonize them. As the Beatles made their way into the terminal, the situation turned violent, with the angry mob pushing, grabbing, and spitting on the band members and their entourage, even beating their road manager and a few others.
The only way the band escaped into the airport unharmed was by mixing in with a group of Filipino monks and nuns who happened to be walking in, too. Finally, the frantic band was able to check in and board their flight.
“When we got on the plane, we were all kissing the seats,” said Paul McCartney.
However, their adventure in the Philippines wasn’t over quite yet. The Beatles were waiting for the plane to take off when the door opened, and military police and officials boarded. They escorted the band’s managers off, who were scared they were going to be thrown in jail or even executed.
But it was just one last shakedown to see the Beatles off. The managers were forced to surrender all of the proceeds from the concert the night before to the tax authorities, leading John Lennon to later remark about the Philippines, “If we go back, it will be with an H-bomb. I won’t even fly over the place.”