PH History Bites: That Time The Beatles Were "Banned" From the Philippines

Beatles Banned from Philippines
ILLUSTRATOR Warren Espejo

(SPOT.ph) History is often cited to be written by "the victors," but in the age of social media and various search engines being easily accessible by any person with a cellphone, it's been increasingly difficult to keep track of what truly went down in the past versus what was made up by a random storyteller seeking attention. 

At some point, one Googling trivia about the Philippines may have happened across the curious fun fact that the mega-famous band The Beatles have been banned in the Philippines. Not that it matters in the long-term, given that the band has been broken up for about 50 years now, but it's an interesting thread of history that just begs to be pulled and unraveled to find out if it's true.

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Were The Beatles really banned from the Philippines?

We flashback to The Beatles' world tour reaching the Philippines in July of 1966. Over 100,000 Pinoy fans of the music act packed the grounds of Rizal Memorial Stadium on the Fourth of July to witness the Beatles live in-concert for the first time. However, a trip across the Pasig River away from the concert grounds, the seeds behind the real issue of The Beatles' controversy in Manila were sprouting.

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It would turn out that, when The Beatles had arrived the day prior, President Ferdinand Marcos, the rest of the First Family, and a whole ensemble of cabinet members, politicians, and special guests had been anticipating a private audience and lunch with The Beatles at Malacañang Palace. However, because it was the concert promoter Ramon Ramos who promised this, without the notice given to the band's longtime manager Brian Epstein, The Beatles instead spent their first day in the country wistfully boating in Manila Bay, with no immediate knowledge of the "wrong" that had been committed. (The Philippine Star)

Call it dodging a bullet yet starting a nuclear war. Malacañang, particularly First Lady Imelda Marcos, who organized the over-300 person event, was not happy with the snub. (The Philippine Star)

The Beatles then played their next two shows with a reportedly baroque—erm, we mean to say just "broke"—sound system, where the band couldn't even tell if the audience was just cheering for the performance or for just the sake of cheering. (Positively Filipino)

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After an attempt by their manager Epstein to explain the band's lack of appearance at Malacañang, The Beatles headed to depart Manila for what would turn out to be the final time. What the travelling group immediately noticed was that their security protection within the hotel and escort headed to the airport was nowhere to be found. (The Philippine Star)

Despite the rather successful concerts of the past couple days, news outlets were running the story of The Beatles' Malacañang snub instead. To make matters worse, their departure wasn't as grand as their arrival. With their "VIP privileges" stripped, the band made their way around the airport with no guidance or assistance provided with the crew's luggage. (The Philippine Star)

As you'd expect, The Beatles' flight was also delayed—because of course it was. This allowed for "hell to break loose" and angry mob attacked the band members and their crew, leading to serious injuries on both sides.

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The band had made it out by the skin of their teeth and lived to play other shows, as we all well know. However, they weren't exactly "banned" from the Philippines, as "history" would have you believe. President Marcos put out a statement that boiled the whole thing down to a misunderstanding, not further scorning The Beatles but not exactly condemning the actions of the mob. (Mojo Special Limited Edition 2002)

However, in a sense, The Beatles did ban themselves from ever coming back to the Philippines, as the country was notably blacklisted from any future tours. Author Philip Norman wrote in the biography John Lennon: The Life that Lennon said they would never return to any "nuthouses" again. George Harrison even reportedly said that “If we go back [to the Philippines], it will be with an H-bomb. I won’t even fly over the place.” (The Rough Guide to the Beatles)

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To sum up: yup, The Beatles never returned to the Philippines. However, we guess you could say that The Beatles aren’t banned from the Philippines because they’re banned from the Philippines. They’re banned from the Philippines, because they wouldn’t want to ever come back.

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