The first Jews to come to the Philippines were Conversos and Marranos. Some were eventually caught and burnt alive at an auto da fe as was the style of the Spanish inquisition. Two famous Jews in the Philippines were the Levy brothers, who were escaping the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War, and showed up around 1870. In 1898 Jews were officially permitted to practice in public and organize as a community.
The last major Jewish immigration to the Philippines came from Jews escaping Nazi Germany via Shanghai. Then, the Japanese invaded the Philippines during World War II. They, being allies with Germany, were influenced by the German anti-Semitism and caused some problems for the Jews in the Philippines.
At most there are probably less than 500 Jews now living in the Philippines with the majority in Manila, in a community consisting of roughly seventy families. There is a beautiful Synagogue, Beth Yaacov, located in Makati as well as a Chabad house.
When I was last in Pune, India, The Chabad house shaliach Rabbi Kupchik spoke about how one of their sons was please G-d going to open a Chabad house in Cebu.
I spent a few weeks in Manila and at the time had the possibility of staying there for a couple of years to open a businesses. The Chabad shaliach in Manila tried to convince me to open a Chabad house in Cebu.
I enjoyed my time in the Philippines. The people were nice and friendly. Many can speak English and have a good understanding of what’s going on around the world. Practically every Philippine person has a family member or friend working in a foreign country.
I enjoyed the opportunity to be chazzan at the Beth Yaacov Synagogue. I spoke to many of the community during the communal meals. The young Rabbi and his wife along with their children were friendly and welcoming.
The Chabad house run by Rabbi Yossi and his wife is not under the main Chabad umbrella and therefore not listed on chabad.org. They are part of a Chabad organization that operates across mostly Asia and services Israelis. I spent some quality time at the Chabad house in the Philippines. I even ran the place for one Shabbat when on Friday Rabbi Yossi called me to say his wife was in the hospital, having just given birth to their first child. Rabbi Yossi went to spend Shabbat with his wife and child while I called my mother to get a recipe for challah for the Philippine workers and to prepare some words of Torah to say at the meals.
The Beth Yaacov Synagogue and the Chabad house of the Philippines both offer kosher meals and Shabbat hospitality. If you are going to be there for one Shabbat I’d suggest you try them 50/50 and spend some time in both places.
Chabad of Phlippines
2027 M. Layug Street San Miguel Village
Makati City, Manila Philippines 1210
US Number: (1-718) 705-4646
Israeli Number: 0579479788
UK Number: 077-00033758
Jewish Association of the Philippines
M.C.P.O. Box 1925
Manila 1259, Makati City
Tel. 63 2 818 9988
Fax. 63 2 818 9900