In the morning of 3 July The Beatles flew from Japan to the Philippines, stopping briefly en route in Hong Kong.
Their aeroplane refuelled at Kaitak airport in Hong Kong, During the 70-minute delay The Beatles rested in the VIP lounge, before continuing the journey to Manila.
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. Everyone had guns and it was really like that hot/Catholic/gun/Spanish Inquisition attitude.
Upon their arrival, The Beatles were greeted by 5,000 fans at Manila International Airport. At the time, the Philippines was a dictatorship ruled by Ferdinand Marcos, and the group’s visit was a troubled one from the very beginning.
As soon as we got there it was bad news. There were tough gorillas – little men – who had short-sleeved shirts and acted very menacingly.
The normal proceedings in those days were that, because the mania was everywhere, we didn’t pull up at an airport and get off the plane like normal people. The plane would land and it would go to the far end of the airfield where we would get off, usually with Neil [Aspinall] and our ‘diplomatic bags’ (we carried our shaving gear – and whatever – in little bags), get in a car, bypass passport control and go to the gig. Mal Evans with Brian Epstein and the rest would go and do our passports and all that scene.
But when we got to Manila, a fellow was screaming at us, ‘Leave those bags there! Get in this car!’ We were being bullied for the first time. It wasn’t respectful. Everywhere else – America, Sweden, Germany, wherever – even though there was a mania, there was always a lot of respect because we were famous showbiz personalities; but in Manila it was a very negative vibe from the moment we got off the plane, so we were a bit frightened.
We got in the car, and the guy drove off with us four, leaving Neil behind. Our bags were on the runway and I was thinking, ‘This is it – we’re going to get busted.’
The Beatles were driven in a cavalcade, escorted by six police motorcyclists, to the Philippine Navy Headquarters where a press conference was held. Afterwards they were taken to a private yacht owned by a wealthy Filipino named Don Manolo Elizalde, a friend of local concert promoter Ramon Ramos Jr.
They took us away and drove us down to Manila harbour, put us on a boat, took us out to a motor yacht that was anchored out in the harbour and they put us in this room.
It was really humid, it was Mosquito City, and we were all sweating and frightened. For the first time ever in our Beatle existence, we were cut off from Neil, Mal and Brian Epstein. There was not one of them around, and not only that, but we had a whole row of cops with guns lining the deck around this cabin that we were in on the boat. We were really gloomy, very brought down by the whole thing. We wished we hadn’t come here. We should have missed it out.
The plan was for The Beatles to remain on the yacht until the following day. From there they ascertained that Aspinall was safe with their equipment, and that their drugs hadn’t been discovered by the authorities.
They were enjoying the thought of being cut off from the world for 24 hours. They were sweating profusely in the heavy heat of the afternoon and were not entirely happy to see the gun-toting cops marching to and fro on the deck, but they felt that these were inconveniences rather than causes for complaint. Then we were told that we would be landing at a secluded point along the coast the next afternoon shortly before The Beatles’ first show, which wiped the smiles off their faces. Our Filipino hosts may have been well-intentioned in their elaborate planning but they had no idea of the group’s lengthy pre-show routine, including the preparation of stage suits and instruments.
John, Paul, George, Ringo & Me
On this, the day before The Beatles’ two scheduled performances at the Rizal Memorial Football Stadium, the Manila Sunday Times ran a story which would lead to the most troublesome aspect of The Beatles’ stay in the Philippines.
President Marcos, the First Lady, and the three young Beatles fans in the family, have been invited as guests of honour at the concerts. The Beatles plan to personally follow up the invitation during a courtesy call on Mrs Imelda Marcos at Malacañang Palace tomorrow morning at 11 o’clock.
Nobody in The Beatles’ party saw the newspaper until later. The visit was not part of their itinerary, nor was it discussed. The promotor, Ramon Ramos, had been forced to promise the palace that the visit would occur, and was afraid to tell manager Brian Epstein in case it resulted in a refusal.
The 11 o’clock meeting was to have been followed by a luncheon at 3pm, one hour before the first of two concerts in Manila, which would have left them with little time to prepare. Ramos was caught between the prospect of either offending the palace or The Beatles, and so he left matters as they were.
Partly because of the pandemonium over the yacht, the tour itinerary prepared by Ramon Ramos Jr was never discussed properly that evening between Epstein and the rest of us. I doubt if he even read it thoroughly or even noticed the crucial bit suggesting that The Beatles might ‘call in on’ the First Lady, the president’s wife, Imelda Marcos, at three o’clock on Monday afternoon ‘before proceeding on from the Malacañang Palace directly to the stadium for the first concert.’ The wording Ramos used made this sound like a casual proposal rather than a command from the President’s office – not a fixed and formal appointment so much as something to be talked about as a possibility. According to Epstein’s own jealously guarded rules, only he himself would have discussed such a matter with John, Paul, George and Ringo. If Ramos had raised the invitation with him directly, Epstein would have turned it down on the boys’ behalf, knowing that with an afternoon show to do they would want to be safely installed in their dressing room at the stadium by three o’clock. In any case, The Beatles hated meeting dignitaries of all types from small-town mayors up to heads of state and would have been only too pleased to use their matinee commitment as a get-out.
John, Paul, George, Ringo & Me
On board Don Manolo Elizalde’s yacht, The Beatles were guests of honour at a party attended by wealthy Filipinos. It wasn’t until 4am that Brian Epstein allowed them to leave for their suite at the Hotel Manila. The group’s exhaustion meant they were still asleep when government officials arrived later that morning to take them to the palace.
Also on this day...
- 2014: Ringo Starr live: Horseshoe Casino, Tunica, Mississippi
- 1969: Recording, editing: Golden Slumbers, Carry That Weight
- 1968: Recording: Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
- 1967: Lennon, McCartney and Harrison attend a party in London
- 1965: Live: Plaza de Toros Monumental, Barcelona, Spain
- 1963: Radio: The Beat Show
- 1962: Live: Cavern Club, Liverpool (lunchtime)
Want more? Visit the Beatles history section.