In early 1919, Rotarian Roger Pinneo of Seattle, Washington, USA, traveled to the Philippines to try to organize a Rotary club in Manila. Leon J. Lambert, a Manila business leader helped Pinneo establish the club. Several months later, on 1 June 1919, the Rotary Club of Manila was chartered and became the first Rotary club in Asia.

The club would be the only one in the country for more than 12 years. Eventually, Manila club members organized Rotary clubs in the Philippine cities of Cebu (1932) and Iloilo (1933). Iloilo club members then started a club in Bacolod (1937), and Rotary continued to expand across the country.

Eight clubs were leading service efforts in the Philippines by the end of 1941. Iloilo Rotary members raised funds to build a hospital dormitory in Iloilo for patients with leprosy, also known as Hansen’s disease. Farther south, on the island of Mindanao, Davao club members organized a tree planting project to beautify their city.

Sometime during World War II, the Philippine clubs, like many Rotary clubs around the globe, ceased operations. All clubs in the Philippines were formally closed by the end of 1943.

Rotary was re-established in the country when the Dagupan club officially reopened in June 1945. The Manila club followed in October. By April 1948, all pre-WWII Rotary clubs had reopened and five new clubs had been chartered.

Find out more about the Clubs who opened the door to Rotary in the Philippines on Rotary Internationals website, here.