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Middle Eastern Migrants in the Philippines: Entrepreneurs and Cultural Brokers

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The Philippines deviated from the usual Southeast Asian pattern of Hadhrami Arab dominance among Middle Easterners. Despite the influence of Muslim Arabs in the Islamic southwest, the predominant community initially consisted of Armenians, and then of immigrants from Ottoman Syria from the 1880s. Coming via Latin America, the United States, or Asian entrepôts, most of these "Syrians" were Christians from modern Lebanon. They, however, included substantial Muslim Druze and Oriental Jewish minorities, and some came from Syria proper, Palestine, and even further a field. They formed the largest twentieth-century Syro-Lebanese community in Monsoon Asia. Some Middle Easterners became Filipino citizens, speaking either Spanish or English, others emigrated to the USA or Australia, and yet others went home. Their main contribution to the Philippines was economic. Initially peddlers and small shopkeepers, they moved into real estate, agriculture, mining, the leisure industry, the professions, the import-export trade, embroidery for export to the USA and, after independence, manufacturing for the local market.


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