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First club in Philippines opens door to Rotary in Asia

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.

Service projects, including supplying books and furniture for a new library in Dumaguete, continued throughout the 1950s. In 1979, Rotary International began its historic fight to end polio with its first polio immunization project in Makati, a city outside of Manila.

Today, members of nearly 900 Rotary clubs in the Philippines continue to take action to improve lives in their communities. Find out how to get involved.

  1. Members of the Rotary Club of Manila, Philippines, before 1942.

  2. Members of the Rotary Clubs of Iloilo, Cebu, and Bacolod greet members from the Manila and Baguio clubs before the District 81 assembly in Iloilo, Philippines, in 1938.

  3. Members and guests attend a charter presentation ceremony for the Rotary Club of Bacolod, Philippines, in January 1938. The club was officially chartered in June 1937.

  4. The Rotary Club of Bacolod, Philippines, meets at El Chico restaurant on 10 May 1939.