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"Wavescan" is a weekly program for long distance radio hobbyists produced by Dr. Adrian M. Peterson, Coordinator of International Relations for Adventist World Radio. AWR carries the program over many of its stations (including shortwave). Adrian Peterson is a highly regarded DXer and radio historian, and often includes features on radio history in his program. We are reproducing those features below, with Dr. Peterson's permission and assistance.

Wavescan, August 30, 2009

Early Wireless Stations in the Philippines

The Philippine Islands are made up of more than 7,000 tropical islands, most of which are inhabited and they form a nation that is more than 1,000 miles long. The total population is somewhere around 70 million, and their capital city is Manila, on the largest island, Luzon.

The earliest settlers in the Philippines were the Negritos who arrived via South East Asia, way back more than 5,000 years ago. Their descendants still live in isolated areas throughout the Philippines to this day. Soon afterwards, groups of Malay peoples migrated into the Philippines, again via the islands of South East Asia, they now form the largest ethnic group in the country, and they speak the official Tagalog-Filipino language.

The Spanish explorer Ferdinand Magellan was the first European to visit the Philippines and he sailed into Cebu Harbor in 1521. Give another 22 years, and another visitor from Spain, Admiral Ruy Lopez de Villalobos, named the islands, Las Felipinas, in honor of Prince Philip of Spain. The first permanent Spanish settlement was established on Cebu Island in 1565; and Manila, now the capital and largest city in their country, was founded six years later.

In 1898 after a few months of fighting, the Philippine Islands were ceded to the United States by action of the Treaty of Paris. On December 10, 1941, just three days after Pearl Harbor, Japanese forces landed on Luzon Island; and Manila was captured three weeks later, just after New Year's Day 1942. American forces began to return nearly three years later, and finally international peace returned to the Philippines.

In fulfillment of a presidential pledge made forty years earlier, the Philippines were granted full independence on July 4, 1946.

As just described, the political history of the Philippines goes back into the ages of antiquity. Likewise, the history of radio and wireless in the Philippines goes way back also, almost back to the beginnings of wireless history. You will remember that Marconi began his first outdoor wireless experiments in Italy in the year 1895, and soon afterwards, he began to establish wireless stations in different parts of the British Isles, and also on the North American continent.

The first experimental wireless stations in Asia were established in Japan by the Japanese navy at Tokyo and Yokohama in the year 1902; and just two years later the American navy began work at Cavite near Manila in the Philippines for the construction of a large permanent wireless station. This Philippine station paralleled the equally new navy wireless station also under construction near San Diego in California.

The Cavite wireless station was inaugurated soon after mid-year 1904, and initially it was on the air in Morse Code under the irregular callsign UT. However, at the International Wireless Convention in Berlin in 1906, callsigns were regularized internationally and the United States was allocated the initial letter "N" for all American navy wireless stations. Soon afterwards, the Cavite station UT was granted the now more familiar callsign NPO.

Additionally, soon after the inauguration of the American navy wireless station at Cavite, three more wireless stations were installed in the Philippines; station FS at Jolo, station FM at Zamboanga, and station UY at Cabra. Two of these stations were installed at American army bases; and in the year 1912, their callsigns were also regularized according to the internationally allocated sequence of letters. Thus station FS at Jolo was re-designated as WVS, and station FM at Zamboanga was re-designated as WVW.

The usage of wireless for local and international communication increased rapidly, and by the year 1913 more than a dozen Morse Code wireless stations were on the air in the Philippines, all owned and operated by the American navy and army. Navy stations were on the air under callsigns in the "NP" sequence, and army stations were on the air in the "WV" sequence.

As time went by, equipment at the electrical spark wireless stations in these communication stations in the Philippines was changed to electronic valve equipment, mostly in the first half of the 1920s. Likewise, during the 1920s and 1930s, navy station NPO Cavite was upgraded with the installation of additional electronic equipment.

During those eras, the huge naval communication station at Cavite in the Philippines was in use for official communication with the continental United States, as well as with navy shipping throughout the Pacific. Interestingly, at one stage and only for a brief period of time during the decisive events at the end of the year 1941, station NPO carried radio broadcast programming for the benefit of listeners in the Philippines. However, this station was largely destroyed in an air raid on December 8, 1941.

On another occasion, we plan to present the story of the earliest radio broadcasting stations in the Philippines, both mediumwave and shortwave.