William Cameron Forbes, an American banker who became Governor General of the Philippines, established the Manila Polo Club in 1909 during the American era. A polo enthusiast, Forbes founded the club as a venue for polo and leisure for “gentlemen of a certain class” (i.e., expatriate Caucasians living in the Philippines).


Polo was also used as a training exercise for the cavalry, and there were other playing fields in the country. Officers were required to play polo, and the US Cavalry kept over a thousand horses.

The club became known as a premier polo institution worldwide. By the 1920s, the US army maintained eight polo teams, and matches took place three times a week every season. In 1922, the Prince of Wales—who later became King Edward VIII—was struck by a ball while paying with an American team. He was unable to finish the game, but his visit was considered the greatest social event of prewar Manila.

The club’s membership was primarily American in its early years, with foreigners of other nationalities, too. Only a few Filipino “natives,” less than twenty percent, were admitted into membership. It wasn’t until 1964 that the club elected its first Filipino president.

When the Japanese occupied the Philippines during World War II, Imperial Japan’s troops took over the club, using it for the recreation of the Japanese Navy.