Prior to 1877, Spanish-Philippine stamps
were not accepted for payment of mail to foreign countries other than to Spain and her
colonies. During this period, most covers from the Philippines
to countries outside the Spanish empire bore the stamps of British Asian
colonies (Hong Kong, India and Straits Settlement). In
all cases, the stamps were cancelled in either Hong Kong or Singapore.
Establishment of the General Postal Union
transformed the postal world in 1874. Renamed the Universal Postal Union (UPU) in 1878, it provided uniform postal
procedures for transmitting international mail among its member nations. In Spain,
the new treaty rates and procedures were promulgated on January 1, 1876.
Inclusion in the UPU and subsequent changes in rates and procedures were not
immediately applicable to the colonies. Each colony was allowed to join the
UPU independently. On May 1, 1877, the Philippines joined the UPU. For
reasons unknown, the UPU rate and procedural changes were not fully
implemented in the Philippines
until September 1, 1879. From that time, Philippine stamps became valid for
postage to all member countries, allowing other countries to accept mail
bearing Philippine stamps.
Despite Philippine’s inclusion in the UPU,
a few Philippine stamps from the mid 1880’s to 1898 are known cancelled with
non-Philippine postmarks. An important concept with covers from the Philippines
was the UPU requirement to have sufficient postage at the country of
origin. Whether it was first cancelled in Manila
or a foreign port (Hong Kong, Saigon or Singapore), it made little
difference, as long as it was cancelled so the letter could get into the
overseas mail. The Hong Kong, Saigon and Singapore Post Offices readily
some foreign businesses in Manila routinely had their mail carried outside
the Philippine Post (delivered directly to outgoing non-Spanish ships).
While most of these ships (British, American, German, etc.) from Manila went to Hong Kong, there are records where the
letters went first to Saigon or Singapore. In the case of
Saigon (or occasionally Singapore),
this was usually carried via a private French ship out of Manila, which connected with the French packet
at Saigon. On arrival at the foreign
port, the stamps were cancelled with local postmarks and the mail was
section only focuses on the known Circular Date Stamps applied in Hong Kong, Singapore
and Saigon (Cochinchina).