The governor-general of the Philippines at the time was European and like most of us from Europe, he liked peace and quiet. So he decided rather than put up with all the noise of fireworks and karaoke on New Year’s Eve he would just scrap December 31st. What a great idea, maybe it could be done every year.
That is my version, carry on reading for the real reason the Philippines skipped a day.
The most common timekeeper, the Gregorian calendar, is filled with eccentricities. February is so short, random months have 30 days, and the formula for leap years defies logic. (It is a lot more complicated than “every four years.”) This all has to do with keeping Easter in the right place; there’s no good reason, on the other hand, for the seven-day week. But, however messy the system, it’s our system, and most of Earth has agreed to stick with it.
Given all that, you don’t just skip a day.
But in 1844, that’s exactly what the Philippines did. The governor-general at the time, the well-named Narciso Claveria, declared that Jan. 1, 1845, would come directly after Dec. 30, 1844. Dec. 31, 1844, would not happen in the Philippines.
The governor-general had his reasons for this decision. Because of the islands’ colonial history, the Philippines used the date to the east, the American date. To the west of the Philippines, though, in Asia, the date was one tick ahead. This difference is the result of a mind-bending principle of navigation, in which ships gain ground on or lose time, depending on what direction they go. The practical result of the Philippines adopting the date of ships coming from the east, as Avraham Ariel and Nora Ariel Berger explain in Plotting the Globe, was that it was a different date than its geographical peers, oriented to the west. “Sunday in Manila was Monday in Batavia (now Jakarta), just 1700 miles due south,” they write.
By 1844, the colonial trading patterns that had put the Philippines on the American date had shifted—its trade was now coming from the west—and it made sense to switch to the Asian date. To catch up, the Philippines had to skip a day. This was well before the International Date Line was officially established, and some cartographers had no idea the islands had made the switch. For decades, they put the Philippines on the wrong date.