Long read but very worthwhile

Note: Macapili best explains his points in this great article citing references to back up his views to which I agree except for his assertion on Rizal as an American-backed hero.

Make no mistake. This is not a racist entry. Ang problema kasi sa iba kung minsan, pag tinitira ang US, may label na kaagad. We need to have a balanced view because not everything that the Americans “gave” to this country is good. Sames goes to the Spaniards.

The post deals a lot about our re-education under the Americans and also shares information about the short-lived republic of Aguinaldo which is a vital part of our history that needs to be dealt more in classrooms.

Why Filipinos are not a patriotic people

Ang isang lahi na walang marangal na gunita hinggil sa sarili ay isang lahing madalîng alipinin at patuloy na may isip-alipin kahit bigyan ng kalayaan.– Virgilio Almario.

( Photo source: University of Michigan Digital Library)
It is truly disheartening that Filipinos are not a patriotic people. Yet, a decade and a hundred years ago this country teemed with patriots – Sancho Valenzuela, Flaviano Yenko, Aniano Diokno, Maximo Abad, Luciano San Miguel, Eugenio Daza, Julian Santos, Faustino Guillermo, Macario Sakay, Simeon Ola, Arcadio Maxilon, Martin Delgado, Urbano Lacuna, Juan Cailles, Licerio Geronimo, Sixto Lopez, just to name a few of the unheralded. But today ineptitude, helplessness, indifference and disregard for law and order prevail. Seekers of favor, privilege and position outnumber those who are willing to make sacrifices for the country. And not one among contemporary public officials show any real interest in leading the people out of poverty, ignorance and apathy. The puzzle becomes even more pronounced whenever the question is asked why the likes of Aguinaldo, Rizal, Bonifacio, Jacinto, Del Pilar, Luna, Lopez Jaena, Mariano Ponce are nowhere to be found. Did something unusual happen then that we are not told today?

Revisiting the Aguinaldo era

A diligent student of Philippine history could use the internet to get to the facts that would lead to the solution of the puzzle much faster. With some luck, he might find himself in a gold mine of information, The student would find books, pamphlets and documents containing unfamiliar accounts and events, facts that an average Filipino student could not have encountered in his school days or professional career. Indeed, so much had been deliberately missed out in Philippine school textbooks concerning the events that took place after the United States succeeded Spain as the colonial master of these islands at the turn of the twentieth century.

It will take a little while to gather the data and digest the facts, but eventually a clear scenario will form in one’s mind like several frames as in a graphical presentation. First to show would be the frame of Bonifacio, then Aguinaldo, then the battle of Manila bay, then the Filipino army and navy, then the siege of Spanish garrisons throughout Luzon, Visayas, and parts of Mindanao, then the victorious Filipino flag flying in towns and cities, then the first Filipino republic, then the armed intervention by the Americans, then the Filipino war of resistance, then the defoliation, reconcentrado and water cure, then the surrender of Filipino guerrilla fighters, then the American colonial government, then the public school system and the final frame, the new Filipino.

The student would realize no sooner that the reason why today’s generation of Filipinos are not patriotic is because they are descendants of the new Filipino, or those that William Howard Taft condescendingly called the little brown brothers. (Taft, 125). These were the generation of Filipinos who had undergone a process of reeducation, which the nationalist historian Renato D. Constantino called the remaking of the Filipino. The parents were the patriotic Filipinos who fought side by side with Aguinaldo, but the offspring would be taught to become subservient Filipinos of the American colonial era.

But what would likely escape notice by the unwary student is that the reeducation process was not accidental, or a result of teaching English or other American-oriented subjects. As will be proved later, the reeducation process was deliberate. It was carefully designed to erase from the memory of the Filipinos a very sad chapter in their country’s history. The public school system was utilized to implement a systematic process of indoctrination in order that Filipinos will have no recollection of the horrors they went through in their heroic resistance to American occupation. That the process was successful can be gleaned from its product, the new Filipino whose descendants today are wrestling with lost national identity, unfamiliar with the blood and tears that their forefathers shed in a bitter struggle to establish a government of their own, free and independent.

McKinley’s clever ploy

The story of the transformation of the Filipino from the patriotic to the subservient came about with the rise of America as a world power in late 19th century. U.S. President William McKinley wanted to take the Philippine Islands as an American colony following the British model. However, territorial expansion that ignored the rights of the inhabitants to American citizenship violated the constitution of the United States and the libertarian tradition of the American people. Nevertheless, President McKinley was obsessed and completely consumed by his imperialistic design.

He ignored the favorable opinion of Admiral Dewey and the other American generals about the capability of Filipinos for self-government and their superiority over the Cubans who the United States freed after the Spaniards were driven out of Cuba. He also refused to acknowledge the accomplishment of the Filipinos in defeating the Spaniards and establishing a de facto government that held ninety-three percent of the country and administered to ninety-four percent of the population. The so-called Philippine republic, according to Washington officials, was not recognized as a belligerent by the powers, e.g., England, United States, Germany, Japan or Russia, and therefore, for practical purposes, did not exist. But whenever the American generals needed anything from Aguinaldo – oxen, horses, wagons, timber, encampments, supplies or information, he was addressed as Commanding General of the Philippine Forces.

Rather than sympathize with a struggling people, the McKinley administration concocted a very clever ploy. The American public was made to believe that the Filipinos were savages, uncivilized, and unfit for self-government. The Filipinos were likened to the American Indians who lived among several tribes scattered all across the Philippine archipelago. McKinley presented himself as the knight in shining armor that Divine Providence had anointed to lead the Filipinos out into the bright sunlight of western civilization. (Storey, 177). But what the American public was not made privy to was the prospects of enormous profits from hemp, sugar, timber, India rubber, gold, silver and other precious metals, coaling stations, and control of commerce in the east that made the Wall Street schemers very excited about. Neither was the American public told that the Filipinos fought the Spaniards to gain their independence and will fight the Americans to defend that independence. And so McKinley’s obsession to colonize the Philippines proceeded with the ayes of the members of the United States Congress and applause of the American people.

War of extermination and devastation

What Aguinaldo thought was an alliance with the Americans against Spain was eventually exposed to him as a masquerade to the real motives of the Americans. Soon after Aguinaldo had defeated the Spaniards and a large of contingent of American troops had arrived in Manila, war was commenced by the U.S. military in February 4, 1899, which influenced a wavering U.S. congress to ratify the Treaty of Paris, the treaty between Spain and the United States which ceded the Philippines to the latter, by a majority of only two votes. McKinley gave the Filipinos only one choice – submit to American authority or die. The Filipinos chose to fight a vastly superior army rather than submit to a new master. For almost a year, the Filipino army faced the superior American forces in open-field or conventional warfare only to be clobbered in each engagement. Filipino initiatives for truce were rebuffed by the Americans with a demand for an unconditional surrender of the entire Filipino army before any talks are opened. But the Filipinos refused the terms of an unconditional surrender without a clear commitment that a government under an American protectorate will be respected. And so the fighting continued.

Eventually, the succession of defeats in various battlefields forced Aguinaldo to change strategy. He issued an order to disband the 30,000 strong Filipino army in November, 1899 and constitute the officers and soldiers into guerrilla units in their home provinces. The change in strategy surprised the Americans who began to suffer heavier casualties from sneak attacks and ambuscades by Filipino guerrillas. So the bloody conflict, which should earn the title, the first modern guerrilla warfare in Asia, dragged on for three more years. The tenacity of the Filipinos was reflected in a statement of Teodoro Sandico, a member of the Aguinaldo cabinet, who issued a proclamation on May 16, 1899 which said in part:

“… I think it is our duty to exhaust all our resources for war, organize all our forces, and not consider ourselves conquered until the last cartridge has been fired.” (Luzon, 21)

McKinley did not want a prolonged war because he was facing a reelection. Neither was he willing to let the American public know exactly what was happening in the Philippine islands. McKinley refused to accept General Arthur MacArthur’s report that the whole Filipino nation was loyal to Aguinaldo and that practically every town served as a base of Filipino guerrilla operation with full moral and material support from the townspeople. McKinley was following a very clear objective – put the Philippines on the map of the United States. Therefore, he had to misrepresent to the American people that the war was being waged only by what he called the Tagalog tribe, and that the several other tribes were willing to accept American authority. He had to keep the American public hold on to the misconception that the Filipinos were savages and unfit to govern themselves, and justify his intrusion into their purely domestic affairs.

Accordingly, the American generals were put under severe pressure to end the war soonest because the American public might soon ask why a small savage tribe is able to resist the most powerful army in the world with 70,000 soldiers manning 500 stations by June, 1900. (Storey, 160) And it was at this point that all rules of civilized warfare was thrown aside and strict press censorship was enforced.

McKinley’s predicament and the unusually stiff resistance of the Filipino guerrillas drove the American command to adopt a counter strategy. The new strategy targeted the civilian population who were deliberately made to suffer untold hardships so that they will have no other recourse but to long for peace. In his circular order no.22, General Bell, in implementing his pacification campaign in Batangas province, said:

“To combat such a population, it is necessary to make the state of war as insupportable as possible, and there is no more efficacious way of accomplishing this than by keeping the minds of the people in such a state of anxiety and apprehension that living under conditions will soon become unbearable. Little should be said. The less said the better. Let acts, not words, convey the intention.” (Storey 120).

Accordingly, the war turned into a war of extermination and devastation characterized by a very negligible ratio of combat prisoners versus deaths (historical data is about 4 prisoners to 1 death), torture, concentration camps, indefinite incarcerations, indiscriminate killings, defoliation and devastation of towns and farms, and fueled mainly by racist contempt – a colored race had no right to stand up before a supposedly superior white race – accentuated by retaliation from the Filipino side. According to a prominent American anti-imperialist, George Seawall Boutwell, one pretext for the war, has been the assertion that the Filipinos were uncivilized, and, therefore, that they were not entitled to consideration. (Willis, 250). The Filipinos were called niggers, gugus, khakias and ladrones. As the war dragged on American loathing of Filipinos amplified to higher levels. One author who described the conflict as a war of extermination says the war was characterized by the slaughter of innocent women and children “… the Americans burning and devastating all before them … and shooting every Filipino.” (Valentine, 18).

Torture was resorted to all throughout the islands. John Morgan Gates said that by the middle of 1900, Americans and Macabebes resorted to the water cure and other forms of terror. They seized people and forcibly filled their stomachs with water until they revealed the hiding place of guerrillas, supplies, or arms. (Gates, 175). According to Blount, the water cure was practically the only way the Americans could get a Filipino betray his own countrymen. (Blount, 204).

Another harsh method used extensively was the reconcentrado, or something equivalent to a huge concentration camp, a method inherited from the Spaniards. Civilians were herded into designated security zone and any person, animal, food, or anything useful to the guerrillas, that were found outside the security zone were killed or destroyed.

U.S. General J.W. Bell, in his report of December 6, 1901 to Washington discloses the methods he will employ to rid Batangas of rebels, viz:

“I am now assemblying in the neighborhood of 2,500 men who will be used in columns of fifty men each. I take so large a command for the purpose of thoroughly searching each ravine, valley and mountain peak for insurgents and for food, expecting to destroy everything I find outside the towns. All able-bodied men will be killed or captured… These people need a thrashing to teach them some good common sense, and they should have it for the good of all concerned.” (Storey, 120)

Moorefield Storey quotes a Republican Congressman who visited the islands in 1902 expressed these observations:

“You never hear of any disturbance in Northern Luzon; and the secret of its pacification is, in my opinion, the secret of the pacification of the archipelago. They never rebel in Northern Luzon because there isn’t anybody there to rebel. The country was marched over and cleaned in a most resolute manner. The good Lord in heaven only knows the number of Filipinos that were put under ground. Our soldiers took no prisoners, they kept no records; they simply swept the country, and wherever or whenever they could get hold of a Filipino they killed him. The women and children were spared, and may now be noticed in disproportionate numbers in that part of the islands.” (Storey, 121-122)

The indiscriminate target of American military campaign was best described by John Rich McDill when he said:

“During our military operations in the field we saw a most beautiful country, but week after week we passed through abandoned and silent towns, villages, and fields, … The women and children, the old and feeble, and the sick, were hiding unsheltered in the woods and mountains. We, a perfectly armed and equipped army of the most powerful republic in the world, were pursuing and killing sad-eyed little brown men and boys, who were scantily clothed, poorly nourished, and almost unarmed…” (McDill, 2).

The new American strategy worked. By sowing fear, inflicting pain, causing death, or destroying property, the Americans succeeded in forcibly isolating the guerrillas from the civilian population, the main support base, and this was the principal factor that caused the weakening of the resistance and bringing it to an end. General Miguel Malvar, the last of the great Filipino generals to surrender, in explaining why he and three thousand of his men gave up in April, 1902, wrote that he could no longer bear the sufferings of the people.

The estimate of the death toll in Luzon attributed to the war was one-sixth of the population. (Storey, 121). The total population of the Philippine Islands in 1900 was somewhere between eight to nine million. An American war protester made this comment:

“There is no doubt that we have caused the destruction of more lives in the last three years than the Spanish did in any century of their misrule. ” (Winchester, 13). [author: It brings to mind the holocaust four decades later. The only difference is, the Jews did not forget whilst the Filipinos did.]

Despite the strict censorship employed by the U.S. military on reports by U.S. national newspaper correspondents, numerous documented accounts of the use of harsh methods found their way into local newspapers from letters of American soldiers to their families in the United States. Some of these letters led to investigations by the U.S. Congress. A transcript of one such investigation contained the testimony of two American soldiers, William Lewis Smith and Charles Riley, describing in detail the administration of water cure to the presidente [town mayor – author] of Igbarras, Iloilo and three of the town’s policemen, including the subsequent burning of the whole town.

Blot on an immaculate linen

Definitely, against the backdrop of the great American heritage, this McKinley misadventure in the Philippines was destined to become an ugly episode in the glorious pages of American history. It would be a contradiction to the long held constitutional and democratic principles of liberty that the American people hold dear – that men are created equal and have inherent rights to freedom and democracy. Certainly, American authorities would not allow the true story of Philippine conquest blemish American honor. Therefore, it would be logical to assume that steps were taken to muddle this section of Filipino history, erase it from the memory of the Filipinos, make them forget the horrors they went through, and hide it from the prying eyes of future generation.

True enough, steps were taken to make Filipinos forget!

Francis Burton Harrison, once the Governor General of the Philippine Islands, described the steps taken:

“The exhibition of the Filipino flag, under which they had fought their war against us, was made by statute a criminal offense. Patriotism was never encouraged in the schools, nor ideas which tended to arouse their own national consciousness. Everything which might help to make the pupils understand their own race or think about the future of the country was carefully censored and eliminated. Nevertheless, the good sound stock of American ideas which they received instructed them inevitably in our own democratic ideals, and in our pride in own liberties.” (Harrison, 45).

The irreconcilable former General of the Filipino army, Artemio Vibora Ricarte, who took to his grave his refusal to take the oath of allegiance to the United States, preferring solitary confinement, then a self-exile in Yokohama, Japan, saw beyond the facade of American altruism an insidious design when he said:

“The truth is America taught our young people the things that commemorate the lives of Lincoln and Washington in order that we will forget in our hearts the exemplary deeds of our nation’s great heroes. The Americans believe that once we are able to speak good English is proof enough that we have learned, yet in our minds is being instilled a wrong thinking, the superiority of the white race.” (author’s translation of Tagalog text found in Kabataan, 12).

Many political and military leaders of the defunct Aguinaldo government accepted generous offer of high position in the American colonial government. Those who did not and refused to take the oath of allegiance to the United States were exiled to the Marianas. [Aguinaldo, for his part, rejected all offered positions in the American colonial government, although he took the oath of allegiance to the United States. When the Japanes Imperial Army occupied Manila during WWII, Aguinaldo and Ricarte actively supported the Japanese sponsored government. – author]

War relics and voluminous captured Filipino government records and documents officially labeled as Philippine Insurgents Records (PIR) were shipped to the United States. American teachers came to inaugurate an American-sponsored public school system. English supplanted Spanish, [a language change that was not done by the Americans in Puerto Rico or Cuba – author], and with it went the loss of Hispanic literary and intellectual heritage, making the succeeding generation of Filipinos fertile grounds for the propagation of the good sound stock of American ideas.

Filipino schoolchildren were taught to revere America, and belittle the land of their birth. The first line of a beautiful Tagalog love song, for instance, was translated to English with emphasis on the state of being borne poor, instead of placing the focus on the demigod character of the hero, who was born on top of a mountain with the clouds as his cradle; he played with thunder and was caressed by lightning. In another case, the popular Tagalog folk song, the bahay-kubo, was translated to English as “My nipa hut is very small”, again, the emphasis on smallness. And yet this popular folk song is supposed to depict a prosperous small rural farm where all kinds of vegetables abound.

Another important step that American authorities took was the designation of Dr. Jose Rizal as the national hero. Carl Crow, says:

“Among other things the Filipino people lacked to make them a nation was a hero – a safe hero, the only safe ones, of course, being dead. Aguinaldo held the highest place in the eyes of his countrymen, as the leader of the recent insurrection, but he was … one who might be of considerable danger to the American administration. It was expedient to establish a hero whose fame would overshadow that of Aguinaldo, and thereby lessen that leader’s ability to make future trouble. … Governor Taft, … at once fixed on Jose Rizal…” (Crow, 53).

The designation of Jose Rizal as the national hero was calculated not only to lessen Aguinaldo’s ability to make future trouble. It had the effect also, and this is the more important, of making future generation of Filipinos identify the Spaniards as villains and the Americans as saviors. On the other hand, if Aguinaldo were the national hero, future celebration of the hero’s day would not only highlight the victory over the Spaniards by the Filipinos and the government they established, but also the unjust war of conquest waged by President McKinley on the Filipinos to deprive them of their freedom. The choice of Rizal over Aguinaldo saved the Americans from being remembered as the butcher of the Filipinos, the pillager of their land, and the destroyer of their republic.

Aguinaldo could not have been the choice for the national hero judging from the American effort to discredit him, as follows:

“Let it not be forgotten that Aguinaldo sold out his patriotism at Biac na Bato for a miserable pittance, which he failed to divide with his generals; that his ambition for preeminence did not stop short at the assassination of Andres Bonifacio and of General Luna.” (Briggs, 78).

The truth is Aguinaldo and his comrade-in-exile in Hong Kong lived frugally from the interest on the $400,000 Biak-na-bato funds which they deposited in two Hong Kong banks. When the second phase of the revolution started, Aguinaldo used the funds to purchase armaments from Hong Kong. On the other hand, the death of Bonifacio and Luna being blamed on Aguinaldo were the unfortunate result of collision of strong personalities that threatened the very survival of the Filipino cause. Bonifacio was mounting a counter revolution, while Luna was dividing the army. To quote Teodoro Kalaw: “the times demanded firmness and the Filipino cause could not afford to be divided”.

The new Filipino

From the day the American colonial administration was inaugurated in 1901 the new Filipino emerged, known today as the little brown Americans. These are Filipinos by appearance, but Americans in thought, word and deed. True to Harrison’s specifications, the new Filipino spoke English very fluently, knew much about American ideals, history, arts, literature and music by heart, but have a very vague notion of their ancestors’ struggle for freedom, or their sacred dreams and aspirations that drove them to arms. They would usually turn into very competent professionals, but would lack one very important trait – patriotism, thanks to the methodical classroom strategy that Harrison described.

The process of making Filipinos forget did not stop after the Americans let go of the Philippines in 1946. A Grade IV pupil in the year 1951 was still being taught to sing Star spangled banner, God bless America etc. By the time the same child stepped into High School, he would be made to study American history on the First Year and in later years memorize the address of Lincoln at Gettysburg and the poem, The Song of Hiawatha. In other words, for more than five decades the Filipino was subjected to something similar to what was considered diabolical – brainwashing.

In sum, the American conquest of the Philippines was not just a case of subjugating an unwilling people. It was also a case of making the same people forget that they were subjugated.

Where to, Filipino?

How else would the Filipino behave after being deliberately trained to think as an American? When Filipino leaders of the newly independent Philippine government signed treaties with the Americans that were today considered disadvantageous to the country, were those leaders dumb or lacking in intelligence? Definitely not. These leaders were very highly educated. The likelihood was by training the leaders had taken to the habit of putting the interests of America first, their own country’s next. Strangely, the Filipino psychology mistook the interest of the American as his own, something that could only happen in a case of mistaken identity. The sad part was more and more foreigners, have now moved up to the same status as the American in the eyes of the Filipino. But the real tragedy seemed to be the low regard that the Filipino had learnt to give to anything native, while showing a religious-like devotion to things American or foreign, an attitude that had wrought havoc to the development of indigenous industries.

What lies ahead for the Filipino? For as long as schoolchildren are taught to sing Jack and Jill, not Leron Leron Sinta, and would likely never learn or hear the tune of Pamulenawen or Sarumbanggi, the Filipino would be doomed to national perdition. In other words, the Filipino malaise would remain unrecognized and no serious steps would be taken to unmake the colonial Filipino. Unless the Filipino national character changed, one could only hope that the nation would succeed given the heavy burden of corrupted sense of identity. The salvation of the Filipino would not come from foreign aid or investment, preferential treatment, free trade or remittances of OFWs. Rather, it would depend primarily on the rejuvenation of the Filipino mind, i.e., the rekindling the spirit of 1898 – the love of country and the aspiration to be free and independent. The only recourse of the Filipino would be to reclaim the patriotic character of the heroes held hostage by the muddled past, and to acknowledge that the Filipino race could accomplish great things just as Aguinaldo did. It will give the Filipino today the confidence, strength and courage to remedy the present and approach the future.

A nation can only succeed if the people make sacrifices. But without patriotism there can be no sacrifice.


  1. Basilico Fantastico III says:

    this is a very insightful and informative entry. i hope you post more of these things in the future.

  2. thanks, basilico. credit goes to macapili. he also has a photo album online chronicling this part of our past.

    try logging on to: http://malolosrepublic.blogspot.com/

  3. withonespast says:

    Tunay na mas mabilis ang “internet” pero hindi ako naniniwala na maaari tayong madala o sa salita ni Macapili “lead to the solution of the puzzle” ng mga librong mababasa sa internet, karamihan kasi ay mga sulat sa wikang ingles ng mga Amerikano o mga “Americanized” na historyador. Ubod ng daming dokumento ang hindi pa natin napagaaralan, at malabong madiskubre’t mapahalagahan natin ang mga ito dahil ang mga “primary sources” na ito ay nasa wikang Kastila.

    Mabuhay ka Kaibigan!

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