Aug. 13, 1898 and RP’s short-lived republic
|From The Forbidden Book (T'Boli Publishing and Distribution 2004)|
By Mariano "Anong" Santos
Publisher and Editor
In the flurry of community activities centered around June 12, not one of the six groups that got involved in this annual ritual has really given an occasion to seriously ponder why, the Independence proclaimed on this day in 1898 was so short-lived.
To rub salt to injury, some segment of our community argue that July 4, 1946 is actually the right day to celebrate our independence. It must be recalled that after 15 years of celebrating our independence the American way, President Diosdado P. Macapagal, father of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, changed it in 1961 to June 12, 1898, when Gen Emilio F. Aguinaldo declared our freedom from Spain in his mansion in Kawit, Cavite.
The former became Philippine American Friendship Day. But, then, how friendly is our relation with the US? Does this level of relationship works in our national interest?
Take the WWII Veterans Equity issue. Or even the present rape case against four US Marines that hugs the headlines back home. Or opening the flood gate for Philippine nurses to the US? Is friendship playing a role in these?
Teddy Roosevelt’s Order
Admiral George Dewey sat in his flagship Olympia at Manila Bay after he sank the pathetic and outmoded Spanish Armada in Manila during the mock Battle of Manila Bay.
He was sent from Hong Kong to Manila by then assistant secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt on the day Secretary John Long took a day off. Long was furious when he learned about the order but he did not rescind the order. TIME magazine had Teddy Roosevelt on its cover last month as one American who is hailed as visionary—one who expanded US interest into an Empire-- certainly not to the interest of the Filipinos as we will learn now.
Dewey, following orders from home, was careful not to attend the June 12 celebration. The puzzled Aguinaldo who was brought home in a US vessel and was sold arms to fight the Spaniards in his homeland was always given the line that the US constitution was for freedom and human rights and that it never colonized any land. But Dewey and his officers refused recognition of the Philippine Independence from Spain.
At that point, most of Luzon had been liberated by the Filipino revolutionaries. Major Visayan islands were also under their hands. They were ready for the taking over of Manila which the Filipino freedom fighters had cordoned off. Water resources were under their control. City dwellers were eating cats, dogs and rats because food supply was cut off. Manila was for their taking to prove to the international community that Filipinos had won their independence from their colonizers.
Methodists and Pagans
In the US, President William Mckinley who won his first term as one who was adversed to expansionism was prevailed upon by big business, which looked upon Asia as a huge market for the excess goods that their factories were producing. Manila Bay and Subic Bay were ideal coaling stations in the Pacific.
Methodist Mckinley who was said to have difficulties locating the Philippine Islands in the world map, was also pressured by his fellow Methodists to take over the islands because they were made to believe that Filipinos were pagans and mostly uncivilized in need of conversion to Christianity.
The Republican president admitted that he agonized over the issue on whether the US should colonize the islands. He said that he knelt in the White House to pray for God’s guidance and he heard a voice telling him to Christianize the Filipinos. (Three quarters of the 10 million inhabitants were already Catholics.)
The imperialists, as they were actually called in those days, got their way. Methodist Seminaries became recruiting stations for volunteers to the Philippines. Teddy Roosevelt led the charge in Puerto Rico. USS Maine got blown down Havana Harbor under suspicious circumstances. Big time publishers like Joseph Pulitzer and Randolph Hearst were in a frenzy, using their newspapers as war drums.
The American Spanish War was raging. In the summer of 1898, San Francisco, California was clogged with volunteers from the western states. The army could only get four ships which it converted into makeshift vessels for the volunteers who wondered if they would wound up as meat for Filipinos who were thought of as cannibals.
General Aguinaldo and his army continued to win battles-- pushing the Spaniards to their last stand in Manila. The Philippine leader was by all indications being used by the US officers to fight their war against Spain. With forked tongues, the US officers were talking about the American ideals of freedom—of not enslaving or conquering foreign lands but at the same time refusing to recognize the Philippine Independence.
Curiously, Dewey and company were protective of the capital city. While using the Filipinos, they were also cautioning the Spanish Governor General Basilio Augustin not to surrender to the Filipino forces, pulling intrigues that the Filipino insurrectos would savagely eliminate them. Dewey was again working a mock surrender of the remaining Spanish army to the US in a war that the Filipinos were winning against Spain.
Aguinaldo’s army had defeated the Spaniards in Cavite Viejo, Imus, Bacoor, Las Pinas, Paranaque, Malibay, San Francisco (Quezon City), Malabon and only Malate separate them from the walled City of Manila. But the Americans kept on holding off the revolutionaries. By late July 1898, 12,000 US troops landed in southern Manila with more to come in August.
Though all signs indicated that the Americans were arriving en masse not for the purpose of defeating an already decimated Spanish army, General Aguinaldo was apparently in denial about the true purpose of the American presence. When Admiral Dewey talked the Philippine Commander In Chief to vacate the occupied beaches of Baclaran, Pasay, Paranaque and Tambo to make way to the newly arrived US troops, the officers of those strategic zones, Gen. Mariano Noriel and Lt. Col. Juan Cailles protested vehemently.
Gen. Aguinaldo told them, “(Americans) are our allies, always remember that!” Their senior officer, Gen. Pio del Pilar, was angry when he learned that the almost victorious Filipino freedom fighters left the gateway to Manila and moved inward to Makati. Gen. Antonio Luna and foreign affairs secretary, Apolonario Mabini were outraged by the concession and predicted that the move would lead to humiliation for the Filipinos. To make matters worse, on July 28, Gen Noriel was again asked to move inward abandoning the critical Pasay-Manila Road. By July 31, the Americans had total control of conquering Manila without the Filipinos marching with them.
“Niggers” got the meaning
Early August, The Filipinos were getting the meaning of “niggers’ by which most American soldiers called them. Admiral Dewey, to whom General Aguinaldo had conceded too much, began to be more transparent on the US intentions. He once summoned on his ship deck the officers of the Filipino boats that ply the waters around his fleet and lectured them to pull out their “mosquito fleet.’ One Filipino officer was thrown overboard when he grumbled over the order.
Fair minded journalists reporting from Cavite like Oscar Davis of the Harpers Weekly, wrote “Aguinaldo saved the US troops much hard campaigning.” Reporter John F. Bass sent this dispatch: “We forget that the Filipinos drove the Spaniards from Cavite to their present entrenched position saving us long continued fight…Give them their liberty and guarantee it to them.”
But the US press had nothing of the truth. The New York Times reported: “Insurgent Not Our Allies’” Manila Rebels are Mad,” “They Would Turn Savages Upon Priest and Nuns and Slaughter Them.” Aguinaldo in political cartoons had been variously depicted as a dog being kicked by Dewey, Snake being trampled on, a black jungle native and tin horn dictator riding a wooden horse.
Fateful Day of August
National Artist Nick Joaquin in his book “A Question of Heroes” asked of Aguinaldo: “Why, why, why did he delay? That suspense from mid-June to mid-July 1898 was the crucial moment in our history. It could have united us all behind Aguinaldo…A singular act of Aguinaldo could have startled us into a nation…For that moment of our history Aguinaldo was our history…What stopped Aguinaldo from taking Manila when he already stood on its tottering gates?...
“In 1961, (the aged first Philippine president)told a group headed by Salvador de Madriaga that it was Dewey who begged him not to attack Manila until the arrival of the troops from California—for a shared victory.” Of course the Filipinos alone could have done it. The Spaniards were under their mercy. But our first President of the Republic succumbed to the trick of the Americans.
August 13, 1898, after the American had Spanish Governor Fermin Jaudenes surrender without a fight, the Americans shove aside the Filipinos who had fought hard to defeat the Spaniards.
Thereafter, Aguinaldo kept retreating, dragging with him the Republic. First in Malolos and eventually into the jungles of Isabela where he was tricked again into captivity. Half a million of his countrymen perished in the Filipino American War that could had been avoided if he acted in the name of national interest in those days before the siege of Manila, in that fateful day in August of 1898—barely two months after the republic was born.
But Aguinaldo just like his successors acted within an illusion that he had special relations with the Americans who are adept to the game of brinkmanship. Not with pakikisama or utang na loob—two traits that pulled down Filipinos into a mire of poverty and backwardness.
An article reached recently our editorial offices arguing that we should be the US 51st state because the US would welcome us. That is mouthing same naivete in our book of collective myth.
When US granted our political independence on July 4, 1946, it got everything it needed from the Philippines without the millions of Filipinos becoming ward of this nation. In the 1930s when Social Security was being pushed by Franklin Roosevelt’s New Dealers, the move in congress was to grant Filipinos their political independence after their transitional Common-wealth government
Imagine Filipinos taking social security and other public aid benefits. After WWII, we got our war damage reparation money only after the Parity Rights Treaty and US Bases Agreement was forcibly approved by the Filipinos who were devastated in the American War against Japan. Americans controlled 70 percent of the strategic industries owned by foreigners in the Philippines. The US got a cheap lease on millions of hectares for their bases.
Although the nationalists in the Philippine Senate successfully ended the Military Bases Treaty on Sept. 16, 1991 resulting on the conversion of Subic and Clark Bases into lucrative Economic Enterprise Zones, President Joseph Estrada pushed for the Visiting Forces Agreement. So we are caught again with US soldiers taking advantage of Filipinos—a common affliction before the bases were taken back by the Filipinos.
In 1946, we let the US passed the recision act that deprived Filipinos who fought under the US flag in WWII an equitable pension—at par with other veterans in the US or elsewhere. Now the US let an unlimited influx of Filipinos nurses here. Out of the goodness of this nation’s heart? No. It’s because there is a shortage of some 127,000 nurses here. Never mind if the Philippine hospitals need nurses as well.
US will always work for its national interest. This is one truism that Filipinos seem to always not take into consideration in its foreign relations. The US is not our patron saint—a notion carried over in our practice of folk Catholicism. Utang na loob and pakikisama are two other fatal considerations in our national interest when used in matters pertaining to foreign affairs.
Remember, understanding our past can bring untold progress for us today and in the future.
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