Monday, February 15, 2021

AMERICA'S SKELETON IN THE CLOSET: THE PHILIPPINE-AMERICAN WAR (1899-1913)


"I find the fact that there is such a paucity of information on such a bloody war to be simply amazing. Once I learned that this war was America’s true “forgotten war”, as opposed to the Korean War." -  Prof. Gary Weissermann

“The HISTORY of an oppressed people is hidden in the lies and the agreed myth of its conquerors.” - Meridel Le Sueur, American writer, 1900-1996


" Fear history, for it respects no secrets" - Gregoria de Jesus  (widow of Andres Bonifacio)

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LET US NOT KEEP OUR HEADS IN THE SAND


Hi All,

The below essay from the University of Michigan Professor Gary Weisserman dealt mainly with the Philippine-American War (First Vietnam), a period in American and Filipino national histories that have been intentionally hidden from and/or glossed-over in the educational systems of both countries. 

The results: A mutual ignorance history among the American and native Filipino citizenry.
For Americansignorance lead to foreign policy blunders: a lack of appreciation for nationalistic struggles by other peoples against colonialism/imperialism as in Vietnam (subsuming the post-WW2 wave of Asian nationalism to their fear of communism); and now Iraq, seeing with fundamentalist/neocon-driven fear of "evil" and a "breeding ground for terrorism" in former ally and "our son-of-a-bitch" Saddam Hussein, trained and armed by America against the hated "American-hostage-takers" and theocratic Iran (again bolstering the saying that road to perdition is -supposedly here- paved with good intentions).

For us native Filipinos, ignorance of that critical period in our national history, of our forefathers' nationalist fight for political independence --first from Spain and most damaging in the long-run, from America thereafter-- has made subsequent generations lose our then-nascent national identity and national unity as a people; and thus facilitated our being molded into a native people of Malayan physical features, but with Americanized minds with the so-called damaged culture et al.

The most concrete and relevant consequences to us native Filipinos of this ignorance are the destructive effects to our nationalist consciousness; the perpetuation and unquestioning acceptance of an imposed alien culture and thinking in socioeconomic and political matters, all of which have become the generally unrecognized and grave obstacles to national progress, i.e. the common good;  which made and continue to make the lives of Filipinos-in-the-Philippines then, now and the next generations beset with only an expanding and worsening poverty, i.e. hunger and malnourishment, mental underdevelopment of children, loss of human dignity, sickness and early death among others. 

With our national alienation, we Filipinos are still at a loss as to how to end, to get out of the current predicament; feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, angered, and hopeless in the face of seemingly insurmountable problems.

The tasks are extremely difficult, but the solutions still exclusively dependent on us native Filipinos- united by nationalism, not in a hoped-for Filipino knight in shining armor, or  "friendly" foreigners or in prayer to a God. 

And the first step, diverted since by the Marcos Dictatorship, is to educate, to know and understand ourselves, by learning our true history, of our forefathers' heroic and nationalistic struggles against the foreigners; and those of the many Filipinos -old and young, men and women- who thereafter followed their footsteps fighting our own modern Judas Iscariots (whose greed and thus loyalty are for the foreigners) in the private and public sectors: politicians, government institutions, transnational corporations and local partners, foreign businessmen, top military officers...in short, many, if not all, members of our ruling class and/or elite.

Only through knowing and understanding "what's going on" and "why," can we Filipinos become truly nationalistic; only then can Filipinos in the Philippines unite, only then can Filipinos in the Philippines identify the sincere nationalists who deserve to be their leaders and support them; only then can Filipinos in the Philippines willingly be led by, fight and win for themselves. 

Only then can strongly united and nationalistic Filipinos in the Philippines have a nationalistic approach to political economy, i.e. plan and action for a nationalist economy of self-sufficiency, in food and essential manufactured products, for the common good, that is, for the impoverished native majority. 

Only thereafter can Filipinos in the Philippines strongly negotiate and deal, guided by their national interests and defined by their recovered Filipino nationalism, with all foreign nations which expectedly are similarly driven by their own national interests. Only then can native Filipinos, with a nationalistic and thus independent economy, attain and maintain true democracy; as the former is a prerequisite to the latter.

To attain all these, to be ready to fight --preferably-- peacefully to change things; but also as a last resort, to be willing to bear and use arms because it is virtually impossible to be non-violent in an unjust society --a suffering people acting to change things evoke violence from those who will do anything to protect privilege, as national and world history have repeatedly demonstrated, as we witness in our homeland then and now.


- Bert









The truth is that textbooks are written not to tell history but to be purchased. With Mel and Norma Gabler basically in charge of the nation's history textbooks and their views on what children should. “The Gablers include in their guidelines for textbooks that these should 'encourage loyalty' and avoid 'defaming' the nation's founders, and avoid material that might lead students to criticize their parents. In one of his more revealing statements, Mel Gabler criticized textbooks, saying 'too many textbooks and discussions leave students free to make up their own minds about things.” - Earl Lee


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AMERICA'S SKELETON IN THE CLOSET - Professor Gary Weisserman, University of Michigan


I would like to perform a little experiment. In your head, list all of the wars America has been in. Done? Chances are that your list includes many of the following: the American Revolution, The War of 1812, The Mexican-American War, The Civil War, The Spanish-American War, both World Wars, The Korean War, The Vietnam War, The Cold War, The Persian Gulf War, Operation Desert Storm and the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But chances are that you are missing one of the bloodiest wars in American history, America’s first true step towards imperialism, the "Philippine Insurrection" (more aptly renamed Philippine-American War in 1999 by the U.S. Library of Congress).

The Philippine Insurrection was a war that snuck into our history between the Spanish-American War and World War I and has since snuck right back out, out of the general historical knowledge of the American peopleout of our textbooks, and as far as the average American is concerned it has basically snuck right out of our history. America has one nasty skeleton in its closet, and with the aid of our schools, the textbooks they use, and what those textbooks teach, or in this case what they don’t teach, America has kept this skeleton locked up, and unfortunately, it looks as if things won’t change any time soon.

This fact should be as disturbing to you as it was to me when I learned about this war, fought by America to gain control of the Philippines, a country that had been fighting with Spain to try to gain its independence. America was trying to take power out of the hands of the same people they supposedly fought for during the "Spanish-American war" a war in which America was trying to take control of the island out of the hands of the Spanish.

The Philippine Insurrection has done a good job of hiding itself within the hubbub of two major wars that America was involved in, the Spanish-American War and World War I. In fact as far as most history books are concerned, if they’re even concerned at all, the Philippine Insurrection was just an adjunct to the Spanish-American war. With the fact that few history books even concern themselves with something as trivial as America’s first imperialistic conquest in mind, it's not hard to believe that finding information on such a topic would prove to be a battle all its own.

In fact, a search at the library only yielded a mere 20 books that even had to deal with the Philippines, 15 of which were children’s books or books of poetry, 4 travel guides, and one lone book that contained any historical information about the Philippines what so ever. I got lucky, and that lone book happened to deal with the Philippines' struggle for freedom, with a nice portion having to do specifically with the Philippine Insurrection and wars leading up to it.

I had learned from this book (The Philippines’ Fight For Freedom by Jules Archer), and A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn that this war did indeed happen, and I hadn’t been sent out on some wild goose chase by my history teacher, so I decided to dive deeper in search of information. 

From there I tried searching the Internet with ‘Philippine(s) war’ and found very sparse information about my topic, but scrolling through the list of websites I came upon one that looked promising. From this site, I found an alternative name for my war, the Philippine Insurrection. Now with a week's worth of searching under my belt and very little to show for it, I had finally set foot in the right direction and proceeded to dive headfirst into a multitude of information. From here, I found much of the information I used to write this paper, with almost every nuance of information being just as important as the last as I tried to pull this skeleton out of America’s closet. I found the topic of the Philippine Insurrection to be a great topic to do a paper on.

Unlike many myths or misconceptions about history, there is no common knowledge about the Philippine Insurrection for there to actually be a myth or misconception about it. I find the fact that there is such a paucity of information on such a bloody war to be simply amazing. Once I learned that this war was America’s true “forgotten war”, as opposed to the Korean War, I realized that there must be some big idea related to this war that may have been a burden to America's history, like the horrible acne you had as a teenager that you just want to forget about. With the fact that I could find only one book at the library and that my textbook contained such in-depth information about the Philippine Insurrection (please read the preceding passage as two whole paragraphs).

I realized that there may be more to the Philippine Insurrection than I thought. As I proceeded to search out information on my topic I decided to start at the beginning and work my way through to the end, with the beginnings in this being the  Spanish-American War and its predecessor the Philippine Revolution of 1896. Without the Spanish-American War, there would have been no Philippine Insurrection. Not only that, but the Philippines may have become an independent nation in the late 1800’s/early 1900s if they defeated Spain in The Philippine Revolution of 1896.

Indeed, before America got involved and started the Spanish-American War, the Philippine Revolution of 1896 was already underway between Spain and the Philippines, a war the Philippines were fighting to gain freedom after 300 years of Spanish rule and oppression. America did not get involved with the war between Spain and the Philippines to help the Filipinos gain their independence, instead, the roots of the Spanish-American war lie in America’s imperialistic and capitalistic ideals at the time.

Now I think it is time to make an interesting observation. First, we have a war lasting three months, the Spanish-American War, and it is called a war, and it is mentioned in our textbooks. Following this, we have a war that officially lasted three years (although it really lasted much longer) and it is not even referred to as a war, instead of as an insurrection. The word insurrection is defined as the act or an instance of open revolt against civil authority or a constituted government.

This would make perfect sense but as James Loewen, a Washington, D.C.,-based scholar and author of a forthcoming book titled Lies across the Landscape: What Our Historical Markers and Monuments Get Wrong said, ‘What we call the Philippine Insurrection should be called the Philippine War. We had never conquered the Philippines, so you can’t call it a revolt,’” (MSC “The Philippine-American War”). 

The fact that the war itself is not even called a war may hint at why it is left out of our textbooks and history. By seeing this war as a revolt and not a war, it is easier to disregard it and lose it in the midst of the Spanish-American War and World War I.

On that same note it should probably be more closely scrutinized because by calling it an insurrection states that America truly did take over another country, which as anti-imperialists stated was against “the Monroe Doctrine [which stated]… ‘With the existing colonies or dependencies of any European power [America] shall not interfere,’” (quoted in Archer 62).

To understand the Philippine Insurrection one must have at least some understanding about its predecessor the Spanish-American war. During the late 1800s, Theodore Roosevelt was Assistant Secretary of the Navy. The chairman of the Naval War Board was Alfred Thayer Mahan. Mahan discussed with Roosevelt his plans to take American control of Chinese trade. He noted that a base in the Philippines would provide for the needed springboard into their market. He believed that Spanish control over the Philippines was weakening, and whoever sided with the Philippines would gain control over them, never even considering Philippine independence.

Roosevelt agreed with this sentiment and determined that if anyone seized the Philippines it should be the United States (Archer 37). With international investments in mind, the seeds of the Philippine Insurrection had been sowed. To defeat the Spanish and accomplish the goals that Mahan had set, the right man had to be in control over the actual fighting of the war. Roosevelt had George Dewey, another man who believed in Mahan’s ideas, appointed commodore of the Asiatic Fleet, the very fleet that would fight the Spanish when the time was right. This time came on February 15, 1898, when an American battleship blew up in Havana harbor, killing over 200 men. The press went into a frenzy declaring that this could never have been an accident but instead the work of an enemy. It was at this point that the Spanish-American War began to develop, with Dewey sent to Manila Bay, located on the main Philippines island of Luzon, to sink the Spanish fleet once the war was declared.

When the time was right, May 1st, 1898 to be exact, Dewey destroyed the entire Spanish fleet in Manila Bay, thus winning the first battle of the Spanish-American war and clearing the waters of the Philippines of the Spanish. (Archer 39 43-45).  During this time, General Emilio Aguinaldo was the leader of the Filipino rebels. Dewey and Aguinaldo made a promise that if the United States and the Philippines became allies then the United States would recognize the Philippines as a free country. The fact that this promise was ever made was quickly denied because the government was unsure if they would be able to uphold their end of the bargain. 

After the Spanish had been cleared from Filipino waters, America struck a new deal with the Philippines, trying to convince the Filipinos to be American allies. President McKinley stated that the Americans were fighting “not to make war upon the people of the Philippines, nor upon any party or faction among them, but to protect them in their homes, their employments, and in their personal and religious rights.” This statement gave the impression that America did not wish to seize control over the islands at the end of the war, yet the idea of Philippine independence was never actually mentioned (Archer 40-41 48-49).

As allies, many battles were won against the Spanish. The rebel flag was blue, red, and white, an obvious tribute to the American flag, though this flag was not seen by the American government as the attempted establishment of a new nation, but rather solely as the banner of the rebel fighting forces. On June 12th, 1898 Aguinaldo proclaimed the Philippines as free from Spanish rule. His supporters voted him dictatorial powers and the rebel flag became the official flag of the new republic. The only American support the Philippines received in pursuit of their independence came from the Anti-Imperialist League, a group founded solely for the purpose of opposing the American takeover of the Philippines. The American government stated that they would not recognize Aguinaldo’s power, with their reasoning being that no other country had done so.

Over the course of the next few months, America Defeated the Spanish in Cuba, forcing them to sue for peace resulting in the Treaty of Paris (1898). With the end of the Spanish-American War came the Treaty of Paris (1898), named so because it was signed in Paris, just like almost every peace treaty ever signed throughout American or European history. This treaty was the true spark of the Philippine Insurrection. It clearly states in Article III (3) of the treaty that “Spain cedes to the United States the archipelago known as the Philippine Islands…[due to this] The United States will pay to Spain the sum of twenty million dollars ($20,000,000) within three months after the exchange of the ratifications of the [Treaty of Paris 1898]” (MSC “Treaty of Peace”). This would have been all good and America could have possibly taken peaceful control of the Philippines, that is if the Filipinos themselves had even been present during the signing, let alone had a say in the conditions of said treaty.

Felipe Agoncillo, Minister Plenipotentiary to conclude treaties with foreign governments (which in a lot of words says that he dealt with foreign affairs for the Philippines), pointed out this injustice in his “Protest on the Injustice of the Treaty of Paris,” stating: “If the Treaty of Paris there had simply been declared the withdrawal and abandonment by the Spaniards of their domination --if they had such --over Filipino territory, if America, on accepting peace, had signed the Treaty, without prejudice to the rights of the Philippines, and with a view to coming to a subsequent settlement with the existing Filipino National Government, thus recognizing the sovereignty of the latter, their alliance and the carrying out of their promises of honor to the said Filipinos, no protest against their action would have been made. But in view of the terms of Article III of the Protocol, the attitude of the American Commissioners, and the imperative necessity of safeguarding the national rights of my country, I take this protest, for the before-mentioned reasons but with the proper legal reservations, against the action taken and the resolutions passed by the Peace Commissioners at Paris and in the Treaty signed by them,” (MSC “Felipe Agoncillo's Protest”).In this protest, Felipe Agoncillo said that due to the injustices brought on by Article III of the Treaty of Paris 1898, the Philippines has no choice but to oppose the treaty and all those who enforce it.

Now if you are America, and I’m not saying you are, and you have just purchased a few dozen islands for twenty million dollars, you’re not going to take too kindly to being told that the people of said islands don’t want you there. So, instead of giving these islands their independence, you’re going to claim them as a colony and deny them the freedom they have fought for years to achieve. Needless to say, with the people of the Philippines as angry as they were at the United States, the tension would surely develop into conflict.

The first and foremost conflict was over who would govern this handful of islands known (to those who knew them, which before the beginnings of the Spanish-American war did not include the President himself) as the Philippines. The Filipinos, having tried to win their freedom in war all their own, set up their own government which included members of many of the various islands, regardless of the fact that the United States now officially owned them. Dewey saw this government as representing only a faction, and order could never be upheld.

In America, great debates took place between the democratically led Anti-Imperialists and the Republican-led Imperialists over whether or not America should annex the Philippines. President McKinley sided with the Imperialists. In December of 1898, American troops were sent to the Philippines, the Manila area specifically (this was where the Americans had first defeated the Spanish Navy), to create an American presence on the island. It quickly became obvious on both sides that no peaceful resolution could come from this, with the Filipinos rallying against the American presence. For the next two months, tension grew between both the Imperialists and the Anti-Imperialists and The Philippines and America.

The debates continued in America, with the Anti-Imperialists citing the Declaration of Independence and the Monroe document as their backing. Albert J. Beveridge, one of the strongest supporters of the annexation of the Philippines stated in his famous “March of the Flag” speech “The [Anti-Imperialists] tell us that we ought not to govern a people without their consent… I answer… we govern the Indians without their consent, we govern our children without their consent, Would not the people of the Philippines prefer the just, humane, civilizing government of this Republic to the savage, bloody rule of pillage and extortion from which we have rescued them?” (“Modern History Sourcebook: Albert Beveridge”).

Although anyone would prefer a ‘just, humane, civilizing government of this Republic to the savage, bloody rule of pillage and extortion,’ the Filipinos far preferred the freedom they were promised at the beginning of this whole string of subsequent American oppression. Not to mention that that quote was slightly exaggerated, primarily due to the fact the Americans were highly unjust in their reasoning behind trying to annex the Philippines, at the time inhumane in their treatment of most groups of people under any other label than ‘white male’, and when it comes down to it civilized is a highly subjective term, with each society and culture having their own meaning and with no group being truly correct in their beliefs as far as another culture or society is concerned.

So now we have a who: a big group of people angry with how they were being treated by America known as the Filipinos, a where: a small group of islands that America wanted for their very own, the Philippines, a why: America has decided to annex the Philippines for their own imperialistic and capitalistic desires, a when: late 1800’s, and a what: the Philippine Insurrection itself, but we are missing one last question, and that’s the how, or rather how the war started.

This question was answered on February 4th, 1899 when an American soldier fired at a Filipino and killed him for crossing into an American-controlled part (Manila) of the Philippines. Needless to say, the now-dead Filipino didn’t like being shot, and neither did the rest of the Filipinos, so Aguinaldo decided to declare war upon the United States. The war in the Philippines raged on for months. By June of 1899, General Aguinaldo started to take another cue from American history, besides just the colors of the Filipino flag. He explained to his troops the guerrilla tactics the Americans used to win their revolution in 1776. By fighting only on their own terms, on the sites of their choosing could they win the war. Aguinaldo recruited the farmers of the land and many civilians to fight for him. As the American troops would pass through a village during the day they would see only farmers and think them harmless, but as night fell, they would be attacked by guerrilla troops.

American soldiers began to believe they were not just fighting a rebel army but instead the entire Philippine population. Yet even with this feeling becoming generally more common in American troops the president was “assuring the American people that only ‘one tribe, and a small fraction of that tribe, is questioning the sovereignty of the United States inside Luzon,’” (Archer 81). 

Now, this was obviously a false statement but the American people had no way of knowing otherwise. General Elwell S. Otis, American Military Governor to the Philippines, had imposed total censorship on all information leaving the Philippines. This seems to be another clue as to why the Philippine Insurrection is left from our history. By allowing the president to state such falsehoods that make the war seem to be quite petty, it seems as if the war itself is almost meaningless, and therefore easier to leave from our history.

As all of this was going on, there was turmoil within the Rebel government. General Antonio Luna was one of the greatest militant leaders within the Philippines, but Pedro A. Paterno convinced Aguinaldo that Luna secretly wanted to become dictator of the Philippines. Aguinaldo summoned Luna to the rebel headquarters, and Luna arrived there while Aguinaldo was away. The guards would not let Luna into the headquarters stating that they were ordered not to let anyone in unannounced. Luna was outraged, and an argument ensued. 

During the scuffle, Luna was fatally shot. Aguinaldo denied having planned the killing but Luna’s followers did not believe him (Archer 76-77). After this Aguinaldo “ordered all chiefs of brigades under Luna arrested. He also ordered the disarming of two companies suspected of being pro-Luna. Because of these acts, the Filipino army began to disunite, for Luna had a wide following (“The Philippine American War”).

By mid-1900 Aguinaldo had escaped into the mountains in northern Luzon, to his new rebel headquarters, Palanan. He had revived the Katipunan, a pro-Filipino group that was originally founded during the Philippine Revolution of 1896. Through this group, he was able to raise money for the war and get information all while being secure at Palanan. Aguinaldo was well aware of the fact that the war was playing a role in the American election of 1900. He hoped that William Jennings Bryan, candidate of the Democrats and Populists, would win the presidency, for he demanded freedom for the Philippines. Aguinaldo ordered more extreme guerrilla attacks upon American forces, hoping to embarrass McKinley by showing that the Filipinos truly did not want the American’s in their country. Unfortunately for Aguinaldo McKinley won the election of 1900.

On that same note, something more unfortunate for Aguinaldo, but far more unfortunate for McKinley, happened in September of the following year (1901) when McKinley was assassinated, thus Theodore Roosevelt became president. It is obvious as to why this was unfortunate for McKinley, but as to why it was unfortunate for Aguinaldo came from the fact that Roosevelt was an even more passionate imperialist than McKinley was. 

At the beginning of 1901, Aguinaldo made an order that would eventually lead to his capture. He sent a patrol led by Private Segismundo to request reinforcements from various rebel groups. After traveling 200 miles in a three-week period, Segismundo risked asking for food in a nearby town. The head of the town had once fought for the rebels but had since taken an oath of loyalty to the United States. He offered the patrol food and shelter, but none the less tried to convince them to side with the United States as he had. In the end, he was persuasive enough, and finally, the Americans had in their possession something they had been missing most of the war, a link to Aguinaldo. Segismundo gave the Americans coded messages from Aguinaldo to other rebel leaders.

These messages were rushed for decoding to General Fredrick Funston who had been campaigning against Aguinaldo for years. Once decoded the messages revealed Aguinaldo’s hiding place, Palanan. Funston knew that it would be impossible to sneak up on Aguinaldo, he would be spotted and Aguinaldo would escape, so Funston began to formulate a plan. He decided to disguise a group of Macabebe Filipinos as the reinforcements Aguinaldo wanted. Then Funston would disguise 4 other American officers, along with himself, as prisoners. The plan worked and Aguinaldo allowed them to approach his headquarters, though they ran into an overlooked obstacle along the way, the difficulty of the journey to Palanan.

Six miles south of Palanan the group was at the point of collapsing from hunger and exhaustion. A messenger was sent to Aguinaldo who promptly supplied food. After nourishment and rest, the group traveled on to Palanan. As they approached Palanan 20 armed bodyguards and Aguinaldo himself were there the welcome them. Once the group got close enough Funston shouted a quick command and the disguised soldiers began to fire, killing 3 bodyguards, and sending the rest fleeing. Knowing that there was no escape, Aguinaldo raised his revolver to his temple but was persuaded by one of his aides that his life was too important to the Filipinos. The rebel leader had finally been captured (Archer 107-113).

The American troops were extremely hospitable to Aguinaldo, to win him over and help stop the fighting in the Philippines. This worked to an extent; Aguinaldo took a temporary oath of loyalty to the United States and issued a statement to the Filipino rebels to end hostilities. By observing the fact that Aguinaldo was captured in March of 1901, and the war officially ended in July of 1902 with sporadic fighting continuing for at least a decade it is quite obvious that this tactic did not ensure peace in the Philippines.

A very interesting parallel can be drawn from the capture of Aguinaldo, one I had been thinking about and happened to stumble upon an article that said exactly what I had in mind. With the capture of Aguinaldo did not come to the end of fighting within the Philippines. A direct parallel to this came not too long before the completion of this paper, the capture of Saddam Hussein. By looking at fact that the capture of Aguinaldo did not cease the fighting in the Philippines, in fact, one of the greatest and bloodiest Filipino victories happened after his capture, one would notice that the same thing is happening right now. Since the capture of Saddam, the fighting has not ceased. Since his capture, the American forces have still been shot daily, helicopters have been shot down, and the war continues to wage on. It’s been said that ‘those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it,’ and with the events of the present paralleling the Philippine Insurrection, this saying could not be truer.

In August of 1901, after Aguinaldo had already been captured, a group of American soldiers was sent to the city of Balangiga on the Philippine Island of Samar after the mayor of the town petitioned for protection from rebel raids. On the night of September 28th, 1901, the American sentries noticed a peculiar happening. They saw many women heavily dressed, carrying small coffins to the town’s church. One of the sentries used his bayonet to open one of the coffins, and found a dead child inside. He nailed the lid shut again and figured that fever and cholera were in an epidemic. Had he searched the coffin further he would have found bolo knives, and if he had examined the heavily dressed woman, he would have found her to be a man.

The next morning as the entire group of American soldiers was eating in their mess tents except for three sentries, the Filipinos plan went into action. The chief of police, a native Filipino, grabbed the gun from one of the sentries, quickly hit him over the head with it, and then fired a shot and shouted a command signaling for the men in the church. The church bells rang like mad and shrill cries from conch shell whistles could be heard. The armed Filipinos charged the mess tents and began killing the American troops. When they began to fight back with whatever they had the ropes to the mess tents were cut, trapping the Americans inside. 48 Americans were killed, 22 injured, only 4 escaped unharmed. Some of the Americans were able to get their hands on their rifles, killing almost 250 Filipinos (although by the Filipinos’ count, only around 40 were killed).

The Balangiga Massacre had ended, but the American retaliation would be far more gruesome (Nebrida). American troops retaliated in two ways to the Balangiga Massacre. First, another group of American soldiers was sent to Balangiga. They gathered up twenty Filipinos at random and shot them in the plaza in the center of the town. They then burned Balangiga to the ground. If this wasn’t retaliation enough, General Jacob H. Smith was the head of what can be called the kill and burn campaign, after the order, he gave: “I want no prisoners… I wish you to kill and burn. The more you kill and burn the better you will please me. I want all persons killed who are capable of bearing arms in actual hostilities against the United States,” (quoted in Archer 126). 

If this wasn’t bad enough Smith claimed that anyone ten years old and older was capable of bearing arms, a political cartoon of the time shows young boys lined up blindfolded with armed American Soldiers pointing rifles at them. Smith’s plan called for war hell, cutting the island of Samar off from all trade, treating all Filipinos as enemies, and destroying everything that was suspected of helping the rebels. This campaign cost the lives of thousands of Filipinos, and starvation and disease began to spread throughout Samar. Smith’s plan worked, many of the rebel leaders were caught and Filipino resistance was at a minimum, but at a high cost to the American prestige on the islands. It was now impossible for a Filipino to appreciate being “civilized” under American rule (Archer 127-129).

In the end, General Smith was retired from service. Reports state that around one-third of the population of Samar was killed during the campaign. Furthermore, when some American troops left Balangiga they took with them two church bells, the same ones that were used as a signal during the Balangiga Massacre. They were brought back to Fort Russell, Wyoming where they still remain today, the only piece of the Philippine Insurrection still left unsettled (“The Philippine American War”). With these barbaric acts performed by General Smith and his men, it seems to me that the true Balangiga Massacre was the killing of thousands of Filipinos as opposed to the killing of 48 American soldiers.

Finally, on the 4th of July 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt proclaimed that the Philippine Insurrection was at an end. By the end of August, all the prisoners of war were returned to the Philippines upon recognizing the authority of the United States and swearing loyalty. Though the war had been called to an end, the fighting continued. After the end of the war, two named campaigns took place according to the Army’s web site. Because the second campaign was not over until June of 1913, it is obvious that there was no peace with the end of the war.

Now it seems like such a bloody war should contain at least some details in our textbooks. Within my textbook, I found only two bits of information that actually even skimmed the surface of the truth. First, I noted that the textbook noted the fact that it was a bloody war, with the fact that fifteen Filipinos were killed for everyone injured. In comparison, the American Civil War had one death to every five injured, close to the historical average. It also states that 50,000 Filipinos were killed, when in reality some historians put that number closer to 200,000, while others put it at 500,000.

It mentions nothing of the barbaric deeds Americas did, from setting up makeshift concentration camps to control those they thought were helping the rebels, using what was called “water cure” to get people to talk (“water cure” was a method of torture in which a hose was shoved into the victim's mouth and water was continuously pumped into them until they talked while one man made sure the victim was breathing), to the burning of entire towns. One such instance of destroying a town was not mentioned in our textbooks, but rather what our teacher has referred to as a supplement of our textbook, “A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn.

A captain from Kansas wrote in a letter “Caloocan was supposed to contain 17,000 inhabitants. Twentieth Kansas swept through it, and now Caloocan contains not one living native,” another member of the same unit wrote about how he himself helped burn the town to the ground (Zinn 315). The only mention of the Balangiga Massacre was the quote General Smith said about “kill and burn” though it included no details about it, nor the actual extent of the damage that ensued. It also noted that the capture of Aguinaldo was the turning point of the war, but in reality, his capture did not bring the end of the fighting, if anything it made the Filipinos fight more vigorously. Though it notes the war continued after its “official” end in 1902, it says that the fighting was over in 1906, when a simple look at the Army’s list of named campaigns clearly shows that the fighting continued until at least 1913.

With this more in-depth look at the lacking of information in our textbooks, and noting the fact that the textbook I looked a was one of the better textbooks out there, it is easy to see why little is known about the Philippine Insurrection in the general knowledge of the American people. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. This statement could not be more true than with the Philippine insurrection. I have already mentioned the relation between the capture of Saddam to the capture of Aguinaldo, how the capture of the head of a rebel group will not cause that group to stop fighting for their cause.

But there are other parallels that can be drawn between the two wars. Along the same line of fighting not ended when intended, in both the Philippine Insurrection and in Operation Iraqi Freedom, when the president has either claimed the war was over, like in the Philippines, or claimed that the major fighting was at in end like in Iraq, neither claim has proved to be true. In both instances, fighting continued after the president claimed that the fighting should not continue.

One parallel that seems to be immensely reoccurring during this time has to do with America trying to help other countries. In the case of the Philippine Insurrection, it was America that helped Aguinaldo back to the Philippines after being exiled by the Spanish, and he ended up the leader of the rebels facing the American forces. In a similar situation with both the conflicts going in Iraq and Afghanistan, America had at one point helped those who would end up being their enemies, either by supplying Saddam with weapons for Iraq’s war with Iran, or training Osama Bin Laden’s men and supplying him with money. It seems as if America has never learned who to be generous to, and ends up supporting their eventual enemies.

Also, I noticed that wars tend to lead to other wars, for example, the Philippine Revolution of 1896 led to the Spanish American war which led to the Philippine Insurrection, this was also true with Operation Iraqi Freedom, there were other wars that came before it, for example, the Gulf War, and the still ongoing war in Afghanistan. It also seems like when a short war is fought and won, a longer bloodier war is to follow. 

For instance, we won the Spanish American war in just 3 months, but that led us into the Philippine Insurrection. A similar situation happened with the Gulf War, it was short and America quickly won, but it was later followed by the currently ongoing Operation Iraqi Freedom which is already bloodier than its predecessor was. From these parallels, you can see how history tends to repeat itself, and with such obvious parallels, it’s a shame that people do not know more about the Philippine Insurrection.

With all of the happenings of the Philippine Insurrection, it is hard to imagine why so little is told about it in our textbooks. I have determined a few reasons as to why this lack of information exists. First, by calling it an insurrection it is easier to more or less ignore, because by saying it was an insurrection it gives the idea of a faction rising up, but then being put to rest. Also, I think it was originally called an insurrection for that very reason, to sort of dull down the fact that Americans were slaughtering Filipinos who just wanted their freedom

Next, due to the various censorship put in place during the war not all of the information was allowed to get to the American public. Along these same lines, the presidents at the time, McKinley and Roosevelt, along with other government officials gave the American public the idea that this war was only being fought against a small fraction of people, further supporting the idea of an insurrection portrays. It also seems like although there were other imperialistic ideas flowing throughout the government during the time of the Philippine Insurrection, only the Philippines posed so much trouble to obtain.

It seems as if all the other areas America tried to take over during this time either came peacefully, like Hawaii and Alaska or were left alone, like Guam. No other area had been so costly to annex, remember the United States paid Spain $20,000,000 for the Philippines, and then cost so much to control, almost eight times the amount the United States first paid. It seems like such a blunder as to assume that the Filipinos were unfit, uncivilized, and would not continue to fight for their freedom, which would not look good to the American people.

Also with all of the barbaric acts performed by American troops, sometimes almost verging on genocide, at least on Samar, it would be nothing but beneficial for a war to just vanish from history. Finally, with a much more victorious war happening before it, the Spanish American War, and a far more devastating war happening after it, World War I, it is easy for a war that would weaken the American reputation to be forgotten about.

But the real question is how, if our Social Studies and History classes are supposed to be teaching us the history of the United States could an entire war be overlooked? 

The reason is that our textbooks are not written to teach us history, but rather they are written to be purchased. Let me elaborate a bit. In an article written by Earl Lee, Lee states that “the Gablers include in their guidelines for textbooks that these should 'encourage loyalty' and avoid 'defaming' the nation's founders, and avoid material that might lead students to criticize their parents. In one of his more revealing statements, Mel Gabler criticized textbooks, saying 'too many textbooks and discussions leave students free to make up their own minds about things,” (Lee, E 73-74). This excerpt talks about Mel and Norma Gabler, the leading authorities on textbooks in Texas. The textbooks used in Texas are then used throughout the country, therefore convincing publishers of said textbooks to write to the liking of the Gablers.

But why should people who would rather censor the truth about American history, as opposed to teaching what truly happened be in control of our textbooks? I believe that they are in control of our textbooks and have therefore left events like the Philippine Insurrection out of our textbooks because of the American super story. By leaving out events that would ‘defame’ America or would discourage loyalty to America, the history classroom becomes more of a programming environment than a teaching environment. Programming in the sense of trying to ensure that students learn only what would give them a positive outlook on America and therefore have them become productive citizens.

With this information in mind, along with the events that took place during the Philippine Insurrection. In my eyes, this is at least part of the answer as to why the Philippine Insurrection is left out of our textbooks, and subsequently our history. The Philippine Insurrection is an event in American history that should have more attention paid to it in our textbooks and should be more widely known to Americans. The actions taken by the American government show the true intentions of the United States during that time, for America was becoming an imperialistic place to be. By the late 1800’s/early 1900s America owed all of the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, and yet there was still a need to annex more land.

Add to showing America's true imperialistic and capitalistic colors during that time the fact that there are so many parallels between the Philippine Insurrection and the current war in Iraq and you have yourself a pretty interesting and informative war. If anything the atrocities performed by American troops should be learned if only to educate our future Army men as to how to not fight a war in a humane manner. Generals like General Smith should have been given criminal punishments instead of just being forced to retire. Also, if it is not settled in our time, future generations should learn of this war and succeed in returning the bells to Balangiga, if only to finally put to rest the worst skeleton in America’s closet.

The Philippine Insurrection is truly America’s skeleton in the closet. It contains such brutal fighting and yet has direct parallels to current events. It is amazing how a country founded upon “Liberty and Justice for all” truly only practices what they preach when it comes to their own people.

No group of people should have been denied their independence in the way America did to the Philippines, whom almost 40 years after the war finally gained their independence in 1947, let alone America who had fought for their Independence almost 100 years earlier. If one lesson can be learned from the Philippine Insurrection I think it would be to not succumb to greed, for if the United States had not found it necessary to purchase the Philippines after the Spanish-American War it is quite probable that the Philippines would have won their independence much sooner.


Bibliography

Archer, Jules. The Philippines’ Fight for Freedom. New York: Crowell-Collier, 1970. This book deals with the history of the Philippines. Gives a very detailed account of the war, spanning almost half of the book. One of the more detailed resources I have found. Gives a lot of information about how the war was initialized. Also gives information about how the Spanish-American War led to the Philippine Insurrection. Furthermore, it shows from which point the Filipinos became angry with the United States from their intrusion upon their civil war. Balangiga Bell 20 Dec. 2003

This is a picture of one of the bells taken from Balangiga during the Philippine Insurrection. I thought it would be interesting to allow the reader of my paper to view the bell. The bell is the last remaining conflict of the Philippine insurrection with the Philippines wanting the bell back. Recently there have been some attempts to get the bell back to the Philippines, but as of the writing of this paper, the bell remains in Wyoming.Benson,

Midshipman Nicholas A., USN. “A CLUMSY WAR – AN INQUIRY ON THE

OPERATIONAL AMBIGUITIES OF AMERICA’S COUNTERINSURGENCY CAMPAIGN IN THE PHILIPPINES AND ITS OPAQUE HISTORY.” United States Naval Academy. 20 Dec. 2002 United States Naval Academy 23 Nov. 2003. This is an entire thesis paper about my topic. It puts a ton of researched information in one place allowing for quick access to a multitude of topics. This paper has to deal more specifically, with how America was unprepared for this war in general. While talking about that, the paper also includes a lot of information about the war itself. It also touches on the topic of why the war has been overshadowed, which is the main point of my paper.

Boot, Max “Saddam’s Capture Won’t Ensure End of Fighting” 14 Dec. 2003 Benador Associates 20 Dec. 2003 This is an article written recently about the capture of Saddam. It talks about the author’s views on the fighting going on in Iraq. I found it extremely interesting how he drew a parallel between the capture of Saddam in this war and the capture of Emilio Aguinaldo in the Philippine Insurrection. This article will give me a solid base to build upon when drawing other parallels between the Philippine insurrection and recent historical events.

Felipe Agoncillo's Protest on the Injustice of the Treaty of Paris – December 1898.” 11 Jun. 1999 MSC: The Computer Specialist 25 Nov. 2003. This is a primary document. It is Felipe Agoncillo’s protest to the Treaty of Paris. The Treaty of Paris, signed by the United States and Spain exchanged control of the Philippines from Spain to the United States. The people of the Philippines had no say in this treaty and this document expresses their protest to the Treaty. It shows how the Filipinos actually felt about the treaty and the fact that the freedom they had just fought for was not actually obtained, their oppressor had just changed.

NY Evening Journal. “Kill everyone over ten” May 5, 1902/20 Dec. 2003 This is a political cartoon drawn during the time of the Philippine Insurrection. It shows the order General Jacob H. Smith gave in retaliation to the Balangiga massacre. The top says “Kill everyone over ten” the order General Jacob H. Smith gave to his troops. The bottom says “criminals because they were born ten years before we took the Philippines,” which unfortunately is the sad truth about this incident. The actions of one town, the town of Balangiga were subsequently related to the entire island of Samar, one of the islands of the Philippines. The fact that this could happen is in my eyes part of the reason why the Philippine Insurrection is hidden in American history.

Lee, Earl. “School textbooks: Unpopular History vs. Cherished mythology.” You Are Being Lied To: The Disinformation Guide to Media Distortion, Historical Whitewashes, and Cultural Myths. Ed. Russ Kick the Disinformation Company 73-81.

This article written by Earl Lee tells the truth about textbooks. The truth is that textbooks are written not to tell history but to be purchased. With Mel and Norma Gabler basically in charge of the nation's history textbooks and their views on what children should. “The Gablers include in their guidelines for textbooks that these should 'encourage loyalty' and avoid 'defaming' the nation's founders, and avoid material that might lead students to criticize their parents. In one of his more revealing statements, Mel Gabler criticized textbooks, saying 'too many textbooks and discussions leave students free to make up their own minds about things.” This information helps me build my argument on why the Philippine insurrection is left out of history.

Lee, R. "Philippine-American War 1899-1902" 23 Nov. 2003 (1998). This site was very informative. It had lots of bulleted information, which gave me an alternative name for the war “the Philippine Insurrection” which led me to multitudes of information I would not have been able to find otherwise. It contained information about how the war began and ended. It also contained information about the consequences of the war and easy-to-find casualty listings.

Modern History Source Book. “Modern History Sourcebook: Albert Beveridge: The March of the Flag” Modern History Source Book 3 Dec. 2003 This is a primary document. It is a speech given by Albert J. Beveridge. It is a pro imperialism speech given during his senatorial campaign. Beveridge was one of the most extreme supporters of imperialism when it came to the Philippine insurrection. The speech also relates the annexation of the Philippines to the mistreatment of the Indians, although it is not stated as mistreatment.

The US Army. “Named Campaigns – Philippine Insurrection” 2 Oct. 2003 The United States Army 23 Nov. 2003. This is a site directly from the United States army. It provides a list of the named campaigns that happened during the Philippine Insurrection. It provides a view of some of the major movements that the United States army made. It also provides proof that the war lasted beyond its official end, with two named campaigns happening after Roosevelt proclaimed that the war is over.

Nebrida, Victor. "The Balangiga Massacre: Getting Even" in Hector Santos, ed., Philippine Centennial Series; 20 Dec. 2003. 15 June 1997. This site describes in great detail the Balangiga Massacre and the resultant revenge that American troops took upon the island of Samar. This site contains great amounts of information on the Massacre and the “Kill and Burn” tactics that were used in the American revenge. This incident in itself may be another clue as to why the Philippine insurrection is left out of our textbooks and almost out of our history. This site also included the political cartoon that I also used for my paper

MSC: The Computer Specialist. The Philippine American War” 2 July 1999 MSC: The Computer Specialist 5 Dec. 2003 This site has a very good overview of the Philippine Insurrection. It contains background information along with many primary documents and various other bits of information. It gives information about all parts of the war, much of which I could not find in other places. This site helped me gain much of the information about that actual war itself along with some pre and post-war incidences.

Treaty of Peace Between the United States and Spain -- December 10, 1898.” 11 Jun. 1999 MSC: The Computer Specialist 23 Nov. 2003. This is a primary document. It’s the Treaty of Paris 1898 signed by the United States and Spain signifying the end of the Spanish-American war. It’s significant in the fact that this is where the United States gains control over the Philippines. The United States buys the Philippines from Spain for $20,000,000 dollars. This sparks a conflict with the Philippines because there is no representative of the Philippines present at the signing or creation of this document.

Zinn, Howard. A People’s History of the United States 1492-Present. New York: Perennial Classics, 2001. Excellent book, chapter 12, The Empire and the People, specifically had to deal with the Philippine war. It contains a lot of letters written by American troops showing the true brutality of the war. It also gave a representation of how unfit American leaders saw the Philippine people at the time.



Anti-Bibliography

Philippines war overview” 23 Nov. 2003.A nice site with information about the Philippine war. The site was too summarized it only gave a basic overview of the war. It didn’t provide any information I hadn’t gotten elsewhere. As an overview site, it was good, but plenty of other sites contained the same information in an easier to read format.



Source: http://www.weisserman.com/myth_papers/2004.01.04.112/default.lasso?-Token.search_date=2004-04-28



"We shall be better and braver and less helpless if we think that we ought to enquire than we should have been if we indulged in the idle fancy that there was no knowing and no use in seeking to know what we do not know..." - SOCRATES

"Upang maitindig natin ang bantayog ng ating lipunan, kailangang radikal nating baguhin hindi lamang ang ating mga institusyon kundi maging ang ating pag-iisip at pamumuhay. Kailangan ang rebolusyon, hindi lamang sa panlabas, kundi lalo na sa panloob!" - Apolinario Mabini La Revolucion Filipina (1898)

“Nations whose NATIONALISM is destroyed are subject to ruin.” - Colonel Muhammad Qaddafi, 1942-Present, Libyan Political and Military Leader

“Colonies do not cease to be colonies because they are independent” – Benjamin Disraeli, British Prime Minister (1804-1881)

“If knowledge can create problems, it is not through ignorance that we can solve them”. – Isaac Asimov, 1920-1992

Monday, January 11, 2021

RIZAL ACCORDING TO RETANA: PORTRAIT OF A HERO AND A REVOLUTION by Prof. Elizabeth Medina (1998)

 

" Fear history, for it respects no secrets" - Gregoria de Jesus  (widow of Andres Bonifacio)



"Upang maitindig natin ang bantayog ng ating lipunan, kailangang radikal nating baguhin hindi lamang ang ating mga institusyon kundi maging ang ating pag-iisip at pamumuhay. Kailangan ang rebolusyon, hindi lamang sa panlabas, kundi lalo na sa panloob!" --Apolinario Mabini,  La Revolucion Filipina (1898)

"To be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible; credible we must be truthful." - Edward R. Murrow (1908-1965)


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LET US NOT KEEP OUR HEADS IN THE SAND


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Rizal According to Retana:
Portrait of a Hero and a Revolution
 An Excerpt from Elizabeth Medina's Annotated Translation of W.E. Retana's 1907 Biography of José Rizal (© Coypright 1998)

The Noli's Impact

Retana muses:

Did Rizal take the measure of how much of an impact his book would have? Did he foresee that it would make such a deep impression on his country? We believe he did not. He knew, of course, that it did something. He was guided by a higher objective than writing a literary work for amusement; but we do not doubt that he never imagined, after giving the Noli the final flourish from his pen, that his novel would move his country's spirit, and prepare it for a major revolution. Around March, 1887 he wrote from Berlin to a friend:

"In your last letter you complained about my silence. You're right: forgetting is the death of friendship; I must only add that for a real friendship a point of forgetfulness doesn't exist, and I will prove it to you immediately.

"For a long time now you have wanted to read a novel written by me; you said that it had to be something serious, and not to write articles that are born and die like the pages of a newspaper. Very well then: to your wishes, to your three letters, I answer with my novel, "Noli me tángere," a volume of which I am sending in the mail.

"Noli me tángere, words taken from the Gospel of St. Luke, means: do not touch me at all. The book therefore contains things that no one in our land has ever until the present time spoken of because they are so delicate that they did not consent at all to being touched by anyone. I myself have tried to do what no one has wanted to. I felt obliged to answer the calumnies that have been heaped over us and our country for centuries: I've described our social situation, our lives, our beliefs, our hopes, our desires, our grievances, our sorrows; I've unmasked the hypocrisy that under the mantle of Religion came to impoverish us, to make us stupid; I've differentiated between true Religion and false, superstitious religion, which trafficks with the sacred word to make money, to make us believe idiocies that would make Catholicism blush if it ever learned of them. I've unveiled what was hidden behind the tricky and brilliant words of our governments; I've told our compatriots about our prejudices, our vices, our guilty and shameful complacencies with those wretches. Where I have found virtue I have proclaimed it to render homage to it; and if I haven't wept while speaking of our unhappiness, I have laughed, because no one would want to weep with me over the sorrows of our country, and laughter is always good for hiding one's pains.

"...Here is my answer, then, to your three letters. I hope you'll be glad and won't reproach me anymore for my silence. It will give me great pleasure to hear that you like it; I don't believe I have disgraced myself. You've always encouraged me with your approbation and counsel; encourage your friend once again, who prizes your opinions and your criticism.

"I'll look forward to your letters. As soon as you've read my book, I hope you'll give me your most severe assessment. I am not feigning a studied modesty; rather I believe and I assure you that I will follow your opinion...."

Retana continues with a synthesis of the Noli's main conclusions:

Thus, to defend his people, Rizal attacked the most fundamental elements in the Philippines that bore the stamp of Spanish rule. The principal conclusions of Noli me tángere are these:

a) Because the liberal Filipino ilustrado is incompatible with the friar, he cannot live quietly in his country.

b) He is persecuted through all means and false conspiracies are even plotted which serve as a pretext to implicate him, and, once this is achieved, to imprison, exile or shoot him.

c) The country is not for us, but for them -- principally for the friars. The country is not for those of us who are born in it, if we advocate ideas of progress; it is for the foreigners, the reactionaries above all, who treat us not as fellow citizens but as pariahs.

d) The public administration has honorable officials within it, but placed at the service of the friars' interests, it lives in prostitution.

e) The Civil Guard is abusive in such a way, it commits such excesses, that for every outlaw it apprehends, it succeeds in converting many into bandits who were not born for banditry.

f) Since the Spaniards who come to the Philippines today do so out of need or because of personal misfortune, and not because of noble and elevated ideals, they degenerate; and even those who lean towards decency wind up turning into bastards.

g) The Catholic religion, employed as an instrument of domination, resorts to thousands of tricks that convert it from a channel for lofty and disinterested sentiments into one for contemptible deceit.

h) The pure Filipinos, of pure Malay blood, who live in isolation are excellent people, but they are condemned to eternal ignorance. If they become educated and their enlightenment transcends, they will become targets of criticism and innumerable harassments. Those who mix with the Spanish, chiefly those who intermarry with them, end up being corrupted; they become wrapped in a film of hypocrisy that strips them of their dignity.

i) The Filipino woman should not marry a Spaniard, but if her relatives force her to because of ambition or pressure from the friar who protects the family, she agrees; but always with the understanding that she must not forget her OBLIGATIONS to her previous Filipino fiancé.

j) Under the current political regime, it is impossible for a voluntary union between the Filipinos and Spain to endure: we speak, but we are not listened to; we ask with all courteousness for the rights that we consider our entitlements, and we are shown contempt. The Universidad de Manila makes us lawyers, doctors, etc.; but we earn the degree, and we continue being the big children that we were before.

k) There is a filibusterismo that causes more damage than any other: it is desperation. And who pushes us to that subversiveness? Anyone worth anything is dragged towards it if he is not a submissive bootlicker (3/1905, 346-348).

Nevertheless, Retana criticizes what he perceives in Rizal's novel as an unfair bias against the Spaniards and a propagandistic idealization of the Filipinos:

The narrations of Rizal are true, insofar as they are based on rigorously exact events.... And yet...There is a good reason why it has been said that he who proves too much, proves nothing. It would be extremely easy to write the Anti-Noli me tángere, with facts whose authenticity would be unarguable, in order to turn Rizal's novel upside down. In the novel there isn't a single Spaniard (except for Lt. Guevara, who hasn't been promoted above the rank of lieutenant in spite of being "an old man," due to the fact that "he had never been a stool pidgeon") with any sense of shame, and, moreover, all of them are stupid and ignorant. On the other hand, almost all the pureblooded Filipinos portrayed in the novel are models of virtue, enlightened and well-mannered. Rizal only wrote for his countrymen -- this explains the abyss that exists between the genuinely Filipino criticism and the genuinely Spanish one. For the Filipinos, Noli me tángere was a new Bible in which the Nation had to seek its redemption. For the Spanish, Rizal's book was nothing but an intolerable insolence, an insult to everything that was ours, a rock thrown at our race (348).

A fascinating account follows of the Noli's arrival in the Philippines, when Retana was living in Manila:

I remember it well. It was in mid-1887 when the first copies reached Manila. There was much talk of the Author and his work, but not a single copy was to be found, not even for the price of an eye: none were for sale; no one confessed to having one. Between the friars and their friends there was an unusual stir. To think that an indio dared to parody them with the greatest cruelty!...What nerve! It was the old Dominican Fr. Payo, then Archbishop of Manila, who got his hands on a copy and went hurrying to the rector (another Dominican) of that University with an order that a Commission of the Faculty issue a report. The faculty, made up of friars and lay people, issued one; but the Dominicans (the ones most interested) were in charge of issuing the ruling. The report stated that the members of the faculty had unanimously found the book "heretical, impious and scandalous in the religious sphere, and anti-patriotic, subversive to public order, offensive to the Spanish Government and its administration of these Islands in the political sphere." It continued: "...In the copy which Your Most Illustrious Excellency kindly forwarded to me, and which I have the honor to return to Y. M. I. Excllcy., some passages are marked with red pencil which contain concepts, sometimes moderately and other times absolutely against Spain, against her legitimate Government, and against her representative in these Isles; and with blue or black pencil, other passages which are impious, heretical, scandalous, or serious for any other reason. But the entire narration, absolutely all of it, in its entirety and its details, in its primary points as well as secondary ones, in its main content as well as in its most apparently insignificant events, goes against dogma, against the Church, against the religious orders and against the civil, military, social and political institutions that the Spanish Government has implanted in these Islands." Thus, the report concluded, "...if it were to circulate in the Philippines, it would cause serious harm to faith and morality, it would dampen or extinguish the love of these indigenous people for Spain, and, disturbing the heart and inciting the passions of the inhabitants of this country, could usher in very sad days for the Motherland...Manila, August 30, 1887 (349).

Retana continues:

Fr. Payo forwarded the ruling to the Captain General (Don Emilio Terrero).... And the criticism was the subject of talk, but no one had seen the novel! The rumors grew...and so did the eagerness to read the book! And the more talk there was about the criticism, the more propaganda there was for the book! The impatient ones among us had to order it from Europe, at any price. Some copies were resold in the colony at 10 and even 20 duros. Terrero, egged on by Fr. Payo, felt obliged to request a ruling from the Permanent Censorship Commission "to absolutely prohibit...the importation, reproduction and circulation of this pernicious book in the Islands." Fr. Salvador Font, an Augustinian friar and member of the PCC, drafted this document, addressed to the Governor General, and imprudently sent it to be printed (against the advice of others who thought it wiser not to give any importance to the novel). The printed copies of the censorship order began to circulate, and the general interest in reading Rizal's sinful work grew even more! (349-351)

According to Retana, had it not been for these orders, the book would not have been so widely read, and even more widely discussed the more it was read, "thus extending the dividing line between the indignant Spaniards and the Filipinos who were lovers of their country's progress -- these last saying, "What the...! Is it legitimate that day after day, and year after year, the Spaniards can write all kinds of insults and calumnies against us, and on the other hand, it's impermissible that just once a Filipino should tell the Spaniards the plain truth?"

Noli Me Tangere produced deep indignation in many Spaniards, which Retana shared. He recounts that he had a vehement exchange of letters with Rizal's friend, the linguist, ethnographer and eminent scholar of Philippine culture Prof. Ferdinand Blumentritt, about the book. Rizal had convinced Blumentritt of the inadvisability of translating the Noli into German, saying he would only draw down on himself the hatred of all Spaniards, and so Blumentritt limited himself to writing a pamphlet in defense of the novel (whose content consisted of his responses to Retana's letters). The pamphlet still caused the Noli to be read in Japan, the U.S., Germany and France, winning more fame for Rizal than any other Filipino had ever achieved up to that point. In Spain, however, the novel was unknown, though it was discussed in the Senate and anathemized by members who had never even seen its covers! Marcelo H. del Pilar took advantage of these goings-on to defend Rizal and his book in a series of articles in La Publicidad of Barcelona. "From then on," writes Retana, "[Rizal] was converted into the idol of progressive Filipinos" (353).

See also by the same author:
Who was Wenceslao Emilio Retana?

The book "Rizal According to Retana: Portrait of a Hero and a Revolution" is available from the author.

[Austrian-Philippine Home Page] [Culture and History]
[Rizal-Blumentritt Friendship]
Document
created: September 15, 1998
updated: September 15, 1998
APSIS Editor Johann Stockinger