Saturday, May 28, 2005


“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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Hi All,

Here's an interesting essay from UM Professor Gary Weisserman. Professor Weisserman wove well his article which dealt mainly with the "Philippine-American War," a period in American and Filipino national histories that has been intentionally hidden from and/or glossed-over in the educational systems of both countries. The results: A mutual ignorance among the American and Filipino citizenry.

Thus, for Americans, ignorance leading 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-- have made subsequent generations lose our then nascent national identity as a people and thus facilitated our being molded into a native people of Malayan physical features, but with Americanized minds on the most important national issues; into a nation of strangers in their own land, a nation inhabited by a people going about with a "damaged culture."

Thus, the most important and relevant consequences to us Filipinos are the destructive effects to our nationalist consciousness; the perpetuation and acceptance of an imposed alien culture and thinking in socioeconomic and political matters, all of which have therefore made 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 undernourishment  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 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 depend on us- united by nationalism, not in a hoped-for knight in shining armor or in a God. 

And the first step, diverted since by the Marcos Dictatorship, is to educate or re-educate ourselves, 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, businessmen, top military short, many, if not all, members of the ruling class/elite.

Only through knowing and understanding why, can Filipinos in the Philippines 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 and fight with them and win only for themselves. 

Only then can a strongly united and nationalistic Filipinos in the Philippines have a political economy, i.e. plan and action for a nationalist economy of self-sufficiency in food production and essential manufactured products, for the impoverished 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.

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 repeatedly demonstrated, as we witness in our homeland then and now.

- Bert


“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.

- 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.

The Philippine Insurrection was a war that snuck in to 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 people, out of our text books, 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, its 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 web sites I came upon one that looked promising. From this site, I found an alternative name for my war, the Philippine Insurrection. Now with a weeks 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 Americas 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 case 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 1900’s, 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 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 loose 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,’” (qtd. 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 1800’s, 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 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 the 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 of 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, 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 a 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 and American presence in 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 a 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 for 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 near by 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 reveled 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, as 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 insure 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 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 upon 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 were 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 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 were 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 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 preformed 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 the 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 not peace with the end of 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 every one 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 make shift concentration camps to control those they though 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 victims 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. The 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 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 of the lacking of information in our textbooks, and noting the fact that the textbook I looked at 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 to 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 on going 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 latter 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 censor-ships 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 faction of people, further supporting the idea an insurrection portrays. It also seems like although there were other imperialistic ideals 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 with such a blunder as to assume that the Filipinos were unfit, uncivilized, and would not continue to fight for their freedom, 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 over looked? 

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 1900’s America owed all of the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, and yet there was still a need to annex more land. Add to showing Americas 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 preformed by American troops should be learned if only to educate our future Army men as 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. Its 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.


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 into 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. 2003This 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.

“Kill everyone over ten” May 5, 1902. New York Evening Journal. 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, on 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 73-81This article written by Earl Lee tells the truth about textbooks. The truth being that textbooks are written not to tell history but to be purchased. With Mel and Norma Gabler basically in charge of the nations 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 consequences of the war and easy to find casualty listings.

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.

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.

“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 on how unfit American leaders saw the Philippine people at the time.


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.

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