“There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed or hidden that will not be made known.” Luke 12:2 (also mentioned in Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere)
On October 20, 2016, the Committee on Pilipino Issues (CPI) and the Bayanihan Foundation will continue its discussion connecting Philippine history and the past to the present. The Filipinx: Xplore Our History workshop will be held at DePaul University Arts & Letters Building, 2315 N. Kenmore Ave. Room 101 Chicago, from 6 PM till 9 PM. I’m looking forward to learn more about the Philippine American War at this workshop.
From 1898 to 1902, there was a war between the Philippines and the US. I was surprised myself to learn about this forgotten part of history (Ignacio, The Forbidden Book, 2004). I always thought the US was helpful and benevolent towards its former colony, the Philippines. In 1898, the conflict arose when the First Philippine Republic objected to the terms of the Treaty of Paris under which the United States took possession of the Philippines from Spain, ending the Spanish–American War. The war was a continuation of the Philippine struggle for independence that began in 1896 with the Philippine Revolution.
I was not the only ones surprised that there such a war and occupation by the U.S. that dramatically changed the cultural landscape of the Philippine islands. It is estimated that were 34,000 to 220,000 Philippine casualties with more civilians dying from disease and hunger brought about by war. In 2015, I traveled with young Filipino Americans with the NEXTGEN 2015 Fellowship program. We even visited the Balangiga Church near Giporlos, Eastern Samar. They were all surprised that the church was a crucial part of the forgotten Philippine American War.
In 1901, the townsfolk of Balangiga launched one of the few successful surprise attack against the Americans, claiming more than 40 US soldiers. In reprisal, the US Army murdered every male over the age of 10 years in town during which the church bells were taken to the US (For Whom The Balangiga Bells Toll, Huffington Post, April 2015). I don’t think that the young Filipino Americans I traveled with grasped the complete historical and analytical context of the Philippine American War. One of the major objectives of the Bayanihan Foundation’s NEXTGEN Fellowship program is for them to learn more about their homeland and eventually become more involved in philanthropic efforts to help back in the Philippines.
Why does this war matter? So what? Why dig it up? The past is the past. My mother always tell me: “Hayaan mo iyan. Ang nakalipas ay nakalipas” (Let it be. The past is the past).
Listen to this NPR National Public Radio podcast of how Philippine history connects to the present: ” Injustice, says Davao journalist Editha Caduaya, that occurred during the U.S. occupation of the Philippines that began in 1898 and ended in 1946, in particular the alleged massacre of hundreds of Moro Muslims, including women and children, by U.S. troops on the island of Jolo in 1906.”
The past seems to seep in into the present in the most unexpected ways. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s mistrust of the US is connected to the historical trauma that happened almost 100 years ago. It’s time for Filipinos in the diaspora to look back at the past and find answers on why we ended up so far away from home. I think learning about my past will help me heal and bring me closer to home.
Interested in learning more about the Philippine American War? On October 20, 2016, join us on the continuing “The Filipinx: Xplore Our History” discussion. It will be held at DePaul University Arts & Letters Building, 2315 N. Kenmore Ave. Room 101 Chicago, from 6 PM till 9 PM.
Hi Dale! Thank you for this thoughtful post. My first reaction is that I agree, we can’t fully appreciate how far we’ve come today without knowing the past. But taking on the task of “knowing the past” can be a challenge as we work in our fields, mainly with published materials no more than 10 to 15 years old. How could 100+ year old events possibly be relevant? Your questions “Why does this war matter? So what? Why dig it up?” made me think about “The Past as More than Prologue: A Call for Historical Research” (http://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1072347) which proposes ways how to use historical thinking with a critical approach to current issues. I have absolutely taken for granted what my ancestors endured in hopes for a greater, more advanced society. Even as I engaged in various forms of social justice and activism over the years in CA, IL, and DC, I have allowed textbooks and the media for decide for me what my history is or isn’t. The lack of mention or details about the Phlippine-American war in my K-12 public school textbooks puts the burden on each new generation of youth to uncover and reveal their own hidden histories. This is a problem and I am so relieved you have brought up this important topic!
Historical approaches to research allows us to uncover real events that happened with real people in the past; and to construct new meaning from the past. With the provided example in your post, we could draw from the past (citing specific events such as the spread of disease among communities and the mass murders of all males over the age of 10 in Balangiga) in order to cast fresh light with new, critical meaning as it relates to current Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s mistrust of the US. This could lead to a discussion about how “trust” is defined in private spheres (family, local community); and compare that with “trust” in the political sphere (What makes a political ally? Issues around building global diplomacy, etc.). It would be interesting to identify how notions of trust have been used in national rhetoric of the PI in the past 100 years of presidential speeches, what themes might emerge. These themes could then be compared to how Duterte himself has defined trust. Making these kinds of connections between the past and the present might bring greater understanding and shed new light on why Duterte is perceived to be radical in his approach to getting things done and to unpack where his mistrust of the US comes from. Through this research, my hunch is that part of Duterte’s mistrust of the US stems from deeply intentional, hurtful, and irreversible acts of violence the US has inflicted on the people of PI over 100 years ago. We may disagree with many/all of his policies, but indeed the historical significance of previous wars on PI soil have remained present in the social conscience of its people, though maybe not explicitly, and in subtle, nuanced ways. Historical approaches to research allows us to connect unresolved tensions (often disruptive and violent acts) from the past, to bring new perspective to current events.
Thanks again for the thought provoking post, Dale! Best of luck to you in your studies – Looking forward to hearing more about your work!