Naglilingkod sa Diyos at sa Bayan sa pagtuturo ng Kasaysayan

The Marcos half-century (Manila Times Walking History Column)

By Michael Charleston “Xiao” Chua

February 27, 2021 and March 6, 2021

Part 1:

I WAS recently reading The Kennedy Half Century, where Larry J. Sabato not only provided fresh details about President John F. Kennedy’s life and death but also convincingly demonstrated how subsequent White House occupants were influenced by his decisions and rhetoric. It was not a general statement that Kennedy was the end-all and be-all of history, nor discrediting the fact that the people are the true makers of history; but just like how some historians call 1974-2008 as The Reagan Era, it was just a recognition that a personality in history looms large and had impacted many aspects of that era.

And so, I was thinking who could be the personality that loomed large in the past 50 years in the political, economic and cultural life of the nation. I only have one man in mind and that is Ferdinand E. Marcos.

In a forum titled “Ferdinand Marcos” organized by Sociedad de Historia on Oct. 14, 2016, at the height of the issue of the Marcos burial, I had a candid discussion with The Manila Times columnist Van Ybiernas. Despite having seemingly different points of view, we had one conclusion, which he worded beautifully: “Ferdinand Marcos is the continuously running train that everyone wanted to ride on.”

I guess he deemed it so. Of all the presidents of the Philippines, Ferdinand Marcos was the most conscious of history, having been a history buff himself. Sixteen years before he was elected president in 1965, he asked his constituents in Ilocos Norte, “Elect me a congressman now, and I pledge you an Ilocano president in 20 years.” Having been elected at a relatively young age of 48 at a time when many neighboring countries had strongmen at the helm, he vowed in his inaugural address, “This nation can be great again” (not exactly “I will make this nation great again,” which others recalled although that was implied). He did not want to be just another inconsequential president.

Much has been written about those 20 years of his rule so we will not dwell on that. But let us examine how Marcos affected the past 50 years. By prolonging his rule, he affected deeply our institutions for better and for worse that even People Power failed to erase. The administration sure made great strides in infrastructure, network of roads and electrification that were desperately needed by a young nation. Many of the train lines being built and will be built in the metro were already planned by them. Their example of technocratic planning, getting the best minds to work for them, is still an indicator of good governance. Their support for projects on history, heritage and identity building is commendable in comparison to others having none. The Metropolitan Manila Commission headed by Imelda Marcos had a more efficient system than the present Metropolitan Manila Development Authority.

But lawyer Chel Diokno reminded us that with the proclamation of martial law, judges were asked to submit courtesy resignations that were just kept until one makes an unfavorable decision, in which case the resignation would be accepted. This made the justices beholden to the administration. No doubt, many people in the justice system are honorable, but we sure all admit that the “padrino” system is still in place. Cronyism, a term coined during the Marcos regime, a term for favored business friends, continued — problems that, in all fairness to the Marcoses, were already there, but which the regime institutionalized by the mere fact of its longevity. Add the long-term effects to the nation of their foreign debt, and the plunder by their family and cronies that was unaccounted for despite legal attempts to do so, which emboldened all the others to do the same.

Despite seeing the value of the spirit of EDSA People Power Revolution, I have to admit that without Marcos to oust there would have been no EDSA. And just like veterans passionately reminding people how they fought the war against the Japanese, some personalities made being part of People Power or being part of the struggle against the dictatorship a badge and used it for political advantage. Thus, the spirit of EDSA, instead of being a historical event, became open to desecration by their opponents. Even the Marcos family cannot escape it. Bongbong Marcos wanted to run on his own merits with “Hindi ako ang aking nakaraan, ako ang ating bukas,” but he had to eventually embrace and defend his father’s achievements because everywhere he went, he was hounded by the ghost of the atrocities of the Marcos regime.

The excesses of the regime wiped out the young idealists of an era who should have been our leaders today. Many of those that remained were either corrupted or traumatized. One feels sorry that they must relive their trauma again for fear that history is being revised and gets trolled in the process. Theirs is an unending suffering.

To be concluded next week, March 6

Part 2:

LAST week, I posited the argument that the past 50 years or so is what you can call “the Marcos half-century,” since Ferdinand Marcos loomed large in the political, economic and cultural life of our nation, a shadow we thought we had escaped but is a ghost that continues to haunt us.

Ninoy Aquino would have been the other consequential leader of the half-century. I remember the great journalist Teodoro Benigno once said Marcos and Ninoy were “the two leaders who knew the Filipino heart and the Filipino soul very, very well.” But before Ninoy could carve his own niche, he became the sacrificial martyr of the Marcos regime in 1983. His funeral, bigger than that of the Father of India, Mahatma Gandhi, turned him into a national hero by public acclamation.

His brave act inspired many, including the middle class, to fight for the restoration of democracy, which eventually led to the peaceful EDSA revolt of 1986. For me, the real People Power Revolution was the long and bloody struggle in which the EDSA revolt was only the climax. As comrades in the Left always say, it was no picnic. But even so, the peaceful four-day revolt where we showed the world on satellite TV our “pakikipagkapwa-tao” inspired others to peacefully change their own country the same way as shown to the many references to People Power during that time.

People Power would have been the perfect ending for our history books (as the Kasaysayan: The Story of the Filipino People volumes did in 1998 and more recently Vibal’s Unraveling the Past). It restored the democratic institutions and spaces, the free press, the decentralization of the government to the local government units or LGUs, the rise of volunteerism and civil society, interfaith dialogue and the development of the internet in the country. I would have loved to end my version of history that way but unfortunately, the story of our nation must continue with the controversies and coups that rocked the administration of Ninoy’s widow, Cory Aquino. People knew she had shortcomings, but they also felt she tried her best as president and remained popular, even as she peacefully transferred power to Fidel V. Ramos after the first post- EDSA presidential election.

General Ramos was a decorated military hero who, although an implementer of martial law, decided to break away from Marcos during the People Power uprising and became an EDSA hero. He ran with the blessing of the People Power President and under a party he called “Lakas Tao” (People Power). And because he was a plurality president, he wanted to make all people happy and built coalitions even with foes. He allowed the return of Marcos’ remains to the country in 1993.

Being conscious of history like his second cousin, Marcos, Ramos led the nation in celebrating the Philippine Centennial in 1998. It would have been another perfect bookend, his steady leadership made us a tiger “cub” economy (interrupted only by the 1997 Asian financial crisis). In the inauguration of Joseph Ejercito Estrada as the next president, you would see Imee Marcos and Butz Aquino sitting together in peace. Yet before this, he said he wanted bygones to be bygones and announced that he would allow the burial of Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani, but this was met with opposition and foiled.

When it seemed that Ramos wanted charter change to extend his term, or when Estrada inspired an ad boycott by his movie producer friends to weaken the Inquirer, or when finally, juentengate exploded, Cory Aquino, Cardinal Sin and the People Power civil society rose up. People Power 2, or EDSA Dos, happened and ousted Estrada in 2001, but his supporters answered with EDSA Tres just three months after. The decisive President Gloria Arroyo promised in her second inaugural in 2004 that she would be a president of both the Filipinos of EDSA Dos and EDSA Tres, but allegations of corruption and election fraud led to Cory breaking away from her and calling for her resignation. Cory’s death in 2009 recalled People Power and pitted her memory against Arroyo which led to her son Noynoy rising to the presidency under the mantle of People Power heroes. But the pent-up frustrations of post-EDSA problems led to many people invoking the ghost of Marcos and the infrastructures he built and the supposedly ideal peace and order situation during his regime. Which led to Marcos being once again the center of passionate conversations. The yearning for strongman rule gave way to the rise of Rodrigo Duterte to the presidency. Marcos is once again in the center of the passions of the Filipino people. Has the People Power era ended?

Angela Stuart Santiago once wrote in beautiful Tagalog, “Sa kahulihan, ang kuwento ng EDSA ay sukdulang yugto ng tagisan nina Marcos at Ninoy na hindi naawat, bagkos ay pinag-ibayo, ng rehimeng militar.” And so is the story of the nation until today.

Challenges to neocolonialism (Manila Times Walking History)

By Michael Charleston “Xiao” Chua

October 31, 2020

IN 1996, 50 years after the Americans gave back Philippine independence, a televised reenactment of the ceremonies played out at the Luneta. But during the solemn moment of the raising of the Philippine flag and the lowering of the American flag, the Stars and Stripes got entangled with the Three Stars and the Sun for a few minutes as the National Anthem played. But just before the last note of our anthem played out, the flag was finally untied and flew alone freely. In many ways, this gaffe reflected a reality, jokingly called the Star-Entangled Banner — our tumultuous special relationship with the United States, which highlighted our dependence on a foreign power.

The end of World War 2 in 1945 paved the way for the Cold War and a polarized world between the United States and its allies (First World War) and the Soviet Union and their satellites (Second World War). On the premise of stopping the spread of communism in Southeast Asia and keeping their interest intact in the region, the United States government tightened its grip on the Philippines.

Filipino leaders were caught between the devil that they knew and the devil that they didn’t and expressed their loyalty to America. Luis Taruc and Jesus Lava, leaders of the Communist guerrilla group Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon, were unseated in Congress; deprived of their House seats, they went back to the mountains to wage an armed struggle. Aside from agrarian problems, they lamented the seeming continuation of US colonialism. Manuel Roxas, the first president of the new republic, wanted to follow the US line to crush the rebellion. But two years after assuming the presidency, before he could fulfill his potential in the pinnacle of his long career, he died in an American base in 1948. His vice president, Elpidio Quirino, succeeded him.

To say that all the leaders of the Philippines did not try to exercise an independent approach with the Americans is not totally accurate. Quirino, for one, was more pragmatic in his approach with the Americans. While negotiating the US Bases Treaty, Roxas played the agreeable person while his vice president chopped down the proposed 70 bases to 23, (16 permanent and six for emergency use). One US diplomat quipped, “The trouble with Quirino is that he is taking Philippine Independence too seriously.”

When Quirino became president, contrary to what the Americans thought, he believed that the Huks had legitimate grievances that had to be heard. He was able to successfully bring Taruc down the mountains to meet him in Malacañang but frustration and intrigue propelled Taruc to return to the mountains once again and the battle against the Huks ensued. The ambush of Doña Aurora Aragon-Quezon, the philanthropist widow of President Manuel Quezon, and her party by some rogue Huks did not help the situation. A former guerrilla leader and congressman from Zambales, Ramon Magsaysay, was picked by Quirino to be secretary of national defense to lead the fight against the Huks.

Quirino’s foreign policy prioritized relations with the United Nations rather than the United States. This jibed with his decision to aid 6,000 White Russian refugees fleeing from China, and the Philippines sending its best combat battalions to help South Korea defend its democracy from North Korean invasion.

To demonstrate the intervention of Americans in the Philippine elections at that time, the CIA urged Quirino’s political son, Magsaysay, to challenge him in the elections of 1953 and helped him in the campaign. Despite his competence, Quirino’s health and allegations of political patronage did not help his campaign. Magsaysay won in a landslide and, with a carrot and stick approach, weakened the Huk rebellion.

Nationalist lawmakers like the Senators Jose Laurel and Claro M. Recto pushed for the teaching of José Rizal’s life to counter neocolonialism despite great opposition from the Catholic Church hierarchy because of Rizal’s depiction of priests in his works. As president, Magsaysay tried to associate the country with the non-aligned countries (Third World). But when he died in a plane crash before running for a second term in 1957, he became America’s poster boy, a champion of democracy in Asia. An award was instituted in his name to honor the greatness of spirit in Asia like the Nobel, the Ramon Magsaysay Award.

President Carlos P. Garcia adopted a Filipino First policy in the economy, and President Diosdado Macapagal adopted a policy of the Philippines turning East. strengthening diplomatic relations with Asian and African countries. When he moved Philippine Independence Day from July 4 to June 12 the Americans were annoyed.

Despite these efforts, nationalist educators lamented the continuation of colonial education, calling it the miseducation of the Filipino. Corruption became rampant.

The people needed a leader that could inspire them just like John F. Kennedy, the brilliant young war-hero president with an adorable family, inspired America. In 1965, that promising leader did emerge: Ferdinand E. Marcos.

The paradox of independence (Manila Times Walking History)

October 24, 2020

By Michael Charleston “Xiao” Chua

THE irony of liberation: The Filipinos won the war against the Japanese, but it left us with only devastation and a damaged culture.

Before the Second World War, the old folks said that you could leave anything anywhere and it would not be stolen. Not so many security guards were needed. But during those three years from 1942-1945, the people struggled and some felt the need to steal in order to survive. The hardships would have an immense effect on the psyche of the Filipino people.

Sure, before the war, there were already the problems of inequality and agrarian unrest. But in the post-war years, the old folks felt the rise of petty crimes and robbery. Our perspective of personal security was affected. Most of our tangible cultural heritage was also destroyed and this destruction erased whatever importance we gave to whatever was left. Intramuros, which was once the embodiment of the Pearl of the Orient, lay in ruins and gave way to urban informal settlers.

Despite the physical and psychological carnage, the Filipinos started rolling up their sleeves and began preparing for a future that was theirs for the taking. For the first time in the history of colonialism, a country willfully returned the independence of their colony as mandated by law. Having just been elected and sworn in as the last President of the Philippine Commonwealth, Manuel Roxas was sworn in as the first President of the newly established Republic of the Philippines (the third formal one in our history) on July 4, 1946. In a solemn and symbolic ceremony amid the rain at a makeshift grandstand ironically covering Rizal’s Monument, the Stars and Stripes were lowered and the Three Stars and the Sun were raised.

Roxas assigned his vice president, Elpidio Quirino, to create and head a Department of Foreign Affairs which immediately opened diplomatic relations with 27 countries. As our country was a major player in the establishment of the United Nations through Gen. Carlos Romulo (who would become President of the UN General Assembly), Quirino placed the relationship with the UN at the top of our pillars of democracy (and our relationship with the US only second).

But the Pacific War also left a divided world; its impact would be felt even in the country. The Allied Powers having won, partitioned it among themselves: the United States and Britain, and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. These powers divided the world with their ideologies and sphere of influence. Berlin was divided, Europe was divided, Korea was divided, Vietnam was divided. The post-war world was made to choose between communism and what the West called “the free world.”

Marxism, which gave the communist vision of a more equitable world, became attractive to many in the developing world. Thus, Southeast Asia became a battleground.

In the belief that if the communists would take over China, the whole of Korea, and eventually Vietnam, the other countries would fall one by one like dominoes and the East would turn Red. Even if this part of the world was thousands of miles from the US, the experience with Japan proved that it was in the best interest of America to keep these countries part of the free world.

This explains why despite independence, America felt the need to exert so much influence on their former colony, strategically located in the heart of the region. When they offered us a much needed rehabilitation assistance of $620 million through the Philippine Rehabilitation Act of 1946, they put some strings attached for it to be released: that our government sign the Military Bases Agreement that gave the US a 99-year lease to some 65,000-hectare military facilities, including Clark and Subic. Also, the Philippine Congress had to pass the Bell Trade Act which gave a favorable free trade clause to American products imported to the Philippines until 1974, while quota restrictions were given our products, the pegging of the value of peso to the US dollar and the parity clause that gave equal rights to US corporations to develop and exploit all agriculture, timber and minerals in the Philippines.

The paradox of independence was that the post-war years was the first era in almost four centuries that we were not under direct colonialism, and yet, we became some sort of an American neo-colony. Sen. Claro Recto noted, “The flagstaffs that still stand, two by two, in front of our public buildings, are the symbols of a psychological phenomenon, this split personality of our nation….” Only our flag flies, but in the minds of the people, the American flag was still there.

The problems that were carried into the new Republic would attract people to continue the fight in the mountains and carry the banner of communism.

The triumphant Filipinos (Manila Times Walking History)

By Michael Charleston “Xiao” Chua

October 10, 2020

THE Fall of Bataan on April 9, 1942 was a testament to Filipino valor against all odds taken against the context of most of Southeast Asia falling to the Japanese forces early in the war. But it was painful to see the images of defeat and surrender and thereafter the Filipino-American forces walking the hundred-kilometer Death March for five days under the hot sun and then being incarcerated at the Capas concentration camp. It was followed by the surrender a month later of the Rock, the island of Corregidor, on May 6.

As I said, the Fall of Bataan as the Araw ng Kagitingan holiday should remind Filipinos of our veterans’ valor, but it also denotes how we remember our tragedies more. Worse, the image of US Gen. Douglas MacArthur fulfilling his promise to return on the shores of Leyte Gulf on Oct. 20, 1944 made us think that we owe our liberation only to the Americans.

As one historian said, “[T]he contribution of the Filipino to the war has not been justly recognized.” We must go beyond the Fall of Bataan to see not just our valor but our victory. For we may have lost the battle at Bataan, but not the war.

The Fall of Bataan actually paved the way for a stronger guerrilla resistance movement around the country which actually started even while the Battle of Bataan was already happening in January 1942. People around the country started to band together and form groups like the Hukbalahap, Marking’s Guerrillas, and the Hunter’s ROTC Guerrillas. Even the ethnic Chinese in the Philippines fought with their own guerrilla groups. What they lacked in number and weapons, they compensated with their strategy and claimed many major victories. One victory by the Hunter’s ROTC guerrillas, the Ambush at Pugadlawin, was won by 19 Filipinos against about 200 Japanese.

MacArthur sent the submarine Spyron from Australia with his aide Chick Parsons to roam around and coordinate with guerrilla groups so they could be part of the overall plan to liberate the country. With this, they were able to send MacArthur important intelligence. When the plane bearing Admiral Mineichi Koga, the commander of a combined fleet of the Japanese imperial navy, crashed in the bay near Carcar, Cebu, they were able to intercept a case full of documents pertaining to Japanese plans and positions. Despite the efforts of the Japanese to scare Cebuanos into returning the documents by killing and burning the towns, the guerrillas found a way to transport the Koga papers to Negros through a waterproof mortar case, and from there were eventually brought by submarine to MacArthur.

The Filipinos were also part of the Great Raids that liberated the biggest POW camp in Southeast Asia in Cabanatuan, the biggest civilian internment camp in University of the Philippines Los Baños and the civilian internment camp at the University of Santo Tomas Sulucan campus.

It was not only military valor that was shown during the war, civilians went out of their way to help, sneaking food to soldiers and helping people escape during the Death March. Women like Magdalena Leones also contributed as spies for the Allies. Even society matrons like Josefa Llanes Escoda, Girl Scouts founder, risked their lives to distribute help to people in the concentration camps. Escoda paid heavily for that simple resistance with her life. Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos, caretaker of the government, refused to cooperate with the Japanese and was executed in front of his son, telling his son, “Do not cry Pepito, show these people that you are brave, it is an honor to die for one’s country. Not everyone has that chance.” Even the President of the Puppet Republic Jose P. Laurel, made so many interventions and concessions with the Japanese, saving the lives of many and minimizing the impact of the war on the populace.

The brutality of the Japanese occupation in those three years was demonstrated in the Battle of Manila from Feb. 3 to Mar. 3, 1945, where 100,000 civilians were killed as the Japanese defended the city from the liberating Filipino and American forces. The bodies of people, even babies — beheaded, bayoneted and shot — littered the streets, public buildings, even places of worship. The Rape of Manila, the second most-destroyed Allied city in the world, was only a reflection of what happened in many parts of the country.

Finally, on June 14, 1945, the guerrillas of the USAFIP-Northern Luzon defeated the Japanese at Bessang Pass. When they cornered General Tomoyuki Yamashita, the overall commander of the Japanese forces in the Philippines in Kiangan, Ifugao, he chose to surrender to the Americans on Sept. 2, 1945.

In a war, everybody is a loser. Nobody is a winner. But we should also look at how we used our wisdom as a people to help liberate ourselves from the Japanese and see that the triumphant Filipino can overcome even the worst tragedies.

Encounter with the Rising Sun (Manila Times Walking History)

By Michael Charleston “Xiao” Chua

October 3, 2020

THE end of the 1930s was an era of optimism in the Philippines. In a few years’ time, the Americans would fulfill their commitment to recognize our independence that they took away in 1899. But the 10-year transition known as the Commonwealth was of course met with the realities of governance.

And another storm was looming, for Asia was under the shadow of the flag of the Rising Sun, and the world under the spell of fascism and authoritarianism.

The Rising Sun flag, the Japanese flag featuring a sun with 16 symmetrical rays extending outward, was widely used by the Japanese Imperial Army and Navy and became a symbol of Japanese militarism and expansionism. It was a symbol of Japan’s ambitions, but dressed in noble intentions. The Japanese offered to free Asia from the yoke of European domination and create an Asia for the Asians.

That would be betrayed by Japan’s occupation of China where, in 1937, Japanese imperial troops killed approximately 300,000 people in what is called the Rape of Nanking.
Although a sizeable Japanese community was already present in the Philippines, particularly in Davao and in Manila where they had taken on odd jobs as gardeners, barbers, vendors, photographers, the country’s leaders still felt the fog of war and it was reflected in their addresses during the Commonwealth anniversary of Nov. 15, 1941.

In three weeks, Japan would bomb Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on December 8. In coordinated attacks, they bombed Manila and other cities such as Baguio. The American planes at Clark Field flew all morning but when they went down to refuel, they were wiped out by the Japanese. Some Japanese workers here turned out to be officials of the Japanese armed forces. President Manuel Quezon declared the arrival of zero hour. General Douglas MacArthur, Field Marshal of the Philippine Islands, who could not be contacted in the first hours after the attack, finally called on the Filipinos who trained under the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps to suit up to fight the Japanese. Quezon tried to convince the US government to actually declare the Philippines independent so he could declare the country to be neutral to avoid being invaded. The Americans thought that wouldn’t help anyway.

By January, many countries in Southeast Asia would welcome the Japanese as liberators against their European colonizers and Japan would easily take over them. In the Philippines, however, the response to General MacArthur’s call was overwhelming. Even the young cadets from the Philippine Military Academy and other universities, who were rejected so the youth could be preserved, did not go home but proceeded to the mountains to form their own guerrilla groups.

Why did the Filipinos reject the Japanese? Revolutionary heroes like Gen. Artemio Ricarte, who had spent the past decades in Japan, and President Emilio Aguinaldo welcomed the Japanese. In our revolutionary history, Japan was a hub for our heroes like Mariano Ponce. In the eyes of that generation, Japan was a friend. But most Filipinos wanted only to fight. They believed America’s promise of independence by 1945 and Japan was getting in the way of that dream.

MacArthur felt that the overwhelmingly long coastline of our archipelago could not be realistically defended and so ordered the army to proceed to Bataan. Manila was declared an Open City to prevent the destruction of the city (they still bombed it anyway), but the US-Filipino troops would be in Bataan and nearby Corregidor Island (Cavite) to block the entry of the big Japanese ships to Manila delivering their supplies and manpower.

The Commonwealth government and MacArthur were evacuated to Corregidor. For three months since the beginning of 1942, the Filipinos enthusiastically frustrated the Japanese by their successful defense of Bataan. The radio station Voice of Freedom kept the people’s spirits alive with promises of American reinforcements even if the Japanese were flying leaflets to our troops with photos of families and beautiful women just to entice them to go home and stop fighting.

But the reinforcements would not come. The US government in Washington decided they could not fight on two fronts and since it was difficult to bring supplies to the Philippines with the Japanese all over Asia, they decided to prioritize Europe. As our defenders started to suffer with the lack of food and ammunition, the Japanese reinforcements arrived and by April started their move against Bataan. The veterans told of how they resorted to digging boulders to throw at the Japanese because they had no bullets. Their stories told of the no-surrender attitude of the Filipinos.

But the Americans surrendered Bataan on April 9. Since 75,000 surrenderees could not be transported to the concentration camp at Capas, Tarlac, they were made to walk the hundred kilometers to Capas under the heat of the summer sun in what is known as the Death March.

The Filipinos were defeated, but they were the last to fall in Southeast Asia. The free world uttered, “Remember Bataan.” Filipinos became synonymous with courage.

American tutelage in the Philippines (Manila Times Walking History)

By Michael Charleston “Xiao” Chua

September 12, 2020

“LAY down your arms and pick up the books.” This was already the call the Americans were making to themselves even before the smoke of war with the Filipinos had not yet settled. Wasn’t it their real mission to “Christianize” and “civilize” their little brown brothers here as our tutor (under tutelage)? And so, they started their quest to open education to a wider Filipino populace a few days after Dewey’s victory in May 1898. The first American teachers here were also the American volunteer-soldiers who taught 4,000 students in 39 schools.

In 1901, sincerely believing in the righteousness of their cause, American school teachers started coming to the Philippines. The first among them arrived in the boat called “Thomas,” hence, the “Thomasites.” Although the old Spanish colonial regime intended to make education more public, it was the Americans who were able to fully implement this policy. Every town was provided with bahay kubo-inspired school building designs, called the Gabaldon schoolhouses (named after the lawmaker who sponsored the law), set 3 kilometers apart in order that kids would not have to walk long to get to school. The Americans, knowing that there would be a need to pass the burden of teaching to the Filipinos themselves sooner or later, established the Philippine Normal School in 1906 and later, the University of the Philippines in 1908. Never before was formal instruction widely available to the people of the Philippines.

And seemingly true to form, in wanting to ring the bells of liberty for the Filipinos, the United States allowed freedom of worship, which paved the way for the establishment of the various religious denominations in the country and the emergence of the indigenous Filipino church, the Iglesia ni Cristo, in 1914. It also implemented public health and sanitation systems which dramatically improved the lives of the people.

In the same year that the revolutionary president Macario Sakay was executed in 1907, one of his demands, the Philippine Assembly, was formed. In the same year that the last battle of the Philippine-American War was waged in Bud Bagsak in Jolo, Sulu, in 1913, the Americans started to allow Filipinos to be part of the bureaucracy, a move known as “Filipinization.” Eventually, with the enactment of the Jones Law in 1916, which promised eventual Independence once a “stable government is established,” the Philippine Senate was born.

Despite all these steps to train Filipinos for self-governance, it can be argued that the colonial system of education tightened the grip of the Americans on the minds and hearts of the Filipinos, proving that it is really not about being educated per se, but what one has learned in that education. And the colonial mindset was being formed on the very first day of school, when one was taught the alphabet: “A is for apple.” And a people in the land without apples started to crave for apples and became a market for other American goods. Filipinos learned more about the heroes of the US, and their books reflected the greatness of America.

The Americans also used the new technology of radio to spread American music and consumer goods but since they lacked the personnel, Filipino announcers killed time inviting Filipino singers to sing kundiman, and colonial radio was appropriated to spread our own culture.

But as the public school system made possible the primacy of English as the language of learning, business and government, not only did our colonial dependency deepen, but the great cultural divide between the haves and the have-nots widened. In the continuing spirit of kapatiran, a number of social movements strengthened advocating kaginhawahan for all and not just a few. It climaxed in the Sakdal agrarian revolt that occurred in many places in 1935. One orator expressed their sentiments in words, “Give me land. Land to own. Land unbeholden to any tyrant. Land that will be free. Give me land for I am starving…. I am poor but I will pay it! I will work, work until I fall from weariness for my privilege, for my inalienable right to be free!”

Major Filipino statesmen headed to the United States to lobby the US Congress for an independence bill. Finally, the Tydings-McDuffie Law was enacted in 1935 and a 10-year transition period was provided for Filipinos to handle most of the affairs of government. The leading Filipino politicians since 1907 — Manuel Quezon and Sergio Osmeña, became president and vice president of the Philippine Commonwealth. Despite the challenges, Filipino leadership offered a vision of social justice and readiness to face modernity. Women were given the right to vote and the use of the national language was implemented. Quezon even undertook to take care of 1,300 European Jews fleeing from the Nazis and showcased Filipino pakikipagkapwa-tao.

But we will never know what more could have been accomplished by a Filipino leadership in transition, because halfway through their tenure, the winds of war swept in.

Encountering America (Manila Times Walking History)

By Michael Charleston “Xiao” Chua

September 5, 2020

THE Americans seemed to have fulfilled the verbal promise they made to Emilio Aguinaldo in Hong Kong and Singapore in early 1898 to help his country gain freedom from the Spaniards. The United States was at war with Spain over the USS Maine incident. On May 1, Admiral George Dewey wiped out the Spanish armada in Cavite in what was known as the Battle of Manila Bay. But at this point, the Americans did not have ground troops. The Americans told Aguinaldo that just as they did after freeing Cuba, they would assure the independence of the Philippines. As the symbol of US Independence was the Liberty Bell, it seems they would ring the bell of freedom in the islands after being a bajo de las campanas under Spanish rule.

Aguinaldo came home as the leader of the Philippine Revolution. In many parts of the country, people were reinvigorated to continue the fight against the Spaniards and were driving the Spaniards away one town at a time. In a dramatic ceremony on June 12, Aguinaldo proclaimed Philippine Independence. He introduced our national symbols: the music of our National Anthem and the National Flag. A flag, which according to the text of the proclamation, was patterned in the colors of the flag of the United States as a sign of gratitude for the help they extended in driving away the Spaniards. We are a kind and grateful people anyway. But the point is, we won the revolution!

But the Spanish colonial government, protected by the walls of Intramuros, did not want to surrender to their colonial subjects for 333 years, so they talked to our friends, the Americans. They agreed to surrender to the Americans, in their eyes a more formidable enemy, after a fake battle which commenced on August 13, known as the Mock Battle for Manila, for honor, and honor’s sake.


But Intramuros was free! And the Filipino revolutionaries, with their great trust in the friendly American nation, started their march to Intramuros and to finally realizing their dream of self-governance and nationhood. But they were stopped by the Americans.

This prompted Aguinaldo to begin doubting America’s intentions. He transferred his capital to a place between two rivers — Malolos, Bulacan — where, in the nearby church of Barasoain, he convened the Congreso Filipino to create a republican constitution. At the same time, Spanish and American diplomats negotiated in Paris for the fate of Spain’s colonial holdings. The doors to the meetings were shut to Filipino representatives. By December, the two powers agreed that the Philippine islands would be handed over to the Americans. Spain would receive $20 million not as payment, but as reimbursement for the “development” they provided to the Filipinos. But the Treaty of Paris needed the US Congress’ approval.

In America, a debate was raging between the pro-imperialists and anti-imperialists. Those who were anti-imperialists, like the quintessential American writer Mark Twain, believed that America should have no business being an imperialist and should truly ring the bells of freedom by setting the Filipinos free. Pro-imperialists were sold on the idea that it was the “manifest destiny” of the white people, their “burden,” to civilize and “Christianize” (ergo Protestantism) their “Little Brown Brothers.” Since the American nation experienced being colonized by the British, they did not just want to be imperialists, they wanted to be the best imperialists. Some refer to this as “sentimental imperialism”: to be able to truly ring the bells of freedom in the islands, they must first teach these ignoramuses to ring them properly. The US Congress was divided over the matter.

The Malolos Congress finished its task and on Jan. 23, 1899, Aguinaldo inaugurated the First Constitutional Democratic Republic in Asia. But in less than two weeks, on February 4, an American serviceman shot a Filipino soldier somewhere in Sta. Mesa, Manila, which started a number of hostilities in what is now known as Metro Manila. The day after, it was a full-blown war between two republics. Fake news was spread that it was the Filipinos who started the war and the undecideds in the US Congress shifted to the pro-imperialists. The Treaty of Paris was ratified.

While the leaders of the new Philippine Republic were divided between the patriots who wanted to reject US sovereignty and the politicians who wanted to negotiate peace in exchange for “home rule,” the Filipino people gave up their lives resisting the enemy. “Benevolent assimilation” was brutal, violent, and took many lives, civilians and otherwise. When the townspeople of Balangiga, Samar successfully attacked the American detachment there, the Americans retaliated by burning their houses, crops and animals, and in the process, killing and displacing the people of the whole province. The bells of Balangiga, which signaled the Filipinos’ attack, were taken away as a war trophy by the Americans.

Although Aguinaldo was captured in 1901, the Filipinos continued resisting until 1913.

Bayan vs the elite (Manila Times Walking History)

November 16, 2019


LAST week, we defined the use of the term “bayan” throughout our history. But there’s another one that we left: “bayan” as in the majority of our people as against the elites.

To understand this, we have to go back to the economic changes that happened in the early part of the 19th century. The end of the Galleon Trade monopoly because of the Mexican Revolution compelled the Spaniards to open the ports throughout the archipelago to foreign trade. When traders like the French, British and German got the indios and the Chinese mestizos as their middlemen, the latter started to have money and began sending their kids to school.

This began the division of the colonial indios from the elites who were Westernized by the educational system against the ones that remained part of the bayan, who, although colonized, retained much of the consciousness and wisdom of their ancestors. Zeus Salazar calls it “Dambuhalang Pagkakahating Pangkamalayan,” or The Great Cultural Divide, a concept that, although it betrays the Marxist influence on Salazar, is original because it not only reads the division of society as the struggle of the haves and have-nots, but also a clash of cultures.

In this sense, the ilustrados, although trying to imagine Filipino identity and concept of the nation, were articulating it based on a Western reading, which they learned in the Spanish and European schools. While the “bayan” may have a different understanding of how the nation should be.

In Wika ng Himagsikan: Lengguwahe ng Rebolusyon, Salazar demonstrated the difference between the ilustrado concept of nationhood to the one by the bayan as articulated by Andres Bonifacio and Emilio Jacinto in the Katipunan.

The ilustrados called their concept “nación” as they had learned from Western liberalism. We should aspire to be a Republic where citizens have rights guaranteed under a written constitution and a declaration of independence. The emphasis was on political rights and freedom. There were also those who defined nación in the Spanish sense, which meant having a distinct separate identity like the Basques, Catalans and Castillans, but under one Mother Spain.

The Katipunan, however, essayed a more indigenous concept of the “Inang Bayan.” As the old bayan was founded on “sandugo” and “kapatiran,” we are all brothers and sisters and, therefore, “mga Anak ng Bayan” (sons and daughters of the people) coming from one mother — the Inang Bayan. Beyond political freedom, kapatiran means that people treat and love each other as brethren with mabuting kalooban (goodness), which leads to everybody’s kaginhawaan (well-being) and, therefore, kalayaan (freedom). This means, one may have political freedoms like suffrage, but if they don’t eat three times a day, are they really free? Can they enjoy their freedom? Bonifacio also articulated an indigenous concept of democracy called the “Haring Bayan” (sovereign nation), which means that power belonged to the bayan (people) and not just to one person.

But when the Katipunan was already establishing the revolutionary government, they were dismissed by the elites, which eventually grabbed power from Bonifacio. They never believed Bonifacio’s concept was at par with the way nations were defined by the West.

Eventually, the colonial education implemented by the Americans in English further divided the people, where most people are left out by those that had education from the business of economy and government.

This shouldn’t be construed as a clear-cut dichotomy. That the elites are all bad and the bayan are always correct. And that there are complications or in between. But even in recent history, the struggle between EDSA Dos (2) or EDSA Tres (3), or even how intellectuals, who by education had become elites albeit not in a financial sense, but in culture and consciousness, sneeringly call Duterte voters “bobotante.” Irineo Salazar also shows the complication when the elite infiltrates the bayan through rhetoric for their own gain (so it doesn’t mean that if one speaks like bayan, they are bayan).

The goal, according to Salazar, is to build the “talastasang bayan,” or national discourse, where people talk about things that have “saysay” to them, but this can only be done if we use the same language and concepts. This is why to reach the bayan, we should develop Filipino as an intellectual language and the language of government and economy since this, by default and historical processes, is the language that most Filipinos understand, while also developing local languages.

And hopefully, in time, we will reduce the gap and just maybe, bridge the gap between the elite and the bayan to form a truly united Filipino nation, isang sambayanang Pilipino.

What is the ‘bayan’?

November 9, 2019


WHAT is the bayan? Beauty queen Malka Shaver recently asked me this very important question.

For many years we thought that before the coming of the Spaniards, the barangay was the basic political unit of society, headed by the datu and named after our ancient boat. This was reinforced by William Henry Scott who entitled his classic, singular volume on the ancient Filipinos as barangay.

Even before Damon Woods said the barangay as a political unit was a Spanish invention since it was absent in the original accounts of the Spaniards about our ancestors (but the word was used by the translators of Blair and Robertson, in one such account by Father Alcina), Filipino historians Zeus Salazar, the father of the Pantayong Pananaw school of thought and the New Filipino Historiography, and Mary Jane Rodriguez-Tatel already questioned this. They said that the barangay was only a clan or a family unit, and was basically an economic one, not political. For more than two decades now they have been pointing out to us that the “bayan,” “banua” or “ili” (Ilocano) was the basic political unit of the ancient Filipinos, not the “barangay.”

So, what is the bayan?

Sociologist Clemen Aquino synthesized the writings of the Pantayong Pananaw scholars in defining the bayan in her famous essay “Mula sa Kinaroroonan: Kapwa, Kapatiran, at Bayan sa Agham Panlipunan.” Aquino demonstrated how Salazar pointed to our Austronesian origins from 5,000 years ago to say that people in this archipelago had more or less the same concept of the political unit, looking at the various words used to represent it, which Rodriguez-Tatel listed in her master’s thesis: Bayan, banua or ili. In sum, Salazar said the concept had to do with having permanent settlements or “pamahayan,” but for the Tagalog, it also meant the people living in it, similar to “balei” in Panggasinense and “balen” in Pampanga (which according to Kapampangan-Tarlac scholar Rodrigo Sicat came from “balayen”—balay, bahay, bahayan—place of houses — bayan).

Salazar said the “banua” of Bicol, Visayas and Mindanao is the most widespread of these concepts and is the original Austronesian word, that is why in Polynesia they have the “vanua” (as in Vanuatu). The Ilocano “ili” though was a settlement that was in the context of war, therefore it had to transfer from time to time; eventually, the high places to where the bayan had to evacuate in times of war and calamities were called “ilihan.”

Dr. Carlos Tatel, my first university instructor in history, illustrated to us in our class in 2001 that when the barangay (clan units) within an area (at the ilawud, or seashore, or the ilaya, near the mountains) wanted to create a stronger community, their respectve datu performed the ritual “sandugo” (from “isang dugo” or “one blood”) and formed the bayan and chose their leader, a lakan, sultan or a rajah. Therefore, the formation of the community was based on the idea of the kapatiran (we are brothers and sisters). In the Visayas, sandugo is translated as “pag-aanghod,” which literally means caring for your little brother, or “manghod,” which is more special.

Eventually, during the Spanish period, the pueblo would still be referred to as the bayan in general, but it would also mean the center of the pueblo (“Papunta kami sa bayan”).

Poet Francisco Balagtas, in his veiled criticism of the Spanish regime, “Sa loob at labas ng bayan kong sawi,” expanded the concept of bayan to refer to the whole archipelago under colonial Spain. That is why when Andres Bonifacio, the president of the First National Revolutionary Government, imagined the Filipino nation not just as a political nation-state as the ilustrados had learned from the West, but basically adopted the sandugo as a ritual in the Katipunan to go back to the concept of “kapatiran” — we are brothers and we have one mother, ang ating “Inang Bayan.” So, it was not enough to have the state, each part of the bayan must have kabutihang loob for treat each one as brothers and sisters. Only then can we have kaginhawaan, or the good life, and then real kalayaan.

In addition, Bonifacio referred to his government as “Haring Bayan,” which was misunderstood by Emilio Aguinaldo as Bonifacio making himself the King of the Nation when in fact, the “hari,” or powerful, was not one man but the bayan itself, therefore a democracy. Bonifacio’s concept of the nation was hijacked of course when the elites eliminated him and replaced it with an elite democracy. The second part of this column will discuss how Filipino society was divided and gave birth to another concept of the bayan as the non-Westernized non-elitist people in the country.

So, to summarize, the bayan transformed from a community of houses and the people in that community eventually to the nation and the people.

Imagining ‘Inang Bayan’ (Manila Times Walking History)

By Michael Charleston “Xiao” Chua

July 4, 2020

ILUSTRADOS are equated with elitism, even if the word is actually a term for a person who believes in the enlightenment philosophy — in equality and the advancement of science. We have a tendency to generalize elites as bad, and this is because we tend to look at society as a class struggle and because many ilustrados advocated for the return of peace in times when we should have been fighting.

But in a time when there was no concept of a unified Filipino “nation,” it was the ilustrados who actually imagined it. One such person was the young medical student named José Rizal, who saw in his travels in Europe beginning in 1882 that the liberal philosophy made possible the development of the continent. He advocated education and saw it as a way to “liberate” the people. He recognized that there were Two Spains, and wanted to bring progressive Spain to change the “backward” Spain in his motherland, even if that meant that at first we had to be Spaniards and then, little by little, ask for more civil rights until we could finally ask for our freedom.

Rizal and his friends in the La Propaganda dreamed about this in their writings. He endured the cold and homesickness in Europe to produce his novels Noli me Tangere and El Filibusterismo to tell the Spaniards the sad truth about those who implement their colonial policies in his land and showed it as a common problem of many Filipinos. He researched our past and annotated an old historical work, Morga’s Sucesos de la Islas Filipinas, copying it by hand in the Library of the British Museum to show those who denied that we could have a “patria” (motherland), that we had a common identity that could be proven by history and that we were willing to fight for it.

When Mariano Ponce founded the La Solidaridad, Rizal and his friends like Marcelo del Pilar and Graciano Lopez Jaena imagined the “nación” in its pages. They were hopeful that Madre España would listen. But Rizal began to feel that it may not be the case and the internal politics in the group only solidified his decision to eventually return to the Philippines and face the Spaniards themselves.

Meanwhile, a warehouse man in an international trading company in Manila was devouring various books about the French Revolution and the American Presidents, Les Misérables by Hugo and the works of Dumas, and of course, Rizal’s novels. Although Andres Bonifacio did not finish school, he learned Spanish by himself and made himself aware of the situation of other nations. If others waged revolutions to create theirs, why can’t we? You might say he was a self-made ilustrado except that he was also different from them.

Although the American and French Revolutions inspired Bonifacio, he imagined not a “nación,” but an “Inang Bayan” (Mother Country). A bayan (country/people) that understands itself not only in terms of European liberalism, but in its own terms. Instead of liberal democracy, he used the term Haring Bayan (People Power). He did not only aim for political freedoms but “kalayaan” as we understand it, along with “kaginhawahan” and “mabuting kalooban.” He dreamed to call this multi-ethnic country Haring Bayang Katagalugan, Tagalog or river people as our Austronesian ancestors were. He, along with his friends, organized the Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan — Society of the Sons and Daughters of the People — and worked to convince people that reforms were useless, the only right thing to do was to separate from Spain.

The Katipunan brought back the ritual of the Sandugo — they offered blood oaths and reminded themselves that they were of one blood, and since they were children of Inang Bayan, they were taught to love each other as brothers and sisters (kapatiran). Their primer, the Kartilya written by their young secretary Gen. Emilio Jacinto, states, “One of the foremost rules here is true love of the native land and genuine compassion for one another.” Bonifacio once wrote: “Believe with a fervent heart in the Creator. Reflect always that a sincere faith in Him involves love of one’s native land, because this shows true love for one’s fellows.” So, when the national revolution — himagsikan — finally broke out in 1896, the bayan faced the Spaniards with a great feeling of love. “Himagsikan” meant a burst of a great feeling from within. It was love that made them sacrifice their lives to see their dream of Inang Bayan being fulfilled. In the same year, 1896, Lopez Jaena and del Pilar died penniless in Spain; by the end of the year Rizal had been shot as a martyr. Bonifacio lost a bitter power struggle that led to his murder, not seeing the fulfillment of his dream. Yet the bayan defeated Spanish rule in 1898 after 300 years. We should never forget that.