Knowledge and Pacification: On the U.S. Conquest and the Writing of Philippine History

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    Abstract

    The Filipino-American War has returned to the public eye in recent years. First it was through the 2015 blockbuster film Heneral Luna, which graphically depicted “the greatest Filipino General” leading the fight against the Americans only to be slain by his fellow Filipinos. Then in 2016 that savage war was brought to the world’s attention by President-elect Rodrigo Duterte, who brandished pictures of American atrocities and called for an apology from Manila’s longtime ally. The renewed attention paid to the Filipino-American war needs to be matched with a deeper understanding of that event and its continuing effects on the present. The war did not end with Luna’s murder in June 1899 or even Aguinaldo’s capture in March 1901. For the revolutionists of southwestern Luzon, the war raged on until the surrenders of General Miguel Malvar and his associates in April-May 1902. Further resistance to the U.S. was henceforth labeled as “banditry.” Later, the word “terrorists” would be employed. The officers of Malvar’s regiments came from the ranks of town mayors, barangay headmen, teachers, landlords, religious leaders, and even ex-bandit chieftains. A style of resistance evolved--dubbed “amigo warfare” (“friends by day, enemies by night”)--which took the U.S. Army all of six months and the employment of scorched-earth tactics to break. What talents did the guerilla leaders need to have in order to sustain popular morale in the face of a superior American force? Various manifestos and speeches in the vernacular indicate that a “holy war” of sorts was being waged against the Americans. On its part, the U.S. Army couched its behavior in terms of benevolence and humanitarian aims. The Army fancied itself as liberating ordinary folk from control by their local “bosses.” In reality, “protected zones” (or “concentration camps”) were established by the U.S. so that the Filipino elites could be identified and subjected to intense interrogation, intimidation, and even torture. Eventually, most were forced to submit to the new American order. Meanwhile, the distribution of food and medicine, the teaching of English, and even toilet-building were carried out in order to transform a brutal conquest into benevolent gestures by a benign colonial power. By the 1920s, American scholar-officials had largely succeeded in spinning the war as “a great misunderstanding.” The leaders of that “insurrection” had been stigmatized as “caciques” and strongmen who had deceived or coerced the masses into resisting “progress.” This image of municipal elites persists up to today. The Japanese invasion of 1942 only served to further obscure the memories of the American war. The joint struggle to liberate the Philippines from Japanese rule would bring forth the familiar “special relationship” between the Philippines and the United States. A neat scenario, indeed, but the reality is more complex. The Japanese occupation enabled the resurrection of veterans’ memories of the Filipino-American War. The establishment of the so-called puppet government of 1943 was hailed as a continuation of the unfinished revolution of the 1890s. The American “liberation” was in fact a restoration of U.S. hegemony over the fledgling nation-state. This volume explores alternative ways of thinking about the American century in the Philippines. Memories of the war with U.S. remained alive and alternatives to the American path to development continued to be pursued. The colonial representations of the revolution and resistance to U.S. occupation have been contested quite effectively. But more challenging is the task of interrogating some basic notions that undergird our understanding of Philippine politics—notions that owe their provenance to early attempts by U.S. officials and scholars to understand and pacify the enemy.
    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationManila, Phillipines
    PublisherAteneo de Manila University Press
    Number of pages370
    Edition1
    ISBN (Print)9789715507783
    Publication statusPublished - 2017

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