We Give Honor to Our Ancestors Who Fought for Philippines Independence, But Assaults on Freedom and Globalism Remain As Threats

When most people think of Philippine Independence, two historical markers come to mind: independence from Spain in 1898 and independence from the U.S. in 1946.

But sandwiched in between the two was the Philippine-American war that lasted from February 4, 1899 to July 2, 1902 that deserves far more attention than what’s given, especially from the perspective of Americans and the U.S.’ historical accounting of military campaigns abroad.

In U.S. history books, the Philippine-American war is often referred to as “the Filipino insurrection against the United States,” which is an utterly gross understatement and misunderstanding of what truly occurred.  An “insurrection” suggests a very brief revolt with little deaths.

In today’s “awoke” society – we now know that the Philippine-American war was bloody, immoral and one of America’s ugliest faces of imperialism (a precursor to the Vietnam War, “conflicts” in Latin America and wars in the Middle East).

Filipinos in the Philippines are well aware of the Philippine-American war. But Americans (particularly Filipino-Americans) should know what happened:

1) More than 100,000 American soldiers ended up fighting in the Philippines.

2) Contrary to the U.S.’ quick naval defeat of the Spanish that ended the Spanish-American war and liberated the Philippines from Spain, the Americans underestimated the fighting resistance of the Filipino people. The Philippine-American war “officially” lasted three years, but resistance still carried on in smaller guerrilla warfare campaigns over several years.

3) U.S. Office of Historian reports the Philippine-American war resulted in deaths of over 4,200 American and over 20,000 Filipino combatants. As many as 200,000 Filipino civilians died from violence, famine, and disease. But some historians estimate Filipino civilian casualties killed or who died because of disease or hunger range from 250,000 to 1 million. These numbers are hardly “insurrection” data, but evidence that a full-fledged war had taken place.

4) Before the infamous My Lai massacre during the Vietnam war in which Americans burned down villages and killed civilians – in the Philippine-American war there was a slaughtering by American soldiers that took place in the town of Balangiga, on Samar Island. U.S. General Jake Smith told his men to turn the island into a “howling wilderness” so that “even birds could not live there.” “Kill and burn! The more you kill and burn, the better you will please me,” he ordered his soldiers. Asked to clarify who the troops’ targets were among the population, the general replied: “Everything over 10.” The exact number of casualties has never been verified, but it is believed that thousands, including women and children, were massacred. And based on the incredibly high civilian casualties, it’s likely that there were several other Balangiga-like incidences.

5) Filipino-Americans think of the Philippines-American relations as one of special historical importance and cooperation from post-WWII and up to contemporary times (but strained under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte). This is true to an extent. But Filipino-Americans should know that the very start of Philippines-American relations begun with a bloody war with true intentions of colonial subjugation and racism.

Clearly there were other chapters of Philippine Independence as noted above, from the Spanish and Japanese during WWII. The details and narratives of these two are more well known.

Interestingly, the will and determination of Filipinos to resist foreigners perhaps could be best observed in the fact that the Philippines still maintains its own national language Tagalog and other major languages throughout the country. Think of the sheer dominance of Spain in Latin America where Spanish is mostly spoken; and even racially where mestizo and white practically outnumber indigenous populations.

It’s also worth acknowledging that foreign colonialism of the Philippines from both Spain and the U.S. have also had major societal benefits like strengthening national unity, establishing a national educational system, and many others.  But this is not to say that without colonialism the Philippines would not have on their own achieved such societal advantages eventually. Arguably, colonialism at least expedited certain areas of progression.

Honoring Filipino heroes and heroines
Kudos to the Philippine Celebrations Coordinating Committee of Hawaii (PCCCH)  and the Philippine Consulate General in Honolulu for presenting  Hawaii’s annual Philippine Independence Day Gala (Kalayaan Gala). This year it is on Saturday, June 18, 2022, 5:30 p.m. at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Resort, Tapa Ballroom.

We encourage our community to support this event. We also encourage our community to get educated on the Philippines unique history. It’s eye-opening and explains a lot about who we are and what we value.  Specifically with regard to Philippines’ independence, learning more about these events give honor to our ancestors who’ve fought and many who’ve died fighting for liberation. The freedoms the Philippines enjoy today were earned with blood and resistance. This is what we should remember.

Threats to freedom in current society
At the same time, we should also recognize that such freedoms are also in constant threat from both outside and within. No longer do we have outright political domination of one nation over another nation as in the age of colonialism (explains the world condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, an odd exception in modern times). But what we do have is domination that comes in another form, an economic one through globalism.

Philippine Independence is a celebration of ultimately nationhood. And with nationhood, that comes with specific tangibles and policymaking that must put first the interests of the nation’s people. Otherwise, what you have is just symbolic, empty ideals and gestures of hypocrisy where foreigners are still in fact economically controlling the fate of Filipinos.

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