Thursday, November 24, 2005


My best friend in New York gave me a copy of this book as a birthday gift 10 years ago. The following is a review of it by T. Bailey of The Washington Post (February 25, 1985):

IN WHICH WAR was the term "Gook" invented? When did American soldiers conduct their first body count and pioneer the use of the "water cure" to persuade Asian guerrillas to betray their comrades?

After which battle did a young rifleman write home to the folks in Kingston, New York, "I am in my glory when I can sight my gun on some dark skin and pull the trigger"?

Modern as it all sounds, the answer is not Vietnam, or even Korea or World War II. The American conquest of the Philippines barely rates a mention in school history books, usually as a cryptic footnote to the short war which President William McKinley and publisher William Randolph Hearst waged on Spain in 1898 for the independence of Cuba and the circulation of Hearst's newspapers. Yet 126,458 Americans fought in the Philippines between 1898 and 1902, of whom 4,234 died, while 16,000 Filipinos died in battle and another 200,000 in "reconcentration camp." There were in addition massacres of civilians in reprisal for guerrilla attacks and similar sideshows all too familiar in subsequent Asian wars.

The story of how, and why America liberated the Philippines from Spain and then took the islands back from their inhabitants two weeks later is a complicated one, already well told in one of the classics of American historiography, Leon Wolff's Little Brown Brother, published in 1960. But the writing of history is never finished, and David Haward Bain has managed another fine book on the subject, not disagreeing with Wolff's conclusions, but making them fresh and vivid for a generation which has seen yet another Asian war.

This is not, however, simply another tale of savagery in the rice paddies. Almost as if he could read tomorrow's newspapers, Bain has brought his account up to the minute, with perceptive entries, for instance, indexed under Aquino Benigno and Ver, General Fabian (the latter currently on trial for complicity in the former's assassination). This energetic young historian has thus pulled off that rarest of publishing coups, a scholarly historical work of bang-on topicality. He has, what's more, found a most original way of bringing his story to life.

From this distance, and even at the time, the American conquest of the Philippines has always been difficult to fathom. But, then and now, two figures jump forth from a cast of thousands: Emilio Aguinaldo, not quite 30, brave and passionately patriotic, the president of the republic of the Philippines proclaimed as the beaten Spaniards departed (and the first republic in Asia) and Colonel Frederick Funston, six years older, who drove the last nail into the republic's coffin by capturing Aguinaldo on March 23, 1901, after a long and daring hunt through the jungles and mountains of northern Luzon.

Aguinaldo, who looked remarkably like his current successor, Ferdinand Marcos, survived his capture and lived a long life, long enough to welcome the arrival of the Japanese in 1942 (understandably, perhaps; the new invaders also promised liberation), to march in the Manila independence parade of 1946, carrying the flag he first raised against Spain in 1896, and to see a new American war just getting under way in Asia in 1964, the year of his death. A largely forgotten figure now, even in the Philippines, Aguinaldo emerges from Bain's book an authentic hero and his republic a tragically missed chance for the United States to have been the protector of Asia's first genuine democracy.

His captor, the adventurous son of a Kansas politician known as "Foghorn Funston, the farmers' friend" was plainly just as archetypal a figure. "I am afraid that some people at home will lie awake nights worrying about the ethics of this war, thinking that our enemy is fighting for the right of self-government" he told a New York Times correspondent. "The word independent, which these people roll over their tongues so glibly, is to them a word, and not much more . . . . they are, as a rule, an illiterate, semisavage people, who are waging war, not against tyranny, but against Anglo-Saxon order and decency." Funston's feat, a mixture of reckless daring and ingenious double-cross, or what used to be known in Vietnam as a "John Wayne stunt," was the stuff of movies, and would have made a splendid vehicle for James Cagney (Funston was 5 feet 4 inches tall and touchy about it) if Hollywood had blossomed before American imperialism went out of fashion.

BUT, LIKE MANY a veteran from the East, Funston could not settle down to life back home, took to the bottle and died at 51 in 1917, when he was being seriously considered for command of the American Expeditionary Force that went to France that year. But for his heart attack, in fact, we would very likely now be debating the merits of the Funston rocket instead of the one named for his deputy, General John Pershing, who got the job instead.

Here, unmistakably, we have the Green Beret, or cowboy turned romantic military stuntman. In fact, Funston's boss, General Arthur MacArthur, father of the even more famous Douglas, was an old Indian fighter, and so were many of his buddies in the 20th Kansas infantry he led to the Philippines. The fact that the Far East is West of the Wild West has profoundly shaped America's wars there, a point made in the insightful and absurd movie The Deer Hunter.

It is hard to quarrel with Bain's conclusion that the years of American rule did little or nothing to solve the basic political problem of the Philippines. After three centuries of Spanish colonial government, the islands had none of the institutions of self-rule and no experience of it. All the new rulers achieved was a superficial Americanization of the illustrades, the Hispanicized native upper class, leaving the masses in pious poverty and the way open for a native-born dictatorship to follow the authoritarian rule of slippery Spaniards and decent Anglo-Saxons. People learn self-government by governing themselves and making their own mistakes, and America put off the Philippines' fateful day for 50 years, failing, in the end, even to supply the military protection that is the only justification for empire.

But Americans are still well thought of in the Philippines, as Bain and a group of friends, including his photographer-brother Christopher, discovered when they repeated Funston's epic trek through the Luzon jungle in 1982, talking to the same locals, fording the same streams, and being bitten by descendants of the same mosquitoes which bit the pint-sized adventurer and his party 80 years earlier. Melding past and present, and interweaving the historical background with present politics brings vividly home the long shadows still cast by America's first adventure in Asia. This is an important story, honestly researched and well told -- a second classic, in fact, on a fascinating subject.

Review by T. BAILEY
The Washington Post, February 24, 1985

Sitting in Darkness, Americans in the Philippines
By David Haward Bain
1984, Houghton Mifflin Company

Related link: Same As It Ever Was


posted by Señor Enrique at 4:32 AM


Blogger ka tony said...

Sadyang nakalulungkot ang kasaysayan nang ating bayang Pilipinas, napapanahon na upang ito ay baguhin. Isulat na muli na walang pina-palingan, isulat ang buong katotohanan, hindi nang isang Kastila o nang isang Amerikano, isulat ng isang walang pinapanigan at makatotohanan, makabayang Pilipino. Ilabas na sana ng Philippine National Library ang mga libo-libong libro, na hangang sa ngayon ay pinagkakatago-tago pa rin, na naisinalin na mula sa orihinal na wikang Kastila, sa wikang Tagalog at Ingles. Sunugin na ang mga librong ginamit at ginagamit sa paaralan, ang mga ito'y ipinagamit ng mga dayuhan at tutang pamahalaan upang mabura at maitago ang katotohanan at kanilang nagawang pagkakasala, nang piliin at ilahad ang panig ng imperyalista at maiukit sa murang kaisipan ng mga kabataang magaaral na Pilipino. Sino-sino nga ba ang mga sumulat at naglimbag nang mga librong ito? Zaide na 'di malaman kung sino ang kakampi? Teodoro Agoncillo na manugang ni Emilio Aquinaldo? … sa madali't salita napagtakpan ang kasamaan ng mga koloniyalista, napagtakpan rin naman ‘di o mano ang dumi ng politikang Pilipino at mga krimen na naganap kina Bonifacio, Antonio Luna, Rizal, iba pang mga bayani at mga mamamayang Pilipino.

Sa loob ng 300 taon sa ilalim nang mga Kastila at 50 taon (102 taon, kung tunay natin uusigin sapagkat hindi naman tunay na kalayaan ang ibinigay noong July 4, 1946) naman sa ilalim ng mga Amerikano ang Pilipinas, kay habang saling lahi ang nakawan, kasibaan, kasakiman, krimen, patayan at pansariling kapakanan ang ginawa ng mga politikong Pilipino at dayuhan. Mula kay Quezon, Roxas, Quirino, Magasaysay, Garcia, Makapagal, Marcos, Aquino, Ramos, Estrada at sa ngayon naman'y Arroyo. Wala na talagang katapusan ang kahirapan ng ating bayan. Ang pinagmulan ng ating kasaysayan ay napakasama, tuloy hangang sa ngayon ay ating pa rin dala-dala. Wala tayong maituro sa ating mga anak, sapagkat hindi natin alam ang ating pinagmulan at tunay na kasaysayan. Sumbat nga nang mga dayuhan "What is Pilipino Identity?"

Mula kay Quezon hangang kay Arroyo ang nagpapagalaw sa mga “puppet” na mga ito’y, Gringo! Halimbawa, si Magsaysay…nakapag tataka na kung siya nga ay tunay na mekanikong dukha, sino ang namuhunan sa kaniyang pagkandidato? Siya ang kauna-unahang kandidato sa kasaysayan ng buong mundo na mayroong "political advertising campaign" parang “consumer product”. Meron pang tagline... "Magsaysay is honest, that's why he is my Guy" meron pang "advertising jingle, Mambo Magsaysay na katha ni Raul Manglapus, na isa rin CIA. Kompleto may: posters, leaflets, billboards, print ads at radio commercials" Ito'y isang katha at pagiisip ng isang “professional creative advertising/marketing man of Madison Avenue”... Gen. Edward Lansdale ng CIA, dating “creative director” Ang “Magsaysay advertising campaign” na ito’y tinagurian sa buong “adversing industry” na “The World’s First and Best Successful Political Advertising Campaign” at kauna-unahan rin sa kasaysayan ng politikang Pilipino. Saan kumuha nang pondong pang gastos sa radio, pahayagan, billboards, polyetos, posters at iba pa, ang “dukhang mekaniko?” kung wala ang kaniyang "Tiyo Samuel."

Hindi dukha at hindi mangmang ang "My Guy" na ito!!! Bakit tila kailangang-kailangan ang isang anak pawis na maging pangulo? Mahigpit na kailangan ito ng mga Gringo, upang malabanan ang napabayaang pamahalaan ni Presidente Elpidio Quirino. Umunlad ang samahang mangagawa at magbubukid, ganoon rin ang samahang Sosyalista-Komunistang, "HUKbalahap" (Hukbong Bayan Laban sa Hapon) nila Luis Taruc at magasawang William at Celia Pomeroy. Sa kasamang palad naniwala si Magsaysay na siya'y nga ay magaling at matalino, sinalungat ang mga kagustuhan ng kaniyang “puppet maker" at nangyari nga't bigla na lang sumabog sa himpapawid, bumagsak ang eroplanong sinasakyan niya!!! Bakit at paanong sumabog-bumagsak ang kaniyang sinasakyang eroplano, nang kasalukuyan kinagigiliwan siya ng mga Pilipino at si Magsaysay ay ‘di na nakikinig sa kaniyang mga “amo?”

Nang umupo ang bise - president, Garcia, bilang Pangulo...napagalaman na walang pera ang kaban ng bayan at nangagailangan ay "AUSTERITY" maghigpit ng sinturon!!! Saan kaya napunta ang pera nang bayan? Nang umupo naman ang Presidente Makapagal, ama ni GMA naglikha ng "Pilipino First"(tangkilikin ang sariling produkto), subalit hirap pa rin ang Pilipinas. Kaya nahalal ang Diktador na si marcos, ang sukdulang “Hari ng mga Ganid” ng buong Pilipinas. Sa kaniyang pamahalaan, kung ikaw ay may malasakit sa bayan…KOMUNISTA kang tuturingan. Kay daming pinahirapan, ipinapatay, pinakulong, tinorture, inagawan nang yaman, inagaw ang kalayaan ng mamamayan at pinairal ang lagim na umabot sa lagpas sa dalawang dekada, na ipinagpapatuloy ng kaniyang suwapang na pamilya kasalukuyan!!! "People Power" ang nagpabagsak kay marcos, ngunit ang "people power" ay nakakasawa nang tunay, hangang sa ngayon ay gamit pa rin. Sa dahilang ayaw umalis sa pagkakaupo ang nakaraang mga gahaman, walang sariling paninindigang pulitikong pangulo at sa mga politikong trapo kasalukuyan.

Ang pagkakapaslang sa nagpasimula ng himagsikan na si Gat Andres Bonifacio ang pinagmulan ng kasuwapangan at nakapandidiring politikang Pilipino. Bakit ba hindi natin ito suriin, alamin, aminin, pagaralan, tangapin at ituloy ang ating buhay. Tunay na nalulungkot ang baluktot na kasaysayan ng ating lahi at kung hindi tayo liligon sa ating lumipas na katotohanan, hinding-hindi natin maitutuwid at 'di natin mararating ang landas na ating patutunguhan na simbalikat ay ang ating mga anak.

Ka Tony Donato
revised April 28. 2008
original from Tony's page

June 30, 2008 3:17 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

"Bakit ba hindi natin ito suriin, alamin, aminin, pagaralan, tangapin at ituloy ang ating buhay. Tunay na nalulungkot ang baluktot na kasaysayan ng ating lahi at kung hindi tayo liligon sa ating lumipas na katotohanan, hinding-hindi natin maitutuwid at 'di natin mararating ang landas na ating patutunguhan na simbalikat ay ang ating mga anak."

I agree with you, Tony. Without a true national "soul searching" effort, the Filipinos as a race will remain on denial mode; doomed without a unique identity and formidable will to correct their wrongs.

July 01, 2008 7:50 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Incidentally, Ka Tony, please post the URL of your site with these writings of yours for the benefit of all our fellow bloggers.

July 01, 2008 7:51 AM  

Blogger ka tony said...

Senor Enrique,

Thanks for featuring this book by David Haward Bain, great author who not only did a lot of research on each character mentioned on this book, but went to the Philippines recorded and followed the path Aquinaldo took on his way to Palanan.

Best regards to you Senor Enrique & thanks for allowing me to post the URL of my two sites...


July 01, 2008 2:41 PM  

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Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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