WHEN MARKERS LIE
by Peter Jaynul V. Uckung

      The Philippine has a healthy sense of remembering her Independence Day. Proofs of this are the countless memorials and shrines   dotting the landscape, telling tales of battles and extolling the sacrifices of Filipinos in fighting for freedom. Indeed, June 12, is a very hallowed date in Philippine history as this was the day that Philippine Independence in Kawit, Cavite, was proclaimed.

      We officially begin our Independence celebration on May 28, which is declared “Flag Day”, culminating on June 12. There is, however, a curious revelation after June 12, 1898. It    was only after June 12, 1898 that the Filipinos embarked on a more brutal conflict on their quest for total independence. This was the war against the United States.

      The Philippines has long ago recognized the fact that the Americans had waged a war of aggression on the Filipinos, and actually commemorates battles, won or lost, against American soldiers, even making heroes of Filipino soldiers hanged as bandits by Americans. What’s more, the Philippines is now remembering massacres perpetuated by American soldiers on Filipino civilians.  

      In America, there is a quiet hushing up of the event. There is no a shrine or memorials remembering the Filipino-American War. There are, however, memorials on the Spanish-American War.

      On the base of these monuments is a bronze plaque with the words “Spanish-American War, 1898-1902, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Philippine Islands, USA”. There is also an illustration of a native woman with her chains broken, kneeling before the US soldier and sailor, who it appears, liberated her. In reality, any Filipina, upon seeing American soldiers, would have fled into the mountains, as she knew how capable these soldiers were in killing civilians.

      There is a large bronze plaque in Minnesota State Capital honouring the 13th Minnesota State Infantry. It details how the unit volunteered for Philippine insurrection to campaign against “insurgent Filipinos under Chief Aguinaldo”.

      Although, recognizing the conflict in the Philippines, the plaque was full of misinformation. The Thirteenth Minnesota never volunteered for the Philippine insurrection. Yes, they volunteered to fight the Spaniards, but not the “Niggers” in the Philippines, as one Minnesota soldier revealed.

      And there was no Philippine insurrection. The term falsely depicts the sovereignty of the US over the Philippines, against which Filipino rebelled. Nothing of that sort was true. It was clearly a war of conquest; as the Philippines had declared her independence much earlier. Calling Aguinaldo as chief was another tell-tale blunder. This was an American attempt to relegate Aguinaldo and his fighting Filipinos as a minor group or “tribe”

      This was ironic, because before the Filipino-American war erupted, the Americans considered Aguinaldo the leader of the Filipinos. They even consulted him and enlisted his help during the Spanish-American War. In duration, effort and loss of lives, the Filipino-American was far out shadows the Spanish-American War.

       In the 1960’s, there was a brief resurgence of memory about the Filipino-American War. The American were then deep in the Vietnam War in Quagmire.

        Parallels between the war in the Philippines and the war in Vietnam were many. In both countries, the US were friendly at first with the colonized people, and then turned on them, re-establishing colonialism. The Filipinos were allies against Spain, while the Vietnamese were allies against the Japanese. The American replaced Spain in the Philippines; in Vietnam they replaced the French. In both conflict, the US lied to the American people and employed censorship in news reports.

      As Filipino civilians supported the struggle for freedom, the Americans effected a program of reconcentration camps.  In Vietnam, they did it again, calling the scheme “strategic hamlet.”

      And the Americans were cruel during the war in the Philippines. There were widespread reports of “burning the town and killing everyone insight, and taking no prisoners”. It was worse in Vietnam; remember Agent Orange, Napalm and My Lai massacre. There must be memorials on them to ensure that they will never happen again.

        The war in Vietnam is described by Americans as their longest war. But the Filipino-American War arguably lasted longer.

      The Minnesota plaque, thus, summarized the Filipino-American War: “they served the cause of humanity. They battled to free the oppressed people of the Philippine Islands, who suffered under the despotic rule of Spain.” This is a big lie; they did not come to help the oppressed they were here to conquer.  

      In 1998 a group of Filipinos exhibited and presented accurate information about the Filipino-American War in the Minnesota capitol. The Filipinos are truly sensitive of history. All men should be.

       In Philadelphia is moored the USS Olympia, former flagship of George Dewey during the Battle of Manila on May 1, 1898, in which the US Navy destroyed the Spanish fleet at anchor. Footprints in bronze on the ship’s deck show where Dewey stood when he said, “You may fire when you are ready, Gridley”.

       There is no trace, however, of the place where Dewey stood when he promised General Jose Alejandrino that the USS had no interest in becoming a colonial power.

       Dewey even hosted Aguinaldo aboard the USS Olympia and assured him of the US recognition of Philippine Independence. Once again, there is neither trace nor mention of this historic meeting in the US Olympia. But there are bayonets, clothing, and spears displayed and labelled “Philippine Insurrection II”.             

        There really is a lot of work for the NHCP in straightening truths, in and outside the Philippines.