MANILA, JUNE 12, 2007
(STAR) SPORTS FOR ALL By Philip Ella Juico - Today marks the anniversary of Philippine independence. One hundred nine years ago, Emilio Aguinaldo raised the Philippine flag in Kawit, Cavite to signal the birth of the first republic in Asia. Filipino rebel forces had routed Spain the Philippines colonial masters for more than 300 years.

Enter the Americans whose war with Spain in Cuba extended all the way up to Asia. The Americans engaged the Spaniards in what some call an acoustic or fake naval battle in Manila Bay. The two Caucasian forces had conspired to spare Spain from the humiliation of having to surrender to the supposedly inferior and ignorant brown skinned natives who had nothing but a rag tag band of courageous freedom fighters to repulse the forces of an over-the-hill colonial power by the end of the 19th century.

When the smoke cleared from the acoustic battle (there is doubt whether there was even a single casualty in that alleged naval battle), the Americans and the Spaniards decided to settle matters at the negotiating table. At the Treaty of Paris, America bought the Philippines from Spain for $20 million to formalize Uncle Sam’s occupation of the Philippines. Thus began the Americanization of the Philippines.

One tool that the Americans used to have a steady pool of well trained labor and to pacify the rebellious masses, was the public education system which, to be fair, was one of the more useful legacies of the new colonial power.

The public education system introduced by the Americans included its various components like physical education and school sports. It can therefore be said, as claimed by former Philippine Sports Commission chairman Perry Mequi, that physical education and school sports derive their character and substance from American practices in these disciplines. It may even be suggested that both the positive and negative aspects of sports in the Philippines – in all levels – from elementary, secondary and collegiate to professional sports, are mirrors and copies of American practices.

Thus, an appreciation of the current state of physical education and school sports in the Philippines will best be achieved by acquiring an insight into how these two components of the curriculum became part of youth activities in and out of school. One also notes the great similarity between the formation of athletic leagues in the United States and in the Philippines and how we have duplicated the negative aspects that grew from American institutions.

According to history, right after their victory over the Spanish fleet, American soldiers opened the first public school in Corregidor and began teaching English to the Filipinos.

The first American teachers who were sent to the Philippines consisted of 80 former soldiers. They were soon joined by 48 teachers recruited in America who arrived in June 1901. On Aug. 21, 1901, 523 additional teachers arrived on the USS Thomas. Members of this second batch of teachers were later called “Thomasites.”

Michael L. Tan, in “The Thomasite Experiment,” says the Thomasites came from all over the US, the largest numbers coming from the more cosmopolitan areas such as New York, California, Massachusetts and Michigan. They came from all kinds of schools, including Ivy League universities such as Harvard, Yale and Princeton. They were a mixture of fresh-out-of-school and older teachers with impressive backgrounds, including one C. Goddard who had a master’s of law from the Catholic University.

From 1902 to 1935, the Thomasites taught agriculture, reading, grammar, geography, mathematics, general courses, trade courses, housekeeping and household arts, manual trading, athletics (baseball, track and field, tennis, indoor baseball and basketball).

Clearly, the Thomasites were the forerunners of physical education and school sports in the Philippines. Next week, more on the beginnings of Philippine physical education and school sports.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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