BALITANG BETERANO: FACTS ABOUT THE PHILIPPINE INDEPENDENCE
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, June 3, 2004 Culled by Col.(Ret)Frank B. Quesada, Former Senate Committee Secretary Veterans and Military Pension, Associate, PMA ‘44 - What the Republic of the Philippines is today – was the product of the persistent effort of the Philippine Commonwealth leaders before World War II.
The struggle was followed by acuteness of their nagging vision for independence while the Commonwealth government was in exile in the United States, during the dark days of the Japanese occupation. (1941 – 1945) Their firmness and tenacity to achieve freedom, self-reliance, autonomy from the United States never ended until it was secured, but not without recrimination.
“It requires more courage to suffer than to die.” Napoleon I. This was what Filipinos emulated in their burning desire to be free. They had suffered from 300 hundred years of desecrating Spanish colonization, and the obtaining contemptuous American settlement.
The old saying of Quezon was, `”I would rather see the Philippine run like hell by Filipinos than by Americans in heaven.”
In the second half of President Taft’s administration – there was agitation in the U.S. for granting independence for the Philippines by the Democratic party, adopted upon acquisition of the Philippine Islands. However, there was stiff resistance from the avid colonizers that wanted to exploit the country’s natural resources, its manpower, moreover its strategic geographical location in Southeast Asia.
It was Manuel Luis Quezon, as first president of the first Philippine Senate – who delivered his maiden speech on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives pushing for Philippine independence which boosted the Filipinos desire for self-autonomy.
In that speech, he spoke of the grateful recognition of the benefits which Filipinos received from the United States. However, Filipinos believed that nationalism is the passion of the free, and the curse of every peon who has a chain around his neck with the other end of the chain fastened around the master’s waist.
To the Filipino, the cause of being free, is the cause of God. Man is born free, but everywhere he is chains. (J.J.Rousseau).
Quezon stated a simile, and said: “Ask the bird, who is enclosed in a golden cage if he would prefer his cage or the care of his owner than the freedom of the skies and the allure of the forest.”
Quezon portrayed that patriotism like in political life, is like faith in religion, that stood for domestic aspirations for men to be free in his own native-land, which every American understand.
It was a trying time for Quezon then to sell independence for Filipinos at a time American business sector was eyeing for the permanent acquisition of the archipelago for their imperial pecuniary interests.
Nevertheless, Filipinos while have been accepted as a “brown brother”, Americans never had an imaginary idea how the Filipino looked like. They only had the mistaken reflection, and a vague image of the Filipino as backward, like the uneducated native Indian tribesmen whom they drove to the wilderness to grab their land, etc. American viewed Filipinos as untamed native savages.
Case in point, Americans had the mistaken image of a Filipino liken to that of the Igorot in their mind’s eye, garbed in G-strings – seen in postcards.
Lest did Americans knew that Filipinos were already educated in Spain, and in the University of Sto.Tomas, older than many U.S. universities. And that Filipinos had the row brand of democratic government called barangay led by chieftains. And had their own moral Code – the Code of Kalantiao. Filipinos under Spain spoke Spanish and “Pilipino dialect which became its national language called “Tagalog.”
Quezon, in his effort to acquaint the American people, made speech-making trips to New England states, was advertised ahead in the newspapers in those states. Americans curiously trooped to the train station to see how a brown Filipino looked like. He spoke and wrote fluent English.
“When I stepped off the train in a city stop, where I was supposed to give an address, I was thrilled with emotion as I saw the railroad station full with people to give me, as I thought, a rousing welcome. Beforehand, on the train I had changed my ordinary suit for a cut-a-way suit and had put on my top hat, like any visiting dignitary.
“To my surprise, the people in the station remained in their in their places, with their eyes fixed on the train even after I had left the platform. Then I realized that the crowd had not come to meet me, but perhaps, some other notable personage who had traveled from Washington in the same train .with me.
“ As the train pulled off the station, the look of disappointment was evident in every face. True enough, these people were to see the visiting Filipino, but they had expected an entirely different figure – that of a chief of one of the local tribes likened to what was exhibited at the St. Louis fair, adorned with plumes on his head, trinkets on his neck, arms and legs, and perhaps a silk G-string. Americans learned right there and then that a Filipino could high-hat them.” Quezon said in good humor.
Quezon, of course, was a Spanish-Filipino mestizo, just as white as any typical American pale face. It therefore can be gainsaid, through not their own fault, that Americans who has never left his country is full of prejudices - for it is the child of ignorance. And ignorance is the minister of critical perception the leads to discrimination.
As Quezon’s campaign for independence went through – resistance became difficult, because the past three presidents ( McKinley, Roosevelt and Taft ) had created the belief that Filipinos would not be ready to be entrusted with a government of their own..
President. Wilson summoned Quezon to the White House to ask for his opinion as to whether a new Governor General should be appointed. “To a Filipino, with an Oriental ancestry, little Spanish blood, and mostly Spanish education – which practically all that I then had, the question was very trying indeed,” said Quezon.
“Friendship to me, has a real meaning and personal favors were never forgotten.. On the other-hand, I had come to Washington to perform a sacred duty. I measured my words and gave President Wilson – the following answer:
“I shall always remember with gratitude that you have always given an opinion with utmost consideration. Let me say that I am your great admirer, and I sincerely believe that you would know best. And that - in one instance, you have prevented the conclusion of an unjust treaty of peace at Versailles..” said Quezon.
Governor General Francis Burton Harrison - thus was appointed – and he proceeded to providing a majority in the upper chamber, thus turning over to Filipinos practical control of the legislative department. Antagonism of Harrison’s county-men in the home country who were against his policy – found support of the newspapers in the U.S. However, Filipinos stood by Gov. Harrison. and his policy prevailed.
It was contemplated at first that the Philippines should be recognized as a neutral territory – but as condition sine qua non for the establishment of a Philippine Republic. Then – a law was passed for the granting of Philippine Independence with the signature of Pres. Wilson then known as the Jones Law.
Quezon returned to the Philippines triumphantly.
The Philippine legislature created the Philippine National Guard, a body trained by American officers and then was mustered into the U.S. Federal Army. However, these whole outfit missed the privilege of taking part in the First World War in Europe, under Gen. Pershing.
Only a few Filipino recruits shed blood and died for the U.S. flag. Record had it that there was one, Tomas Claudio and a few others who served in World War I. By that gesture, America saw, despite of the deep desire of Filipinos for self-determination, their deep loyalty to the U.S. and willingness to fight with America on the battlefields of Europe created quite a lasting impression.
Filipinos have shown exemplary act of devotion for attainment of their dream of self-determination. Albeit, have considered it their own cause for common unity and comradeship to help American in her unsheathing of the sword for the first time in history, and for Filipinos to take part in America’s conflict against an old quarrel of old imperialists Europe.
The First World War was concluded and peace once more was attained. Trade between the Philippines and the U.S. flourished on an uneven level. Development of the country, nevertheless, continued under what Filipinos perceived as unbalanced and unfair.
The Philippine Commonwealth was nearing its dream of one day, on July 4th 1946, would be the Second Philippine Republic to be proclaimed by the United States of America as a separate and independent state.
The First Philippine Republic, by the way, was proclaimed and inaugurated by Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo in 1898, when the triumphant Filipino rebolusionarios defeated the Spaniards,. but were guided and persuaded by wily American interloper, Admiral George Dewey for the Spaniards to surrender to the American contingent instead after a mocked battle in Manila.
Since then, Filipinos saw the insincerity and inequality – which brutalized the trust accorded the Americans. Fellowship in treason was a bad ground for trust. It was no less a betrayal itself. No sooner, the Philippine – American War broke out – that culminated in the death of millions of Filipinos, and thousands of American troopers during the firefight for occupation of the Philippines as a colony of the U.S.
The U.S.. established it own military garrisons under martial law and then granted the Commonwealth government.
Albeit, as early in those days, Americans led the Filipinos to believed their own propaganda that Japan can not take the Philippines once it was free. These words became a harsh reality on December 8, 1941 when Japanese Imperial Forces attacked Pearl Harbor and the Philippines under its expansionist plan to establish Asia for the Asians.
In the Commonwealth President Quezon’s assessment - that if ever Japan invades the Philippines, Filipinos would fight by the side on the U.S. to the bitter end. These also became prophetic words. The fledgling Philippine Army being trained by Gen. Douglas McArthur, just five years before the dreamt independence had its baptism of fire in Monday, December 8, 1941 in its defense of the U.S. flag and imperial interests.
Pearl Harbor in Hawaii was simultaneously attacked by the Japanese Naval Air Forces decimating the U.S. 7th Fleet that was supposed to protect the Pacific territories, but was annihilated.. The Commonwealth Army of the Philippines, nevertheless, was called to the U.S. colors, By Pres. F. Roosevelt and placed all organized military forces of the Commonwealth incorporated into the United States Army in the Far East (USAFFE) as the single American defense unit in the Philippines as early in July 26, 1941. In the defense of the U.S. flag in the Philippines, there was only one single distinct American force ( the USAFFE ) under the command of Gen. Douglas McArthur .Let there be no mistake about that ! If at all those who are mouthing that Filipinos fought the war (in Bataan, Corregidor and Philippine Campaign separately as Commonwealth Army veterans is pure hogwash, and an attempt to evade he huge U.S. obligation of $3.2 billion dollars worth of unpaid compensation and benefits Filipino WW-II veterans.
World War II took hold its toll in the Philippines – that would cause 1-million Filipinos that would perish in World War II, not to leave out the American USAFFE defenders abandoned by the U.S. together with the Filipinos that were later surrendered by the Americans to the obdurate and triumphant Japanese Imperial Forces in April 9, 1942.
This shameful defeat of the USAFFE – culminated the world-widely known Bataan Death March which decimated almost half of the USAFFE during the 60-mile hike under the tropical sun to the gates of Hades of Camp O’Donnell and Capas, Tarlac Such downfall belied the U.S. propaganda peddled to the Filipinos that “so long as the Stars and Stripes flew over the Philippines, no other nation can invade the Philippines.” But Filipinos saw for themselves, the ugly truth - how the enemy hurled down the Star and Stripes and was desecrated by the Japanese soldiers, as they raised the flag of the Rising Sun that would fly over the archipelago for almost four punitive years under martial law.
However, despite the USAFFE’s decrepitude, it held out in Bataan and Corregidor to fend for themselves, while U.S. support was ruthlessly shifted to American’s cousins in the European Theatre. The USAFFE was therefore a wretched pawn in this U.S. misadventure in the Far East, then billed as “the Battling Bastards of Bataan.”
Despite impetuous deprivation, with a handful of rice and outmoded 1903 rifles, the USAFFE successfully delayed the Japanese war timetable for its conquest of South Asia, which shamed the Japanese High Command, that was confident that the Philippine defense would fall in two weeks, which did not happen.
Filipino resistance movements kept the fires of freedom and democracy alive by Filipino guerrillas without McArthur’s direction in all the islands. It was only until later when McArthur saw the golden opportunity to harness the nationwide uprising that could help him fulfill his personal promised to return to the Philippines under his “I Shall Return” proselytization program to convert guerrillas as his own badly needed added manpower to assist the allied liberation forces for the liberation of the Philippines.
The liberation campaign of the Philippines by the U.S. began 1944 onward to 1946 from South West Pacific northward to the Philippines. Filipino guerrillas became an asset to McArthur that saved billions of U.S. dollars and saved millions of American GIs during the liberation campaign.
When the guns of war turned silent, the Philippines was ready for its promised independence. Filipino leaders took to the challenge of nation-building amidst the ruins, more caused by the U.S. forces than the Japanese suicidal defense forces that fought to last son of the Bushido under the dwindling defense of Gen. Tomoyuki Yamashita, abandoned by the Imperial High Command.
A day before July 4, 1946, I vividly remember receiving orders intended for most members of the U.S. liberation Forces that could be spared for the grand ceremony of inaugurating the Second Philippine Republic at the Luneta, Manila. I was a budding (readjusted from Captain as a guerrilla officer) as 1st Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Counter-Intelligence Corps, that took part in the military parade and inauguration ceremony.
It was a glorious day for every Filipino and American that witnessed the new fangled political power, the lowering of the Stars and Stripes, and the raising of the (national tri-color) Filipino National Flag at the Luneta, followed by the playing of the national anthems of both countries.
President Manuel Acuna. Roxas took the oath of allegiance to the new Republic. It was a day that Filipinos witnessed inauguration of the subsequent Second Philippine Republic, the least known past historical event to most Americans.
The U.S. troops pulled out of the Philippines, except for some token units to turn over left-over surplus military equipment to the new Republic. Ravages of war had to be compensated and the Rehabilitation (war reparations) Commission was established. Pres. Roosevelt’s promised made during the dark days before Bataan fell, that Filipinos would be assisted in the full repair of the ravages caused by war. Filipinos expected full restitution, the then estimated 1 billion dollars was never paid due to a seemingly innocuous but pressing provision in the Rehabilitation Act, which prohibited of large war damage claim until after the Philippine government had accepted the terms of the Bell Trade Act. This was one of the deceitful “double-crosses” by the U.S.
This was doubly galling to Filipinos because it necessitated a “compelled” amendment of the Philippine Constitution just to permit Americans to enjoy the same rights as Filipinos to exploit their natural resources, and in the allocation of public utility franchises.
Under conditions of stress, Filipinos, however, were sufficiently pragmatic to see the advantages to be gained by transitorily swallowing their pride. The humiliation continuous to fester. It was a pain in the heart that would build up into disaffection and bad blood. (C.P. Romulo)
Resumption of trade between the two countries, was still uneven in favor of the U.S. despite of what was described by the Americans as “special relationship” born from World War II and U.S. colonial imperialism. But this situation, which was indicated by Frank.H. Golay – stated that “Americans had been receiving a rude, perhaps inevitable awakening" from Filipinos.
“Filipino irritation over the American presence was rising, especially at U.S. paternalistic attitude, due simple lack of concern, towards problems of relationship – problems often felt more deeply by Filipinos than by Americans.” Golay observed.
Culture touches our deepest feelings because it touches our lives. Independence initiated a perceptible nationalist movement toward cultural freedom among the intelligentsia, and the whole citizenry. Thus, there was much soul-searching among those who believe that our cultural integrity must form part of a sovereign nation (N.Ramos).
` In the further cultural and commercial exchanges between America and the Philippines – the American image as an imperialist nation projected in the Philippines by some U.S. critics has not improved by special benefits enjoyed by Filipinos. Case in point, the Parity Rights provision in the Laurel-Langley Agreement which endowed American exploitation of Philippine natural resources. Thus – the agreement proved unpalatable to Filipino industrialists and the labor sector.
Next to that, the presence of U.S. military bases and personnel in the country has been a source of stress for the Filipinos. And then there was that legitimate long pending World War II veterans claim for wartime services (full compensation and benefits) which was withheld by the U.S. since 1946 – viewed by Filipinos as a critical perception and economic discrimination against veterans who shed blood and died for the U.S. flag, and U.S. imperial interest in the Philippines. Veterans knew that other 66.000 nationals of 16 allied countries who also fought for the U.S. flag were fully compensated.
The new breed of Filipinos – had to discover many things for themselves as the truth. They were to discover from new Philippine history books and publications that was no longer written by Americans with American angles and persuasions – but written by Filipino professional historians and journalists backed up by veritable facts. For example, the American forces under the command of Admiral G.. Dewey thwarted victory of and by the Filipinos revolutionaries under the command of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo into a humiliating capitulation before the Spanish government, and as if to add to insult, to the injury of betrayal, ended in the Treaty of Paris cheaply ceding the Philippines to the United States.
As early as 1955, the Philippine government had pressed the U.S. for the promised payment of the unpaid war damage, and veteran’s compensation for honorable and active military service in the U.S. Army in World War II. In a statement designed to mollify Filipinos, Pres. J. F. Kennedy commented that the U.S. Congress action ( in the defeat of the war damage bill) stated:
“ Showed lack of appreciation of the moral obligation the U.S. owed the Filipino people." said Kennedy.
U.S. House members, on the other-hand, opined that they were just tired of “hand outs” to the Philippines, and made a grave mistake of saying so. It appeared as if Filipinos were begging for alms, which to them was shameful and outrageous.
And that a debt owed is a serious responsibility which could never be wasted and spoiled. After all, It was American that legally involved the Filipinos in its war against Japan. (See: U.S. Supreme Court Decision),
The series aggravations was too much to bear. Tempers flared in Manila.
The Philippine Congress thus strongly demanded that President. Diosdado Macapagal cancel his scheduled state visit to the U.S. When he publicly announced an “indefinite postponement” the next day, he accused the U.S. of negating its “legal and moral commitments” to the Philippines. (S.P. Lopez)
‘The Kennedy oil had not quieted the troubled waters. Anti-American waves splashed into print for a time. And the net result of this fiasco – was the change of date of the celebration of the Philippine Independence day from July 4th to June 12, as the original date of the establishment of the First Philippine Republic.” This has been explained that it has been under consideration for sometime, but was implemented to satisfy the Filipino nationalistic yearning to afford the valid historical fact. (D. Warfel).
From then on, the authentic day of the Philippine Independence for June 12 celebration became official .based on authentic historical records. It was said that truth which is so durable that was on the lips of a dying free man. And which never hurts the narrator, because it shall make him free. Albeit, it stung the American segregationists in theU.S..
In almost over forty years of co- colonial tutelage, and over twenty years of independence – Filipinos have succeeded in attaining what is right as a vital part of their heritage. They leaped from colonialism to unadulterated freedom. The Filipino’s cause for freedom, they believed, is the cause of God!
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Suggested reading: The Good Fight, Manuel L. Quezon; Philippine-American Relations, Frank H. Golay; Colonial Relationship, S.P. Lopez; Relations with the U.S, N. Ramos; Friend to Friend, C.P. Romulo; Special Relationship, D. Wurfel and Filipino’s Struggle for Self-Rule, Capt.R.N. Quesada ( PA Inf. ).
About the author: Col. (Ret) Frank B. Quesada, was a survivor of World War II, as a POW that outwitted his Japanese captors in a classic escape. (a) A noted participant in active (1942-46) guerrilla irregular warfare (The Hunters-PMA-ROTC Guerrilla) that spearheaded the ground assault rescue that saved all of 2,146 Americans and allied POWs in Feb. 23, 1945, at Los Banos, south of Manila. In conjunction with the U.S. 11th Airborne contingent and other units.
His exploits extended to: (b) emergency rescue and mass evacuation to safety of the Koumintang Army and Nationalist government of Gen Chang Kai Shek from Lunghua, China to the island of Taiwan, (c) participant in the UN “Operation: Airlift” during the Korean Conflict re-supplying the U.N. troops (d) the mercy air evacuation of displaced stateless nationals (White Russians, Estonians, Chinese refugees, etc.) from Shanghai, China via Guiana Islands to the Free West, (e) the mass “reverse exodus” drawing and collection of Jews and Palestinians from all over Asia by air flown to Lydda and Jerusalem for resettlement, (f) psy-war consultant to the then Sec. Ramon Magsaysay in brining the dissidents back to the folds of the law (g) as Senate Committee Secretary of the Veterans and Military Pensions, (h) psy-war and counter-intel observer in Laos during the Vietnam War. (h) returned to the U.S. to join the U.S. Army National Guard’s State Defense Force, as G-3 (Plans, Opns., and Training), then as Deputy Chief-of-Staff for 4 BDEs, concurrently as Logistics Advisor before retirement (i) appointed as a staff of Circuit Executives of the U.S. Federal Circuit Court (9th Cir.) covering the states of California, Nevada, Arizona, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Alaska, Hawaii, Marianas and Guam before retirement from the federal service.
Accomplished Bachelor of Arts, Business Administration, Univ. of the Phils. Completed higher executive courses in Europe: doctoral studies of Structures of Governments and their Politico-Socio and Economic Systems, and the International Executive Course for Commissioners of Tourism Management at the UN Professional and Executive Academy, Torino, Italia and Geneve, Switzerland. Was awarded a gold medal for excellence by UN Consultant, Dr. Lonati. Completed a course on composition and systems of Socialist Societies at Svenska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.
Completed, the Defense and Political War College course, ROC. Completed the Federal Emergency Management course (on biological, chemical, radiological warfare. Industrial Management, Syracuse Univ. N.Y. Ext., Mining Operations and Export Management, Yaguki, Japan sponsored by the Big Five(Zaibatsu) Steel Mills.
Writing books and in the internet about his wartime experiences: “ such as Freedom At Dawn,” “Ordeal in War’s Hell,” “"Mechanics and Economics of International Development of Tourism.” Written for the World Tourism Organization and the Asian Institute of Tourism.
Affiliations: Association of the U.S. Army, Wash. D.C. Association of Former Intelligence Officers, Maryland, Philippine Military Academy, (Associate) Class’44 Assn. PMAAA (Norcal) and Overseas.(U.S.A.)
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Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi
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