History Spanish-American War Part 2 Filipino View

About the Filipino view of the Spanish-American War between the United States and the Philippines.


The Spanish-American War As Seen by the Filipinos

The Other Side: The Filipino view of the Spanish-American War is dramatically different. First of all, to the Filipinos it is known as the Filipino War for Independence. In 1896 Filipino insurrectionists--who were members of the Katipunan society headed by Emilio Aguinaldo, the mayor of Cavite--had revolted against Spanish colonialism. This popular widespread rebellion had impelled the Spaniards to call for a truce and to promise reforms in December of 1897. Aguinaldo and other rebel leaders were forced into exile in Hong Kong as part of the truce agreement. By 1898 the Spanish had failed to implement the promised reforms, and the Filipino rebels were preparing to return and continue the struggle for freedom.

At this point Aguinaldo was approached by U.S. diplomatic and military representatives who proposed joint U.S.-Filipino military action against the Spanish in the Philippines. Aguinaldo considered the offer but first asked for guarantees that the U.S. did not plan to annex or colonize any Filipino territory. The American agents reassured him that the U.S. was interested only in defeating Spain and, in the process, helping the Filipinos gain their independence. President McKinley publicly announced that annexation, "by our code of morality, would be criminal aggression." These were, as later events proved, lies.

The U.S. was an expansionist, imperialist power which saw the Philippines as the perfect trade route into Asia. Not only did the islands have a wealth of raw materials to exploit, but they would also provide an untapped consumer base for U.S. manufactured goods. The Philippines were also the perfect target for another American product--racism. The Filipinos were considered "big children" or "little brown brothers." It was the destiny of "enlightened" white Americans to rule them because these "lost" souls were incapable of self-government. McKinley called on God to justify this condescending attitude on which his foreign policy was based. As he explained, "I walked the floor of the White House night after night ... I went down on my knees and prayed [to] Almighty God for light and guidance. ... And one night it came to me ... there was nothing left for us to do but to take them all, and to educate the Filipinos, and to uplift and civilize and Christianize them." This in spite of the fact that the Philippines had been a primarily Catholic country for centuries.

Unaware of McKinley's true goals and sentiments, and armed with false offers of friendship, Aguinaldo returned to the Philippines to lead his people into revolution.

The rebels liberated the southern provinces of the island of Luzon; forced the Spanish into Manila, where they effectively contained them; and declared Filipino independence on June 12, 1898--all before the U.S. troops landed. Late in June the first wave of U.S. soldiers arrived, and by the end of July there were some 10,000 in the Philippines. Their commander, Gen. Wesley Merritt, immediately ordered the Filipino leaders to place themselves under his control. Not wanting to antagonize his new allies, Aguinaldo agreed--a decision he soon regretted. General Merritt entered into secret negotiations with the Spanish that resulted in a sham battle for Manila on Aug. 12, after which the Spanish readily surrendered to the Americans, who entered the city but refused entry to Filipino soldiers.

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