Sunday, June 21, 2015

5 things that Americans should know about Spanish and American colonialism in the Philippines

1.  Before the United States arrived, the Philippines was ruled by Spain for 333 years.  In fact, the island group was named "Philippines" in the 16th century in honor of King Philip II of Spain.  The Spanish were highly successful at converting the people to Catholicism and organizing the efficient (albeit brutal) "encomienda system" through which the "weak" native population was controlled and extorted of resources in exchange for the "protection" of the Spanish crown.

2.  Mexico sustained and fueled the colonization of the Philippines.  Spanish colonization of the Philippines was largely fueled by Mexican silver which was highly valued in China.  The profits of this trade brought wealth to Manila for the Spanish who literally "walled" themselves in the Intramuros district of Manila.  The Chinese community also thrived off of the galleon trade, but were restricted to the Parian district with Spanish cannons trained on them at all times.  Over time, trade with Mexico also brought new species of crops and Catholic clerics to the islands in great numbers.
Manila Cathedral in Intramuros.  Photo credit:  Michael Cruz

3.  Filipinos have a rich history of fighting against the oppressive rule (whether it be against Spanish colonialism, American imperialism, or abuse by their own dictators).  The Propaganda Movement of the 1880s and 1890s, led by Dr. Jose Rizal (Philippine's national hero) and the Illustrados (non-violent, reformist Filipinos educated in Europe), attempted to create reform throught the spotlighting of Spanish abuses in the Philippines to the Spanish public.  Intense social upheaval of the late 1890s, however, gave rise to a more militant brand of revolution led by Andres Bonifacio and, later, Emilio Aguinaldo.


4. The United States eventually got control of the Philippines after winning the Spanish-American War.  The handover of the Philippines to the Americans was interesting in that both sides orchestrated a fake battle outside of Manila so that the Spaniards could save face in front of their native subjects.  American rule of the Philippines was led by a desire to tame the "barbaric" and "backwards" native populations, educate them, and Christianize them (despite the fact the the people of the Philippines were already largely Catholic except in the southern region of Mindinao, which continues to be a majority Muslim region).  Many of the American generals sent to colonize the Philippines at the turn of the 20th century were veterans of wars against Native American tribes.  A desire for natural resources and a market for manufactured goods propelled American imperialism in the Philippines.   American imperialism can be characterized by some of the same brutality, racism, and oppression practiced by the Spaniards.  Filipinos launched an unsuccessful insurgency known as the Philippine-American War and did not get full independence until 1946 following Japanese occupation.  In the United States, imperialism in the Philippines was not universally accepted and was highly controversial.  Mark Twain vehemently opposed American imperialism.

President McKinley trying to fend off Philippine "insurgent" mosquitoes.
5.  The Americans brought the education system to the Philippines (not the Spanish), which is why the prominent Filipino authors write in English and one of the two official languages of the Philippines is English (the other being tagalog). The Americans also brought vocational and agricultural education.  America is also often credited with major economic developments of the country, rather than the Spaniards, who were virtually bankrupt towards the end of its colonial presence.  During Japanese occupation during World War II, elementary school curriculum included Japanese militaristic dogma.  Today, the education system very much reflects the American educational system and public schools are free and compulsory.
 Luis C. Francia. (2014). A History of the Philippines: From Indios Bravos to Filipinos Overlook Press, New York.

Lecture for Teachers for Global Classrooms by Norberto Erandio, 2011 ILEP fellow,  Leyte National High School, Tacloban City, Philippines.

No comments:

Post a Comment