Turn of the Century

Filipino Independence Movements w. Luis Francia

October 29, 2020
Turn of the Century
Filipino Independence Movements w. Luis Francia
Show Notes Transcript

Filipinos threw off the Spanish empire at the end of the 1800s... only to be faced with an even more powerful colonial power. In honor of Philippine-American Heritage Month, Professor Luis Francia discusses Filipino revolutionary and reformist movements at the very turn of the century. Francia shares how war and upheaval in 1899 has affected the Philippines for over a hundred years.

Luis Francia was born in the Philippines and earned his BA from Ateneo de Manila University. He immigrated to the US after college, moving to New York City. In the 1970s, he began working for the Village Voice, a newspaper he was associated with for more than 20 years. A journalist, an editor, and a teacher, Francia began to write poetry in workshops with famed Filipino writer Jose Garcia Villa at the New School. His collections include The Arctic Archipelago (1992), Museum of Absences (2004), The Beauty of Ghosts (2010), and Tattered Boat (2014). His memoir Eye of the Fish: A Personal Archipelago (2001) won a PEN Open Book Award and an Asian American Literary Award. Francia has published numerous works of fiction and nonfiction, including Memories of Overdevelopment: Reviews and Essays of Two Decades (1998), A History of the Philippines: From Indios Bravos to Filipinos (2010), and RE: Reflections, Reviews, and Recollections (2015). Francia teaches at New York University and writes an online column for the Manila paper Philippine Daily Inquirer.

Music sources:

Intro: Dill Pickles Rag

Outro: Scott Joplin “The Entertainer” Classic Rag piano


Joseph Hawthorne:

Welcome to turn of the century a show about history at the turn of the 20th century. I'm Joe Hawthorne joined today by NYU professor, author and writer Luis Franzia to talk about the Philippines between the late end of the 1800s and early 1900s. Luis and I have spoken a few times before, but this is a special episode because we're recording and releasing in October during Philippine American Heritage Month. So Louis, thank you for joining talking today.

Luis Francia:

Glad to be here.

Joseph Hawthorne:

I'm going to start off I'm glad you're here to I'm going to start off, like I do with each conversation for the show to ask you what you define as the turn of the 20th century.

Luis Francia:

Well, literally, of course, it's the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th. But figuratively, the turn of the century was also a turn towards possible independence and sovereignty. But somewhere along the line, the turn took a backwards turn.

Joseph Hawthorne:

For nearly 400 years, Spain controlled the Philippines. But at the end of the 19th century, Filipinos would start to rise up in large numbers and demand sovereignty independence. Can you tell me about two of the leading Filipino revolutionary or reform groups, the propaganda and the katipunan?

Luis Francia:

Er, well, they're actually, the propaganda movement was a movement founded and led by the elite illustrados, the term in Spanish, referring to the educated mainly male scions of prominent Filipino Filipino Spanish families, who were able to go abroad to Europe to further their studies, and their they form this movement to advocate for reforms, not for independence. And on the other hand, the katipunan was a movement homegrown, completely domestic. And as opposed to the ilustrados, which was learned basically by the upper class,

Joseph Hawthorne:

and who were the katipunan. How are they more radical in the propagandists?

Luis Francia:

The katipunan was led by the proletariat by working class figures like Andres Bonifacio. So the katipunan was, in a way, an offshoot of the propaganda movement, because one of the architects of the propaganda movement returns to the Philippines and that of course, is Jose Rizal and Jose Rizal lands in Manila in 1892. Shortly, he forms the, you know, la liga Filipina, which doesn't advocate for independence, but continues the work that they had done in Europe, the propaganda movement, which was to clamor for reforms, still keeping the Philippines as a colony of Spain, but now with representational rights in the cortex, which is the Spanish parliament, and to be treated like a province of Spain. So the elites did not necessarily want to cut the apron string s. The katipuneros, on the other hand, who did not have the privileges of the illustrados wanted complete independence, you know, because they bore the brunt of the abuses from the friar state, you know, and by friar state, I mean, that there really was no distinction between the friarocracy and the civil state. And the friars basically, were a dominant force up until the takeover by the United States. So they were movements, the agitated one for reform and the other for independence. And the Spanish didn't want either one.

Joseph Hawthorne:

So you mentioned Jose Rizal, who was one of the intellectual symbols of new Philippines of the propagandists, he actually advocated for reform within the Spanish Empire. But how did Madrid treat him

Luis Francia:

with Rizal; They put the two together, they basically said, even though Rizal was advocating for reform, he was using that as a disguise for a more sinister motive, which was, you know, to use that as a pretext, then to draw to have a move towards complete independence. And you know, they were out to get him no matter what. The friars hated him because of his novels. So they had him killed. Now, the founder of the katipunan was Andres Bonifacio; a foreman at the British firm and he had had some education but not at the level that the last rather's had. But he had read results novels, and he was an ardent admirer of Rizal, and he joined the La Lifa Filipina. But once the La Liga Filipina was disbanded, because of results arrest, what Bonifacio did was to convince the remaining members of the Liga Filipina to form a new organization, the katipunan. And the katipunan said, From now on, we would, we will aim for complete independence. Our goal is to establish the Philippines as a sovereign nation.

Joseph Hawthorne:

So as the Spanish Empire cracks down on Filipino reformers in the 1890s, how did the Filipino leaders respond? Or a lot of them respond?

Luis Francia:

Basically, they were saying we're growing up, we're adults, we want to we want you to leave the nest. Okay. So that's the difference between the propaganda movement, and the katipunan. However, there were some members of the propaganda movement who eventually became members of the katipunan. It's not as clear cut as one would think. Because you have heneral, Luna, Antonio Luna, who decided when the war broke up between the Philippines and the united states that he would then join the revolution,

Joseph Hawthorne:

that seems similar in a lot of ways to the American Revolution, you have reformers who are advocating for some solution within the Empire. And when the British or the Spanish Empire cracks down, you have a little bit more of the radical or hardliners that fight for true independence.

Luis Francia:

Yeah, I mean, you know, if you look at the American Revolution, there were elements here, who wanted to stay within the orbit of Imperial England, you know, and there were Americans born here who fought on the British side, you know, I mean, the classic example being Benedict Arnold. So yeah, it's that's a good point, that every revolution has elements within the domestic sphere, who don't necessarily want to completely succeed. You know, and if you actually, if you go further afield, the Commonwealth, you know, the British Commonwealth, it's kind of a keeping some kind of hold on all these countries. And I think it was two weeks ago, I read that with the death of the Queen Mother, you know, Elizabeth, their stock that the Commonwealth might be dissolved, and if that happens, the last ties from the colonial days will be will vanish, you know. So going back to the, the elites, and the proletariat, there was a clear divide, and that manifests itself, even when the elite this side, well, not all of the elite side with the revolutionaries with Aguinaldo.

Joseph Hawthorne:

So when the more radical faction aka the katipunan, approach, the moderate leader, Jose Rizal, what did resolve or the moderates tend to respond

Luis Francia:

with, without No, for basically two reasons, a, I don't want, we're not yet ready, we don't have enough arms, and I don't want the blood of innocent civilians on our heads, and then be said, if you don't get the support of the money class, you won't get enough money for arms and therefore, it will be a bloody conflict and you may not succeed. So he said Now is not the time. And of course, this greatly disappointed because Katipunan but they decided to go ahead anyway, but he knew that his upper class peers most likely would not support the revolution against men. And I think it is partly snobbery, you know, why should we let the rabble lead the revolution.

Joseph Hawthorne:

So this introduces one of the last people we need to know about for today, President Emilio Aguinaldo, I, you know, though, is the son of emergent family, but gradually took control of the revolution by winning battles on the ground.

Luis Francia:

But as the revolution goes on, he seems to be open to reform rather than complete independence. And that's one reason that he accepts the offer on the part of the Spanish colonial administration in 1897, to declare a temporary cessation of hostilities, the Spanish would give the katipunan a certain amount of money, and they will self exile in Hong Kong. So one interpretation of that is that Aguinaldo and his cabinet use that as a delaying tactic, they could use the money to buy arms. The other view is that he was basically selling out, because there have been questions raised, as to where the money went, you know, there's been no clear accounting of how, and where and on what the money was spent, that money was supposed to go to the widows and the orphans created by the war. So it's surprising if you're going for complete independence. And basically, you have the Spanish, you've neutralized the Spanish, you have more men at arms than the Spanish, that you then agree to this kind of truce. And so I, you know, come down on the side of those who say that basically Aguinaldo there was a reformist, because part of the truce, part of the conditions were, you know, we can incorporate the Revolutionary Army into the Spanish guard, the Civil or forces that they had. So there was this logical drive on the part of the Spanish to call up the revolution. And they succeeded to the extent that the battle ceased at least those headed by Aguinaldo, because we have to remember, it's an archipelago. So there were katipunan units that refused to heed the call to lay down their arms, and they continue to fight. Okay. So that, to me, was a clear indication that again, I didn't really want to betray his class interests, you know, and, therefore, the killing or the assassination of burning fossil, his main rival, makes sense from his point of view, because Bonificacio was working class basically didn't want to negotiate with the Spanish in that manner. What he would have wanted was a negotiation for the Spanish to leave the Philippines.

Joseph Hawthorne:

So again, Aguinald is super interesting to me, because he spends a few years just managing to kind of stick around, he goes into exile in Hong Kong, and bide his time as the Spanish get weaker and weaker. As you know, in 1898, America declares war on Spain, for mostly separate reasons, but destroys the Spanish Armada in a Manila, President Aguinaldo is able to move back into the Philippines, and declare a new government somewhat with us support.

Luis Francia:

And then when he declares the Philippines as an independent nation, and I think I raised this, in our last conversation, pays a the United States, you know, under the guidance of the great humane United States of America, you know, I'm paraphrasing, of course, so you wonder why would that be in the Constitution of an independent country? So he's kind of sending signals, okay. And, yes, so he tries to have it both ways, to be seen as a revolutionary, but at the same time caught a deal.

Joseph Hawthorne:

So this was actually something I was curious about. Do you think that Filipino revolutionaries would have been able to defeat the Spanish without the US? Do you think that a local leaders that revolutionaries had other options?

Luis Francia:

Oh, yeah, I mean, the Spanish were on the last legs. Manila was the, the king, you know, again, if this were a chess game, and the Philippine Revolution army had surrounded intramuros, which is the heart of Manila, along with the US troops, and, again, all there was still trust, trusting the US. I mean, he had his doubts, but he still felt, how can I would think his thinking went along these lines, how can the US founded on revolution turn against us? So though, I may have my doubts, I'm going to set those aside and trust that they will listen to the better angels of their nature. Yes. So even without the US, the Philippines would have succeeded in throwing up the Spanish. And of course, the Spanish didn't want that big because of racist reasoning. They said, we've been saying, for more than 300 years that the Filipinos the Indians are inferior to us, it won't look good if we lose to an inferior race, with rather surrender to the to white people. The Americans, of course, I'm phrasing it boldly. But that at heart is what was behind the Spanish decision to surrender Manila, to the US after a mock battle

Joseph Hawthorne:

. Okay, and so after the US invades Manila, there's a standoff between us colonial forces and Filipino independence fighters. This will lead to a whole other bloody and fascinating war, which we will talk about in other episodes. But moving on from that, and thinking more broadly. I'm curious about how the Filipino perspective shifted right now. How do you think that some Filipinos, some leaders worked within the system of the US?

Luis Francia:

there were people who were members of the katipunan. And then later on, formed the Federalistas and then went on to demand sovereignty, and those are that's quite a shift. And one really interesting character was H Pardo, de Tavera He was an Illustrado who had been born in Paris, or were born in Manila. But his father was exiled to Guam, who then went to Paris, where then the sun followed, and studied in Paris and then returned to the Philippines. And once the Americans when, at first his, his all sympathetic to the Katipunan aims, but once the US wins, he forms the Federalista Party. And he is one of the founders of a newspaper called 'La Democracia", which is quite pro American. And the rationale of the Federalistas was that, you know, the americanos are giving us reforms that we had wanted from the Spanish, you know, because the reasoning was that, we have no choice with the katipunan, because this Spain refuses to even give us this reforms, which are quite reasonable, and not at all radical. So we then must succeed and declare independence, but when the US enters, then the ilustrado like Pardo de Tavera sees this reasonable accommodation, reasonable from his point of view, because it will keep his and his class' interests intact. And then they say, we will be we will petition for statehood. Still, like they did, under the Spanish petition to be treated like a province of Spain, but now it would be a state, you know, kind of like Puerto Rico, under the protection of the United States and later on We can work towards independent independence. Pardo de Tavera basically is echoing the sentiments of Aguinaldo's this cabinet members in opposition, of course, to my Mabini and Heneral Luna. Luna by now is like saying, No, we need to fight the US as well, because that's what we want complete independence. So yeah, the war isn't completely over. But the US now controls Manila, which is the, you know, the seat of government. And so Pardo de Tavera founds with some others this newspaper, but the Federalistas lack popular support, they have the newspaper, they have money, but the sentiment on the street is overwhelmingly for independence. So then they start to change their tune. And then they finally say, Okay, let's go for sovereignty, but they become a party that nobody really pays attention to, you know, they've lost the chance to get behind the impulse that's propelling the population towards sovereignty. Okay, so he was a perfect example, outside of my being, again, all this cabinet of somebody who tried like Aguinaldo to straddle both sides and to strike a compromise.

Joseph Hawthorne:

And if we think back to moderate leaders, how do you think the US co opted symbols like Jose Rizal, who was killed by the Spanish to help keep control in the Philippines,

Luis Francia:

in terms of Rizal, it wasn't that difficult because he was known for his pacifist views. In fact, he anticipates Gandhi, you know, who's born later. And so the US promotes him, as you know, this perfect representative of the Philippines who's against the taking up of arms. And of course, it's clear what the US is saying, if you have somebody as revered as Jose Rizal refusing to take up arms, then that's a clear signal to the revolutionaries in the field, to follow his example. I mean, they don't state that of course, but that's the clear intent to promote Rizal because he was a pacifist is not because he was critical of the ruling dispensation, though that didn't hurt because he was critical of the Spanish. Okay, so that was one and the second way that they co opted the Elite was when there was a second commission to study conditions in the Philippines set by I think McKinley. And that was headed by William Taft, who then becomes the first governor general and Taft invites a number of the illustrados to be part of to sit in on commission meetings. I'm not sure if they were going to be members of the Commission like Filipino members, but he wanted their input, you know, so, the illustrators are saying, look, you know, the US is giving us an opportunity for us to make our voices heard, which we never had under the Spanish. So, he, basically, I think Pardo de Tavera was one of the people who was invited, along with some other prominent elite members to be part of the Commission. So the US is very savvy, you know, the, they knew the grievances the Filipinos have against the Spanish and they said, Well, we can address some of those. We won't give you independence, not yet. Anyway. So there is always the hint of independence down the road. You know, so they were basically stating what the Federalistas were stating. But, you know, the genie of independence was now released from the bottle and there is no way of putting it back. The sentiment was still on the street. No, we want complete independence. So So there moves to call up the elite. And once the war was over, that paved the way for other elite members to be part of the colonial administration, you know, and the US, of course instituted certain programs like sending deserving students from the Philippines. And this antedates the Fulbright, I don't know, if you're familiar with the Fulbright Program, yet, well, the Fulbright program, you know, it's is an exchange program. But this antedates, it was to send promising Filipino scholars to the States, they would get an education here supported by the government. They were known as pensionados, which in Spanish literally means pensioners. But in practice, it meant there, there were scholars being sent to study for graduate degrees in the states in return, they have to return and work, I think, for every year spent studying in the States, they had to spend two years as a civil servant. So there was a way of building up the civil service in the Philippines. And this is very different from the Spanish. So they, the US use these ways education, have a say, in the civilian administration, to bring in the elites, the educated, and Institute free public education, which theoretically was true of the Spanish but under the Spanish, the friars resisted the rule of teaching the Indios Spanish, you know, and that's a critical point in Rizal's novels. He was always going after the friars for the antipathy towards educating the natives. The years on the other hand, you know, very propagandistic will teach you English, you can come to school, because once you start speaking English, you then are able are more receptive to ideas from America, the American way of life and how things should be. Okay. So they come up through these means education, rolling civil service, and a promise of independence, I think, through I forget the name of the Act, but it was passed in the 30s, promising independence in 1946.

Joseph Hawthorne:

And I think that is a good transition, especially if we're talking about education, English. And people literally going between the Philippines and America to, you know, kind of summarize the soul. And the general question I asked at the beginning is, you know, what you define as the turn of the 20th century, and the question at the end is, was that period, foundational for both Filipino history but also Philippine American history for? Oh, definitely. So go ahead and prove it to me. Tell me why matters today?

Luis Francia:

Well, it matters today. Because with the exchange, and the flow between the two countries, but more of a flow from the Philippines to the United States, the migration on a systematic scale begins in 1906. And what that means, and we have to look at not just the political sphere, but the economic and social sphere. Okay, so economically, the Philippines becomes a source of cheap labor. Because looking at the United States, you know, at that time, the manufacturer saying, Hey, we can produce all these products, but we need more markets. That was one factor behind the expansionist drive of the US, not so much for Imperial conquest, but really, for markets for products to be for us products to be sold abroad. So they need a cheap labor, particularly the agri business in Hawaii and on the west coast. So they'll migrate migratory streams, from 1906 onwards were really to Hawaii and the West Coast, which is why the communities on the west coast and in Hawaii are much older in terms of history than the communities on the East Coast, you know, like in New York. So definitely, the turn of the century did and continues to affect the composition, the legacy and the formation of Philippine American identity. And it's not homogenous, because once the migrant workers got the US, they found out Yeah, we can work but we're denied civil liberties. You know, they could, they couldn't vote, they couldn't own land, they could marry white women. And most of the migrants were males. So you have this young, healthy men wanting to settle down and have roots. But the very structure of the US system at the time, prevented them, or tried to prevent them from setting down roots, but they were able to anyway, and there are a number of critical points. And I think I mentioned this documentary, The fall of the I hotel. Now that international, the full name is the International Hotel, it was really an SRO. And for those of listeners who may not know what that means, it means single room occupancy. And a lot of the old timers, the minong, the migrant workers retired and lived in that I hotel, because the rent was cheap. It was $50 a month, and they got a room, you know, and it was in Manila town section of San Francisco. So they had the restaurants, their barber shops, their pool halls, community centers there. But then if you know, the Iota was demolished because of gentrification. So the West Coast is really a direct, for lack of a better term beneficiary or not an anti beneficiary of migratory labor from the Philippines. Now, the migration to the states begins after the loosening of immigration quotas, I think by Lyndon Johnson, prior to that, I think only 100 Filipinas. From a certain period, to that point, could migrate to the to the States, once the those restrictions were lifted 20,000 from any country, you know, the the restriction, the quotas were uniform. So that opened up the floodgates and more immigrants move to the east coast, because this were where the white collar jobs were. And, you know, personally, that's one reason that my oldest brother move to New York. You know, he This was I think, in nine, early 60s, and he was here in New York when the loosening of immigration quotas happen. And since then, the communities on the East Coast have built up, but they're still they don't have as much sense as the history of Filipinas in the US as those on the west coast. So we end intermarriages Okay, perhaps that's a more tangible proof of the way that the US presence in the Philippines continues to this day. You have the African American soldiers intermarrying, you had white US soldiers deciding to stay on and I know that's a fact because my maternal grandfather was in the army, US Army. He's in the Philippines for the Philippine American war, and he stays and he marries my Filipino grandmother. And, you know, my mother and her sister are born, and so are we. So, if you're looking for physical, tangible representation, then the descendants of the intermarriages are a great testament to that.

Joseph Hawthorne:

Right? I mean, you could have started with that of why is the time period matter? Because you exist, right? Yeah. And I think that's a pretty good place to wrap it up on here. But before I let you go, I'm considering this will be probably posted just at the tail end of Philippine American Heritage Month. Is there anything that you want to wrap up with tell listeners encourage listeners to do

Luis Francia:

well? Yeah, there's a whole host of events, celebrating or commemorating, depending on what the event is focusing on different aspects of the Philippine American history here. And there's a online magazine called positively Filipino, there have been having webinars on, you know, Filipino American identity. I think they had one called the bridge generation, between Filipinos and Americans, and the migrant laborers who came here. I think that's been recorded. And if one goes to positively Filipino, they should be able to access, you know, not only the articles, but probably the recordings of the different webinars that they've done in relation to Philippine American history. And then there's also a series of documentaries online. It's called the Daang docu, D As in David, double A N G. And then Docu Docu is taglish for documentary, it's 100 documentaries on the Philippine experience. And if you go and just Google it, I think it will be it's been free. I think beginning yesterday. It is different aspects of, you know, the Philippine experience, and I'm sure a lot of it will deal with the relationship directly or indirectly with the United States.

Joseph Hawthorne:

Wonderful. Okay, well, so I'll wrap up. I'm encouraged listeners to subscribe review. And of course get all he says books as well while you're at it. But thank you so much Luis, it's great to talk. Thank you,

Luis Francia:

Joe. Yeah, great talk to you again. Take care.