Posts Tagged ‘Philippines’

Mabini in America

John Nery

Philippine Daily Inquirer      November 18, 2014

Late in December 1899, an advertisement appeared in the pages of at least two New York newspapers. It was a notice that the January 1900 issue of the North American Review, a journal of letters and opinion pieces, was already on sale.

The format of the advertisement included a package of six essays on the Second Boer War, which had just broken out in South Africa. There was a “character study” by the influential critic Edmund Gosse, an account of the Anglican crisis by the controversial Protestant theologian Charles Augustus Briggs, and a book review of the letters of Robert Louis Stevenson, by the eminent novelist Henry James.

Between the essays on the Boer War, packaged under the rubric “The War for an Empire,” and the review by Henry James was “A Filipino Appeal to the American People,” by Apolinario Mabini. Of the 14 authors listed in the advertisement, only three were new or under-known enough to warrant an identifying label. Mabini’s is “Formerly Prime Minister in Aguinaldo’s Cabinet.”

It might be a useful exercise to speculate on the editorial decision-making that led to the inclusion of Mabini’s appeal in the journal’s first issue of the year. At that time, the North American Review was very much a Boston publication (today it is published by the University of Northern Iowa), and Boston was a capital of anti-imperialist sentiment. By January 1900, US military forces had occupied parts of the Philippines for some 18 months. The Philippine-American War—a mere insurrection in the American view—was a month short of its first anniversary. Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo was on the defensive but remained at large. (As the leader of Philippine forces, he was possibly the best-known Asian of the time; note how Mabini’s label assumes general knowledge about Aguinaldo.) Not least, the appeal was a pained, patient presentation of American perfidy, beginning with Admiral George Dewey’s effusive promises to Aguinaldo. And it was written by Mabini—a man gaining a reputation as the Philippines’ leading intellectual and America’s “chief irreconcilable,” and who had just been arrested by US cavalry in the Philippines.

I would like to explore “the idea of Mabini” from the American perspective. Since my research is only in its preliminary stages, I wish to trace the reception of this idea, this image of Mabini as that rare thing, a revolutionary intellectual, through three moments: his incarceration in Guam, his death from cholera, and his funeral—the first recorded instance of a massively attended political funeral in the Philippines.

[Key excerpts from American “readings” of Mabini follow, beginning with a warrior-writer who looked on him with disdain.]

Theodore Roosevelt to Sen. George Frisbie Hoar, Jan. 12, 1903: “I have not wished to discuss my view of Mabini’s character and intellect, but perhaps I ought to say, my dear Senator, that it does not agree with yours. Mabini seems to me to belong to a very ordinary type common among those South American revolutionists who have worked such mischief to their fellow-countrymen.”

The historian James LeRoy took a more nuanced view: “But … he was the real power, first at Bakoor, then at Malolos, in framing a scheme of independent government, and then in resisting every step toward peaceful conciliation with the United States… Aguinaldo was plainly not averse to accommodation, on several occasions; but Mabini was, from first to last, inflexible in opposition to the efforts of the party of older and more conservative Filipinos to establish a modus vivendi with the Americans. Whoever may be said to have carried on the war, he chiefly made war inevitable …”

The news of Mabini’s death on May 13, 1903, was duly noted in American newspapers…. In the July 5, 1903 issue of the Springfield Republican, we read the “sympathetic standpoint” of anti-imperialist Canning Eyot, in praise of “the eminent Filipino patriot.” The prose is purple, but instructively so:

“… there is some alleviation in the thought that at last Mabini has found freedom—that his serene soul is beyond the reach of tyranny, beyond the power of every one and everything that is sordid and selfish and time-serving …. Crucify the reformer and the good in his cause is assured of success; kill or imprison the patriot and the true in his ideal may become real.”

The day Mabini was buried saw an unprecedented outpouring of support and sympathy [I have written on this before]. Thousands of people joined the funeral procession. A visiting American woman, whose name I [still] have not yet been able to determine, wrote a vivid account for a Boston newspaper [which included this extraordinary passage]: “It seemed as though the whole city of Manila had gathered, and I could not help noticing the large proportion of strong and finely intelligent faces, especially among Mabini’s more intimate friends. Most noticeable, also, and with a certain suggestiveness for the futrue (sic), was the extraordinary number of young men, many of them evidently students, keen, thoughtful and intelligent looking.” [She saw Mabini in his mourners.]

Mabini was never in America, of course. At the turn of the 20th century, Guam [his place of exile] was a new possession of the United States, American soil-in-the-making. So the man whom LeRoy called the “chief irreconcilable,” whom Gen. Elwell Otis labelled the “masterful spirit” behind Philippine resistance to American occupation, was only present in the United States in the sense that he represented a new idea—an intellectual at the head of a revolution, an ideologue.

In Mabini’s America, he was the un-Aguinaldo.

Excerpts from a paper read on Nov. 13 at the 2014 national conference of the Philippine Studies Association, convened by the indispensable Dr. Bernardita Churchill.

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America as the second home of arnis, escrima, kali

 Perry Gil S. Mallari  

The Manila Times   May 18, 2014

A collection of escrima fighting sticks. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

A collection of escrima fighting sticks. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

It was born in the Philippines but I would say that the United States is the second home of arnis, escrima and kali collectively known as Filipino martial arts (FMA).

Transplanted mainly through various waves of migration, the FMA has established deep roots in America. The growth, evolution and mutation of the FMA in the US are incomparable to any other nations where Philippine martial arts were also exported.

The FMA could have been exported to the US much earlier than the known exodus of Filipino farm laborers to California and Hawaii during the turn of the 20th century.

The book Manila Men in the New World: Filipino Migration to Mexico and the Americas from the Sixteenth Century by Floro L. Mercene tells that prior to the influx of farm worker from the Philippines to America during the said period, Filipino mariners under a Spanish command landed in Morro Bay, California in October 1587.

It is amazing to realize that Filipinos have reached the New World (what would become the United States of America) much earlier than the American colonization of the Philippines at the turn of the 20th century.


Cover of the book Manila Men in the New World: Filipino Migration to Mexico and the Americas from the Sixteenth Century by Floro L. Mercene.

Lafcadio Hearn, an American journalist wrote an article in the March 31, 1883 issue of Harper’s Weekly about a Filipino settlement in Saint Malo, Louisiana. The settlers of the community that were called “Manilamen,” were believed to be the roots of Filipinos in America. Hearn at that time believed that the settlement was already in existence for 50-years however, extensive research conducted by Marina Espina, a librarian at the University of New Orleans revealed that it could have existed earlier.It is amazing to realize that Filipinos have reached the New World (what would become the United States of America) much earlier than the American colonization of the Philippines at the turn of the 20th century.

Espina in 1988 published the results of her studies in a book titled Filipinos in Louisiana (A. F. Laborde & Sons, New Orleans, Louisiana, 1988).

Hearn described the Manilamen as seasoned fishermen who were robust and polite and could speak in Tagalog and Spanish. A part of the article reads: “Most of them are cinnamon-colored men; a few are glossily yellow, like that bronze into which a small proportion of gold is worked by the molder. Their features are irregular without being actually repulsive; some have the cheek-bones very prominent and the eyes of several are set slightly aslant. The hair is generally intensely black and straight, but with some individuals it is curly and browner. In Manila there are several varieties of the Malay race, and these Louisiana settlers represent more than one type. None of them appeared tall; the greater number were under-sized, but all well knit, and supple s fresh-water eels. Their hands and feet were small; their movements quick and easy, but sailorly likewise, as of men accustomed to walk upon rocking decks in rough weather. They speak the Spanish language; and a Malay dialect is also used among them.”

Evidences have been found that a number of Filipinos even participated in the American Civil War. This was proven by the research conducted by Nestor Palugod Enriquez, a retired US Navy personnel turned Filipino American historian. Enriquez located the specific names of Filipino volunteers on the following records: the Massachusetts State Rosters, Military Images magazine, original muster rolls at the National Archives, the New Hampshire Rosters (issued by State Adjutant General.

Pension—Pension Records, National Archives, Washington, D.C.) and the Naval Rendezvous Reports (available at the National Archives, Washington, D.C.). There is a high probability that those early Filipinos in America may have had used their skills in arnis, escrima and kali in that war.

But the biggest part of the FMA migration in the US most probably occurred at the beginning of the 20th century when many Filipino men filled in the demand for workers in the plantations of Hawaii and the farmlands of California. Many FMA pioneers in America like Angel Cabales, Juanito Lacoste and Leo Giron were at one time or another worked as farm laborers in Hawaii and California. A part of Dan Inosanto’s book The Filipino Martial Arts, narrates of how Cabales made it to the US, it reads, “Cabales left the Philippines in 1939 and joined a crew of a cargo ship that took him to distant ports of the world. Each port, each foreign dock brought a new set of adventures and with them a knowledge of survival. After working in Alaska, Cabales wandered from county to county in California. He ultimately joined the Filipino farm laborers around Stockton where he now lives.”

Mark Wiley, in his book Filipino Martial Culture tells how Giron arrived in America, “Like other Filipinos who relocated in the United States, Giron did so by way of boat.

He traveled on the President Lincoln and docked in San Francisco on November 17, 1926. Soon thereafter he relocated to Stockton, California, and took work cutting celery and asparagus for seventeen and a half cents an hour. The hourly wage at that time was thirty-five cents an hour.”

Perhaps one of the most notable early public demonstrations of the FMA in the US was that of the late Grandmaster Ben Largusa. Largusa, a disciple of juego todo champion Floro Villabrille performed at the historic Ed Parker Long Beach Karate International in 1964. Bruce Lee performed there too and Parker recalled in one of his writings before he passed away that Lee and Largusa impressed the other masters who were present in the event.

In 1966, Cabales opened the first public escrima academy in the US in Stockton, California.

Then came global recognition via the medium of cinema. Inosanto briefly but spectacularly introduced the FMA to moviegoers worldwide through the film The Game of Death starring the legendary Lee. Known as Lee’s protégé, Inosanto was responsible in introducing the late founder of jeet kune do to escrima specifically the use of the tabak toyok or nunchaku. With an international superstar like Lee picking up escrima sticks, the FMA was finally included in the world map of martial arts. Few would argue that this film is an important landmark in the history of the FMA and much of the FMA’s popularity today, it owe to Inosanto’s film works.


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Fine Print: U.S. can’t seem to shake the ‘water cure’ as a method of interrogation

Walter Pincus

The Washington Post  May 1, 2014


“He is simply held down and then water is poured onto his face down his throat and nose from a jar; and that is kept up until the man gives some sign or becomes unconscious. And then . . . he is simply . . . rolled aside rudely, so that water is expelled. A man suffers tremendously, there is no doubt about it,” according to testimony given to the Senate committee.

That sounds as if it could be an excerpt from the classified Senate Select Committee on Intelligence report on the CIA’s post-9/11 capture, detention and interrogation programs that included waterboarding.

In a March 11 floor speech, the committee’s chairman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said the panel is investigating “the horrible details of a CIA program that never, never, never should have existed.”

But that quote was from testimony delivered in 1903 by U.S. Army Lt. Grover Flint before the Senate Philippines Committee. Chaired by Sen. Henry Cabot Lodge, R-Mass., the committee was reviewing how U.S. Army units were dealing with Filipino fighters who opposed the United States taking over governing their country in the wake of the Spanish-American War.

Sorry, folks, but it’s time to recall George Santayana’s remark in 1905, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

The Lodge panel dealt in part with allegations that U.S. troops and Filipino units working with them since 1900 had used that era’s version of waterboarding and other tortuous methods against the rebels.

The committee was dominated by Republican senators who supported the harsh tactics, which included the so-called water cure, an interrogation technique used to gather what was considered necessary information. Even President Theodore Roosevelt said at the time that “the water cure is an old Filipino method of mild torture. Nobody was seriously damaged whereas the Filipinos had inflicted incredible tortures on our people.”

It recalls the way former president George W. Bush put it in “Decision Points,” his 2010 book. “Waterboarding 1/8is3/8 a process of simulated drowning. No doubt the procedure was tough, but medical experts assured the CIA that it did no lasting harm,” he wrote.

In 1902, federal Judge William Howard Taft, appointed by Roosevelt to head the Philippine Commission to help establish a postwar government in Manila, was asked about the use of the “water cure” by the Lodge panel.

Taft said, “There have been in individual instances of water cure, that torture which I believe involves pouring water down the throat so that the man swells and gets the impression that he is going to be suffocated and then tells what he knows, which was a frequent treatment under the Spaniards, I am told.”

And while there were some cases in which U.S. military personnel faced investigations and courts-martial, Secretary of War Elihu Root sent the committee a report in 1902 that said, in part, “charges in the public press of cruelty and oppression exercised by our soldiers towards natives of the Philippines” had been either “unfounded or grossly exaggerated.”

Col. S.W. Groesbeck, once judge advocate general of the Philippines, said publicly, “I believe the water cure, as practiced by the American army in the Philippines, to be the most humane method of obtaining information from prisoners of war that is known to modern warfare.”

Coercive interrogation methods, to include forms of waterboarding, have been a continuing problem for Americans, their government ,and U.S. military and intelligence services.

Perhaps it shouldn’t keep happening, but waterboarding does reappear when circumstances arise that seem to justify — if not demand — such actions.

The Washington Post on Jan. 21, 1968, ran a front-page photo of a U.S. soldier supervising the waterboarding of a captured North Vietnamese soldier. The caption says the technique induced “a flooding sense of suffocation and drowning, meant to make him talk.” Because of the photo, the U.S. Army initiated an investigation and the soldier was court-martialed and convicted of torturing a prisoner.

The CIA had a training manual, “KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation — July 1963,” whose title was the code word used for the agency in Vietnam. It was used to train new interrogators and described its contents as “basic information about coercive techniques available for use in the interrogation situation.”

These included forcing detainees to stand or sit in “stress positions,” cutting off sources of light, and disrupting their sleep and their diet. Among the manual’s conclusions: The threat of pain is a far more effective interrogation tool than actually inflicting pain, but threats of death do not help.

Given this history, it should not have surprised anyone that in the fear that permeated the country post-9/11, that those responsible for protecting the nation would employ whatever techniques necessary to prevent another attack.

Torture-like interrogations were used in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo, not just by the CIA but also by the military. No one in the White House or on Capitol Hill, informed of what was going in those first years after 9/11, raised public objections.

In her March speech, Feinstein said that if her committee’s report is declassified, “we will be able to ensure that an un-American, brutal program of detention and interrogation will never again be considered or permitted.”

That’s easy to say but, it seems, much harder to do.

While serving in the Army Counterintelligence Corps 58 years ago, I was trained as an interrogator. My training emphasized developing a rapport with a subject over time to help get needed information.

But in a battlefield situation or facing the possibility of an imminent terrorist attack, I honestly can’t say what I would do.

It’s under such difficult circumstances that presidents and lawmakers will find their positions truly tested.

As will we all.

«Walter Pincus reports on intelligence, defense and foreign policy for The Washingon Post. He first came to the paper in 1966 and has covered numerous subjects, including nuclear weapons and arms control, politics and congressional investigations. He was among Post reporters awarded the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for national reporting. Among many other honors were the 1977 George Polk Award for articles exposing the neutron warhead, a 1981 Emmy from writing a CBS documentary on strategic nuclear weapons, and most recently the 2010 Arthur Ross Award from the American Academy for Diplomacy for columns on foreign policy.»

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