The Philippine American War

Notes: Philippine American War

The Treaty of Paris between the United States and Spain on December 10, 1898 formally ended the Spanish-American War. As part of the settlement agreement, Spain ceded its colonial possessions, specifically the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam, to the United States in return for twenty million dollars ($20,000,000). Spain also relinquished its sovereignty claims over Cuba. Other provisions of the treaty include the exchange of prisoners of war; the grant of similar treatment status to Spanish ships as American ships in Philippine ports for ten years; the right of former Spanish colonies to exercise their religion; and the respect of Spanish rights of property in the former colonies.

To rationalize the annexation of the Philippines, U.S. President William McKinley issued the Benevolent Assimilation Proclamation on December 21, 1898 which stated the U.S.’ "altruistic" mission in acquiring the Philippines. The U.S. have "come, not as invaders or conquerors, but as friends, to protect the natives in their homes, in their employment, and in their personal and religious rights." Moreover, the U.S. wanted to "win the confidence, respect, and affection of the inhabitants of the Philippines by assuring them in every possible way that full measure of individual rights and liberties which is the heritage of free peoples, and by proving to them that the mission of the United States is one of benevolent assimilation substituting the mild sway of justice and right for arbitrary rule."

General Franklin Bell saw military action in the Philippine American War as a major in 1898. By 1902, he was a general in the army and was in charge of pacifying the southern Tagalog area. In particular, he became infamous because of his reconcentration policy in Batangas which was aimed at isolating the Filipino guerrillas. Everyone was either an enemy or a friend of the United States. Neutrality in the war was not an option for anyone. He ordered all residents to move to the reconcentration zone area by Christmas of 1901 and to bring all the supplies they could. By January 1, those outside the zone area and bearing no pass will be arrested and those attempting to flee will be shot. He ordered the confiscation or destruction of all the supplies outside the zone area. So effective was the Batangas campaign that in seven months, General Miguel Malvar, whose guerrilla forces operated in that province, was forced to surrender with his 3,000 troops. But the reconcentration was a destructive campaign. It was estimated that due to war, pestilence, and famine, only 200,000 of the former 300,000 population of Batangas survived. Ironically, despite the brutality of his campaign, he was merely chastised by the U.S. Senate.

General Miguel Malvar was one of the generals exiled with Emilio Aguinaldo in Hongkong as a result of the Pact of Biak-na-Bato between Spain and the Philippines. Upon his return to the Philippines and the resumption of hostilities, he successfully liberated Tayabas (present day Quezon province) from Spanish control. He was also in charge of the province of Batangas where his troops were concentrated. With the capture of Emilio Aguinaldo in Palanan, Isabela, on March 23, 1901, Malvar assumed the leadership of the Philippine Republic. But General Franklin Bell’s reconcentration campaign in Batangas broke Malvar’s resistance movement. He surrendered to the American forces on April 16, 1902.

General Gregorio del Pilar (1875-1898), a native of Bulacan, comes from an ilustrado (middle class) family of nationalists. His uncle, Marcelo del Pilar, was a prolific writer and one of the stalwarts of the Propaganda Movement in Europe that campaigned for political and social reforms in colonial Philippines. The failure of Spain to heed the call for reforms convinced Gregorio del Pilar, a university student then, to join the Katipunan of Andres Bonifacio in 1895. With the outbreak of the war, he went home to Bulacan and joined the revolutionary forces of Maestro Sebio, a charismatic, Katipunero revolutionary mystic who prayed allowed in battle and believed in his invulnerability to bullets. He was a brilliant and courageous military leader and his success in battles caught the attention of Emilio Aguinaldo. He moved up in the military ranks and became Aguinaldo’s most trusted aide. At the young age of 23, he was promoted as general in 1898, making him the youngest general of the Philippine Republic. The death of the "boy general" came in the Battle of Tirad Pass on December 2, 1899 when he was tasked with securing the defense of Tirad Pass, passageway in the Cordillera, to stall the pursuing American troops and put more distance between them and the fleeing Aguinaldo.

General Simeon Ola led the resistance struggle in Albay. His guerrilla strategy consisted of pretending to surrender so he could buy time while he intensified his recruitment for troops and reorganized his forces. His leadership was so effective that his troops conducted successful raids on constabulary outposts to secure weapons. On September 25, 1903, Ola recognized the futility of his struggle. He was one of the last Filipino generals to surrender to American forces