Friday, June 12, 2009

On our Independence Day

Remembering June 12, 1898

"...Spanish Manila [in the sixteenth century] was a cozy world of waiting for the yearly galleon from Mexico, the next Chinese massacre (for which the Chinese migrants provided most of the services for the colony but were under constant suspicion of disloyalty), the proceeds from the tobacco monopoly or the new set of governors from Madrid. Spanish rule was based on Spanish Catholicism and on a brutal racism which divided the world into those who had come from the Iberian peninsula, those who had been born on the islands, Chinese, Spanish half-breeds, quadroons, octoroons, with rigid social codes of dress and behavior to mark off once caste from another.

Meanwhile, some of the rich Indios' sons had gone off to friar schools and European colleges and had developed odd ideas of racial equality, freedom, independence, and nationhood. They were tantalized by the French and American revolutions and one of them, the brightest and purest, Jose Rizal, began to write heretical novels and another, Juan Luna, the one whsoe grandson would design the baroque house on Roxas Boulevard, won medals for is paintings in the salons of Paris.

It was a poor warehouseman, however, who had a job in a British firm in downtown Manila, Andres Bonifacio, who put the Indios on course when he took a Spanish garisson in San Juan with one rifle and a few knives and lances. The battle was, of course, lost before night fell; but in less than two years, the revolution, for what it had become, succeeded in wrenching power from the Spaniards.

The victory was so sudden that the new governor-general sent hurriedly from Madrid had no time to warm his seat. General Emilio Aguinaldo (a provincial school teacher and merchant) and his Filipino army were suddenly at the gates of the Spanish Walled City. Earlier, standing in the makeshift balcony of his country in Cavite, he had hurriedly proclaimed his country's independence, raising a curious, hand-sewn flag in three colors.

Ah, but both the Spaniards in their wrecked fleet in the bay and the Indio generals and ilustrados on the balcony, were, that very afternoon overshadowed by a tall American lieutenant who had come, he said, merely to observe the ceremony. From observer, the American shadow became first a self-avowed ally, then a new master, and despite their show of civility, the Filipinos knew in their hearts, that the American had come, not to witness, but to betray their independence..."

- Carmen Guererro-Nakpil: Once over lightly

No comments: