The Philippine Revolution (1896-1898)

In the late 19th century there was increasing insurgency against Spain, as natives demanded independence. From the illustrados came a group of students who formed the Propaganda Movement. They did not wish separation from Spain, but did demand equality and political rights. They spoke out against the injustices of the colonial government and especially the Catholic friars. Among the propagandists were José Rizal, Marcelo H. del Pilar, and Graciano López Jaena. Jose Rizal, the most famous of the propagandists, used the words of Christ to further the movement: touch me not (John 20: 13-17); he was executed on December 30, 1896.

The injustices of the Spanish had led to uprisings from the 1600s. The 1872 uprising, in Cavite, was notable since it had a large effect on the country. The Spanish squashed this uprising by executing three Filipino priests: Burgos, Gomez, and Zamora (known as Gomburza). Historians generally agree that this execution marks the start of the Philippine Revolutionary Period.

In 1892 Andres Bonifacio founded a revolutionary society called the Katipunan. By 1896, Filipinos were openly rebelling against the Spanish and the revolution was spreading throughout the islands. The Filipinos succeeded in taking almost all Philippine territory, except for Manila.

The U.S. Intervention

Little was known by the United States of the existence of the Philippine archipelago and it was not until Cuba appeared along the scene in 1895 which started the problems for the country. The Philippines, Puerto Rico and Guam were all dragged along with the conflicts of Independence, as these colonies also began to rebel against the Spanish at the same time.

The US

The U.S. at that time were an emerging nation and looking for a way to compete as one of the world powers. Cuba's War of Independence with Spain was the perfect solution for the Americans. While the Americans wanted to help the people fight for independence, they also took a serious interest in occupying and controlling these colonies and making them their own.

On November 1897, William Mckinley demanded that Cuba be granted independence and virtually "pressured" and abused Spain for the wrongs they were committing. In January 25, 1898, U.S. Forces began arriving in Cuba and on February 15 the American battleship "Maine" exploded killing 269. The Americans blamed the Spanish Force for the "incident", when in fact it was an accidental malfunction of its gas generators inside the battleship, which caused the explosion. The Americans retaliated and went to war with the Spanish Force in Cuba and then on to the Philippines on May 1 in the same year where they fought both the Spaniards and Filipinos.

On May 1, 1898 the United States of America went to the Pacific and fought the Spaniards in the Spanish Colony of the Philippines. The U.S. Navy under George Dewey attacked the Spanish Navy by sea in Manila Bay, while the Filipino forces, led by General Emilio Aguinaldo, allied with the U.S., who convinced the Filipinos they were there to help them fight for independence, also attacked by land which resulted in a Spanish surrender.

Faced with inevitable defeat, Spain sued for peace - but instead of surrendering the Philippines to the Filipinos, the Spaniards were forced to sell the country to the United States at the Treaty of Paris in 1898 through "offers of money" by U.S. officials. Spain thus accepted the offer because they were in need of wealth due to the "problems" of Wars in Europe with Napoleon and the devastating loses of their colonies in Central America and South America who gained independence.

The Filipinos, under General Emilio Aguinaldo, declared victory and proclaimed their independence on June 12, 1898 in Cavite. Aguinaldo was voted by the Filipino people and became the first President of the Philippines. This act was opposed by the United States who had plans to take over the country.

The U.S. Period (1898-1935)

A civil government was established by the Americans in 1901 with William H. Taft as the first civil governor of the Philippines. Filipinos were given greater participation in local governance and were appointed to several positions in government.

An elected Filipino legislature was inaugurated in 1907 and a bicameral congress, with a Senate and House of Representatives in 1916. Members to the elected legislature lost no time to lobby for immediate and complete independence from the United States. Several independence missions were sent.

At the end of the Spanish-American War, under the terms of the Treaty of Paris (1898), Spain ceded the Philippines to the United States in exchange for 20 million United States dollars. When it became clear to the Filipinos that American forces intended to occupy and control the country, violent protests and revolts broke out.

Philippine - U.S. War (1899 -1913)

Heated tensions between Filipinos and Americans began to mount rapidly when locals discovered that the U.S. were there to control and occupy the archipelago. On the night of February 4, 1899 a Filipino soldier was shot dead at gun point by a U.S. sniper at a U.S. Military Check point, who was trying to cross the San Juan Bridge at San Juan del Monte in Manila.

Although Aguinaldo attempted a ceasefire with the Americans, this was the "incident" that the U.S. were waiting for to take over the Philippines by Force.

At a constitutional convention held against the wishes of American authorities, Aguinaldo was declared President of the Philippines Republic - and declared to be an "outlaw bandit" by the McKinley Administration.

The U.S. refused to recognize any Philippine right to self-government, and on February 4, 1899, Aguinaldo declared war against the United States for denying them independence. Some Americans accused the Filipino nationalists of Jacobinism tendencies and the US government officials repeatedly stated that few Filipinos were in favor of independence, although this conclusion was questioned by some. In the US, there was a movement to stop the war; some said that the US had no right to a land whose people wanted self-government; Andrew Carnegie, an industrialist and steel magnate, offered to buy the Philippines for US 20 million dollars and give it to the Filipinos so that they could be free. (Thus, there has been historical US support for self-rule in the Philippines from the beginning of the relationship between the nations.)

Although Americans have historically used the term the Philippine Insurrection, Filipinos and an increasing number of American historians refer to these hostilities as the Philippine-American War (1899-1913), and in 1999 the U.S. Library of Congress reclassified its references to use this term. In 1901, Aguinaldo was captured and swore allegiance to the United States. A large American military force was needed to occupy the country, and would be regularly engaged in war, against Filipino rebels, for another decade. An estimated 250,000 Filipinos were killed by the U.S. Forces in the attempt to put down the forces in favor of independence.

The Americans gradually succeeded in taking control of urban and coastal areas by the end of 1903 and "pursued" a racist and aggressive campaign of de-Hispanization and promotion of Anglo - American Culture and English Language which has resulted in the loss of Spanish as the official language of commerce and government.

While the 1903 census officially reported the number of Spanish speakers at only 1% of the population, it only considered the Spanish-born and completely disregarded the mestizos, the Chinese population, and the native illustrado class which would have placed the numbers at more or less 60% of the population.

Some measure of Filipino self-rule was allowed. The first legislative assembly was elected in 1907. A bicameral legislature, largely under Philippine control, was established. A civil service was formed and was gradually taken over by the Filipinos, who had effectively gained control by the end of World War I. The Catholic Church was disestablished, and a considerable amount of church land was purchased and redistributed.

For more information on the history of the Philippines have a look here.


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