Diary of Antonio de las Alas

June 12, 1945 Tuesday

We saw a cinematograph show at the Social Hall of the Colony. What interested me most was a football game in which one of the team participants was the University of Yale. It reminded me of my students days in this great institution of learning.

I got my first glimpse of American college life when, a few days after entering Indiana University, I was caught by the Sophomores who cut my hair short and unevenly, and afterwards, they took me “snipe shooting” where I was waylaid and lost in a nearby forest.

In Indiana University, a lecture from a prominent reformist whose name I do not recollect, left a deep impression in my mind. He talked about graft in the government. He cited many instances of graft in different cities in the United States. Undoubtedly, it influenced my uncompromising stand against corruption while occupying high positions in the government. I dismissed many employees for dishonesty.

In Indiana, twice, we Filipinos were not served in restaurants for being brown. I thought then to myself that equality was a myth in America and hoped that a better world would be ushered in with the reign of equality without reference to race or color.

The most serious problem that beset me as a student in the U.S. was the language. The language used in school was naturally English and it was a great disadvantage to compete with men who used and learned that language all their life. It speaks highly of Filipino intelligence and ability to be able, not only to hold our own, but even surpass the Americans in scholarship notwithstanding such handicap. I was 20 years old when I went to the University of Yale for post graduate studies. The fact that I was designated to speak at the Yale Alumni banquet on graduation day would seem to indicate that I got the highest grade in the class. My classmates were much older and some of them were holding responsible positions in and outside the government. Here we studied Roman Law and Spanish Civil Law. One of our professors was Hon. Simeon E. Baldwin, Dean of the Graduate School who afterwards became the Governor of Connecticut. He was then one of the outstanding Democrats and was very prominently mentioned for President of the United States. His greatest handicap was that he was already too old. But he was still strong and active.

At Yale University, I had some incidents worthwhile relating. The first was when a society invited me to speak about the Philippines in a Protestant church. I had hardly taken my seat at the platform when I saw sitted in the front row Dean Baldwin. I prepared for the occasion and I believe I had made a good speech because everybody, except one, congratulated me warmly. The one who did not congratulate me was Prof. Baldwin. He approached me and he evidently could not restrain himself because in the midst of the crowd he groaned, “Why didn’t you speak of Philippine independence?” “I do not know whether it was the occasion for it,” I promptly answered. “Oh, yes,” he retorted, adding, “The demand for the independence of one’s country is proper anywhere, at any time and on any occasion.” The he left. I felt ashamed, humiliated.

But not a very long time passed when an opportunity presented itself to me to show Prof. Baldwin my appreciation of his rebuke. When I was designated speaker for the Law School graduating class at the Yale Alumni banquet, I devoted my entire speech to the independence of the Philippines. I could see Prof. Baldwin highly elated. However, there was one who listened to me attentively but did not seem to be pleased. It was the President of the United States, William Howard Taft, an alumnus of Yale University and former President of the Philippine Commission and Civil Governor of the Philippines. He called for me and I had a long talk with him. We spoke about many things out of which I drew two very important and very interesting conclusions. Taft told me that contrary to the general impression, he was not opposed to Philippine independence, but that he was convinced that we should not have it until after all those who received their education during the Spanish regime had died. At the beginning I could not understand him but he had the patience to explain. He reasoned out that those who lived under the Spanish regime had been so imbued with the Spanish political tradition of domination, tyranny and corruption, and with the Spanish customs of personal ambition, rivalry, envy and “amor propio”, that they would be incapable of imbibing and practicing the tenets of liberty, democracy and sacrifice for the common good. I tried to contradict, but it was useless as he seemed to be convinced about this.

The other revelation he made to me was that while the American policy as to the ultimate disposition of the Philippines was under consideration, Great Britain had made it plain enough to Washington that she was opposed to any policy under which the Philippines was to be granted her independence. Of course the purpose of Great Britain was to preserve her far-flung colonial empire.

Probably because of my boyhood days when I was so deeply impressed by our struggle for liberty, or probably because of the teachings in American schools and the atmosphere of freedom in the United States, in one of the dinners at the University Commons (this was a large dining hall of Yale University where banquets were held), when the American anthem was being played, I refused to stand up like all the rest of those present. When my attention was called, I remarked that the American tenets of liberty and equality were being denied the Filipinos. Later, I regretted my conduct deeply. I recognized that I had been unjust to America as I did not know yet what America would do with the Philippines. Furthermore, I should be courteous enough to respect the country I live in. But on the other hand, I got an inside view of American ways. The fact that I was not even reproached showed the broadmindedness and the spirit of tolerance of the American people.

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