Monday, August 15, 1898

The Germans

The escape of the former Governor, Agustin, on board the Kaiserin-Augusta, the fastest German flagship, was the news of the day. It was a smart trick played on the Americans, who undoubtedly would have taken him prisoner. The flagship left on Saturday before the end of the bombardment and headed for Hongkong. The United States will evidently presume that this flight was made possible only with the complicity of the Germans, in particular, Admiral von Diederichs. A naval battle between these two countries would have been sensational! But a dog does not feed on another dog when there is a third victim that can be devoured. In this case, the prey is worth their while.

The bombardment of Manila has not caused much damage. General Merritt has requisitioned all public services, but refuses to pay the unsettled wages of the Spaniards who are leaving the country, indeed an incredible situation. Even the religious who were responsible for a great part of the problems show their desire to flee. All the Spanish property has been transferred to the Americans, thus leaving the Filipinos in the same miserable state. The shameful absurdities of the Spanish policies are evident. After having occupied this country for 350 years, all their soldiers, priests, monks, and public officials will leave, and not a single Spaniard will remain. According to the consul general, the Spaniards had one bank, but no large-scale rural development, no mining company, nor any form of public works company. The 1897 figures for trade show that the English represent 80 percent, the Chinese 14 percent, and the Spanish a mere 4 percent. The figures speak for themselves, and any further comment would be superfluous.

Thursday, August 11, 1898

Still nothing. Admiral Dewey is essentially seeking an opportunity to bombard. But then again, the Americans are not so sure of themselves and fear being ambushed by the Tagals. This view is shared by many, in which case, Dewey will attack. If Merritt releases the insurgents in Manila, it would be the perfect excuse.

The Petrel and the Concorde are guarding the city and have completely blocked it from other ships anchored at bay. Yesterday the German consul had to request permission from Admiral Dewey to enter Cavite. Tension is constantly rising in the city. Fresh foodstuffs are unavailable, a rumor denied by some. The French consul has been advised that the Americans have categorically refused to grant the seven-day extension requested by the governor to enable him to inform his government.

Tonight, the American fleet is under pressure. The whole day was spent meeting with General Merritt at his camp. The Belgian consul was also present, having been designated the spokesman for the captain-general. While diplomatic discussions continue in diplomatic parlance, the most important element in the group remains silent but plans to attack anyway.

There is probably a plan to surrender Manila while pretending not to do so. What a contemptible idea! They are prepared to sacrifice these valiant people in order to provide these nonsensical negotiations a semblance of truth. Our sympathy goes to these brave Spanish soldiers. Never have soldiers had such poor leaders completely lacking in intelligence and consistently making incoherent and inconclusive decisions. They should have either surrendered Manila three months ago or defended the city to the very end. These small battles being waged by 10, 20, or a hundred poor souls, fighting hopelessly with all their strength, are futile. They are fighting for an unknown objective in the interest of a non-existent plan. This farcical attack will take its toll on more human lives, making them sacrificial lambs in the name of this so-called “honor.” The Spanish governor is resigned to give himself up but will go through the motions of actual battle, at the expense of 200 or 300 soldiers who will die for what he believes to be the real cause.

General Agustin was not willing to accept this plan up to the very end. He has consistently complained of his role in this deplorable situation. When someone had the audacity to declare and show evidence to the Cortes that there were 20,000 Spanish soldiers and 200 of the latest cannons in Luzon, the unfortunate general, outraged, responded with a telegram on June 21 describing the real situation, and this is the reason he was relieved of his command. Everyone praised him for his conduct and his sincerity. He took over the government of Manila the day before the Spanish defeat and surrendered it on the eve of the city’s capitulation.

Friday, August 5, 1898

It is said that the Monterey has brought formal orders to attack. But perhaps the victor and the vanquished would eventually end the fighting and maybe even settle their problem without combat.

There is threat of a typhoon. The strong winds from the west have worsened the situation at sea. We are forced to close all portsides and doors to keep the water from coming in. The defense mounted by the junk boats at the mouth of the Pasig River has failed. We have been enduring these torrential tropical rains for a month now. The Tagals, however, are indifferent to the weather, and continue surrounding Manila and the countryside. What would the Americans do here without them? Sinking a fleet at anchor is certainly only the first step towards the conquest of a country that is bigger than Hongkong or Ireland.

The shots heard on the evening of August 1 and 2 came from the attacks attempted by General Agustin and is units against the Americans in their trenches. Insignificant losses with no decisive results.

Tonight, a dramatic turn of events. We have learned from the consulate that the governor general of the Philippines, General Agustin, has been removed from office. Nothing could be more ridiculous; for the past four days, he has been working secretly at his desk. But what is more revolting is the example set by Madrid, whose policies are an incredible mixture of stupidity, incoherence, inertia and hysterical indecisions.

General Jaudenes y Jaudenes has been appointed governor, with Francisco Rizzo his deputy. This is nothing compared to General Monet’s appointment as chief of defense after deserting his post and his men, a constant subject of severe criticism. Together with his 2,800 men and General Agustin’s family, he found himself surrounded by insurgents since June. Under the pretext of escorting Mrs. Agustin and her five children across the Tagal lines, General Monet and his aide-de-camp abandoned their men. Some say that the true version of the story is that Monet abandoned his troops because he was aware of the implacable hatred of the Tagals. Of all the Spaniards, he is the most hated by the Tagals, having allegedly exerted heavy-handed authority by putting to death thousands of natives, women and children included, during the last repression of the uprising.

In order to promote more confusion, the same newspapers which carried news items regarding Agustin’s downfall have also reprinted an article published in Spain, dated the 21st of July, in which the new governor sings high praises to “the heroism of the Philippine army, its illustrious chief, and the nation.” The appointment orders dated the 24th were evidently pre-empted by the newspaper article.

All these insincere half-truths disgust us. Have people really reached this level? One could almost say that the empty pride of the vanquished found glory in their defeat. There is nothing else left for this nation but to face death.

Tuesday, 21 June, 1898

The Insurgents Make Progress

In my view, Aguinaldo would already be in Manila if Admiral Dewey had not closed the doors on him. And undoubtedly, the Americans are not too pleased with the natives’ continuing approaches towards the capital.

The insurgents are seen regularly on the beaches from Cavite to Manila, and have attempted an underground attack in Pasay, Santa Ana, and Paco. On the 10th of this month, they had grouped themselves into an extended semicircle. When the insurgents encircled the city from north to south, at least six kilometers from the wall, the Spaniards were forced to block their approach at Santa Ana. The Spaniards, too weak to mount a serious offensive at any point within the circle, remained on the defensive. They worked assiduously on the trenches, the embankments, and the small fortresses. Today, they worked 5,000 meters from the enemy line. The Spaniards’ intention to give the illusion of an efficient defense proved unsuccessful due to the lack of artillery and men, both of which were too dispersed. They have established 14 small forts. The troops, spread out in the trenches, are ready to move towards the Walled City if Governor General Agustin persists in fighting. What is he waiting for? Apparently, a squadron to help his forces. Maybe he is thinking of joining the insurgents?

And yet, this could be the best approach to take. The insurgents are no longer in doubt about the American sentiment towards them. The Americans do not wish to see them enter Manila. It was not Aguinaldo’s idea to subjugate the city by famine, but rather Admiral Dewey’s. At this point, Aguinaldo procrastinates because of the shame he might have to bear if he were held responsible for the massacre of the Spanish population.

Since the middle of the month, there has hardly been any fighting, except for occasional shootings at night. A substantial amount of ammunition is being used by both sides without result. The Americans continue their surveillance with floodlights. Occasionally, one of their warships ventures forth and is subjected to the night inspection of the foreign divisions. On land there is some artillery fired during the day. However, threats of famine are not sufficient to disturb the enthusiasm of the Filipino troops. It is evident that Manila will eventually fall; the insurgents are aware of their strength and have a nervous desire to use it. At the outpost, those who are detained are posing a problem. Armed with knives and axes to face the cannons, they throw themselves fanatically on the Spaniards. Now that they have guns, they are very eager to go to battle.

Deeply discouraged, the Spaniards are themselves faltering, feeling that the situation is desperate. These old leaders, who are disgustingly lax, have neither character nor strength. They are incapable of following through any idea. Their only strategy, if it can be called that, is essentially one of delaying tactics to gain time. Their despair springs from their lack of defense against the wave of insurgents, but from time to time they sacrifice small groups of men to show that they have a line of defense, which actually does not exist. Extremely courageous soldiers die bravely for the most senseless reasons, and behind their heroic deeds one only finds frightened generals. And in the end, a silence prevails over everything. The officers who are expressly forbidden to say anything to the press give a standard reply. “Nothing new.” However, this situation is becoming extremely complicated, making it difficult to discern the facts from the falsehoods. Everyone fears that the revelation of the truth would show their underhanded tactics and their savage appetite, which spares no one.

In spite of the usual daily routine, the city displays the strangest moral aspect. Outwardly, the people have not changed overnight. The Tagals still remain domestics or coachmen, engrossed in everyday life, and yet, they are insurgents. No one has any illusions on that matter, to the point where a Tagal offering a drink to a Spaniard could, should the occasion arise, strike him down that very night with the same hand. And then there are the Tagals who may be incapable of committing murder, but would welcome the insurgents with open arms at the appropriate moment. All this is evident in every face and is confided secretly among friends. An air of foreboding hangs eerily in the pleasing yet cruel ambiance of this city, where laughter is heard as it experiences pain.