Wednesday, August 31, 1898

Truth Above All

General Merritt is leaving to attend the Paris Congress primarily to demand the annexation of the Philippines to the United States. His is the privilege of being the sole representative of 10 million Filipinos whom he considers as his conquest, in a commission which will decide the fate of these people.

About three weeks ago in Cavite, there was a poster addressed to the Filipinos and signed by General Merritt: “The American people have not come here to make war but have come as champions and liberators of a people oppressed by the bad government of Spain.” General Merritt, like many Americans, is unpolished and self-centered, and makes no effort to be pleasant. He has a massive head, a double chin, a heavy moustache over thick fleshy lips, and is broad and ugly like a bulldog.

I have been observing these Filipinos for almost a year. Once again they find themselves being oppressed, a state from which they though they had been freed. In the autumn of 1897, after a dramatic show of force, but without much illusion, they signed a meaningless treaty with the Spaniards with the objective of regaining their forces for the next rebellion. One year later, in 1898, they had not conquered the Spaniards but rather found themselves once again beneath the yoke, except that this time their chains were riveted by the Americans.

The Great Republic, as Aguinaldo called it, promised them their liberty by spring of that year and used this pretext to crush Spain. If by the month of September 1898 the Philippines would no longer be Spanish, undoubtedly the United States owes this to the Filipinos who assisted them in the bombardment and siege of the city.

The Mighty Republic now considers the country American since it is no longer Spanish. The English would say: A colony which belongs to no one is ours. But for the Americans: We can claim a colony even if it belongs to someone else. In a manner of speaking, the Americans are already the successors of Spain. They have started making their peace with the established powers, with the Church, the religious orders, and the English traders. In the name of the mighty dollar, they are massacring the native population as did the Spaniards in the name of the Church.

The Tagals are banned from Manila, now considered conquered territory. The Philippine Republic, and the freedom of the Filipinos lasted only long enough to give the Americans time to substitute their tyranny for that of Spain. If the Tagals really deserve freedom –a freedom which the Americans, six months earlier, dared to guarantee– all they have to resort to is a mass uprising.

The Americans, desirous of becoming masters of the Philippines, are beginning to behave as the Spaniards did. They, too, are convinced that there is barely any difference between these savages and monkeys. At Easter, they were indignant some dared treat the Filipino people as a free nation. By the feast of the Assumption, those very Americans denied the allegations they had made at Easter. And on both occasions, the civilized world stood back to witness the emergence of another power in the Philippines.

[diary ends here]


Saturday, August 27, 1898

“United States Supremacy Must Be Absolute”

On August 18, Admiral Dewey, through his aide-de-camp, informed his squadron that as a result of the preliminary talks in Paris, Manila would fall under American jurisdiction until a definite treaty would be signed.

A few days later, on the occasion of the farewell visit of a foreign admiral, Admiral Dewey was heard to say, “I am very pleased to have the Monterey and Monadnoch as reinforcement but I am disturbed by these insurgents who are becoming increasingly demanding.” General Merritt totally agreed with him. Nothing is more cumbersome than trying to dislodge a people from their own land. The law instituted by Judge Lynch is by its very nature the only means of extricating his American compatriots from this complicated situation.

On the 21st of August, Aguinaldo sent President McKinley a telegram requesting the representation of the revolutionary government of the Philippines at the Paris Conference. The request went unanswered. And yet, General Merritt, this “gringo” officer who wielded his authority over Manila with such clumsiness, has been designated to participate in this conference. The absence of a Filipino representative clearly proves that the United States intends to push its objectives to the utmost limits.

The Americans are keeping the Philippine capital under the strictest surveillance and unscrupulously maintain that their duty is to govern the entire archipelago. United States supremacy must be absolute.


Tuesday, August 23, 1898

Political Attitude of the Religious

Yesterday, 60 Dominicans left for Hongkong. The departure of other priests of different orders is under consideration. It is unlikely that they will return to Europe. They will wait on English territory for the result of the Congress of Paris on the fate of the Philippines. Their loyalty to Spain is only secondary to their allegiance to the Church. Their great fear is that should the Philippines become independent, they would be compelled to leave one of the richest agricultural lands in the world. They realize that their chance of remaining and keeping their possessions are better if the archipelago is annexed to the United States.

It is shocking to see that the religious are not about to share defeat with Spain after having slowly dispossessed her of these islands these past 350 years. Instead, they are congratulating themselves on the fact that in no less than three months they will retrieve their losses from the United States, with whom they will join forces against their only declared enemies, the indigenous population. The Filipinos will surely be following the evolution of the American policies, particularly the presence of the religious orders in the archipelago, which represents a very sensitive situation, since the Filipino revolution was directed more against the Church than against Spain.

The archbishop of Manila, a Dominican by the name of Nozaleda, has fled on a German ship Darmstadt, which will take him to Shanghai. This prelate, who left his flock at the start of the hostilities, is rumored to be preparing for his return to the Philippines. He has made overtures to General Merritt, and it is certain that these will be accepted. Might is right. Regarding matters on governing the native population, both the Americans and the Church see that mutual benefits can be derived by joining forces.

The Americans no longer hide their feeling that the native population is not capable of governing itself, a conviction evidently shared by the religious. The two powers have only to unite to govern these people, who could be invaluable to them but for whom they feel no real concern.

From this day onward, the archbishop will uphold the need for removing the Philippines from Spanish rule. To defend his position, he states that insamuch as the Americans are much more powerful than the Spaniards, the Philippines should fall under American rule. Not even the devil would dare contradict him.


Thursday, August 18, 1898

In the fields

The weather has been delightful the past few days. Beneath the huge trees and their thick foliage, the mornings are rather pleasant. The massive branches of the coconut trees intertwine with those of the palm trees. Under the blazing sun, the ricefields resemble a moving sea of silvery green. The gold and emerald beetles, the brilliantly colored hummingbirds, and the flowers in full bloom all vibrate before our eyes like precious stones floating everywhere around us.

The Tagals are resuming work in the fields. Many are tilling the ground using carabaos, their beats of burden, with their huge inverted horns and rings through their nostrils, to pull their primitive carts. Along the road, the Indians are pounding rice or tending to their animals. The peasants have a happy glow in their faces as they peacefully carry on with their daily chores.

When I visited the village of Mandaluyong, the guide given to me by the mayor did not hide his disdain for the Americans, nor did he give any explanation for his compatriots’ error when they received Admiral Dewey in Cavite, but he obviously bore a grudge against Aguinaldo. He simply could not understand why the Filipinos were not free to govern their own country. There was a certain decisiveness in his voice as he soberly explained the turn of events. I would say that an eloquent speaker like him could have come from New York or anywhere else in the world. He proudly announced that the Spaniards suffered more fatalities than the insurgents, a fact later confirmed by the Americans camped outside Manila. I am convinced that only minor losses were sustained on both sides and that, strictly speaking, there was neither a battle nor a war.

On other excursions to Caloocan, Malabon, and San Juan del Monte, we witnessed the same renewal of activity in the fields. The huts which were once abandoned are returning to life, and people are calmly and peacefully building new ones.

A group of officers from B________ used a vedette boat to go up the Pasig. In a small town, a genteel mestizo family graciously received these strangers.

These people, Filipinos to the very core of their being, abhorred the Spanish domination, particularly the frailes, but expressed their genuine respect for the queen of Spain and the young, unfortunate king whom they did not hold responsible for their situation.


Wednesday, August 17, 1898

The Americans reveal their intentions

Last night, the American military officers and the politicians planned their strategy for eventual takeover.

A new monitor of 4,000 tons, the Monadnoch, dropped anchor after having been at sea for 53 days. News of the peace treaty was conveyed by the consul of the United States in Hongkong. The form of procedure was signed on August 12 and a commission is meeting in Paris for a definitive agreement.

The Americans are already showing their lack of flexibility with regard to the insurgents. In the first place, the officials concerned feel that negotiations should last only a few days. General M.A. ________ allegedly cried out loud, “We have come here to stay. It is not our custom to throw away money for the love of these Negroes. We have spent a considered amount of money which we will recoup by occupying the Philippines. And it would be to the interest of the Filipinos not to run counter to our policies if they wish our support. A blunt statement indeed. Once again the Tagals find themselves on the defensive in their own country.

These Yankees are as clumsy as the most illiterate Englishmen. They insist on regarding the Tagals as Negroes and treating them as such. Using this term is definitely an insult to the Filipinos, but treating them like one is unpardonable. The complacent attitude of the Americans towards the Spaniards is another unreconcilable issue in the eyes of the native. The Anglo-Saxon race believes that human dignity does not extend beyond themselves. A Yankee chatting with Spanish officials in the street smilingly stated, “We will teach these savages a lesson and if these rebels resist, we shall bring them around to reason.”

The Tagals, however, have demonstrated exemplary behavior since the surrender. They have not committed any murder, nor have they attempted to pillage, and yet, their mere presence aggravates the Americans whose cynicism could easily sow the seed of revolt. The Yankees are scandalized that the Filipinos dare contest the government established by the United States army. When General Merritt wanted to keep the Tagals out of Manila and confine them at the Camp in Cavite, he had to order them to do so, because the stubborn natives were reluctant to obey this directive.

The Americans are disarming all the insurgents, including their officers who entered beyond the perimeter assigned to native troops. The Tagals remain stoic and refuse to show their bitter resentment. Every Spaniard employed in whatever capacity in the public sector of Manila has been ordered to leave and has been replaced by an American. There is not a single Filipino among them.

The American troops are occupying the city and the forts of Manila, the arsenal of Cavite, the main points along the road between Manila and Cavite, and control the telegraph service. The fleet is in charge of monitoring communications of the ships at sea.

A visit to the fortified fort at La Loma held by the insurgents could prove to be an interesting experience. In Tondo we were stopped by the American sentinels who searched us for arms and knives, which proves that armed Tagals are not allowed passage, but when I showed them my penknife, they were good-natured about it. At one point we met a number of insurgents wearing hats decorated with a ribbon showing the colors of the republic –red and blue. They were all smiling and greeting us spontaneously. The Tagals are occupying barracks where the road forks. We took a Filipino officer by surprise when we asked him to accompany us to our excursion, but he eventually obliged. Wherever we went we were looked at with great curiosity. In the church of La Loma, where we were warmly welcomed by 10 Spanish artillerymen, we came upon a native officer working at his desk who also showed surprise at our request to permission to walk through the trenches. After questioning us, he finally granted our request and, from that moment, became rather friendly.

Coming from the garden, we met a Filipino colonel on his inspection tour –a young man of about 25 to 30 years old who, in correct French, explained that the Spanish defeat was inevitable. The Spaniards did not represent a formidable adversary to the Tagals who were entirely familiar with their terrain where they could hold their own, or even gain the upper hand, vis-a-vis the Spaniards. Perhaps the Americans were more to be feared. The young colonel had his reservations about the Americans who, he thought, would wish to have complete control over both the Filipinos and the Spaniards. But he hurriedly continued that he hoped the future would prove him wrong. He estimated that the Tagal forces around Manila numbered as many as 10,000 men, with other troops spread out over the islands.


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.


Sunday, August 14, 1898

Admiral Dewey informs the foreign battleships that they can anchor in their original positions in Manila Bay. The naval officers hastily go on land but the overly cautious Germans, heedless of the dispatches concerning the treaty, go ashore fully armed. On land or at sea, Admiral von Diederich’s presence reaffirms the dominance of a formidable Germany.

It is said the Spaniards lost 400 men in yesterday’s fighting. Even if it were 40 or a hundred, the toll would still be too high since these men, dispersed everywhere on the ramparts, awaited the enemy without fighting and were ordered not to fire a single shot. The Spanish soldiers within the walls hae already relinquished their guns unloaded and discharged, before they are allowed entry. Within the walls, an American officer piles up the confiscated guns in the guardhouse. I have also seen an infantry regiment and a battalion of soldiers disarmed before the city gates.

The Spanish soldiers keep their sabers and clench their teeth, perhaps out of rage or out of sheer humiliation. They undoubtedly harbor these feelings of betrayal in varying degrees, fully aware that there was no battle and that the troops present could have kept the Americans at bay.

Admiral Montojo has bluntly stated that the siege of Manila was a farce played by General Merritt. But he seems to forget that he also played a role similar to that of General Jaudenes and the Spaniards.

Now, Manila definitely looks like a conquered city. There is hardly any Spaniard on the street and all shops are closed. Panic is rising out of fear that the Tagals might pillage this city tonight or possible plan a massacre. Meanwhile, the Americans continue to exercise very strict surveillance.

Within the Walled City, the inhabitants and soldiers move around, and one can see the Spanish military men carrying on friendly conversations with the soldiers of the Union. Some are even drinking together in the cafes. What an encouraging sight! The streets are full of disarmed soldiers, but in the churches and convents, where the entire Spanish garrison is confined, the air is permeated by unbearable stench and dirt.

General Merritt has had a manifesto posted in English, Spanish and Tagalog declaring that Manila is now under American military government. There is no mention whatsoever of the insurgents. The American military is speaking on behalf of the United States in the same way that the Spaniards were speaking yesterday in the name of Spain, the repetition of this twist of fate clearly indicating the stranglehold of another foreign power on Manila.

A considerable number of American troops seen at close range show no signs of order, or discipline. It is obvious why the Germans look down disdainfully on them. They look like an army organized for manhunts, while the English marines remind me of a flotilla of yachtsmen. The Americans involved everywhere, just like their counterparts, the English, remain different from them, like the contrast between the rustic and aristocratic or between the workhand and the lord of the manor. The American army has always been regarded as a school for athletics, a notion that should be expanded to moral gymnastics or a virtual seminary for democracy.

The American soldiers are hefty and tall but appear narrow in the chest in relation to their height. It seems that tuberculosis is their Achilles heel. These men who exude self-confidence are more comfortable wearing cowboy outfits than the military uniform. Their huge felt hats resemble the plumed hats of musketeers in operettas. The color of their sporty brown uniform is very similar to that worn by our marine infantry. Some wear dark-blue tunics, which look too warm for the tropics. They all wear gaiters and belts of cartridges. During the day they are on their best behavior and pay for all their purchases. At night, they rid themselves of their inhibitions, drink excessively and, when quite drunk on whisky, become unbearable savages, killing at the slightest provocation. They do not unleash their brutish behavior on each other but rather on the natives. As soon as they see one, the manhunt begins. This sport enjoyed by these champions of humanity has been inherited from their forefathers, who pursued the Redskins and Negroes. This war has certainly given the Americans the opportunity for magnificent manhunts in the Philippines and Cuba at very little cost.

Rumors about the impropriety of this siege is spreading fast. It is said tha when General Jaudenes stated, On the presumption that Manila cannot defend itself, no cannons should be fired, only one general defiantly protested and said, When the hostilities start, we should fight to the bitter end!” Strong words spoken by a man who dared speak his mind at a time like this.

The Spaniards have convinced themselves that they had no other alternative, a convenient excuse for a well deserved defeat. Colonel ___________ now insists that the situation was inevitable, but vehemently denies that the Spanish artillerymen were inferior to their mediocre American counterparts. “In fact, most people are unaware that we used armor-piercing shells to destroy bridges and watchtowers. Let it not be said that our shells were useless. But when asked why the other types of missiles were not used, he had to admit that the Spanish officers had not been instructed on the use of the various projectiles.


Sunday, August 14, 1898

Surrender

The American and Spanish officers have signed the treaty of surrender. When the Americans took over the government of Manila, they accorded the Spanish prisoners the honors of war.

The terms of the surrender worth noting are as follows:

  1. Only the City of Manila and its environs are included in the terms of surrender.
  2. The sovereignty of the United States is merely provisional with the possible withdrawal of the American army.
  3. This convention is dated August 13.

This last observation is important because Admiral Dewey apparently overlooked his dates, the peace treaty between Spain and the United States having been signed on August 12, the eve of the siege of Manila, while the Spanish flag was still flying.

 


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.