pop The Rebellion in the Philippines

Source: "The North-China Daily News, Impartial not Neutral, Shanghai, 23rd October, 1896."

[Text provided by Rafael Onrubia, a Filipino born in Quezon City, Philippines and imigrated to the United States 1971.
e-mail: RTOnrubia@aol.com ]

The leading Hongkong paper translated recently an article from the Manila Comercio, giving a Spanish view of the insurrection in the Philippines, a view which is not at all adopted by other foreigners who have resided in the islands. The Comercio begins by saying that "the events now transpiring have been for all, - alike for loyal sons of the country and for Peninsulars of longer or shorter residence, - a painful surprise and a veritable revelation. No one could have suspected or foreseen them. Since the discovery of these islands Spain has been earnest in the evangelisation and the moral and intellectual education of the natives; she gave to the archipelago a prudent organisation and an adequate administration, and instituted wise laws which have been imitated by other nations in their colonies." Unfortunately, Spain has been too liberal and generous in her government of the islands. About twenty years ago the islands were given more liberal laws, "which were demanded by no one, nor required by the advancement of the country. Such as the civil code, some of whose provisions have, fortunately, remained in suspense; the penal code; the creation of justices of the peace which has been disastrous." Then in 1893 there was a municipal reorganisation, precipitated as a consequence of the royal decree of the 12th of November, 1889, and which has resulted in the creation of a doctrine of decentralisation, which before did not exist, breaking the bonds of legal unity, emancipating the municipal tribunals from the salutary moral tutelage of the parish priest and the efficacious direction of the chief provincial officials, thus producing a feeling of economic independence and effective autonomy which could only produce the bitter fruit and deplorable results we all now know, this independence being utilised badly educated minds incapable of distinguishing fine points of law to organise insensate rebellions against the integrity of the country, preparing the way for the perverse suggestions of cowardly agents and disloyal mediums, and converting the very place that ought to be the sacred repository of the communal interests and the bulwark of the interests of the state into a den of filthy and illegal societies and a dark conveuticle of nefarious treason, gross practices, and infamous and bloody compacts."

No wonder the writer goes on to complain of "the incredible ingratitude obtained by the generous country which with a precipitancy, blameworthy because of its magnanimity, instituted laws designed to elevate these islands to the ranks of the most civilised countries." Spain we learn, with illimitable love has thought solely of the good of the Philippines, and the disinterested development of its resources, and "has never allowed budding merit to pass without large recognition, lavishing on the sons of the soil, as on favourite children, the highest marks of confidence and honour, prodigally according to them the most sought-after dignities." The fact is, according to the Comercio, and this is the opinion of the Press of the Archipelago, the Philippine Islands have had liberal institutions lavished on them before they are fit for them. "In presence of actual events it must be confessed that, if it is not the actual truth, it at least appears that three centuries of civilisation have passed without leaving any trace of their passage; three centuries of evangelistic teaching without touching certain hearts, which must be of stone; three centuries, in short, in which the glorious Castilian language has not opened a way for itself, while in a few years the way has been opened for an abused Masonry, secret meetings, wicked ingratitude, ambitious, criminal teachings, and compacts of blood and rebellion." Terrible as the awakening has been, sealed with the blood of venerable priests, and gallant officers and soldiers, good will come of it if it leads the government to revoke the useless institutions and prejudicial laws which it granted in a fit of almost criminal generosity. And the writer concludes with a patriotic reference to "the vigorous awakening of the mother country, which though afflicted by the costly war in Cuba, renews her vitality and reveals her inexhaustible energy, placing in rapid movement several thousands of soldiers who are now on their way to these shores and who in a few days will share the gallant army of the archipelago, both peninsular and native, the satisfaction of duty fulfilled, the triumphs of valour, and glories of loyalty."

It does not strike the writer in the Comercio that the fact that the Spanish system of government and the civilisising agencies introduced by Spain have after three hundred years left the islanders in the state which he describes, does not say very much for the Spanish administration either civil or clerical. In reality, the Spanish rulers of the Philippines have had only one aim, to make money, and their rule has been so extortionate and so oppressive that the natives have been driven into rebellion. That the priests have been universally so bad as some accounts make them out to have been we do not believe. They have lived on the people, on the principle that the labourer is worthy of his hire, and they have made the people work for the glory of the church, so that in out-of-the way villages far from any centre of civilisation magnificent ecclestical buildings will be found, entirely constructed by the people under the direction of the priest. But they have often stood as a buffer between the people and the civil power, when the extortions of the latter became so intolerable that they felt bound to interfere. Again the priests if they make their flocks provide them with enough to live on, never return home but spend their money in the country, while the civil officials collect all they can take it back to Spain with them. Spain seems to have lost the power of holding her colonies by force, and cannot hold them any other way. The rebels in the Philippines are so badly armed and badly organised that they will, no doubt, be put down in time by the Spanish troops; but the suppression will be only temporary, unless there is a change in the Spanish system of governing.

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created: May 8, 1999
updated: May 8, 1999
APSIS Editor Johann Stockinger