Recruiting Bitterness?

by Kiko Matsing

Finally, a movie about the Philippine-American War, by no less than indie director John Sayles (Lone Star, Passion Fish).

Trailer:

Interview in Philippine TV:

One thing that I found that was important, that is not maybe emphasized enough in Philippine schools, certainly not in American schools, is that there was a Philippine Republic. There was a government, there was a Constitution–it was partly based on the American Constitution. This wasn’t a bunch of guerrillas hanging around in the jungle. It was really an attempt to make a country, and then the United States kind of reneged on their promise to liberate the Filipinos from the Spanish, and decided to stay and make the Philippines a territory.

I don’t know where Sayles gets his ideas about Philippine schools, but there are glaring errors in his statements. As a product of basic education in the Philippines, I know for a fact that the Malolos Constitution of 1899, which established the First Philippine Republic, is taught as a fundamental part of our national history. Also, the Americans did not liberate the Filipinos from Spain, we were fighting a revolution that was already tipped in our favor when the Americans showed up in Manila Bay. What the Americans reneged on was the promise to recognize the Philippine Declaration of Independence.

Why does Joel Torre corroborate Sayles by saying that this was “deliberately hidden” as if there was a conspiracy among textbook writers to polish this unsavory part of our history? To what dark motives? Joel Torre attended the same religious school I did, at the height of Martial Law when there was palpable anti-American sentiment among Filipinos because of US support of the Marcos government. If anything, the Philippine-American War was deployed to substantiate Filipino perceptions then (and now) of US imperialism.

I look forward to watching Amigo when it opens here in the US on August 20. It opens in the Philippines on July 4, the Philippine-American Friendship Day. I only hope this film is not a political tract recruiting Filipinos to bitterness. It is time to end the hysteria of anti-Americanism–we are not in the radar of American popular consciousness anyway–and instead use our longstanding (and bumpy) relationship with the US in a more pragmatic way, to secure our own economic, political, and diplomatic interests. Look at Vietnam, they’re now playing chummy with the US to help them thwart Chinese encroachment of their borders in the South China Sea. This colonial soap opera has to end.

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