Wake Up, Philippines!

‘Not for publication’

Posted in American Occupation, History by Erineus on February 12, 2009

COLONEL Cornelius Gardner, an 1869 West Point graduate, veteran of the American Indian Wars (he fought Cheyennes and Apaches), commandant of Fort Wayne, Michigan was strongly opposed to the USA war with Spain in 1898. The year after, 1899, Gardner was put in command of the 13th United States Infantry and sent to the Philippines to quell what American politicians called “Philippine insurrection.” A reformer at heart, Col. Gardner saw the perils of American imperialism.

In a letter to his friend, Michigan Governor Hazen Pingree, which he ended with “not for publication,” he made a frank assessment of the Philippine situation: “The educational problem is probably the most difficult one of all. Heretofore it has been entirely in the hands of the church. The text books were all of a religious nature, and only such things were taught as would assist the clergy in easily robbing and domineering the people.”

With regard to teaching English, observed that “English is gradually becoming the language of the Orient. It is now spoken in India, the Strait settlement, Chinese treaty ports and considerably in Japan” and concluded, “I can see no advantage hereafter in teaching in the primary schools any language but Tagalog and English. Tagalo is a language of too great a poverty of words, except for elementary instruction; higher education should be in English….” Curiously, he referred to Tagalog as Tagalo, like any Spaniard.

Wary of the Protestant onslaught in this country, Gardner said only “religious enthusiasts” can bear living in the Philippines and remain long enough to teach, but Filipinos do not want nor need missionaries of any other kind because the Catholic church had already made Filipinos “moral and temperate” so it is best that they “be left alone.” He added that “…the introduction of Protestantism in its varied forms and different creeds would produce chaos, where now simplicity and order reigns.

He believed that: “The clashing of the clergy proselyting [sic] each for his own sect and all against the present religion of the people would be exceedingly unfortunate for these people.” Gardner described Filipinos as “already far more religious than we Anglo-Saxons” directly opposing William McKinley’s cynical policy which insisted the USA had to “Christianize and civilize” the Filipinos. Gardner said Filipinos had “to be taught not religion but science and art and modern knowledge of things tangible. Modern machines for sugar refining, for cording hemp, for refining cocoanut [sic] oil …” In a way, he defined the role of Filipinos in America’s economic master plan as mere suppliers of raw materials.

By far, the most revealing assertions of reformist Gardner in his “not for publication” letter to Gov. Pingree are about the persistent Independence issue. “Hope for independence is too deep-seated, it can never be eradicated, except by a destruction of the population.” While he wrote, the Filipino-American War was raging with such brutal intensity. “Unless we govern wisely and humanely with a view to improve the conditions of the people here, and not with a view to make money out of them, we will have continual revolutions…” a rather prophetic warning for Filipino politicians who took over after 1946. (gemma601@yahoo.com)