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Sakdalism and Philippine Radicalism Author(s): David R. Sturtevant Reviewed work(s): Source: The Journal of Asian Studies, Vol.

21, No. 2 (Feb., 1962), pp. 199-213 Published by: Association for Asian Studies Stable URL: . Accessed: 28/08/2012 11:08
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2-3, I935, 65,ooo partially-armed peasants shattered the tranquility of the countryside surrounding Manila.' Between sunset and sunrise dissident bands seized three communities and threatened ten others in Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna, and Cavite.2 Throughout the night confusion mounted. Hard-pressed Constabulary units from the provinces and Manila fought three engagements with Sakdalistas,picked up persistent reports of an impending attack on Manila, and heard recurrent and highly disturbing rumors that Japanese aircraft, equipped with arms and ammunition for the rebels, would fly over the trouble zone at dawn.3 By mid-morning of May 3, the situation appeared to be getting beyond the control of law enforcement agencies. After a bloody clash at Cabuyao the Constabulary commander in Laguna issued frantic calls for more reinforcements and iooo additional rifles.4 When this appeal appeared in Manila newspapers beside reports that the governor of Cavite had been captured, near panic developed in the rural areas around the capital city.5 Prominent families throughout the rebellious district fled their homes for the comparative safety of Manila,6 and Malacafian alerted American military units for possible action.7 By evening, however, the crisis had begun to ease. Constabularymen in the provinces reported that rebel bands had vanished as rapidly and with as little trace as they had formed.8 Provincial and municipal authorities restored severed telephone lines, rounded up known Sakdal leaders together with other radicals, began the in-

Onthe night of May

The author is Associate Professor of History at Muskingum College, New Concord, Ohio. Research for this paper was conducted in the Joseph R. Hayden Papers at Ann Arbor, Michigan with the assistance of a Foreign Area Training and ResearchGrant from the Ford Foundation. 1 Estimates of Sakdal membership ranged as high as 300,000 at the time of the uprising. No more J. than 65,ooo, if that many, however, participatedin the insurrection.Acting Governor-General R. Hayden, PreliminaryReport on the SakdalistaDisturbances,Manila, May 7, I935, p. 4. Hayden Papers. Cited hereafter as Hayden, PreliminaryReport. Documents from the Hayden Papers will be labeled HP. 2 See G. C. Dunham, L. J. Van Schaik, F. W. Manley, and E. G. Chapman, Report of the Committee 1. Appointed by Acting Governor-General R. Hayden to Investigate the Uprising of May 2 and 3, 1935, Manila, May 2I, I935. HP. Cited hereafter as Sakdal Uprising Report. 3 J. R. Hayden, The Philippines: A Study in National Development (New York, I942), p. 39I. Cited hereafter as Hayden, The Philippines. 4 Manila Herald, May 3, I935. 5 Sakdal Uprising Report, Appendix III, "Action of Municipal Authorities," pp. I-I4. 6 The influx of well-to-do rural refugees placed a severe strain on Manila's hotel facilities. Manila Daily Bulletin, May 4, I935. 7 Richard Ely, the ranking official at Malacafian during the disturbance, filed a memorandum immediately after the uprising explaining the alert: ". . . early yesterday morning there was a possibility that the Constabularywould not be able to control the situation and I thought it might ultimately be necessaryto call on the Army." Ely to Hayden, May 4, I935. HP. 8 Hayden, PreliminaryReport, p. 4.




terrogation of captured insurgents, and turned in preliminary reports on the pattern of the uprising,. Early findings indicated a sobering set of circumstances. During fifteen turbulent hours municipal and Constabularypolice power had been tested to. the breaking points.9 Suppression of the brief but widespread outbreak resulted in death or severe wounds for more than one hundred men. In Cabuyao a determined force of three hundred ill-equipped Sakdals attempted to hold the stone wall surrounding the churchyardagainst a Constabularyattack. During the engagement more than two hundred dissidents managed to flee the scene of carnage. Seventy-nine, however, remained behind to defend the wall. Seven emerged physically unscathed. Twenty-two suffered serious wounds. Fifty were killed.'0 These were the principal events of May 2-3, 1935. For the most part, the uprising together with its prelude has either been ignored or its significance has been missed by students and observers of Philippine affairs.1'Some tend to lump Sakdalism with the other inefTectiveand shadowy progenitors of the Hukbalahap. Like the ceaseless efforts of the hydra-headed Colorum sect, the flamboyant Intrencheradista episode, the abortive Tangulan uprising, and the poorly organized operations of lesser secret societies and messianic movements, the Sakdalistas usually receive a curt nod in passing from chroniclers hurrying toward the genesis of contemporary radicalism in the Socialist-Communist United Front of I938.12 Efforts to classify Sakdalism reveal the confusion surrounding the movement. Gregorio Zaide labels the Sakdals a "Communist-type" organization."' But Luis Taruc calls them tools of Japanese imperialism and castigates Benigno Ramos, the Sakdal supremo, as a combination 14 "labor racketeer" and "agent of Japan." The purpose of this paper is to linger briefly with this intriguing group of dissenters in order to suggest some implications of the movement which all too frequently have been overlooked. Origins of Sakdalism Prior to I930 agrarian protest movements tended to follow a well-established pattern.15Bitter taos, walled in by usury and illiteracy, turned to any leader who promised escape. Periodically, at the behest of unlettered or unsophisticated local radicals, they executed poorly-conceived and disorganized uprisings. Almost without exception provincial rebels based their insurrections on the naive assumption that an isolated flare-up would ignite a general conflagration in tension-ridden Central
9 All available Constabularyreserves except I 14 men at Manila headquarterswere committed to action. If the insurrectionhad lasted a few more hours or spread to neighboring provinces the reserve would have been exhausted. Sakdal Uprising Report, Appendix II, "Action by the Constabulary,"pp. I-3. 10 Three of the wounded died within twenty-four hours. Sakdal Uprising Report, p. 8. 11 Typical of the treatment accorded the Sakdals by Filipino historians is that of Gregorio F. Zaide. Volume II of his standard history contains only three sentences pertaining to Sakdalism. G. F. Zaide, The Philippines Since the British Invasion (Manila, I949), p. 289. An excellent popular survey of Philippine affairs dismisses the Sakdalistasas "part crackpot, part idealistic, part socialist and part fascist . . ." David Bernstein, The Philippine Story (New York, I947), p. I20. 12 A recent monograph on agrarian unrest in the Philippines continues standard misinterpretations by lumping the Colorums and Tangulan into one movement and by glossing over the armed revolt of the A. H. Scaff, The Philippine Answer to Communism (Stanford, California, I955), pp. Sakdals in "I934."
I47-I48. 13 Zaide, The Philippines since the British Invasion, p. 289. 14 Luis Taruc, Born of the People (New York, I953), p. 29.
15 See D. R. Sturtevant, "Philippine Social Structure,and Its Relation to AgrarianUnrest" (unpublished doctral dissertation,Stanford Univ., I958), pp. I05-I53.



Luzon. Between I93I and I94I, spontaneous challenges to authority gave way to coherent agrarian movements led by members of the urban middle class. Sakdalism marked the transition from blind rustic protest on the one hand to the later wellorganized and near-successfulrebellion on the other. Benigno Ramos, the dynamic founder of Sakdalism, typified the metamorphosis in leadership. Cut from a different mold than the traditional rural agitator, Ramos was the son of a minor provincial bureaucrat.16Born in I893 and educated in the town of Bulacan, Ramos served his intellectual apprenticeship as a village school teacher before gravitating to Manila. In the capital he wrote impassioned nationalistic poetry for obscure Tagalog literary journals and worked on the staff of several newspapers. In ig2i, he entered the civil service via the clerical ranks of the Philippine Senate. Rising rapidly, he became in I928 the director of a bureaucratic division on the Senate Staff. Moreover, his way with words attracted the attention of Nacionalista leaders. They began to use his fiery patriotism and flair for oratory to rally the faithful at minor party functions in Manila and Bulacan. These appearancesgained for Ramos a small but devoted personal following. This pleasant and promising career came to an abrupt end in I930. Permitting his emotions to overcome his subservience to party discipline, he joined an unsanctioned strike by teachers at a Manila High School.17This action led Senate President Manuel Quezon to request his resignation. Ramos complied but in the process dedicated himself to an antiQuezon, anti-Nacionalista crusade. With his own savings and the financial assistance of Manila friends Ramos established a newspaper. Called Sakdal, meaning "to accuse" or "to strike," the vitriolic weekly quickly gained a degree of notoriety. In each issue Ramos cast verbal brickbats at the majority party, accused its leaders of every political crime imaginable, fanned the flames of class antagonism, and tried to capture the independence issue from the party which had used it as a rallying cry for a generation. Furthermore, Ramos opened his editorial columns to anyone who wished to vent his spleen against Quezon and his followers. To the delight of the village population, extremists like the Tangulan Patricio Dionisio seized the opportunity.18Circulation mounted in the provinces, where Ramos became known as a champion of the poor, an advocate of the "Filipinos of heart and face," and an enemy of those he called "rich," "fat,'>"soHis called leaders,"who "promise as much as the Americans and deliver as little."'19 cavalier treatment of the libel laws, together with his affinity for agitators with seditious intent, drew the attention of the postal authorities who temporarily withdrew Sakdal's mailing privileges.20This involvement with officialdom merely strengthened Ramos' reputation in the barrios as a persecuted spokesman for the downtrodden. After tapping the reservoir of discontent in the villages, Ramos exploited his
16 Biographical information on Ramos' early career can be found in R. M. Stubbs, "Philippine Radi(unpublished doctoral dissertation, Univ. of California, calism: The Central Luzon Uprisings, 1925-35"

Berkeley, 1951),
17 18

pp. 130-35.

Hayden, The Philippines, p. 382. For an analysis of the Tangulan Movement and Ramos' connection with Dionisio, see Stubbs,

pp. "Philippine Radicalism," 94-125.

19 Stubbs, "Philippine Radicalism,"p. 135.
20 Constabulary records indicated that the abortive "Tangulan uprising . . . was precipitated by the influence of the 'Sakdal' publications . . ." G. B. Francisco, Chief of Staff, Philippine Constabulary,The May7, 1935, p. i. HP. ,SakdalParty,Manila,



popularity by forming a political party in I933. Opportunity for minority action came with the appearance of a bitter controversy among Nacionalista leaders concerning ratification of the Harc-Hawes-Cuttinb Act. While both Quezonistas and followers of Sergio Osmefia and Manuel Roxas assailed one another over the best route toward Commonwealth status, Ramos' lieutenants carefully prepared the way for Sakdal's editor to enter the political arena. On October 29, provincial delegations led by professional men assembled at an inconspicuous convention in Manila.2' They quickly elected Benigno Ramos party president, designated other functionaries, and adopted a hastily constructed platform which combined all the disconnected causes Sakdal had been advocating for three years.22 Sakdalism and Party Politics With the party formally launched Ramos and his aides prepared strategy for the
I934 electoral campaign. As a means of publicizing the chief plank in the Sakdal

platform, Ramos sailed to America for an eleventh hour effort to achieve immediate independence.23While the absent supremo's pronouncements occupied the headlines, editorials in Sakdal continued to level verbal barrageson both camps of the badly-split Nacionalistas. In the provinces a full slate of Sakdalista hopefuls quietly filed petitions for the June election and activists went to work in the villages. Sakdal organizational techniques became apparent in April and May when the pre-election debate reached fever pitch. Followers of Quezon and Osmefia travelled the well-worn Nacionalista campaign routes and vilified one another before assembled voters in major towns and provincial capitals. Sakdalista orators,however, visited remote barriosto harangue delighted taos by the light of flickering oil flares.24 The Sakdals organized their appeal around issues which were clearcut and meaningful to the peasantry.Party speakers accused the Nacionalistas of hypocrisy on the issue of national freedom and promised that Ramos would acquire "complete and absolute" independence for the Philippines by December 3I, I935. They guaranteed also that when the Sakdal Party acquired control of the government it would abolish all taxes. To these political appealsSakdal oratorsadded the issue of caciquism. Calling for equal or common ownership of land they proclaimed that all large holdings should be divided and distributed to the poor. They also launched vitriolic attacks on the religious orders for operating vast estates and amassing wealth "through dishonest means."25 But Sakdals did not limit their campaigning to rhetoric.They supported verbal accusations of Nacionalista chicanery with fraudulent evidence. Party speakers linked dignified depictions of Ramos' exemplary characterwith lurid descriptionsof Manuel Quezon's private life; moreover, they circulated two snapshots to prove their point.

21 Of the thirteen men elected to subordinate positions in the party, four were lawyers, three former government employees, two merchants, one a school teacher, one an ex-judge, and one a dentist. Stubbs, p. I55. 22 A summary of the Sakdal Party Platform can be found in Francisco, Sakdal Party, p. i. 23 Ramos spent more time in Japan and California building political fences than he did in Washington. For an account of his trip see Stubbs, pp. 157-I59. 24 "They appealed to people whom the local leaders of the dominant parties often disdained, ignored, or patronized." Hayden, The Philippines, p. 384. 25 Campaign techniques are described by Francisco, Sakdal Party, p. 2.



The firstpicturedQuezonenjoyingthe companyof an Americanmovie queen; The secondportrayed Benigno Ramos in earnestconversation with PresidentRoosevelt. Sakdalspokesmen, course,did not inform their rusticaudiences of that the Quezon photographwas a standardHollywood publicityshot while the statesmanlike portrayalof Ramos was a cleverly-devised composite.26 sharpcontrastbetweenthe Te two pictures clinchedthe argument manytaos.Distrustof Nacionalista for leadership spreadin the wake of Sakdalista oratorsand an intensehatredfor ManuelQuezon developed manyvillages. in The ruralperegrinations Sakdalista of organizers togetherwith the inflammatory contentof theirspeeches were ignoredby everyone official in circlesexceptthe Arguseyed PhilippineConstabulary. When returnsfor the electionsbegan to roll in, however,amazedNacionalistas that discovered Sakdalism becomea forceto be reckhad oned with. All three Sakdal candidates the House of Representatives won refor sounding victories.The people of Marinduque elected a Sakdal governorof their province. Laguna,Bulacan,Rizal, and Cavite,the party's In for candidates municipal officesmade remarkable showingsand won more than a scoreof importantposts.2T The outcomedemonstrated effectiveness the Sakdalappealand bore witness the of in statement triumphant a In to the degreeof discontent the provinces. a post-election accusation that his partyadvocated BenignoRamosdeniedthe growingNacionalista clerkconcluded Sakdalism's the violence.After restating peacefulobjectives ex-senate his remarkson a note of qualifiedoptimism,"We fight only for things that are reasonable," said."Giventhe chancewe hopeto makegood."28 he Ramos'confidence, however,provedto be ephemeral. recQuezon and Osmefna, laws had openedthe door to a potenognizing that their debateover independence tially dangerous followedtime-honored opposition, precedent endedtheir feudV" and The majoritypartyobedientlyclosed ranksbehind them. Almost overnightRamos and his followersfound themselvesconfronted the same overwhelming by majority against which minoritypartieshad been dispersedfor a generation. Moreover,the reconstituted Nacionalistas movedefficiently exploitthe politicaladvantages the to of Law and the Commonwealth status it promised.In July I934, Tydings-McDuffie Filipinos went to the polls again to select delegatesfor a Constitutional Convention. The Sakdalistasboycottedthe election and labeled the whole procedurea thinly-disguised technique to perpetuateoligarchic controls on a foundation of Their protests,however, went unheeded.The duly elected Americanbayonets.30 delegates,whom Ramos dismissedas a collectionof "half-breeds betrayers,"8' and assembledon July 30, I934 and began the deliberations which concludedwith the adoptionof an organicact on February8, I935. PresidentRooseveltsignedthe Con-

in and for stitution March called a plebiscite be heldon MayI4, to


The mendingof the split in Nacionalistaranks,togetherwith the pell mell race

Bernstein, The Philippine Story, p. 121. Election results are summarized in Francisco, Sakdal Party, p. 3. 28 Hayden, The Philippines, p. 388. 29 Following the rapprochement, an editorial succinctly summarized the history of the Nacionalistas as "a record of mergers, consolidations, coalitions, and reconciliations."Manila Daily Bulletin, April 30, I935. 30 Hayden, The Philippines, p. 388. 31 Stubbs, p. 173.
26 27



toward autonomyunder majorityparty auspices,constituteda politicaldisasterfor the Sakdalistas. Unity among the established leadersmade a rapid rise to majority statusof the new opposition groupinconceivable. alsoprecluded It actionas a fulcrum in a delicately balanced legislature. Lastbut not leastthe threeSakdalmembers the of House of Representatives could not possiblyfrustratethe Nacionalistadrive toward Commonwealthstatus. Some Sakdals advocatedthe formulationof more realistic party goals to meet radicallychangedconditions.32 Ramos and his principalaides found themselvescaught between the grindstonesof their own demagogueryand Nacionalista exploitation the widespread of desirefor self-rule.The painful squeeze left only two alternatives the Sakdalleaders:(i) a major modification their for of platformincludingthe primaryobjectiveof immediateindependence; (2) an allor out campaignto frustrate plebiscite. the Ramos spent severaluncomfortable months squirmingunder the pressureof his party'ssituation.Exactlywhen he decidedto block the plebisciteis not clear,but in NovemberI934, he set forth on his travelsagain. Beforeleaving he announcedthat he was bound for Washingtonto fight for repealof the Tydings-McDuffie Act. He made no effort,however,to carrythe views of his followersto the United States.Instead, he journeyeddirectlyto Japanwhere he began negotiationswith Pan-Asia

While Ramosdiscussed plight with Japanese his Sakdalleadersin the extremists, Philippinesfought a franticrear guard action againsta wave of NacionalistacampaignersadvocatingCommonwealth status.Vituperationalone, however,could not check the ground swell of sentimentin favor of the Constitution. March I935, In Sakdalorganizers the provinces in and initiateda determined counteroffensive probablybegancovertpreparations an uprising.By the beginningof April,officials for in Manilabeganto expressconcernover Sakdalactivitiesin the region surrounding the capital.34 Nacionalista speakers attempting parrySakdalattackson the Constitution to encountered wall of hostilesilenceor jeersand catcallsfrom the taos of Laguna.In a Bulacanmunicipal policearrested Sakdaloratorat an anti-Commonwealth but a rally, had to fight their way throughan arousedmob of his supporters beforethey could behindbars. placetheirprisoner On April ii, with politicalstorm signalsflutteringon all sides, membersof the of insulargovernmentmoved to end the mounting turbulence.The Secretary the Interiororderedmunicipalauthorities requirepermitsfor publicmeetings;he also to specifiedthat permissionshould not be granted until applicantshad filed an ac32 Basilio Valdes, "Peace and Order in the Philippines," The Philippines Herald Year Book I935, III (November, I935) p. I41. Gonrado Benitez suggested that the independence issue be set aside in favor of the more worthy social and economic objectives. Conrado Benitez, "Sakdal," Philippine Magazinie,


p. 240.

Ramos' contacts with Japanese extremists were established by Matsumoto Kumpei, a member of the Seiyukai Party and an erstwhile representativein the Diet. Matsumoto, who had imbibed the doctrines of Kitta Ikki and other Japanese expansionists, introduced Ramos to personal friends and acquaintances, including Toyama Mitsuru, and urged them to grant aid to the Sakdal leader, New York Times, May 5,
34 Secretaryof Agriculture and Commerce Eulogio Rodriguez informed the Acting Governor-General of the situation in a confidential memorandum and suggested that "irresponsible speakers" guilty of "defamatoryand seditious denunciations"be arrested on the grounds that such a course would "stop this Rodriguez to Hayden, April 2, I935. HP. campaign of exaggerated misrepresentation."



ceptable program.35 The Secretaryof Agriculture and Commerce called upon departmental agents in the provinces to enlighten villagers concerning government activities and services.36 spite of officialrestrictionsand heightening "educational"efforts, In dissidents kept on holding meetings in the barrios and the editorial pages of Sakdal continued to scream defiance. On April 23, the Director of Posts revoked the newspaper's mailing privileges on the grounds that it was "publishing libelous matter inciting to rebellious conspiracies,stirring up the people against lawful authorities, and tending to disturb the peace of the community."37With an efficientNacionalista suppression campaign in full swing, and with the strident voice of the party organ stifled, officialdom in Manila settled back confidently to watch the storm clouds disperse. Comparativecalm characterizedthe last week of a turbulent April, but petitions from Sakdal groups in the provinces protesting the restrictions on their right to assemble descended like a gentle snowfall on the Governor-General's office in Malacafian.38 Nacionalista repressive efforts, however, did not end Sakdal propaganda. It appeared in new forms from an unexpected source. Large numbers of Filipinos, including some prominent politicians, received personal letters signed by a Japanese artillery officer stationed on Formosa.39The letters accused Manuel Quezon of insincerity in regard to independence and labeled the Senate President a traitor to the Philippine nation. After parroting the Sakdalista line the letter concluded with assurances of Japanesesympathy toward the Filipinos in their hour of need. The second result of Ramos' machinations in Japan had more far-reaching implications. On the eve of the uprising activists passed out thousands of copies of Free Filipinos, a propaganda sheet printed in Japan, smuggled into Luzon, and covertly distributed in Sakdalista barr-ios.40 four-page tabloid, complete with photographs, The continued the violent tradition of Sakdal but added several inflammatory improvisations to the verbal assault. The front-page featured a statement in Japanese entitled "An Appeal to the Japanese People" which recited a long chronicle of American abuses and broken pledges in the Philippines. While few, if any, provincial Sakdalistas could decipher the charactersthey did not have to be linguists to draw the desired conclusion that the Japanese Empire supported their organization.41 Other
35 Conrado Benitez considered the order a violation of the new Constitution and warned that a policy of suppressionwould result in "explosion and violence." Benitez, "Sakdal," p. 253. 36 Department of Agriculture and Commerce, Office of the Secretary,General Circular #11, April i2, 1935. HP. 37 "News Summary," Philippine Magazine, XXXII (I935), p. 270. 38 See George A. Malcolm, The Commonwealth of the Philippines (New York, 1936), p. 282; and the

ManilaDaily Bulletin,May I,


39 The existence of the letters, signed by Major Hiroshi Tamaru, came to the attention of the Gover-

nor-General's office shortly after the uprising. Inquiries despatched to the American Embassy in Tokyo revealed nothing other than the fact that Major Hiroshi was attached to the Headquarters Staff of the Imperial Army on Formosa. Hayden to Grew, May 8, 1935; and Grew to Hayden, May 9, 1935. HP. 40 A rare copy of Free Filipinos is included in the Hayden Papers. The following quotations are from this source. 41 The exact role of Japanesenationals in the uprising is difficult to evaluate. Sakdalistascaptured during the encounters of May 2-3, believed that arms and air support would be supplied by Japan. Such a development, of course, did not take place. In fact, there is no evidence of any ties between Ramos and Japanese government circles. Interviews conducted in Tokyo immediately after the uprising with eight responsible Imperial officials revealed that only one had ever heard of Ramos. Grew to Hayden, May 13, I935. HP. Moreover, Japanese diplomatic personnel vigorously denied any connection between their



columns, in English, Spanish and Tagalog, anticipated the themes of the Greater East Asia Co-ProsperitySphere. Calling for the "revival of the Filipino oriental family tradition, oriental culture and civilization, and for the attainment of a strong and eternal union between all countries of the Far East," Free Filipinos emphasized the advantages of Asian solidarity in the face of Western political and economic domination. In addition, the propaganda effort linked demands for immediate freedom from the American yoke with agrarian conditions and reminded the villagers of their heritage of protest. Two photographs of the Tayug Incident of I93i awakened bitter memories of the unsuccessful Colorum uprising.42One, taken before the disturbance, portrayed the innocent faces of three Filipina schoolteacherswho had helped defend the covento at Tayug. The other, taken after the insurrection,pictured dead Colorums at the feet of steel-helmeted constabularymen.The caption read as follows: of system [sic] are the striking characteristics American pauperization Land-grabbing, dominationin the Philippines.The uprising in Tayug, provinceof Pangasinan. . . was only one of the direct consequencesof the people's stifled rights. Women assumed the leadershipof this people'srevolt, and these picturesshow that they preferreddeath than [sic] to see their countrystill agonizing under Americandomination.Their bodies are no more but their defeat in unequal struggle, their braveryand courage had open [sic] the eyes of the people in order to see the naked truth that even if there are Filipinos in this government, it is not Filipino government, but American government, the enemy of Filipino welfare. Sakdal abuse brewed by Japanese typesetters blended to produce a volatile mixture. If syntax suffered, provocation did not. In regard to the Tydings-McDuffie Law Free Filipinos asked, "How many 'Ten Years' does the U. S. government need to kill our independence and . . . confiscate all the lands of the Filipinos? How many 'Ten Years' does this very benevolent government need to Hawaiianize our country?" Rising to descriptive heights an editorial warned that anyone who opposed the law would automatically be labeled "a demagogue, an agitator, an outlaw, a rabble-rouser, a self-styled leader, etc., and they the promise breaker [sic] and the great 'forgotter' [sic], are saints, perfect people, great statesmen, honorable men, honest, earnest, purest." Continuing familiar Sakdal accusationsof American duplicity and Nacionalista treason, the paper assembled a rogue's gallery of monsters for reader edification. It described Governor-GeneralFrank Murphy as a "Frankenstein,"and characterized Speaker of the House Quintin Paredes and Governor Juan Calles of Laguna as "good
government and the rebels. New York Times, May 5, I935. Students of the Sakdal movement agree that the Imperial Governmentwas in no way responsiblefor the upheaval. See Hayden, The Philippines, p. 392; and Stubbs, "Philippine Radicalism," p. I83. Matsumoto Kumpei, however, admitted that he introduced Ramos to members of patriotic societies. Later he intervened to prevent the Sakdal leader's extradition to the Philippines. Matsumoto'sactivities, together with Major Hiroshi's letter, and the issues of Free Filipinos which circulated among "Pan-Asia" elements in Japan, indicate that private individuals and groups definitely associated themselves with the movement. The only conclusion which can be safely drawn is that the connection between the Japaneseand Sakdalism resulted from covert activity by a few extremists who hoped to embarrassthe United States and thus contribute to the growth of antagonism toward the West among the colonial peoples of Southwest Asia. 42 The Tayug uprising took the lives of five constabularymen.Five Colorums, including two women, died during the engagement; twenty suffered serious wounds. See Stubbs, "Philippine Radicalism," pp. 60-87.



Frankenstein Slaves." In a final assault on majority party leadership, Free Filipinos called Manuel Quezon and Sergio Osmenfa"Super-Servantsof the Americans" and supplied readers with a grotesque photograph of the two men which could have been used to discipline unruly village children. In spite of Free Filipinos' explosive contents, not a single copy fell into the hands of suspicious authorities until after the abortive rebellion. The fact that seditious propaganda of foreign origin could be disseminated in the face of official concern and constabulary surveillance of Sakdal activity was but one indication of the breakdown of government security measures. On April 27, acting Governor-General Hayden, fearing Sakdal demonstrations on traditionally difficult May Day, consulted responsible officials on this potential danger. After being reassured that there would be "no disorders in the immediate future,"43he left the capital for an inspection of remote Mountain Province. As predicted, May Day came and went with no untoward incidents. In fact, the parade in Manila on May i, I935, was a model of civic solidarity and obedience.44 Law-enforcement authorities in the capital breathed easier and settled back for a brief period of relaxation before the plebiscite. On the evening of May 2, Brigadier General Basilio Valdes, Commander-in-Chief of the Constabulary, left the sultry city aboard an inter-island steamer to inspect conditions in the Visayans.45 The surreptitious success in distributing Free Fili'pinos while calming official anxieties was equaled by Sakdalistas in their covert preparations for violence. On May i, I935, organizers informed their primed followers that the endeavor to achieve independence would begin the next night. They reassured the faint-hearted by guaranteeing that the struggle would not be difficult. Unsophisticated villagers heard their leaders proclaim that constabularymen and Filipino Scouts had secretly joined the cause of freedom and would not fire on their fellow-patriots.Furthermore, in the remote event of vigorous government action, Sakdal activists promised that the Emperor of Japan would send aid in the form of arms and air support.46In all
Hayden, PreliminaryReport, p. i. A partial explanation of the peaceful celebration appears in a memorandum from Secretary of Labor Ramon Torres: "There was no red demonstration on account of the refusal of the city mayor to grant the necessarypermit to the radicals. But even if they were granted the permit they would not have been able to muster many followers in Manila and would have had to bring them from the provinces." Torres to Hayden, May 2, I935. HP. 45 Other important figures away from the capital at that time included Governor-General Murphy, who was convalescing from an operation at White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia; Manuel Quezon, who was on official business in the United States; and Major General Parker, the Commander of American forces in the Islands, who was on leave in China. New York Times, May 3, I935. This absence of senior government personnel further indicated the lack of anticipation of any major difficulties. The departure of General Valdes, however, appears to spring from somewhat different motives. On the morning before the uprising, Valdes notified Colonel Manley, the Superintendent of the Constabulary,that trouble was brewing. In part, the confidential memorandum reads as follows: "X reported to me this morning that the Sakdalistas last night were preparing an uprising against the government to be held to43 44

night . . . One thing queer on this supposed . . . movement

is that no Sakdalista leaders could be

located in their houses the whole day and night yesterday. X could not tell me the definite plans of attack . . . but he insisted in telling me that this is a very serious situation."Valdes to Manley, May 2, 1935. HP. That the General left Manila the evening of May 2 aboard a vessel lacking a radio, indicates that Filipinos, like old-line sheriffs in the American South, recognize the political advantages of "going fishing" at critical junctures. 46 Insurgents eagerly scanned the skies as they marched on the presidencias in a futile search for Japaneseaircraft. Hayden, The Philippines, p. 39I.



probability, they concluded their last-minute appeals with the not too subtle slogan that independence would "appearmagically like the burst of a sunrise."47 The Demise of Sakdalism: Its Causes and Consequences At the appointed hours, thousands of taos armed with clubs, bolos, and occasionally with pistols and homemade shotguns collected at pre-arranged assembly points.48 Fervent with patriotism, in some cases experiencing the light-hearted exhilaration which came only at fiesta time, the peasants marched on the municipalities expecting to be welcomed with open arms. When the constabularymenwho were supposed to join them sent well-aimed rifle fire into their ranks, confidence and animation turned to astonishment followed quickly by panic. One of the survivors of Cabuyao expressed the disenchantment of his comrades when he said, "If every day of independence will be like this, I go out and hide."49 Given the futility of the whole affair, why did Ramos and his aides stage the uprising? Sixty-five thousand peasants equipped with a motley array of weapons could not possibly overthrow a nation of twelve million people supported by the military might of the United States. While Sakdal leaders recognized this fact, they could not extricate themselves from the dilemma posed by their party goals and the realities of the political situation. Unquestionably, they hoped to achieve partial success as a step toward a larger objective. Widespread violence could frustrate the plebiscite, hinder the establishment of the Commonwealth, make manifest the opposition of a large group of Filipinos to the Tydings-McDuffie Law, and perhaps lead the United States to modify its views on Philippine independence. The party's position on the issue made such a course of action almost inevitable. During an interview in Tokyo after the uprising, Benigno Ramos summed up the problem with a fatalistic shrug, "We know the American Government in the Islands is so strong that revolt against it means suicide. But what else can we do?"50 Suicide it had been. When the smoke of battle cleared away Sakdalism as an effective protest movement was as dead as the twisted corpses in the churchyard at Cabuyao.51 Self-destruction,however, can exert long-term influences. Sakdalism's tragic demise caused much soul-searching among Filipinos. Initially Nacionalista spokesmen together with the Manila press attempted to discount the movement in the traditional manner by tracing it to demagogues, racketeers, and religious fanatics. But a few prominent members of the government pointed to socio-economicfactors as the source of discontent and called for reforms to ease the villagers' lot. This latter viewpoint
Taruc, Born of the People, p. 29. At Santa Rosa, Laguna, eleven Sakdalistas yielded two paltiks (homemade shotguns), one pistol and "several daggers and bolos" to Constabularycaptors. Sakdal Uprising Report, Appendix II, p. 2. Since Filipinos were forbidden to bear arms, the manufacture of paltiks constituted a never-ending problem for the authorities. The Constabularymade periodic efforts to restrict their production. Hayden, The Philippines, pp. 9I6-917. 49 Sakdal Uprising Report, Appendix I, "Field Reports on Individual Participants in the Sakdalista Uprising," p. 7. These revealing interviews, together with others not incorporated into the final report, can be found in Sturtevant,"PhilippineSocial Structure,"pp. 2I9-228. 50 New York Times, May 5, I935. 51 While Sakdalism continued to exist throughout the period leading up to and including the Pacific War, it ceased to function as the leading organization in the area of agrarian dissent. During the Japanese Occupation of the Philippines, Sakdal remnants under the guidance of Ramos engaged in flagrant collaboration with the conquerors. The history of Sakdalism after the uprising deserves careful study.




quickly gained the editorial support of responsible journalists. Unanimity did not characterize the demand for social amelioration; but the fact that a select group of politicians and editors shunned cliches and sought valid explanations contributed to the creation of a new attitude of understanding toward the peasant and his plight.52 Public and confidential statements by Nacionalista leaders presented a case study in changing outlooks. Speaker of tht House Quintin Paredes, enunciating the timehonored interpretation,found the loss of life "deeply regrettable,"but hoped that "the tragic occurrences will be a blessing in breaking up these fanatical movements."53 Secretaryof Labor Ramon Torres, however, expressed a more sympathetic view. After interviewing Sakdal prisonersin Bulacan and Laguna he reported no evidence of cults or cultists. Instead the Secretary traced the difficulties in Bulacan to iniquitous rents demanded of tenants on the Buenavista Estate.54In Laguna the effects of the depression and natural calamities in the form of severe typhoons led him to conclude "that hard times are at the bottom of the trouble."55 While Torres' remarks were not sensational they marked a startling departure from the party line.56 The interpretationsof the Secretaryof Labor were reinforced by the findings of an investigating team sent into the field by Acting Governor-General Hayden. Their formal report attributed the uprising primarily to political factors,57but their final remarks stressed the role of unhealthy social conditions:58 The governmentwas more or less out of touch with the pulse and thought of the barrio people who basicallyare good citizens.The conidition the lower strataof them has not of changedmateriallysince I898. They eat out of the same common bowl. They are protected againstthe worst epidemics. . . they have some chancefor a little educationif they are not too poor, and they are affordedsome protectionin the matter of civil rights. But they do not see or feel much change except that they watch the middle and upper classes,whose standardshave risen, ride in automobiles,live in better houses, and possess more than or formerly.Their povertyand grievances make it possiblefor unscrupulous misguidedmen to lead them.
52 Practicallyevery Sakdal arrested after the uprising was sentenced to prison. Maximum terms ranged from two to seventeen years. While these sentences may not seem mild they compared favorably with the maximum terms of seventeen to forty years meted out to survivors of the Tayug affair. Furthermore, pardons were quickly granted to many Sakdal prisoners. On November I5, I935, in his last official act, Governor-GeneralMurphy pardoned the vast majority of the Sakdalistas remaining behind bars stating that he wanted "to set an example of tolerance where differences of opinion are concerned." "News Summary," Philippine Magazine, XXXII (I935), p. 597. 53 New York Times, May 5, I935. 54 Torres to Hayden, May 7, I935. HP. Shortly after this report, the Buenavista Estate, consisting of 27,408 hectares, was among church lands purchased by Governor-GeneralMurphy for redistribution to tenants. San Ildefonso, the scene of a bitter encounter on the night of May 2-3, was the largest community on the estate. 55 Ibid. 56 Senate President Quezon at first attempted to dismiss the uprising as unimportant. In a press conference at his hotel suite in New York City, Quezon called Ramos an "irresponsibledemagogue," and maintained that the Sakdal movement was "operated on a purely racketeering basis." Manila Daily Bulletin, May 4, I935. Within twenty-four hours, however, Quezon, who apparently was able to judge infinitesimal shifts in the political winds from a distance of IO,OOO miles, adopted a new tack and traced the uprising to the depression and the threat of American import quotas. New York Times, May 5, I935. 57 "Generally speaking the actions of the individual [Sakdal] were governed by political and purely patriotic considerationswhich led him to believe that immediate independence was, for a number of intangible reasons, highly desirable." Sakdal Uprising Report, p. 3. 558bid., p. I3.



Press response followed a similar pattern. During the confusion surrounding the upheaval, newspapersexpressed fear of a general uprising and called upon all Filipinos to respect constituted authority.59With the dispersion of the dissidents, however, an effort to lampoon the whole affair replaced the climate of fear. One of the better attempts to portray Ramos as a confidence man and his followers as ignorant if unfortunate dupes appeared in the New Philippine Republic. The last stanza of a Kiplingesque rendition of the uprising versified:60 0 the blood of Sakdalistas It has dried upon the sod. But the funds of Sakdalistas Whence and whither, 0 my God! The same periodicaltried to link Sakdalism to the unorthodox religious movements of the past. In Bulacan, according to the satirical account, "about ioo fanatics went to the hills, led by a i7-year old girl mystic whose chief claim to divinity was that she could turn the bark of trees wrapped in paper into guns.""6 But the editors of the New Philippine Republic did not permit efforts to poke fun at the Sakdals to interfere with their displeasure toward the government's policy of "complacent forebearance" in regard to "radicalism."62 Other molders of public opinion saw nothing funny about the incident. Newspapers owned by hacenderos held the government responsible. The Manila Herald, for example, placed the ultimate blame on democracy for its tendency "to pamper the masses."63Peasants, complained a Herald feature, behave "like spoiled children . . . demanding more and more." Echoing the age-old lament of threatened elites, the newspaper maintained that the taos no longer knew their place: "Belief in injustice, fancied or factual nerves the masses to heights to insolence if not revolution. The ... Sakdal uprising is an unfortunate example. Impudence . . . usually precedes violence, be it in the individual or in the mob. As long as our masses harbor the belief that they are being persecutedthey will be sullen and insolent."64 While the majority of the press dismissed the movement in the accustomed manner, a few journalists dissented vigorously. A. V. H. Hartendorp of the influential Philippine Magazine queried, "Exploiting landlords, bloodsucking money lenders, stupid and callous local officials, the indifference of those in better circumstances . what better grounds could agitators desire?"" Attacking superficial explanations he admonished his readers:68 We cannotbrush the matteraside by statingthat the Sakdalmovementis instigatedby or racketeers that it is due to a temporaryeconomicdepression.Its roots go much deeper of . . . into a substratum class conflictthat is presenthere as elsewherein the world. It is
59 Under a photograph of two dead Sakdals appeared the following warning: "The government must be respected and those who would destroy it will share the lot of these two." Manila Herald, May 3, I935. 60 New Philippine I Republic (I935), 4. 61 Ibid. 62 Ibid.

63 64 65

ManilaHerald,June15, Ibid.


A. V. H. Hartendorp, "The Sakdal Protest,"Philippine Magazine, XXXII(935), 66Ibid.





of a movement of the dispossessed, the exploited,of those who are given no chance . . . The only answer is to give these people a chance.The politicalpartythat can arrangethat will be the politicalpartyof the future. Hartendorp's interpretation came to be widely accepted in the months and years following the uprising. Consequently, Sakdalism exerted profound influences over the course of Commonwealth affairs.The effort to avoid another Cabuyao manifested itself in different forms. Nacionalista leaders,hoping to frustratefuture violence, forced their party to adopt a program of social reforms. Caciques, fearing that their days of affluence and influence were numbered, organized private armies and emphasized cooperative efforts to restrict the activities of peasant movements. Agrarian leaders, stunned by the bloodshed and death of May 2-3, re-examined their assumptions and sought more effective means to organize the rural population. These contradictory tendencies created a provincial atmosphere heavy with class tensions in the years leading up to Pearl Harbor. Without question President Quezon's Social Justice Campaign grew in part out of his desire to win back alienated rural elements. In an early address before the National Assembly, Quezon called upon the representativesto grapple with basic questions. "The problem involved in the relationship between tenants and landlords," he said, "whether within large or small estates, owned by individuals, or corporations, public or private, transcends in importance all other social problems of the Philippines."67 Despite hacendero domination of the legislature, a remarkable degree of success crowned Quezon's attempts to initiate reform.88 Parliamentary victories in Manila, however, did not add up to a conquest of misery in the municipalities. Blocking tactics by provincial governors and local authorities hindered the application of social justice. Quezon and his advisors, persistent and determined efforts notwithstanding, never discovered an effective means for implementing their program at the barrio level. Nevertheless, the Commonwealth President had taken a series of significant steps toward a more equitable order. His speeches and actions further exposed the ugly social schism revealed by the Sakdal uprising. Much of Quezon's difficulty came from cacique determination to maintain the status quo. Relying on tried and tested techniques, rural conservativesorganized new landlord associations throughout Central Luzon.69 The governor of Cavite recruited and equipped a sizable private army called the "National Volunteers."70 When prominent Nacionalistas objected to his martial preparations Governor Samonte defended his men by declaring, "During the abortive Sakdal uprising, they more than
Quoted in Bernstein, The Philippine Story, p. I48. Quezon carried forward the program of estate purchase and land redistributionbegun by GovernorGeneral Murphy. At his urging the National Assembly established resettlement projects in the Koronadel Valley of Mindanao for the depressed and crowded population of Central Luzon. In addition, the assemblymen created the National Rice and Corn Corporationto provide badly needed storage facilities for small farmers. The legislators provided for public defenders to protect peasant interests in provincial court proceedings,and gave unions the right to organize and bargain collectively. They also establishedthe Court of Industrial Relations to mediate labor disputes. 69 The first effective organization of this type was the Batung Maputi or "White Stone" which flourished in Pampanga during the late twenties. Openly dedicated to resisting tenant "encroachments,"its by-laws included a dedaration that "members . . . should not accept as tenants those who have deserted another member of the association without reasonable cause." Serafin E. Macaraig, Social Problems, (Manila, 1929), p. 257. 70 Manila Tribune, August io, I937.
67 68



71 Goverto once showedtheir ... capacity handledelicatesituations." In Pampanga, laborunion,"72 Cawalning Capayathe nor SoteroBaluyotorganizeda "conservative between landlordsand tenants to pan or Knights of Peace,73 seek a reconciliation passedlaws to restrictpeasantpoProvinciallegislatures through"understanding."74 in municidid and litical activity,75 hacenderos everything their power to strengthen agencies.76 pallaw enforcements and Quezon'srecognitionof the need for social amelioration the franticcacique effortsto thwartfurtherpeasantuprisingswere not the only tributesto the implicaas tions of Ramos' effectiveness an agitator.The Sakdal supremo'ssuccessfulexthe of ploitation the wideningchasmbetweenclassesin the Islandsattracted grudging of Closeexamination the short-lived Filipinoradicals. admiration moresophisticated of for to possibilities unitingdispossessed but militantmovement revealed themunlimited the It leadership. also disclosed confinesin which successful villagersbehindilustrado a could occur.In five yearsRamosconstructed vigorousmass to challenges authority causes.By stressingthe shopof movementon a ramshackle foundation disconnected his handiwork.More acute worn nationalfreedomthemehe undermined precarious issue,stressedecomen in Manilaand Pampangaignoredthe defunctindependence and forged the tenant farmersof CentralLuzon into nomic and social objectives,

disciplined agrarian unions.

When the mantle of peasantleadershipfell on the emaciatedbut competent of shoulders PedroAbad Santosthe trail of dissentblazed by Ramoswas converted into a highway leading toward social revolution.With the vision of the bloody at churchyard Cabuyaoconstantlybefore him, the Socialistleader de-emphasized throughstrikesand politicalacto sporadicviolenceand attempted win concessions disciplesto attribute In additionhe resistedeffortsof his more enthusiastic tivity. to his person.Remindinghis followersof the fate of the magcharismatic qualities netic Ramos and his worshipfulretinue,Abad Santos dismissedSakdalismas "esof he sentiallyhero worship"; also warnedthem that the adoration Ramos smacked
of fascism, and wryly concluded, "we don't believe in such silly stuff."77 As for the

71 Ibid. Governor Samonte had reason to respect "delicate situations." Captured by a Sakdal band during the uprising he avoided danger by joining the rebels declaring, "I am with you heart and soul"; later that night he signed a deposition stating that the Sakdals who seized him had gathered in the town of Tanza to hold a meeting and not to create a disturbance. After this capitulation his captors set him free. Sakdal Uprising Report, Appendix HII,p. 8. 72 Manila Daily Bulletin, July 30, I939. 73 The Manila Tribune, doubting that the Cawal was dedicated to peace, maintained that the association's existence was "predicated on its ability and intention to use force." The organization offered free legal services as an inducement for enrollment; thereby convincing many observers that the Cawal was designed to operate as a "'privatearmy." Manila Tribune, March IO, I938. 74 Harlan Crippen, "Philippine Agrarian Unrest: Historical Backgrounds," Science and Society, X (I946), 355. 75 The "Tambuli Ordinances,"passed in I938 by the Pampanga Legislature over Quezon's objections, typified provincial restrictions;the tambuli, or meeting horn, laws forbade the "gathering of two or more people after dusk." Manila Daily Bulletin, October 3, I938. 76Mounting activity on the part of Socialists and Communists in Central Luzon brought forth again the spectre of a peasant uprising. In 1938 land-owners and businessmen in San Fernando, Pampanga, purchased a truck for the municipal police to "facilitate the transportation. . . of patrols during emergencies." Manila Daily Bulletin, April x6, I938. The governor of Bulacan, in the same year, advocated that municipal police forces in his province be increasedby six hundred men. Manila Tribune, January22, 1938. 77 Manila Tribune, February 6, I938.



government, Abad Santos avoided vilification and hoped only for a tolerant attitude; in return he guaranteed that he would not initiate violence :78 What we expect is a sincereand unprejudicedapproachto the masses, a sympathetic hearing of their complaintsand grievances,without bias and deceit. The laborer'sactions are justifiable,their demands reasonable,and the governmentshould take no cause for alarmover the prospectof the massesrising in armedresistanceagainstconstitutedauthority. We call this brand of suicide, "Pooch,"and I assure the public that so long as the SocialistParty is dominantin Pampangathere will be no Cabuyao . . . incidents in this

The Sakdal uprising, thus, marked the end of innocent spontaneity and the beginning of sophisticatedprotest.For generations frustratedtaos had donned anting-anting to ward off the powers of evil and turned to wonder-working bandits, religious prophets, and leaders of outlandish secret societies in their desire to escape the grim conditions of their existence. As a consequence, peasant energies were dissipated in a series of unrelated movements and spent in abortive uprisings. Ramos smashed the pattern. Combining rustic discontent with middle class leadership he quickly created a potentially powerful instrument of dissent. Bitterness, ambition, and political miscalculation led to the extinction of his movement. Nevertheless, his career established the ground rules for a new generation of agrarian leaders. By avoiding the errors of Sakdalism and emphasizing its achievements, radicals in Central Luzon formed the alliance which later grew into the Hukbalahap. Benigno Ramos' indirect legacy to Filipino Communists, therefore, probably equaled, and perhaps exceeded, the value of their direct inheritance from Karl Marx and his latter day apostles.