The Colonial Experiment
The American Occupation of the Philippines (1899-1935)
Within the year after the Battle of Manila Bay, the Americans began to have interests in possessing the Philippines as a gateway to an economic market to China. It wasn’t long before the US began sending troops to the islands to begin the military occupation while, at the same time, help the Filipinos in securing their independence. The end of the Spanish-American War and the Treaty of Paris in December, 1899 led to the purchase of the Philippines by the US from Spain.
There was some opposition from some Americans on the colonial ambitions of their country. The editorial cartoon shows Uncle Sam being entangled on the Tree of Imperialism by the Philippine donkey as the Spanish merchant walks away with the $20M the US paid to purchase the islands. But the opposition was only from a small majority. Soon, the decision to get the Philippines gained popularity among the American people.
The Military Government
The American military governors of the Philippines. (l to r) Gen. Wesley Meritt (1898); Gen. Elwell Otis (1898-1900); and Gen. Arthur MacArthur (1900-1901)
The military government was the start of American rule in the Philippines. The governor was the extension of the presidential powers to rule over a country it was at war with. Military rule began on August 14, 1898 when Gen. Merritt issued a proclamation announcing the beginning of American rule. During this period, the military served the executive, legislative, and judiciary functions in administering the islands. To ensure a smooth transition of government, the Americans retained the civil and criminal laws of the Spanish government except those contrary to their ideals of democracy
The military government was in place when the Filipino-American War began. As each province fell to Americans, they were considered as “pacified areas” where local municipal elections can be held. In 1900, a reorganization of the municipal governments was enforced.
In May 1899, the Supreme Court was reestablished. It was composed of nine justices, six of whom were Filipinos, led by Chief Justice Cayetano Arellano. After this, the other courts were reorganized to begin functioning.
An interpreter explains to Filipino local officials in Las Pinas the new policies of local government as American military officers look on and listen.
Arellano and fellow Filipinos (from left: Manuel Araullo, Florentino Torres and Gregorio Araneta) are sworn in as Supreme Court justices by American military officials.
Through other General Orders issued by the governor, other laws were enforced that replaced the old legal codes of the Spanish government in the Philippines. Many of these laws had to be enforced with the help of soldiers and other military personnel. Government offices, especially those involving trade and communications were taken over by the military. The military governor reportedly directly to the President through the Secretary of War. Though lasting only for three years, the military government prepared for the colonial government of the Americans in the years to come.
The Schurman Commission (First Philippine Commission)
Members of the commission. From left: Dean Worcester, Charles Denby, Jacob Schurman, John MacArthur (secretary); Adm. George Dewey, Gen. Elwell Otis.
It was the task of the commission to investigate the matters conditions in the Philippines and advice the President on what to do about the islands. The group arrived on March 4, a month after the start of the Philippine-American War. Schurman later announced in a proclamation that the aim of the US government was to “secure the wellbeing, the prosperity and the happiness of the Philippine people and their elevation and advancement to a position among the civilized people of the world.”
Because of the war, however, the commission remained in Manila where they held public hearings and met with Filipino ilustrados many of whom expressed the desire that America take over the islands. The commission ended its mission and returned to the U.S. where they issued a report to President McKinley on January 31, 1900 with the following recommendations:
1) 2) 3) the withdrawal of military rule in the Philippines the establishment of a civil government with a bicameral legislature the establishment of a system of free public education
This recommendations would form the basis for the formation of the civil government a year later.
The Taft Commission (Second Philippine Commission)
Members of the Taft Commission. (From left) Dean Worcester, Henry Ide, William Howard Taft, Bernard Moses, and Luke Wright.
The Schurman Commission meeting with Aguinaldo emissaries consisting of (from left) Capt. Lorenzo Zialcita, Alberto Baretto, Gen. Gregorio del Pilar, and Gracio Gonzaga
The Philippine Commission became the colonial civil government of the US in the Philippines. Taft became the first civil governor-general of the islands after the establishment of the civil government on 4 July 1901. In 1902, the US Congress passed the Army Appropriations Act with the Spooner Amendment that gave the US President the power to govern the islands with the authority of the Congress and not as Commander-inChief of the US Armed Forces. This ended the military rule of the islands and established the civil government under the control of the US Congress.
In his Instructions to the Second Philippine Commission on April 7 1900, President McKinley conferred on them the authority to exercise the legislative power of government which includes appointing officials, the making of orders to raise revenue, appropriation and expenditure of public funds, and establish an educational system, an efficient civil service, organize courts of justice, municipal as well as departmental governments. It was on the basis of these instructions that the First Philippine Commission began its work in administering the Philippine Islands.
Taft with Wright and Ide
The Church and The Americans
Jesuit historian John Schumacher described the Philippine Catholic Church during the early years of the American period as “a Church in disarray”. The Aglipayan Schism was ongoing and the friars were leaving the islands. The head of the Church in the Philippines, Manila Archbishop Nozaleda left for Spain and Bishop Martin Garcia Alcocer of Cebu was left to face the new American government who was carefully treading its way to a solution with the Church without compromising its principles of the separation of Church and State.
According to Taft: “The union of Church and State under the Spanish regime was so close that the decision whether a particular foundation was civil or religious involves a consideration of some of the nicest and puzzling points of law “ By 1902, there was a decrease in the number of religious personnel of all the orders in the Philippines. Majority of the friars had abandoned their parishes. In that year, there were only 380 friars in the Philippines. Top: Franciscan friars. Left: Archbishop of Manila Bernardino Nozaleda
The problem of the American colonial government was the properties left behind by the Church. These included churches, convents, schools, hospitals, orphanages, and, most of all, thousands of hectares of agricultural land in the provinces, known as the “friar lands.” This was coupled with the fact that the America was in possession of a colony that was predominantly Catholic – a fact that did not go unnoticed by the predominantly Protestant American government. What added to the dilemma was that the American government did not have diplomatic relations with the Vatican. So any meetings between the government and the Church was not, technically, “official.” But the Philippine problem – as the colonial government termed it – has to be solved and the only way that this could be done is to involve the head of the Catholic Church – the Pope.
As early as 1901, the United States began negotiations with the Vatican on the Philippines Church problems. It was the only solution to solve the dilemma in their new colony. Pope Leo XIII himself had expressed concern on the state of religious affairs in the Philippines. The main issues were: a) the ownership of the friar lands; b) the retention of the religious orders in the islands; c) the possession of the educational and charitable foundations of the Church. In July, 1902, a panel of American government and religious officials headed by Taft traveled to Rome to meet with Leo XIII. There were two audiences conducted with the Pope and additional meetings with a committee appointed by the Holy Father. Proposals were discussed, negotiated, and agreed on.
The Vatican accepted the proposals of the Taft Mission except the condition of the removal of the friars from the Philippines stating “that their demand was illegal.” The negotiations were then moved to Manila where Taft dealt with Archbishop Jeremias Harty. It would take three years of talks before a compromise was reached on the Church issues. On 8 June 1907, an agreement was hammered out between the Church and the American colonial government where the two entities “entered into for the purpose of amicably disposing of certain properties claimed by the Government of the Philippines Islands and the Roman Catholic Church.” The friar lands were eventually purchased for $7.2M while the other institutions were brought under the colonial administration through special arrangements and laws.
On September 17, 1902, the papal bull Quae Mari Sinico was promulgated by the Pope. It consisted of 12 sections that addressed the different reforms for the creation of the new dioceses; the formation of the clergy; the management of religious missions and parishes; ecclesiastical discipline and authority, and, finally, the role of Catholic education. It was the framework for the new foundation of the Philippine Church. The papal document not only addressed the concerns of the religious, it also recognized the changes in the country’s politics
Arch. Jeremiah Harty
A Colonial Education
Public education was one of the lasting legacies that was given to us by the Americans. Unlike the Spanish system of education, the Americans made sure that the public education provided to the Filipinos was free and extended even to the middle and lower class. The purpose of the education, of course, was to “train” the Filipinos into the principles of democracy. The assumption was that in order to attain self-government, a well-educated people would be able to manage its own affairs. The education program of the Americans began with primary education then gradually extended to high school and, eventually, a university education. Public education was welcomed by Filipino leaders because it was provided freely and provided opportunities to jobs.
The Thomasites (named after the ship that brought them to the islands) were a group of American teachers sent by the United States to the Philippines in August 1901. The Thomasites helped expand the public school system by introducing the English as the medium of instruction. They also trained Filipino teachers as an incentive to make the Philippines selfsustainable. The law, however, forbade the teaching of religion in public schools. Thus, public education under the Americans was basically secularized.
The Case of the Catholic Schools
But there was one problem that the American colonial government faced with regards to education – the existence of the Catholic private schools. It is an undeniable fact that the educational institutions left behind by the Spaniards were still operating and led to the development of the minds of its students who were now many of the leaders of the country. It is also undeniable that many Filipinos still preferred the education provided by the friars that also included the Catholic teachings. But the principle of the separation of Church and State plus the fact that Act No. 74 (the law creating the public school system) emphasized the prohibition of teaching religion in public schools, placed a dilemma on how to deal with the Catholic private schools.
The start of primary schools soon led to the establishment of public high schools all over the country. After the completion of a four-year high school education, the student can proceed to their college courses. In June 1908, through Act No. 1870, the University of the Philippines was created. This was the state university put up the colonial government to provide higher education to Filipinos.
On March 1, 1906, Philippine Commission Act No. 1459 was enacted. The main purpose of the law was to revise several provisions of the Spanish Code of Commerce (Codigo de Comercio) that conflicted with the American ones. The same law also provided the authorization for private schools to grant degrees and issue diplomas under the supervision of the American colonial government. To solve the religious problem, the Americans legally created the simple expedient of requiring the religious orders to declare themselves as “corporations.” Thus, the orders (and, therefore, their schools), legally, came under the jurisdiction of civil laws as created by the colonial government. This settled the matter on the recognition of the Catholic schools as educational institutions to be managed by the government.
Some of the private Catholic schools during the Spanish period: (from bottom left clockwise) Ateneo de Manila, University of Santo Tomas, Colegio de San Juan de Letran.
Science and Health
Anti-imperialist magazine illustration showing an image of Uncle Sam giving Filipinos the choice of American education or American force.
Another part of Philippine life that was changed by the Americans was the introduction of a public health care system that was managed by the government and given freely to the public. The concern about health was not for the Filipinos but more for the Americans in their new colonies. The United States began a health and sanitation program that not only “purified” the environment for the new colonists but also improved the health of the inhabitants. In this case, the program was given to the Filipinos. Health and hygiene became part of the “civilization” process Americans imagined for the Filipinos but the application of their programs showed a naiveness in the handling of new colonies.
A study of the colonial health and sanitation programs of the Americans for the Filipinos can be exemplified with the words of British writer Rudyard Kipling to Gov. Gen. William Cameron Forbes in 1913:
“The only things that matters in this fallen world are transportation and sanitation.”
These words seemed to have been the guide for Forbes during his term of office in the Philippines. He would eventually begin a health as well as a road-building and transportation program for the colony.
As the American colonial period began, the new colonials discovered what was to them an “unsanitary” and “dirty” country, forgetting the fact that the country had just finished fighting a revolution against the Spaniards. As the colonization began, the Americans found they were battling a variety of diseases, of which some had caused epidemics in the islands, like: a) b) c) d) e) Cholera Smallpox Leprosy Typhoid Malnutrition
San Lazaro Hospital during the early American period was the leprosarium used by the Spaniards during the colonial period
These diseases were found to be so rampant that the initial attempts for health and sanitation involved battling the eruption of epidemics and treatment of affected civilians. The Americans also considered as “primitive” many of the health facilities that were put up by the Spaniards. The authorities also ascribed the unhealthy practices of the Filipinos as the cause of the start and spread of epidemics.
The Americans also had to fight against traditional medicine, unhealthy lifestyles and religious practices as cures that were being practiced by the Filipinos
Bureau of Health building, Intramuros
The health and sanitation program began with the military government when they began to clean up the city with the establishment of a Commission on Health. Manila was separated into 10 military districts each with an American military medical officer assisted by a combination of American and Filipino sanitation officers. Their jobs included the medical care of indigents, the reporting of unsanitary conditions and dangerous communicable diseases, the investigation of causes of deaths, and the furnishing of certificates of death in all cases where death occurred without medical attention.
With the arrival of the civil government, the health commission became a permanent Bureau of Health that was first managed by the US Military health officer before it was turned over to a civilian doctor/administrator. Soon, the new office began monitoring and enforcing rules on health and sanitation especially with regards to public health that entailed inspecting residences, schools, markets, sewage systems and water systems. The board began to enforce health laws to ensure the safety of the public. In 1907, a sanitary code for the City of Manila was enforced to stop the spread of diseases in the city with measures on public hygiene
But many of the policies enforced were drastic and sometimes earned the ire of the Filipinos. During a cholera epidemic in Manila in 1902, the health authorities discovered the source to have come from the Farola District in Tondo. The authorities immediately quarantined the area, relocated the inhabitants to “cholera barracks” then burned down the district to contain the epidemic.
Another area that the Board of Health was concerned was the spread of diseases. They begun a forced vaccination program that was provided to all Filipinos throughout the islands. However, the mediquillos, as the vaccinators were called, were unwelcome in the barrios that they had to be accompanied by soldiers. To avoid being vaccinated, many of the Filipinos fled to the hills and waited for the medical men to leave.
A radical but successful health program made by the Americans was the isolation and treatment of lepers. It was estimated by 1898, there was an estimated 3,500 to 4,000 leprosy cases in the country. Since there was no known method to control the disease, it soon became clear that segregation would have to be implemented in the Philippines. On August 22, 1904, Culion Island in Palawan was established as a “leper” colony. Two years later, the Jesuits began their mission to take care of the lepers. In 1907, the Director of Health, led by Dr. Victor Heiser, and his authorized agents were empowered to apprehend, detain, isolate, segregate, or confine all leprous persons in the Philippines.
After the establishment of the civil government and the systematizing of the educational system, vaccination as well as health and hygiene lessons became part of the colonial education.
In 1912, Dr. Eliodoro Mercado, a physician of the San Lazaro Hospital in Manila, discovered a cure for leprosy with the use of chaulmoogra oil that was injected. It proved to be an effective treatment that it was recognized worldwide and became the standard treatment for leprosy for decades. In 1922, treatment of the leprosy became an interest of many scientists that Culion eventually became the laboratory and its inmates the test patients for the cure of the disease. A special treatment fund was ordered set aside by Gov. Gen. Leonard Wood for Culion. In the 1920s, a total of 16,138 patients had been brought to Culion, making it the world’s largest “leper colony.” By the middle of the American colonial period, the treatment and containment of leprosy was successfully made.
Another health concern was the spread of tuberculosis or TB. To ensure prevention of the spread of these disease, the colonial government enforced sanitary measures throughout the city that included health bulletins that educated the masses on the disease. In 1910, the colonial government began a systematic campaign to eradicate tuberculosis The Philippine Tuberculosis Society was founded in by a small group of civic minded citizens. Initially it operated two clinics in the slum districts of Manila, but gradually its activities expanded until it was able to open a sanatorium in the outskirts of Manila in 1918.
The set-up of the Philippine Tuberculosis Society eventually became a relationship between the colonial government and society on the care and prevention of TB. It eventually relieved the government of the TB concern for with the continued migration and overcrowding into Manila, it was foreseen that it was going to be a continued problem in the years to come.
Bureau of Health illustration on how tuberculosis could be spread
Health care and sanitation became a large concern by the Americans that soon laboratories were put up like the Bureau of Science building (along Padre Faura St.) which began as the Bureau of Government Laboratories in 1901 which had health studies as part of its program.
Another view of the Bureau of Science Building
In 1910, the American government opened the Philippine General Hospital near the grounds of the Bureau of Science building and the government College of Medicine. The opening of the government hospital centralized health care in the Manila area including education in sanitation and hygiene. In 1911, the College of Medicine graduated its first nurses.
Another view of the PGH
The colonial experiment of the United States in the Philippines would eventually prove to be a successful venture in transforming the islands into an American colony. It gave the Filipinos a form of democracy that also favored the Americans and gave the latter leeway into making its empire in the Pacific. America’s entry into the Pacific came at a time when the world was modernizing with the turn of the 20th century. This period of modernization of which the United States helped build would establish its future as a world power today. The Philippines in the early 1900s began the century as another colony of another nation. But this time, the first tastes of independence by the Filipinos would eventually continue the fight for nationalism from the battlefield to the field of politics. Politics in that era would determine the face of independence.