Exposing Bud Dajo to the light of a new day

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YEN MAKABENTA

YEN MAKABENTA

First read
The striking fact about the Battle of Bud Dajo – or Moro Massacre as Mark Twain bluntly called it – is that the incident took place four years after President Theodore Roosevelt had announced to the world (July 4, 1902) that the Philippine-American War was over.

It is generally assumed by most Filipinos and Americans that the Philippine-American war ended on April 16, 1902, when Gen.Miguel Malvar surrendered to Gen. J. Franklin Bell, the commander of US forces, in Batangas.

In fact, Malvar’s surrender did not end the war. The heart of Filipino resistance merely shifted to Samar and Leyte, where Visayan revolutionary forces continued to fight under the leadership of Generals Ambrocio Mojica and Vicente Lukban.

Leyte became the final bastion of resistance. The US military had to field more of its troops and assets to the province. Significantly, some revolutionaries from Cebu and Panay trooped to Leyte to join the battle against the Americans.


It took more months of hostilities and painstaking negotiations between Filipino and American forces, before a formal agreement of surrender and cessation of hostilities could be effected on June 19, 1902.

Three months after the surrender of Leyte forces, the Philippine Commission on Sept. 11,1902 announced the official end of the Philippine-American War.

Offshoot of pacification campaign
The incident in Bud Dajo, which was the subject of President Duterte’s tirade at the Asean summit, took place over a period of days, from March 5 to 7, 1906.

The incident was the offshoot of an intensive pacification campaign that was launched by the American colonial government to bring the Moro-dominated areas under the sway of US colonial rule.

When the massacre of Muslim Filipinos occurred in Bud Dajo, the US government and US military tried to portray it at first as just a battle – the Battle of Bud Dajo, to suggest a full-scale military encounter between US troops and Moro fighters.

The incident was kept under wraps for days, until the commander of US forces in the Philippines sent a cablegram to the government in Washington.

The substance of the report said:

• A tribe of Moros, numbering 600, counting women and children, had fortified themselves in the bowl of an extinct crater.

• US troops under the command of Gen Leonard Wood numbered 540.

The official report stated that the battle ended with complete victory for American arms: of the 600 Moros, not one was left alive. Only 15 American soldiers lost their lives; and 32 suffered injuries.

Roosevelt commended General Wood, saying: “I congratulate you and the officers and men of your command upon the brilliant feat of arms wherein you and they so well upheld the honor of the American flag.

No feat of arms, but a slaughter
Not so, said Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens). He declared: “It was not a battle; it was a massacre.”

On March 12, 1906, he published an essay entitled “Comments on the Moro massacre.”

He wrote scathingly: “So far as I can find out, there was only one person among our eighty millions who allowed himself the privilege of a public remark on this great occasion – the President of the United States….

“This utterance cost him more pain and shame than any other that ever issued from his pen or his mouth. Not a word of what he said came out of his heart, he knew perfectly well that to pen six hundred helpless and weaponless savages in a hole like rats in a trap and massacre them in detail during a stretch of a day and a half, from a safe position on the heights above, was no briliant feat of arms … he knew perfectly well that our uniformed assassins had not upheld the honor of the American flag, but had done as they have been doing continuously for eight years in the Philippines – that is to say, they had dishonored it.”

Bud Dajo as cautionary tale
In an article published in The Boston Globe on March 12, 2006,professor Andrew J. Bacevich of Boston University sought to narrate and analyze the incident in Bud Dajo for a contemporary audience.

I quote his article at length because of the light it shines on contemporary challenges and issues:

Bacevich wrote: “Although it had seized the Philippines in 1898 during the course of its war with Spain, the United States made little immediate attempt to impose its authority over the Muslim minority. Under the terms of the 1899 Bates Agreement, American colonial administrators had promised the Moros autonomy in return for acknowledging nominal US sovereignty.

“But after the US suppressed the so-called Philippine Insurrection of 1899-1902, during which US forces defeated Filipino nationalists led by Emilio Aguinaldo, authorities in Manila turned their attention to the Moros. In 1903, they abrogated the Bates Agreement and ordered Major General Leonard Wood to assert unambiguous jurisdiction over what the Americans were now calling the Moro Province.

“Wood, President Theodore Roosevelt’s favorite general, viewed his new charges as “nothing more, nor less, than an unimportant collection of pirates and highwaymen.” He did not bother to disguise his intentions: The Moros would either submit or suffer harsh consequences.

Wood miscalculated. Neither one, nor a dozen, nor several dozens of such lessons did the trick.

An ugly war ensued, pitting poorly armed Moro warriors against seasoned US Army regulars…. As in present-day Iraq, the Americans never lost an engagement. Yet even as they demolished one Moro stronghold after another and wracked up an impressive body count, the fighting persisted….

The incident at Bud Dajo would have gone entirely unnoticed had word of it not leaked to the press.

When reports of the slaughter reached Washington, a minor flap ensued. Indignant members of Congress demanded an explanation. Perhaps predictably, an official inquiry found the conduct of US troops beyond reproach. When the War Department cleared Wood of any wrongdoing, the scandal faded as quickly as it had begun….

And yet the bloodletting at Bud Dajo accomplished next to nothing. The nameless dead were soon forgotten. Wood moved onward and upward, soon thereafter becoming Army chief of staff and eventually returning to the Philippines as governor-general.”

Bud Dajo would have remained hidden in the dusty pages of history had President Duterte not dusted it up, and exposed it to the light of a new day in Filipino-American relations.

yenmakabenta@yahoo.com     

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15 Comments

  1. Yen Makabenta Thank you for the historical piece and may it inspire future generations of Filipinos to nurture and love the Pilipino nation.

  2. Like anyone from our land, from you and me who were taught by Philippine history during colonial power, from which we have learned the suffering of our ancestors, who shed tears and blood and died for their clamor for dignity and respect, I could look at those stories in Philippine history with sadness. But like anyone from our land, from you and me who were thought by our teachers, parents and leaders of the communities, who have mold us to move forward out from scratch, from our broken pieces of hope to face the world with honor and pride by continuously engaging ourselves in communities in the barangays and town, from provincial to national affairs, I could now look at our history no longer an avenue of revenge, but of courage to be part in molding our people’s mind and heart, young and youth to be better Citizen of the land. Today, a new challege has come, for we are in the new page of our lives, and Philippine itself is in the global stage of multi-engagement in the World affairs of a global business. Philippines is a global community already. There are many people, who have come from the different parts of the world to live here in the Philippine either for business or a place of there retirement, just as there are Filipinos in the different parts of the world for their own reason to live outside the Philippines. New level of sentivities in our part to deal with mulit-cultures of people coming from the different parts of the world is very much needed. They are also tax payers that help and feed our economy grow to feed our people. Security should provided to all; Poor people should be helped; Children in the school should fed by government. Government leaders and governement agencies should only be an agency that help and provide the needs of the people, who are tax payers. People comes from different parts of the world, because they believe that we are democratic country, where rules of laws are effective, and people’s life and the right to live are protected. Criminals are persecuted by a due process of laws.

  3. One wonders what a Moro grandmother who lived in peace in Muslim Mindanao before it’s US occupation would regale her grandson with stories of everyday Mindanao life. And this grandson would later on be the first Mindanaoan to become the Philippine President of 2016. Perhaps an understanding of history from the actual tales of family members who experienced it is the reason why Duterte finally brought out this Bud Dajo massacre issues into the open.

    • Monuments, memorials, markers. Are there any?
      These should also be part of pre-colonial and colonial history, to include also Mindanao history so the present and next generation will have a better grasp of how events shape a nation. Then we learn painful lessons from the past so we can try to avoid pitfalls and chart a better future for the betterment of our nation.

  4. President Duterte is admirable, gutsy and molded in a unique cast. We are a small country but America needs to respect our sovereignty and not meddle in our internal affairs. Why doesn’t Obama instead lecture policemen in his country on human rights – how they treat the African-Americans and other minorities?

  5. Leodegardo Pruna on

    PDU30 is not rewriting history but correcting the flaws so that the next generation and generations to come would truly be proud of our roots and beginnings. We are proud to be Filippinos and we are proud of the sacrifices of our forefathers who fought and preserved our sovereignty. God bless the Philippines.

  6. Let us learn from the past and give Philippines it’s true name, make a stand in the international community. However, we can only do this if we were to go Federal unfortunately.

  7. Duterte Subverts PH-US Strong Relationship

    Duterte,as President, has the diplomatic power to determine foreign policy, and is look up to by other countries as the policy maker for the country. This is a dangerous preconception of Duterte’s presidential imprudence and Ill-conceived statements on foreign relations. The pronouncement by Duterte that his government will pursue an “independent foreign policy” is suspect and irrelevant, in the light of his unpresidential outburst against Obama and US forces in Mindanao and the forthcoming friendly bilateral accommodation talk with China.

    This policy is a truism for all Independent nations since for economic and international alliances, a nation cannot be “an island by itself”. To survive a country must establish strong political, military and economic relationship and alliances with one or more nations, especially with globality aspects of inter-country dealings.

    Duterte cursed Obama and said he intentionally skip to attend the ASEAN meeting to avoid Obama and yet made a speech which brought up with pictures the 1906 killings of Moros by US forces in Mindanao. These are preconceived deliberate acts which makes Duterte is doing a “pivot” on US to China just because he wants to avoid accusation of human rights violations and extra-judicial killings on his drug war campaign. Duterte is playing a “two cards” sans ace that will hurt the interest of the country if he pursue his bluffing moves against US. After all his policy that antagonizes the US do not carry the approval and whole-hearted sentiments of the Filipino people in favor of the US. This will create a dangerous position for Duterte if the US pivot to Asia is hindered by Phillipine unfriendly acts.

  8. Jose A. Oliveros on

    Here are the casualty figures during the Filipino-American War: Gabriel Kolko in his Main Currents in Modern American History (1976) wrote that between 200,000 to 600,000 Filipinos “were killed in an orgy of racist slaughter that evoked much congratulation and approval.” Howard Zinn in his A People’s History of the United States (1980) cites 300,000 Filipinos killed in Batangas alone; while William Pomeroy in American Neo-Colonialism (1970) placed the number of Filipinos killed at 600,000 in Luzon alone by 1902. Author Bernard Fall has referred to the US conquest of the Philippines as “the bloodiest colonial war (in proportion to population) ever fought by a white power in Asia;it cost the lives of 3,000,000 Filipinos.” (cf. E. Ahmed’s The Theory and Fallacies of Counter-insurgency, The Nation, August 2, 1971).

  9. I wanted the American eagle to go screaming into the Pacific … Why not spread its wings over the Philippines, I asked myself? … I said to myself, Here are a people who have suffered for three centuries. We can make them as free as ourselves, give them a government and country of their own, put a miniature of the American Constitution afloat in the Pacific, start a brand new republic to take its place among the free nations of the world. It seemed to me a great task to which we had addressed ourselves.

    But I have thought some more, since then, and I have read carefully the treaty of Paris [which ended the Spanish–American War], and I have seen that we do not intend to free, but to subjugate the people of the Philippines. We have gone there to conquer, not to redeem.

    It should, it seems to me, be our pleasure and duty to make those people free, and let them deal with their own domestic questions in their own way. And so I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land.
    Samuel Clemens aka Mark Twain

  10. “The First Battle of Bud Dajo, also known as the Bud Dajo Massacre, was a counter insurgency action fought by the United States Army against Moros in March 1906, during the Moro Rebellion.[2][3][4] While fighting was limited to ground action on Jolo Island in the Sulu Archipelago, use of naval gunfire contributed significantly to the overwhelming firepower brought to bear against the Moros. Whether the occupants of Bud Dajo were hostile to U.S. forces is disputed, as inhabitants of Jolo had previously used the crater as a place of refuge during Spanish assaults on the island and Major Hugh Scott, the Sulu District Governor, recounted that those who fled to the crater “declared they had no intention of fighting, – ran up there only in fright, [and] had some crops planted and desired to cultivate them.”[5] Moro men in the crater who had arms possessed melee weapons. The description of the engagement as a battle is disputed because of both the overwhelming firepower of the attackers and the lopsided casualties. The conflict, especially the final phase of the battle, is also known as the Moro Crater Massacre.”

  11. I am proud to know that we had shown our DNA of bravery inspite of disadvantaged in instruments of war used during the occupation by the american of the Philippines. Now I can tell my children and their children to come that Philippines was once a nation who has values, custom and tradition and have heroes during their time. DU30 deserve a kudos for unwrapping this important historical event in our country that opened our eyes of who we are and unwavering love of our great grandfather for our country. Let us emulate that traits and rediscover again our beloved country so the next generation will also cherish what we let them inherit that was also passed on to us by our forefathers.Long live the Philkippines.

  12. Gambel Nuqui Dizon on

    We have to move on but we should learn from the past. This part of history or any part of history has to be told as it is for us Filipinos to really our past. Our past will help us shape our future.

    • There are big apologies needed and humbling actions to be done by the US to appease all of the Philippines especially the Muslim Filipinos whose ancestors were massacred, the present and next generation of Filipinos in this country of ours who at least now know the root cause of all this problems in Mindanao that was inherited by all Philippine governments because it was a most shameful chapter purposely forgotten by the government of US.
      President Duterte was right to bring up this issues to light so the world will know how the Philippines was taken advantage of.