When is a war over? After the fighting, after the signing of treaties proclaiming the victor?
History, after all, is written by the victors, not the vanquished. The conquered rely mainly on oral history, until verifiable, historical documents surface to validate the claim. Until then, facts are what the hounds dictate. The colonized lick their wounds, hearing the sounds of death and destruction only in their collective inner ears.
Fast forward to the sounds of the “ber” months – time to dust off plans to get away from the incessant, recurring sounds of traffic, or is it just Tudage’s “state of mind?”
The United States has been the first destination of choice for Filipinos planning to take a break – or at least for those who do not need to break the bank to get away from the Philippine political verbal slugfest.
Why the US?
Because despite the mass murders of Filipinos during the Philippine American war in the 1900s, the snatching of victory from the revolutionary forces of the Katipunan by Admiral Dewey at Manila Bay, Filipinos are more American than Spanish, despite 400 years under Spain and just half a century under American rule.
Because Americans know real estate like Donald Trump does.
Because the US knows that the real price of real estate is determined mostly by location, location, location.
So instead of simply colonizing the body, the Americans targeted the mind.
Let Filipinos taste Liberty and the whole 7,100 islands will be a de facto American state. The act of occupation
should manifest a destiny that promises a better future: paraphrasing Tugade’s expression about Filipinos’ frustration with the traffic problem “it’s all a state of mind.”
As with Trump, the deal is more just about “perception, perception, perception.”
So when the American naval forces announced their entry into the Philippine-Spanish war, Emilio Aguinaldo conveyed his official perception from Hong Kong:
“Divine Providence is about to place independence within our reach. The Americans, not from mercenary motives, but for the sake of humanity and the lamentations of so many persecuted people have considered it opportune to extend their protecting mantle to our beloved country…. At the present moment an American squadron is preparing to sail to the Philippines. The Americans will attack by sea and prevent any re-enforcements coming from Spain…. We insurgents must attack by land…. There where you see the American flag flying, assemble in number; they are our redeemers!”
After routing the remaining Spanish forces holed up in Intramuros, the Americans forbid the Filipino revolutionaries from getting in, proclaiming victory and independence. The Liberators turned Pacifiers. The pivot toward the Pacific was part of America’s manifest destiny – at the time to establish as many colonies and territories as possible en route to becoming the economic, military and political superpower.
The revolutionaries turned guerrillas and where direct confrontation with an enemy with superior firepower is folly, guerrilla tactics became the norm. All is fair in love and war, right? You do not expect the Katipuneros to just take the double cross lying down.
So it was with Balangiga, Samar.
While there were different versions why the Americans decided to teach the Filipino revolutionaries and their sympathizers a lesson, the indisputable fact is that the Americans turned Samar “into a howling wilderness,” a precursor of My Lai and the atrocities of Vietnam war.
Samar and My Lai are two war episodes America would rather forget. But an official, historical document exists, specifically the order of General Jacob Smith, carried out by avenging foot soldiers in Balangiga.
“’I want no prisoners. I wish you to kill and burn: the more you kill and burn, the better you will please me,’ and, further, that he wanted all persons killed who were capable of bearing arms and in actual hostilities against the United States.”
The historical account continued that “in reply to a question by Major Waller asking for an age limit to designate the limit as ten years of age… General Smith did give instructions to Major Waller to ‘kill and burn’ and ‘make Samar a howling wilderness,’ and he admits that he wanted everybody killed capable of bearing arms, and that he did specify all over ten years of age, as the Samar boys of that age were equally as dangerous as their elders.”
Then the pen came after the sword.
Volunteer American soldiers turned teachers of the Filipinos – bury the body by occupying the mind. If there were social media in 1901, events would have been different.
As it was, classrooms were built and Americanization began. The soldier-teachers gave way to a group of teachers who came on board the ship “Sheridan.” “In August 1901, 600 teachers called Thomasites arrived. Their name derived from the ship they traveled on, the USS Thomas.
Official and historical accounts show that the original batch of Thomasites was composed of 365 males and 165 females, who sailed from United States on July 23, 1901. The US government spent about $105,000 for the expedition. More American teachers followed the Thomasites in 1902, making a total of about 1,074 stationed in the Philippines.”
Selected Filipinos were brought to the US to learn the art of self-governance. That was the deal: Independence shall be granted after the US is convinced that the Filipino mind had been star-and-spangled. After the Commonwealth, the “Republic” was established on July 4, 1946.
Later, conceding to history and indisputable facts, Philippine independence was rightly placed on June 12, the specific date in 1898 when the Katipunan under Aguinaldo declared independence in the town of Cavite-Viejo, province of Cavite.
The date was corrected but the perception remains – America has been Liberator and Friend. Four million Filipinos in the US make America the country with the highest number of Filipino citizens and permanent residents, followed only by Canada, then Europe (UK et al) Australia and New Zealand.
Fifty years of Hollywood drowned the sounds of Balangiga. There are more Filipinos applying for US visas than any other destination. From the receiving end, the US issues more permanent resident visas than all the four countries with permanent migration programs – 1 million yearly.
And the list of immigrant visa applicants waiting for their appointments at the US Embassy grow longer – in some cases (such as the sisters and brothers of US citizens), the wait for visa issuance could run up to 24 years.
When the “ber” months come, a new set of visa numbers are allocated, renewing hope for those in line – 4,556,021 as of November 2015, according to US State Department reports. The Philippines has 417,511 visa applicants waiting in the wings even as more than 1,000 apply for temporary visas every day.
The new set of visas in October (the start of the US fiscal year) is welcome news for all visa applicants and visa watchers. A new set of visa allocation numbers is issued and assigned on a pro-rata basis (for each category in the Family and Employment based classes.)
The Filing columns for both months indicate the ability of visa applicants to start submitting documents in preparation for their visa interview dates. A visa interview date comes when one’s priority date (the date of filing the visa petition or labor certification) becomes current. Thus, a visa applicant whose priority or filing date is on or earlier than the date in his or her specific category in the Family or Employment preference, an interview date should have been scheduled.
Now, Donald Trump is seeking to take the presidency of the United States. The Republican nominee sees red, white and blue. He is at war with illegal immigrants especially if he can see the whites of their eyes as they cross the borders – murderers, rapists, all turning blue as he castigates the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton for making America un-great, letting the ungrateful immigrants come in unchecked.
The hound of presidential politics this year has revived the wounds of the Philippine-American war and the hounds are baying, standing guard over ports of entry preventing Filipinos, Mexicans, Chinese, Indians and other immigrants from turning America into a “howling wilderness.”