A luna

General Antonio Luna

The Philippine-American War started in 1898 due to provocations in Manila. It started as a conventional war, with Antonio Luna as its most successful military leader, one whom American generals called “the ablest and most aggressive leader of the Filipino Republic” and “the only general the Filipino army had”. Had, because he did not get along well with President Aguinaldo and was assassinated in 1899. He was the younger brother of famous painter Juan Luna. A close friend of Rizal, Juan Luna had killed his mestiza wife, Paz Pardo de Tavera in Paris but had been acquitted in a 19th-century version of the O.J. Simpson trial. Antonio Luna was as hot-tempered as his brother, nearly getting into a duel with Rizal and challenging a Spanish journalist to a duel about an article.

The war soon turned into a retreat, which in the end was heroically guarded by Gregorio del Pilar, who fought so well that an American officer returned to bury him with full honors and engrave “An Officer and a Gentleman” on his tombstone. Del Pilar was the nephew of famous Filipino Chief Propagandist Marcelo H. del Pilar who wrote under the pen name “Plaridel”. Thus the revolution ate its own children, like so many revolutions in history. Aguinaldo was captured and the Philippine-American war officially ended in 1902, even if the last military leader to surrender was Bikolano Simeon Ola in 1903. General Macario Sakay, a barber who had sworn to not cut his hair until freedom was achieved, declared his own Republic in 1902 and was defeated in 1906.

The Philippine Organic Act that was passed in 1902 was mainly implemented in 1907, when the Philippine Assembly Elections took place. The notion of Filipino citizenship seems to already have existed, because it was questioned for one candidate. The Nacionalista Party, which was for quick independence, won the majority under Sergio Osmeña. The minority Progresista Party which was for gradual independence was led by Trinidad Pardo de Tavera, brother of the murdered Paz Pardo de Tavera, wounded by Juan Luna when he came to help.


Governor Taft on a carabao

American teachers built upon and improved the old Spanish public school system. The University of the Philippines was established in 1908. Older universities like the University of Santo Tomas and Ateneo were of course already there, having been established by religious orders, even if American Jesuits from the Maryland-New York province came to Ateneo in the 1920s. The Philippine Insular Government under the Bureau of Insular Affairs took care of administration. The civil service and the judiciary were reorganized, even if many Spanish laws remain till today.

Manuel Quezon

The Moro rebellion raged from 1901-1913. During this time, the United States managed to achieve full control over the Muslim areas of the Philippines, which the Spanish barely had controlled. In 1916, the the Philippine Autonomy Act was passed and the Philippine Senate took over as the upper house, a function originally held by the US-controlled Philippine Commission.

Manuel Quezon, who had been a resident commissioner of the Philippines from 1909-1916, was President of the Philippine Senate from 1916-1935. He was instrumental in negotiating the Tydings-McDuffie Act which was passed in 1934, giving the Philippines independence within a ten-year period, but also limiting Philippine immigration which in the 1930s became a political issue in the US. There were anti-Filipino riots in California, and laws prohibiting marriage to white women.

There was of course massive Philippine migration to Hawaii. Filipino-Americans became a major group with the United States. Yet the Philippine state was reaching another level of organization. In 1920, the Muslim areas were turned over to the Department of the Interior. The entire Philippines was finally under state control.

Irineo B. R. Salazar, München, 20 May 2015
Part of the Philippine History Series.