Tag Archives: philippine american war

Bravo, Heneral Luna!

This is the first the time I experienced a dominantly young crowd applaud at the end of a local film.

Heneral Luna is an inspiring film, didactic in an entertaining way.

This film is probably one of the best local historical period drama ever produced, along with Raymond Red’s “Sakay,” FPJ’s “Asedillo” and Albert Martinez’s “Rosario”.

The trouble with me sometimes, when it comes to these kind of films, is that I tend to look for details that were missed and events that were deliberately distorted. Drives me crazy! But even the best period films based on real historical figures, “Braveheart” for example, did not nail everything perfect.

The challenge period movies face is that its writers and directors had to take liberties to dramatize and to communicate—here’s where they’re often hit. For Heneral Luna, with its budget, they face far more difficulties.

But even autobiographies gets confronted with charges of deliberate falsehoods—difference is that making movies is a form of art, it will always be subject to the mind of its creators.

Let’s support this movie and keep it in cinemas for more weeks.

There are three things I like about Heneral Luna, the film:

First, they showed the human side of him. Instead of centering on his epic battles (which they could have since he was the only real military leader in that cabinet, and a fighting one at that) they spent time presenting who he was as a person. They also steer clear from the rumors about Luna, like the one where he was supposed to have handed the “treasury” to his lover (although she did appear there as somewhat of a power broker).

Luna was a renaissance man, he enjoys poetry like his women, he understand medicine, he was a legendary guitar player; short tempered but the only man that was capable of prolonging the war if not win it completely.

The success of the film was not the depiction of the battle scenes (which for me were not impressive in the movie) but in how they highlighted Luna’s attributes and weaknesses.

At the end of the movie, everyone understood who he was, his purpose, why he did what he did; why he was prepared to die for his country and why he was executed by the very people he sought to liberate.

Second, while the subject of the film is heavy, they made the characters people the audience can relate to. I suspect Antonio Luna to be a very serious fellow, judging on accounts about him and how he writes, but we have to remember that while his generation were highly educated and Hispanized they have qualities that are no different from ours today.

The scenes where the hero was depicted as being jovial amid a perilous battle, connects with Filipinos today. Do we not smile and continue to laugh even when we’re faced with the most trying events in our lives?

Third, the message. I think many Filipinos now understands that if we are to succeed as a nation, we have to rid our government of corruption. We can no longer afford to be soft on those who err and steal so they can enrich themselves and their families.

Luna tried to rectify corrupt cabinet members and undisciplined military leaders. It proved costly on his part; he made powerful enemies. Even today, the leader that would endeavor to do what he did would end up like him—if not maligned, jailed if not killed.

Why? We’re too divided, we go tribal easily.

In order to move this country forward, we can’t afford leaders sleeping with our enemies and having their pockets lined with the “kaban ng bayan”. Luna’s character in the movie spoke of this in his intense debates against the rich cabinet men of Aguinaldo.

When a Luna like figure comes, I hope, we Filipinos will support that leader. It going to be demanding to get behind leaders that are not cowed by special interests, local military upheavals and other nations—they’re going to make unpopular decisions, hard ones but there’s no alternative.

We need the kind of revolution Luna called for—united with zero tolerance for the corrupt and those who wish to tear the country apart.

There’s some crazy uproar about what the movie failed to show—how it demonized certain individuals considered national heroes by certain groups and families. Again, it’s the message we need to focus on, not the personalities. Not because your relatives and kababayan took part in the revolution entitles them to be national heroes.

The film’s message is timely, election’s just around the corner.

Do we really want the Aguinaldos, the Buencaminos, the Mascardos and the Paternos to continue leading us, or do we want a Heneral Luna?

I say we must have a Heneral Luna, and we must be Heneral Lunas. All of us.


Bamboo Spanish

tag: pio andrade jr, spanish philippines, thomasite,  philippine american war



How did the American soldiers in the Philippine-American War manage to make themselves understood by the Filipinos in the absence of an interpreter? Answer: By speaking “Bamboo Spanish,” which was also called “Soldier’s Spanish”, or “Pack-Train Spanish.” 

By far, Bamboo Spanish is the most comical version of the language of Cervantes. It is more comical than Chabacano, the “Spanish” of Zamboanga City and Cavite City. “To speak Bamboo Spanish,” according to Thomasite William Freer, “the American soldiers have but to know, correctly or incorrectly, about 10 verbs in the third person, singular number and present tense, 20 nouns, the adjective forms bueno and malo, and the adverbs, si, no, and por que, and to be able to throw these together with the English words interspersed; and lo, he was able to converse anywhere and everywhere.”

To this, I would like to add that Bamboo Spanish hispanized English by adding Spanish endings to English words, especially the nouns, and using the word “este” a lot, spiced generously with hand gestures. Here are some Bamboo Spanish stories:

A One day an American troop detachment escorting a mule team with lumber for a bridge was ambushed by Filipino soldiers. The mules ran away as soon as the fighting began. When the Filipinos were driven off. The American soldiers went after the mules; but they came to a crossroad and did not know which way the mules took.

A few civilian Filipinos came along and the captain, wanting to question them, called out to his men: “Is there anybody here who can speak Spanish?” A corporal presented himself and said he could. “All right,” the captain said, “Ask this man here if he has seen any mule go down this road.”

The corporal thought for a few minutes, and then he questioned the frightened Filipino, “Say, hombre, you see este mulio go down este rodeo?

Were the mules found because of the corporal’s Bamboo Spanish? The story did not say so. It ended with the statement that the captain never again used his corporal as an interpreter.

It was 1900 and Manila was already well under American control. The American authorities ordered that “Keep off the grass” signs be planted in the Luneta to keep the lawn green and beautiful.

One day an American ex-soldier, who was a member of Manila’s Finest, was pounding his Luneta beat when he saw a Filipino sauntering over the lawn. The American policeman accosted the Filipino trespasser.

“Hey, you,” he shouted while pointing at the sign. “What’s the matter with you? Can’t you read?”

“No comprendo, (I don’t understand)” the Filipino replied. “que quire decir eso? (What does that thing mean?)”

After a few exchanges, the American realized that the Filipino did not understand English. So he switched to the language of Cervantes, Manila American version: “You sabe este signio habla, oostay no puede vamos este caballo chow-chow. (Roughly: This sign means that even a horse is forbidden to come near this grass to eat.)”

The Filipino sneaked off the lawn into the gravel path. Did he understand the Bamboo Spanish of the American policeman, or was he just intimidated by the gringo?

Not long after his arrival in the Philippines, geologist Dr. Warren E. Smith, who later became Bureau of Mines director, assisted Jesuit Fr. Sanchez, a teacher, admirer, and friend of Rizal, in cataloguing the geological and mineralogical specimens of the Ateneo Museum. Since Fr. Sanchez did not know English, Dr. Smith had to talk Bamboo Spanish. The two worked together very well despite Fr. Sanchez perfect Castillian and Dr. Smith’s questionable Spanish. Dr. Smith admitted, though, that Fr. Sanchez’s innate courtesy made him unaware of the in-adequacy of his bamboo Espanol.

Bamboo Spanish may be crude, comical, and grammatically monstrous, but it generally worked. A Thomasite, in his first three weeks in the Philippines, was amazed at the linguistic ability of his fellow Americans. Everywhere he went, he saw Americans, especially soldiers, conversing effortlessly with Filipinos in Spanish. A month later, when he had learned some Spanish, the Thomasite realized that what he heard his compatriots speaking was Bamboo Spanish. There was a big difference between la lengua de Dios, as Spanish-speaking people call the Spanish language, and la lengua de los soldados Americanos en las Islas Filipinas, or Bamboo Spanish.



This article was sent to me by historian Pio Andrade Jr., This first appeared in his Philippine Daily Inquirer column.

C’mon Rick, No Philippine American War?

Seller: I have my grandfathers old army coat from the Philippine American war.

Rick Harrison: Well, there was no Philippine war.

Seller: American Philippine war?

Big Hoss: There was the Spanish American war where we took the Philippines from Spain.

Seller: Yeah, well, that sounds about right.

Rick Harrison: So, you think it’s from the Spanish American war?

Seller: So when was the Spanish American war?

Rick Harrison: 1890’s. We were much more powerful than Spain that it only lasted 10 weeks. United States ended up acquiring Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines.

Of course there was a Philippine American war. But it took place after the Spanish American war. But you can’t blame people like Rick if they were taught that the Philippine American war was an insurgency – not a full scale war. Which was what it really was when the locals realized that the Americans duped them.

Americans writes history that demotes wars into insurgency or banditry when the local people goes up against them. Which is a strange way to write history. How can you be an “insurgent” or a “bandit’ when you’re battling an intruding force? It’s like catching a thief inside your home and reading about what happened next morning with you being accused of unlawful assault.

Hey, I love the Pawn Stars but they’re no historians. They’re really cool guys who readily admits that they’re no expert in all things historical. In fact they regularly bring in experts when confronted with antiques they know little about. Which was what they did in this episode.

Bummer was that while the expert knew exactly what the uniform was, he referred to the Philippine-American war as “Philippine Insurrection”. I say, What the hell?

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