Tag Archives: sakdalista

More Philippine history books puh-lease!

As force of habit, when I’m in Manila I spend a few hours scouring local bookstores for Filipiniana titles. I even have a planned budget to spend!

Since very few Filipino publishers goes to Kindle (like Sionil Jose’s publisher) you have to buy titles you like before they’re gone. I’m a die-hard bibliophile but I also don’t mind the convenience digital books affords.

So what did I found the last time I was home?

Great Philippine history titles, very good ones.

Thanks to university publishing houses like UST, Ateneo and UP. These guys are putting up some fascinating historical books out in the book market.

I’m done reading Richard T. Chu’s “Chinese and Chinese Mestizos of Manila: Family, Identity and  Culture 1860s to 1930s,” and “Chinese Merchants of Binondo in the Nineteenth Century”. The latter, about a 100 pages, is a quick read that provides a glimpse of how Chinese merchants took advantage of colonial laws and local traditions to progress their social and economic standing. These two books compliments each other.

Another good title, “Arenas of Conspiracy and Rebellion in the Late Nineteenth Century Philippines,” by Michael Cullinane. The book’s about the anti-Spanish movement in the south (most significant took place on Palm Sunday, “tres de abril”, in 1898) and how it influenced the entire country. The name of this foreign author sounded familiar, found out later that he also wrote, “The Parian of Cebu City: A Historical Overview, 1565-1898,” a must read if one endeavors to understand Cebu’s history.

The last title I purchased is “Sakdalista’s Struggle for Philippine Independence 1930-1945” by Motoe Terami-Wada. I haven’t started reading this one but the book’s subject is of great interest personally. I’ve heard of the Sakdalistas at a very young age from my father.  In 2011, I visited the church of San Policarpio in Cabuyao where some 61 of them perished during a battle that only lasted 48 hours.

Wada also authored the book “The Japanese in the Philippines 1880’s-1990’s” which is a collection of stories from Japanese living in the country in the 19th century. An interesting read for it contains reflections and attitudes of the Japanese in the country prewar and post war.

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Last December, Benedict Anderson, author of “Imagined Communities” and “Under Three Flags” died in Indonesia. A leading scholar in South East Asian history and a personal favorite of mine. He traveled Filipinas quite extensively in a second hand car. I wished I had my books signed when he was still around.

I’ve always been curious why there seems to be as many foreign Philippine historians as Filipino historians. That these folks are around tells us that they’re getting support to research and write. Maybe more than our local historians.

I remember a visit I made in the National Archives in Kalaw a few years ago. I was surprised that in the table where you wait for your papers I sat with foreigners. I could imagine those old white men writing journals and books about us one day, maybe they probably did by now.

An uncle, who once owned a small clothing line, told me that local brands would always have a hard time competing with foreign brands because Filipinos have an aversion to buying local. I don’t accept this completely, there are some trusted local brands, but there’s some truth to his claim.

I wonder if this attitude applies also to history books? Do we prefer reading history when it’s authored by a foreigner? Do we trust them more?

When I was in high school I read William Henry Scott. The  foremost expert in Pre-Philippine history. What I remember then was that it was our history teacher who recommended his work. I was surprise that we were pointed to an American historian instead of a Filipino.

I think there’s nothing wrong with foreigners contributing to Philippine history text. In fact, if it weren’t for them we would know less of our past. We would have not known about Lapu-Lapu if Magellan’s scribe never bothered to mention his name but what I’m saying is that we need more Filipinos to write more about Filipino history and even more Filipinos to buy and read more Filipino history book!

I am sure many Philippine history buffs shares this sentiment.

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Cabuyao and the Sakdalista Incident

Cabuyao now is popular for its industrial complex. Their local government claims that they’re “The richest municipality” in the country. Looking at the list of investments from major companies verifies this to be true. The old Cabuyao, where ricefields dominates the land, is now an industrial haven. San Policarpio is an elegant church. I took this picture during our "mahal na araw" (lent) last year. The white small stone marker that looks like a mailbox on the right portion of the photo contains the name of the massacred Sakdalistas.

Like all of our old towns, Cabuyao’s history left a trail of a deep past and a vibrant culture. Evidence of this are the old houses and the Church of San Policarpio. Most of the old houses in Cabuyao are threatened by neglect and the inability of the local government and the families to conserve these gems of our past.

There are many reasons why these issues persist. Insufficient funding, inappropriate development or the lack of it are the most common ones you’ll hear.

One of the most popular uprising in our history made its mark in Cabuyao. The brutal ending of the Sakdalista’s that were holed up inside the church of San Policarpio (bullet holes can still be seen on the walls of the historic church) marked the beginning of the end of the peasant revolt. There’s a small memorial in front of the church where the names of those who perished are engraved.

The Sakdalista movement, although now long forgotten, was one of the most significant resistance during the American period. They advocated “absolute” independence from the US. Unfortunately for them they were up against a popular Filipino President in the person of Manuel Quezon (to them a man with “Dugong Kastila”). Going against American policy was increasingly becoming  unpopular during their time as there were “signs of progress” and wide acceptance of the Filipino led government.

The government (in Cabuyao, personally led by Gov. Cailles) forcibly retook  the town the Sakdalista’s occupied. They were said to protest inside the government buildings, refusing to vacate the premises while burning American flags.

The Sakdalista’s were all gunned with heavy firepower.  Benigno Ramos, who was in Nippon land allegedly seeking support from its militaristic leaders, hearing that his people were decimated in Laguna and Cavite, stayed in Japan as a political refugee. He went back home when the Japs came to our shores – reminiscent of another forgotten hero, Hen. Ricarte, who refuse to pledge allegiance with the Americans and fled to Japan.

The  Sakdalista was a legitimate organization at the beginning and personally, although history books tells us otherwise, until its end (They had members who were elected in official post) They were pushing the agenda of complete liberation from the Americans. Their ideals were more or less the same with the early revolutionaries who refused to accept American rule after the Spaniards left.

How can an organization seeking “freedom” be treated like they were a different people by their own people? Clearly, hands were forced so Filipino’s will have to take on Filipinos. Many resistance leaders were ratted out by their own “kababayan”  as were the case of Aguinaldo with the Macabebe.

To many, the group is synonymous to “populism” which appealed greatly with the peasants. For the  Americans and her Filipino allies the group were  extremist and dangerous – they were considered threat to “democracy” and “American interest”.

There were rumors circulating at the time that the Sakdal followers were planning to take over the government in Manila. When the Sakdalista’s finally made the bold move to take over local municipalities, the stage was set for the government to crash with all its force this rebellion.

If one is to revisit the rationale used by Ramos (he got the name Sakdal from French writer Emil Zola’s “J’accuse”) one will find that he believes in the democratic processes but he and his followers refused the powerful hands of the colonial government and the paisano leaders that he viewed as mere puppets and “not representing the lower class”. Like  Ricarte and Macario Sacay, he was made to appear like a shady figure, a mere bandit – up to this day, standard history books has backed up the notion that people like them were leaders of “small rebellions”.

If we are taught proper history these hero’s who went up and challenge the right of the Americans to rule the land should have never been deleted. Our history books are filled with lies and partial truths – There are many historians and writers that continues to trumpet the US occupation as our golden age. Filipinos suffered greatly under the Americans at the turn of the century but we continue to gloss over the facts, what we remember are the Fraile, the Kastila and all the evil deeds unfairly associated with them. There’s no mention of American brutality. Deaths during the Spanish revolution would turn pale in comparison to the genocide committed by the Americans.

Let us quote the WASP hero, US Army General Leonard Wood, speaking about the campaign against the Filipinos: “The present war is no bloodless, opera bouffe engagement; our men have been relentless, have killed to exterminate men, women, children, prisoners and captives, active insurgents and suspected people from lads of ten up, the idea prevailing that the Filipino as such was little better than a dog.”


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