Partial truths about the Philippine Revolution

The epilogue of John Schumacher SJ’s Revolutionary Clergy begins with a summary of four “certain stereotypes”, or partial views, or (if understood ideologically) outright myths of the Revolution that in my view is a marvel of lucidity and precision. Immediately after the summing-up, he hastens to clarify that “all of them contain some greater or lesser portions of the whole picture of the Revolution” (and all ignore, to a greater or lesser extent, the role of the Filipino clergy as “an essential element” of that same  Revolution).

I thought it might be worth our while to run those four paragraphs (from Schumacher 1981: 267-268) here, as a reminder, in Schumacher’s words, of “the one Revolution and the many revolutions.”

“Certain stereotypes concerning the nature of the Revolution—understood as the struggle against foreign domination extending from 1896 to 1902—have dominated revolutionary historiography from the very beginning. By Spanish friar, by American Protestant, by Filipino clerical or anti-clerical, the Revolution has been portrayed in large part as a struggle against the Philippine church as being the enemy of nationalist aspirations. Such incidents in the 1950s as the controversies over Rizal’s retraction of Masonry and the law making the reading of Rizal’s novels compulsory in all schools, have betrayed embarrassment on the part of some Catholics who cherished both their Catholic faith and their nation’s heroes and heritage. They have likewise shown the readiness of anti-Catholic elements of many kinds to exploit nationalism for less than noble ends. In an earlier period, some Catholics, not only Spaniards, but even Filipinos, felt themselves obliged to reject the whole Revolution as the work of a Masonic conspiracy to destroy the Catholic faith kept alive by the Spanish missionaries.”

“A second stereotype common to Spaniards and Americans, has been to consider the Revolution as little more than the ‘rebellion Tagala,’ as the Spaniards scornfully termed the Revolution of 1896, even though they imprisoned and tortured men in the non-Tagalog provinces for alleged conspiracies. American historians like LeRoy and Taylor, though recognizing that the opposition to the Americans was by no means confined to the Tagalog provinces, tended to attribute the resistance elsewhere to Tagalog emissaries or military commanders who stirred up or even coerced an indifferent or unwilling population into revolt against the Spaniards and refusal to accept American rule. Though Filipino historians have stressed the national character of the Revolution, as a matter of fact the standard histories, such as Kalaw or Agoncillo, concentrate almost all their attention on the Malolos government and the forces directly under its control, and only the barest details appear on the course of the Revolution in the rest of the country. A few local historians, most notably Elias Ataviado for Albay and Sorsogon, and more recently Romero for Negros, have attempted studies of individual regions, but their lack of significant impact on the prevailing historiography is best symbolized by the fact that much of Ataviado’s work remains unpublished.”

“A more recent stereotype, clearly derivative of the Malolos-centered view, is the position that the Revolution, made by the proletariat (or alternatively by the lower middle class), was taken over by the wealthy ilustrado elite, who then betrayed it to the Americans. This view, often undergirded by some form of economic determinism, is in reality the other side of the contention of Taft and other architects of the American colonial regime, that ‘all the better class’ of people, or ‘all those who have anything to lose,’ were really in favor of American rule, at least after a fairly early stage of the Filipino-American war.”

“Finally, though Fathers Burgos, Gomez, and Zamora have always occupied a place in the pantheon of national heroes, their martyrdom has generally been viewed as one of the more striking examples of the Spanish oppression which gave rise to the revolt of 1896, rather than as an effort to crush an early stage of nationalism in substantial continuity with that which inspired the Katipunan and the Revolution of 1896. When even the Propaganda Movement is dismissed as a ‘reform movement,’ a futile effort whose evident failure led Bonifacio to found the Katipunan and allegedly for the first time turn the eyes of Filipinos on independence, the movement initiated by Pelaez and given form by Burgos has been seen as merely a prelude to nationalism.”

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Filed under Readings in Politics, Readings in Religion

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