Monday, 8 March 2010

What About the Philippines?



WHAT ABOUT THE PHILIPPINES?

From Travel magazine, September 1925; digitized by Doug Frizzle March 2010.

America's Responsibility in the Pacific—How Our Trust Has Been Betrayed—A Baby Convicted of Arson—The Rule of Fear of the Caciques

A Review of the book - The Isles of Fear/ Katherine Mayo/Harcourt, Brace and Company /New York/ 1925/$3.50/

By Edward B. Hale

WITH one clean sweep Miss Katherine Mayo has torn aside the curtain that has been adroitly hung between the American public and the truth about the Philippines. Miss Mayo has done well.

The present writer is himself thoroughly experienced in governmental investigation, and he knows at first hand the dangers and difficulties that must inevitably be encountered. Miss Mayo's own reputation in this field is beyond all question and her book may be accepted as an authentic account of a set of conditions concerning which every citizen of the United States owes it to himself to be fully informed. There has been much agitation about the Philippines, chiefly as to whether or not they should be granted their independence. We are now able, literally for the first time, to inform ourselves as to the actual facts of the situation. Miss Mayo went to the Philippines to make an impartial investigation. She had no ax to grind. She went on her own initiative and paid her own way. She was under obligations to no one, except her obligation to herself to find out the truth and to make it public. That task she has ably accomplished in a book that is courageous without being violent, and indignant without being prejudiced. Before quoting directly from the book itself it may be helpful briefly to summarize Miss Mayo's findings.

There are three human factors to be considered in any study of the Philippines. These are the Outsider (once Spain and now the United States), the Caciques or moneyed class which bosses and from which the politicians come, and the Tao or peasant who is vastly in the majority so far as numbers go, but who is at the mercy of those above him and who is preyed upon systematically. The task that the Outsider must assume is to keep the Cacique from preying on the Tao and at the same time to try to educate the Tao to the point where he is able to care for himself. Spain encouraged and fostered the feudal system, supporting the Cacique class against the oppressed Tao, but with the advent of the American administration which followed the war of 1898 conditions underwent a radical change. It must be borne in mind that the Cacique class are not merchants; they are politicians who make their living out of politics, a condition, for instance, that obtains in nearly all South American countries. America took over the islands, threw the Cacique grafters out of office and filled the executive and administrative positions with Americans, men who were expert in their work and who were appointed for the sole reason that they were fitted to do the particular task to which they had been set. The Tao rejoiced, for he soon discovered that for the first time in his miserable history he was being treatly fairly and was given an opportunity to develop. The Cacique, on the other hand, was first astounded and then infuriated, for it rapidly became evident that his means of support, the chance to grow fat on the labor of those beneath him, had come to an end. Hence, we are confronted with this fact—the Tao does not want the United States to relax its hold on the islands, for in the continuation of this hold lies his only security. He has more independence now than he ever dreamed was possible. On the other hand he fully realizes that he is unable to maintain his independence unassisted, and that without the United States to support him he will at once come under the iron hand of the Cacique, his old oppressor. The cry for independence that is coming from the Philippines today is coming from the Cacique and from the Cacique only. Of course the Cacique wants the islands given their independence, for that means that they will be given to him to play ducks and drakes with as in the past. His class numbers six per cent of the total population, but because he controls the money and because of his unscrupulousness and political astuteness he knows that he is well able to hold the other ninety-four per cent where he had them in the beginning. That ninety-four per cent knows it too, and looks to the continuation of American rule as its only salvation.

The American administration has not had everything all its own way, however. From the very, outset it has been continually hampered by the petty conspiracies of the Caciques who have managed to stir up considerable trouble both abroad and at home. Little by little the Governor General has been shorn of the power that ought rightfully to be his if he is to provide an efficient and just administration. Most of this shearing process took place during the regime of Governor General Harrison, the only Governor General we have sent to the islands upon whom we cannot look with pride. Governor General Harrison occupied himself in tearing down the constructive work of his predecessors, beginning with Mr. Taft, and the administration of the islands today is still suffering from the evil effects of his work. The flat truth is that what the American administration of the Philippines needs is not less power, but more. Every inch that is conceded to native rule goes at once into the hands of the Caciques and is at once utilized to increase the misrule, injustice and oppression that has never been entirely wiped out.

The history of American administration in the Philippines can be divided into three periods—the Constructive, from 1900 to 1913, the Destructive (under Harrison) from 1913 to 1921, and the Reconstructive, from 1921 to the present time. It was under Harrison that a Philippine Legislature was formed to hamstring the progressive work of America in the islands, and this legislature is today the chief retarding factor in the development of the archipelago. Why? Because it is in the hands of the Caciques, those who have determined that America's work shall be a failure. To release our hold on the Philippines at this time or in the near future would be directly to betray a trust that we voluntarily assumed. The facts point to this beyond all question.

While this resume conveys only very inadequately the scope of Miss Mayo's work it may he more illuminating to quote from the book itself. Miss Mayo says:

"The political unit in the Philippine Islands is the little caciquethe small local boss. This is the keystone fact in the make-up of Filipino-conceived control.

"The little cacique takes his orders from one a size bigger than he. And so on up to the seats of the Big Caciques in Manila. Much as in Tammany's plan, but with an essential difference.

"Voters there are, but an idea of the probable independence of their ballots may be derived from what is later to be said on such topics as usury, peonage and the channels and possible strength of public opinion.

"To picture to yourself the figure of the little cacique, you must first deliver your mind from the treacherously recurring subconscious idea that he is a brown-skinned New England squire living in a tropical Lexington or Concord.

"Because he is not, and does not. He is the local political boss, who lives, unless he is an absentee boss, in the better house of a very pretty village or a barrio,1

"The barrio, like the village, is mainly composed of one- or two-roomed shacks, whose walls and roofs are made of screens woven of grass or palm-leaves neatly lashed upon slender bamboo frames. The shacks, whose life is from two to three years, are single-storied and stand high on stilts. This arrangement not only keeps them relatively dry, in raintime, but also gives an open storage place beneath. Here are kept, beside the big basket of rice on which the family subsists, the cook-pot, the wooden plough, the two or three fowls, and also the carabao2 and the pony, if the household is so rich as to possess them.

1 The whole territory of the Philippines, regardless of population, is divided into municipalities. A barrio is a segment of a municipality. This is the Spaniard's arrangement.

2 A water-buffalo, the draft animal of the Philippines.

"No sanitation exists, and the invariable pig, although ultimately eaten, is maintained primarily to serve for the nonexistent closet. No other provision is made either for sewage disposal or for the pig's support. His hip bones almost cut through his skin. He is always starving. His hunger, in the intervals of his duties, often drives him into the highway, which he clogs. His sides cave in and all his ribs protrude. In every way piteous and embarrassing, he is the adjunct of every home, and is to be found as certainly in the skirts of the city of Manila as throughout the provinces.

"Anywhere from five to fifteen persons, adult and children, may inhabit these one or two-room dwellings. The rooms may be eight by ten feet square. At night every aperture will be shut tight to keep away the malignant spirits that fill night air. But by day the screens are pushed back from the windows, and all the simple intimacies of life are laid bare to the passer-by including the inevitable noontide hunting parties co-operately conducted through the family's hair.

"There may be a new-fangled artesian well in the barrio. But even if there is, many are the ancient uses of a little drainage-ditch beside the highway. Here, within a space of fifty yards, I have seen women laundering garments, women washing dishes, women scrubbing meat for the pot, a man washing a dog, a pig nuzzling, and several naked youngsters kicking up the mud, while others dipped drinking water in earthen vessels for household use.

"The people of the barrio speak a certain dialect—one of a possible eighty-odd. They know no other tongue. And the confines of the little field in which its dialect is spoken are the confines of any barrio's knowledge of the world.

"Tenants of the cacique for the most part, and tillers of his soil, the people work fairly steadily, considering the facts that all are undernourished, that over eighty per cent have worms and that their economic outlook is dull. Their congenital passion for gambling would of itself be enough to keep them always in debt, and practically every barrio of any size has its cock-pit— which, by the way, is in far better repair than its rickety skeleton church. The women may be credited with whatever is done in the way of conserving of funds, but barrio people are doing well when they pass from crop to crop without a starvation interval between. "Six pesos3—three American dollars—is the average family's entire income for a fortnight. And how big six pesos can look may be gleaned from a narrative related by Major-General E. B. Babbitt, U. S. A., of a personal experience in the Islands.

3 A peso equals fifty cents gold.

"General Babbitt one day conceived the idea that he would like to go a-fishing. So, being in Manila, he picked up a friend and rode out to a promising spot in Laguna Province, where he bargained with a tao fisherman. Two good days the party spent, and in the end six round bright silver pesos—three dollars American— much money. So that the tao went home to his shack treading on clouds. And after he had handed the treasure to his wife, the pair sat late into the night planning and dreaming about the wonders it should bring forth.

"But the news of those six pesos somehow leaked out into the barrio. Like flame on oil it flew, swift to the presidente's 4 ears.

4 Head man, mayor.

''Whereupon the presidente sent for the tao and, without reasons given, threw him into jail.

"In jail, then, the wretched man cowered, silent, uncomplaining, half-dead with shapeless fear. Until, the time being enough, the presidente sent for him and said:

" 'It appears that you are a very evil fellow. You are a robber—a bandit. What have you to say?'

"The tao stammered out his protestation.

" 'But the Americans say you are a bandit, and you must be shot,' the presidente went on.

"The tao wept. The presidente pondered, with deep-ribbed brow and introspective eyes. Finally he spoke: 'It is true that these Americans are a rough and violent people. But I am a cacique. I am boss of the barrio. I have, of course, much power. A way might be found . . . but, no!'

"The tao implored, fawning.

"'No — no—it is impossible. It would cost too much.—Now, if I had six pesos—if there were any way of getting six pesos—I might be able to arrange it—to buy the Americans off.'

" 'May it please your honor—send and call my wife,' moaned the tao, beating his hands on his breast.

"The wife came hastily to the presidential. 5 Together the pair took distracted counsel, while the presidente waited, solemn and aloof.

5 Town hall.

" 'May it please your honor—I have six pesos—just six pesos in the world —I will run and bring them—' the woman finished, crushed.

"So the cacique received the six pesos, the woman went home to weep and the tao went back to jail.

"Two days later the great man sent for the prisoner. ‘I have bought off the Americans. It was very difficult. You are lucky,' he said. 'And yet—I think you would do well to take your wife and make off to the hills. You never can trust these Americans. If they come back and find you here there is no telling. They might . . . !'

"The tao shook again with fear— even as he was meant to do. And, still shaking, thanked the cacique humbly, picked up his wife and his bolo, and departed in haste to the mountains, there to become in good earnest a robber of wayfarers and all unprotected folk.

"The bottom cacique is the ultimate, natural and essential channel through which his own bosses, in their ascending series, reach and control the bottom clog. He is the interpreter, to the barrio, of anything that it sees or hears outside its own domestic life. Much the same might be said of a Tammany Hall ward boss. But there is also a difference: The cacique rules, not by favor, but by fear—by the blind, black tyranny of fear. And the docile ignorance of the masses is his strength. How complete that ignorance can be would scarcely be grasped through generalities.

"Mr. A. W. Prautch, Chief of the Rural Credit Division, Bureau of Agriculture, is one of the few American officials left in the Philippine Government. Mr. Prautch's life is spent in journeyings to and fro around the provinces on errands of help.

"One day it happened that Mr. Prautch, traveling in Ilocos Norte in company with the Governor of that province, came to the town of San Nicolas on the China Sea. Together the two men went first to the presidencia. There, while the Governor talked with the presidente and his assembled official staff, the American went strolling about the building to see what might be seen.

"The first thing that particularly struck his attention was a wretched, hopeless-looking woman with a small child wailing in her arms, crouched on the bare floor of the jail.

"Now, the jail being not only under the presidencia roof, but also, at the moment, under the Provincial Governor's nose, it was easy for Mr. Prautch to direct the Provincial Governor's eyes that way.

" 'Look!' murmured the American, quietly nudging his companion. 'See that woman hugging the sick baby yonder in the cell. She looks as though she had lost her last friend. You might ask why she is there.'

“The Governor complied.

"'Ah,' said the presidente, 'yes. It shall be explained. The woman is there to take care of the baby.'

"'But why is the baby there?'

"'Ah!' replied the presidente again, 'let us see, — Yes. The baby is there because he is guilty of crime. The crime of arson,'

"The Governor turned to Mr. Prautch in bewilderment. 'Impossible!' he exclaimed.

"'Let's ask further,' urged Prautch, "And so, bit by bit, the tale came out, drawn by the Governor's questions.

"The woman, it appeared, was the wife of a poor laborer. One day when the man was off in the fields working, the woman climbed down the ladder of the shack and went to look for faggots to boil the evening rice. The baby, then just learning to creep, remained alone in the room. The baby was supposed to show discretion.

"What he did do, seemingly, was to hitch his way over to the fire-pot and pull out a pretty red ember. After which it would be a matter of minutes, no more, before the whole little nipa-palm shack would blaze. The neighbors rescued the baby. But the house—which by the way belonged to the laborer and his wife and was all they owned in the world—the house on golden wings had vanished into the sun before the poor mother came back.

"Meantime, the police, running quickly, reported to the town authorities that a house had been burned.

" 'A house has been burned? Why, then,' said the authorities, 'there must be a trial. Tomorrow bring the people before the Justice of the Peace.'

"And so it was done, duly and in order,

" 'Who set this house on fire?' asked the Justice of the Peace.

" 'If it please your honor, the baby,' said the neighbors. 'It must have been the baby. Nobody else was there.'

" 'Then,' continued the Justice, 'the perpetractor being found, it becomes a question of motive: Why did the baby set the house on fire?'

'"Nobody can tell,' said the neighbors. 'Nobody was there.'

"'But'—and the magistrate became severe— 'this is a trial, remember. We have found the offender. Now, we are obliged to find his motive. That comes next. You must think. Now think: Did the baby set the house afire on purpose?’

"The neighbors thought, as bid.—Finally they produced the required statement:

"The baby assuredly must have set the house afire on purpose, since he had only himself to consult at the time.

" 'Aha!’ exclaimed the Magistrate. 'Then the case is complete. Setting a house afire on purpose is a crime. It is called arson. This prisoner is committed to jail to await trial on charges of arson.'

"So the policeman picked the baby out of its mother's arms, solemnly walked off to the jail, and locked the baby up.

"But within the hour he was back again.

" 'Please, your honor, who is to feed the prisoner ?’

"'Why, the jailer, of course.'

" 'But—the jailer—he says he can't.'

" 'Tell him he must,' said the Justice, growing angry. 'It is his duty.'

" 'But—’

" 'But what, you nuisance?' shouted the Justice, his patience gone.

"'But, your honor, this prisoner isn't weaned. He just sucks.'

"So this, as new evidence, reopened the case, and brought about another hearing, whose fruit was the decision that, as the mother was, in a manner of speaking, an essential part of the prisoner, she also must go to jail.

"And there, in close confinement, the pair had thenceforth lain.

"Meantime the husband and father—the old tao laborer—worked in the fields all day, while at night he cooked the food he earned and brought it to the jail. The wife could do nothing but sit on the floor and hold the baby in her flaccid arms. There was nothing else to do. And the baby, wailing and pining, against its every interest continued somehow to live.

"But no one in the town of San Nicolas, least of all the town authorities, saw anything strange in the case. One day it would be tried; meantime, it awaited trial. An unfortunate affair, perhaps, for the three concerned, yes. But how did it concern anybody else? Who else was hurt?

"Said the Governor of Ilocos Norte to Mr. Prautch:

" 'This is lamentable. But nothing can be done. The thing is now a matter of record and must follow the process of law.'

"'Oh! Governor, let's cut through it. This is Saturday. Let's you and me bail the baby out till Monday. Our word will be enough. You explain to the J.P. and the Mayor and the Council. When Monday comes, have the hearing, with all the evidence. And then—just suspend judgment. See?'

"So by the illumination of Mr. Prautch, the baby got out."

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As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.