Watching them maneuver

They knew enough to observe the maneuvers of the United States of America in the Pacific Ocean, which was too close for comfort. “La Solidaridad”(15 April, 1889) reported in its “Political Trends” section that the United States of America (USA) was taking a very active part in colonial politics involving Samoa. By 1889, it was a given that the USA used the protection of American lives and interests as a pretext to intervene in affairs outside its national borders, in contrast to Spain “who used Catholicism as the foundation of her colonialism.”

The article entitled “Political Glimpses” reads: “In the race among the Powers to establish themselves in strategic places of the Pacific, Germany has met with an obstacle – the resistance of a young robust, nation who is not accustomed to suffer defeat. The old Chancellor, seeing neither victory nor advantage in a struggle with North America sacrificed his consul and preferred the medium of democracy…”

The Filipino propagandists in Spain were well aware of what was happening in Cuba where the USA, the imperial power on the rise, intervened at some point during the 10-year anti-colonial war for Independence. It was obvious to them that the tide was turning against the European powers. “A bad beginning for the Old World because, as the French say, the appetite comes in the eating.”

The analysis continues: “On the other hand, John Bull sees in Brother Jonathan a real kin, a rival who follows the same colonial system. He is, therefore, alarmed because in politics, relatives are a nuisance.” Frankly, I could not understand what that meant until I looked up John Bull and Brother Jonathan, characters or caricatures that personified England and the USA, respectively.

“Perhaps the day is not far behind when conflicts may yet be solved in the waters of the Pacific wherein nations of Europe, like concessioners fighting for choice locations at a forthcoming fair, wrangle over coal deposits, strategic islands, and bases in anticipation of the of the Panama Canal either by France or America.” So that was the raison d’etre for the battle over Samoa.

Observant, the writer said: “The Philippines also lies in the main route, but its present government, instead of preparing for this great era, chooses to weaken the country and to reduce it to inaction. It is preoccupied with the appointment of bishops and the disposition of criminals; it ignores the needs of the country.” This was followed by a sarcastic comment: “…There are Spanish writers in the Peninsula who grieve because Spain takes lessons in colonization from the Protestants who frankly say that the colonizers are only after exploitation. There they know about Alexander VI, Charles V, Philip II, III and others who justified colonies only because of the desire to spread the Faith. For our part, we applaud their frankness and we are with them in wishing that Spain would remain always in its place of honor.”

The elegantly written sarcasm flows to the last paragraph of “Political Glimpses” which touched on the Universal Exposition, in Paris if I am not mistaken. The Propagandists must have written it with guffaws: “…England, as usual will present her Empire of India in a brilliant display…Holland will do the same and France as well. Among the Filipinos of Paris, the rumor is rife that the Archipelago will also send a full, resplendent commission composed of friars, employees, cavalrymen, etc., with an important section of rosaries, novenas, scapulars, projects, and other works that will no doubt attract much attention. The rumor is, however, still unconfirmed — more is the pity, for if it were true, the Exposition would have something belonging to the Middle Ages.”

As the Filipino Propagandists battled against medieval Spain, they were watching other empires maneuver in the Pacific Ocean to grab new territories; they must have felt the rip currents that eventually dragged Filipinas (as well as Cuba and Puerto Rico) into the deadly vortex of imperialism.

(Source: La Solidaridad, Vol. 1, 1889. Translated by Guadalupe Fores-Ganzon, Fundacion Santiago)