The Sonderbund War


We have four more days before my next podcast episode goes online, so while you’re waiting for it, here’s another story about an obscure war that I recently added to the website.  This one took place in Switzerland, believe it or not, and I added it to Chapter 13 of the European history series.

The Sonderbund War

We don’t get many opportunities to discuss Switzerland in a European history narrative, because the Swiss kept to themselves most of the time, and the outside world didn’t bother them much. The most recent outsider who did bother them was Napoleon Bonaparte, who conquered Switzerland in 1798, and turned most of it into a "Helvetian Republic." Then in 1803, because the Swiss refused to cooperate with him, he brought back the previous canton system, though the cantons remained satellite states of the French Empire until 1814. With the Congress of Vienna, Switzerland’s independence was restored, and Valais, Neuchâtel and Geneva were added as new cantons, establishing Switzerland’s present-day boundaries. Most important of all, the Congress declared Switzerland neutral, and the Swiss have followed this to the letter; they have not been involved in any foreign war since 1815, nor will they join any international organization.

However, the Swiss could still fight other Swiss, and they did that once, in a conflict that was short and is now nearly forgotten. Thanks to Ulrich Zwingli, today’s Swiss population is predominantly Protestant, but a large Catholic minority remained after the Reformation era ended. In the 1840s a new liberal party rose, the Free Democratic Party of Switzerland. This party wanted a new constitution that would turn the Swiss Confederation into a more centralized state, and it wanted to reduce the power of the Catholic Church, especially in the schools. To protect their rights, seven cantons that were both conservative and Catholic formed an alliance called the Sonderbund ("Separate Alliance"). This was illegal according to the 1815 treaty and the constitution. The liberals ordered the alliance dissolved, and the Sonderbund members refused. Among the other cantons, fifteen supported the Bern government, and two were neutral.

The resulting Sonderbund War lasted less than four weeks, in November 1847. The Protestants had the advantage of numbers, recruiting 99,000 troops to go against the Sonderbund’s 79,000. In response, the Sonderbund requested aid from the two strongest Catholic nations in Europe, France and Austria. Therefore, Bern’s strategy was to win the war as quickly as possible, before any foreigners could get involved. The Sonderbund began the fighting by launching two offensives, against Ticino and Aargau, but they failed to gain anything important before the government struck back. Those counter-offensives conquered Fribourg and Lucerne, and broke the Sonderbund forces. By December 1 the last Sonderbund canton (Valais) surrendered, and it was all over.

There is nothing "civil" about most civil wars, but the Swiss managed to make the Sonderbund War one of the most polite conflicts of all time. The government army commander, Guillaume-Henri Dufour, refused to equip his army with Congreve rockets, a weapon the enemy did not have, because he felt the rockets would cause too much damage. And he actually let the other side know where he was planning his next attacks, in the hope that this would make them surrender before the attacks took place. In addition, a lot of people in the Sonderbund did not really want to secede from Switzerland, so when government troops entered rebel towns, they received a warm welcome. Finally, both sides had standing orders to give medical aid to wounded enemies. All this meant that casualties were minimal (60 federal troops and 26 rebels killed), and when a new constitution was introduced in 1848, one which turned Switzerland into the federal state that exists today, the Catholics were willing to give it a chance. In fact, they are still in Switzerland now. As for General Dufour, he went on to preside over the First Geneva Convention, which founded the International Red Cross in 1864.

The Philippines, the Hollywood Years



I posted Episode 31 late on Monday; sorry I didn’t announce it here sooner.  With this podcast episode, we begin a narrative completely in the twentieth century, so welcome to recent history!  Here we also conclude the four-part miniseries about the Philippines.  This time we cover the years from 1902 to 1941, looking at the minor wars that came after the Philippine Insurrection (or Philippine-American War, if you’re politically correct), and seeing how Americans and Filipinos learned to work together, so that the Philippines can become independent someday.


(Transcript, added 06/25/2020.)


<Twentieth Century intro>

Welcome to the History of Southeast Asia Podcast. I am your host, Charles Kimball.

Episode 31: The Philippines, the Hollywood Years

Greetings, dear listeners! No, you did not tune into the wrong podcast by mistake. If you came here wanting to hear about Southeast Asia, you’re in the right place. The musical score came from “The Twentieth Century,” a documentary about events in recent history that aired on TV every week when I was a small child; it was hosted by Walter Cronkite, the famous news anchorman. I put that on in place of the usual introductory music because we are beginning a new era in history; this is the first episode in this podcast series to talk only about events in the twentieth century. Don’t worry, it won’t happen again; next time I plan to bring back “Sounds of Vietnam,” the musical score I have been using since the podcast was launched.

So how long did it take us to get this far? If you haven’t listened to all of the episodes yet, I have been uploading two episodes a month since July 2016. Episodes 1 and 2 covered prehistoric times, Episodes 3 to 5 covered ancient times, Episodes 6 through 11 covered medieval times, and Episodes 12 to 20 covered the early modern era, from about 1500 to 1800. Most recently, it took ten episodes, 21 to 30, to take care of Southeast Asia in the nineteenth century. The twentieth century is full of events people find interesting, especially World War II and the Vietnam War, so I expect a lot of new listeners will join us as we move on.

We are beginning a new era in our coverage of the Philippines as well, the period when they were under American rule. Indeed, one of my sources is a book entitled “The New Era in the Philippines.” It was written by Arthur J. Brown in 1903, right at the beginning of the period we are looking at today. The first half of the book is a brief history of the Philippines up to 1903, and a description of the different islands and cities; nowadays if you saw that in a book, you would call it a travel guide. For me it’s a snapshot of the Philippines in the early twentieth century. The second half talks about the state of the Catholic Church in the islands, and the Protestant missions established so far; this shows that the book was written from a missionary’s point of view.

This is the fourth and the last episode (I promise!) in our mini-series about the Philippines. Of course I recommend you listen to the previous three episodes before listening to this one, unless you’re one of those folks who won’t get confused by listening to them out of order. Episode 28 covered the Philippines during the latter part of the long era when Spain ruled the archipelago, with special emphasis on the nationalists who appeared in the late nineteenth century. Then we looked at the two wars that transferred the Philippines from Spanish rule to American rule. Episode 29 covered the Spanish-American War, while Episode 30 covered the conflict called either the Philippine Insurrection or the Philippine-American War. Now we are going to look at the period of American rule, which lasted until (spoiler alert!) 1946. However, for this episode we will just go as far as 1941, and save World War II for another time.

Filipinos like to summarize their colonial history as, quote: “Three hundred years in a Spanish convent followed by half a century in Hollywood.” Unquote. That is where I got the title for this episode. And somebody, I forget who, described Philippine culture as a mixture of Malay, Madrid, and Madison Avenue. This explains why most of today’s Filipinos know the United States very well, and why so many of them can speak fluent English when they appear on TV and in the news. Now let’s get started with today’s narrative.


A funny thing happened on the way to the Philippines. Citizens of any country show a double standard in wartime. Normally if a person kills somebody and takes his property, he is a thief and a murderer, subject to the penalties of the law; however, if he does the same thing to enemy soldiers, we praise him as a hero and a patriot. At some point, nations seem to realize that this is inconsistent, and when they do, they stop expanding. With the United States, it happened in the Philippines, in the first years of the twentieth century. The long, dirty war fought in the archipelago caused Americans to think that they didn’t want to play the imperialist game after all, if the main rule was “meet exotic people and kill them.” Thus, after 1902 most Americans did not want to keep the Philippines forever, and one of the priorities of the US administration would be preparing the islands for eventual independence.

In the beginning, Americans considered promoting the Philippines from a colony to a US state, rather than ruling the archipelago temporarily. After all, Hawaii was annexed in the same year as the Philippines, and it eventually became the 50th US state. And once my Filipino father-in-law confided that he would have liked it if the Philippines had stayed part of the United States, because then he would not need a passport and visa to visit the States; all he would need is an airplane ticket. Along that line, quite a few Filipinos moved to the US while the door was wide open. Naturally, most of them settled in the parts of the United States nearest to the Philippines: Guam, Hawaii, and California. Today the largest Filipino community in the States is Daly City, a suburb of San Francisco where one out of every three residents is Filipino.

Washington only considered statehood for a few years. The first obstacle to this idea was distance; the Philippine archipelago is four times as far from California as Hawaii is. Consider the differences in time, for a start. Hawaii’s time zone is two hours behind the time zone California is in, while the Philippines are not only six hours behind Hawaii, but also on the other side of the International Date Line. The presence of the International Date Line means that the Philippines are really eighteen hours ahead of Hawaii, and sixteen hours ahead of the US mainland’s Pacific coast. And because the Philippines does not practice Daylight Savings Time, an additional hour has to be factored in for more than half of every year. I trust you can see how all this would make administration, communications and commerce much more complicated.

The second obstacle was racism. Polite people didn’t mention this, but they surely must have thought about it. A 1903 census of the Philippines put the population at 7.6 million, almost 10 percent of the total for the rest of the United States at that time. This meant that if the Philippines became a state, they would have two senators and almost forty representatives in Congress, and whereas Hawaii had a growing white community, the so-called Haoles, anybody in the Philippines who was important enough to get elected would be Filipino. If you’re familiar with American history, you will know this was the golden age of immigration from Europe, but aside from Hawaii, only a trickle of immigration was allowed from Asia, and there were periods when Chinese and Japanese immigrants were kept out completely. In those days, many Americans would not have accepted a caucus of about forty Asians on Capitol Hill. Finally, Hawaii had been acquired peacefully, so while some Hawaiians may have wanted independence rather than statehood, they never made as much noise as the Filipino nationalists.

We mentioned in the last episode that the Philippine-American War was declared over in 1902, but that didn’t mean the fighting ended then. This is Southeast Asia, for crying out loud, and Southeast Asian wars don’t have clearly marked end dates! The rough terrain in most of the region gives guerrillas an opportunity to keep on fighting indefinitely, and that happened here. On the western tip of Mindanao, the big southern island, the Spanish garrison of Zamboanga City had surrendered in May 1899 to a Filipino general, Vicente Alvarez, but instead of handing the city over to the Americans or to the Katipunan, the main revolutionary movement in the Philippines, Alvarez proclaimed the creation of the Republic of Zamboanga, with himself (who else?) as the first president. For six months Alvarez claimed rule over all of Mindanao, Basilan and the Sulu islands, though in practice, he controlled little besides Zamboanga City itself. The Americans captured Zamboanga in November, and Alvarez first resorted to guerrilla warfare in the nearby countryside. When the Americans continued to win, Alvarez retreated to Basilan, and then to Misamis Occidental, my wife’s home province. He was captured by the Americans in 1902, and the Americans dissolved the Zamboanga Republic in March 1903.

When the Philippine leader Emilio Aguinaldo was captured in 1901, the generals under him refused to lay down their arms. One of them was Makario Sakay, a veteran of both the Katipunan and the recent war with the Americans. In 1902 Sakay established his own state in the mountains of central Luzon, an area now called Rizal Province. He called it the Repúbliká ng~ Katagalugan, meaning the Tagalog Republic, proclaimed himself president and commander in chief of it, and declared this was the rightful government over the whole Philippines. However, he made no headway against American forces after that, so eventually he decided that henceforth the struggle would be a political struggle, not a military one. In 1906 he surrendered under these conditions: that a general amnesty be granted to his men, that they be permitted to carry firearms, and that he and his officers be permitted to leave the country. Immediately after that, Sakay attended a series of receptions and banquets in Manila, and at one of them, he and his chief lieutenants were suddenly arrested. They were accused of banditry, which back then meant any armed resistance to American rule, put on trial under that charge, and hanged in 1907. Some of Sakay’s followers escaped to Japan, where they eventually joined another former Katipunan general, Artemio Ricarte; they would return with the Japanese armed forces during World War II.

The southern Philippines were mostly quiet while the American forces were active on Luzon. This was the work of Brigadier General John C. Bates, who in 1899 negotiated a treaty, the so-called Bates Agreement, with the Sultan of Sulu. In return for the right to fly the US flag on buildings and ships, and the right to station American troops in the southern Philippines, the Americans would grant autonomy to the Moros, or Philippine Moslems; the Moros would be allowed to keep their traditional chiefs, called datus, and govern themselves under their interpretation of Islamic law, the Shariah. What the Americans wanted the most was that the Moros would not give them any trouble, or give aid to Philippine rebels elsewhere, and they got exactly that for a while. But the Moros had some customs the Americans could not accept: piracy, petty wars between the tribes, polygamy, and most of all, slavery. These customs were so much a part of Moro life that the Moros felt they could not do without them any more than they could renounce Islam. And speaking of Islam, many Americans hoped to convert the Moros to Christianity, preferably the Protestant kind.

For American soldiers in Moro areas, individual natives running amok were the greatest danger. “Running amok” is a term of Malay origin. From time to time, a person of Malay ancestry, for various personal reasons, can go absolutely berserk, and he will madly try to kill as many enemies as possible before meeting his own, expected death. Filipinos call this state of rage juramentado when the berserker is religiously motivated to attack enemies of Islam. Like the suicide bombers in today’s War on Terror, juramentados believed that if they were killed while fighting infidels, they would go straight to Paradise. Their favorite weapon was the kris, a long, wavy-bladed dagger that was believed to have magic powers, but they could also be armed with a blowgun and poison darts, or a muzzle-loading rifle. Because juramentados ambushed their opponents, Americans never knew where or when they would strike, and their frenzied charges usually allowed them to hit at least one American before they met their fates. One of my sources tells about an attack at Zamboanga City, where the juramentado was hit in seven different places by revolver shots, but before he went down, he managed to reach an American officer and slice off one of his legs.

The American response came after three ambushes of American troops south of Lake Lanao, a large lake in the interior of Mindanao. An American general, Adna R. Chaffee, demanded that the local datu hand over the killers of the Americans and the government property they stole. When the natives did not comply, an American force was sent into the area, commanded by Colonel Frank Baldwin and Captain John “Blackjack” Pershing. On May 2, 1902, they fought the battle of Bayan, in which they captured two Moro cotas, or forts. One of the forts, Pandapatan, put up unexpectedly heavy resistance; it took two days to take it, and eighteen Americans were killed, much more than the usual amount from Filipino-American battles.

From this experience the Americans learned to bombard forts with artillery before sending in the troops, so the battles after this went much easier; typically there would be 100 Moros dead for every American killed. Even so, they left several forts around Lake Lanao in Moro hands, because Pershing had successfully negotiated with the Moros before the battle, and he thought it was still possible to make friends with some of them. Pershing went on to win a few battles around Lake Lanao in 1903, but his diplomatic skills did the most to secure the area; he read the Koran and learned part of the local languages, so he understood the Moros better than any other American officer. The former Moro commander of Pandapatan even made Pershing an honorary datu. President Theodore Roosevelt was so impressed by Pershing’s performance that he made Pershing a brigadier general, thereby passing over more than 800 senior officers, and brought him home.

By mid-1903, the Americans were confident enough of their hold over the southern Philippines to establish Moro Province, to administer two-thirds of Mindanao and the nearby Basilan and Sulu islands. The first governor over the new province was General Leonard Wood, who with Roosevelt had commanded the Rough Riders in the Spanish-American War. The Americans also revoked the Bates Agreement in early 1904, saying it was no longer needed. Unfortunately that made Moro attacks more frequent, as many Moros came to see the situation as a fight to the death.

Although fighting continued, the battles of late 1903, 1904 and 1905 were all little ones. Then in March 1906 came the bloodiest battle of the Moro War, the first battle of Bud Dajo. On the island of Jolo, several hundred Moro warriors had heard a rumor that the Americans were planning to exterminate them, so they took refuge in Bud Dajo, the crater of an extinct volcano, and brought their families with them. A 2,000-foot-high volcano that’s not erupting is a superbly defensible position, and the Moros also believed that the spirits of the volcano would help them when they needed it the most. Nevertheless, Americans and troops from the pro-American Philippine Constabulary marched up the volcano’s slopes and attacked. When the clash came, twenty-one Americans were killed, while estimates of the number of Moro dead range from 600 to 900. The Moro body count includes women and children, so this battle has also been called the Bud Dajo massacre. As General Wood reported, quote: “All the defenders were killed as near as could be counted.” Unquote.

Afterwards, Wood said the reason why so many civilians were killed was because some of the women were disguised as men, and children were used by warriors as “human shields.” We think these statements are true, because there were other reports of Moro women dressing like men, and both Roosevelt and Taft praised Wood for getting tough. However, a lot of Americans at home disagreed, seeing the battle as nothing but cold-blooded killing. Mark Twain, for example, wrote an essay against it entitled The Incident in the Philippines. That is probably the reason why Wood was recalled soon after the battle. His replacement as provincial governor, Major General Tasker Bliss, was less aggressive, and there were no big battles during his three-year term, from 1906 to 1909.

Here I will insert a footnote to tie this story to current events. The president of the Philippines at this time, Rodrigo Duterte, is not as friendly to the United States as his predecessors, and when criticizing the United States, he has mentioned the Bud Dajo massacre more than once, as an example of how Americans treated his country. Since Duterte is the first president from Mindanao, he may also believe that some distant relatives of his were killed in the massacre. End footnote.

Because General Bliss was taking too long to win the Moro War, General Pershing was sent back to the Philippines in 1909; he became the third – and last – military governor over Moro Province. In 1911 he decided that the quickest way to end the war was to disarm the Moros, and all Moros were given a three-month grace period to turn in their weapons. Those who complied were regarded as loyal citizens, those who didn’t were viewed as the next targets to attack. The result was a second battle of Bud Dajo in December 1911, which was far less bloody than the first, because Pershing managed to persuade most of the Moros gathered on the volcano to go home.

The final battle of the Moro War was the battle of Bud Bagsak, in June 1913. A chief on Jolo, Datu Amil, refused to surrender weapons or known criminals to the Americans. Instead, he and all of his followers, between 6,000 and 10,000 people, withdrew to another volcano, Bud Bagsak, and told the Americans to, quote: “Come on and fight.” Unquote. This volcano had a horseshoe-shaped crater, and was guarded by five forts on the crater’s rim. Pershing deliberately kept American soldiers away from Bud Bagsak for several days, in the hope that the women and children in the forts would leave while they had the chance, and secretly brought in units of Filipino soldiers, including two companies of pro-American Moro Scouts. When the assault came, it took five days, from June 11 to June 15, to capture all the forts. Again the casualty counts were lopsided: 14 killed and 25 wounded on the American side, while between 200 and 500 Moros were killed, including women and children. There is a picture of the battle posted on the Facebook page and this episode’s page on, which was painted in 1963, 50 years after it took place. When the fighting was over, Pershing wrote a letter to his wife in which he said, quote: “The fighting was the fiercest I have ever seen. They are absolutely fearless, and once committed to combat they count death as a mere incident.” End quote. He stuck around just long enough after that to replace the military government of Moro Province with a civilian one.


Today Americans remember General Pershing for chasing Pancho Villa through the deserts of northern Mexico, and for leading the US Army in World War I. It’s probably just as well the Moro War did not go on after 1913, or Pershing might have been stuck in the Philippines, and would not have returned to America in time to take part in those other activities. Few Americans remember the Moro War today, and those that do have some misconceptions, which I will try to straighten out here.

1. Although the Moros got Krag-Jorgensen rifles and hand grenades late in the war, up until the end their favorite tactic during battles was to madly charge their enemies in groups of ten to twenty, running as far as 300 yards to attack with spears and krises. This gave the Americans time to stop most of them with their rifles and pistols. The Colt .45 automatic pistol was invented during the war, and it gets the credit for being the best “man stopper,” but we don’t know if it was used at all. The first Colts weren’t shipped to the Philippines until 1913, and we don’t have any photos of American soldiers holding one before the Moro War ended.

2. There is a popular story going around the Internet about how Pershing ended the Moro War when he had 49 Moro prisoners shot, buried them with slaughtered pigs, and let the last Moro prisoner go, to spread the word about the deed. This plays into the superstition among some Moslems that if they come into contact with any part of a pig, they cannot go to Paradise. However, there is no evidence that Pershing actually did this; suggests that another officer did it, Colonel Alexander Rodgers of the 6th Cavalry. And we do have a few reports of dead juramentados being buried in pigskins; while that did not end the war, it apparently caused would-be amoks and juramentados to think twice before going berserk.

The Moro-in-a-pigskin story was also promoted by a scene in a 1939 movie, “The Real Glory.” This movie has Gary Cooper playing a doctor on Mindanao in 1906, and he teaches pro-American Filipino soldiers to fight with as much courage as their Moro opponents. Go ahead and watch the movie as an extra-curricular activity, to see what Philippine costumes and villages looked like at the beginning of the twentieth century. I hear the Hollywood studio that made the movie found enough actors to play the Filipino characters by inviting every Filipino living in or near Los Angeles to come and audition for the parts!


Okay, now that we have the wars between Americans and Filipinos behind us, let’s get on with what happened during peacetime. During the first forty years of the twentieth century, Washington gradually reduced the number of Americans in charge and replaced them with Filipinos, giving them experience in self-government. At the same time Americans built roads, railroads and schools all over the islands, taught English and baseball to the natives, and worked to develop the local economy, and improve health and sanitation. Most important of all, the Americans ruled the Philippines with a lighter hand than the British, Dutch and French had done with their colonies. To keep them from gaining control over the economy, non-Filipinos were restricted on how much land they could own; individuals were limited to 25 acres, and businesses were limited to 2,500 acres. In addition, the United States did not attempt to exploit the native population, and there were no mass arrests when the natives expressed opposition, like what had been done when nationalist movements appeared in British Burma and French Indochina. The main restriction that Americans imposed on the archipelago was the requirement that all imports come from the United States, so American products like Kellogg’s corn flakes, Ivory soap and Borden canned milk were common sights in Philippine stores.

For these reasons, a genuine friendship developed between Americans and Filipinos, which has lasted until this day. Whereas the other colonial powers made sure that native troops in their colonies never outnumbered European soldiers, by the 1920s the armed forces and police in the Philippines were mostly Filipino. A mountaintop village named Baguio, about 100 miles north of Manila, gained attention because it was the only spot in the country with a cool climate, and in a few years it grew to become a major city and a popular resort for Americans, especially in the summer. In fact, it became the summer capital, with most US officials moving there at that time of the year.

I told you previously that William Howard Taft was the first civilian governor over the Philippines. He served as governor for not quite four years; in 1904 his boss, Secretary of War Elihu Root, became Secretary of State, and Roosevelt chose Taft as the new War Secretary. And if you’re familiar with American history, you know that Taft went on to become president of the United States after Roosevelt, from 1909 to 1913, and he ended his career as Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court.

Taft did not go down in history as the greatest American president, but weighing in at 325 lbs., he was the biggest president. He installed a new bathtub in the White House to accommodate his large frame, but there is no truth to the story that he did it because he got stuck in the old bathtub. He had enough sense to take showers until the new bathtub was ready for him. I am mentioning this because one of my books has a picture of Taft taken in 1901, riding a carabao, a water buffalo. This amused me because it is hard to tell who is bigger, Taft or the carabao! I scanned the picture and posted it on the Facebook page and the page for this episode; take a look and see how much they look alike to you. Once while governor, Taft let Washington, D.C. know he had recovered from an illness by sending a telegram that described a trip to Baguio City. Quote: “Stood trip well. Rode horseback twenty-five miles to five thousand feet altitude.” Unquote. Elihu Root cabled back, quote: “How is horse?” Unquote.

Like most American administrators at this date, Taft saw most Filipinos as superstitious and ignorant, and doubted whether they would be able to stand on their own. Showing a condescending attitude, he called the Filipinos “little brown brothers.” Since the fighting in the islands wasn’t completely over yet, an anonymous American soldier composed this verse in response. Quote:

“They say I’ve got brown brothers here,
But still I draw the line,
He may be a brother of Big Bill Taft,
But he ain’t no brother of mine.”


What Taft mainly accomplished was that he reduced the power of the Catholic Church in the islands by buying Church-owned lands from the Vatican for $7 million, and selling them to Filipinos. Since many priests and monks were still Spanish at this date, this broke the last grip Spain had on the Philippines. The main event of the Taft administration was not accomplished by him, though; Congress passed the Philippine Organic Act in 1902. We mentioned this bill in Episode 28, and that it was introduced by a congressman named Henry A. Cooper. The Philippine Organic Act promised the creation of an elected Philippine Assembly after the following conditions were met:

1. An end to the insurrection in the Philippine Islands;
2. The completion and publication of a census; and
3. A two-year period of peace and cooperation between Americans and Filipinos will follow after the census is complete.

It took until 1907 to complete these conditions, and when that happened, elections were held to fill the seats in the Lower House of the new Assembly. The pro-American political party that we mentioned in the last episode, the Federalistas, fell out of favor after Taft’s term as governor ended, and a new generation of educated Filipinos founded a new party, the Union Nacionalistas, which called for eventual independence. The two leaders of this party, Manuel Quezon and Sergio Osmena, were both twenty-nine years old, and they would dominate the political scene of the Philippines for the rest of the American era. As for the Federalistas, they tried to rebrand themselves by changing their name to the Progresistas, but in the final results, the Nationalists won 32 of the 80 seats, the Progresistas won 16 seats, and minor parties won the other 32. By forming a coalition that added 27 of the minor party seats to their own, the Nationalists gained a solid majority in Asia’s first freely elected legislative body.

Most of the progress toward Philippine independence happened while the Democratic Party controlled the US presidency and Congress. As for the Republicans, they hoped that the Philippines would stay with the United States, like Puerto Rico. Therefore under the Roosevelt and Taft administrations, there were moves toward self-rule, but no promise of independence. The promise was put down in writing after Woodrow Wilson succeeded Taft as president, with the passage of the Jones Law, also called the Jones Act or the Philippine Autonomy Act, in 1916. This law superseded the 1902 Philippine Organic Act, becoming a de facto constitution for the islands. Previously the Upper House in the Assembly had all its members appointed, while members in the Lower House were elected; now an elected Senate replaced the Upper House. Finally, the right to vote was granted to all literate adult men. When the first election was held for the Senate in the same year, the Nationalists won an even greater landslide than before; all but one of the 21 Senate seats went to them. The only power left in the hands of the Americans was the right of the US governor to veto any legislation passed by the Assembly, and the current governor, Francis B. Harrison, hardly ever did this; he was more interested in replacing Americans in civil service jobs with Filipinos as quickly as possible.

Despite America’s best efforts, problems developed because of the basic differences between Philippine and American societies. Philippine society is an oligarchic one; a few families hold most of the power and money, and personal relationships are defined by who owes favors to whom. And while Americans were prevented from building large plantations in the archipelago, Filipinos were free to buy as much land as they wanted, and those who did so got very rich from the crops they grew on their land, further increasing the gap between rich and poor. America was vaguely aware that a US-style democracy would not work under such a system, but no effort was made to change it, because that would have alienated the local politicians, whose support was essential for the American program to succeed. That would be the main cause of the country’s economic and political problems in the years following independence.

It’s just as well that Harrison accomplished as much as he did, for in 1921 his term as governor ended, and President Wilson left the White House. Wilson’s successor, Warren G. Harding, had gotten elected on a promise to “return to normalcy,” as he put it, meaning the United States would pull back from an active role on the world scene, and stop the rapid string of reforms that had marked the Wilson administration. As a result, the promise of Philippine independence was forgotten. This showed in Harding’s choice for governor; he brought back Leonard Wood, the old general and former governor of Moro Province. Since Wood was a hardliner, he clashed with Filipino politicians like Quezon, made no concessions to them, and the process of transferring rule to Filipinos halted completely until Wood’s death from a brain tumor in 1927.

Wood was replaced by Henry Stimson, a veteran of Washington who only served for one year before he was called back by the incoming president, Herbert Hoover, to become Secretary of State. He was also against independence, but at least he could get along with the Filipinos. At one point, Stimson secretly suggested to Quezon that the Philippines should accept a semi-independent relationship like the one between Canada and Britain, and Quezon agreed, saying, quote: “Give us certainty, and we will take dominion status.” Unquote. But because Quezon’s rivals still wanted full independence, he quickly added, quote: “If you quote me on this, I will say you lie.” Unquote.

In the middle of the Great Depression a Democratic senator from Missouri, Henry Hawes, single-handedly restarted the independence process, by sponsoring an independence bill in Congress. He negotiated the terms with the help of Sergio Osmena and Manuel Roxas, a young Filipino senator we’ll be hearing more from in a future episode. The bill reached President Hoover’s desk in January 1933, shortly before he left the White House, and Hoover vetoed it, but Congress easily overrode the veto. However, Quezon realized that if this bill went into effect, two rival politicians would get the credit for bringing independence, so he had the Philippine legislature reject it, and then went to Washington to negotiate his own independence plan. The result was another bill almost identical to the first one, except that it had different names on it. This was called the Tydings-McDuffie Act; Congress passed it in March 1934, and Quezon was there when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed it. Here the Philippines were declared a commonwealth, and in 1935 Quezon and Osmena were elected as the first president and vice president, respectively. General Douglas MacArthur, the son of General Arthur MacArthur from the last episode, became Quezon’s military advisor, and another future American war hero, Major Dwight David Eisenhower, became MacArthur’s second in command. July 4, 1945 was the date set for independence. This plan was proceeding on schedule when Japan attacked Luzon in December 1941.

We did it! At last, after four episodes we have finished this miniseries on the Philippines.


Those islands are now “all caught up” with our narrative. However, we need to catch up on a few more countries before we are ready for the Second World War. In particular, we should look at the nationalist movements that sprang up in Burma, Indonesia and Vietnam, while Europeans ruled those nations in the early twentieth century. Here we will meet several characters who will become important later on, especially Sukarno and Ho Chi Minh. I expect that will take three episodes, and then for the last episode of 2017, we can begin talking about World War II, so join me for all that.

If you enjoyed this miniseries, or at least this episode, and would like to become a supporter of this podcast, you can make a donation by clicking on the Paypal button, at the bottom of this episode’s page. Donations start at one US dollar, and can either be one-time gifts, or a monthly contribution. Write a review if you listen on iTunes or another website that allows you to rate podcasts. “Like” the History of Southeast Asia Podcast page if you are on Facebook. And don’t forget to tell your family, friends, and anyone else who might be interested. Like I said before, thank you for listening, and come back when the monsoon winds are blowing right!


The American War in the Philippines



This is the third episode in the mini-series that the podcast is currently doing about the Philippines.  Here we cover the three-year war the Americans fought to keep the islands after they arrived in 1898.  This also completes our narrative on Southeast Asia in the nineteenth century.


(Transcript, added 06/16/2020.)


This episode is dedicated to Walter P, who made a generous donation right after the previous episode went online. I am especially pleased by this donation, because Walter is the first contributor I know of, who did not learn about the podcast from the Facebook page. This shows that knowledge of the podcast is spreading to the rest of cyberspace. Walter, thank you for doing you part to spread the podcast to as many people as possible. I think you will like today’s episode, because it is about American involvement in the region.

Episode 30: The American War In the Philippines

Mabuhay, dear listeners! That means “Welcome” in Tagalog, if you’re new to this podcast series. This is the third in a mini-series of episodes about the Philippines, covering the time period from about 1700 to 1941. In the first episode we saw the Philippine Islands under Spanish rule, in the eighteenth and most of the nineteenth century. Then last time we talked about the part of the Spanish-American War that happened in the Philippines, so nearly all the events mentioned happened in just one year, 1898. For that episode we had three players: The Spaniards, the Americans, and the Filipinos.

So what is the situation now? You can put a fork in the Spanish Empire; it is done, out of the game completely. The United States Navy controls the sea around the Philippines, and American soldiers occupy Manila, and that’s it. The rest of the Philippines is technically under native rule, but the infrastructure in the islands is so underdeveloped, that in many places, no government exists at all. And while there is a Filipino army, it is mostly dug in around Manila, in a standoff with the American soldiers.

After uploading the last episode, I think I figured out why this series on the Philippines has gotten so long. Not only is there more information available, this is part of American history as well as Philippine history, so I have to check my American history sources, too. I’m sure that will be the case again, when this podcast gets to the Vietnam War.

If you haven’t listened to Episodes 28 & 29 yet, I recommend you listen to them before this one, so you will be up to date on what is happening now. In a nutshell, the Spanish-American War couldn’t have gone better for the Americans. The fighting lasted ten weeks, and the Americans lost only 2,446 soldiers. Of those losses, 385, less than one sixth, were killed in action. The rest of the casualties were caused by disease, either from the tropical climate or the awful food served to the troops; the canned meat was so bad that the troops called it “embalmed beef” left over from the American Civil War. When it was all over the Americans had acquired Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines from Spain.

By the way, if you do your own research on the Spanish-American War, you will find that the treaty ending the war, which the United States and Spain signed in December 1898, is called the Treaty of Paris. Don’t get it confused with the other treaties by that name. There was a Treaty of Paris in 1763, which ended the Seven Years War, and twenty years later another Treaty of Paris ended the American Revolution. And the cease-fire agreement that was supposed to end the Vietnam War is called the Paris Peace Accords; of course you will hear more about that in a future episode. Treaties and other diplomatic agreements are named after the places where they are signed, and knowing what a popular tourist destination Paris is today, does it surprise anybody that diplomats prefer to do their work in Paris?

The Americans had sympathized with the rebels on Cuba before the war, so Congress promised independence to the Cubans, and that promise was kept. But nobody had promised anything to the Katipunan, the anti-Spanish rebel movement in the Philippines. And that’s where we broke off. Are we ready to continue?


The leader of the Katipunan, Emilio Aguinaldo, had returned from exile on a US Naval vessel, and he still expected that the US would support his campaign for independence. At a minimum, he would have accepted some kind of protectorate status, in which the Americans would manage defense and foreign policy but leave all other affairs to the Filipinos; much like what Britain had done with Brunei. Therefore he restrained the Filipino troops, ordering them not to fight with the Americans even when their leaders became overbearing, and withdrew them from two neighborhoods near Manila. But instead of being rewarded by the Americans, he saw the Americans decide by the end of 1898 that they would take over the entire archipelago. When the US president, William McKinley, was asked to declare what the current American position was regarding the Philippines, he responded with a speech that was designed not to offend anybody. Here is one line from it. Quote: “The presence and success of our arms in Manila imposes upon us obligations which we cannot disregard . . . new duties and responsibilities which we must meet . . . the commercial opportunity to which American statesmanship cannot be indifferent.” Unquote.

Aguinaldo got the point – the Americans were in Manila to stay. Now feeling betrayed, he set up his capital at Malolos, a town just north of Manila Bay, and began preparing for war. In early January 1899 he told his officers to start stockpiling rice and other supplies, and on January 23, he again proclaimed himself president of an independent Philippines. At this point, his best hope was that the US Senate would reject the Treaty of Paris, forcing the Americans to negotiate the status of the Philippines all over again. In Washington, those congressmen who favored the treaty knew that there would be trouble with the Filipinos if they voted for it. Thomas Reed, the witty speaker of the US House of Representatives, noted that America had paid Spain $20 million for the Philippines, and said this about it. Quote: “We have about ten million Malays at two dollars a head unpicked, and nobody knows what it will cost to pick them.” Unquote. As you will see, Reed’s remark was spot on.

The treaty was narrowly approved by a vote of 57 for, 27 against, on February 6, 1899; it got just one vote more than the two-thirds majority required. But in Manila, the standoff ended first. On the night of February 4, William Grayson, an army private from Nebraska, fired the first shots while on sentry duty, killing two Filipino soldiers who had threatened him, after crossing the line between the two armies that both sides had agreed on. We don’t know if the Filipinos were armed. Fighting subsequently broke out wherever American and Filipino soldiers were in range of each other. The next day, Aguinaldo sent an emissary under a flag of truce, calling for an end to a fight which had begun accidentally. The American commander in Manila, General Elwell Otis, rejected the peace offer, saying that, quote: “Fighting, having begun, must go on to the grim end.” Unquote. With those words, the real war began for the Americans.

Whereas the United States had beaten Spain in ten weeks, it took three years to win against the Filipinos. And because this is Southeast Asia, some Filipinos continued to resist after American leaders announced that the war was over. This conflict has been forgotten by many Americans, perhaps most of them, showing how deficient our educational system has become. In the twentieth century this conflict was called the Philippine Insurrection, because Americans believed that the treaty with Spain made them the rightful rulers, making Filipinos who opposed them rebels or bandits. Americans were also motivated by a poem recently written by Rudyard Kipling, which claimed it was the white man’s duty to raise everyone else up to that same level of civilization that the Western nations had; Kipling called this “the white man’s burden.”

However, today the war is often called the Philippine-American War, thanks to political correctness. From the Filipino point of view, this was a war of conquest, started by the Americans against an independent state, which had been founded by a nationalist movement just as legitimate as the one that had created the United States.

Along that line, let me insert a footnote about those names, from my own experience. Back in 1990, I applied for a job with a local school board. I didn’t get the job, as you can tell because twenty-seven years later, I don’t remember what position I was applying for. What I do remember is that one section of the job application asked questions about your military service record. It had a list of wars from the past 100 years, and asked you to mark which wars you were involved in. Besides the wars you would expect to see, such as Vietnam, Korea, and World War II, the list also included World War I, the Philippine Insurrection, the Spanish-American War, and even the Indian Wars of the American West. I thought that list was odd, because a veteran of the last four wars would have been too old to work; he would have been at least 90 years old, maybe even more than 100. For the record, I checked, to see if any veterans of the Philippine Insurrection are still alive. The last one was a sailor named Nathan Edward Cook, who lied about his age to get into the Navy when he was fifteen. He went on to see action in both World Wars, and died in 1992, at the age of 106. End footnote.

The war began well enough for the Americans. On the first day they broke out of Manila; when the street fighting was over, there were at least three thousand Filipinos dead, while the Americans lost fifty-nine. To conquer Luzon, the main island of the Philippines, the army went forth in two divisions: General Thomas Anderson commanded the division heading south, while General Arthur MacArthur led the division going north. MacArthur’s name will probably sound familiar to you; he was the father of Douglas MacArthur, a general we’ll be hearing a lot about when this podcast series gets to World War II. For the other islands, naval assaults captured Panay, Cebu and Negros, and another expedition took the Sulu islands, where a forgotten Spanish garrison finally surrendered.

Despite these successes, this was a jungle setting, and that presented challenges the Americans had never faced in their homeland. Those included heat, torrential rainfalls, and jungle diseases. On top of all that, they were fighting on the enemy’s home ground. And because the Filipinos always outnumbered the Americans, the Americans did not have enough troops to occupy the land after they won their battles. If the Americans won a battle and did not leave any soldiers to hold the land they captured, you could be sure that the Filipinos would return and take it back after the Americans moved on.

Put all these factors together, and the result was a dirty war that looked very much like the war Americans would fight in Vietnam, seventy years later. Elwell Otis showed himself to be the classic paper-pushing general, micro-managing the army by giving orders for even minor activities, but he stayed in his Manila office most of the time, and never actually took part in the battles. Whenever he heard about a danger to the troops, Otis sent too many soldiers to deal with the problem, and that took away men who should have stayed in other sectors. For his superiors and the press in the United States, Otis constantly sent out rosy reports that talked about the Americans winning, but at the same time he kept requesting more troops, and that let the Americans know that the victories were hollow victories, not total ones. I’m sure this will sound familiar to those of you who know about the Vietnam War.

Sure enough, a round of escalation followed. At the beginning of the war, there were 24,000 American troops in the Philippines. By the middle of 1899, that number had grown to 63,000, and in 1900, it peaked at 75,000 – three quarters of the entire US Army at the time. And even then General Henry Ware Lawton, a rival of Otis, predicted that it would take 100,000 troops to win. It is worth keeping in mind that most of these soldiers had only enlisted since the beginning of 1898; between the American Civil War and the Spanish-American War, the US Army had shrunken to a few thousand men, mostly stationed in the American West to deal with Indian raids. The American forces that now came to the Philippines included two regiments of African-Americans. These were the famous “Buffalo Soldiers,” which had previously seen action in the Old West and on Cuba. Pardon my use of a racially insensitive term here. When the Buffalo Soldiers landed in Manila, a bystander shouted, quote: “What are you coons doing here?” Unquote. To this one black soldier answered, quote: “We’ve come to take up the white man’s burden.” Unquote.

Among the advancing American units, the most important division was the one led by General MacArthur, because he was going after the capital and Aguinaldo’s government. The first battle fought after Manila was at Caloocan, on February 10, where the Americans burned down the town after defeating the Filipinos in it. Then at the end of March they captured Malolos. In response, Aguinaldo withdrew northward, and set up a new capital at San Fernando. The Americans in turn took San Fernando in May, so Aguinaldo set up his next capital at Cabanatuan. However, a subsequent attempt to retake San Fernando in June failed, and Aguinaldo made a critical mistake by allowing more of the infighting that had hindered the Filipinos when they were fighting Spain. His best general, the hotheaded Antonio Luna, was murdered in June, and though no evidence was found that Aguinaldo had ordered the assassination, it looks like he approved of it; nobody was convicted of the crime, anyway.

The rainy season severely restricted military activity from July to October. In the middle of that time-out Commodore Dewey, the great American hero from the last episode, returned to the United States, after spending nearly a year and a half in the tropics. There he received welcoming parades, but an attempt to become the next Democratic candidate for president failed because he said the job of being president didn’t look very difficult to fill; few people took him seriously after that. When the rainy season ended, US Navy ships shelled Lingayen Gulf, on the northwest shore of Luzon, two thousand troops landed there, and MacArthur pushed northward, meeting this new force at the port of Dagupan. In those days, the only railroad on Luzon ran from Manila to Dagupan, so the Americans now controlled the whole track. This move also confined Aguinaldo to northeastern Luzon. Here he stopped trying to win conventional battles against the Americans, and switched back to the guerrilla tactics that had served him so well in the past. His best hope at this point was that the Democratic Party would win the American elections of 1900. He knew that the typical American was now getting tired of the war, and might vote for a new president and Congress that would pull American forces out of the Philippines.


The Americans now figured that capturing Aguinaldo would be the quickest way to end the war, so near the end of 1899 the war turned into a manhunt for him. General Lawton was the natural pick to lead this pursuit; back in the 1880s he had chased Geronimo, the famous Apache chief, in the mountains of Arizona and New Mexico. At the battle of Tirad Pass, on December 2, Americans attacked the force covering Aguinaldo’s retreat, and killed the Filipino commander, twenty-four-year-old Gregorio Pilar. Today in the Philippines, Pilar, “the Boy General,” is the best-loved hero of the war, because he was handsome, always dressed to a tee, and a dashing Casanova as well as an effective military leader. A Filipino sharpshooter in turn killed Lawton seventeen days later, at the battle of San Mateo, because Lawton, unlike Otis, preferred to personally participate in all his battles. This battle was also an example of the saying, “What goes around comes around,” because the Filipino commander in it was named Licerio Geronimo. Yes, the man who caught Geronimo was killed by another man with the same name.

War weariness was not the only reason why the Americans were losing their enthusiasm for the war. In a guerrilla war, you can never be sure who is the enemy; an innocent-looking civilian you know may be an informant for the other side. This combination of fear and doubt caused the Americans to become more brutal as time went on. Most of the American soldiers came to the Philippines as young idealists, who believed they were on a mission for God and country. Naturally at this stage, they did not believe in looting, torturing and killing civilians, raping women, or burning down native houses, but once their buddies got killed, any action that hurt the enemy became justified, including these atrocities. This was especially the case with the soldiers who came from western states; it had only been a generation since their families had fought Native American tribes back home, so for them it was easy to imagine the Filipinos as new Indians that needed killing. To give just one example of a wartime atrocity, an American soldier was beheaded by a boloman in a village grocery store, and 89 residents of that village were shot or burned to death in retaliation. The Filipinos committed atrocities, too, but since there were few American civilians in the Philippines to attack at this date, the Americans killed more Filipinos than the other way around.

Here in the United States, we like to remember the songs composed during wartime. The American Revolution gave us “Yankee Doodle,” the War of 1812 inspired the national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the Civil War produced “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” World War I contributed “Over There,” and so on. For the Philippine-American War, the only song I have heard of is “Damn the Filipinos,” a murderous ditty that the blue-shirted American troops sang as they hacked their way though the jungle. I couldn’t find a good recording of anyone singing it, and that’s probably just as well. I did find the lyrics, so I can at least read them; they were set to an old melody you’ve probably heard before. Here goes the first verse:

<Play MIDI>

ln that land of dopy dreams, happy peaceful Philippines,
Where the bolo-man is hiking night and day;
Where Tagalos steal and lie,
Where Americanos die,
There you hear the soldiers sing this evening lay :

Damn, damn, damn the Filipinos!
Cross-eyed kakiak ladrones!
Underneath our starry flag,
Civilize ’em with a Krag,
And return us to our own beloved homes.

To help you understand it, I will define a few words from the song.

“Tagalos” means Tagalog-speaking Filipinos. Tagalog is the official language of today’s Philippines, but it is only used as a first language in the area around Manila; in the more distant parts of Luzon and on other islands, other languages and dialects are used. For example, my wife comes from a province where the local language is called Cebuano, so in her childhood she learned three languages – Cebuano, Tagalog and English – in order to be understood all over the country.

“Kakiak” means yellow or khaki-colored, a blatant racial slur.

“Ladrones” comes from the Spanish word for bandits. This was the most common term that Americans applied to their enemies during the war. Americans also referred to Filipinos as “gugus”; that name reportedly came from a shampoo made from tree bark, that Philippine women used. Over the next half century, the word “gugu” would be transformed into “gook,” the derogatory term that future Americans would give to Vietnamese enemies.

“Krag” is short for Krag-Jorgensen, a repeating bolt-action rifle. Invented in Norway, the Krag-Jorgensen rifle was the main weapon issued to American troops, and the most advanced firearm available in the 1890s.

And now back to the narrative.

Otis did his best to censor the reports going back to the states, but stories of the atrocities made it back anyway. This encouraged opponents of the war to keep speaking out against it. We heard from one of them in the previous episode, Andrew Carnegie, who offered to give the Filipinos $20 million so they could buy their freedom from the United States. Another opponent was the previously mentioned Speaker of the House of Representatives, Thomas Reed. One day Reed read a newspaper story about a raid that captured Aguinaldo’s four-year-old son. Reed went to work, found the lawyer he worked with in the office, acted surprised and said, quote: “What, are you working today? I should think you would be celebrating. I see by the papers that the American Army has captured the infant son of Aguinaldo and at last accounts was in hot pursuit of the mother.” Unquote. Mark Twain attacked the imperialists with the wit he is famous for, by proposing a new flag for the Philippines. Quote: “As for a flag for the Philippine Province, it is easily managed. We can just have our usual flag, with the white stripes painted black and the stars replaced by the skull and crossbones.” Unquote. And as predicted, the Democrats made the war an issue in the 1900 election, claiming the Americans were bogged down in the Philippines, but because the American economy was booming, President McKinley and his fellow Republicans had no trouble getting re-elected.


1900 was the year when the US government began to transition the Philippines from military to civilian rule. To everyone’s relief, Otis requested permission to go home, and left in May. True to character, in his last report Otis announced that, quote, “the war in the Philippines is already over, except for little skirmishes that amount to nothing.” Unquote. General Arthur MacArthur took his place, but only as the supreme military commander. For the first civilian governor, McKinley picked William Howard Taft, a judge from Cincinnati, Ohio, and Taft arrived in Manila in June. He didn’t get along very well with MacArthur, though, and they argued over what MacArthur could do besides conducting the war. By September Taft had a local legislature running, and had cut down MacArthur’s power to almost nothing. Taft also won over conservative, well-to-do Filipinos, who saw they had everything to lose if they continued to support native bids for independence. In fact, the conservatives founded their own political party in December 1900, the Federalista Party, which called for statehood, meaning they wanted the Philippines to become a US state.

Because the war had become a guerrilla war, large American units no longer moved rapidly across the countryside, the way they had done in 1899. On the other side, the Filipinos suffered from serious shortages of guns and ammunition, and never got any foreign nation to support their cause. MacArthur responded to continued guerrilla attacks by allowing greater use of imprisonment, deportation, execution, and the confiscation and/or destruction of property. Local commanders also gathered civilians into concentration camps, supposedly to get them out of the line of fire, but really to keep them from giving aid to the enemy. Unfortunately, the camps were not always sanitary places, and often were not supplied with food, so they became hotbeds of disease and starvation; one commander called them “suburbs of Hell.” The most notorious incident in the guerrilla war happened on the island of Samar in September 1901, where a Filipino raid, led by General Vicente Lukbán, killed almost fifty American soldiers, and General Jacob Smith retaliated by ordering the killing of everyone found outside the concentration camps who was ten years of age or older. Fortunately the men under Smith did not carry out this order, and Smith was eventually court-martialed and forced to retire.

Aguinaldo was captured in a daring raid on March 23, 1901; here American troops sneaked into his secret headquarters by disguising themselves with Philippine army uniforms. He swore allegiance to the Americans, declaring that the majority of Filipinos wanted peace, and he was, quote, “confident that under the protection of the American people we would enjoy all the liberties promised to us…” Unquote. Taft wanted to exile him to Guam, but MacArthur felt that enough was enough, and let him retire with a US government pension. Aguinaldo would not be heard from again until 1935, when he ran in the first presidential election of the Philippines. Incidentally, when Aguinaldo was captured, the ceremonial sword he habitually carried was taken from him. He had obtained the sword when he won his first battle against Spain, the battle of Imus, in 1896; there the fleeing Spaniards had left behind seventy rifles, and the Spanish general had dropped his cavalry saber. On the blade was the inscription “Made in Toledo – 1869.” That was Aguinaldo’s birth year, which he saw as a good omen, so he kept the sword for himself, and wore it proudly for the next five years. After the Americans confiscated the sword, he didn’t get it back until 1960, when the US ambassador to the Philippines, Charles Bohlen, returned it in a special ceremony. By then Aguinaldo was ninety-one.

Aguinaldo’s capture did not mark the end of the war. Another general, Miguel Malvar, took over what remained of the Philippine government, and the other officers continued the struggle to the best of their abilities. Back in America, President McKinley was assassinated, and Theodore Roosevelt succeeded him. By 1902, though, the war had largely petered out, and civilian governments had been established over most of the Philippines. Elihu Root, the US Secretary of War, announced that the war was over on July 2, 1902, and two days later Roosevelt offered a general amnesty to all Filipinos who had participated in the conflict. However, modern-day Filipinos consider April 16, 1902, the real date for the end of the war, because that is when General Malvar surrendered; today that is a national holiday in the Philippines.

Estimates of the number of Americans killed in the war are either 4,234 or 6,165, depending on who you’re reading. As in other Southeast Asian wars, there were more casualties from disease than from actual fighting. Filipino casualties were much greater; most of my sources say 200,000 to 250,000 were killed, but two sources give a whopping estimate of 600,000. Whichever number you accept, all but 20,000 of the deaths were civilians, and again, most of the deaths were caused by disease epidemics. Even animals suffered; the population of water buffalo in the islands, called carabao by the Filipinos, shrank by ninety percent during the war. Carabao are required for rice farming, so losing them made if doubly difficult to restore the local agriculture, and that’s no bull.

<Buffalo grunts?>

That was a carabao grunting. Anyway, we are out of time for today. Would you believe we are not done with the Philippines yet? I said that some Filipinos continued the struggle against outsiders after the war was officially over, so next time we will look at those activities, what the Americans saw as a mopping up operation. And then I promised to cover events in the Philippines under American rule, up to the beginning of World War II, so we should finally take care of that.

Finally, I should mention that because this episode covered events from 1899 to 1902, we are done with the nineteenth century at last, after devoting ten episodes to that era. So Episode 31 will be the first of many episodes devoted to Southeast Asia in the twentieth century. To those who have been with me from the start of this podcast series, we have come a long way!

If you enjoyed this episode and would like to support the podcast like Walter P. did, you can make a donation by clicking on the Paypal button, at the bottom of this episode’s page. Donations start at one US dollar. So far all donations have been one-time ones, but you can also be the first to pledge a monthly amount. If you listen on iTunes or another website that allows you to rate podcasts, give it some stars and write a review. “Like” the History of Southeast Asia Podcast page if you are on Facebook. And in the real world, tell your family, friends, and anyone else who might be interested about the podcast. Thank you for listening, and come back when the monsoon winds are blowing right!