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Transforming National Identity

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Transforming National Identity

Colonization and rule are recurrent themes in world history, and many different civilizations have made various contributions to our world culture – ports of trade, sites of religion, and even forms of national identity and nationalism. Antonino “Matatag” Guevara y Mendoza speaks his personal experiences and resulting opinions in History of One of the Initiators of the Filipino Revolution of his fight alongside fellow Filipino revolutionaries for independence against Spanish rule. Mendoza’s military pursuits and motivational contributions as a soldier and organizer in the Filipino Revolution help to demonstrate the ultimate transformation of the Philippines and its sense of national identity. Although Spain made its positive socio-economic influences such as promoting Roman Catholic religion, improving economic development, and organizing rule, Mendoza’s journey with the growing organization and bonding culture of the Filipino country and community to fight for independence prove that the journey of the Filipino Revolution still brought this greater transformation of national identity in Philippine history. With issues such as continued control by the US and gaining no initial recognition from the Spanish and the US after the Philippine Declaration of Independence, the immediate aftermath of the Revolution may not have necessarily correspond to their desired goals of establishing independence as a nation. However, the path towards the end of the Revolution in 1898 in essence demonstrates the main focus – the turning point of developing more national sense of pride in being a Filipino. Before this phase of Filipino revolution and nationalism development, which can be primarily dated as 1892 to 1898, the Philippines actually started forming a sense of national identity through Spanish colonization, which went on from 1565 to 1898. As Antonino Guevarra Mendoza explains of Philippine history in his personal documents, History of one of the initiators of the Filipino Revolution, “The Spaniards transplanted their social, economic, and political institutions halfway across the world to the Philippine archipelago.”[1] Immediately, the Philippines gained an immense amount of culture to start creating the country’s image. However, this is less of a national, personal sense and more of an institutionalized level imposed by the Spanish. Corpuz brings this government-constructed culture up in The Filipino Revolution Against Spain, explaining how “The colonial masters required the native Filipinos to swear allegiance to the Spanish monarch.”[2] Numerous policies were implemented upon the Filipinos, such as worshipping a new God when they originally practiced polytheism, speaking a new language along with their myriad of spoken languages, and also changing their work habits after previously holding only a subsistent economy. One of the bigger ideas to notice here is that, although the Spanish made a considerable transformation of the way the Filipinos lived almost 500 years ago, the Philippines also ended up developing a culture that had a strong influence by the Spanish. Mendoza further emphasizes his point of Spanish influence in Filipino culture when he explains the imposition of Roman Catholicism. “The imposition of the Roman Catholic faith upon the Filipino population permanently influenced the culture and society of the Philippines…according to the Hispanic standard.”[3] As the Spanish authorities separated the Filipino population into clustered village settlements, the Filipinos were forced to embrace the Spanish teachings of religion almost unquestioningly. The scattering and authoritative monitoring of these Filipino villages is very similar to that of the Ottoman Empire, where the janissaries kept a close eye and create easier modes of instruction and rule for the Spanish. However, unlike the millet system of the Ottoman Empire, Filipinos were forced to allow the Church to “play a central role in the lives of the people because it touched every aspect of their existence from birth to growth…to death.”[4] While it is seen today that many Filipinos still follow Christian/Catholic practices, Mendoza manages to word it in such a way that it defines Spanish influence as more of an imposed national identity and less of an individually unique and developed national identity. As Mendoza states his more disappointing point, “Thus, when the Spanish rule ended, the Filipinos found many aspects of their way of life bearing the indelible imprint of Hispanization,” there becomes reason to assume that some feel less individualized as their own nation of the Philippines, arguing that the Philippine culture is forever scarred by Spanish colonization. With respect to world history as a whole, this “scarring” due to colonization and imperialism echoes a lot of historical events that host the same theme. From the Europeans demanding gold and other natural resources from the Amerindians, to the Ottoman Empire taking in captured countries’ offspring for additional military, authority, and profit through systematic control of land and religion, we manage to make a huge distinction from many other historical cases of colonization to this specific one regarding Spanish colonization of the Philippines. Although Mendoza and other authors tend to make disparaging comments of how the Spanish changed their lives, there is reason to say from a world-historical perspective that Spanish influence ultimately changed Filipino culture and way of life for the better. With improvements such as labor standards, agricultural advancements, and visualizing more effective modes of government from the Spanish, the Filipinos essentially grew in social and economic standards in the 300 years the Spanish occupied the Philippines. However, one main aspect that is shared among other imperialized nations and in Mendoza’s personal experiences and opinions on the Philippine-Spanish colonization is that there was a lack of community – a more national sense that would only reach its peak as the Filipinos rise up against the Spanish to fight for their independence. But first, fast-forwarding to the post-Filipino Revolution phase, during the aftermath of the Spanish-American War, we notice a change in Mendoza’s words from a disgusted tone of the Spanish to a disappointing one of how the Filipinos came out of their declaration of independence in 1898. As Tiongson, Edgardo, and Guitierrez explain in their book, “Imperialist and anti-imperialist forces at home [in the Philippines] voiced their opinions on what the US should do with the Philippines. Failing, Filipino republican leaders were incensed with the prospect of a continuing American presence in their homeland.”[5] Despite Mendoza’s words of gaining independence from the Spanish, the Philippines only fell back into colonization as the US accepted control of the Philippines to educate and Christianize the natives, not realizing the fact the overwhelming majority of the islands’ population was already Roman Catholic. Here, two huge issues result from the Filipino Revolution – first, the Philippines did not immediately gain the true recognition they desired as an independent nation. Germany was still intended to purchase the islands from Spain. Explaining his experiences during the tension that still occurred for the Philippines among other countries, Mendoza states how “tensions rose to such a height that the German…fleet threatened [the US’s] smaller navy…only the timely appearance of British ships enabled the Americans to continue their conquest.”[6] Evidence here proves that the Philippines was in even greater threat of its image as a nation towards other countries, including the Germans who wanted to overtake them, the Spanish who continued to discourage their independence, the US who felt the responsibility of a “good country” in assisting their foreign relations and issues, and even the British, who only helped the Philippines as a way to manage good relations only with the US. Second, with the US believing that assisting the Filipinos with the Spanish meant they would need assistance after the war, Mendoza expresses the results in how “the insurrection raged for more than two years, exacting a far higher toll than the Spanish-American War.”[7] In other words, the Philippines lost much more from this fight against the US for their acknowledgment of the Philippines’ abilities to maintain stability on their own. Mendoza brings up the disappointing end of their fight for nationalism and power struggle, realizing that “the insurgent cause was ultimately hopeless and called for an end to resistance”[8] – a turning point in Filipino mentality that occurred in March 1901 when Aguinaldo – the commander of all Philippine forces at the time and the established dictator of the Philippines – was captured by American forces. This is significant in world history in itself, demonstrating the difficulties that newly independent nations had even after establishing independence from a colonizing country. This was seen in other cases such as in South America, where the themes revolved around a desire for independence, and how many use the US as a model of government but often fall apart in their attempt to follow. Haiti also experiences this failure to gain acknowledgment as an independent state – abolishing slavery only made other countries turn away from Haiti for trade and commerce, ultimately leaving Haiti in diplomatic isolation. For the Philippines, they did not necessarily lose social or economic growth or resources, but they did start to lose one aspect that echoes the start of Spanish colonization – a true sense of nationalism and pride as THE Philippine nation of the world. Although the Philippines eventually achieved independence as a nation from the US in 1902, the Philippines’ national pride was scarred in such a way that took time to fully recover. Despite the somewhat negative initial and post-Spanish colonization effects and feelings that he has expressed thus far, Mendoza’s tone and perspectives on Filipino’s historical experiences regarding nationalism make a huge turning point when he expresses his most significant contributions in Philippine history – the development of the fight and journey of the Filipino Revolution. In his collection of public papers regarding the Filipino Revolution, Raul S. Manglapus expresses the phase in which the Philippines experienced “the birth of Filipino nationalism.”[9] With his family growing up within this phase into Filipino industrialization, Mendoza gives a personal account of his experiences, saying how “The opening of Manila and other parts of the Philippine to foreign trade brought not only economic prosperity to the country but also a remarkable transformation in the life of the Filipinos.”[10] Mendoza emphasizes how Filipinos grew as a nation through this phase of economic prosperity, due to the start of foreign trade in Manila, the capital of the Philippines. This turning point of idealism and economic prosperity is a huge theme in world history, commenting on the fact that improvements in international trade and domestic life can ultimately lead to the advancement of a nation. As Manglapus puts this significant phenomenon in the history of the Philippines, “[The Filipinos] became discontented with the old order of things and wanted social and political changes that were in harmony with the freer spirit of the times.”[11] This instance is notably seen and significant in many other cases in world history, including the Industrial Revolution. Often quoted by many as the “single greatest event in world history” (as quoted in lecture), this led to the differentiation of labor, mobility of people such as urbanization, and resulted in the expansion of societies, globalization, and – as the Philippines experienced in this phase – a growing sense of intellectual curiosity in how to make society better. Pertaining to this rise of intellectual curiosity, Mendoza brings up another significant occurrence: “economic prosperity produced a new class of Filipinos…who discussed social and economic problems and advocated reforms to remedy the evils of colonialism.”[12] Essentially talking about fellow revolutionaries such as himself, Mendoza points out the development of the Filipino Revolution as he joins up with other Filipinos sharing the same mentality of gaining Filipino independence to push the country forward. John N. Schumacher explains this “propaganda movement” and “creation of a Filipino consciousness”, saying how “through newly opened ports…streamed liberal and modern idea…contained in books…brought in by ships from Europe. The Filipinos began to wonder at the deplorable situation in the Philippines.”[13] As the Filipino population who questioned the Spanish colonization and desired a better, more successful and independent nation, Mendoza rallied this new class of Filipinos – the “intelligentsia, educated, widely read, and enlightened individuals who were produced from the economic prosperity”[14] – and by 1892, the Philippine revolutionary society – the Katipunan, whose aim was to “gain independence from Spain through revolution”[15] - was founded, and the Filipino Revolution was officially initiated. Spurred with propaganda and motivational ideals such as “aspirations for reforms, justice, and liberty from the Spanish, ”[16], Mendoza brought the population together from areas all around the Philippine islands along fellow anti-Spanish Filipinos in Manila – the capital of the Philippines in the main island –to start the revolution that, in a time span of six years, would bring them the independence they strived for from Spanish rule. This development of the Filipino Revolution through shared cultural ideals is a huge theme presented throughout the course of world history. The Enlightenment period is very similar in how it changed the way many countries and nations ruled, such as China having a government system based on rank, which was in turn based on a test that graded an individual’s level meritocracy and morality. The Enlightenment also changed the way many individuals lived life and looked at the world. This essentially led to many scientific advancements and changes such as countries reforming their way of rule, such as Charles III of Spain who promoted science and university research and modernizing agriculture and modes of production. One of the most significant traits for the Filipino Revolution was that they propelled the people of the Philippines through a shared ideology, ultimately putting the country in both a geographical as well as “imagined community” based on their same cultural ideals within the revolution. Through this theme, there is reason to argue that, although there was a lack of pure nationalism in the Philippines as its own unique nation, as well as falling in recognition and power as an independent nation after the Revolution ended, Mendoza’s personal experiences support the argument that the path into the Filipino Revolution was the true turning point of the Filipino’s “birth of [true] Filipino Nationalism”. Through their shared beliefs of achieving a greater society beyond the colonization of the Spanish, along with their verbal and physical coming together into a community, the Filipino Revolution allowed the Philippines to develop an individual and national sense of pride and socio-economic success that is recognized and acknowledged by the world to this day.
[1] Guevara y Mendoza, Antonino, and Onofre D. Corpuz. History of One of the Initiators of the Filipino Revolution (New York: National Historical Institute, 1988), 20.

[2] Corpuz, O.D.. Saga and Triumph: The Filipino Revolution Against Spain (Ottawa: Philippine Centennial Commission, 1999), 102.

[3] Guevara y Mendoza, Antonino, 43.
[4] Guevara y Mendoza, Antonino, 70.
[5] Tiongson, Antonio T., Edgardo V. Gutierrez, and Ricardo V. Gutierrez.

Positively No Filipinos Allowed: Building Communities and Discourse

(Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2006), 64.

[6] Guevara y Mendoza, Antonino, 202.
[7] Guevara y Mendoza, Antonino, 224.
[8] Guevara y Mendoza, Antonino, 243.
[9] Manglapus, Raul S., Faith in the Filipino: The Ripening Revolution: A Collection Of Speeches, Statements, and other public papers from 1959 up to the present.... (Manila, Philippines: Regal Pub. Co., 1961), 58.

[10] Guevara y Mendoza, Antonino, 155.
[11] Manglapus, Raul S., 72.
[12] Guevara y Mendoza, Antonino, 169.
[13] Schumacher, John N., 14.
[14] Schumacher, John N., 28.
[15] Guevara y Mendoza, Antonino, 178.
[16] Schumacher, John N., 30.

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