Philippine American War Samantha Suliyanto, Saptarshi Roy

"We cannot free ourselves unless we move forward united in a single desire. " - Emilio Aguinaldo

A Hidden perspective of Southeast Asia

We have always been intrigued by Southeast Asian historical events as it depicts the various struggles many developing nations experiences during the period of colonialism. These struggles have shaped many present day evolutions which have directly impacted Filipinos and Filipinas in the US. Their integration has become an asset to the nations in terms of immigration, economy and culture wise. Furthermore, this project has allowed us to gain insight into the past and understand the history between American-Filipino relations.

The Beginning

The Philippine Islands was once a colony of Spain whose rule came to an end as a result of the Philippine revolution. The Philippine American-War was caused by the United States decision to colonize the Philippine Islands out fear that another power may take over and the conflict t​hat erupted amongst American and Filipino Forces.

Why did the War Transpire?

The Philippine American war was America's first true colonial war as a world power. Once the US defeated the Spanish in both Cuba, Puerto Rico, Philippines, and several other islands, the basis of the conflict can be found within the US government's search for an overseas empire and the desire for the Filipino people to be granted freedom. While other empires were already planting flags around the world, the United States too wanted to plant a flag wherever it could in order to protect US mainland from invasion as well US commerce. Thus America's quest for colonization was what ultimately started the war.

Newspaper extract from "The Call"

The Philippine Revolution

The Philippines had been a Spanish colony from 1512-1898. A revolutionist named Emilio Aguinaldo led a revolt in 1896 in an attempt to take back the Philippine Islands. After two and a half years of fighting the Filipinos found themselves allied with the United States military. Spain and its colonies found themselves fighting a losing war to the US. After the Spanish colonial government surrendered the Philippines to American forces in August of 1898. The Treaty of Paris ended the Spanish American War and the United States purchased the Philippine Islands from the Spanish for twenty million dollars. This was seen as an act of betrayal from the United States and tensions were rising between the US and Filipino forces.

America Becomes Foes With The Philippines

The tension between the US and Filipino forces got worse as of early 1899. The United States who were not eager to accept the Philippines new government and Emilio Aguinaldo being it's first president. Two weeks after his inauguration, private William Grayson of the Nebraska volunteers stationed at San Juan bridge fired a shot at a group of Filipinos as a gesture of resistance against the new found Philippine independence. This sparked the war between Aguinaldo's revolutionaries and the US army resulting in one of the bloodiest wars in US history.

How did this represent power?

Why did America want to Colonize The Philippines?

Economic incentives : During this era imperialism was strictly a European concern, the US wanted to become a global and economic powerhouse. The US also wanted to compete with various European countries, especially the United Kingdom and Germany. Claiming new territories meant that the US could sustain and increase its stock in raw resources. This led many to suggest that the US claim territories in Central America and the Pacific so that they may increase naval power, trade, dominance, and they could gain control of foreign market interests. The decision to annex the islands was not without controversy. Many believed that the Filipinos were incapable of self rule and the US wanted to extend its influence across the pacific. The United States political leaders saw the islands as a strategic location in the Pacific Ocean. They understood that United States itself existed as a result of imperialism and that global imperialism would bring economic success. This location benefited the United States as a port and coal refueling station as well as it being a trading station with China. All of this allowed the United States to become a global imperial power.

Racial context: As American imperialism was at a surge during the war, there was an increased dominance in global capitalism which projected political and ideological change. These encounters have questioned the legitimacy and presence of American politics which led to a creation of a capitalist market. Therefore, this led to a materialisation of racial issues throughout the market. The banking and finance practices between non Americans and Americans in the Philippines depicted the differences of a capitalist market and colonial state. For instance, currency became an integral part during the war. The US government was concerned with the military's expenditure due to the extensive need for supplies, wages for colonial labour and the little distribution of paychecks to soldiers who have fought during the war. In an attempt to reduce the number of Filipino due to the Americans' lack of knowledge of the local currency in the Philippines, General MacArthur had accused Filipino banks for exploiting the US Government of affecting the rates of silver and gold. Therefore, this placed Filipinos at a clear disadvantage.

Filipino and American Forces Engage in Battle

Two days after the United States ratified the Treaty of Paris, which relinquished Spain of nearly all it's colonies, Filipino and American forces went to war with one another. The Filipino soldiers were at a disadvantage in comparison to the better trained and better equipped American soldiers, a steady supply of military equipment and control of the archipelago's water ways; the Filipino soldiers were destined to suffer from fatalities . After initially suffering heavy casualties, Aguinaldo ordered his troops to fight the opposition using conventional guerrilla tactics.

A poster advocating for independence

The Proclamation of Independence

How Did the Philippines Gain Independence?

On June 12, 1898, Emilio Aguinaldo with the help of the US, proclaimed Philippine independence from the Spanish regime. A government was set in place in place and a constitution was ratified in order to form the First Republic. However the Spanish made negotiations with US for the sale of the Spanish colonies and the Philippines. It wasn't long before Filipino and American forces clashed. The Filipino forces were determined to fight to the death against an imperialist power who refused to give independence. US President Woodrow Wilson had promised the Philippines independence. Slowly he began to entrust authority to Filipino leaders with the establishment of the Philippine senate via democratic election.

​What is the Tyding McDuffie Act?

In 1934, the Tydings Mcduffie Act was ratified. The Congress had promised the Philippines its self government for the islands, the adoption of a constitution, and the complete independence of the Philippine Islands by 1944. However, the act reclassified all Filipinos as aliens for the purposes of immigration and imposed a quota of 50 Filipino immigrants per years. However legislative power was not total and required approval from the United States President. It wasn't until World War II that the quest for Philippine independence came to a halt when the Japanese invasion and occupation occurred.

Significance of 1946 for filipinos

1. 1946 was the year where Filipinos had access to naturalisation to acquire American citizenship. This allowed them to purchase land, vote and petition for their families to help them migrate to the US under family reunification provisions. The expansion of the act provided more and more Filipinos to migrate to the US. The Luce-Celler Bill was signed to increase the limit from 50 to 100 Filipino migrants per year, granted Filipinos and Indians access to naturalisation as a way to prioritise the developing nations' bilateral ties with the US. In addition, the Bill was proven to have been one step closer to a mended partnership.

2. Sakada '46 was reenacted as a migration of Filipino workers to the United States, particularly Hawaii. More than 6000 Filipinos and Filipinas called sakadas, were sent to work in Hawaii's sugar plantations to fulfil worker shortage. The International Longshoreman and Warehousemen Union (ILWU) consisted 0f 20000 Filipinos and other Asians to fight against bias due to the low paid wages received. It was considered the last wave of migration in 1946 right before Independence. The event was renowned for its political freedom towards workers' rights, union recognition, the end to white supremacy, higher wages and many more.

After World War II the second President of the Philippines, Manuel Roxas, was elected on April 1946 for the independent Second Philippine Republic. Independence was then granted July 4, 1996 marked by a formal declaration where the American flag was lowered in Luneta, Manila and the tri-colored Filipino national flag was raised. Now every year from July 4-12, Filipinos all across the world celebrate their independence as well as its revolutionary heroes.


Primary Sources:

Emilio Aguinaldo." Encyclopedia of World Biography, Gale, 1998. Biography in Context, Accessed 22 March. 2017.

Philippine's Independence Proclaimed 1946/7/15. Universal Newsreels, 2006. Philippine's Independence Proclaimed 1946/7/15. Universal Newsreel, 15 Sept. 2006. Web. 31 Mar. 2017. <>.


A Republic Is Born. 1948. Presidential Museum and Library, Republic of the Philippines. Web. 23 Mar. 2017. <>.

Colonel Theodore Roosevelt." Rough Riders: Col. Theodore Roosevelt's 1st Volunteer Cavalry - Roosevelt Almanac. N.p., 06 July 2011. Web. 30 Mar. 2017.

Emilio Aguinaldo Y Famy. 1899. Library of Congress, Philippines. Emilio Aguinaldo Y Famy. By Henry Neil. Web. 1 Apr. 2017. <>.

Millard, Candice. "Looking for a Fight." The New York Times. The New York Times, 18 Feb. 2012. Web. 30 Mar. 2017.

Tewell, John. Philippine Republic Is Born. 1946. Presidential Museum and Library, Philippines. Web. 27 Mar. 2017. <>.

The Spanish American War, 1898." U.S. Department of State. U.S. Department of State, n.d. Web. 25 Mar. 2017.

Secondary Sources:

Alidio, Kimberly. “Truth and Lies about the Philippine-American Century.” American Quarterly, vol. 58, no. 1, 2006, pp. 205–211.

Cruz, Denise. “‘Pointing to the Heart’: Transpacific Filipinas and the Question of Cold-War Philippine-U.S. Relations.” American Quarterly, vol. 63, no. 1, 2011, pp. 1–32.

Mabalon, Dawn B., Dr. "The Significance of 1946 for Filipina/o Americans." The Significance of 1946 for Filipina/o Americans. Filipino American National Historical Society, n.d. Web. 23 Mar. 2017. <>.

Lumba, Allan E. S. "Imperial Standards: Colonial Currencies, Racial Capacities, and Economic Knowledge during the Philippine-American War." Diplomatic History 39.4 (2014): 603+. Web.

Posadas, Barbara M. “The Journal of American History.” The Journal of American History, vol. 98, no. 3, 2011, pp. 860–860.

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