12 June 1898. Hating Spain, Loving The United States

clip_image002MANILA: I'm not proud, but I'm happy.

This is a retelling - and a retailing - of the Declaration of Independence of the Philippines on the 12th of June 1898.

Are you proud that on that date, the Philippines declared independence from Spain and, at the same time and on the same paper and in the same paragraph, declared dependence on the United States of America? Here's the pertinent excerpt, from the English translation of Sulpicio Guevara (Wikisource):

And having as witness to the rectitude of our intentions the Supreme Judge of the Universe, and under the protection of the Powerful and Humanitarian Nation, the United States of America, we do hereby proclaim and declare solemnly in the name and by authority of the people of these Philippine Islands,

The 85 signatories invoked God as to the righteousness of their act, and appealed to the protection of the mighty and merciful United States of America. This is Church intruding on the State, right? I love that! This is the US intruding on the affairs of the Philippines thousands of miles away, right? Wrong!

The 84 Dons (translation, Mister, singular, title of high respect) who signed the Declaration, led by Ambrosio Rianzares Bautista who was the War Counselor, were the following:

Agapito Zialcita, Anastacio Pinzun, Andrés Tria Tirona, Antonio Calingo, Antonio Gonzales, Aurelio Tolentino, Buenaventura Toribio, Calixto Lara, Canuto Celestino, Carlos Tria Tirona, Catalino Ramon, Ciriaco Bausa, Claudio Tria Tirona, Daniel Tria Tirona, Emiliano Lim, Epifanio Crisia, Epifanio Saguil, Epitacio Asunción, Estanislao Calingo, Estanislao Tria Tirona, Esteban Francisco, Evaristo Dimalanta, Fausto Tinorio, Federico Tomacruz, Felipe Buencamino, Felix Ferrer, Felix Polintan, Fernando Canon Faustino, Flaviano Alonzo, Flaviano Rodriguez, Florencio Manalo, Francisco Arambulo, Francisco del Rosario, Gabriel Reyes, Gavino Masancay, Gregorio Alvarez, Gregorio Bonifacio, Gregorio Villa, Guido Yaptinchay, Honorio Tiongco, Hugo Lim, José del Rosario, José Maria del Rosario, José Medina, José Turiano Santiago y Acosta, Juan Arevalo, Juan Bordador, Ladislao Afable José, Ladislao Diwa, Leon Tanjanque, Luis de Lara, Luis Perez Tagle, Manuel Salafranca, Manuel Santos, Marcelino Gomez, Marcelo Basa, Marcos Jocson, Mariano de los Santos, Mariano Legazpi, Mariano Rianzares Bautista, Mariano Toribio, Martin de los Reyes, Narciso Mayuga, Numeriano Castillo, Pastor Lopez de Leon, Pedro Mendiola, Proceso Pulido, Ramon Delfino, Ramon Gana, Ramon Magcamco, Rosendo Simon, Sabas de Guzman, Santiago Garcia, Segundo Arellano, Sergio Matias, Simon Villareal, Sixto Roldan, Sulpicio P Antony, Teodoro Yatco, Tiburcio del Rosario, Timoteo Bernabe, Valentin Polintan, and Zacarias Fajardo.

84 Filipinos + 1 Yankee. The signers were in fact joined by an American, Mr LM Johnson, a Colonel of the US Artillery. What was Mr Johnson doing there? This is an anomaly that I can't joke about.

The Declaration of Independence was ordered by Egregious Dictator Don Emilio Aguinaldo under the Dictatorial Government of the Philippines, "taking into account the fact that the people of the country are already tired of bearing the ominous yoke of Spanish domination." Stop. I think there is something wrong with the translation: Spanish domination was not an "ominous yoke" - it was not only threatening, it had already been a fact for hundreds of years. Something is always lost in the translation.

One of the reasons for the Declaration of Independence was the "unjust deportations of illustrious Filipinos, especially those decreed by General Blanco at the instigation of the Archbishop and the friars interested in keeping them in ignorance for egoistic and selfish ends, which deportations were carried out through processes more execrable than those of the Inquisition, which every civilized nation repudiates as a trial without hearing." Uh, oh. Deportation means expulsion of an undesirable alien from a country (American Heritage Dictionary); the Spanish original reads, las deportaciones, which means this is not a mistranslation but wrong word used. The Filipinos were not aliens in this country - the deporters were!

We recognize, approve, and ratify, with all the orders emanating from the same, the Dictatorship established by Don Emilio Aguinaldo whom we revere as the Supreme Head of this Nation, which today begins to have a life of its own, in the conviction that he has been the instrument chosen by God, in spite of his humble origin, to effectuate the redemption of this unfortunate country as foretold by Dr Don Jose Rizal in his magnificent verses which he composed in his prison cell prior to his execution, liberating it from the Yoke of Spanish domination,

"As foretold by Dr Don Jose Rizal in his magnificent verses" refers to his Adios, Patria Adorada valedictory poem. (That title is mine, following literary tradition; they are the first 3 words in the poem, and they supremely summarize the whole - I know that for a fact because I myself translated the whole poem from Spanish to English; see my "Translating a hero. When Words Collide and Meanings Get Lost," 29 December 2007, Frank A Hilario, blogspot.com; all others give it the phlegmatic title Ultimo Adios or Mi Ultimo Adios.)

The invocation of a Supreme Being (God) is repeated, a legacy of Spanish domination, but it was right. The language of the Declaration was Spanish, another legacy of that domination, and it was also right. Why not in Tagalog? Because, following a basic rule in Communication, you communicate with someone in his own language, so you do not declare Independence from him in the language that he does not understand. Brandishing a bolo is of course a language anyone can understand, but that's not what I'm talking about. That’s why Rizal wrote the Noli and the Fili in Spanish!

That they are and have the right to be free and independent; that they have ceased to have any allegiance to the Crown of Spain; that all political ties between them are and should be completely severed and annulled; and that, like other free and independent States, they enjoy the full power to make War and Peace, conclude commercial treaties, enter into alliances, regulate commerce, and do all other acts and things which an Independent State has a right to do,

Why did they not declare that they had ceased allegiance to the President of the United States, that all political ties between them were and should be completely severed and annulled? It may have been that Filipinos knew that they were powerless against the American might, so they might as well be friends. Or, to give my countrymen the benefit of the doubt, the Filipino leaders were thinking, "One enemy at a time."

And imbued with firm confidence in Divine Providence, we hereby mutually bind ourselves to support this Declaration with our lives, our fortunes, and with our most sacred possession, our Honor.

God is invoked for the 3rd time, just to be sure. They were embarking on a perilous journey, and they needed all the help they could get. The US Declaration of Independence invoked God 4 times: Nature's God, Creator, Supreme Judge of the world, and Divine Providence. (Today? The Americans have declared Independence of the State from God.)

The Americans should be proud, but not happy.

I'm not proud, but I'm happy.

I see that we actually copied from the Americans. Note:

US Declaration of Independence:
And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Philippine Declaration of Independence:
And imbued with firm confidence in Divine Providence, we hereby mutually bind ourselves to support this Declaration with our lives, our fortunes, and with our most sacred possession, our Honor.

Well! This is a revelation. It looks to me that we Filipinos in 1898 already could construct a sentence more powerful than the Americans did in 1776! The student had something to teach the teacher.

The Filipino Declaration begins with Divine Providence; the US begins with human resolve. Righteousness belongs to God; above all, God's will, not human will. Theirs is weak and ambiguous: "We mutually pledge to each other our Lives ..." Ours is strong and unambiguous: "We hereby mutually bind ourselves to support this Declaration with our lives ..." We were teaching Grammar & Composition to the Americans as early as 117 years ago! Not to mention Faith.

Notwithstanding, I still believe that the 4th of July 1945 is our true Independence Day and I thank the Americans also for English. Without that legacy, I wouldn't be here. I wouldn't be writing. I wouldn't be teaching Creative Writing. I wouldn't be blogging. I wouldn't be writing on ICRISAT, the #1 international center for agricultural research today. I wouldn't have published 6 books for ICRISAT. I wouldn't be writing now another book, this time for the alumni of my alma mater, the University of the Philippines Los Baños, to celebrate Loyalty Day. And I wouldn't be happy doing all those things.

Thank God - and the Americans - for English!

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