Thursday, September 5, 2013
The American Legacy
In consonance with the President’s William McKinley Benevolent Assimilation Proclamation, the United States introduced to the Philippines a regime of democratic partnership under which the Philippines played the role of junior partner. Developments were focused for progress. Almost every phase of Filipino life felt the imprint of American influence. However, side by side with these positive results were the economic dependence of the Philippines to United States, distorted sense of values, and partial loss of the racial heritage. Largely, there is this so-called continuance of colonial mentality.
I. DEMOCRACY, America’s Greatest Legacy
The greatest legacy of America to the Filipino people is democracy, just as Christianity is Spain’s greatest legacy to us. The Americans came to train, and the Filipinos proved avid learners, in democratic way and institutions. Under American tutelage, Filipinos were given greater participation in government affairs and enjoyed more human rights. Union of Church and State were gone. After 1907, no Filipino was ever jailed or exiled for criticizing the American authorities or advocating Philippine independence and all the government officials from local to national level were elected by the people in a free and open election. Multiple political parties were allowed to campaign for candidates.
Another is the emancipation of women from the social and political restrictions. They were no longer secluded within the narrow confines of homes and of colegios for ladies. They were allowed to work, to attend political rallies and meetings and to participate in active sports. They were free to acquire higher education and to choose and practice any profession that had been reserved for men. And finally, the women began to participate in politics and eventually were given the right to vote in elections to be voted in public.
Westernization of Filipino diet and dress which began by Spain was fostered by the Americans. Influenced by the casual boldness of Americans, Filipinos soon lost their stiff and formal bearing inherited from the Spanish. Filipinos learned to address each other as “Mr.” and “Miss”. The younger generation lost some of the good manners of past. But they acquired some sterling qualities of the American people, notably frankness, broadmindedness, sparkling humor and sportsmanship.
The close family ties deteriorated to a certain extent due to the impact of American influence. The loss of customs and the breakdown of parental authority paved the way to the present-day family troubles, broken homes and juvenile delinquency.
As enchanted of the new language Filipinos freely Americanized their names. Even in literature, Filipino materials and sentiments expressed in English language.
III. POPULAR EDUCATION
Another greatest contribution of the Americans to Filipinos is the introduction of public education. The American soldiers were the first public school teachers (opened in Corregidor Island) and later replaced by “Thomasites”, American teachers who arrived in the Philippines on board the S. S. Thomas on August 23, 1901. English came to be the language of instructions in all schools, colleges and universities – a fact which explains why English is understood throughout the Philippines. Co-education was established and boys and girls studied together in same schools.The phenomenal growth of education was shown by the unprecedented increase in the number of schools, teachers and students.
In 1903, 104 bright young Filipinos were sent to United States as government pensionadosto study in American colleges and universities. After years of study in America, returned home and contributed to the economic, social and cultural development of the Philippines.
Democratic traditions and the practical application of laws and principles were given emphasis. Enrollment of students in the public school was compulsory. Hence, the net result of such educational system introduced by the Americans was the increase of literacy rate of the Filipinos.
IV. PUBLIC HEALTH AND WELFARE
Quarantine Service, supervised by competent American doctors and public health officers were established in the Philippines to minimize the spread of the plaguing diseases. New methods of prevention and treatment and by educating the people in the elementary principles of hygiene and sanitation are some ways where Americans introduced to the people in order to reduce the cases of infant mortality and malaria and other diseases. In 1901, the Board of the Public Health, which became a bureau at a later date, signaled the intensified campaign not only for improved public health, but also for the eradication of superstition and ignorance. Moreover, asylums for orphans, insane and the juvenile offenders were founded. Therefore, the result of the development of health and welfaremay be seen not only in decreased mortality but also in the improvement of the standard of living.
V. ECONOMIC PROGRESS
Undismayed by the magnitude of the problem, the American administration exerted all efforts to revive and improve agriculture. In 1902, Bureau of Agriculture was established to promote agriculture. Modern types of farm machinery were introduced and more irrigation systems were constructed.
However, the actual American policy favored only the rich landowners and foreign corporations. Take for example the provisions of the Friar Lands Act of 1904. Moreover, the major agricultural export crops – sugar, copra, hemp – were controlled by American or foreign interests.
The greatest single factor that caused the phenomenal development of Philippine economy was free trade relations with the United States. As early as 1902, a reduction of 25% was allowed on goods coming from the Philippines. Nevertheless, the American Congress consistently refused to admit Philippine products into US free of duty. Economic laws were passed by the Congress, such as the Payne – Aldrich Tariff Act in 1909 that the partial free trade relations between the Philippines and US were established until the Simmons – Underwood Tariff Act in 1913 abolished the quota limitations of Philippine export products.
Lured by the lucrative market in America, Filipinos neglected to develop other markets in foreign countries. Consequently, their commerce with Great Britain, Spain, China, France, Germany, Holland and other nations decreased considerably. Because of free trade, Filipinos overdeveloped a few big-money products to the utter abandonment of other crops, because these export products brought them much wealth. Furthermore, free trade with America was really free trade for the Americans, but not for the Filipinos.
The American period saw the advent of the industrial age of the Philippines. Cigar and cigarette factories, coconut oil mills, sugar central, cordage shops and textile factories sprang up in cities and towns. Fishing and fish-canning became a major industry. In addition, mining was one of the backbones of Philippine economy, particularly on gold mining.
Another major contribution was the establishment of a sound currency system. On March 2, 1936 US passed Philippine Currency act for the creation of a new currency based on the gold standard, as recommended by Charles A. Conant. It fixed the value of the Philippine peso to one-half of the US dollar. The first minted coins (designed by Melecio Figueroa) were silver peso, half peso, 20 centavo and 10-centavo pieces.
VI. TRANSPORTATION AND COMMUNICATION
Economic development would be meaningless if the means of transportation and communication were primitive, for the commercial and industrial products need to be transported efficiently to various places for marketing purposes. The first act of the Philippine Commission was the appropriation of Php 2,000,000 for the construction of roads and bridges. Governor W. Cameron Forbes came to known as “the American road-Building Governor-General” because of the many fine roads constructed during his administration.
In 1903, Americans introduced the motor vehicles in the Philippines. The Manila-Dagupan Railway was purchased by the Philippine Government and became Manila Railroad Company. Another was the opening of 196 ports to shipping. Port works, break waters and lighthouses were built to facilitate navigation.
MERALCO (Manila Electric Railroad and Light Company), owned by an American Mr. Charles M. Swift introduced the first electric streetcars. These furnished Manila and the suburbs with cheap and fast means of transportation.
America also introduced air transportation in the Philippines. The first airplane appears in the Philippines in 1911, piloted by a stunt aviator named “Lucky” Baldwin during the Manila Carnival. The following year the first army planes arrived in the country. Commercial air transportation began in 1930 with the establishment of the PATCO (Philippine Aerial Taxi Company). In 1933 INAEC (Iloilo-Negros Air Express Company) was established. Manila later became the key-point of all aviation routes in the Far East.
The old telegraph line during the Spanish regime was improved during the American regime. Later, wireless telegraph was introduced to maintain communication with the outside world.
VII. INDIVIDUAL FREEDOM
Colonization implies the bringing over of the American practices and institutions. One of the institutions brought by the Americans is the partisan politics. In 1916, after the creation of the newly organized bicameral legislature, Philippine politics followed American groove. Thus, many American political practices finally found a rich soil here in the Philippines. In addition, the control of law-making body and the Filipinization policy of Harrison led to a deep political consciousness among the Filipinos.
VIII. LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE
One of the most lasting influences by the Americans is the development of Filipino literature in English and the adoption of American words and phrases in the Philippine langauages. The pioneers of poem and essay writing in pale reflection of national life were Juan F. Salazar, Justo Juliano, Bernardo P. Garcia, Teodoro M. Kalaw, TarcillaMalabanan, Francisco Africa, etc. Beginning with the 1930s, the Filipino writers began to ramify: they only wrote poems and essays but also short stories and a few novels and dramas. The drama and the novel were neglected branches of literature. By third generation, the young Tagalog writers, deeply influenced by English literature, began translating English phrases into the national language.
IX. NEGATIVE RESULTS
The American occupation doesn’t only have positive results, there were also seamy sides. Thus, many Filipinos take pride in describing the Philippines not only as the Christian country in the Orient – which means nothing – but also as the most Westernized country in the Orient.
The economic invasion of the Philippines brought the American mode of living close to the Filipinos. American goods and services were at first considered luxuries. After forty-five years of occupation, they became necessities. This conditioning of the Filipino mind to the American standard of living has made them economically dependent on the United States.
The mental attitude that despises one’s own and loves anything foreign is the natural result of American “altruism” bolstered by propaganda. While the Spaniards almost killed the Filipinos by maltreatment, the Americans, on the other hand, almost smothered the Filipinos by pampering their stomach. The first became a negative factor in the development of the Filipino nationalism; the second became a positive factor in the de-Filipinization of the Filipinos. Thus, while enjoying the “blessing” of America, the Filipinos suffered a partial loss of their racial heritage.
The softening of the Filipino spine, which resulted from too many American canned goods, in turn resulted in the persistence of the colonial mentality.
“Nothing like America” in a phrase that has sunk into the subconscious of the average Filipino, even if, in trying to be charming and kittenish in humor his former master, he is, in turn, despised and looked down asa prehensile moron.
The Filipinos excel as imitators, but their limitation is usually limited to the seamy aspect of American life. Gangsterism, juvenile delinquency, promiscuous love affairs, betrayals, racketeering, graft and corruption – all these have been brought to the Philippines through Hollywood.
Under America, the Filipino standard of living was raised to a level higher than what it used to de during the Spanish times. The development of natural resources, the increase in agricultural production and the growth of commerce and industry brought about greater material prosperity. The national wealth increased, thereby enabling the people to live more comfortably and enjoy luxuries imported from abroad.
Generally, Filipinos who experienced life under the American era attest to their satisfaction with their lives in that era as compared to the Spanish and Japanese regimes. It was not until the last 20th century that Filipinos began to regret the cost of becoming economically-dependent on the United States.
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