Remembering the Filipino struggles for freedom
BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz (The Philippine Star) - June 9, 2019 - 12:00am

On Wednesday, June 12, we commemorate Philippine Independence, a celebration of our declaration of independence day. Many people often ask why do we celebrate the past, why do we study history? 

We study our historical struggles for freedom and democracy in order to remember the heroism of our people even during the darkest periods. So we remember the revolts against Spain and the war against the Americans. We remember how we campaigned for independence during the American occupation; and, how bravely our heroes fought in Bataan, Corregidor and in the mountains and forest as guerrillas during the Japanese occupation. We will never forget that even during the darkest days of the Marcos martial law regime, there were heroes who sacrificed their lives so that we could finally topple Marcos and restore democracy.

Sometimes, we are too hasty in judging the character of our people based on what happens in one year or one election. History is an unbiased judge and will remember who were the heroes and villains. Any attempt at revising history will eventually fail just as those who oppress the people will eventually have to pay for their sins.

As we remember our Independence Day, it is again important that we tell the stories of that period to our generation and the next generation so that the stories can be passed from one generation to another. It is fortunate that a few historical movies like Antonio Luna and Goyo have been produced. But the best stories are still in books; not in textbooks that emphasize names, dates and events but in books that allow us some insights into the lives of people during a specific era. For those who are interested in reading about that period of the Philippines when it fought for independence, here are two books I would recommend.

THE FILIPINO-AMERICAN WAR 1899-1913 by Samuel K. Tan published by Cavite Historical Society and UP Press 2002

This is one of the best books on that heroic episode of Philippine history which unfortunately has not been given enough attention. This book is actually the second of a two-volume book on Philippine War for Independence. The first was SAGA and TRIUMPH: The Filipino Revolution Against Spain by Onofre D. Corpuz. Unfortunately I have not yet read this book so I will write about it once I have done so.

The book is divided into 12 chapters. The first nine chapters focuses on the historical beginnings of the war including the clash between the American search for empire and the Filipino national struggle for freedom. There are three chapters devoted to the war in Luzon until the capture of Aguinaldo in Palanan. There are three chapters devoted to the war in Visayas and Mindanao. The last three chapters center on the impact of the war on the fundamental Filipino values and institutions; and, the enduring legacy of the war.

This book also highlights the struggle and travail of the Filipino people “...after their short lived emancipation from over three hundred years of Spanish rule: It also calls attention to the many times neglected struggle of the non-Christian sector especially that of the Filipino Muslims. 

Tan is a native of Siasi, Sulu and is Muslim-Chinese-Christian ancestry. He writes: “There is no pretension to exhaustiveness in this effort to present a Filipino view of a war that was neither desired nor welcomed but had to be fought regardless of the costs and consequences. It is expected that this account of a tragic moment in Philippine history will bring back memories of Filipino patriotism and heroism which nation-building can derive inspiration and direction.”

BRAINS of the NATION: Pedro Paterno, T.H. Pardo de Tavera, Isabelo de los Reyes and the Production of Modern Knowledge by Resil B. Mojares published by Ateneo Press 2006.

A national struggle for freedom is conceived, not by generals, but by its intellectual class. The book’s title is taken from a quotation from Jose Rizal: “...if today the enlightened class constitutes the brains of the nation, within a few years it will constitute its entire nervous system and manifest its existence in all its acts.”

According to its introduction: “Grounded in a detailed analysis of the lives and works of Pedro Paterno, T.H. Pardo de Tavera and Isabelo de los Reyes, the book is a highly textured portrait of a generation that created the self-consciousness of the Filipino nation. It explores the historical conditions that shaped the emergence of a modern Philippine intelligentsia.”

I was interested in this book because it diverged from the usual books that named, as the leading Philippine intellectuals in the birth of the Filipino nationhood people like Jose Rizal, Marcelo H. Del Pilar, Juan Luna, Graciano Lopez Jaena and Emilio Jacinto. In fact, in the famous painting by Guillermo Tolentino; of the “Filipino Illustrados”. T.H. Pardo de Tavera and Isabelo de los Reyes were not included. However, it is the contention of Mojares that the formation of modern knowledge in the Philippines could be traced through the lives of the three pioneering intellectuals he wrote about. 

The fourth section of the book is “The Filipino Enlightenment” and not about any specific person. In the chapter “The rise of an Intelligentsia,” he writes: After the 1860s Filipino increasingly came to refer not only to creoles but natives and Chinese and Spanish mestizos. An intelligentsia was formed that was “modern” in the manner in which it engaged Western knowledge and “Filipino” in the sense of location and nationality  shaped by a consciousness of being “different”.

Despite some temporary setbacks, a study of Philippine history will describe a people that rose in three hundred rebellions against the Spanish colonizers and fought against the tyranny of the  Americans, the Japanese and the Marcoses in a struggle for freedom.

Creative writing classes for kids and teens

Young Writers’ Hangout on June 15, 22 (1:30 pm-3pm; stand-alone sessions) and for the Adult Series, Writing with Humor and Satire with John Jack G. Wigley on June 29 at Fully Booked BGC.  For details and registration, email

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