Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Setting the record straight

If you are ever in St. Paul , Minnesota, make it a point to visit the State Capitol and look fortwo commemorative plaques at the Capitol Rotunda.The first plaque of 1948 vintage glorifies theMinnesota 13th Volunteer Regiment for its valiant rolein the Spanish –American War. "They served the causeof humanity and freed the oppressed people of thePhilippine Islands from the despotic rule of Spain...", proclaims the first plaque. The second plaquecorrects the distortions contained in the first one.That there is a second plaque is in itself historical. The “tribute” in the first plaque makes reference to "...the Philippine Insurrection underChief Aguinaldo…" and lists all the battles gloriously won by the Volunteer Regiment . To those totally ignorant of Philippine history (as mostAmericans are) the military feats of Minnesota’s 13th Volunteer Regiment sound most impressive, but the truth is that the only battle fought by the Minnesota Volunteers against the “despotic rule of Spain” was that mock naval skirmish, on 13 August 1898, glowingly called “Battle of Manila Bay”.

The other battles fought by the Minnesota volunteers were not to “free the oppressed people of the Philippine Islands” but were against the Filipino people themselves whom they branded as “insurgents”. They were fighting the Philippine Revolutionary Army and the First Republic of the Philippines headed by a President, not a chieftain. How many more commemorative plaques in the USA bear such a plethora of historical distortions?

Interestingly enough, the Minnesota 13th Volunteer Regiment was supposed to have been sent to Cuba but at the last minute, they were ordered to board a train bound for San Francisco from where they were sent to the Philippines. Records attest that the commander, surgeon and chaplain of the Minnesota Regiment asked Gov. John Lind to recall the volunteers due to atrocities committed during the war. If only for that they should not have been honored with an adulatory plaque at the State Capitol.

For thirty- four long years, the Filipino community in Minnesota waged a relentless campaign to have a corrective plaque installed beside the erroneous one. They had hoped that by the Philippine Centennial in 1998, the gross historical distortions would have been corrected, but it was not possible. Far from discouraged, the Philippine Study Group of Minnesota and the Minnesota Historical Society set up an unprecedented “Philippine –American War” exhibit right at the Capitol, that ran from June, 1998 toDecember 30, 1998. There were newspaper clippings that reported war atrocities, revolutionary flags from that period, artifacts, pictures, as well as letters written from the field by the Minnesota volunteers revealing unbecoming conduct during the war. There was also an autographed picture of President EmilioAguinaldo.

Finally, on February 4, 2002, the 103rd anniversary of the Philippine-American War, Gov. Jesse Ventura ( a Vietnam War veteran), signed a bill funding the second plaque that effectively corrects the first one . At the unveiling, members of both Houses of the Minnesota Legislature were in attendance, so was the Philippine Ambassador and the Commander of the Minnesota National Guard who solemnly declared that there was an urgent need "to set the record straight".

( source: Adelbert Batica ,originally from Samar, now a US resident)

2 comments:

Senor Enrique said...

I think that as more Filipinos and Fil-Ams delve into its history and heritage, many more similar corrections will be voiced out and hence implemented.

Anonymous said...

Please get rid of the blue background and make it plain black and white so it can be read easier. All the best from Balti and me.