(Part of an occasional series on US diplomats and their relationships with the Philippines)
Benigno ‘Ninoy’ Aquino’s death on 21 August 1983 on the apron of what is now the airport named after him, lit the fuse to the overthrow of the notoriously corrupt dictatorship of President Ferdinand Marcos in February 1986. It led to the presidency of Corazon Aquino, and the controversial incumbency of Rodrigo Duterte, son of Ferdinand Marco’s former executive secretary, whose mother was a bitter opponent of Marcos.
The striking of the match that lit the fuse may have come as early as 1972 when Marcos made a strategic error – he arrested Ninoy Aquino.
Ambassador Frank E. Maestrone, who died in 2007, served as US Consular Officer from 1971 and was interviewed by the late Hank Zivetz for the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training Foreign Affairs Oral History Project, in 1989. He had a front-row seat.
He gives us a sense of the complexities underlying the road to Martial Law – violence on the streets, a weak central government unable to bring provincial war-lords to heel.
Among the surprises, perhaps, is that Ninoy Aquino would have supported Martial Law as a temporary measure. However, Marcos’s first step was to arrest the opposition, eliminating the moderate opposition entirely, which strengthened the Communist insurgency and leading to a quintupling of recruitment into the NPA.
Maestrone’s interview is given here without comment.
Most of us who study Philippine history, especially the American occupation, are familiar with Kipling’s poem, The White Man’s Burden, urging America to take up its ‘responsibilities towards its newly acquired colony, the Philippines, but few are aware that the creator of Tarzan, Edgar Rice-Burroughs went into bat for the Filipinos with a blistering poem of his own, The Black Man’s Burden.
Rice-Burroughs was a military veteran, having served with the 7th US Cavalry at Fort Grant, Arizona, shortly before the Spanish-American War and Philippine-American War. He was familiar with the Apache Wars, which were still fresh in people’s minds. As his novels War Chief and Apache Savage show, he was very familiar with the treatment of the Indians in that period. Those novels were written at a time when a more sympathetic view of the Indians was on the rise and the realisation of what had been done to them, was emerging.
It has been said that the Apache novels, now less well-known, than his John Carter novels and Tarzan were by far the best written of all his output.
At the time he wrote The Black Man’s Burden, his days of fame were far ahead, he had yet to become a writer of the adventure books that made him famous.
Drawing together all the threads of history leads us on fascinating adventures and familiar names on unfamiliar trails. Those of us who travel the highways and byways of Philippine history know that US Major-General Henry Ware Lawton was killed in the Battle of Paye during the Philippine-American War by a sniper under the command of Filipino General Licerio Geronimo and that Lawton was involved in the surrender of Apache Chief, Geronimo. The links between Geronimo and the Philippines come together again at the 1904 St Louis Worlds Fair when the legendary Apache chief saw Igorottes for the first time.
At the time of the fair, Geronimo had been a prisoner of war for almost 20 years, he was in his 70s. He was allowed off the reservation at Fort Sill under guard for special events. He was such a VIP prisoner that he had the ear of President Theodore Roosevelt.
He had a deal with a photographer under which he got 10 cents for every 25 cent photograph he sold. He also sold his autograph for varying amounts and was allowed to keep all the money. He also sold Indian artifacts like War Bonnets. All 9in all he did well financially, making as much as $2 a day, about $30 today and he amassed more money than he had ever had in his life.
Really, I was not planning to do much more on the Tallano fraud, then I noticed a shared Facebook post from a Ging Inigo on behalf of the fraudulent Bureau of Central Interpol/Interpolcom and its convicted bank fraudster, Mr. Tiburcio Villamor Marcos Tallano. I might have just giggled at the silliness and moved on.
Mr Tallano is one of three operating fraudsters claiming ownership of thousands of tonnes of non-existent gold on the basis of laughably forged documents. The other two main scammers are Julian Mordern Tallano and a ‘Queen’ Salvacion Legaspi, all using much the same fraudlent documents.
A fraudster threatens
Then came the threat.
It is time to reveal the truth about these corrupters of Philippine history with fake tales of non-existent gold.
No matter how long one has been studying Philippine history there is always something new. It is one of the pleasures of diggingthrough dusty tomes and digital libraries. I belong to some of the better Facebook history groups, which means once in a while something comes up that gets my investigative juices going, like the report that the Philippines could have been called the McKinley Islands, after US President William McKinley who allegedly promised to Christianise and civilise the Archipelago as he pinned a paper US flag into a map in 1901 while pitching for the Methodist vote in an upcoming election.
Had McKinley run for another term he might well have won, but for two bullets fired at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York on 6 September 1901 by Leon Czolgosz, a Polish-American anarchist born in Michigan. McKinley died a week later. On 26 October, three 1,800 volt charges were sent through his body, he was declared dead and his body dissolved in sulphuric acid and what was left buried in prison grounds.
It was claimed that one of Czolgosz’s complaints against McKinley was the US actions in the Philippines.
Your order books are full, you can sell everything you can make and the forward orders might just get you into Forbes. The 500, not the park. Problem: you need warm bodies on the production line. So you call in your Human Resources Manager and he… does what? This is after all the late 1700s in Jolo and you’re the Sultan of Sulu, a Taosug aristocrat, and rule from southern Mindanao to North Borneo and the Celebes. There won’t be a classified page until, at best, 1811. You could wait until 1860 and get a free six-line slave wanted ad for free by subscribing to the Diario De Manila, but a century is an awfully long time to wait for the hired help.
You need people to produce deliverables. So, you indent for a kampilan from the company stores, get the transportation department to send 1,000 company bancas around to the front door, load up your lantakas with powder and shot and go off for some serious recruitment in Leyte, Samar, Luzon and wherever else doesn’t have kampilan, lantakas and customers screaming for product.
It was in the 18th century that the slave-raiding business-model changed from one of securing a product, slaves, to sell around the region to one of of acquiring a labour force to produce product to sell to the British for their trade with China.
Don’t think of it as slavery, think of it as hard core recruitment.
Public demonstrations of status and wealth require investing in things that are unnecessary, expensive, beautiful, and preferably labour-intensive, whether it is a Cartier watch, a Lamborghini, or a trophy wife. As Saddam Hussein, Idi Amin, Imelda Marcos and Donald Trump show, these items need not be tasteful or stylish, nor need the wealth be honourably acquired.
Embroidered Piña, the Philippine textile derived for the leaves of a pineapple, ticks all the boxes. It is unnecessary in that cheap cotton covers the body just as well, it is costly, inarguably beautiful, and certainly labour-intensive. Literally fit for a queen, that queen being Victoria.
Sometimes one comes across a bit of information that makes one raise an eyebrow in surprise then, a moment later, makes one wonder why one was surprised in the first place. So it was when I discovered that the first motorised ambulances in Manila were not run on petrol or diesel but on electricity and steam.
Today, much is made of the new electric-powered jeepneys on city streets today, but the basic technology is more than 125 years old.
When I think of electric vehicles I think not of Tesla’s battery-powered sportscars but the humble British milk float. Early each morning this once-common vehicle delivered bottles of milk to nearly everybody’s doorstep from a little before dawn. Its characteristic sound was a faint thump as the drive engaged then a quiet hum and a rattle of glass bottles as it set off to its next delivery.
The loudest noise about it was often the whistling of the milkman.
Having once earned pocket money helping a milkman on his rounds, I still rescue a dropped bottle by putting my foot underneath it.
It was that silence that made electric ambulances ideal in the first two decades of 20th century Manila. But electric ambulances were not the only driving force in town, as we shall see.
It was steam-powered vehicles that gave us the word chauffeur, derived from a French term meaning someone who heats up the boiler for a steam-engined vehicle it lives on in Tagalog as tsuper.
It is rare that the study of history makes a difference, but it did in the case of the Balangiga Bells. The town, and its bells, have been part of my life for a quarter of a century and the work that I and Rolando Borrinaga put into establishing the real history of what happened played a role in the education program launched by US Veterans to get the bells returned.
Although my role was modest it is, nevertheless, one I am quite proud of.
The bells were returned to Balangiga on 15 December 2018. Sadly, I could not be there to greet them but I did get to see and touch them for my birthday two weeks later.
It was, for me, a moving and emotional moment as you can see below.