EVEN after Filipino scholar Luzviminda Francisco made a thorough documentation of the Philippine-American War in her book, The End of an Illusion (London, 1973,) little attention either from Filipinos or Americans was given to what was considered the “First Vietnam.”

American textbooks contain several pages on the Spanish-American War but only devote a paragraph to the Philippine-American war despite the latter being more pronounced in terms of duration, scale, and number of casualties. The war is also depicted as “insurrectionary,” glossing over the fact that the Americans had invaded the Philippines and waged war against the Flipinos.

Filipino-American scholar Dylan Rodriguez was so fascinated by the historical amnesia of both Americans and Filipinos about the war that he researched further on the matter.

“I have been doing this academic research for about a decade now, and I think I will never be done with it,” Rodriguez told a symposium last Dec.14 at the Faculty of Arts and Letters audio-visual room.

Rodriguez’ thesis is the genocidal character of the First Vietnam. The number of casualties of the war is not even mentioned in any US or Philippine history books.

Stanley Karnow, in his book, In Our Image (1989), places it at 200,000 Filipino casualties, which is only a seventh of the actual number gathered by Francisco.

The death of 1.4 million Filipinos, or a sixth of the entire Filipino population, during that time, has been usually accounted for as either collateral damage or victims of insurrection against the imperial authority of the US.

“It is as if the US shares a place of sanctity in the collective Filipino common sense,” Rodriguez said.  Despite these facts, Rodriguez observed that Filipinos are uncomfortable with critiques of the West.

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“The two things most Filipinos cannot stomach are substantive critiques of the US as a reactionary and oppressive force, and serious critical analysis of the Catholic Church as a central historical force in the domination of the Philippines and effective regional domination of non-Christian people,” Rodriguez said.

He also added that the Filipinos’ innate hospitality for the Americans drive the wounds of the past untended,” Rodriguez said.

“Filipino identity is not found in the anti-colonial struggle against the US occupation but by the primary point of origin where it would rather be repressed in a collective memory of racist genocide at the hands of the American military conquest, and a successive negotiation of Filipino independence where in it was more or less pre-ordained as introduction to American colonial rule.”

Rodriguez added that the Filipino history itself has been corrupted so as not to show the entanglements of the First Vietnam war.

“Filipinos—and particularly ‘Filipino-Americans,’ as they have named themselves—are entangled in a historical knot of white supremacy and US state violence,” Rodriguez said. “As such, Filipinos have generally refused or failed to seriously address the implications of this mess for their conceptions of identity, community, religion, nationality, and, in fact, Filipino history itself.”

Rodriguez maintained that his research is far from over, although retelling this story to people would make an actual difference.

“I am encouraging students to write, talk, and think about genocide in the present tense—even when genocide has ended, it really is never over.  The outcomes and legacies of genocide are part of our everyday existence.”

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The symposium was organized by the Department of Literature and sponsored by the Varsitarian. Marc Laurenze C. Celis

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