Mock Battle, Real Betrayal
One hundred twenty-two years ago, in the early evening of August 13, 2020, the American flag was raised over Fort Santiago marking the start of American colonization of the Philippines. This was preceded by the so-called “Mock Battle of Manila,” a charade of a skirmish between American and Spanish forces designed to placate the latter and betray the Filipinos.
It is quite understandable why this significant event received scant attention last week as we continue our real battle against the coronavirus and as our people fight a genuine struggle to keep their livelihood amidst the lockdown. But I have always believed that our history teaches us things we can use to illuminate issues we face today. I have always been fascinated by how our past illuminates our present and future.
The Mock Battle of Manila was the result of negotiations between US Commodore George Dewey and Spanish Governor-General Fermin Jaudenes to end the conflict between the United States—together with Filipino revolutionary forces—and Spain battling for control over Manila. This battle was part of the larger theater of conflict in the Spanish-American War.
The key issues of these negotiations were focused on how to satisfy the demands of the Spaniards to keep their pride despite surrendering and how to keep Manila from falling into the hands of the Philippine Revolutionary forces led by Emilio Aguinaldo. The solution was deception and betrayal.
And so in the morning of August 13, 1898, a staged battle was fought at Fort San Antonio Abad. The US and Spanish forces knew about the farcical engagement but the Filipinos—as they always do—fought their hearts out in trying to defeat their colonizer of more than three centuries.
As scripted, the Spanish Army inside Intramuros surrendered. Historians tell us that this fake battle should not have been fought at all. Apparently, a Peace Protocol suspending all hostilities between the US and Spanish forces had been signed a day before but Admiral Dewey decided to cut the cable connecting Manila with Hong Kong and the outside world.
And so the mock battle ensued. The Spaniards were able to “save face,” the Americans procured their first colony, and the Filipinos were left to face another Western colonizing force after gallantly defeating one. The Filipinos were not even allowed to enter Manila for the victory celebrations.
I remember being so angry while reading this event in our history textbooks when I was still a student. But the betrayal did not end there. Four months later, the US and Spain would sign the Treaty of Paris which ended the conflict between the two countries. This treaty was significant because it signified the end of the Spanish empire and the beginnings of American global dominance.
The Filipinos were left in the dark regarding the details of the treaty but they would later discover the extent of treachery inflicted upon their beloved country. The Treaty of Paris included an onerous provision that Spain would cede the Philippine Islands to the US in return for the sum of twenty million dollars.
The brave Filipino patriots, after having defeated Spanish forces, would engage in another battle for independence against the Americans on February 4, 1899, the start of the Philippine-American War.
Historical events like these make clear the importance of our independence and sovereignty. It explains the series of foreign policy moves of President Rodrigo Duterte that unentangled us from too much dependence on American power and opened up new avenues of alliances with Japan, China, Russia, and our Southeast Asian neighbors.
All countries look after their own interest. We should make it a habit to always look after the interest of the Filipinos.