By GEMMA CRUZ ARANETA
In a few days, I will launch my new book, a collection of articles about the conquest of the Philippines by the USA, published in this very space during the last 13 years. As you probably know, the title is 50 Years in Hollywood (subtitle: The USA Conquers the Philippines) and in the author’s foreword, I explain where the title comes from and why I chose it.
Last night, I had a strange dream, perhaps I am nervous about the launch: Fickle habagat might suck in a storm to rain on my parade; my friends might not buy the book because the subject is jolting; at this late date, I have not decided on the guest speaker who is suppose to give an elucidating presentation of my work. That was probably why I dreamt that Mark Twain suddenly appeared and started talking about how the USA conquered the Philippines.
As he entered the Cameron Forbes room (which I have reserved for the launch), Mr. Mark Twain, with a shock of white wind-blown hair, bellowed that in Gen. Arthur MacArthur’s judgment, the Philippine incident is closed—substantially. But in his opinion, it was not over yet. “We may now take an account of stock and try and find out how much we have made or lost. The [US] government went into the speculation on certain definite grounds which it believed from the viewpoint of statesmanship, to be good and sufficient.” He then hinted that it was not only. “For the sake of the money supposed to be in it.”
Mark Twain declared that the US government conquered the Philippines,” in order to become a world power and get a back seat in the family of nations. “We have scored on that point. We have secured the back seat, and the President is sitting on it and trying to enjoy the tacks that are in it. We are a World Power, no one can deny it; a toy one, it is true, but still a World Power; a funny one, a fictitious one, a brass-gilt one, a tuppence-ha’penny one, but a World Power just the same.” My guests were perplexed, specially those who had never learned these facts of life in school.
A pillar of the Anti-Imperialist League, Mark Twain was unstoppable, he continued his broadsides: “We have bought some islands from a party who did not own them, with real smartness and a good counterfeit of disinterested friendliness. We coaxed a confiding weak nation into a trap and closed it upon them, we went back on an honoured guest of the stars and stripes when we had no further use for him and chased him to the mountains. We are as indisputably in possession of a wide-spreading archipelago as if it were our property.” I could hear my guests gasping,” He is referring to Spain…he means Aguinaldo….”
Then Mr. Twain described the atrocities committed by America’s invading forces. As they pacified some thousands of the islanders, Mark Twain said the hapless natives were buried, their fields destroyed, villages burnt, and widows and orphans sent out of doors. Dozens of disagreeable patriots were exiled while Benevolent Assimilation subjugated the remaining ten million, “…which is the pious new name for the musket.” He sounded like my mother giving us children one of her master classes about the Philippine-American War.
“We are a World Power,” he exclaimed with unveiled sarcasm. “It is the duty of our government to stand sentinel, with solemn mien, and lifted nose, and curved paws on top of our little World Power mound, and look out over the wide prairie and bark, if anything suspicious shows up in the horizon.”
He also revealed that when Commodore Dewey sent word that he had destroyed the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay, a cabinet meeting was called, “…in order to clear up several mysteries and find out how best to proceed.” Apparently, the eminent cabinet of the US President did not even know whether Manila was a town, continent, or archipelago. “Some cabinet members believed it was one of those things, some another. The President reserved his opinion. Some cabinet members thought it was somewhere, some thought it was elsewhere, others thought not. Again, the President declined to commit himself,” Mark Twain was enjoying himself at the expense of the “expansionists.”
Although Dewey’s victory in Manila Bay “produced a frenzied excitement,“ the cabinet members had to adjourn the meeting and given a chance to cool down.” On 30 April, cablegrams from Singapore and Hong Kong located the Philippines, but only mentioned Luzon and another of the islands; it also confirmed that Manila was a town, not a continent which disappointed most of the cabinet members who were “anticipating a continent and not just two islands.” But, were those two islands an archipelago? “An archipelago might be a dignified thing to have,” said Mr. Twain, “if there was a good deal of it, but a stump-tailed one like this — would it be worthwhile? No, it would not. Could we take some West Indian islands and add them to these two and thus piece out an archipelago that would be up to standard? “
Soon enough, “… it leaked out that the Philippines were a whole archipelago. This was a bolt out of the blue for the cabinet. Twelve hundred islands, ten millions of inhabitants! So, the President instructed the Army to take possession of the archipelago, and cabled the Paris Commissioners to buy it… Spain did not own the archipelago, but she owned the Pacific Ocean, also the sky above it, and the greater always includes the smaller.”
Then I woke up and Mark Twain my dream guest speaker had vanished.