A photo caption distorted Filipino history

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As president of the Filipino American Association of Pittsburgh, I wish to comment on the photo caption in the Feb. 7 Local section that referred to the death of Col. Alexander Leroy Hawkins "during the Philippine insurrection of 1899."

For many first-generation Filipino Americans, especially the more recent arrivals, the reference to an insurrection in the Philippines would come as a surprise since Filipino history books refer to that period (and we believe rightfully so) as the Philippine-American War. For almost 30 years prior to the arrival of the American armed forces in the Philippines, Filipinos had been engaged in attempts to be free of Spanish colonial rule. The rebellion against Spanish rule broke into open hostilities in 1896, leading to the declaration of independence on June 12, 1898.

By the time of the arrival of the American naval forces, the Philippines had mostly been liberated from the Spanish colonial forces and Manila was under siege. Refusing to surrender to the Filipinos, the Spanish governor instead surrendered Manila to Admiral Dewey. The ensuing occupation of Manila led to friction between the forces, erupting in open warfare on Feb. 4, 1899. The war did not officially end until July 4, 1902.

To refer to this event as an insurrection is to diminish, as all colonial governments are wont to do, the historical struggle of a people for its independence. The struggle continued until the United States agreed to give the Philippines its independence on July 4, 1946. Today, Many Filipinos recognize and are thankful for the many American contributions to Filipino life and history, but the memory of the Philippine-American War, the death of hundreds of thousands and the suspension of the Filipino quest for independence will not be forgotten. In fact, Filipinos do not celebrate July 4 as their independence day; rather, they celebrate it on June 12.

Jefferson Hills



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