foreign correspondent, Bob Couttie is an experienced British director, screenwriter and
radio playwright. He was co-founder of the first independent newspaper for the
Filipino community in London, now published as the Filipino Express. As a writer
on history he has contributed to Scribner's Dictionary of American History and
the Bulletin of the American Historical Collection. He is also co-founder of the Balangiga Research Group.
On December 15, 2004, Bob Couttie sat down to talk with Philnews.com about his
recent book that should be of interest to Filipinos and Americans, most
specially to the many Filipino-Americans who visit this site.
What got you started on writing this book?
I had read everything that had ever been published about this event, and a lot
that hadn't been published and realized that a lot of standard textbooks had got
a lot of stuff that was wrong. I was still--even many years later--having the
stuff quoted at me so I thought well, we need to replace what's out there and it
doesn't look like anybody else was going to do it so it might as well be me.
We found your book to be
quite extensively researched. How long did it take you to complete this book?
Actually, it begs the question as to whether it is actually complete yet.
Even since it came out, I've had new information come in and I'm hoping next
year we are going to see a US edition which can be updated, but basically, I've
been doing the research since about 1994.
We had somebody in Washington dig
through the records there, and then through a good friend of mine, Professor Rolly Borrinaga, I got a line on some of the Filipino accounts which are rarely
ever mentioned and we were able to put this together. But it still took about
ten years and it was done through the help of a wonderful lady called Jean Wall,
who is the daughter of the only guard, the only American guard to survive that
morning. So, that was great because that meant that I had not just a Filipino
source but a Waray, which Rolly is and of course we had Jean Wall who is
American and closely involved with the event through her father. And together we
worked on this for about ten years. The actual writing of the book took about 3
years, but the finalization of it took about three months.
What is the significance of
that title 'Hang the Dogs?'
Right...There is a chapter in there called 'The Time of Hang the Dogs' and
this is actually a reference to the famine season in Samar which was
traditionally at about the time this event happened. Samareņos traditionally
loved their dogs. They were hunting dogs; they were work dogs. These were not
eating dogs. But when the famine came along, there was no food for these animals
to go get and there was nothing to feed these animals with. So they had to put
aside their dogs. So within that phrase 'Hang the Dogs' is a sense of sacrifice
for the good of the community. The title got quite a lot of comment, I should
say. A good friend of mine was very concerned about it and felt that it might be
misinterpreted. But it's actually quite...I think its quite a good title and I
have to thank Rolly Borrinaga for it. It is actually derived from a Waray or
Binisaya saying of the time.
Let me go to the actual
incident itself: On September 28th, 1901 the townspeople of Balanggiga--this is
a town in Samar...Attacked the men of Company C. This was an American Company
that was assigned to that town?
Yes, they were sent down there to close the port. The town had a small port; it
was one of three major ports along that coast at the time. And they were told to
go down there, close the port so that no supplies could get in to reach the
Filipino forces who were fighting for independence and of course nothing could
come out of the port. You will regularly hear people talk about: 'oh they were
sent there for benevolent assimilation' or 'they were sent there because the
local mayor had invited them there--this is entirely wrong! It was a simple
mission that they were sent on: just close the port; if you find any insurgents,
just shoot them or capture them; and basically take control of food stocks and
so on, in the town.