At that time the Filipino
forces were headed by General Vicente Lukban who was in charge of that
part of Samar. Is that right?
That's right, he had been sent down there in December, 1898 basically
to govern the island on behalf of the Aguinaldo Republic and government. This was obviously before
started-up between the Filipinos and the Americans. So he was effectively the
Philippine government on Samar, and as things went on he then became the leader
of the Philippine forces--the guerilla forces on the island. He was a very
competent man I think.
book does indicate that. You hold General Lukban in high regard.
I think it is very important that wherever one's sympathies lie in an incident
like this, that you recognize the value and the honor and so on of people on
both sides. I think this is what has often got in the way of people
understanding the Philippine-American conflict--one side is painted as all black
and the other side is painted as all white. Really, you have to look at it and
say 'well yes, Lukban was competent.' There were people on the American side like MacArthur, like Lawton who were very competent--they were very brave--Funston was very brave.
You cannot judge people's courage
or ability based on which side they were on, this is not a paradigm I accept...yes I do
have regard for Lukban.
Along the same lines, you do mention in your book that
"it can be argued that Aguinaldo should have taken Manila immediately instead of following Dewey's
instructions to merely hold it to siege. Dewey's threat to bombard Filipino
forces if they entered the city was little more than a bluff." But Aguinaldo
kept his word and things would have turned out quite differently I suspect had
he gone ahead and attacked the city?
Well it may have ended up differently but it could have been even worse. At that
time there was a strong foreign contingent in the city: British, French, German,
Chinese (who were the responsibility of the British), there were Japanese there;
and of course each of those countries had sent observation teams: the French had
ships in the harbor, the British, so did the Japanese. So had Aguinaldo
actually gone into Manila, these other countries may have got involved in trying
to protect their own nationals--using any excuse the could of course, and
Aguinaldo could have ended up fighting not just the United States, but every
other super power on the planet. So it probably was not necessarily a good idea,
but also I think his aim was to show that the Filipinos were a civilized people
and... were following or adhering to standards--yes, they're Western
standards--but, standards of a civilized nation, and I think that's what he was
trying to project.
He wanted to appear legitimate in the eyes of the Western powers?
Yes, that's absolutely correct. I think what would have made a big difference is
if somebody had had the smarts to say to Aguinaldo 'okay we will give you
independence in name, but you must let us run the country behind-the-scenes' and
I would think that would have brought eventually true independence for the
Philippines. Unfortunately, no body was smart enough to do that. It was as if the
American side had this blind spot. They didn't know the Philippines; they didn't
know the country had been fighting for independence already for two years,
before the Spanish-American war.
Unlike the Cubans. The Cubans had set up propaganda in the United States to
support their cause for independence, they've been there many years, and the
Cuban community in the United States had built connections with senators,
congressmen, with the press in the States--the Filipinos had not done that. So
when the US came here, they knew nothing about the country, and the country did
not have a presence in the US. Which is perhaps one of the failing but then I
don't think the Filipinos realized just how much of a super-power the United
States had become or how low Spanish power had got.