Going back to the Balangiga incident or the Balangiga massacre, a lot of our readers are not familiar with this incident and what happened there. Could you briefly tell them what the Balangiga massacre was all about?

Okay well, Balangiga is a very nice little town on the Eastern coast of Samar, very sleepy, it was one of the major ports, and during the period of the Philippine-American war, Company C of the 9th Infantry Regiment which was 78 men were sent there to set up a garrison and to control everything going through the port. Now, as time went on--this happened as the summer was moving into the famine season, the commander of the garrison ordered food seizures because he believed the were going to the insurgents, or the Filipino forces. This made the people scared that they were going to starve to death over the rainy season. And they figured that the only way they could survive was to drive away the garrison.

And this is what they did on the morning of September 28, it was a Saturday and about four to five hundred townspeople and a small number of people who we haven't yet quite identified--they appear to have been some insurgents but I'm pretty sure from their description they came from the mountains--they attacked the company, they killed about 48 of the American soldiers, they left about two dozen of them alive who escaped to Tasay which is about 35 miles up the coast. A very horrendous journey, two dozen people in open boats, all but three were injured, and two died during the journey later. The Filipinos at Balangiga lost about 30 people--dead. And they [Americans] then abandoned the town. The next day the Americans came back, set fire to the town and for some reason, a month later they came back again and bombarded the town from ships...the phrase there was not one stone left upon another.

So it was quite a brave action on the part of the Filipinos, but there was also a lot of courage shown on the side of the Americans as well. The American soldiers, despite what some people like to say, overall did not seem to behave badly--there were some issues over their treatment of women, there was no rape, but they were perhaps cheeky to the women in a way that was not acceptable to this very conservative, very rural type of town where people are very protective of their women-folk, and very respectful. So this seems to be a line that the Americans crossed. The other thing that they crossed was when about eighty of the town's men were rounded-up to undergo forced labor to cleanup the town. And this basically embarrassed these guys, it shamed them, and put them into a situation where they had to attack the garrison to recover their own honor. And the belief system of the culture was that if you didn't do this, then the spirits would come and get you and give you a hard time. So they were driven into a situation where they didn't have much choice but to attack the garrison.

We believe that there were warnings given before the attack that were basically a message to "hey pal, back off, you're getting into trouble here." But these warnings were so indirect--which is a very Filipino thing, as you know. The warning were very indirect, that nobody really picked-up on it. And it was only later that one of the American survivors said "well, we were told about this attack on a Spanish garrison, and we think this was to advise us that the same could happen to us" but he was only remembering that afterwards. So there were warnings given, that's why I refer to it as a tragedy in that the situation need not have arisen if people had listened, and listened on both sides. This also is an overall tragedy for the Filipino-American war, if people had listened--particularly if Otis who of course administered Manila at the beginning, had listened to Aguinaldo and tried to put together a form of words that was acceptable to both sides that included the word independence--then the Philippine-American would not have happened; twenty to twenty-five thousand Filipino soldiers would not have died; four thousand American soldiers would not have died; and many others would have been alive.

So its a tragedy...a tragedy of a lack of communication, which is something that is very relevant to the current situation in Iraq for instance. People are making comparisons with Iraq and the Philippine-American war. Not all of those comparisons are negative ones. I mean one can talk about the application of torture in the Philippine-American war and what happened at Abu Ghraib. But that isn't all. There were other things that the Americans are doing 'right' there and it looks that they're beginning to do right in Iraq. They're recruiting a lot more of for instance, the local forces. And it was when they recruited the local forces in the Philippine-American war that I think they really began to make headway against the Filipino government forces, or the insurgents.

Being a Brit, I'm sort of in between the two. I'm sort of sympathetic to the Philippine cause for independence, but I also feel rather sorry for the situation the Americans were in.