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Mar 26th
Home Sections History Dr. Owen Comments on "Filipino Trivia" or "Filipino Pride" Historical Hoaxes
Dr. Owen Comments on "Filipino Trivia" or "Filipino Pride" Historical Hoaxes PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 09 September 2007 02:09


(Editor's Notes: Dr. Norman G. Owen, who is based in Hong Kong, has authorized Bobby M. Reyes to reprint his comments posted in the alt.psst.hoy and soc.culture.Filipino e-newsgroups. This is part of Reyes' mission of debunking of the "Filipino Trivia" message. Dr. Owen requested that we include his opening and closing paragraphs, in which he indicated that he is not a Caucasian or "some Puti" trying to squelch Filipino pride. He believes that Filipinos do have much to be proud of, but their cause is not advanced when they mix fantasy in with the facts. Chris Sundita, a member of the Mayon eGroups, forwarded to us Dr. Owen's comments. Readers may remember that this article was published in the in March 2000 as part of the series on "The Inaccuracies, Half-truths, Lies and Hoaxes in the 'Filipino Trivia' Internet Article.")

From: Norman G. Owen (
Subject: Re: Filipino Pride
Newsgroups: alt.psst.hoy, soc.culture.filipino
View complete thread (31 articles)
Date: 1999/06/17

S tirring up Filipino pride is admirable, but I can't help feeling that in the long run it may be weakened when, in the middle of some indisputable facts, there are highly-questionable assertions such as those indicated below. Many readers, in my experience, only need to see one "fact" that they know is wrong and they'll wind up disbelieving everything - including the facts that they might benefit from.

[NB: I'm not faulting "Maria Clara" for this; she's just forwarding along information provided by others, which I appreciate.]

(ALLEGATION) "Unknown to many people, Filipino American history began on October 18,1587. Filipinos were the first Asians to cross the Pacific Ocean as early as 1587, fifty years before the first English settlement of Jamestown was established."

(Dr. Owen) Probably the first, though you'll find some claims of even earlier Chinese or Japanese crossings . . .


(ALLEGATION) "But between these waves of immigration, it is through the "colonization of our native land," the Philippines, that brought us here. For over 300 years, Spain had colonized the Philippines using Manila Bay as their great seaport, trading silver and rich spices."

(Dr. Owen) Silver from Mexico; silk from China; no "rich spices" (the Dutch in Indonesia monopolized them, much to the Spaniards' regret), and almost no Philippine produce before the 19th century.

(ALLEGATION) "In exchange for gold, the Spaniards gave Filipinos Christianity. We were called Filipinos after King Philip II of Spain. This is why we have Spanish surnames like Bautista, Calderon, Marquez, and Santos. Our Spanish connection came to an end after the Spanish-American War in 1898 when America wanted to control the Philippines. Unknown to Filipinos, through the Treaty of Paris (April 11, 1899), Spain sold the Philippines to the United States for $20 million, thus ending over 300 years of Spanish colonization."

(Dr. Owen) Minor quibbles: (1) it was certainly not "unknown" to Aguinaldo's government, which actually sent a representative (Felipe Agoncillo) to Paris, where the negotiations between Spain and the US were going on (they didn't let him in, of course); (2) technically, the islands were not "sold" (but then technically the US never paid "rent" for the military bases, so we'll let that pass)

(ALLEGATION) "Filipinos celebrated their independence from Spain on June 12, 1898, and declared Emilio Aguinaldo as president. However, the people of the Philippines were not truly free. In fact, they never were. America was its new ruler and had cheated the Filipinos in believing that they were free."

(Dr. Owen) Very minor quibble: I'd say that the US deceived Aguinaldo, et al, into believing that they "would be" free (independent) after the war with Spain was over, rather than that they "were" free.

(ALLEGATION) "Thus, the Filipino American War began shortly after U.S. colonization. Known in U.S. history books as the "Philippine Insurrection, it was a bloody precursor to Vietnam. The Filipino American War was America's first true overseas war."

(Dr. Owen) So far so good.

(ALLEGATION) "The War lasted from 1898 to 1902, and in those 3 years as many as 70,000 Americans died and close to 2 million Filipinos were killed."

(Dr. Owen) Nonsense. It was a terrible, bloody war, but the number of Filipinos who "died" was considerably less than 1 million, and the number of those who were actually "killed" by Americans (as opposed to dying of disease, etc.) was probably only (!) in the tens of thousands. It was a shameful episode in American history, but grossly exaggerating the numbers involved makes it "less" credible, not more.

(ALLEGATION) "American soldiers were ordered to shoot and kill every one over age 10."

(Dr. Owen) In one campaign (Samar 1902), which was quickly repudiated. It was
certainly not general policy.

(ALLEGATION) "Filipinos over 10 were considered 'Criminals because they were born ten years before America took the Philippines'."

(Dr. Owen) This was not official policy, but one critic's gloss on the Samar 1902

(ALLEGATION) "There was even a special gun designed to kill Filipinos, the Colt .45 1902 "Philippine Model", where only 4,600 were made. This is the real American history that historians, academicians, and scholars forgot to tell us about."

(Dr. Owen) Maybe - but I, and many other historians I know, have been "telling" this story for decades now. (Maybe nobody's listening?) Leon Wolff's LITTLE BROWN BROTHER, which contains much of what has just been said - and lots and lots more beside - dates from 1960, and of course there are much earlier public criticisms of the war, in the US, going right back to 1899. [snip, on waves of Fil-American migration]

(ALLEGATION) "AGAPITO FLORES who in the early 1940's invented the FLOURESCENT LIGHT, thus the name FLUOR-RES-CENT."

(Dr. Owen) The term "fluorescent" dates from 1853, and comes from the Latin.
Nothing at all to do with "Flores." Almost any educated reader will look this, know it's complete nonsense, and discount anything else that's said here.

[snip on notable Filipino-Americans, etc.]

D r. Owen concludes by saying "There's a lot in this that could and should stir Filipino (-American) pride. My only point is that it's undercut by overstatement. It suggests that Filipinos don't have enough to boast of, so they have to exaggerate - which presumably is not the impression that was intended." # # #

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