Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Interregnum

When the Americans first appeared in the northern horizon in 1898, the Filipino revolution was in full swing. As a young and emerging world power, the United States had to find "excuses" to realize her vast interests in Cuba, which was then under Spain. The sinking of the American warship Marine at Havana Harbor on February 15, 1898 resulting in the death of 246 men provided the U.S. government the necessary pretext to declare war on Spain on February 25 and in the course of which Admiral George Dewey was ordered to proceed to Manila to attack the Spanish Squadron under Admiral Patricio Montojo. This was the May 1 Battle of Manila Bay, pitting a modern navy versus "veritable leaking tubs." With the Filipino revolutionaries allied with the Americans, the former won victory after victory against the Spanish forces, until on June 12, 1898, after the last Spanish soldier had surrendered, Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, unmindful of or notwithstanding the American mindset, proceeded to declare Philippine Independence at Kawit, Cavite.  
If Aguinaldo did not really misread the American intention, but deliberately played a calculated game, then he had blundered. The Americans never had the slightest intention of recognizing his declaration of independence. As a matter of fact, American troops began to occupy strategic areas vacated or surrendered to them by the retreating Spaniards, to the exclusion of the Filipino revolutionaries. As soon as they had gained enough strategic grounds, the Americans intentionally provoked the Filipinos into a shooting war which setoff the start of the Filipino-American War.  
At the outset, the Filipinos were made to believe that the Americans came to help to liberate their lands from the Spaniards, after which they would become an independent nation. Untrue to their words, the Americans did not really come to liberate the Philippines for the Filipinos but to acquire a colony in the furtherance of her own imperialist scheme.  
         In the meantime, the interval between the Spanish evacuation of the Philippines and the arrival of American troops in Mindanao and Sulu was, in a sense, ruled by anarchy. Moro warriors began to attack the Spanish garrisons in Cotabato, Zamboanga, Sulu and Lanao and sometimes wiped out the defenders to the last man. 
In Cotabato, Moro warriors began to assault the Spanish garrisons in Pikit, Reina Regente, Tumbao, Cotabato and Tamontaka. One by one, they captured these garrisons. Leading the Moros were Datu Utto, Datu Piang (Amai Mingka), former Minister of Datu Utto; Datu Ali, Piang's son-in-law and Rajahmuda of Salunayan; Datu Ampatuan or Bapa ni Mangacop, and Datu Inok or Amani Giday.  
These datus, all of the Buayan dynasty, were conspiring to reassert their supremacy over the region vacated by the Spaniards. The plot was to overthrow the Filipinos who had grabbed power to side with Katipuneros. Eventually this situation led to the fighting along Paseo de Villaeron in Cotabato on January 6, 1899, resulting in the killing of Roman Vilo, Esteban Ortuoste, and a few others. 
         As in Cotabato, chaos also reigned in Zamboanga after the last Spaniards left. The organization of the counsel that handled the affairs of the district also disintegrated. The church at Zamboanga was ransacked. People complained of widespread robbery and destruction of property. Pro-Katipuneros and those who were not distrusted one another. A known Filipino revo   lutionary, Melanio Calixto, was murdered by a pro-American named Isidro Midel. Fighting soon flared up between the Filipino insurgents and followers of Datu Mandi, easily the most powerful chief in the district.  
The situation in Sulu, although not as extensive, was even worse. The Spanish garrisons suffered terribly and many were decimated to the last soldier, as in the case of the garrison in Tataim in Tay.
 Harassments were also severe in the other islands like Bongao and Siasi. The Moro warriors were clearing every island of Spanish troops. Only in Jolo did the Spaniards have a strong garrison.  
In Lanao, a similar scenario was unfolding, although_ in a lesser scale. Spanish garrisons, especially in Marahui, were in a state of siege and sporadic attacks and ambuscades became the rule. As a matter of fact, these garrisons were among the first to be evacuated to escape the wrath of the lake Moros.    

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