Philippines Independence After 300 Years of Spanish Rule – 6/12/1898

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The Spanish colonized the Philippines towards the end of the 16th century. The Filipino’s were not impressed with foreign treatment and opposition against the Spanish rule began among Filipino priests. These priests were strongly against Spanish domination of the Roman Catholic churches in the large island archipelago, located off Southeast Asia. 

Educated Filipino’s, together with the middle class, began calling for independence in the late 19th century. A secret revolutionary society, the Katipunan, was formed in Manila (the country’s capital), in 1892. Membership to Katipunan grew tremendously, but the group’s activities were unmasked on August 1896, leading to an unplanned rebellion from its members. Attacks broke out across the island of Luzon, and 28-year-old Emilio Aguinaldo became the leader of the resistance group in March 1897.

By late 1897, revolutionaries had spread far across Manila and the leader negotiated an agreement with the Spanish. Aguinaldo and his generals accepted to go into exile in Hong Kong in exchange for financial compensation and a promise of reforms for their country. After the rebel leaders had left, the revolutions eased, and the country remained calm for a while.

Later, the Spanish-American War broke out in April 1898. America was unhappy after Spain’s suppression of a Cuban rebellion. One of the first decisive U.S victories took place on May 1, 1898, at the Battle of Manila Bay. The U.S Asiatic Squadron, under the stewardship of Commodore George Dewey, decimated the Spanish Pacific fleet at the war.

Aguinaldo then made contacts with U.S authorities. He wanted to return to his country to assist the Americans in defeating Spain. After landing on May 19, he rallied his groups and began freeing towns around Manila.

On June 12, Filipino rebels, under the leadership of Aguinaldo, proclaim the independence of the Philippines, ending a 300-year Spanish rule. Filipino rebels and U.S troops had outdone the Spanish by mid-August, but hopes for freedom vanished when the U.S annexed the Philippines as part of its treaty with the Spaniards.

Meanwhile, Aguinaldo’s rebels had surrounded the Spanish in Manila. Aguinaldo’s group would have conquered the Spanish if he had gotten support from Dewey. However, Dewey was waiting for U.S troops. The troops started landing in July and took over some areas surrounding Manila. The Spanish commander then informed the U.S that they would only surrender if the U.S would agree to stage a mock battle of Manila and prevent the Filipino rebels from entering the city. The mock Battle was staged on August 13, and Americans kept their promise by keeping the Filipinos out of the city. 

Aguinaldo convened another revolutionary assembly, the Malolos, in September. The group came up with a democratic constitution, and a government was formed in 1899, with Aguinaldo as the President. The Philippine Insurrection commenced on February 4, after Filipino rebels and U.S troops clashed in Manila. The U.S Senate then voted to approve the Treaty of Paris with Spain. The Philippines was now a U.S territory and had been acquired for $20 million.

Aguinaldo then formed a new revolt against the U.S authorities. The rebels turned to guerilla warfare after consistently losing the battles to U.S forces. The Americans had to authorize some 60,000 troops to come in and subdue the Filipinos. In a daring operation, carried out on March 23, 1901, U.S authorities managed to capture Aguinaldo in his stronghold. Aguinaldo took an allegiance oath to the U.S and demanded that his followers end the rebellion, but most of them continued fighting. 

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