"Psychological warfare has been elevated to an art form in the Philippines."
Filipino troops in Baler, Tayabas (now Aurora Province) Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
In this era of relative peace, war is never seen as a positive phenomenon. Nonetheless, looking back, what gives warfare the exhilaration and thrill for its spectators would be the individual battle scenes. In the same way, a war that does not involve much physical fighting would likely hit rock bottom in memorability. Take for example the Anglo-Zanzibar War (1896), which lasted only 38 minutes. Then again, in Philippine history, there has indeed been a number of instances wherein physical fighting might be minimal, but the key to victory has been more dependent on its psychological aspect.
Siege of Baler
On June 30, 1898, the Spanish garrison composed of 51 soldiers and three priests entrenched themselves in the church of Baler as the numerically superior Filipino troops under Captain Teodorico Luna (a relative of Juan and Antonio Luna) took the town. However, when it became evident that the Spanish would not go down without a fight, the Filipinos decided to take advantage of their superior position to preserve as much of their forces. After all, a frontal assault against a defended position might be unwise, even when the numbers are in your favor. Thus, as they surrounded the church, the Filipino efforts ranged from leaving letters demanding their surrender, newspapers indicating the loss of Spain in its war against the United States, purposely firing at the church to force the Spanish to diminish their ammunition, and cutting their food supply, among others. The Filipinos also fired their improvised artillery, locally known as lantaka, to flush the Spanish out. One of its more successful attempts was demolishing the cell wherein the Spanish kept their deserters. Having a deserter inform them of the dismal conditions being faced by the Spanish, including deaths from diseases and malnutrition, made the Filipinos confident of their position despite the sporadic skirmishes when the Spanish attempts to restock its supplies. On May 28, 1899, a ranking Spanish officer, Lieutenant Colonel Cristobal Aguilar, was sent to convince the Spanish in Baler to surrender. By this time, Spain has formally ceded the Philippines to the United States, and the Filipinos were already at war with the Americans. But this was not to be hammer nailing down the garrison's decision to surrender. When their commanding officer, Lieutenant Saturnino Martin Cerezo, saw a newspaper which indicated a friend's posting, it finally convinced him that Spanish power in the Philippines has already waned. The surrender was received by Lieutenant Colonel Simon Tecson on June 2, 1899, some eleven months since, with 35 of the Spanish surviving. In his magnanimity, President Emilio Aguinaldo did not regard them as prisoners of war, but as friends of the fledgling Filipino Republic through a decree he issued on June 30, 1899. It is the Aguinaldo administration's policy to maintain sufficient human rights considerations, whether they are foreign or not, in the republic's attempts to gain international recognition. This act of Aguinaldo has also become the basis for the commemoration of Philippine-Spanish Friendship Day, as per Republic Act No. 9187. As for the Americans, they took hold of Cerezo's memoirs and published them under the title "Under Red and Gold." After the repatriation of Cerezo to Spain in September 1899, he was promoted to major, given a 1,000-peseta pension, and was inducted in the Order of San Fernando, the highest Spanish decoration for military gallantry. Meanwhile, parallels of such holdout incidents has also been observed elsewhere during that time, such as the Siege of Lipa. The siege has also become an inspiration for a number of later adaptations, including the 2008 film Baler, which won the most awards in that year's Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF), including the coveted Best Picture award.
Cinco de Noviembre
Mexico has created a national holiday out of their nation's victory against the French on May 5, 1862 through the Cinco de Mayo, an event that also permeated to other countries such as the United States. However, in the Philippines, perhaps a lesser known fifth of a month also commemorates a victory. On November 5, 1898, Filipino revolutionaries in Negros won against the Spanish without much physical fighting. Led by Aniceto Lacson and Juan Araneta, the Filipinos overwhelm the Spanish with yet another display of psychological warfare. In this instance, they cut the Spanish means of communications before marching towards the capital Bacolod, armed no less by tactical fake arms such as rifles carved from wood and improvised cannons made of bamboo. Fortunately, the ploy worked perfectly, and the Spanish provincial government capitulated on what became known as Cinco de Noviembre. It may not have as much fierce fighting as the Mexican Cinco de Mayo, but it still displays Filipino brilliance in warfare. After all, the art of war teaches us that a battle can be won in many ways, and what can be more efficient than winning the people and their territory intact. The formal surrender was received on November 6, 1898. Three weeks later, a provisional government was organized, forming what became known as the Republic of Negros, with Lacson as president. A notice of their victory was sent to Aguinaldo, when thereafter, Negros was incorporated in the Federal State of Visayas, a political entity which recognized the overall authority of the republic in Malolos.
Significance of psywar today
Strategies and tactics concocted in the mind, and later on, through artificial intelligence as well, has effectively multiplied the force applicable in any conflict to this day. No longer can military prowess be viewed in a singular dimension, and history provides us a foreshadowing of the things to come. Also, psychological warfare indicates that one does not require to be in major events such as large-scale battlespaces in order to be an active participant. Contests of minds can also happen in small, daily matters. In what manner do we intend to implement them in our lives, it is probably up to each and every one of us, because any available force at hand is just as good as its wielder.
Fort San Domingo, more known locally as Fort Red Hair (紅毛城), is located in New Taipei. Photo courtesy of Neil Wade Photography
At first glance, there appears to be a love-hate relationship between the Philippines and Taiwan (Republic of China or Chinese Taipei, depending on perspective). On one hand, Taiwan offers visa-free perquisites for Filipino tourists, and expects the Philippines to do the same. More or less 400,000 Filipinos visit Taiwan annually, already a significant increase in recent years. It is likely for a Filipino knowing someone who has already visited Taiwan, many of which tour only the northern part (including Taipei itself). On another, surveys show the Philippines is one of the most hated countries by the Taiwanese, even more hated that the People's Republic of China, which claims the island as its territory (in Deng Xiaoping's terms: One Country, Two Systems). Worse, there are continuing incidents in sea lanes between Taiwan and the Philippines, such as those in the Batanes and Babuyan areas. However, there appears to be more into foreign relations between the Philippines and Taiwan that goes further than a few decades in history. Is it probable that Filipinos are being attracted to come to Taiwan not only because of its present realities but also for its historical interactions?
Filipino-Spanish experience in Isla Hermosa When looking at a contemporary map, Filipinos may notice why Taiwan is included in the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR), with some asking in jest: "Baka sa atin naman talaga ang Taiwan?" (Maybe Taiwan is really ours.) Of course, the PAR is more of a meteorological entity than a political one, but beyond common knowledge, the latter might really have been the case as well had historical developments occurred differently. The Spanish colonial administration had only been existent in the Philippines for six decades when international affairs required their greater attention. The potential threat of Japanese warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi had just passed, but Spain had entered war against the Dutch, and thus bringing the Philippines as another battlefield as early as 1600. In 1624, the Dutch landed and occupied part of Southern Taiwan (now Tainan). Geographically speaking, this is dangerously near the Philippines. The Spanish had already been wary of Hideyoshi using Taiwan as a forward base to conquer the Philippines as early as 1596. Hideyoshi never did, but Japan would do so later on, during the Second World War (1939-1945). Also, with Dutch holdings in Taiwan, Spanish trade in Asia is put into peril, particularly their economic benefits with China, a vital element to the galleon trade. As a countermeasure, Spain sent troops to Northern Taiwan (now part of Taipei), an area surveyed by Spanish explorer Hernando de los Rios Coronel as a potential base since 1597. Led by Governor General Fernando de Silva, 200 Spanish and 400 Filipino soldiers, all veterans of the earlier military campaign in Macao (Macau), proceeded to land and establish a base in Taiwan on May 5, 1626. For the Spanish, Taiwan was known as Isla Hermosa, which is simply the translation from the Portuguese name Ilha Formosa, or Beautiful Island. However, the colonizers did not seem to appreciate any beauty besides its strategic function. As one Chinese trader put it, "No one can stay there for one, two, or three months without becoming sick." Therefore, the Spanish did not take time to make friends, despite efforts to impress the Chinese, whereas the Dutch took in Chinese traders in the south. The Spanish were particularly known for their segregation and apparent distrust of Chinese, using the Chinatown in Manila as pattern for the Chinese enclave they have established in Taiwan. Manila's Chinatown, also known as Binondo, turns out to be the oldest Chinese enclave in the world. Then again, it was the native heads who did not exactly welcome the Spanish nor the Dutch. In 1627, there was an incident when one native chief ambushed the Spanish instead of keeping the promise of providing them food in exchange for Spanish aid. Of course, one consideration is that the natives did not yet have the benefit of improved farming techniques, and thus have little food to spare for anyone else besides themselves. The Spanish state of affairs reduced trade in the area, which were usually going north, forcing Manila to subsidize Taiwan for the sustenance of colonial operations. In fact, after the acquisition of Taiwan, revenues from trade decreased. Nonetheless, infrastructure wise, what would later be the center of Taiwanese development in the north can actually be attributed to the foundation first built by Filipinos.
Spanish Hermosa (green) and Dutch Formosa (purple) Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
The Spanish, still determined to further develop the north as an economic center, saw an opportunity with the Japanese, who began trading there in 1632. However, the sakoku edict decreed by the new shogun, Iemitsu Tokugawa, closed Japan to the world in 1635, along with it dashing hopes for future Japanese trade. Despite economic challenges, the new colony was making progress elsewhere. Missionaries reported at least 1,800 Christians among the native population, whereas some lamented that if the Spanish followed the Dutch example, it would not have to worry much about the lack of resources. Of course, they were unlike the Dutch, who were not so keen in evangelizing than doing business. At the very least, if Taiwan cannot be fully conquered by economic means, it might have still been possible culturally. For one, Christianity is the third largest religion in Taiwan to date, following Buddhism and Taoism. Besides, Filipinos and Taiwanese might be quite close in terms of culture, at least prior to colonization. Another aspect of concern is defense. A wooden fortress, Fort San Salvador, was quickly built by Filipino labor in 1626. A year later, the Spanish launched an attack against the Dutch at Taoyuan, which is just near the Spanish occupation zone, but their ships were taken off to Penghu (Pescadores Islands) due to a typhoon. Perhaps the only consolation for them is that they have established relations with Penghu's native people. As Dutch expansion in the south remained unchecked, the Spanish resorted to keeping intact what it already has. To increase security, Filipinos were made to build yet another wooden fortress, this time known as Fort San Domingo, in 1629. However, these fortresses were built at the expense of local resources. Seven years later, when Fort San Domingo would be upgraded in exchange for increased taxes, the native population attacked the fortress. Nonetheless, the Spanish was hastily responded, and had the fortress rebuilt, this time in stone. Besides, they heavily relied on military prowess to keep the native population in check, disregarding the possibility of using their Filipino contingent to further develop rapport with the Taiwanese. Perception of weakness ought to reduce one's reputation and control. This was tested when after the attack at Fort San Domingo, the new Spanish governor general, Sebastian Hurtado de Corcuera, ordered the reduction of forces in Taiwan. This left a core of Spanish commanders of around twenty leading Filipino forces numbering around 200. Famous for his campaign against the Moros led by Sultan Kudarat (Muhammad Dipatuan Qudarat), Corcuera was lambasted for his less known withdrawal from Taiwan in 1637. It was likely that he figured he cannot carry out two military campaigns at extreme geographical peripheries all at once, and Corcuera chose to prioritize the Mindanao campaign. When the Dutch learned from their Chinese allies of the weakened Spanish position, they successfully invaded the north with 369 troops in 1642. The combined Filipino-Spanish forces did put up a fight, wherein they even managed to sink an enemy ship, but they were unable to sustain the action. As for Corcuera, he was put into trial, and despite the fiscal logic of his actions, he was declared guilty in 1645. He was imprisoned, and charged a penalty of 827,007 pesos, presumably the cost of Taiwan's loss from the Philippines. It was a great sum. Assuming three percent (3%) annual inflation appreciated this value from 1645 to 2019, then it present amount would have been around 53.9 billion pesos. However, as scholars would analyze later on, the Filipino-Spanish experience in Taiwan was reflection of the eventual weakening of the Spanish Empire as a whole. For instance, in 1646, the Spanish only had four ships (two in good condition) to combat the challenge of 19 Dutch ships attempting to invade the Philippines. Known as La Naval de Manila (Battle of Manila), it was regarded as a miracle that the Spanish won the engagement at all.
Taiwan's transition from the Philippines to China
Zheng Chenggong, also known as Koxinga, is a hero known for creating Taiwan as a nation. Among other places, he has memorials in Tainan and Xiamen. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
The Dutch built on what the Spanish began in the area. They even renamed Fort San Domingo as Fort Antonio. However, the Dutch also did not enjoy long their newfound superiority in Taiwan. The Chinese pirate Zheng Chenggong (or Koxinga, Coxinga, Kuesing, Coseng, Koxingka, Tehing-Tehingcorg) led an expedition against the Dutch to add Taiwan in the Chinese sphere of influence, and he succeeded in 1661. The pirate had acquired great reputation as he led Ming forces against the Qing from 1646. His largest battle was in 1659, when he commanded 100,000 troops to take Nanjing (Nanking). Also, despite his opposition to the Qing (Ching), his conquest of Formosa for the Chinese was regarded as a heroic act, despite himself establishing Taiwan as a kingdom independent from Qing China. To this day, Taiwan can be seen with memorials in honor of Koxinga, with some elevating him to a status of a national idol, even a god, who is ought to be worshiped. Only Chiang Kai-shek's memorial is larger anywhere in Taiwan to this day. It appeared that Dutch rapport with Chinese in Taiwan became their undoing as the latter flocked to Koxinga. Before his invasion, a rebellion conducted by around 5,000 Chinese already weakened the Dutch, with some saying that Koxinga would be their "powerful ally." The Spanish knew this possibility, and they are already dealing with a string of local rebellions launched by "kings" in Pampanga, Pangasinan, and Ilocos. Thus, they ordered the killing of Chinese suspected to potentially join Koxinga when the pirate comes for the Philippines next. Locally known as Sangleys, the Spanish regarded the Chinese among the lowest classes, even lower than Filipinos. This culture remained in the Philippines long after the Spanish had left the archipelago. However, there was no repeat of the Sangley Rebellion (1603) as Koxinga died in 1662. He did not get to carry out the invasion of the Philippines, which the religious translated as yet another miracle at par with Hideyoshi's demise.
It might even be posited that had it not been for the Dutch-Spanish rivalry over Taiwan, the Chinese would have not laid claim on the island at all. Significant trade has been recorded between Taiwan and China, as well as Japan, since at least the 1500s. However, it did not seem to carry much importance for either nations. Japanese pirates would raid Chinese and Philippine coastal areas, while Chinese pirates would raid Japanese and Philippine coastal areas, but none would carry them out against Taiwan. If anything, the Portuguese Ilha Formosa, and subsequently the Spanish Isla Hermosa, appears to be more of a public relations stunt to convince their governments to take action in the resulting power vacuum. As it had been observed elsewhere, the Chinese in particular would only take interest when centralization done by others begins in the area, a process hastened by both the Spanish and the Dutch settlements. Even when China had consolidated control of Taiwan centuries before ceding the island to Japan in 1895 as a result of the First Sino-Japanese War, many Chinese would not know where Taiwan was. What matters is that China was defeated, humiliated if you will, by a nation it once regarded as a second-rate power. In that aspect, Taiwan appears to have experienced the same treatment as the Philippines, wherein many in Spain, and later in the United States, did not know where the archipelago was. As Jose Rizal would note, he would be called many things, from being Chinese to being an American, but never a Filipino. He was even asked if Manila was near the Philippines. However, this treatment did not deter Taiwan to become an economic tiger thereafter, capitalizing on what its former colonizers thought its only strategic purpose was, and building on the foundation already laid by them. As a result, it can be said that Taiwan bloomed into a truly beautiful island, with an economy even bigger than that of the Philippines (474 billion USD vs 314 billion USD in 2017). Of course, it would only remain in speculation if Taiwan would have been better remaining under the Philippines. Would have it been taken away by a future colonizer just as the United States did with other Filipino possessions such as the Carolines (Carolinas), Marianas, and Guam? Would have it joined the Philippine Revolution? Anyway, Taiwan served as a stopover for weapons and materials imported to the revolutionaries. Would it have been defended in the Second World War? A lot of possibilities might have been missed in the past, but the future remains a field to be ventured. As Filipinos visit Taiwan, and the Taiwanese visit the Philippines, may it always be remembered how Filipinos made an important impact in forming Taiwan as it is today. See the references here.
The churches can only embody or mediate a true identity to their members when the fellowship of members represents the interdependencies of human life. Inclusiveness is intrinsic and not accidental to the nature of the Church. This crucial problem confronts all churches in the modern metropolis.
largest megachurch in the Philippines and the 4th largest in Asia
Photo courtesy of Outreach Magazine
Recently, President Rodrigo Duterte publicly predicted the death of the Roman Catholic Church in the Philippines in the next 25 years. For a predominantly Roman Catholic nation, this may appear as yet another questionable statement from a president known for antagonizing Roman Catholicism. However, it raises again to public attention a question that has been plaguing Christianity in general: Is the Church in crisis? As of 2017, surveys show that only 46% of Filipinos regularly attend church (that is, weekly), with Muslims topping the list at an incredible 98%. Protestants (including Evangelicals) posted a relatively impressive 67%, followed by members of Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) at 58% (despite their leadership's strict adherence to attendance similar to that of Islam). Peak attendance percentage was recorded in 1991, when 66% of Filipinos said they regularly attend church. Many sources can point to various reasons why they do not believe in participating in the Church. For instance, scandals such as abuses and corruption have seeped into the public eye, not only in the past few years, but for centuries. In the words of Karl Marx, "Religion is the opiate of the masses", and of Friedrich Nietzsche, "God is dead. God remains dead." The prevailing view for such scholars is that the Church has contributed to the ills of society, and must therefore be rendered useless if the world is to move forward. In retrospect, Duterte's statements against Catholicism may not yet be considered as bold as theirs. Then again, even if it can be argued that the Church is not dead, it might be dying. Pew Research Center shows that by 2070, Islam would take over Christianity as the world's largest religion in terms of population. While Christianity is still expected to grow by 35% by 2050, it has to be taken into consideration that the world population would also grow by 35% within the same period. In sum, Christians would not be having any net gain as far as percentages are concerned. What is Christianity's response then?
Enter the Megachurch
Jesus feeds the multitudes Photo courtesy of Pinterest
Defined loosely as a church with an average weekly attendance of 2,000 people or more, the megachurch (or derogatorily, McChurch) has penetrated the Christian strategic circles since the 1950s as a response to accommodate growing populations all around the world. The megachurch phenomenon has since then been seen as Christianity's response to further evangelize people. However, megachurches appear to have historically begun as an American trend. Warren Bird writes that the nondenominational Moody Church, founded by Dwight L. Moody in 1864, can be considered as the first megachurch with its 10,000-seater church facility in Chicago, Illinois. As Moody put it, "Church attendance is a vital to a disciple as a transfusion of rich, healthy blood to a sick man." Nonetheless, it was also argued that the megachurch model is not exactly new. The Bible recounts how Jesus Himself spoke to crowds of more than 5,000 and then fed them (Matthew 14, Mark 6, Luke 9, John 6), as well as the 3,000 and 5,000 believers, respectively, who heard the message as delivered by Jesus' disciples (Acts 2, 4). Of course, the number was larger in terms of percentage than in Moody's time because the crowds who followed Jesus at the time already accounted to more than 1% of the population in Judea and Galilee, and Jesus is not exactly excited to see the crowds as He was excited to know they are committed to truly follow Him. In addition, megachurches have been regarded as exclusively Protestant, which comprise somewhere around 5% (PSA, 2010) to 14% (Joshua Project, 2019) of the Filipino population. This can be rooted in the initial Protestant churches being quite small. House churches or simple churches as they were called is still a global phenomenon today, especially in areas where Christianity is outlawed. In Europe, the average attendance of such churches in 96 people. Therefore, it excludes large Roman Catholic churches, which are quite abundant in the first place, and non-Catholic churches, such as the initially nationalistic Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) with its estimated 2.25 million members (according to the Philippine Statistics Authority, but Leadership Network offers a figure of 20,000), Philippine Independent Church (Gregorio Aglipay) with 916,000 members (again according to the Philippine Statistics Authority, not listed by Leadership Network), the Kingdom of Jesus Christ (Apollo Quiboloy) with 6 million members (claimed), and the Members Church of God International (Ang Dating Daan, ADD) with 470,000 members (estimated, no official claim), among others.
JIL founder, Bishop Bro. Eduardo "Eddie" Villanueva attracts large crowds. In 2004, when he sought the presidency, his rally in Rizal Park (Luneta) claimed to have brought 3.8 million people, the largest in Filipino history. Meanwhile, in the church's 40th anniversary in 2018, it is estimated to have gathered more than 80,000. Photo courtesy of Jesus is Lord
The Philippines saw its first megachurches early in the 20th century, with the likes of Iglesia Evangelica Metodista En Las Islas Filipinas (IEMELIF, founded 1909) having 11,000 members as of 1914, and the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP, founded 1948, but tracing its history to the Iglesia Evangelica of 1901) having 125,000 members as of 1955. However, the megachurch movement began to be carried by later Christian churches having denominational and nondenominational affiliations. Among the denominational megachurches, Pentecostal (often interchanged with Full Gospel and Charismatic, albeit Pentecostalism may be regarded as the "First Charismatic Movement") ones such as Jesus is Lord Church Worldwide (JILCW, founded 1978), Philippines General Council of the Assemblies of God (PGCAG, founded 1940), Church of the Foursquare Gospel in the Philippines (Foursquare), Pentecostal Missionary Church of Christ (PMCC 4th Watch, founded 1973), Cathedral of Praise (Manila Bethel Temple, founded 1954), and Group of 12 Conference/G12-affiliated churches (inspired by the Yoido Full Gospel Church, reputedly the world's largest megachurch) such as Life Church Philippines (founded 1982), Doulos for Christ World Harvest Ministry (Doulos, founded 1988), Hope for the World International Ministries (HWIM, founded 1995), and Destiny Church (Destiny Church Manila, founded 2001) have posted significant following. JILCW claims to have 4 million members (2013), PGCAG claims to have an attendance of 420,000 (2000), Foursquare has 95,000, PMCC has 60,000, Cathedral of Praise 24,000 (2002), and G12-affiliated churches 45,000 (2018). Taken together, this amounts to some 4.6 million members. While this is not reflected by third party statistics (Leadership Network lists JILCW with 53,000, PGCAG with 35,000, and Cathedral of Praise with 6,000, with no data for the rest), Pentecostalism still figures to have built some of the largest megachurches in the Philippines and in Asia. Other denominational megachurches also have achieved significant membership, such as the Bible Baptist Church (480,000 members in 2010), Convention of the Philippine Baptist Churches (65,000 members in 2010), Lutheran Church of the Philippines (46,000 members in 2010), the Presbyterian Church of the Philippines (11,000 members in 2009), and Greenhills Christian Fellowship (8,000 members in 2015), the last being the site of Duterte's discussion with Protestants.
Are Christ's sheep easy to steal for larger pens? Photo courtesy of Roblox
In the 21st century, however, it seemed that the megachurch growth in the Philippines, as well as in the global scale, shifted from the established denominational churches to the emerging nondenominational (or transdenominational) churches. Leading this pack is the carrier of the so-called Manila Miracle, Victory Christian Fellowship (or simply Victory). Founded in 1984, the church came into national prominence of growing at an annual rate of 25% from 2000 to 2012, resulting to a membership of 110,000 as of 2015. Leadership Network ranks Victory as the largest megachurch in the country, and the fourth largest in Asia (again, led by Yoido Full Gospel Church with its estimated 800,000 to 900,000 members). Following suit is Christ's Commission Fellowship (CCF, founded 1984) with its 65,000 members (2018), and Bread of Life Ministries International (BOL, founded 1982) with its 25,000 members (2012). Starting with relatively small numbers (Victory with 165, CCF 40, and BOL 120), nondenominational megachurches appear to be the solution to fragmentation caused by affiliation to any one Christian denomination. However, it also raised the argument that megachurches, especially nondenominational ones, tended to "steal" already Christian members from their home churches. Not only so, nondenominational megachurches tend to be less clear when it comes to its statement of faith and its core beliefs, causing enough confusion for both "new" and "old" members alike. This compels local pastors of such megachurches to urge their "new" members to reconcile with their past churches. Nonetheless, this assumption is not entirely backed by data. In the United States, around 72% of megachurch members say that they moved from another church, which is just around the same as the average for all churches (66%). No similar survey has been done in the Philippines yet, but using PSA data, it shows that Protestants actually declined in terms of percentage (6% in 2000 to 5% in 2010) while increasing in number (4.6 million in 2000 to 4.9 million in 2010). The membership data released by megachurches just does not seem to add up. Denominational megachurches alone should have a membership of over 5.2 million. Are optimistic estimates such as that of Joshua Project (14.8 million) correct or is there overlapping adherence among churches? In the latter, it might be the reason behind the "stealing" assumption. Then again, the explosive growth of megachurches in recent years may be traced to the fact that they are not eaxctly large to begin with. For a 2,000-member church, growing by another 2,000 already means 100%, but for a 200,000-member church, growing by 2,000 is just a measly 1%.
Tempering the megachurch Would have it been possible that growing too large churches is unsustainable, especially for a country of chronic economic tendencies such as the Philippines? CNN reports in 2010 that an average megachurch has an annual budget of 6.5 million USD (340 million pesos), but as presented by the Washington Post in 2018, an American megachurch only has an average attendance of 2,750, which is just above the threshold. In the Philippines, the largest megachurches listed by Leadership Network have an average attendance of 28,900, which is extremely above the global average of 6,000. This means the requirement of significantly larger finances to run church operations, as well as the assumption that large church leaders tend to corrupt them (such as Quiboloy's case in 2018). However, more than money, there is a much greater possibility to turn off the unreached population. Surely financing is vital, but in the words of BOL's founder, Reverend Caesar "Butch" Conde, "Remember how the Korean Church started about one hundred years ago? Did they have the money? Even though they were poor, they sacrificed a lot and did great works." Indeed, Seoul is regarded as the world's megachurch capital with at least 17 located in the Korean city, including Yoido itself.
This leads to the plateau hypothesis for the megachurch model. Despite the Filipino propensity for large and grandiose things, as articulated by Pastor Ed Lapiz, there are issues which might be hampering further megachurch growth, and had therefore cause membership increase to plateau. The PSA data provides a general overview of the shrinking Protestant population despite the increasing size of churches. The retreat of the Church? If Reverend Gibson Winter observed the "suburban captivity" of the Church, today might be the exact opposite. The Philippines displays a unique case of "urban capture" for the Church. While the country has around 20 megachurches, most of them are located or founded in urban centers. As one pastor put it, this is the "strategic" target of the Filipino megachurch model. This is also probably why the Roman Catholic Church, and for that matter other large churches such as the Iglesia ni Cristo, remains their grip among most Filipinos. They are ready to take the risk of planting rural churches. For instance, as of 2018, the INC has established more than 7,000 congregations, compared to Victory's 114 (from 82 in 2017) and CCF's 72 (from 60 in 2017). This means an average of around 320 for each INC congregation, 960 for Victory, and 900 for CCF, and their worship centers usually accommodate around as many people in any one service, except for their larger main centers. While this urban strategy is supposed to penetrate in the provinces, it does not appear to "trickle down" as expected. With their "urban capture", megachurches are often associated with the middle and upper classes of society, since only these people can survive the difficulties of urban life, not because the lower classes do not want church. Despite the greater social responsibility of megachurches compared to smaller churches, and the higher possibility for members to invite others to join, the disconnect has hurt the chances of megachurches to jumpstart evangelism. The larger populations of each congregation has also decreased the opportunity to develop better relationships between its members. One can only relate being asked by a horde of nice-looking people if it was your first time attending or if you are connected to their small group networks, even though you are actually an "old" member. This shows that megachurches tend to put a generic good intention face for every person when individuals have their certain differences to be treated.
Breakdown of organizational structure
Do non-church goers just dislike the Church? Or is megachurch evangelism running out of steam? Photo courtesy of CartoonStock
Speaking of small groups, megachurches have taken opportunity of the "staying small" approach by incorporating small groups (or cell groups, discipleship groups) in their expansion packs. However, the small group model is not always effective. For one, so-called leaders lack the capacity to lead their small group, so much so that members gravitate towards "superstar" leaders (who are usually the established church leaders and pastors) or disappear out of disappointment. If the intent of small groups is to engage people better than the usual megachurch service does, then leaders ought to do better in catering to the group's needs. Jesus Himself personally trained the 12 disciples for three years, and they still did not feel ready enough until the Holy Spirit has come upon them and then begin their commission (Acts 1). Meanwhile, Paul may have just been converted for three days before he went to engage, but he had three decades of Biblical studies behind him (Acts 9). In that regard, God has also made him ready for his commission. The current small group model applied by megachurches in the Philippines tend to have a much faster, perhaps even consumerist pace. For instance, the G12 gives its leaders at least two years to multiply its small groups. The first year to build the initial small group, which is supposed to be of 12 members, and the following year to train the succeeding leaders who would also form their own small groups. In reality, the artificial growth caused by this model tends to collapse in the long run, and discipleship breaks down. A survey shows that most small group leaders tend to give up within their first year, and small group leaders actually tend to be more authoritarian in their handling of operations. Various reasons can be said for this trend, but it is likely that leaders tend not to gain all the support they need to disciple others, while continuing their own discipleship journeys at the same time. Their readiness is in doubt. Meanwhile, those who are quite capable are usually suspected of ambitions in the church, and therefore denied their days in the sun. For instance, while there are leaders who can only handle three to five people, there are also some who can handle 20 to 30. This may seem small in the context of the megachurch, but there are churches which are already as large, such as the house churches in China. This may explain why in a span of two years, a megachurch can double its number of leaders, and then go back to its original number thereafter. It can be likened to throwing seeds in rocky or weedy ground. As every person is different, so does their growth in the faith. Small groups are not one size fits all model, discipleship cannot be treated as a one stop shop for all to be accommodated generically, and megachurch leaders ought to diversify their evangelistic charge if they are to expect their groups to share the same vision as they have for the Church. Not all people are leaders, but even they can use their spiritual gifts to serve the Church through other means (1 Corinthians 12). Are megachurches up to the task of developing all these talents together?
In addition, while some megachurches tend to retain their hierarchical structure, most megachurches do not exhibit similar organizations. This may seem egalitarian at first, but when leaders realize that they are all of the same footing, order breaks down. Surely, Jesus is the center of the Church, but then what? Are they like sheep without a shepherd? The Bible (Acts, 1 Timothy, Titus) outlines a hierarchical structure of bishops (overseers, or episkopos), elders (presbyters, or presbyteros), and pastors (deacons, or diakonos). It figures that small group leaders can be placed below these positions, but a number of megachurches do not even have elders, bishops, or both. Provided the early Church can be considered a megachurch model, especially since these offices were created to accommodate the increasing number of believers (Acts 6, Romans 16), should not a similar defined structure be applied? Jesus Himself did not confine with training the 12 disciples. He trained and sent out 72 more (Luke 10). In this sense, the organizational structure expands flexibly considering the increase in membership. The Church is not for perfect people, but it can be a venue for them to get better. Believers are works in progress, and they should be provided a system where they can do so. From larger, bigger, faster, why not become more efficient, more effective, more responsive, more responsible? Time must not come that a megachurch has become large enough to be complacent and rest well on its laurels, not to mention mega-projects, because even in our sleep, Christ is at work.
Is media influencing for the better? Filipino megachurches have also gained access to both mainstream and social media to spread the message of salvation to more people. For instance, CCF has a social media following of over 1.04 million, JILCW 825,000, Victory 376,000, Doulos 81,000, Destiny 56,000, Cathedral of Praise 35,000, Day by Day 33,000, and Word of Hope (affiliated with PGCAG) 25,000, among others. These numbers are great, especially for a social media savvy country like the Philippines. However, if we are to believe conservative estimates, they are not quite effective yet. For one, it takes more persuasion power to bring the lost into the church from a distance than when they are closer at home. While not discounting the strides made by megachurches to evangelize through air, personal discipleship is still as powerful as it ever was. Jesus Himself always lets the people near Him, because knowing God from people other than yourself does not have as much staying power in one's life. It is still a relationship between you and God, but megachurch members tend to put their perquisites in the equation, such as charismatic leaders, enjoyable worship, company of friends, and so on. While media can still be helpful in the long run, the Church might need to prepare how to integrate those who media has attracted, especially because things always appear better through media (say, those who are suspicious of scams, perhaps?), but Jesus articulated how it would not be easy to follow Him all the way.
A future for megachurches to believe in? Has this brief article..
This emerging history website, the Filipino Historian (#FilipinoHistorian) commemorates its anniversary every 15th of December. Founded on the eve of the "end of the world" (according to the Mayan calendar) by an unknown author writing somewhere in the Philippine archipelago, there has been historically low expectations for it. Low profile is exemplified at its finest when this blog began in 2012, and the expectations were not without basis. Blogging was a relatively new trend in the Philippines then, and not much deal with an unpopular discipline. In the first two years of this blog, it registered only a little more than 1,000 reads. So much about writing for free and for public consumption. It has become the laughingstock of "professional" and "amateur" historians alike. Then again, had this single author given up, there is no way the Filipino Historian would forge on. As was the annual tradition, let this be taken as an opportunity to witness how much we have accomplished.
From Silky Road to Iron Way In popular culture, iron is one of the trademark items for remembering what has reached six years, and it is quite apt for the occasion. In 2016, this website has been compared to walking on a silky road. Similar to silk, anything the Filipino Historian has built can easily be shredded by most people. At that time, the vision dubbed as "one million miracles" has been publicly declared: 100,000 views and one million people reached by 2018. As this deadline has come to a close, it is time to evaluate if it was just empty boasting or a testament to a nation's growing support for the discipline.
By the end of 2016, the blog exceeded 50,000 views. This was almost tripled when the blog recorded more than 130,000 views at the end of 2017. For 2018, this figure was almost tripled again. Reads registered by website exceeded 365,000. For more accomplished bloggers who earn massive incomes monthly, and even those cool vloggers (video bloggers) with their armies of fans, this does not bring much to the table. However, for an author that has been through historic lows, this is a boost like no other. This is affirmed by the Filipino Historian being the only history blog ranked in Feedspot's Top 100 Philippine Blogs, a position it has retained since December 2017.
This phenomenon has been aided by the Filipino Historian's continued presence in social media. Entering Facebook in 2014 and Twitter in 2015 in hopes of reaching more people, it has yet to see a large sea of followers which thousands of bloggers and influencers enjoy to this day. From 800 Facebook followers and 5 Twitter followers in 2016, this history website has grown to more than 3,700 Facebook followers and 23 Twitter followers as of 2018. While this can qualify as remarkable growth in a way, this can also be seen as the passing point for future record breaking milestones.
More significant among social media metrics currently being observed is the number of people reached. As envisioned by the revised "million miracles" goal, the Filipino Historian's social media outlets must be able to reach two million people by the end of 2018. Not only was this achieved, it was even exceeded. As of December 31, 2018, this history website has reached more than 2,262,650 people. This unprecedented development has led the author to create yet another vision for the greater good of history to the Philippines and the world. As the Filipino Historian goes through 2019 and eventually enters a new decade in 2020, it is aimed to record 500,000 views and reach five (5) million people. Similar to the original "one million miracles" vision in 2016, this can be considered a long shot. Not only does the single author have no resources for advertisement, promotion, and even to buy a personalized domain name for better search engine optimization, article production has slowed down in recent months. Then again, even at the time, achieving the million miracles is not expected as well. It may have been difficult, and bashers are everywhere, but it may not be outright impossible.
Social media has contributed greatly towards increasing traffic for this history website. Readers from Facebook amounted to a 32% share for all audience sources in 2018. Twitter appeared to be the breakthrough audience source for this blog in 2018 with its 6% share, up from 0.1% a year prior. Direct searches also contributed to web traffic as the Filipino Historian ranked high among various search engines (e.g., Google, Yahoo, Bing, Naver) in selected topics. Google alone had an audience share of 4.7%, down from 8.8% in 2017, but fairly comparable to its 2016 share of 5.5%.
Speaking of audiences, the Filipino Historian has been read in more than 90 nations worldwide besides his homeland, the Philippines. The installation of its translating feature is just about half the battle. Continually churning out interesting articles and stories for greater and more diverse readership is no small feat. Outside the Philippines (67.1%), most of the views can be traced from the United States (13.9%), Canada (1.9%), United Arab Emirates (0.9%), Australia (0.9%), and Saudi Arabia (0.8%). Nations formerly in the top, including Russia and Germany, follow them closely. There are also rising audiences from other countries, such as Singapore, Korea, France, and Spain.
The single author writing somewhere in the archipelago has also embarked in speaking engagements and media appearances. Since at least 2014, he has been invited by local, national, and international media outlets to discuss history and related disciplines (mainly in the social sciences). This has enabled him to reach millions of people in the Philippines and the world through radio, television, and even internet videos. While people in the media has given him the unofficial title "youngest historian" for being featured by them at a relatively young age, this has earned him ire and doubts among academics and non-academics alike. While it needs further verification, it appears that the author has been seen on your screens even as a teen, which led them to say so. There is no need for criticism on a person who just got a moniker granted by others. Of course, the author believes it to be too presumptuous and undeserving to be called a "historian" because a historian is also a scholar, and usually requires graduate studies. However, there appears to be no alternative term to apply for disciples of history at this moment. For the author, it is a humbling experience as he keeps a low profile to this day. Besides, as time progresses, he would no longer be qualified as "young," and it may be asked how long would he be a faithful disciple of this discipline. Ultimately, only God knows when his record would be broken as many more people become appreciative of his art and works.
A Walk To Remember Within a few years, a relatively obscure blog has become the leading Filipino history blog. It has distinguished itself as an innovating take in developing local and national historical consciousness, albeit it is not something that could swell heads of some who seek tomi (wealth), meisei (fame), chikara (power). For this author, it has never been the case ever since this history website began. In achieving all of these, it is not the sole work of this single author writing somewhere in the archipelago. More than sheer individual will, this goal of bringing history to the Philippines and the world has been driven by the thousands, if not millions, of readers and visitors who collectively made it possible. With some statistics at hand, we can ascertain that our demographic has developed as follows. In terms of gender, 69% were male and 31% were female. In terms of age, 2.9% are below 18 years old, 62.1% are 18 to 34 years old, 18.1% are 35 to 44 years old, 8.6% are 45 to 54 years old, 4.2% are 55 to 64 years old, and 3.4% are 65 years old above. Compared to the past two years, there has been slight increases among women and young readers. It is with utmost thanks for each and every one of you that we have reached this far. I pray for your continuing support for the Filipino Historian. Let us continue this walk to remember the best way on the best day, to infinity and beyond.
Since no one knows the future, who can tell someone else what is to come?
The reunited Balangiga bells set foot on Philippine soil in 2018 Photo courtesy of ABS-CBN News
"It is right, he told himself, not reassuringly, but proudly. I believe in the people and their right to govern themselves as they wish. But you mustn't believe in killing, he told himself. You must do it as a necessity but you must not believe in it. If you believe in it the whole thing is wrong."
(For Whom The Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway)
On December 11, 2018, the Balangiga Bells have been returned by the United States to the Philippines. In all, three bells were returned. The smaller bell, which has a mouth diamater of around 20 inches, was formerly located in Camp Red Cloud, an American military base in Uijeongbu, Republic of Korea (South Korea). The two larger bells, having mouth diameters of around 27 inches and 31 inches respectively, were formerly located at Francis E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming. The bells have long been regarded by some as a symbol of captive nationalism, wherein the colonial masters have triumphed over its colonies in both material and spirit. For those who may not be too spiritual, the bells are being considered as war booty. The Americans merely wanted to have tangible evidence of their specific victory, and the specific incident they won is what is now called the Balangiga Massacre or the Balangiga Conflict. What led to the exile of the bells? Also, why has a small-scale conflict in a Samar town of seemingly little significance to the overall course of the war escalated to more than a century old crack in Philippine-American relations? A lot has been written about the incident, and this may just be another Balangiga article.
The Filipino tactical ambush
General Vicente Lukban in masonic uniform Photo courtesy of lukban.org
By 1901, the Philippine-American War was virtually over. On March 23, after more than a year of disappearing from the public eye, President Emilio Aguinaldo was captured, and uncertainty reigned in the chain of command. The next ranking general, Miguel Malvar, effectively commanded only the Filipino forces in Batangas. Nevertheless, with most of the high command eliminated or captured, Malvar was authorized by the Hong Kong Junta to assume the presidency in April. Fighting also continued elsewhere. In Samar and Leyte, the Filipino forces were consolidated under the command of General Vicente Lukban (one of Aguinaldo's appointees), who formerly served as commander of the forces in Bicol. However, being in the periphery of the war, Lukban was allocated few troops and equipment. Perhaps fortunately for Lukban, he also had to contend with a relatively small American force. When General Jacob Hurd Smith initially assumed command of the American forces, he was appalled by its size. Troops numbered a little under 1,000. For a province with a population of more than 266,000 (as of 1903), Smith believed that the American garrison in Samar was at a disadvantage. Provided the Samareño population leaned in sympathy with Lukban's forces, opposition against the Americans have the potential to significantly increase. Then again, the American forces in general cannot fully focus their efforts further south. At least 4,000 Filipino soldiers coalesced under Malvar's command, who were able to gather as much as 10,000 rifles to arm the so-called "Liberation Army." With Batangas being geographically closer to the capital, Manila, Malvar posed greater threat at the time. By November 1901, the Batangas situation was described as a stalemate.
The American press cannot conceal the rare Filipino win Photo courtesy of the Salt Lake Herald
When compared to the Batangas situation, the theater of war in Samar appeared insignificant. This is despite Samar having almost as large a population as Batangas. The latter had a population of more than 257,000 (as of 1903). At least not until the morning September 28, 1901. A 500-strong Filipino force ambushed the American forces located in the church and the municipal hall of Balangiga, a town with a population of around 5,000. It was said the Americans were just about to take their breakfast. The Balangiga bells were used as a signal for the attack. Abanador's assault of an American soldier also served as a signal for the attack. In the American perspective, it was a massacre. Commentators usually compare the incident with the Battle of Little Big Horn, a part of the Great Sioux War in 1876, wherein 268 soldiers were killed in their fight against Native Americans. Company C of the 9th Infantry suffered heavy casualties. Out of 74 troops, 36 were killed in action (KIA), eight were severely wounded (they would die later on), and four were missing in action (MIA). Only 26 survived, of which four were unscathed. The ambush appeared to have focused on the American officers, which the Filipinos have attacked with "ferocity unusual even for guerrilla warfare," as noted by Colonel Thomas Bruno. Then again, despite their numerical superiority, the Filipinos suffered 28 deaths and 22 wounded. In the Filipino perspective, it was a rare victory, albeit a tactical victory. They took 100 rifles and 25,000 rounds of ammunition. Even the most optimistic of American estimates cannot cover for the results of the ambush, a practice which appeared to be associated with early American campaigns. Perhaps as a saving act, the Americans reported that they took down with them 150 out of the 400 Filipino troops. This was definitely a false number. Confusion and retaliation
Valeriano Abanador years after the Balangiga Conflict Photo courtesy of Rolando Borrinaga
In reality, Lukban might have been as shocked as the Americans when he and his compatriots learned of the Balangiga conflict. With around a thousand troops for the entire province, and less than half of them armed with rifles, Lukban cannot hope at the time to assemble 500 troops for the ambush. Worse, the American media tagged Lukban as the mastermind of the attack. Then again, perhaps wanting to take advantage of the situation, Lukban issued letters encouraging all forces aligned to the Filipino cause to follow the example of Balangiga. This was in conjunction with Malvar's call for coordinated offensives at the remaining resistance areas in November 1901 as attempts to break the stalemate. Then again, if it was not Lukban's idea, who organized the engagement at Balangiga? More recent research such as that of Rolando Borrinaga credit the coordinated attack to the local chief of police, Valeriano Abanador, and two of Lukban's officers, namely Captain Eugenio Daza, and Sergeant Pedro Duran, Sr. For one, Abanador was one of the least suspect for his befriending of the Americans. He even played chess with one of the officers of Company C, Major Richard Sill Grisworld, the company's surgeon. Apparently, it was an entirely Balangiga plot, and none of Lukban's men in the area even informed their commander. Of course, there are logistical and communication reasons. It took around a week before news of the Balangiga conflict reached Lukban. While in the strict military sense, this may qualify for insubordination, Lukban's promotion of Balangiga's success made it appear that he is not entirely opposed to the idea, at least in theory. Both the American and the Filipino forces were scattered over the province, so one cannot expect any large-scale engagements to occur. Also, since Aguinaldo disbanded the regular army in November 1899, Filipino forces usually operated in guerrilla groups. Even Malvar's command is nowhere near the size of armies commanded in the opening phase of the Philippine-American War by Antonio Luna.
General Jacob Hurd Smith in Leyte Photo courtesy of Arnaldo Dumindin
Meanwhile, backlash from the United States became bloated and exaggerated as the Balangiga Massacre. The media began to have its attention on Samar, so much so that President Theodore Roosevelt himself said, "[I] am deeply chagrined at the disagreement which aside from unfortunate results in the Philippines may also have unfortunate results here. I most earnestly wish to have this question settled in the Philippines." The military command in Samar had been paying attention, too. Smith in particular was furious. While in a way, this was his ticket to actually be granted the reinforcements he was requesting, Smith viewed Filipinos as a lower and more savage race than the Native Americans he faced in the United States. As a colonel assigned in Luzon two years prior, Smith was known to have captured enemies shot at their hands. Smith also tried his hand at religious affairs, particularly in an incident at Dagupan. In addition, he was particularly proud of his harshness, a policy the Americans in general wanted to avoid in their pursuit of benevolent assimilation. Of course, Company C were battle-hardened soldiers fresh from the American campaign in China (they arrived in Samar on August 11, 1901). In particular, they fought the Boxers. In their mind, the annihilation of such crack troops, even due to a surprise attack, must have not resulted in a terrific defeat. As expected, Smith began to receive the troops he wanted. The Sixth Separate Brigade was composed of 4,000 troops, wherein seven companies (around 700) were formed by Filipino recruits. This made possible the devastating response Smith was planning. In his order to Major Littleton W. T. Waller, who commanded a battalion of 315 Marines, Smith said,
I want no prisoners. I wish you to kill and burn, the more you kill and burn the better it will please me. I want all persons killed who are capable of bearing arms in actual hostilities against the United States... The interior of Samar must be made a howling wilderness.
American soldiers check on Filipino dead Photo courtesy of Getty Images
When Waller asked the minimum age as his reference, Smith said it would be ten years old, limiting the criteria to all males who can bear arms. With this command, Smith was stretching the limits of the Lieber Code, also known as General Order No. 100. Originating from the American Civil War, the Lieber Code was modeled after European standards of war, wherein ethical considerations are mandated during wartime. The code predates the Hague Convention (1899) and the Geneva Convention (1929). However, when implemented for the Philippine-American War, only an abridged version was issued for the United States military. This oversight may have been a contributor to the perception among American commanders that such brutal tactics were even possible. In the observation of Major Brian McCarthy, while some American commentators have applauded the effectiveness of such counterinsurgency and counterguerrilla warfare, others have criticized the severe brutality which were employed for the sake of ending the war. In addition, Smith issued a declaration to the local leaders in Samar and Leyte to cooperate with the Americans. He also accused the influential and affluent people of secretly aiding the Filipino forces, alienating many of the elites in Samar and Leyte. Again, this is a departure from America's official policy.
Littleton Waller (center) with his staff in Mexico Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
Investigating the American strategy Among Smith's officers, it seemed that Major Waller's case was the one which gained widespread coverage. His infamous "March across Samar" caused the deaths of at least 39 Filipinos, 11 of which were porters shot in January 1902 for refusal to help their expedition, and allegedly attempted treachery against the Americans. Even while Smith's campaign in Samar continued, Waller was already facing court martial in Manila. Beginning in March 1902, the 13-officer military court was chaired by General William Bisbee. Waller appealed that while he did commit such acts, he cannot be held liable for them provided that the United States Army had already relocated him and his unit in Cavite. Thus, the Army did not have the jurisdiction to actually prosecute him. There was also a speculation that Waller was being harassed by his fellow officers for reporting success in the Samar campaign. In November 1901, military engagement against Lukban's forces in Basey resulted in an American victory. Eventually, upon agreement by President Roosevelt, Waller was acquitted. While Waller continued in service, distinguishing himself in the border war against Mexico, some believed that his court martial cost him a possible promotion as the Commandant of the Marine Corps, the highest rank in the Marines.
General Claro Guevarra shake hands with General Frederick Dent Grant (center), son of US President Ulysses Grant
Meanwhile, Waller's case caused uproar back at home, especially among anti-imperialists. It brought to fore the commander of the war in Samar, General Smith, whose turn to face the court martial came on April 21, 1902. Unlike Waller, who softened Smith's "kill and burn" order as applicable only to "insurgents" during his expedition, Smith himself was already known for his harsh policies as a military officer, as well as his reckless talk among fellow officers. His order to Waller earned him the moniker "Howling Wilderness" as symbolic of his middle initial (H), as well as the nickname "Hell-Roaring Jake." For critics, it was a no-brainer to render the guilty verdict on Smith, even if he used Waller's case as a precedent for acquittal. However, similar to Waller's case, there was speculation that the court martial was an attempt to dampen Smith's success in Samar, and that the general had already expended its usefulness. In the words of General Adna Chaffee, "General Smith has worked very hard in Samar but I cannot say that he has always worked with good judgment, particularly so when he first took command of the Brigade." On February 18, 1902, Lukban was captured and sentenced to imprisonment in Bilibid. A little over two months later, on April 27, General Claro Guevarra, Lukban's successor, surrendered with 744 troops, 65 of which are officers. Malvar, reputed by most history textbooks as the "last general to surrender" during the war, actually surrendered in Batangas earlier than Guevarra, on April 13. Even before Smith's court martial, the Samar campaign was virtually over. Smith's successor in Samar, General Frederick Dent Grant, appeared to have no major objections to his predecessor's methods.
"Kill Every One Over Ten" Photo courtesy of the Theodore Roosevelt Center
As expected, in light of testimonies by more officers other than Waller's, Smith was handed down the guilty verdict, but not for the killing of Filipino civilians through a military campaign. He was sentenced to be "admonished by the reviewing authority" in the sense that the evidence presented in court showed that "the accused did not mean everything that his unexplained language implied, that his subordinates did not gather such a meaning, and the orders were not executed in such sense." In sum, the court martial saw that the American soldiers killed less people than what was credited of them, and Smith can only be held liable for his improper or "uncivilized" conduct of a military campaign. One of the earliest estimates of Filipino deaths in the war over Samar was from an American historian, Kenneth Ray Young. In 1977, he put the estimate at 50,000 people, a number which was carried on by subsequent Filipino historians. Considering the population of Samar at the time, it was indeed a massacre. In the Filipino perspective, this is the Balangiga Massacre, as emphasized by Teodoro Agoncillo. However, the court officially placed the death count at 425, all of them being "insurgents." Later estimates also presented conservative estimates. In 1979, David Fritz placed the death toll at around 2,000 through the use of population ageing techniques. Meanwhile, Bob Couttie in 2004 placed the death toll at around 2,500 to 3,000, but this was not only confined to Smith's order. This figure represented Filipino deaths for the entire Samar campaign. In addition, Couttie noticed a flaw in the estimation methods used prior. For instance, the Spanish census takers have conflicting population estimates for the entire Philippines. Thus, when compared with the American census, there would be issues in tracing the population dynamics of any province. It could result with an amazingly small number, or a severely high number. As he put it in a 2005 interview, the 50,000 death estimate was "pure bunk and is totally wrong." Couttie noted how the Samar population even increased during wartime despite accounting population loss. Filipino historian Rolando Borrinaga also agrees with more recent estimates, stating that the allegation of 15,000 disappearances during Smith's command in Samar was unfounded. Meanwhile, the 50,000 figure appears to be connected to the dislocation caused by Smith's campaign. Colonel Bruno discussed how the American strategy of creating concentration areas, as seen also in the remaining theaters of war such as Batangas and Marinduque, caused this dispersion. However, while the Batangas campaign under General Franklin Bell was acclaimed as the more successful one, albeit causing dislocation by even more people (estimated at around 100,000 were made homeless), Smith's campaign in particular was highlighted for its sheer brutality. It led to his retirement.
Justification of the conflict
A Samar town burned by American soldiers Photo courtesy of Arnaldo Dumindin
Whether the Americans killed 50 or 50,000 Filipinos, it was not entirely a matter of numbers. The central point that cannot be revised by any statistical or historical method was that military personnel ignored ethical considerations of war and took action against unarmed civilians. Then again, careful consideration is deserved by Smith's subordinates. Of course, there are a number of reasons why they did not seem to carry out Smith's order to make Samar a "howling wilderness." For one, the Filipino forces moved from place to place, as expected of guerrilla warfare, and the Samareño population appeared sympathetic to the Filipino cause. This made it difficult for the Americans to ascertain friend from foe, especially when all officers have the same perspective as Waller's, and it stretched the American logistical requirements. Samar is the third largest island in the Philippines, following Luzon and Mindanao. Another consideration might be the American faith. Even as soldiers, most of the Americans sent here were Protestants. There had been instances wherein soldiers refused to kill because of their religious leanings. Lastly, the court finding might have some merit. Smith's officers did not take their commanding officer seriously, presumably because of his character. Provided that Smith usually talked as he did, then discretion on the part of his officers can be considered for their inaction. However, their ethical considerations appeared limited to the killing part. Many..
Filipino Historian: Third State of the Blog Address
This is the history blog's fourth State of the Blog Address. This, however, is not your ordinary blog update. Last year, the third State of the Blog Address was published to provide an annual report on the progress being made by this history blog. This year, the newly established tradition of publishing an annual address continues with the fourth address. This is the 33rd update article published by this history website. For many who may think this is just some chest-beating and chair-raising, then I am probably doing mine. However, these small successes are owed not only to a single author writing somewhere in the archipelago, but also to the tens of thousands of readers who even bothered, because I may be an army of one, but we have empowered thousands to know and appreciate their history. These people must know that they have been part of a larger movement to restore and maintain our national memory, because a nation without history is like a person without memory.
New name, new logo It portrays the site's initials
It has to be recalled why the annual address has been delivered every October of the year. While the anniversary is in December, on October 4, 2014, the Filipino Historian (FH) began as The Young Filipino Historian (TYFH), which revival was first announced on September 29 of the same year. The task was not easy as this blog focuses on a discipline that is not really popular in the Philippines, as exhibited by this year's survey of history in the web. There is also fierce competition presented by older and better organized, although usually trivialized to the point of near mediocrity, history blogs and websites. What can a "single author writing somewhere in the archipelago" do? Still, while the situation seemed hopeless, the restoration is on. This is where our story begins.
Not expected to outdo in the near future what has been achieved in the first two years, the bar at the time was quite low. However, it is to be found out that this is not your ordinary history blog. Going beyond simple trivia and speculation, the blog featured details and analyses that are not to be found among leading history blogs. Most of the articles also have a reference list to encourage readers to confirm what they have read and to establish authority for this history blog. Relevant images and videos were added wherever possible to keep articles from appearing bland. What is aimed here is to show that history is not only about dates, personalities, and places. There is more to it than meets the eye. These methods, however, had kept the article generation of the blog relatively low compared to most blogs.
In the first two years of this blog, it has recorded a monthly average of 52 views. In the next four years, the blog has recorded a daily average of 188 views (up from 106 views a day as of October 2017), and the trend continues to hold. As of September 2018, the blog has exceeded 20,000 views in a month, a performance which may well solidify a spot for the Filipino Historian as one of the top blogs in the Philippines.
Rising the ranks
This blog began from what we can call level zero. Frankly, it was insignificant when it re-entered the blogosphere four years ago. However, as the audience continued to grow, and traffic began to take an upward trend, the Filipino Historian was soon detected in the radars of national and global rankings.
In Blogs ng Pinoy, a directory featuring thousands of websites in the Philippines, this history blog ranked 4th overall as of August 2018, and 6th in September 2018. Meanwhile, in website rankers Alexa and SimilarWeb, the Filipino Historian ranked in the top 0.2% and top 0.1% of live websites, respectively, as of October 2018. This is the highest level reached by the website since it was ranked in 2015 (for Alexa) and in 2017 (for SimilarWeb). This means that out of billions of active sites in the internet, this history blog is doing well enough to even be ranked.
Other rankings do not seem to show a growing website. In Feedspot's list of Top 100 Philippine Blogs, this history blog's rank fell from 72nd in December 2017 to 86th in July 2018. Also, the Filipino Historian is not even included in ASEAN UP's list of top 50 blogs in the Philippines, which was updated as of April 2018.
While it is indeed recognized that history is not a very popular discipline in the Philippines, and the website itself does not appear to consistently rank well across the board, it has to be acknowledged that one history website is making strides to share freely such knowledge for all people.
Facebook page as of 2018
Two million miracles in 2018
Even though this history blog has been serving the world for more than five years, it only began to permeate social media recently. On October 29, 2014, the official Facebook page of this history blog was launched. To date, the page had exceeded 3400 followers. This means an average growth of 7% per month since the third address. While still respectable, it is a markedly slower pace than last year's 12% per month. However, as a stern note, unlike other "popular" blogs and websites, even those dabbling with history, the Filipino Historian does not, and will not, buy or purchase followers and views for the sake of popularity. Until now, the author has no means to acquire its own top-level domain, which may further boost its search engine optimization. What was achieved now by this single author is hard work, coupled by the irreplaceable support of thousands who grew to love and appreciate history through this medium.
Twitter page as of 2018
All time statistics reveal that Facebook has been the largest single source of views for this history blog so far. Views from Facebook account for 42% of the total all time views of the blog, down from 50% last year. The following year, on October 27, 2015, the official Twitter page of this history blog was launched. From 14 followers last year (2017), it has increased to 21 followers. While Twitter remained insignificant in contributing to traffic for this blog (around 0.2%, up from 0.1% last year), it is seen as one of the possible growth areas in the coming years. It has already trumped over Wikipedia and Blogarama, two of the sources which generated more traffic than this blog's Twitter platform last year. Other rising traffic contributors include Google (14.6%, increased from 8.7% last year). This can be seen as a positive note in efforts to diversify this website's traffic sources.
After last year's unexpected growth, 2016 projections for the Filipino Historian have been readjusted from reaching a million people to reaching two million people by 2018. This history blog revised this short-term vision as "two million miracles." It is the sole author's pleasure to inform all of you that this dream has been achieved as of October 25, 2018, when this history website's social media platforms reached 2,007,100 people. A miracle has indeed been made, especially since we still have a few weeks left for the year 2018. Of course, the service to the people of the Philippines and the world does not end here. This is just the launching pad. As we approach six years of public service, it is envisioned for this blog to reach as many as possible to fulfill the greater good of history.
Satisfaction ratings The exact question used in the survey is: How is your experience with the articles? There are four choices: Very satisfied, satisfied, unsatisfied, and very unsatisfied. More than 99% of the 138 respondents were very satisfied, and less than 1% were satisfied. For the second time since 2014, there were no unsatisfied ratings. Respondents increased from the past year (2016), and ratings remained sky high (it was 97% from 2014-2015, and 98% from 2015-2016). However, the poll feature of this history website's platform has been discontinued. Rest assured, the lone author would find ways to keep updated with the audience's sentiments.
A national blog for the Philippines On November 24, 2014, the blog began to officially record its reach throughout the Philippines partially through Facebook. This is the first result received by the blog. Darker areas meant there are more readers within the province. It is evident that the blog had only reached some parts of Luzon. Of course, it has to be considered that the blog had to begin from virtually nothing, and it has no tangible team to even consider. This history blog is maintained by a single author.
However, the goal has been raised. It is now aimed to expand towards nationwide coverage and finally be worthy to be called a national blog. On October 3, 2015, this is the extent that the blog has reached. The task ahead is arduous, but we have breakthroughs by having presence in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao for the first time since 2012.
As of 2017, this is the extent reached by the blog nationwide. There are still provinces of the Philippines wherein the blog has not received a significant readership.
A year later, in 2018, the Filipino Historian has truly become a national blog by having readers from all provinces of the Philippines. Not only from Aparri to Jolo, as the song goes, but literally from Batanes to Tawi-Tawi. This may not mean much for many people, but this phenomenon is sufficient manifestation of this website's motto: "Bringing history to the Philippines and the world."
How international is international?
On June 1, 2015, the history blog recognized that it was read in 35 countries worldwide other than the Philippines, and had double- and triple-digit number of visitors in at least six (6) of these countries since the official count began February 3, 2015.Since then, the title International has been added. How has the Filipino Historian fared after three and a half years?As of October 25, 2018, the blog has been read in 90 countries. It also had double- and triple-digit number of visitors in at least 33 countries worldwide, an increase from 30 countries last year. Meanwhile, the social media outlets of this blog has followers from 50 different nations, up from 45 last year. Despite the increasing worldwide reach of this blog, and the diversification of the topics being covered, it is noticeable that 61% of all time views (down from 62%) and 85% of social media followers (down from 90%) hail from the author's homeland, the Philippines. He is, after all, the Filipino Historian.
The itsy bitsy blog crawling up the Web The following are some of the screenshots to showcase how the blog has fared in leading search engines. All the readers and the followers of this history blog receives utmost thanks from its author.
Filipino Historian is top search entry in Google
This blog also has three out of ten top entries in Yahoo
This blog is the top entry in Bing, and has three other entries in the top ten
This blog is also the top entry in Naver
"Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Enter into the joy of your master!"
General Gregorio del Pilar Photo courtesy of the Presidential Museum and Library
On September 5 of this year, the so-called "Boy General," Gregorio del Pilar, goes to the big screen for the first time in more than two decades with the film Goyo: Ang Batang Heneral(with Paulo Avelino as Gregorio del Pilar). Prior to this, Romnick Sarmenta played the role of the general in the 1996 film Tirad Pass: The Last Stand of General Gregorio del Pilar. At any rate, as the sequel of the highly successful independent film Heneral Luna, Goyo would prove to have less action, not because of the production's choice. As the Filipino armed forces retreated to the north, battles have involved less and less troops and equipment. It ultimately led to guerrilla warfare, which was officially adopted as the Filipino strategy in November 1899, but has already been suggested earlier in the year. Of course, for many people, he is known for his "last stand" at Tirad Pass. A spoiler alert for those who have not yet seen the movie, perhaps: Goyo dies. This engraved the image of a capable young general beating the odds. Almost. It is also common knowledge that del Pilar died in the Battle of Tirad Pass, along with most of his troops. However, the story leading to this somber event has never been the emphasis of most history books. Who is Gregorio del Pilar, really? A conscious hero or a man of no ego? What had driven his lightning rise in the ranks? Sheer ambition or pure dedication to the nation?
The Eagle Takes Flight Born on November 14, 1875 in Bulacan, Bulacan, Goyo or Goyong finished his secondary and tertiary education at the Ateneo de Manila University. Members of the family were also quite prominent, such as his uncle Marcelo H. del Pilar, the editor of La Solidaridad, and his aunt Hilaria del Pilar, the spouse of Katipunan President Deodato Arellano. As soon as he graduated from school in 1896, the Philippine Revolution erupted. His desire to take a master's degree was cut short. Already serving as a secret messenger for his uncle Deodato Arellano in Manila before the Revolution, del Pilar has been involved in the Katipunan with the code name Agila or "eagle." As with some Katipuneros, del Pilar would soon become known through his code name. He had already displayed expertise in arnis, a Filipino martial art. In the initial phase of the Revolution, he was a lieutenant in the Uliran unit of his friends, Colonel Vicente Enriquez (born 1879) and General Anacleto Enriquez (born 1876). It was said that del Pilar himself was inspired by General Enriquez, who was appointed as second-in-command of all Bulacan forces on October 20, 1896 by General Isidoro Torres, president of the Apuy council administering the Katipunan forces in Bulacan.
General Anacleto Enriquez Photo courtesy of Filipinas Heritage Library
At the age of 20 years and 25 days, Anacleto Enriquez became the youngest general of the Philippine Revolution (at least, in comparison to all officers who are in record). Manuel Tinio, who received the rank of general on November 20, 1897, follows in close second at 20 years and five months, albeit it is widely believed to this day that he was the youngest general. Flaviano Yengko, who received the rank of general on February 22, 1897, is the next youngest at 22 years and two months. While it can be observed that military ranks may come easier during times of revolution and war, such young generals might appear extraordinary in today's context. Then again, the era actually featured military officers at the age of 14, such as in the case of Andres Novales. Nevertheless, the career of General Enriquez was short-lived. While holding ground in Hacienda Buenavista (now split into the municipalities of San Rafael and San Ildefonso), General Enriquez and his 800-strong force faced a Spanish contingent of around the same size under Major Lopez Arteaga. Major Arteaga was quite infamous with the revolutionaries, whose counterattack in Nueva Ecija on September 5, 1896 forced the retreat of Tinio (then a captain) and General Mariano Llanera. To think that Arteaga had command of a smaller force then - a company composed of around 200 troops. Better equipment and military discipline proved to be pivotal in the battle, with the Spanish opening up through a barrage of artillery fire, followed by a coordinated infantry attack, on November 30, 1896. The Filipino forces, then in dire need of arms, can only manage hand-to-hand combat. At the end of the battle, General Enriquez was found dead with most of his courageous yet somewhat ragtag army.
Filipino negotiators concluding the Pact of Biak-na-Bato Photo courtesy of Wikipedia
When del Pilar learned of his death, he was at Kakaron de Sili (now Pandi) where he was fighting, this time under General Eusebio Roque, for almost every inch of land through skirmishes against the Spanish. However, by January 1897, the Spanish were gaining the upper hand. In del Pilar's own admission, the Filipino forces have to leave the fort of Kakaron de Sili due to the intense Spanish offensive. Perhaps due partly to news of how the campaign goes in Cavite, del Pilar and what remained of the revolutionaries in his unit marched to Imus by going through Angat and Norzagaray from January 26 to February 10. Then, the march stopped at Montalban (now Rodriguez). Instead of going ahead to Cavite as planned, it was evident that del Pilar was having a breather while waiting for arms from Imus. What stopped del Pilar's march? By February 1897, the new Spanish governor general, Camilo de Polavieja (born 1838) focused the offensive against Cavite. In this move, Polavieja attempts to show why his predecessor, Ramon Blanco, failed to crush the revolution by believing that the threat lies more in Bulacan and the neighboring northern provinces. This change of strategy is the likely rationale behind del Pilar's return to Bulacan. Despite the Filipino victory at Zapote Bridge in the Las Piñas-Bacoor border (February 17), the Spanish continued their unrelenting campaign which culminated with the recovery of most of Cavite by May 1897. After considering their situation, Emilio Aguinaldo with some 500 of his soldiers escaped Cavite through Morong (now Rizal), and settled at their new headquarters at Biak-na-Bato, Bulacan. By this time, del Pilar was serving as a captain in the unit of Commandant Adriano Gatmaitan, who was operating in Paombong, around 60 kilometers from Biak-na-Bato. In the Spanish ranks, Polavieja had resigned his post, and was succeeded by the relatively moderate Primo de Rivera (born 1831). In Rivera's view, Aguinaldo and his troops may take advantage of the vast expanse further north to escape their offensive (a scenario which actually happened in the Philippine-American War). As Rivera would say, "I can take Biak-na-Bato. Any man can take it, but I cannot say I can crush the rebellion." With neither side gaining clear superiority in Bulacan and neighboring provinces, a stalemate pinned both forces until July 1897, when diplomacy began to take shape with Pedro Paterno serving as mediator between them. However, it did not mean a cessation of hostilities. In September 1897, the Battle of Aliaga in Nueva Ecija, one of the largest during the Philippine Revolution, proved to be the defining moment for many of its participants, Tinio included. He was promoted as colonel. Despite what was considered a Filipino victory, the battle eventually caused the dispersion of many of the Filipino revolutionaries. At the same time, a smaller feat by del Pilar with ten men gained him an audience with Aguinaldo himself. They raided a Spanish garrison to steal arms, particularly Mauser rifles.
Gregorio del Pilar with Emilio Aguinaldo, Pedro Paterno, Vito Belarmino and Wenceslao Viniegra aboard a train to Pangasinan, their stopover before going to Hong Kong Photo courtesy of Presidential Museum and Library
In recognition of his bravery, del Pilar was appointed as lieutenant colonel. This promotion means he had already outranked his immediate officer, Commandant Gatmaitan. It also signalled his entry into Aguinaldo's inner circle. Meanwhile, Filipino forces began to coalesce around Aguinaldo as the Republic of Biak-na-Bato was established on November 1, 1897, with Aguinaldo himself as president. Two weeks later, a constitution was drafted, and del Pilar became one of its ratifiers. Soon, diplomacy between the Spanish and the Filipino leaders resulted to the Pact of Biak-na-Bato, signed on December 14, 1897, del Pilar was one of the revolutionary leaders who were to be exiled abroad as mandated by the pact. The exiles chose Hong Kong as their destination. While in Hong Kong, it was said that del Pilar acquired a gold tooth. Did he need to replace a tooth? Was it out of vanity? Or something else altogether? At any rate, the Spanish saw that the peace secured by Rivera would not last. Six months later, Aguinaldo returns with del Pilar and many of the exiles to resume the Revolution. This time, the Americans have already been at war with the Spanish, and it included their intervention in the Philippines. During this time, it appeared that Aguinaldo's confidence on del Pilar had increased so much that Aguinaldo was known to have said of him, "He was my man of confidence. I could trust him with anything. Therefore, I had him always at my side until he died." As the Filipino forces began pushing the Spanish to the limit, they begin to form what would become the First Philippine Republic. When they have closed in on Manila, the capital, del Pilar was charged in taking over the areas of Tondo, Divisoria, and Azcarraga (now Recto). On September 15, 1898, the Revolutionary Congress, also known as the Malolos Congress, convened to begin drafting the constitution. The day represented another landmark for del Pilar's military career. He was promoted as brigadier general, as well as the overall commander of Bulacan. Meanwhile, his unit was designated as part of the Presidential Guard. In this regard, del Pilar has exceeded his former superior, General Anacleto Enriquez.
One of Gregorio del Pilar signature poses, the hidden hand is a prominent gesture used also by leaders such as Napoleon Bonaparte, George Washington, and Simon Bolivar. Photo courtesy of Presidential Museum and Library
Administration's Attack Dog? The Americans shed the disguise of being allies of Filipinos when war broke out on February 4, 1899. When Filipino presence collapsed in Manila and its suburbs, the next theater of military action was Bulacan, where the fledgling Philippine Republic had founded its capital (Malolos). By this time, the command of all Central Luzon forces (and concurrently as Commanding General of the Philippine Republican Army) have been given to the Director of War, General Antonio Luna. However, rumors began to spread concerning Luna's ambition, bolstered by reports of deeds wherein he was overarching his legal reach (something which Apolinario Mabini, then Prime Minister, had noted to Aguinaldo). When the war breached Bulacan, Aguinaldo placed del Pilar's unit under Luna's. Then again, Luna especially requested for the 1,900-strong force of Manuel Tinio, who was also a general by this time. Besides, Tinio's force is larger than del Pilar's unit of some 1,000 troops, and the unit has proven itself in larger battles, such as that in Aliaga. Still, if Aguinaldo has begun suspecting Luna, it might be possible that he placed del Pilar to balance, and even watch, Luna and his subordinates. In the words of General Jose Alejandrino, one of Luna's friends,
"There was a young pretentious general who set up his headquarters in one of the nearby towns, not bothering to present himself to General Luna. He did not recognize any orders other than those which emanated from the Captain General, of whom he was a favorite. At the headquarters of General Luna, it was learned that this gentleman spent days and nights at fiestas and dances which flatterers offered in his honor."
It was not exactly unusual for many generals of the Revolution to attend social functions every once in a while, especially those who also serve in political positions. Del Pilar in particular was someone known to be smooth with women. However, it does not suit well with the kind of discipline Luna and his subordinates had been trying to instill, considering it was wartime. Also, Tinio's unit was largely composed of soldiers from Northern Luzon. Luna's Ilocano background might draw them closer to the general than Aguinaldo himself. While in the service of Luna, del Pilar did distinguish himself at the Battle of Quingua (April 23), which was initially a Filipino victory, but then, the Americans soon overwhelmed them. To credit del Pilar, he appeared to be the type of general who preferred low number of casualties. In this battle, 13 were killed in his unit. As Filipino forces suffer one defeat after another, internal conflict developed among their leaders, especially after the Battle of Calumpit (April 25-27). The feud between Luna and General Tomas Mascardo, who was commander of the Filipino forces in Pampanga, Bataan, and Zambales, divided the already small army Luna had against the Americans. At the aftermath of the battle, the Americans have prevailed. There are some who seek to continue fighting, Luna being one of their primary personalities, while there are some who seek an alternative to independence. In particular, taking the diplomatic channel once more to come up with an agreement with the Americans, just as they did with the Spanish.
The Filipino delegation to Manila was headed by Gregorio del Pilar, seated in center. Photo courtesy of Presidential Museum and Library
The latter's dominance became more pronounced when Mabini was out of the Prime Minister position to be replaced by Paterno on May 7, 1899. This reoriented the priorities of the Filipino government, which sent a delegation to talk with the Americans a mere two weeks after the Cabinet revamp (May 22). To head the Filipino delegation was del Pilar himself, accompanied by Captain Lorenzo Zialcita, Alberto Barretto, and Gracio Gonzaga. Meeting them in Manila were the American delegates, namely Jacob Schurman, Colonel Charles Denby, Dean Worcester, and John MacArthur. The American governor general, Elwell Otis, was not present in the talks, but he did come to meet del Pilar. Their meeting was portrayed by the foreign press as a scene between David and Goliath, with del Pilar being the smaller figure. Then again, del Pilar supposedly had a pretty decent height even in today's standards, which was ranging from 160 to 170 centimeters (5'3" to 5'7"). Despite being a cordial affair, the outcome of the meeting was not as good. The Filipinos wanted an armistice, possibly as a tactic to regroup and rethink, but not to the point that the Republic would be surrendered. However, the Americans did not want anything less than recognition of their sovereignty in the archipelago. When it became clear that the Americans would not compromise as far as the Spanish did, the Filipinos formally declared war in June 1899, albeit the war has been ongoing for four months by this time.
However, the litmus test of the administration came when Luna was assassinated on June 5 at Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija, done no less by a unit of Aguinaldo's Presidential Guard, the Kawit Battalion. A sort of silent purge against Luna's subordinates followed his death, and Aguinaldo put del Pilar in charge of the operation. One of the relieved officers was General Venancio Concepcion, one of the higher ranking officers connected to Luna. Settling his headquarters in Angeles, Pampanga, Aguinaldo and del Pilar personally confirmed his loyalty to the Republic - on the same day Luna was assassinated. Confusion reigned not only among Filipino ranks, but also in the American side. There were even talks of Luna finally taking over the government, replacing Aguinaldo as dictator. What happened was the opposite, with Aguinaldo further consolidating his hold of whatever remained in the Filipino armed forces. Since del Pilar relieved many of the remaining officers connected to Luna, who he likely knew personally due to his service under the slain general, it is possible that he earned the ire of these very men. Later on, it would be known that there were really plans to liquidate Luna. General Pantaleon Garcia, who replaced Luna as commander of all Central Luzon forces, admitted that he was tasked by Aguinaldo himself to assassinate Luna, but was unable to do so. It would also turn out that del Pilar was another option to conduct the assassination. Then again, Aguinaldo himself would not admit any involvement, emphasizing that if he intended to have Luna dead, it would be easier to have him killed in battle. Owing to this turn of events, in the words of Nick Joaquin, he became viewed as "Aguinaldo's hatchet man." Has the noble eagle been transformed into an attack dog of the administration? Did he fully realize the implications of his loyal service to the president? Nagoyo ba si Goyo?
View of Mount Tirad Photo courtesy of Carl Henry Lico
Calculated Heroism? Despite the critical view of Luna by historians such as Teodoro Agoncillo, who noted Luna never winning any battle in his military career, there is apparent consensus that the loss of Luna only helped in highlighting the weaknesses of the Filipino Republic. From Pampanga in June, Aguinaldo and his forces would be retreating to Pangasinan and Ilocos by November 1899. As they traversed the area, del Pilar saw the strategic position of Mount Tirad, where Tirad Pass or Pasong Tirad was located. At more than 1,100 meters above sea level (MASL), Tirad Pass would be a natural high point where a smaller force can have an advantage. Thus, the moment for the "Hero of Tirad Pass" comes. In del Pilar's own words,
"The General has given me a platoon of available men and has ordered me to defend this pass. I am aware what a difficult task has been given to me. Nevertheless, I feel that this is the most glorious moment of my life. I am doing everything for my beloved country. There is no greater sacrifice. I have a terrible premonition that the enemy will vanquish me and my valiant men; but I die happy fighting for my beloved country."
As history goes, del Pilar and most of his troops were killed in battle. Eight of his 60 soldiers survived, among them his former superior, Colonel Vicente Enriquez. Most of what we know of the battle would come from these survivors, who noted that del Pilar met a quick death through a shot on the head. Then again, for someone who was known to keep casualties at the minimum, why has del Pilar allowed himself and his unit be sacrificed in the first place? Would it not be more heroic to survive the battle and fight for another day? For instance, in the Battle of Thermopylae (480 BC), an event which many may compare with the Battle of Tirad Pass, the 300 Spartans under King Leonidas were only part of a larger Greek force of around 7,000 facing a much larger Persian force. Apparently, Leonidas and his unit stood ground to allow some 3,000 more Greeks escape. In this instance, was del Pilar intent on keeping the Americans to let Aguinaldo escape? Or perhaps the extraordinary, Aguinaldo becoming disillusioned of his favorite general for some reason, thus deciding to have him taken out in battle? Nevertheless, what merits analysis is the Battle of Tirad Pass itself. In the observation of the Americans, the Filipinos were calm, which can be seen as odd considering the overwhelming superiority of the former in manpower. With some 300 troops, the Americans under Major Peyton March definitely had military superiority, at least in numbers.
A meme satirizing the historian's career Photo courtesy of Peabody Lament
Non-creative non-fiction? What does the Filipino people really consider history as? In 2016, this history website commemorated National History Month (Buwan ng Kasaysayan) for the first time through its little platform. It was limited to promoting undiscovered articles in this blog. This time, in the 32nd update article to be published, it would be attempted to survey the vast and lively Filipino online community in search of the relevance of history during this digital age. It has been widely considered that history in general is not the most popular discipline in the country. This is compounded by the relative lack of historians in the Philippines as compared to other nations. In the first place, it is not the most lucrative career path. If Richard St. John can list historians in his study of successful people, their success might be partly due to context. These historians have an environment which support a more sustainable career path, but even they have issues to encounter. For instance, the "old guard" looking down on younger historians who damage the academic world, and yet seek the spotlight as "public historians." Indeed, while it becomes harder to pursue the historian way, the benefits are still appealing, at least for historians abroad. For instance, OwlGuru estimates the average salary of a historian at USD 60,990 (PHP 3.25 million) a year. Besides monetary benefits, historians in the international scene tend to have more flexible schedules to suit their various activities, research included. How about the Philippines? SalaryExpert estimates the average salary of a historian at PHP 401,940 (USD 7,535) a year. As if this was not enough of a disincentive, historians are usually pegged at the standard work day. In a way, this stifles the opportunity to conduct various activities, which again includes research. The expected worst case scenario is unemployment, which the public perceives more often than not.
According to Google Trends, the online interest for history worldwide has remained stable in the past five years, peaking at 84 this year. A score of 100 means peak popularity.
So much about the historian way. Of course, success is not limited to the capacity of enjoying a hearty meal after research. As historians, the apparent disinterest of the population with history lies partly with the historian's work. How come similar social sciences such as political science and economics tend to attract more buzz than history, especially among the youth, whereas history has the power to make or break politicians and businessmen? This is the context wherein the Filipino Historian entered as it was launched to the online world in 2012. With the purpose of "bringing history to the Philippines and the world," this history blog has become a free medium with which thousands of people from every nation have come to appreciate history better. It has revolutionized the art of historiography in the Philippine web by sharing the sources and the references used by the articles. In light of the hardships of the historian way in the Philippines, a single author operating such tedious work for free is not deemed as sustainable. As for this author, while there are no clear and direct incentives like access to better resources, the fulfillment lies in the greater good of history. Nevertheless, this history blog is not the only site in the web wherein history is the niche, albeit not all of them might be in the same financial straits as this history blog. Considering the growing relevance of connectivity in the online community, it is deemed beneficial to have Filipino history websites surveyed of their impact today.
Assessing the influence of top history websites
According to Google Trends, the online interest for history in the Philippines has been erratic in the past five years, peaking at only 52 this year. Again, a score of 100 means peak popularity.
According to Alexa and SimilarWeb, two of the more renowned website rankers, the NHCP site ranked 2,313 and 6,290 in the Philippines, respectively, while the NAP site ranked 10,615 and 18,272, respectively, as of publishing date. This is an expected result as earlier discussed. As for the aforementioned history websites, they are ranked by Alexa as follows:
The Kahimyang Project: 3,115
Philippine History: 3,508
It's Xiaotime: 4,777
Philippine-American War: 30,613
Filipino Historian (Al Raposas): 35,814
With One's Past: 48,684
Indio Historian: 59,396
Views from the Pampang: 82,380
Filipino Genealogy Project: ranked, N/A
Filipino Historian (Ambeth Ocampo): ranked, N/A
Silay Heritage: ranked, N/A
Bagong Kasaysayan, unranked, N/A
Ngayon sa Kasaysayan: ranked, N/A
Philippine Historical Association: unranked, N/A
Philippine National Historical Society: unranked, N/A
Meanwhile, they are ranked by SimilarWeb as follows:
The Kahimyang Project: 7,936
Philippine History: 9,656
It's Xiaotime: 18,444
Philippine-American War: 46,255
Indio Historian: 59,396
With One's Past: 72,874
Filipino Historian (Al Raposas): 73,060
Views from the Pampang: 82,087
Philippine National Historical Society: 237,753
Silay Heritage: 337,922
Philippine Historical Association: 444,360
Ngayon sa Kasaysayan: 564,757
Bagong Kasaysayan, 613,342
Filipino Historian (Ambeth Ocampo): 3,622,307
Filipino Genealogy Project: 3,672,426
While these website rankers have produced varying results, the following can be observed:
The top history websites ranked in the thousands level in the Philippine context alone. This means more dismal numbers at the international stage. This also reinforces the prevailing idea of Filipino indifference to history despite these efforts to reach the online population.
This history blog, the Filipino Historian, has consistently ranked in the middle of the pack despite being the youngest history website in the list (5th in Alexa, 7th in SimilarWeb). This can be seen as a positive development for the rising star among Filipino blogs.
History websites with more content than others such as the Kahimyang Project and Philippine History have led the rankings, especially since they are more of a complex database of sorts than a simple blog. However, amount of content alone is not a deciding factor as similar sites such as Ngayon sa Kasaysayan and Views from the Pampang ranked lower.
History websites with more personnel in charge of operations may also rank higher, as in the case of the Kahimyang Project and Philippine History, but this is not always applicable, as in the case of PHA, PNHS, and BAKAS.
Since this initial survey excluded social media influence, Google Pagerank, MozRank, and other metrics, the websites ranked here may have more or less reach than they are credited for.
Significance of history in the digital age
As the Philippines commemorates yet again its National History Month, the online society is increasingly permeating the consciousness of the populace. That is, how to advance the saysay (significance) in kasaysayan in this era. History cannot be confined only in the hallowed halls of renowned publications and elite fora, albeit their immense contribution to the discipline is indispensable. It is not that world wherein history progressed up to this day has to be destroyed in order to make it appear more attractive. History as trivialized? Perhaps, but the issue lies beyond appearances. Still, while there has been little attention paid to the power of online media in promoting history in the Philippines and beyond, it has to be remembered that at least one of them historians is trying to make strides to do just that. As this history website's motto goes, "bringing history to the Philippines and the world," not just for the rich nor the poor, neither for the elite nor the masses, but for all. This is the historian way of the single author writing somewhere in the archipelago.
"Samugariya no yume tsumetai kimi no te atatameru mahou wa hitotsu no michi wo shinjiru koto" (from Houki Gumo)
This is the blog's update for June 2018, and the 31st update article published. The present is fast being devoured by the past as we have now reached the middle of the year. It has been a while since an update is published, but do remember that these articles are for all the readers who love and support the Filipino Historian and the work done in these past years. Indeed, this is a humbling experience for the single author writing somewhere in the archipelago.
Two Million Miracles in 2018
As we reached our fifth year in service, this history blog has made a clear vision in the next few years: reach two million people by 2018. This aim for "two million miracles" is a modified version of the original goal of "one million miracles" set in 2016, since the initial goal was attained last year. As of December 31, 2017, we had 1,250,000 impressions in social media. To add to this, we have reached 402,500 people as of June 30, 2018! To attain the target for year 2018, we need 347,500 more impressions. Of course, the goal may still seem to be a long shot at this point, but each and every one must receive utmost thanks for their continuing patronage.
In our fifth year anniversary last December 15, this history blog topped off 130,000 reads. This led to modifications in the projection: from 100,000 views in 2018 to 150,000 views. However, as of June 30, 2018, this blog has registered more than 200,000 views. The record exceeded expectations for the year as June 2018 became the most popular month (that is, the month having the most views) for the blog to date.
If you missed it, the new logo has been in use since 2017. It portrays the site's initials.
As of May 29, 2017, the Filipino Historian was included as a member of the blogger network of the Philippine Daily Inquirer called ThINQ. You can access the full report here.
Rising Star among Filipino blogs
As of December 2017, the blog has been ranked in the Top 0.1% of live websites worldwide, as confirmed by the ranking website SimilarWeb. Meanwhile, it was ranked in the Top 0.2% of live websites by Alexa. It has also continually ranked nationally (the Philippines) since 2017. Feedspot reveals that Filipino Historian is the only history blog listed in the Top 100 Blogs in the Philippines (ranging from ranks 70 to 80 overall), reinforcing the need for quality history writing in the country and beyond through a free and accessible medium such as this history website.
On June 1, 2015, after recognizing the fact that it was read in 35 nations worldwide since February, the author gave the title International to the blog. To date, this history blog is read in more than 90 nations other than the Philippines. Outside the Philippines, the most reads come from the United States (17%), Canada (2.4%), Russia (1.4%), Saudi Arabia (1.3%), and the United Arab Emirates (1.2%). Meanwhile, in terms of social media, most followers other than the Philippines come from the United States (4.3%), Saudi Arabia (1.2%), the United Arab Emirates (1.2%), India (0.8%), and the United Kingdom (0.8%). The Philippines contributes 59% of the total views (down from 61.1%) and 83.5% of the followers (down from 86.1%) of this blog. The continuing decline of the Philippine share can be seen as a positive note in diversifying the international audience of this history blog.
Top entry for "Filipino Historian" search
The followers and readers of this emerging history website are thanked for by its humbled author. A single author sitting somewhere in the archipelago to write may seem unable to do much, but we made a great team and have come so far to become the premier history blog in the country and beyond. Let us continue bringing history to the people, for a nation without a history is like a person without a memory. Today, the nation. Tomorrow, the world.
Since no one knows the future, who can tell someone else what is to come?