Diverging from the Narrative: Quezon and Romulo
President Quezon Addresses his Nation's Bravery
His responsibility to the Philippines after his departure in 1942
The Europe First campaign of the United States did not deter advocates of the Pacific Theater to wait until international efforts shifted to their shores. President Manuel Quezon and Resident Commissioner Brigadier General Carlos Romulo of the Philippines released articles memorializing the Filipino soldiers since the fall of Bataan. Both Filipino leaders cling to their shared past with the United States as a way to contextualize efforts of the soldiers. President Quezon demonstrates in two articles why and for what the Filipino was fighting. In “The Undying Spirit of Bataan,” released on April 4, 1943, Quezon argues, “Why did the Filipinos fight? In a single sentence, the answer is this: The Filipino fought because America had given them Freedom.” It was through their shared past with America the Filipinos were able to fight so courageously against the Japanese at Bataan. Quezon continues to describe the history of Philippine-American relations from the Philippine-American War of 1899 until the Battle of Bataan. He depicts the Filipino experience as being transformed by their contact with American ideas of democracy and freedom. He recalls the conclusion of the Philippine-American War: “[T]he Filipinos were not conquered by guns alone. Finally they began to realize the honest efforts of America to help them make progress in every field of human endeavor and, through trial and error, to achieve the democratic way of life.” Not just American newspapers or political leaders reconstructed the Philippine-American past; rather Filipino political leaders used this revised narrative as a form of propaganda to negotiate with Americans the significance of the Philippines in this global encounter.
Resident Commissioner Romulo: The other voice of the Philippines
Resident Commissioner Romulo stands as another Filipino political leader who provides symbolic images of the Filipino in World War II. Romulo describes the conditions that the Filipino guerilla endures in order to unit with American forces and defeat Japan. He recalls, “Under official American direction the Philippine guerrilla movement received unity and leadership…. This is shared brotherhood in arms. This is Bataan unconquerable even in the dust, white and brown armies fighting together to end oppression and give freedom ‘to all men of all lands.’” Romulo describes a bond between the United States and the Philippines reminiscent of the early decades of the twentieth century. American benevolence taught the Philippines the value of freedom and democracy. It was through this bond they would be victorious against the Japanese invaders.
This bond is not free of criticism, however. In an article published in Liberty magazine on April 19, 1944, Romulo argues the necessity of a swift American victory over the Japanese forces throughout Asia. The work of Japanese propaganda has been decades in the making and employed throughout the conquered areas of Asia. Romulo describes the anti-white imperialist beliefs held by these native populations because of their personal experiences with other imperialist powers, such as Great Britain in Indian. Romulo states, “As a lesser of two evils, they chose a yellow imperialism rather than a white imperialism.” This decision made by native populations, other than those in the Philippines, were done after years of Japanese propaganda that intentionally used America's anti-Oriental immigration policies as proof of America's sentiment for the region.
Romulo continues in this four page article to describe the role of the Philippines in America's strategy to win the Orient. The past relationship between the United States and the Philippines sets the country apart from any other nation in the region. This "friendship" is in jeapordy if America is not swift in their defeat of the Japanese. The Filipinos hope for rescue will deteriorate from exhaustion and shift to support the Japanese occupation of the island. Romulo argues, "That would be a severe blow to American prestige throughout Asia. The United States would have lost its best friend and greatest asset in the Orient. But no American would regret it more than the Filipinos.” This fundamental connection between a native population in Asia and an imperialist power is modified to confront Japanese propaganda and encourge the continued support of American efforts traveling through the Pacific to rescue the Philippines. Although Romulo critiques past American policies that were steeped in anti-Asian rhetoric and racial beliefs, he is specific in glorifing the Filipino as America's only ally in the region because of their past. The manner in which America came by such a relationship with the island is intentionally absent from Romulo's recollection. World War II allowed such a transformation of memory in order to combat the prospects of a less desirable future for the Philippines.