The Filipino of Bataan: Roosevelt's Promise

Fighting Filipino pilot. Manila.

Captain Jesus Villamor, commanding officer of the 6th Pursuit Squadron, Philippine Army Air Corps, is pictured getting out of plane after returning from a flight to Batangas Field. The youth, who leads a daredevil squadron of six Filipino pilots in erstwhile training planes who took on fifty-four Japanese air raiders over Batangas and shot down two, said he "got so mad" he forgot to be scared. 

The office of the American presidency had a legacy in the Philippines that embodied a paternalist relationship between the appointed Resident Commissioner and his Filipino “wards.” President Roosevelt modified this memory by sustaining his own image of his office. Roosevelt emerged in World War II as the American who legally declared the Philippines free. He applied these efforts to the American war effort in the region. Roosevelt made a speech directly to the Filipinos in the Philippines in August 1943 that encouraged their efforts and provided the weight of the presidency to their cause. In their shared effort against “a common enemy in the East as well as the West,” President Roosevelt declared, “‘I call upon you, the heroic people of the Philippines, to stand firm in your faith, to stand firm against the false promises of the Japanese just as your fighting men and our fighting men stood firm together against their barbaric attacks.’” The international scope of World War II extended to the Philippines through Roosevelt’s address. They are actors in a global community against the common enemy of democracy and freedom. Their efforts will contribute to the future safety of the world and solidify their position among all nations.

Roosevelt shifts his focus to the American people two months following his address to the Philippines. He specifically addresses the issue of Philippine independence and recommends to Congress several steps to assure this deserved right. Following his recommendations he states, “All of this is due to the Filipino people in recognition of their heroic role in this war, the political ties which have bound us together, and the bonds of friendship which will join us together in the future.” Roosevelt validated this reconstructed past through the manner in which he classified independence. It is first through participating in World War II that the Filipino demonstrates his ability to self-govern. Philippine-American “political ties” have formed our past, yet “bonds of friendship” accompany the future. This address employs images of mutual respect that were never present in past Philippine-American relationships.

The Filipino of Bataan: Roosevelt's Promise