Looking East

The Philippines

PH2604 Bacolad, Drawing Taft toward Shore, The Weight of the Taft Party Sunk the Lower Deck below the Surface of the Water After prevailing in the Spanish-American War (April to August, 1898), the United States would dominate the Philippines until World War II. When Taft departed as the first civil Philippines governor (1900—03), rumblings of the archipelago's discontent had increased under Luke Wright, Taft’s successor. Roosevelt vested Secretary Taft and his 1905 delegation with the responsibility of re-invigorating confidence in the American government's ability to prepare the Filipinos for eventual independence. The delegation also reviewed the economic condition of the Philippines.

During Taft’s governorship, schools were constructed and opened, harbors and highways were expanded, sanitation was improved, fairer taxes were levied, and civil graft was all but eliminated. The development of a new political structure included the revising of civil and criminal codes. Taft was concerned with eliminating illiteracy, and he also engaged the Spanish friars for land reform. Though he held steadfast to his belief that they were not yet prepared for independence, Taft had promised the Filipino people that their welfare would be one of his primary concerns as secretary of war.

Under Presidents McKinley and Roosevelt, maintaining peace in the Philippines was viewed as a necessity by many Americans in the struggle to strengthen their presence in China. The administrative colonization of the Philippines represented America’s first and last experiment in administrative colonial rule and reflected her new status as a world power.

After spending a week in festivities in Manila, the Taft party went ashore at Iloilo in a fleet of launches which passed the triumphal arch. A procession demonstrated primitive Filipino agricultural and transportation technology, perhaps to show their difficulty in competing in the sugar market with the United States.

While visiting Jolo in mid-August, the Taft party met the sultan of Sulu and attended Moro games, including a "field day of sports"—sham battles, a bull fight, native dances, and a military ball attended by the sultan. The Moro warriors had been traditionally viewed as fierce, unruly combatants who were a constant irritant during the recent Spanish domination of the Philippines. Soon after the 1905 trip, the Moros launched the "Battle of the Clouds," a bloody offensive which from their perspective was a battle to retain their way of life against the "civilizing" efforts of the Americans. The Taft party stopped off at Cebu, Tacloban, Albay, and Sorsogon before returning to Manila for a few days of farewell events.

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