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ILUSTRADO POLITICS: FILIPINO ELITE RESPONSES TO AMERICAN RULE, 1898­1908

Conclusion

At the end of the nineteenth century, a very large portion of Filipino 
society (possibly as much as 90 percent of the population) consisted of those 
who derived their living from farming, fishing, and labor. The income and 
livelihood   of   the   largest   segment   of   this   underclass­the   peasantry­were 
determined by access to land (as small holders, tenant farmers, or landless 
laborers).   At   the   same   time   there   was   a   growing   body   of   urban   laborers 
working at the margins of each of the major cities (Manila, Cebu, and Iloilo). 
Above this underclass existed a small body of elites (perhaps 10 percent of 
the population) who possessed greater wealth and status and controlled an 
increasingly large portion of the peasantry and labor force through a number 
of informal personal and formal socioeconomic mechanisms and institutions 
buttressed by the Spanish colonial legal and administrative systems. Outside 
the three major urban centers, two levels of elites, municipal and provincial, 
have   been   distinguished   in   the   contemporary   records,   with   the   latter 
displaying   considerable   wealth   and   influence.   In   the   urban   centers,   two 
categories of elites have been identified: a middle sector (made up of, among 
others,   artisans,   clerks,   labor   foremen,   and   employees   of   the   colonial   and 
commercial offices), and an urban elite of individuals and families that stood 
out from the others in terms of wealth and position. Wealth and status varied 
considerably among the four elite groups, with the provincial and urban elites 
possessing the greatest wealth and influence within their areas of operation.

In the last half of the nineteenth century, as educational opportunities 
expanded within the colonial society, an increasingly large number of Filipino 
elites (at all levels) attended municipal, provincial, and urban schools. Those 
who   achieved   more   advanced   education   and   obtained   degrees   and   titles 
emerged as a recognizable subgroup of Filipino elites generally referred to in 
the   Philippines   as  ilustrados.  In   the   last   two   decades   of   the   nineteenth 
century,   ilustrados   studying   in   Spain   formed   a   recognizable   "Filipino" 

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ILUSTRADO POLITICS: FILIPINO ELITE RESPONSES TO AMERICAN RULE, 1898­1908

pressure group seeking reforms of the colonial government and changes in 
the   relationship   between   Filipinos   and   Spain.   Within   the   more   repressive 
political environment of the Philippines, only very few ilustrados engaged in 
"propaganda," while most competed with one another for the highest posts 
available   to   them   in   the   colonial   bureaucracy.   Few   politically   active 
ilustrados,   in   or   out   of   the   Philippines,   advocated   rebellion,   most   sought 
increased   "autonomy,"   that   is,   a   larger   role   for   Filipinos   in   running   the 
colonial   government   from   parish   and   municipality   to   the  highest   levels   of 
bureaucratic and judicial offices in Manila. The Katipunan, the revolutionary 
society of the 1890s, was established and led mostly by moderately educated 
representatives   of   Manila's   urban   middle   sector   and   the   municipal   elites, 
mostly   of   Cavite,   with   only   minimal   participation   from   ilustrados. 
Nevertheless,   the   violence   and   devastation   during   the   revolutionary   era 
(1896­1897) shattered the lives of ilustrados everywhere and created a new 
environment for political involvement by the start of 1898.

Ilustrados played important roles at the very beginning of American 
rule   in   the   Philippines.   The   earliest   collaborators   were   among   the   most 
educated  men   of  the  country   and  their   leaders  had   a   clear  sense  of  what 
cooperation with the Americans meant for themselves, for their colleagues, 
and for their people. As it became evident to these men that the Americans 
intended   to   establish   a   government   in   which   important   posts   would   be 
reserved   for   Filipinos,   they   began   working   closely   with   the   Americans,   at 
first   with   military   officers   and   later   with   civilian   representatives 
commissioned   by   the   president   of   the   United   States.   Confident   of   their 
abilities and their right to govern over their people and having suffered long 
the   humiliation   of   inferior   status   under   Spanish   colonial   officials   and 
clergymen,   the   leading   figures   among   the   earliest   collaborators   advocated 
annexation in an effort to achieve equality with the colonizer. Contemplating 
a   colonial   government   based   on   appointive   positions   emanating   from   the 
center, as was the case under Spain, this group of ilustrados established a 

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ILUSTRADO POLITICS: FILIPINO ELITE RESPONSES TO AMERICAN RULE, 1898­1908

close   bond   with   the   leading   patron   among   the   early   American   civilian 
administrators,   William   H.   Taft,   and   formed   a   political   organization,   the 
Partido   Federal,   that   not   only   worked   with   the   Americans   but   genuinely 
sought many of the same goals as the American colonial officials. By 1901 
this group of mostly Manila­based ilustrados had established a solid working 
relationship with the Taft government, which openly favored its members in 
appointments to high office, even naming three of its most prominent leaders, 
Pardo de Tavera, Legarda, and Luzuriaga, to the colony's highest law­making 
body,   the   Philippine   Commission.   Fully   prepared   to   rule   alongside   the 
colonial authorities, these men were less inclined to engage in the variety of 
electoral politics they were assisting the Americans to set up in the pacified 
provinces.

Many other ilustrados, as well as less­educated Filipinos throughout 
the archipelago, had initially joined the resistance to the Americans, forming 
alliances with the forces fighting to preserve the Philippine Republic of 1898, 
including among them a number of ilustrados working abroad (in Hong Kong, 
Spain,   and   North   America)   to   obtain   recognition   for   the   Republic   and   to 
mobilize   sentiments   against   the   American   imperial   advance   in   the 
Philippines. The leadership of the resistance in the Philippines came from 
municipal elites and representatives of the urban middle sectors. When those 
in the resistance gradually quit the war and returned to Manila or elsewhere, 
they   often   retained   their   more   fervent   nationalist   sentiments,   especially 
when they found the new colonial government in close collaboration with the 
Federalistas, or what they preferred at the time to call the  americanistas.  
Although some eventually joined the Federalistas, many were not inclined to 
do so, in part because of their opposition to annexation, but also because they 
belonged to different social and political networks that predated the events of 
1898   (such   as   ethnic,   kin,   classmate,   and/or   socioeconomic   groups).   What 
resulted   in   Manila   by   1900   was   the   emergence   of   a   substantial   group   of 
disgruntled urban­based ilustrados and members of the urban middle sector 

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ILUSTRADO POLITICS: FILIPINO ELITE RESPONSES TO AMERICAN RULE, 1898­1908

who   found   themselves   at   political   odds   with   the   favored   Federalistas   and 
unable to gain access to the new patronage system dominated at the top by 
Taft and the leaders of the Partido Federal.

For   the   next   seven   years   these   men   endeavored   to   challenge   the 
premises of Federalista supremacy, that is, the advocacy of annexation and 
the right to speak for the ilustrados. Until 1907, Filipino elites were divided 
by a single issue, whether to seek independence or to abandon the quest in 
favor   of   assimilation   with   the   United   States.   The   primary   goals   of   the 
oppositionists,   who   acted   as   individuals   and   through   a   number   of   loosely 
organized   groups   in   Manila,   were   to   undermine   Federalista   control   by 
demonstrating the popularity of the desire for independence and to obtain 
both   recognition   and   position   within   the   society   and   emerging   political 
system. Without access to political patronage and with no elections in the city 
until 1907, these men and their nationalistic allies among the urban middle 
sector   concentrated   their   efforts   on   a   number   of   polemical   activities 
(journalism,   patriotic   drama,   labor   organizing,   establishing   schools   to 
propagate their ideals, and organizing political associations) in an effort to 
discredit their rivals and wrest control from them. In the process, most of 
these urban­based "irreconcilables" began to involve themselves with the new 
colonial regime and its representatives, fully acknowledging that the military 
struggle was a thing of the past. As advocates of independence, they found an 
uneasy accommodation within the emerging colonial condition, focusing their 
efforts on acceptable forms of nationalist expression and on demonstrating 
their abilities in those areas that attracted the greatest response within the 
political milieu. The most prolific group of ilustrados, the lawyers, mastered 
the new codes imposed by the Americans, passed the bar examinations, and 
launched careers as successful attorneys in competition and cooperation with 
their   American   and   Federalista   adversaries   (and   occasionally   partners). 
Aware   of   the   colonial   realities,   most   of   these   men   established   cordial 
relations   with   Americans   and   all   but   very   few   cultivated   a   respectful,   if 

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ILUSTRADO POLITICS: FILIPINO ELITE RESPONSES TO AMERICAN RULE, 1898­1908

distant,   relationship   with   Taft   and   the   other   leading   American   colonial 
administrators.   By   the   time   their   opportunity   came   to   challenge   the 
Federalistas for political control, most were well integrated into the urban 
society and, to a very large degree, were already collaborating. As such, their 
primary   grievances   were   concentrated   on   the   annexationist   policy   of   the 
Federalistas and the party's monopoly of major governmental positions.

As   these   developments   played   themselves   out   in   Manila,   more 


fundamental changes were occurring in the provinces as an electoral system 
was implemented linking each municipality to its provincial capital. As the 
Filipino­American War came to an end in the provinces, most municipal and 
provincial   elites   made   a   rapid   transition   to   accommodation   with   the 
American authorities. With little or no reference to the polemics of Manila or 
to   the   issue   of   collaboration,   many   prominent   provincial   ilustrados   and 
municipal elites participated in the elections at the end of 1901. At the start 
of 1902, for the first time, the municipal elections for mayor (presidente) and 
councilors  (consejales)  in   each   province   were   linked   to   the   election   of   the 
provincial governor, a position that had been reserved for Spaniards in the 
past regime. This was a significant political development that had a lasting 
impact on Filipino politics.

It was soon clear that provincial governors would wield considerable 
influence in the new colonial power structure at the local level and that elec­
tions   would   be   the   only   way   to   capture   the   governorship.   As   the   only 
Filipinos on the three­man provincial boards (until 1907), the governors were 
immediately   in   a   position   to   influence   patronage   and   the   allocation   of 
government resources. Competition for the governorship soon became intense 
and led to the formation of electoral alliances among prominent and powerful 
individuals and families seeking to control local political affairs. Although the 
selection of governors took place within an almost completely Filipino milieu, 
many   of   the   earliest   elections   were   influenced   by   locally   prominent 

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ILUSTRADO POLITICS: FILIPINO ELITE RESPONSES TO AMERICAN RULE, 1898­1908

Americans, usually men holding key positions in the provincial government, 
such as constabulary officers, judges, or members of the provincial boards. 
The ease with which provincial political networks were formed was greatly 
facilitated by the highly restricted suffrage, limiting the electorate in most 
cases to the municipal and provincial elites. As political leaders emerged in 
the provinces they did so as politicians with electoral constituencies, unlike 
the   Federalists   of   Manila,   whose   alliance   with   the   Americans   was   the 
primary basis of their political success. When provincial politicians entered 
the   national   political   arena   they   were   not   solely   dependent   on   American 
patronage and were, therefore, in a better position (than the Manila­based 
Federalistas   and   their   opponents)   to   establish   a   more   permanent   political 
base upon which to collaborate and negotiate with the colonial authorities. To 
a very large degree, the electoral system introduced during this early period, 
while   confirming   the   existing   social   structure,   provided   local   elites  with   a 
dynamic   political   institution   (elections),   upon   which   to   consolidate   their 
existing socioeconomic control at the local level and, significantly, to expand 
their   influence   over   provincial   and   eventually   national   politics   and 
government.

The early careers of both Quezon and Osmeña make it clear that these 
two men rose to local political prominence through the careful manipulation 
of local alliances and issues, as well as with the cooperation and assistance of 
influential   American   colonial   officials   and   prominent   Manila­based 
ilustrados.   From   their   youthful   educational   pilgrimages,   they   had   been 
exposed  to  the   full   range   of   contemporary  nationalist   sentiments   and   had 
integrated many of these elements into their personal and political lives. It 
was,   in   fact,   their   abilities   to   engage   in   nationalist   discourse   and   their 
contacts   with   leading   nationalists   that   allowed   them   to   overcome   their 
provincial origins and to take advantage of the possibilities presented by the 
new colonial rulers. At a very early stage both came to the realization that 
the   traditional   ilustrado   career   pattern   aimed   at   high   bureaucratic 

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ILUSTRADO POLITICS: FILIPINO ELITE RESPONSES TO AMERICAN RULE, 1898­1908

appointment would not lead to the most powerful and influential positions 
under the Americans. Both moved quickly and permanently into the realm of 
electoral politics, first at the provincial and then at the national level, taking 
the   lead   in   the   transition   from   the   ilustrado   bureaucrat   to   the   lawyer 
politician who would come to dominate Philippine politics. In this endeavor 
both men  were  eminently  skilled   political   practitioners  who  moved   almost 
flawlessly toward their goal. Their ultimate success, however, must be viewed 
within the context of their relationships with the key figures around them 
(both Filipinos and Americans) and their good fortune at having been in the 
right place (the province) at the right time (the formative years of the new 
colonial regime).

As   the   Federalista­American   collaborative   alliance   began   to   break 


down between 1904 and 1905 and as it became clear that future positions of 
political power would come through the expanding electoral system rooted in 
the   provinces   (and   not   through   appointments   originating   in   Manila),   a 
realignment of ilustrado politics and the collaborative arrangement began to 
take place. Although this change has most frequently been viewed in terms of 
a group of younger, more nationalistic politicians displacing the older, now 
discredited Federalistas, the situation was more complex. Though not widely 
acknowledged, it is evident that by 1905 the ilustrados of Manila had already 
reached   an   ideological   consensus   favoring   independence   over   annexation, 
yielding   a   body   of   like­minded   ilustrados   divided   into   two   broad   political 
groupings, one in power (the Federalistas) and the other vying for power (the 
Nacionalistas). The political developments of the next two years (1905­1907), 
however, were not shaped by these men or their parties, which up to the time 
of   the   election  for   the  assembly   remained   for   the  most   part   organizations 
confined to the greater Manila area. Moreover, the Nacionalista opposition 
was in complete disarray, unable to decide on candidates or party leaders. 
Rather than Nacionalistas replacing Federalistas in 1907, it was more a case 
of   province­based   politicians   replacing   a   small   body   of   Manila­based 

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ILUSTRADO POLITICS: FILIPINO ELITE RESPONSES TO AMERICAN RULE, 1898­1908

ilustrados with no electoral experience and with very limited constituencies. 1 
The Partido Nacionalista did not come into power or, indeed, into existence 
until after the election, when its leaders formed the necessary coalition of 
provincial delegates to control the assembly.

The Federalistas of Manila were not the only losers in 1907. All urban­
based   ilustrados   unable   or   unwilling   to   make   the   transition   to   the   new 
politics   found   themselves   with   little   recourse   except   to   pursue   their 
professions and work for high bureaucratic posts, not unlike their condition 
under Spain. In a rather philosophical assessment of their electoral defeat, 
the Federalista organ,  La Democracia  (cited in Manila Times, 1 Aug. 1907), 
stressed   that,   in   the   final   analysis,   the   colonial   government   was   the   real 
winner   in   1907,   since   the   Nacionalistas   would   be   unable   to   obtain 
independence and would, therefore, "cooperate with the present government." 
The electoral struggle, the editors concluded, "was nothing but a fight waged 
to see which should be the governmental party." True enough, but what the 
editors   of  La   Democracia  failed   to   realize   was   that   by   1907   access   to 
bureaucratic office within the government was no longer determined solely by 
the   colonial   rulers.   As   Nacionalista   influence   grew   within   the   colonial 
government, appointments were increasingly influenced by the leaders of the 
party in power­a situation that did not exist under Spanish rule. From the 
outset,   the   Partido   Nacionalista   was   a   loosely   organized   and   unstable 
coalition   held   together,   not   by   its   advocacy   of   independence,   but   by   its 
leaders,   who   maintained   their   positions   and   their   control   over   national 
politics by operating as effective brokers between colonial administrators and 
political elites at the local and national levels.

Thus,   in   1907   an   urban­based   assimilationist   clique   of   wealthy 


ilustrados   was   displaced   as   the   primary   collaborative   group   by   a   mostly 
province­based   national   coalition   of   ilustrados   (with   Manila­based   allies) 
expounding a popular nationalist rhetoric. Despite this change, James LeRoy 

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ILUSTRADO POLITICS: FILIPINO ELITE RESPONSES TO AMERICAN RULE, 1898­1908

(1908, 850­52), in his assessment of the first year of the Philippine Assembly, 
observed that the delegates lacked "real, logical party division" in that there 
was no "definite, practical issue" upon which to base such division. The near 
universal advocacy of independence by aspirants to political office after 1907 
removed the only major issue that divided politically motivated ilustrados. 
Subsequently,  divisions  among political  elites  increasingly concentrated   on 
the acquisition and control of political office and on the ability of national­
level   politicians   to   increase   their   authority   and   power   within   the   colonial 
government.

Since   the   assembly   did   not   seriously   consider   a   proposal   for 


independence   in   its   inaugural   year,   LeRoy   argued   that   independence   was 
merely a "fictitious" issue. His dismissal of the independence issue, however, 
missed the critical point. For the Nacionalistas the demand for independence 
was and remained at the core of their political interactions with Americans, 
serving multiple purposes within the colonial milieu. As a matter of pride, 
the public advocacy of independence was important to most ilustrados. More 
generally, the sentiment for independence was undoubtedly popular among a 
very wide segment of Filipino society (regardless of how it was interpreted), 
making it mandatory for all political parties after 1907 to declare themselves 
for   independence.   Most   important,   however,   the   demand   for  independence 
was the most effective issue for ilustrado politicians to gain political leverage 
in their struggle  with  the Americans  for  increased political  autonomy and 
control   of   government.   No   matter   how   Americans   interpreted   the   Filipino 
demand for independence, few if any felt it an unreasonable request; most 
respected the Filipino desire for independence but had convinced themselves 
that  the Filipinos were  not  yet  ready  for  it  (cf.  Forbes  1909, 201).  By not 
granting an independence that they themselves acknowledged as a legitimate 
Filipino goal, the Americans were obliged to continually bargain with elected 
political   elites   in   search   of   increased   autonomy   within   the   colonial 
government. The issue of independence and the persistent demand for it by 

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ILUSTRADO POLITICS: FILIPINO ELITE RESPONSES TO AMERICAN RULE, 1898­1908

Filipino national politicians succeeded in obtaining major concessions from 
the colonial authorities, making the demand for "immediate, complete, and 
absolute independence" a most effective political slogan indeed.2

Late in his life Osmeña (1957, 10­11) recalled the critical turning point 
of 1907 and explained the actions and accomplishments of the Nacionalistas 
under his leadership in this way:

So it was that from the start of our work in the Assembly I felt 
certain and confident that our best course was to work with America 
in the spirit of mutual understanding without sacrificing our dignity, 
our rights and our liberty. Under my leadership and throughout the 
life   of   the   Assembly,   therefore,   we   maintained   a   policy   of   mutual 
friendship  and  mutual   cooperation with  the  United States.  Looking 
back to this policy and its consequences, I can perhaps state truthfully 
that any other policy would have failed to secure for us the successive 
organic   acts   under   which   we   gradually   broadened   our   autonomy, 
inevitably leading to our independence and sovereignty.3

After   more   than   fifty   years,   Osmeña   was,   in   effect,   publicly 


acknowledging that the accusations of  La  Independencia  in 1899 – that he 
was an autonomista – were valid and that from the outset he had pursued a 
more pragmatic path to independence. For Osmeña this was a very successful 
path, one that permitted ilustrado politicians, like himself, to achieve their 
long­sought goal: self­government or "political autonomy" under colonial rule.

As   an   ilustrado   from   an   urban   elite   background,   educated   for 


leadership over his less fortunate countrymen, Osmeña never questioned his 
right   to   rule   in   the   name   of   his   people.   His   knowledge,   intelligence,   and 
position   in   society   provided   him   with   undeniable   qualifications   for   high 
position   in   the   colonial   government.   Furthermore,   within   the   legalistic 
framework   of   the   new   regime   being   imposed   by   the   Americans,   Osmeña 

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ILUSTRADO POLITICS: FILIPINO ELITE RESPONSES TO AMERICAN RULE, 1898­1908

possessed the most important credential for leadership, a law degree, and as 
the rule of law prevailed, the lawyers  soon came to rule. Osmeña and his 
political   associates   were   fond   of   referring   to   themselves   as   the   "directing 
class," that category of Filipino society that quite naturally should direct the 
others.

As noted in chapter 5, the earliest public promotions of the concept of 
the   "directing   class"   occurred   in   August   1905,   when   the   Manila­based 
oppositionists  who  later formed  the  leadership  of  the Partido Nacionalista 
submitted   a   memorial   to   Secretary   of   War   Taft   during   his   visit   to   the 
Philippines. This  unabashedly elitist  document  is a clear statement of the 
way in which this influential body of ilustrados viewed themselves and their 
society. The memorial stressed the capacity of educated Filipinos to rule over 
the   "popular   masses,"   who   had   over   the   centuries   demonstrated   their 
"capacity" to obey. "These factors," the memorial concluded, "are the only two 
by   which   to   determine   the   political   capacity   of   a   country;   an   entity   that 
knows how to govern, the  directing  class,  and an entity that knows how to 
obey,   the  popular   masses"   (M.  Kalaw   1927,   193­94).4  The   concept   of   the 
"directing class" was quite popular among nationalist ilustrados of the time. 
Quezon integrated the notions of this idealized class structure into his 1906 
report on the province of Tayabas, where he stressed that the directing class, 
a body of peace­loving, law­abiding agriculturalists, enjoyed great influence 
and controlled public opinion, while the "common people" lived under them 
"happy and satisfied" (RPC 1906, 1:461).

Perhaps the most advanced statement in defense of educated elite rule 
within   the   context   of   the   democratic   institutions   introduced   by   American 
colonialism was made by Macario Adriatico in an article published in 1917. 
Adriatico refined the theory of the directing class to mean the ilustrados, or, 
as he referred to them, "the Aristocracy of Intellect." "There is hardly any 
provincial   governor   or   municipal   president,"   he   emphasized   with   some 

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ILUSTRADO POLITICS: FILIPINO ELITE RESPONSES TO AMERICAN RULE, 1898­1908

exaggeration, "who is not an intellectual person, and the intervention of the 
directing class is the most evident and patent in our Assembly in which there 
is gathered the cream of the intellectual element of each province or district, 
and thanks to the success achieved by our Assembly, our participation in the 
direction and government of our country has been more and more extended." 
By 1917, he could boast that "now we have a Senate, the members of which 
are   all   Filipinos,   and,   with   the   exception   of   the   Governor­General,   the 
Secretary of Public Instruction, and a few Bureau chiefs, all Secretaries and 
Department   heads   and   Bureau   chiefs   are   also   Filipinos,   which   is   a 
recognition   of   our   capacity   to   govern   ourselves."5  It   was,   therefore,   the 
existence   of   these   educated   men   carrying   out   their   responsibilities   in 
government that demonstrated the Filipino capacity to rule and this, argued 
Adriatico, was all that was necessary for the establishment of a democratic 
government worthy of independence .6

By 1907 the body of men who controlled the assembly (led by Osmeña 
and   Quezon)­now   the   directors   of   the   directing   class­captured   national 
political positions that allowed them to share state power with the American 
colonial rulers. At this time, the program of "political education" envisioned 
by   Root  and   implemented   by  Taft   had   retreated  to  Manila,   where   the  so­
called tutors in democracy supervised from afar, not overly eager to delve too 
deeply into the abyss of local Filipino politics.7  Over the next thirty years, 
Osmena   and   Quezon   continuously   worked   to   expand   their   power   at   the 
national   level   through   manipulating   nationalist   discourse,   controlling 
bureaucratic patronage at all levels of government (including some success at 
influencing the appointments of American governors­general), and increasing 
the centralization of governmental functions that came under their control. 
By the time Manuel Quezon moved into the presidential palace in 1935, the 
directing   class,  led  by  the  two  former  provincial   politicians,  represented   a 
political   oligarchy   whose   power   was   rooted   in   the   democratic   institutions 
imposed by the early American colonial authorities.8

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ILUSTRADO POLITICS: FILIPINO ELITE RESPONSES TO AMERICAN RULE, 1898­1908

The   two   American   colonialists   most   closely   associated   with   Osmeña 


and Quezon's rise to national leadership, Forbes and Bandholtz, suffered no 
illusions about the kind of government emerging under presumed American 
tutelage.   In   private   correspondence   and   diaries   their   sentiments   were 
frequently   revealed.   Bandholtz   was   acutely   aware   of   what   he   called   the 
Filipino elite's "insatiable appetite for political power" and lamented from his 
imperialist vantage point the premature surrender of such power at the local 
level: "We started in by giving these people more authority than they could 
possibly   handle."9  In   his   negative   assessments,   however,   Bandholtz 
acknowledged   neither   his   own   complicity   in   the   "giving"   nor   the   personal 
rewards his political involvement yielded, even if he did quite often express 
his own rather hearty appetite for political power and intrigue.10  What he 
also failed to acknowledge was that the emerging Filipino political elite knew 
quite   well   how   to   handle   authority   and   quickly   converted   it   into   political 
power, just as Bandholtz had done in Tayabas in 1900­1901.

Forbes   was   particularly   dismayed   at   the   operations   of   local 


government under Filipino political elites and saw as the only hope­short of 
reversing the established direction­"rigid continuing inspection."11 In a rather 
emotional description of Osmeña's inauguration as Speaker of the assembly­ 
a description that balanced elation over the victory of his political ally with 
misgivings over the future of Philippine democracy­Forbes wrote in his diary:

Everyone   knew   that   here   was   the   real   leader   of   the   Philippine 
Islands. He will order the disorder, and while he lasts make the Assembly a 
success. The only danger is lest the unthinking at home shall confound the 
capacity which the Assembly will show as evidence of a democratic capacity 
instead of the evidence of a power of being dominated. 12

Forbes went on to compare Osmeña's rule with that of Porfirio Diaz, 
the then constitutional dictator of Mexico. Despite this depiction of his close 
political colleague, many years later Forbes preferred to view Osmeña as the 

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ILUSTRADO POLITICS: FILIPINO ELITE RESPONSES TO AMERICAN RULE, 1898­1908

"Apostle of Cooperation," the man who made it possible for Forbes to become 
governor­general and to carry out many of the projects that were important 
to   his   administration.   The   cooperation   that   Forbes   received   from   Osmeña 
was essential to the smooth functioning of the colonial state, in large part 
because Forbes could rely on Osmeña and Quezon to control Filipino politics 
and contain its more threatening polemics, permitting Forbes to concentrate 
on matters of greater concern to him. By comparing Osmeña with Diaz, the 
dictatorial head of an independent government, Forbes was, perhaps without 
realizing it, minimizing his own position and acknowledging the fact that he, 
as the governor­general, was the head of state under a government headed by 
Osmeña."   Forbes   seems   to   have   believed   that   politics   could   be   somehow 
separated  from   the tasks  of the  colonial  state and  never   quite  understood 
why, at the local level, government did not operate as smoothly as he would 
have  liked. What he never realized was that Osmeña had as little control 
over  local  politics  and  government   as  he did; the  only difference  was  that 
Osmeña   could   manipulate   local   political   alliances   to   his   advantage   and 
therefore   win   votes   and   stay   in   office,   not   by   supervising   or   correcting 
misguided local politicos but by keeping them on his side.

Both   Filipino   elites   and   American   colonial   officials   expounded   a 


popular rhetoric to justify, sometimes to mask, their more pragmatic actions 
and   interactions.   American   colonial   officials   constructed   themselves   as 
teachers or purveyors  of democracy and democratic institutions, as though 
pursuing   a   mission   of   practical   political   education   that   would   uplift   and 
develop the Filipino people. In reality, they managed only to establish their 
authority and control the upper levels of the colonial government. Filipino 
political   elites   framed   their response to American  imperialism   in terms   of 
their   enduring   struggle   for   "immediate,   absolute,   and   complete 
independence,"   constructing   themselves   as   twentieth­century   heirs   of   the 
propagandistas   and   revolutionaries   of   1898.   In   reality,   they   concentrated 
their   energies   on   controlling   political   offices   and   on   influencing   colonial 

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ILUSTRADO POLITICS: FILIPINO ELITE RESPONSES TO AMERICAN RULE, 1898­1908

policy.   Ultimately,   elements   of   the   two   rhetorical   visions   were   realized. 


Democratic   institutions,   in   particular   the   institution   of   elections,   were 
implemented  and   had   a   lasting   impact  on   Philippine  politics  and   political 
culture. Similarly, by 1916 Filipinos obtained the promise of independence, 
which   was   formally   recognized   after   the   Japanese   occupation   in   1946. 
Nevertheless,   along   the   way   the   ideological   foundations   of   American 
colonialism and Filipino nationalism were reduced to rhetorical positions in 
the deepening interactions between the representatives of the two elites. As 
the   Filipino­American   War   ended,   American   colonial   officials   and   Filipino 
politicians were locked in collaboration, a collaboration (though not devoid of 
conflict) that sustained both and led to the manipulation of the ideals that 
both espoused throughout the encounter. For both groups expedient political 
and personal objectives and tactics consumed their ideological commitments 
(cf. Hutchcroft 2000).

Working through the political institutions implemented between 1901 
and 1907, the new generation of Filipino politicians gave birth to a national 
politics, altering forever  the socio­political  realities of Filipino society.  The 
introduction of the electoral system within the social and colonial contexts 
existing at the century's turn contributed significantly to the strengthening of 
local   elite   dominance   and   facilitated   the   establishment   of   a   hierarchical 
system   through   which   local   and   national   politicians   could   legitimize   and 
expand their control over the society as a whole (cf. J. Go 1999). Democratic 
institutions from the beginning were manipulated and adjusted to serve the 
special   interests   of   American   colonial   administrators   and   the   Filipino 
directing class. The relationship that developed between Filipino politicians 
and American colonial officials, founded as it was on mutual interests, is the 
primary political legacy upon which "special" U.S.­Philippine relations have 
been based up to the present.

§§

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ILUSTRADO POLITICS: FILIPINO ELITE RESPONSES TO AMERICAN RULE, 1898­1908

NOTES

1. It is interesting to speculate that if the American colonial government had not 
attempted to implement a system of elected officials at the provincial level and had not 
moved   to   establish   a   national   elective   assembly,   it   is   possible   that   the   prominent 
Federalistas   would   have   remained­despite   their   unattractive   stand   on   Philippine 
independence and their conflicts with some of the leading American administrators­the 
leading Filipinos in the collaborative government for some years to come. The irony is 
that it was the leading Federalistas who pushed the colonial government (directly through 
their contacts with Taft) to move in the direction of a national elective assembly (see, for 
example, Pardo de Tavera 1917, 66­67).

2.   By   1913,   Quezon   was   confident   enough   in   his   relationship   with   Frank 


McIntyre, chief of the Bureau of Insular Affairs, to express his personal opposition to 
early independence, while at the same time negotiating with McIntyre for further political 
concessions. In this negotiation Quezon admitted that the American governor­general, 
Francis B. Harrison, unlike himself, actually favored independence: "He thinks he can 
turn us loose in about four years." See, for example, "Interview with Manuel Quezon, 
[by] General Frank McIntyre," in Schirmer and Shalom 1987, 51­52 (from McIntyre's 
"Memorandum no. 1­1913," 29 Dec. 1913: 2­3, USNA). For an excellent study of non­
elite responses to the nationalist political rhetoric of Filipino politicians see Ileto 1984, 
who makes it clear that the orator's cry for independence was perceived as part and parcel 
of a politics that had little to do with the quest for liberation.

3. In a radio speech delivered in Nov. 1940, Osmeña (1941, 21­25) made a similar 
assessment of his career up to that date, stressing that after unsuccessful efforts to win 
their freedom by military efforts, Filipinos settled into a peaceful collaboration with the 
Americans to gradually prepare themselves for independence. In his opinion this policy 
of collaboration was successful.

4. A remarkably similar view of Filipino society was depicted by David Barrows 
in his 1902 testimony before the Senate (Affairs in the Philippine Islands 1902, 1:680­
82), though he did not draw the same conclusions about the positive aspects of this class 
structure.

5.   Adriatico   1917,   41­45.   From   the   beginning,   ilustrados   had   stressed   the 
importance   of   education,   advocating   a   highly   restricted   suffrage   and   stressing   the 
inappropriateness of the large majority of uneducated Filipinos to vote (see, for example, 
Schurman 1902, 31­33). When given the chance to determine who should be eligible to 
vote   in   their   own   Constitution   of   1935,   the   ilustrado   politicians,   delegates   to   the 

16
ILUSTRADO POLITICS: FILIPINO ELITE RESPONSES TO AMERICAN RULE, 1898­1908

convention, voted unanimously to deny the franchise to Filipinos who could not read and 
write (see Hayden 1942, 203).

6. The leading propagandist for the Nacionalistas during the pre­Commonwealth 
era was Maximo M. Kalaw, whose three books (1916, 1919, 1927) were well­crafted 
statements  representing  the interests  of the  leading  ilustrado  politicians,  in particular, 
Osmeña and Quezon. For Kalaw, credit for the success of American colonial institutions 
was due to the "directing class," and in his Self­Government in the Philippines (1919, 20­
21), he wrote: "Without belittling what America has done for the Philippines, there is no 
getting away from the fact that the progress towards democracy in the Philippines has 
been due mainly to the materials that America found there. This made America's task a 
great deal easier." In an important study of considerable interest, J. Go (1999, 337) has 
recently   attempted   to   construct   the   cultural   context   of   the   Filipino   elite   response   to 
American   rule,   arguing   that   Filipino   elites   "refashioned   the   Americans'   imposed 
discourses and institutions in accordance with their pre­existing political culture."

7. As their inability or unwillingness to attempt to alter the social realities of 
Filipino society became more and more apparent, most American officials on the ground 
began to stress the importance of the long­term impact of the education system being 
implemented under the colonial administration. As such, the Bureau of Education was 
kept under an American up to the time of the inauguration of the Commonwealth in 1935. 
Taft himself by 1908 had come to view education as the primary hope for the future and 
felt   that   it   would   take   two   or   three   generations   before   the   democratizing   influence 
introduced by Americans would take effect. For one of the clearest statements of Taft 
regarding the role of education and "practical political education," see Taft 1908, 23­49; 
see also Cullinane 1971.

8. Cf. Mills 1937; Gallego 1938; Buenaventura 1941; McCoy 1988; Hutchcroft 
2000.   Two   later   assessments   of   colonial   political   institutions   and   their   impact   on 
postcolonial   Filipino   politics   have   focused   on   this   issue.   While   acknowledging   the 
positive   influence   of   democratic   institutions,   Lopez   (1966,   7­31,   especially   21), 
concludes that America's "tacit alliance" with "a small group of educated Filipinos or 
wealthy property owners" postponed "to a much later day all important initiatives for the 
transformation of Philippine society." Similarly, Abueva (1976, 114­33, especially 122­
23)   stresses   that   the   "tacit   alliance"   between   the   American   colonialists   and   the 
"landowning elite" perpetuated the "oligarchical politics and centralized administration 
which were part of the Spanish legacy." In an interesting account, focused on the local 
level, the history of San Pablo, Laguna (Hernandez 1981, 40­41), described the impact of 
American political institutions in this way: "On the eve of American occupation there 
already existed an articulate and economic elite in the hometown behind whom stood the 

17
ILUSTRADO POLITICS: FILIPINO ELITE RESPONSES TO AMERICAN RULE, 1898­1908

other   90   percent   of   the   local   citizenry.   Recognizing   this,   the   American   Government 
decided to govern the township through the elite class who in turn would determine the 
substantive  policies  to   be  adopted.   The  American  program   to  democratize   Philippine 
politics suffered from the high qualifications for voting. Only 3 percent of the population 
were   eligible   to   vote.   The   result   was   the   creation   of   an   essentially   oligarchical 
government controlled by the upper class or elite, just like during the Spanish time." For 
a more recent and carefully constructed study of the antecedents to American colonialism 
and of the prominent features of American colonial institutions pertaining to local­central 
governance and politics, see Hutchcroft 2000. It is also significant to realize that the 
colonial bureaucracy itself was rapidly Filipinized. As De Jesus (2001, 59) has noted: "In 
1903, Filipinos held just under half of the 5,500 jobs in the bureaucracy. By 1921, they 
held 90 percent of 14,000 jobs. By the mid­1930s, Americans held only 1 percent of the 
Civil Service positions, most of them in the educational bureaucracy."

9. Bandholtz to John Bruce, 16 Feb. 1907, BP­ 1, MHC. When relations with the 
Nacionalistas   became   strained   in   early   1909,   Bandholtz   allowed   his   complaints   to 
become more bitter: "I like the real Filipino, call him `little brown brother' or whatever 
you want to; he has many good and lovable traits and I enjoy him and like him. But it 
does hurt to see him such a blind tool in the hands of the unscrupulous upper classes" (see 
Bandholtz to Col. Mark L. Hersey, 4 May 1909, BP­2, MHC). 

10. In an interesting note on his old colleague, Forbes commented that Bandholtz 
"knew how to win the confidence, affection and esteem of prominent Filipinos, and he 
proved to be an honest and efficient politician (handler of men)" (quoted in the entry for 
"Bandholtz" in the E. Bowditch Correspondence, Cornell University Library, emphasis 
mine). Not all Americans approved the political maneuverings of Bandholtz and, as a 
result,   did   not   agree   with   Forbes's   positive   assessment.   When   Bandholtz   was   being 
considered for appointment as chief of the Bureau of Insular Affairs, Dean C. Worcester 
wrote to Taft (then president), complaining of Bandholtz's political ties to the incumbent 
Nacionalista   leaders,   stressing:   "General   Bandholtz   is   first,   last,   and   all   the   time   a 
politician and there is always danger that he will sacrifice the public interest in pursuing a 
course which he deems likely to be popular" (Worcester to Taft, 2 May 1912, WP­1, 
MHC). Worcester himself is a curious figure in this context. As the only man on both the 
Schurman and Taft Commissions, as an instrumental go­between in the formation of the 
Partido Federal, and as the secretary of the Interior during the entire Taft era (1901­
1913), he clearly had much to do with the decisions and legislation that went into the 
establishment of most of the governmental codes of this period and, yet, he wrote as 
though the evils of the system resulted from the works of others like Bandholtz (who had 
no   legislative   authority   whatever).   Worcester   also   had   great   disdain   for   Filipino 
politicians and frequently complained that they had been given too much; for example, in 

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ILUSTRADO POLITICS: FILIPINO ELITE RESPONSES TO AMERICAN RULE, 1898­1908

his 1914 report he wrote: "In many, if not in most, of the Christian provinces we have 
utilized the services of Filipino politicians who are openly opposed to the policy which 
we are endeavoring to carry out, and have thus placed between ourselves and the people a 
screen of shrewd and hostile men who can communicate with them as we cannot, who 
play upon their ignorance and their prejudices as we would not if we could, who keep 
them   firm   in   the   belief   that   all   their   troubles   are   due   to   the   mucho   malo   gobierno 
Americano,  and that all the  advantages  which they enjoy have been wrung from the 
unwilling   and   unjust   Americans   by   the   courage   and   political   ingenuity   of   the   local 
politicos."  "For this  condition of things," Worcester (1914, 2:966­67) concluded, "we 
have ourselves to thank, and these are the men who would be governors under `self­
government."'

11. Forbes Journal (entry for 8 Oct. 1907), 2:311, FP, HLHU. The belief of 
Forbes and others in the American colonial administration that Filipino elected officials 
were incapable of managing the work of local government led to a series of amendments 
in the municipal and provincial codes between 1903 and 1905 that essentially stripped 
local governments of direct responsibilities over many primary functions (such as 
education, public works, and public health). Thus, even though Forbes grumbled about 
corrupt local officials, he was fully aware that their corruption remained for the most part 
within the Filipino sphere and that responsibility for the things that mattered to him 
resided outside the municipal hall (see Cullinane 1971; Hutchcroft 2000).

12. Forbes Journal (entry for 16 Oct. 1907), 2:318, FP, HLHU.

13. Forbes 1946, 5:479. Forbes's private sentiments, those written in his diary, 
often contrasted with his public statements on the assembly and its leadership (see, for 
example, Forbes 1909, 201­3).

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