Home  »  Volume XVII: American LATER NATIONAL LITERATURE: PART II  »  § 33. The Philippines

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21). rn VOLUME XVII. Later National Literature, Part II.

XIV. Travellers and Explorers, 1846–1900

§ 33. The Philippines

The war with Spain landed the United States in the Philippines, clear across the wide western ocean, thus at last forging the final link in the chain stretching westward from Europe to Cathay, and proving ultimately Senator Benton’s prophecy as he pointed towards the sunset and said: “There lies the road to India.”

The various islands of the Philippine group were occupied by different tribes in varying stages of progress, and it became the problem of the new governing power to give each protection from the other and an opportunity to develop. In carrying out this broad policy not only were schools established and towns remodelled, but battles were fought with such tribes as were recalcitrant and unruly like the wild Moros.

The literature which has grown out of all this effort is large and of vast importance civically, ethnologically, and politically, for it is the history of harmonizing antagonistic primitive groups, guiding them into proper channels of progress, and fitting them for eventual self government, a task never before set for itself by any conqueror; and a task which has led to impatience and misunderstanding not only among the warring tribes but among people at home who were ignorant of the situation. Arthur Judson Brown describes The New Era in the Philippines (1903); James H. Blount asks (in The North American Review, 1907) “Philippine Independence, When?”; William H. Taft in The Outlook (1902) gives a statement on “Civil Government in the Philippines”; William B. Freer writes The Philippine Experiences of an American Teacher, A Narrative of Work and Travel in the Philippine Islands (1906); and Dean C. Worcester, to whom more than to any other individual belongs the credit for a remarkable achievement by the United States in this far-off region, wrote The Philippine Islands and their People, A Record of Personal Observation and Experience (1898). A most interesting and instructive “inside” account is Albert Sonnichsen’s Ten Months a Captive among Filipinos (1901). Sonnichsen was not treated badly by Filipinos, and he was fortunate in not falling into the clutches of some of the less developed tribes.

An ethnological survey was begun and has been carried forward by the bureau having this science in charge. An example of results is the admirable study by Albert Ernest Jenks of The Bontoc Igorot (1905), a volume of 266 pages printed at Manila. These Bontoc Igorots occupy a district near the centre of the northern part of the island of Luzon, and are typical primitive Malayan stock, intelligent and amenable. “I recall,” says Mr. Jenks, “with great pleasure the months spent in Bontoc pueblo, and I have a most sincere interest in and respect for the Bontoc Igorot.”