Mar 172013

My Philippine History Bookshelf

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by Chris Pforr

This is a personal list, the books on my actual bookshelf. My interest is the American Period, 1898 to the present; hence, not much on the pre-Spanish or Spanish periods. Hope you find something interesting…

General Philippine History


History of the Filipino People     by Teodoro Agoncillo, 1960


When the first edition of History of the Filipino People was published in 1960, it set out to correct interpretations of Philippine history in other textbooks that were more concerned with the history of Spain and the Catholic Church in the Philippines, than with the history of the Filipino people.” Teodoro Agoncillo was the first ‘nationalist’ Filipino historian. Although now dated, this classic text was ground-breaking when first published. It remains a good introduction both to Philippine history and also Philippine historiography. The 1990 edition is still in print.

The Philippines: A Past Revisited

The Philippines: A Past Revisited     by Renato Constantino, 1975


This book is Constantino’s attempt at a major breakthrough in Philippine historiography: he looks at the oppression of the Filipino masses from earliest time to 1941 and the struggle of men like himself to crack through the stereotypes hitherto propagated by Spaniards and Americans about the Filipinos.” Renato Constantino was the first popular Filipino leftist historian. This is another classic text, virulently anti-imperialist.

The Philippines: the Continuing Past

The Philippines: the Continuing Past     by Renato Constantino, 1978


Constantino’s companion volume covers the period 1941 to 1965. It “emphasizes the fact that while there are apparent changes, the new refinements of external control and exploitation merely conceal the persisting subjection.

In Our Image: America’s Empire in the Philippines by Stanley Karnow, 1986


Those who love swashbuckling history will enjoy this work.” Stanley Karnow belongs to the ‘apologist’ school of American writers, justifying the American invasion and colonization on the basis of the United States having ‘civilized‘ the Philippines and then bestowed independence. Nevertheless, the book provides a wealth of detail and stories about the long and convoluted relationship between the two nations. Won the Pulitzer prize for history.

The Philippines Reader: A History of Colonialism, Neocolonialism, Dictatorship, and Resistance     edited by Daniel Schirmer & Stephen Shalom, 1987


The Philippines Reader illuminates the history of the continuing struggle of the Philippines people for true independence and social justice. Daniel Schirmer and Stephen Shalom have put together a single volume of readings and documents providing essential background– from the turn-of-the-century U.S. war of conquest to the new administration of Corazon Aquino.” Excellent collection of essays and historic documents chronicling the American colonial & neocolonial misadventure in the Philippines.

Chris Pforr

Philippine History & Government     by Reynaldo Oliveros, Ma. Conception M. Galvez, Yolanda R. Estrlla, & John Paul Andaquig, 2007


The book provides a perspective of our nation’s rich history of struggle that is pro-Filipino and pro-people. It aims to develop among the students and appreciation of our people’s efforts and sacrifices to become truly free, sovereign and progressive. The book features facts and analyses integral to nation building.” I consider this the best contemporary high-school-level Philippine history textbook. It is published by the IBON Foundation, “a non-profit research, education and information-development institution with programs in research, education and advocacy based in the Philippines.”

Philippine History and Government by Gregorio & Sonia Zaide, 2011


Required reading in many high schools and universities, this is by far the most widely distributed Philippine history textbook. Originally published in 1938, it’s now in its sixth edition. In my opinion, it is the worst Philippine history text published. Sample text from the 4th Edition, 2004, on the Origin of the Philippines: “as Christians, we believe that the land forms were made by God as part of his creation.” [p 4] “The best explanations we have about our distant past come from (1) the story of God’s creation in the Bible;” [p 30] “Because we are Christian, we believe that the story of God’s creation of man, as described in the Holy Bible, is the real truth… Therefore, any other explanation about how early man came into being, is only the product of human theory or thinking, and it cannot be the truth.” [p. 30]

Philippine-American War 1899-1906

Benevolent Assimilation     by Stuart Craighton Miller, 1984


The most thorough, balanced, and well-written study to date of America’s imperial adventure in the western Pacific and the most persuasive analysis of the varied reactions of the American people to the military subjugation of the Filipinos. . . . [Told] with clarity, wit and a talent for the apt quotation.” “The book is not really a military history; the military aspects are secondary to Miller’s coverage of how Americans justified, reacted to, and lied about our subjugation of the Philippines. ” Excellent introduction to the Philippine-American War and its political context.

The Filipino-American War, 1899-1913     by Samuel K. Tan, 2002


This Volume on the Filipino-American war is an attempt to bring together, in a general perspective, the struggle and travail of the Filipino people after their shortlived emancipation from over three hundred years of Spanish rule. Important in this task is not only the survey of a reasonable amount of both primary and secondary sources on the war, but also the integration of the otherwise neglected struggle of the non-Christian sector. especially that of the Filipino Muslims. There is not pretension to exhaustiveness in this effort to preset a Filipino view of a war that was neither desired nor welcomed but had to be fought regardless of the costs and consequences.” I found it very difficult to read, in fact I couldn’t finish it.

A War of Frontier and Empire     by David Silbey, 2008


Silbey provides us with a timely, deft reexamination of American politics at the turn of the 20th century . . . Silbey moves seamlessly between the political arena, the insurrectionists, and the war diaries of the US infantry. .”.” Another very good introduction to the war.

The Forbidden Book: The Philippine-American War in Political Cartoons     by Abe Ignacio, Enrique de la Cruz, Jorge Emmanuel, Helen Toribio, 2004


An astounding collection of full-page political cartoons at the turn of the 20th century that will open one’s eyes to U.S. imperialist ambition as told through the colonization of the Philippines…. Interesting and revolting at the same time.” Eye-popping collection. If anyone believes racism is not deeply embedded in American culture, these cartoons may loosen up a few rusty bolts.

Iconography of the New Empire: Race and Gender Images and the American Colonization of the Philippines by Servando D. Halili, Jr., 2006


This book makes a postcolonial reading of the American invasion and colonization of the Philippines in 1898. It considers how nineteenth-century American popular culture, specifically political cartoons and caricatures, influenced American foreign policy. These sources, drawn from several U.S. libraries and archives, show how race and gender ideologies significantly influenced the move of the U.S. to annex the Philippines.” This book is similar to the volume described above. However, whereas The Forbidden Book has large format, full-color, high-resolution images, the cartoons here are smaller, black-and-white and low resolution. The author makes up for that with a deeper analysis of the images. The two books actually go well together.

Colonial period 1900-1946

A Nation in the Making: The Philippines and the United States, 1899-1921     by Peter W. Stanley, 1974


Sponsored and edited by the Committee on American-Far Eastern Policy Studies of the Department of History at Harvard University.” Peter Stanley is another “apologist” American historian. This is a detailed narrative of the early colonial period with focus on the relationships between American colonial bureaucrats and their Philippine collaborators. He presents good insight into the thinking and strategies of the Americans, but offers little information on the effects of their actions upon the Philippine people. It’s out of print, but I was able to photocopy the book at the Ateneo de Manila Library in Quezon City.

The American Colonial State in the Philippines     Edited by Julian Go & Anne L. Foster, 2003


Written by social scientists and historians, these essays investigate various aspects of American colonial government through comparison with and contextualization within colonial regimes elsewhere in the world—from British Malaysia and Dutch Indonesia to Japanese Taiwan and America’s other major overseas colony, Puerto Rico.” This volume demonstrates the genius of the American colonialists, who borrowed pieces from their fellow British, Dutch and Japanese imperialists, but also invented a great deal on their own.

Colonial Pathologies     by Warwick Anderson, 2006


Colonial Pathologies is a groundbreaking history of the role of science and medicine in the American colonization of the Philippines from 1898 through the 1930s. Warwick Anderson describes how American colonizers sought to maintain their own health and stamina in a foreign environment while exerting control over and ‘civilizing’ a population of seven million people spread out over seven thousand islands. In the process, he traces a significant transformation in the thinking of colonial doctors and scientists about what was most threatening to the health of white colonists.” The author demonstrates  how the colonial public health campaigns reflected the racist and elitist attitudes of American colonial culture. The most fascinating section is Chapter 5, “The White Man’s Psychic Burden” wherein he chronicles the high prevalence of “tropical neurasthenia” amongst the American colonials, a malady of unclear etiology but which  reflected the psychic breakdown experienced by an apparent majority who were unable to resolve the dilemma of being “agents of civilization.”

The Bearer of Pax Americana: The Philippine Career of William H. Taft 1900-1903     by Rene R. Escalante, 2007


William Howard Taft “is presented here as the chief interpreter of President McKinley’s ‘benevolent assimilation’ program, as a legislator, chief executive, trouble shooter, lobbyist, diplomat, judge and a propagandist.” Taft was the pivotal American in the creation of the American colony in the Philippines, having brilliantly concocted the Policy of Attraction which pulled the Philippine elites into a collaborative relationship to manage the colony. The book does a good job of explaining the details and mechanics of Taft’s work, but doesn’t offer much critical insight into the social context.

Policing America’s Empire: The United States, the Philippines, and the Rise of the Surveillance State

by Alfred W. McCoy, 2009


As the U.S. continues to slug it out in its current conflicts with seemingly no end in sight, Alfred W. McCoy has published an important new book which provides an historical corrective to the flawed analysis and hubris of the war hawks. He lays bare the coercive and fundamentally illiberal consequences of U.S. imperial influence in the Philippines during the first half of the 20th century, which set a precedent for subsequent interventions.” The book shows how the U.S. used new information technologies (the telegraph, telephone, typewriter, photograph and numbered file) to develop new surveillance techniques as an adjunct to military and police firepower in order to crush the Filipino revolutionary movement. Next, these innovations were re-exported to the United States and “helped shape a new federal security apparatus during World War I“, which led to the modern American security state. Chilling stuff, meticulusly documented.

Third Philippine Republic 1946-1972

The Huk Rebellion by Ben Kerkvliet, 1978


Drawing on a rich array of documents and in-depth interviews with peasants and rebel leaders, the author provides definitive answers to the causes of the rebellion, the goals of the rebels, and the process of resistance.” The definitive account of the Huk Rebellion. It’s out of print, but I was able to photocopy it at the Ateneo de Manila Library in Quezon City.

The United States and the Philippines: A study of Neocolonialism     by Stephen R. Shalom, 1981


Any lingering doubts about the claim made by young radicals (and increasingly the moderate opposition) in the Philippines that the real enemy is American imperialism and Marcos – not the communists –  are dispelled by Stephen Shalom’s book, which details the neocolonial nature pf Philippine-American relations in the Postwar period.

This book clearly explains how the United States was able to convert a formal colonial relationship with the Philippines into a neo-colonial relationship after World War Two. It is invaluable to understanding the postwar period 1946-1980. Out of print, but I found an old copy in a Manila bookstore. I treasure this book.

The Third Philippine Republic     by Lewis Gleeck, Jr., 1993


A look at the important accomplishments of this governmental era from the well-known historian of the Philippines.” A traditional American historical view of the postwar period leading up to Martial Law.

Amazons of the Huk Rebellion     by Vina Lanzone, 2009


Drawing on interviews with over one hundred veterans of the movement, Vina A. Lanzona explores the Huk rebellion from the intimate and collective experiences of its female participants, demonstrating how their presence, and the complex questions of gender, family, and sexuality they provoked, ultimately shaped the nature of the revolutionary struggle.” This book is a groundbreaker about the female Huks, who barely merited a mention in the other books I’ve read. These were honest-to-god women warriors, truly pioneer Filipina feminists. The writing is a little dry, after all it’s basically the author’s doctoral dissertation; but the stories are electrifying. Chris says Check It Out!

Marcos Era 1965-1986

Waltzing With a Dictator: The Marcoses and the making of American Policy     by Raymond Bonner, 1988


Former New York Times correspondent Bonner reports here on the complex 20-year U.S. relationship with the Philippine Marcos regime. Discussing the dictator couple and their entourage he comments, “rarely, if ever, in history have so few stolen so much from so many”.” Popular account of the Marcos dictatorship by an American journalist.

America’s Boy     by James Hamilton-Patterson, 1998


A narrative history of the U.S.-supported dictatorship that came to define the Philippines.” (James Hamilton-Patterson) “is one of the most reclusive of British literary exiles, sharing his time between Austria, Italy, and the Philippines. His work defies accurate definition, containing elements of travel writing, autobiography, fiction and science. His use of language is particularly taut: meditative, poetic but without literary pretension.” The author alternates chapters of Philippine history with narrative stories about his expat life in a small village in Luzon. Great writing, recommended.

Post-Marcos Era 1986-2000

The Bases of Our Insecurity by Roland Simbulan, 1985


This treatise, by a Philippino scholar & national, makes it clear that U.S. Military aid to Asian countries is always more beneficial to U.S. interests than to Asian country interests &, in fact, historically have aided in the repression of many peoples instead of assistance toward democracy for the majority of the people; U.S. military bases in the Philippines, according to Professor Simbulan, are the most visible vestiges of colonialism in the Islands.” I think this was a touchstone book during the long campaign to oust the U.S. bases from the Philippines. Good history of the bases and important historic documents.

The Anti-Development State: The Political Economy of Permanent Crisis in the Philippines     by Walden Bello, 2004


This book examines how the political system of the Phillippines remains dominated by a competitive elite who oppose any significant attempts to address the country’s huge social inequalities. The way out, he argues, is through the wholesale overhaul of the system of governance, leading to a new development strategy based on more, not less, state intervention, the domestic market as the driver of growth, and working together with other countries in the South.” Excellent analysis of the political economy of the Philippines during the Aquino, Ramos, Estrada and early Arroyo administrations. Naomi Klein says “Walden Bello is the world’s leading no-nonsense revolutionary.”

21st Century

Hot money, warm bodies: The downfall of President Joseph Estrada     by Ellen Tordesillas and Greg Hutchinson


Hot Money, Warm Bodies provides a behind the scene account of those momentous days in January 2001 as well as the events that paved the way for the downfall of a popular but tainted president. Hot money, Warm bodies tells of intimate details of the spicy lifestyle of the movie actor-turned-politician who sees as his only fault his inability to control his libido.” One step up from tabloid jouranalism, but at least it’s well-written.

The US and the War on Terror in the Philippines     edited by Patricio Abinales & Nathan Quimpo, 2008


This collection of essays explores the theme of the US and the “war on terror” in Mindanao, southern Philippines, from various perspectives and levels of analysis. It covers the following topics, among others: the nature and significance of the terrorist threat, history and dynamics of terrorism in the southern Philippines, the armed conflict between the Philippine government and Muslim separatists, the joint US-Philippine efforts to wipe out the Abu Sayyaf and bring about a more durable peace and security in Mindanao.” Eight thoughtful essays by contemporary Filipino scholars.

Forging a Nationalist Foreign Policy     by Roland Simbulan, 2009


This book quite rightly articulates the Philippines’ aspiration for sustainable human development. Students of politics and history as well as policy-makers will truly gain from this book that challenges the country to assert national sovereignty and self-determination.” Collection of essays by a long-standing and prominent critic of U.S. intervention.

Oplan Bantay Laya: The US–Arroyo Campaign of Terror and Counterinsurgency in the Philippines by IBON Foundation, 2010


The fourth in a series of books by IBON documenting the gross human rights violations under the Presidency of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, this volume takes a comprehensive view of the latest counterinsurgency campaign of the Philippine Government dubbed Oplan Bantay Laya (OBL) after nearly a decade of its implementation.” The essays here review U.S. counterinsurgency strategy, the Philippine Armed Forces’ version of that strategy, and the dreadful human rights implications. * Note: ‘Oplan Bantay Laya’ was the name of the strategy under Arroyo; it has changed to ‘Oplan Bayanihan’ under the current Aquino administration. Same dog, new collar.

Bangsamoro / Mindanao

Swish of the Kris, The Story of the Moros     by Vic Hurley, 1936


To reach a real understanding of the forces of history that made the Moros the fearsome fighters that they were and are, the author gives the reader hard facts, careful research, and vivid prose. Although Hurley was writing at a much earlier time and from a western viewpoint, there is no doubt about his respect and admiration for the character and convictions of the fighting Moros, and his disdain for the ineffective strategies and tactics of the US military. ” Vic Hurley was an American who lived in Mindanao for seven years (1920s-1930s?). This is his romanticized, ‘swashbuckling’ version of Bangsamoro history. Re-issued in 2010 in an ‘enhanced’ edition.

The Joys of Dislocation  Mindanao, Nation and Region     by Patricio Abinales, 2008


The peripatetic nature of the essays in this collection – representing over a decade of commentary on the affairs in the three zones of Mindanao, the Philippines and the Southeast Asian region – comes from being written by someone who has never settled down in any of these zones but who has always gone in and out of each of them. ” Patricio Abinales is a prolific and brilliant Filipino writer on many Philippine subjects: student oganizing, martial law, Philippine communism, American military presence, Muslim Mindanao. I really like his writing, highly recommended.

The Muslim South and Beyond     by Samuel K. Tan, 2010


This book is a collection of selected essays of Samuel K. Tan written through the years during his life and times as chairman and member of the Univeristy of the Philippines (UP) Faculty of History… …The essays are conveniently arranged from general to specific issues of the Mindanao conflict and the central relevance of the Muslim South to the problem..” I haven’t read this yet but it’s on my ‘to-read’ list.

The Moro War: How America Battled a Muslim Insurgency in the Philippine Jungle, 1902-1913     by James Arnold, 2011


A lucid political and military history… a fine history of an obscure colonial war in which both sides fought bravely, suffered cruelly, often behaved horribly and accomplished little.” I haven’t read this yet but it’s on my ‘to-read’ list.

And now for something more challenging…

The Star-Entangled Banner     by Sharon Delmendo, 2000


In The Star-Entangled Banner, Sharon Delmendo demonstrates… the longstanding problematic relationship between the two countries. Each chapter of the book deals with a separate issue in this linked history: the influence of Buffalo Bill’s show on the proto-nationalism of Jose Rizal; the portrayal of the Philippines in American children’s books; Back to Bataan, a World War II movie starring John Wayne; the post-independence fiction of F. Sionil Jose; and the refusal of the U.S. military to return the Balangiga Bells… Ultimately, Delmendo demonstrates how the effects of U.S. imperialism in the Philippines continue to resonate in U.S. foreign policy in the post Cold War era and the war on terrorism.” I bought this book and simultaneously rented a DVD of Back to Bataan, a 1945 John Wayne war movie. I watched the movie and read Delmendo’s masterful deconstruction of the movie’s insidious propagandizing. Brilliant! Highly recommended.

The Blood of Government: Race, Empire, the United States, and the Philippines     by Paul Kramer, 2006


In this pathbreaking, transnational study, Paul Kramer reveals how racial politics served U.S. empire, and how empire-building in turn transformed ideas of race and nation in both the United States and the Philippines.” I found this book very challenging due to esoteric sociological terminology and concepts; but I persisted and ultimately found it richly rewarding. He gets to the heart of these complicated, interrelated topics.

U.S. Imperialism and Revolution in the Philippines     by E. San Juan, Jr., 2007


America’s least known imperial venture has finally found a multi-dimensional scholar and critic who is up to the challenge of its many overlapping horrors. Reading San Juan’s superb account is a mind bending and stomach churning experience. Obviously something to be avoided; unless you want to understand how the world created by the Washington-Wall Street axis really works. Highest recommendation!” San Juan is not easy reading: I can spend 30 minutes navigating a page of his dense prose. Still, this is brilliant and thought-provoking stuff, although I haven’t made it through to the end yet.


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