The Philippine-American War: The Filipino Natives Perspective

Hello readers!

I have gathered an archive on the Philippine-American war. The image that I set out for this was to bring in the perspective of the Filipino people during this time period. Many archives that have been preserved and saved through time, are usually from the perspective of Caucasian men throughout history. So yes, although the archives I’ve collected together are taken from Caucasian men who documented events during this time period, I have decided to draw a focus gathering an archive of images. Although images may seem distorted since some photos may have been ‘posed’ for or ‘in-action’ photos. By interpreting or researching into what’s actually happening during that time period specifically in the Philippine-American war, I was able to draw connections on how the Filipinos must be feeling or experiencing during this time.
When I first started out thinking about what I wanted to build an archive on, I wanted to have the chance to research on an event that dealt with my family history, but didn’t get a lot of awareness or perspective apart from the Western colonizers perspective. Therefore, I decided to go with the Philippine-American war since many Filipinos and Filipino-Americans who I’ve come across have conflicted ideas and opinions as to what actually happened and if the Philippine-American war was for better or worse for the country of the Philippines itself. Therefore, this inspired my research in developing an archive but from the perspectives of the Filipino people themselves during this time period as to what they really were ‘benefitting’ from the Philippine-American war or the United States involvement in the Philippines.
So for those of you who aren’t sure or aware of the historical background as to what happened during the Philippine-American war, there are plenty of quick brief summaries online. But, of course many of these sites have the perspective of the Americans that through this war it brought about better education, improvements to the government system, and improvements to the infrastructure of the Philippines. Which is plausible to say that it’s not entirely true, but from history, we do know that due to the war a lot of sacrifice and death occurred, as well as the start of the corrupted government of President Ferdinand Marcos. In case you aren’t aware of what happened during the Philippine-American War, I would suggest using this site to have background information. But of course, it is documented in the perspective of the American side (fair warning).
My focus on the Philippine-American war isn’t the violence, or the shift in the government, but instead the racial tensions between the Americans and the Filipinos. From my background readings and research, I discovered that the racial tensions between the Americans and the Filipinos have been one of the major factors in igniting the Philippine-American war. As Paul Kramer, Associate Professor of History at Vanderbilt University, states in his article, the miscommunication/translation, conflicting interests, suspicions on both sides, and the disrespect and degrading behavior from the U.S. soldiers were the factors that lead up to the war. Reports from African-American soldiers during this time period reflected in stating that “war would not have broken out ‘if the army of occupation would have treated [Filipinos] as people.’” Paul Kramer also mentions that “shortly after the seizure of Manila, white troops had begun ‘to apply home treatment for colored peoples: cursed them as damned niggers, steal [from] them and ravish them, rob them on the street of their small change, take from the fruit vendors whatever suited their fancy, and kick the poor unfortunate if he complained…’”
  This paints an important picture to imagine what the Filipinos must be going through and their impressions and perspectives on their involvement and interactions of the United States government. Knowing this helped me to collect and build an archive in regard to the perspectives of the Filipinos. If you would like to learn more about how the racial tensions ignited the Philippine-America war, I would suggest reading on this site for more information and details.   In this blog post, I would like to expose the arrival of the U.S. troops on the archipelago of the Philippines to the settlement/colonization of the Philippines that lead up to the Philippine-American war. I will be giving insight based off on the occurrences in history that have been documented from the perspective of the Filipinos through images and photographs/stereographs that can be interpreted as such.   Although I would have liked to show the images in a timeline, but because the majority of the images in this archive are within the same time period of a span of about 3-5 years of each other. Therefore, it wouldn’t fulfill the purposes of showing a dramatic change from one time period to another. Instead, I decided to display the set of archives I’ve search and collected in a grid display. This way I can show you the majority of the images to display and set out how the environment and setting was during the Philippine-American War. As for more key archives that demonstrate the key points during the war, I decided to display images in an image slideshow. Cough, cough You might want to take a look at it by clicking through left/right!

American Colonization on the Archipelago of the Philippines

As you can see the American colonization shows the U.S. invading on to the Philippine islands, settling on the islands, and ruining any chance for the Filipinos to gain independence from the reign of foreign settlers, which is what U.S. history supposedly says they were trying to help the Filipinos stand on their feet.
Headquarters of Aguinaldo's "Secretary of War"--our "Boys" resting after the taking of Malolos, Philippine Islands. Copyright 1899 by Underwood & Underwood. [on negative] [Active no. 24214 : stereo photonegative,] 1899
Encampment of 12th Regulars on arrival at Manila 4/16/1899. [on envelope] [Active no. 20624 : non-stereo photonegative,] 1899
[G]atling Gun, driving Insurgents out of the brush, Pasay, P.I. Copyright 1899 by Underwood & Underwood. [label on negative] [Active no. 22248 : non-stereo photonegative,] 1899
[U.S. Flag atop high pole at fort, probably in Philippines : stereo photonegative.]

Life of Filipino Natives

Before and during the war, the Filipino people have proven to be peaceful people who were clearly unprepared for the mass amount of causalities and war based on the slow rate of advancement the country was at from the constant shifts in colonizers. You can see that the images of the Filipino natives, that they were clearly natives who were NOT as described by the Americans as monstrous ‘savages’ or wild ‘barbarians’.
Filipino children at play, Luzon, 1906
Homemade Filipino Gun
ca 1900

The Unfair and Mistreatment of the Filipino Natives by the American Troops

These photos show the mistreatment and misbehavior of the Filipino people caused by the American troops. In these photos, try to image the situation the Filipinos are put in from the American militants. Imagine have to be forced to take these photos for ‘exotic entertainment’ while in a depressing situation of chaos, war, and colonization, which they just got over with the Spanish and are now being forced to go through again under the Americans. I really found this American comic very interesting. It shows just how deceiving and multi-faced the American government was in handling the Philippines and informing the public back home in America.

Filipinos Fighting for Freedom

  As I’ve stated before, this shows that the Filipino natives clearly were not a serious threat to the Americans to be involved in war as an opponent. Also, many Filipinos were simple farmers and only had either bow and arrows or farming tools and nothing more. This shows that the Filipinos didn’t have a fighting chance in defeating the American military, but still were willing to fight for their independence. The last two photos show Emilio Aguinaldo, the Philippines revolutionary leader, headquarters being destroyed by the Americans. This was a moment when Filipinos lost hope in their revolution for freedom. Some even had no choice but to side with the Americans since their lives were at risks.
From my findings and search for archives, I found it very interesting how it was considered acceptable by the Americans for Filipino casualties to be photographed and printed, but it was unacceptable for American soldiers to be depicted as even injured or dead. Another intriguing find was the usage of stereographs being taking by the Americans. Stereographs were originally used for entertainment purposes of being able to look through them in a way that made the image appear almost three-dimensional. I came across multiple instances of the Filipino people appearing in stereographs more often than the American troops. This also shows through insight, that the photos were being used by the Americans has a means of entertainment to see how these ‘newly discovered’ foreign, ‘barbaric’ and ‘savage’ Filipinos lived and appeared when they would honestly have been living their basic daily life that was normal for Filipino culture.
Having to learn about the Philippine-American war from the American perspective, this experience of researching and gathering this archive from the native Filipino perspective was really eye opening and took time for me to understand and reverse whatever I had previously learned. I was able to discover the racial tensions and beliefs that the Filipino held while fighting to revolt for freedom over their country (which will be exposed in the archives collected).
This experience allowed me to gain insight that history is not always as it’s told. From the background research and achieve findings, I was able to find that although the U.S. government claimed that their involvement and colonization of the Philippines was for the betterment of the country by introducing education, religion, government, infrastructure, etc. (which the Spanish colonization supposedly did as a common goal), when the archives I’ve collected show the Filipino people being mistreated most as slaves and prisoners of war when protesting for their freedom. Which was also connected back to the American troops who reflected their mistreatment of African-Americans on to the Filipino people instead.


Journal, The Asia Pacific. “Race-Making and Colonial Violence in the U.S. Empire: The Philippine-American War as Race War.” The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, Japan Focus, 1 June 2006,  

―This archival exhibit was created by Sheetal Singh in Literature and Digital Diversity, fall 2017.