Occupation Day, America and Japan | Inquirer Opinion
Reveille

Occupation Day, America and Japan

There was a time when older generations “celebrated” Aug. 13 as a holiday. It was dubbed “Occupation Day” and was observed with much pomp and pageantry. Carmen Guerrero Nakpil in her book “Heroes and Villains” describes the celebrations as follows:

“It was a school holiday and a national fiesta with triumphalist speeches on the Luneta. We were taught that it was the day the Americans took possession of Manila in 1898, obviously a cause for rejoicing since it meant the end of the nefarious centuries we had spent in Spanish convents and the beginning of our dalliance with English and Hollywood.” But Nakpil’s grandfather would relate how the Filipino revolutionary forces had actually surrounded Intramuros and “reduced the Spaniards to starvation and despair but were prevented from taking over the city by the Americans, who had pretended they were allies only until they were able to land enough troops to take Manila themselves.”

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This view is supported by American best-selling author James Bradley in his book “The Imperial Cruise.” He wrote, “The half-starved Spanish (reduced to eating horsemeat and rats) held out behind Manila’s walls, Aguinaldo’s troops held the rest of the country. But one crucial element had become clear: The Spanish were white and the Filipinos were not. The Americans approached the Spanish with a deal: US forces would pretend to attack Manila, the Spanish would pretend to defend and, after a little noise, the Spanish would surrender the capital. The Americans would then claim a glorious victory; the Spanish, a manly defeat without casualties… all of these kept secret from the Filipinos.

“On August 13, the Americans and Spanish fought the sham Battle of Manila… and the US army waltzed into Manila with little wear and tear.”

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Some 43 years later, in December 1941, Japanese forces invaded the Philippines and occupied the country for over three years, setting up what is known as the “Second Republic” under President Jose P. Laurel.

For a young boy, enemy occupation meant some definite changes in routine. I would walk to school always on the lookout for checkpoints manned by fierce-looking soldiers wearing strange uniforms with bayonets on their rifles and speaking with a harsh tongue. And I learned to bow from the waist to hide my fears as I approached them not knowing what to expect. It was at school where change was most pronounced. Instead of the “Star Spangled Banner,” it was the “Kimigayo” that we were taught to sing. A new language based on a strange alphabet was introduced. It was a difficult and confusing time for me.

For much of the nation, life began with a mass organization being created in December 1942 to “indoctrinate the Filipino both young and old, with the idea of building a new Philippines.” The organization was named Kalibapi, or Kapisanan sa Paglilingkod sa Bagong Pilipinas. Its aims were the eradication of Western influences from Filipino life. It cultivated the use of Nippongo and Tagalog, in place of English. The Kalibapi sought to promote a sense of community similar to the Japanese model through neighborhood associations as well as the control of activities in all fields of endeavor, including labor, agriculture, commerce and industry. It served as an instrument to further the idea of a “Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere,” and how the Philippines would benefit from its participation. Jorge Vargas was appointed president, while Benigno Aquino Sr. was director general.

Oct. 14, 1943 saw the birth of the Second Republic under the “guidance and protection of Japan.” Thailand, Burma, Croatia, Germany, and Italy extended recognition while Spain sent its “greetings.” Jose P. Laurel was chosen president while Claro M. Recto served as minister of foreign affairs. Emiliano Tria Tirona became minister of health, labor, and public welfare. Other prominent Filipinos served in various positions in the new government.

After Japan surrendered to the Allies, President Laurel issued a formal proclamation dissolving the Second Republic.

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One occupation was the result of lies and deception by white people pretending to be our allies in our struggle for freedom. The other was a straightforward exercise of force and power by yellow people over our land. We had no quarrel with them, but unfortunately our land was occupied by military forces of their enemy.

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TAGS: Battle of Manila 1898, Japanese Occupation, Occupation Day, Ramon J. Farolan, Reveille
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