Today in Philippine hiStory: Spain surrenders to America
Battle of Manila Bay
With Spain and America formally at war, battle in the Philippines was inevitable. On 30 April, US Navy commodore George Dewey and his fleet were spotted in Subic Bay. By midnight, the American fleet headed by the protected cruiser USS Olympia rushed headlong into Manila bay, taking the Spanish fleet under admiral Patricio Montojo by surprise. The result was one of the most decisive naval battles in history.
By 2 May, the American Navy completely destroyed the ill-prepared Spanish forces.
After the fleet was destroyed, ships from Germany and other countries with interests in the Philippines, filled ManilaBay. The German ships were most aggressive, but backed down when confrontations arose. To gain political influence in the country, Dewey helped Filipinos rally against Spain by bringing back exiled general Emilio Aguinaldo from Hong Kong. America and Aguinaldo’s troops successfully led a campaign against Spain and pushed them to Intramuros. On 12 June, Aguinaldo declared Philippine independence.
Back in the Caribbean, America and Spain entered into a peace protocol that implemented a ceasefire between the two sides. The protocol served as the prelude to the creation of the Treaty of Paris which stated that Spain will relinquish its colonies to America.
10 December 1898
After the Spanish and American peace delegations negotiated the terms of the agreement, the Treaty of Paris was signed on 10 December 1898. The following were the provisions listed:
- Give up all rights to Cuba
- Surrender Puerto Rico, Guam and possessions in the West Indies
- Surrender the Philippines for $20m
Spain turned its back from its colonial past with its tail between its legs but with a sack of money. Meanwhile, back in our shores, the Philippine-American War had already begun as the relationship between the two soured.
According to reports passed down through history, a single word started the Philippine-American war: ‘halt.’ In San Juan del Monte in Manila, an American sentry and another soldier encountered three armed Filipinos on a bridge. The sentry, who wasn’t sure what was going on in the dark, shouted ‘halt.’ One Filipino emerged and was shot by the sentry. This prompted the other Filipinos to jump into the fray, but the other American soldier was able to shoot another Filipino.
Later that night, this exchange of shots turned into a full-fledged crossfire between American and Filipino troops. Aguinaldo attempted to stop the war, but that’s a story reserved for another day.
Think about this, if your fate was decided behind your back, what would you feel? How would you react? But, looking back on what happened, it was miscommunication that prompted the war, not the Treaty itself. Still, do you think $20m was enough as a trade for the Philippines? That was rather brash. I don’t know how much that price is worth today, but price tags should never be put on human lives.
I know the world was different then, but this still happens today. Sometimes we equate money with satisfaction or happiness, but that is really not the case. If there’s one thing this page in our history book should teach us, it’s that greed is powerful, but it never is a road to a solution.
That’s it for today’s history! Did you enjoy this tale? I was rather taken by the old photos I was able to find, it makes these stories quite real, don’t you think so? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below!