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Jessiah B.

Paña GEO2-1 Readings in Philippine History September 23, 2019

Philippine Cartoons: Political Caricature of the American Era (1900-1941)


A Critical Analysis

The Philippine Cartoons: Political Caricature of the American Era (1900-1941) is a compilation of
political cartoons published in newspapers and periodicals during the American colonial period in the
Philippines. These cartoons depicted the culture, society, and politics during the American colonization in the
Philippines. The book was written by Alfred McCoy and Alfredo Roces.

Alfred McCoy, an American historian and educator, is currently the Fred Harvey Harrington Professor
of History at the University of Wisconsin—Madison. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in European History from
Columbia University, a Master of Arts in Asian Studies from the University of California, Berkeley, and a
Doctor of Philosophy in Southeast Asian History from Ya le University. He specializes in teaching modern
Philippine social and political history, U.S. foreign policy, colonial empires in Southeast Asia, global illicit drug
trafficking, and CIA covert operations. On the other hand, Alfredo Roces was a Filipino author, essayist,
dramatist, and a National Artist of the Philippines for literature. He attended his primary and secondary
education at Ateneo de Manila University before moving to the University of Arizona and then Arizona State
University for his tertiary education. He graduated with a B.A. in Fine Arts and, not long after, attained his
M.A. from Far Eastern University back in the Philippines. He was known as a columnist in Philippine dailies
such as the Manila Chronicle and The Manila Times, and was previously President of the Manila Bulletin. With
their outstanding accomplishments, the book Philippine Cartoons: Political Caricature of the American Era
(1900-1941) was produced to give insight to the public on Philippine history under the American colonial rule.

In this book, Candelaria and Alporha selected six cartoons published under different media columns
such as The Independent, Philippines Free Press, and Lipag Kalabaw. During the American colonial period,
these media outlets had created caricatures that depicted the state of the Philippines in the hands of the U.S.
government and the underlying causes of some of the issues and crises the Filipinos experienced during that era.

The Independent, founded by Vicente Sotto in 1915, was a forum for its pub lisher's political crusade. It
was originally launched to advocate reform of the Nacionalista Party, for Sotto despised the corruption and
compromise of the Nacionalista leadership which was spearheaded by Sergio Osmeña. Sotto's newspaper
attacked anything that stood in the way of a free, just, and prosperous Philippines. Next, the Philippines Free
Press, founded by W. A. Kincaid in 1906 and co- managed by Theo S. Rogers, was a colonial newspaper that
somehow became a convincing advocate of Philippine national progress. Although identified as an American-
owned paper, its editorial viewpoint was sufficiently transformed to avoid the extreme patriotism that
characterized the other American papers. While the American press was essentially anti-Filipino and the
Filipino newspapers were tied to a particular party or faction, the Philippines Free Press escaped both kinds of
bias, advocating only democracy and integrity. Lastly, Lipag Kalabaw, which was launched on 1906 (has no
masthead and whose artists and writers published under pen names), featured a series of satiric cartoons in each
issue supplemented by short articles commenting on the week's events. Judging from its cartoons and articles,
Lipag Kalabaw was a voice for independent radicals affiliated with the Nacionalista Party. The opinions of
these cartoonists, which is in another form of art aside from written works, reflect their stand with regards to
societal problems emerging during the American colonial period, be it either between the Westerners and
Filipinos or among the Filipinos themselves.

As shown in McCoy and Roces's book, the first example, which was published by The Independent, that
was chosen by Candelaria and Alporha, portrays a politician named Dr. Santos, passing his crown to his
brother- in- law named Dr. Barcelona, while a Filipino tells Dr. Santos to stop giving Dr. Barcelona the crown
because it is not his to begin with. In this form of commentary, the cartoonist showed the emerging political
dynasty in the Philippines. Political dynasties started to become an issue on Philippine politics during the
American colonial period, where power and authority is only focused among certain families, specifically those
in the upper class. This type of politics must have been modeled after the United States.

The second example, which was another cartoon published by The Independent, shows the workings of
Manila Police at that period. The commentary depicted a Filipino child who stole a skinny chicken due to
starvation, considering his impoverished state. The police officer was persistently pursuing the child, while a
man labeled Juan de la Cruz was grabbing him, telling him to leave the "small-time pickpockets and thieves"
and focus on "great thieves" instead. This Juan de la Cruz is seen pointing to a huge warehouse containing
bulks of grocery products. With this information, the cartoonist revealed the monopoly of goods during that
period. This economic problem was often ignored (if not, purposely disregarded) by high-ranking officials, for
these authorities focused only on crimes that were not necessarily major offenses. During the American colonial
period, monopolization caused feuds between Filipinos, mostly between those of the lower economic class and
certain authorities.

The third commentary, which was published by Philippines Free Press, shows the unprecedented cases
of colorum automobiles in the city streets. This commentary evidently showed the flaws in law and policy
implementation during that period. With the onset of modernization in the Philippines under the American
colonial period, possession of automobiles became easy. However, with the failure of strict law enforcement,
monitoring drivers who owned colorum vehicles became difficult. In addition, the Philippines Free Press
published the commentary when fatal incidents involving colorum vehicles and taxis became prevalent. These
colorum vehicles posed a threat to the safety of commuters around that time since there was no certainty of
license acquisition among drivers.

The fourth illustration depicts a cinema scenery inside a cinema. The illustration shows a police officer,
at the screen, saying that couples are not allowed to neck or make love inside the theater, wherein two teens,
presumably couples, looked horrified by the "sudden" appearance of the officer while an older couple seemed to
be amused by the situation. In this commentary, the emergence of Western culture in the Philippines was
highlighted. Filipinos were and are known to be conservative, courtesy of the Spaniards for making t he
Philippines a (historically) Christian nation. During the American colonial period, the youth appeared to have
engaged in sexual activities in public spaces (e.g., cinemas). This Western mentality disturbed the conservative
mindset of the Filipinos by gradually turning them into liberated citizens.

The fifth cartoon, which was published by The Independent, portrays an American riding a chariot
pulled by Filipinos who were wearing school uniforms and carrying American objects. McCoy stated that the
cartoon was based on an event in 1907 when William Howard Taft, former president of the United States, was
brought to Manila pier riding a chariot pulled by students of Liceo de Manila. As one of Philippines' colonizers,
America's power made the Filipinos submissive towards their colonizers. The "American riding a chariot" is
known as a sample of an illustration of "Uncle Sam". Uncle Sam is widely known as a common national
personification of the U.S. government or country in general. In this commentary, the cartoon portrays "slavery"
of the Filipinos under American colonial rule— with Uncle Sam as the representation of the U.S. government
and the students as the Filipinos.

The sixth example. which was published by Lipag Kalabaw, depicts Uncle Sam rationing porridge to the
politicians and members of the Progresista Party (or commonly Federalista Party) while members of the
Nacionalista Party look on and wait for their turn. In this commentary, different political parties vying for the
post in the government took support from the U.S. However, instead of giving choices among the voters, the
parties' patronage to the U.S. government made the voters feel conflicted. Political parties cling on to those
who emanate power and influence in order to win the election. But, in this situation, there is no leading party in
either of the two.

Based on the commentaries illustrated in McCoy and Roces's book which gave a glimpse of the
Philippines under the American colonial period, it can be concluded that the Westerners have significantly
shaped our culture and society during their reign. The Independent, Philippines Free Press, and Lipag Kalabaw
(including other media outlets that were not mention by Candelaria and Alporha) served as a tool for showing
the public how the Americans had manipulated and subdued Filipinos. Even the aftermath of their colonization
still manifests up to this day. To start with, there are currently numerous unresolved issues with regards to
political dynasties. For instance, most political families prioritize the preservation of power. Political parties are
also of widespread. The downside is that if a certain party appears to be powerful to overcome, one would use a
propaganda against the opposition. Secondly, colorum public utility vehicles are still present. Meaning, the
enforcement of the law is inadequate to eradicate these illegally-obtained vehicles. Monopoly of businesses and
goods are rampant even if there are laws and policies regarding the restriction of monopolies in the country.
Lastly, the liberation of the youth is still there. In fact, majority of the youth of today are more liberated than
they were before. While it is true that Filipinos are known to be conservative, eventually, some had started to
accept and adapt to the Westerners' liberated culture. The liberalism adapted by the Filipinos from the
Westerners has its ups and downs. On the positive note, Filipinos had become more patriotic and have a
stronger sense of nationalism. On the contrary, liberalism from the Westerners influenced the Filipino youth in
such a way that couples began to display intimate and private acts towards each other without regard for time
and setting. McCoy and Roces gathered these illustrations for their relevance in the context of Philippine
history. A single caricature was drawn not merely by lines and curves. These depictions served as an imprint of
untold stories and strong emotions of the Filipinos during that era.

The Philippine Cartoons: Political Caricature of the American Era (1900-1941) is a reflection of a brief
period of time in Philippine history. It is a period of where our society started to adapt modernity, all the while
facing the challenges and issues brought about by our colonizers. These illustrations are not mere exhibitions of
artistry and craft but serve as a message from the past to the present. It is from our reflections that we get to
understand the way things should be. As our past shows our hardships, we need to think of measures on how to
recover from the mishaps we have faced. As we continuously try to understand our past, we could also illustrate
our present societal issues. We could draw in order to catch the attention of the public and give a hint about
what is going on in the society. And as we create art in the present, the future generations shall know how their
history came up to be.

Reference

McCoy, A. W., & Roces, A. A. (1985). Philippine Cartoons: Political Caricature of the American Era, 1900-
1941. Vera-Reyes.