This was the original e-mail inquiry, I received on September 24, from the Department of Foreign Affairs:
I am writing because someone suggested that i inquire from you, apparently because in one of your articles, you mentioned about social, cultural ties between the Philippines and India long before the establishment of our diplomatic relations in 1949.
Now, I’d like to ask if indeed you have the materials on the subject and if i can procure copies from you. We only want to show that the Philippines already had relations with India before the formal establishment of diplomatic relations.
We badly need it, in preparation for the President’s visit to India this coming first week of October.
Thank you for your inquiry. May I refer you to the script of my TV show, which tackled the points you raised.
The Philippine and Indian independence movements were aware of each other. The Nacionalista Party dominated the peaceful efforts to secure independence from the USA, in the same manner that the Congress Party did, in India.
A Russian Scholar quoted Gandhi’s praise for the Philippines achieving Commonwealth status and Gandhi said, he would have accepted a similar means to independence if it had been available to his people.
We achieved independence in ’46, India in ’47, we are contemporaries as among the first colonized peoples to recover our freedoms without the need to wage war.
In the 1950s under Nehru and here at home, we both followed the path of an inward-looking economy. The Philippines and India have both been seeking means to break out of the limits of what the Indians call the “License Raj.”
Note Octavio Paz’s comments on historical links, mangoes, chiles, between India and the Philippines, mention the Sepoys who settled in Cainta, mention Ninoy Aquino’s admiration for Gandhi, mention how GMA’s father, DM, opened the windows of Philippine diplomacy and governance to the lessons of the Indians and their democracy.
I hope this will be of help in an important endeavor for our country’s diplomacy and economic activities.
I followed this up with a second message five minutes later:
You may wish to add that even under the limits of colonial rule, in the meetings of Asian diplomats and officials taking place in Washington during WW2, future Philippine diplomats including Joaquin Elizalde, first Phil amb. To the USA and later SECFORAF, met with Indian counterparts and this included frank and open discussions on the challenges of future independence. These meetings took place in 1943 and were the basis of a confidential report written by Arturo Rotor, the noted writer, then acting as Executive Secretary for the Phil. Commonwealth [government-in-exile].
When Gandhi and Nehru were imprisoned during World War 2, President Quezon attempted to send an appeal for their release through the British Ambassador in Washington, Lord Halifax, but Halifax said any attempt by Filipino officials to communicate with Indian leaders would not be permitted (this is documented in the diaries of Francis Burton Harrison).
The two incidents mentioned above predates both Phil. and Indian independence and our formal diplomatic relations by several years.
Quezon and Gandhi also said nearly identical things which should strike an emotional chord.
It’s not so much and archaeological story as it is a political one. The Philippine president attempts to revive ancient “ties” with India by citing Indian cultural influence by way of Srivijaya and Majapahit. I find it quite funny that the basis for reviving ties is not so much because of any historic ties with India per se (whatever “India” was in the past), but by the fact that Indian “culture” was transmitted to the Philippines. Which doesn’t really say anything, does it?
But then again I’ve long argued that President Macapagal inflicted amnesia by trying to steal the thunder of the Left, and reclaim the Philippine Revolution for propaganda purposes; by so doing, he made the narrative of Philippine history senseless as the peaceful campaign for independence was ignored. But that is our actual link with India as it exists, today. Though no link in such things is ever as precise or as satisfactory as one would want.
As the Conclusion of what I’ve selected as Book of the Week puts it (giving an insight into the more prominent differences in opinion between Gandhi and Jinnah, or Jinnah and Nehru), taking the example of an Indian political leader,
The ways in which the institutional context worked to delimit potential expression is particularly well illustrated in the rather strange career of M. K. Dixit, the city’s leading political figure during the 1920s. Between 1919 and 1923 Dixit had been an extremely important noncooperator, committed to a Gandhian agenda. He rallied the population to boycott the legislative elections, he helped to sabotage local self-government in the city by insisting on the program of national education, he contributed to undermining the municipality’s scheme of universal and compulsory primary education, and he backed a pan-Islamic movement for the sake of securing Hindu-Muslim unity. By the late 1920s, however, he had become a member of the provincial legislature, a staunch advocate of urban reform on the municipal council, a man with close ties to the collector of the district, and a person partially identified with Surat’s most significant communal organization–the Hindu Mahasabha. A cynical perspective, of course, might see Dixit as a chameleon who had simply shown different colors at the time of noncooperation. No doubt, he, like most political figures, had opportunist tendencies; he was certainly aware of the audiences he would need to cultivate to maintain his political influence. But he was also consistently committed to fighting for the Indian nation and to representing his city. Pursuing these ends led him into the politics of local self-governing institutions. Once he attained a leading position in these structures, he faced increasing pressures to adhere to communal and liberal rhetorical and ritual paradigms. A close reading of his politics suggests that rather than making constant calculations in order to secure his immediate material advantage, Dixit had undergone a resocialization in which his conceptions of the political world had changed; otherwise he might have been easily able to return to a Gandhian idiom when the civil disobedience movement erupted in 1930. The range of possible ways that he felt he could present himself and his causes had seriously narrowed. In advocating and defending his roles as municipal president, provincial legislator, and spokesman for the people during the 1920s, Dixit came to redefine his values, even his self-identity.
As the author, Douglas E. Haynes, observes,
The tale of Dixit is a familiar one to Indian historians (and indeed to observers of the contemporary Indian scene), who are accustomed to seeing once-radical politicians seem to abandon their social commitments and tame their political rhetoric once inside municipal councils, parliamentary halls, and government ministries, and in positions of national leadership. This systematic pattern in late colonial politics suggests that something more than a series of unconnected personal sellouts was taking place. Rather it testifies to the potent conditioning influence of the institutions and discourse of liberal imperialism tied almost inextricably to these institutions. In retrospect, it is now possible to recognize that the most successful colonialisms–the ones that exerted the most complete hegemony over the colonized elite, the ones that left their colonies voluntarily after peaceful negotiations rather than disruptive revolutions–were often those that had most completely established structures of political representation and self-government. For in these colonialisms elite figures often opted to bargain with and resist their rulers on a political and discursive terrain set by the colonizers’ institutions and culture. Independence for these societies often took a form that mid-twentieth century imperialists, whose views themselves reflected the impact of this bargaining with their subjects, would regard as safe, rational, and even legitimate.
At which point, the comparison, not necessarily flattering, with the Philippine experience:
India thus ends up bearing some similarity to the Philippines, where imperialists with an even more extreme commitment to inculcating liberal democracy among their subjects assumed positions as colonial rulers at the turn of the twentieth century. In their Southeast Asian colony the Americans set up representative institutions at the local and provincial levels almost from the onset of colonial rule in the effort to coopt the ilustrado, the conservative landed and business elite. By 1907, a national legislature had been established. Thus emerged what Peter Stanley has termed the “Fil-American Empire,” an imperialism in which the ilustrado became virtual junior partners. Within this unusual colonial relationship, the elite made frequent recourse to the same American ideology of “benevolent assimilation” that had sanctioned imperial rule as it struggled to achieve its political interests, greater representative powers, and, eventually, independence. Liberal democracy achieved ascendancy in the islands’ central arenas of politics, isolating other potential philosophies and languages on the periphery. The accommodation of the Filipino elite to the discourse of American imperialism sometimes took an exceptionally exaggerated, almost sycophantic, form that most Indian nationalists would surely have found pathetic and contemptible. For instance, at an event in 1938 commemorating the conquest of the islands, Manuel Quezon, the chief architect of Filipino independence and the first president of the Commonwealth of the Philippines, said of the first time he had seen the American flag raised over the Manila Harbor four decades earlier: “Little did I realize then that I was witnessing what in ultimate result may prove to be the greatest event of modern civilization in the Orient. Little did I know in my immaturity that I was beholding the birth of a new ideology in Asia–an ideology based upon what was then a strange, new conception in this part of the world–a conception that government is, ‘of the people, by the people, and for the people’–a conception based upon the magic words–liberty and freedom.” But the language of liberal representative democracy became the chief ground of contending colonial policies as well as a means of expressing supplication. So successful was the colonial effort of “political education” that, for several decades after independence, Americans would point proudly to the Philippines as a “showcase for democracy,” hinting that their imperial venture (in contrast to those of the Europeans) may not have been such a bad idea after all.
In contrast to the Indian and Philippine experience, stands that of Vietnam:
Vietnam provides a striking counterexample to the Philippines and India. There the French gave only limited play to representative institutions, creating a colonial council and a handful of municipalities that gave voice only to a few among the emerging Vietnamese elite. Those who adhered to the Constitutionalist party–the most important organization espousing constitutional tactics–were never more than a tiny coterie of friends and associates. There was always a much larger number of the elite who perceived that they were excluded from council politics, that the political gains of the Constitutionalists were negligible, and that those whose voices were too loud would be subject to direct repression, no matter what language they were speaking. These figures turned increasingly to radical alternatives, most importantly, Marxism. Marxism provided a language of resistance against the French myth of mission civilisatrice; it insisted that European colonialism was a selfish, barbaric institution that had as its inevitable objective the plundering of the colonized. But Marxism was also transformed in the process of becoming Vietnamese. Free from the discursive constraints of working within colonial structures. Ho Chi Minh and his comrades fashioned a syncretic rhetoric that evoked sentiment deeply rooted in Vietnamese culture. The use of family metaphors in referring to the relationship of revolutionaries to the people, the conscious evocation of the rich Vietnamese tradition of resistance to foreign oppression, the value placed on folk songs and peasant culture, and the shaping of a revolutionary moral code grounded in a Confucian value system all offered a possibility for creating strong bonds with the peasantry. Marxist revolutionary rhetoric seems to have achieved in Vietnam a success that Gandhism never accomplished, in part because the liberal alternative was so thoroughly discredited by its obvious inapplicability to French colonial rule. Radicals inspired by this indigenous form of Marxism led the Vietnamese peasantry in a violent revolution that compelled the French to leave after the decisive defeat at Dienbienphu, and ultimately produced a communist state closely aligned with the Soviet Union.-
The author then suggests this might provide the stimulus for further research:
Such a brief comparative sketch can hardly capture the full range of factors that contributed to the development of political culture within these three societies. It sets aside such complex issues as the relationship between material interest and cultural production, the role of resistance from below, and patterns of individual variation among the elite, all issues that have figured in this study of Surat. Most important, in its sketchiness, it obscures the everyday processes of struggle and negotiation by which men and women among the colonized gave shape to their cultures. But it does suggest a broad hypothesis that might prove worth testing in other studies. To return to the typology developed in the first chapter of this book, liberal imperialism encouraged cultural accommodations to colonialism that were within hegemonic limits, it discouraged the production and spread of fully counterhegemonic languages that could inspire confrontation with colonial power, and often it successfully left its mark on postcolonial society in the form of representative institutions and an elite committed to constitutionalism and evolutionary progress. By contrast, in colonies that had experienced more repressive imperial regimes, where elite figures felt that their political mobility and access to power were blocked, the psychic and institutional legacies of imperialism were often more easily challenged and dismantled.
As I pointed out on my show, there’s something remarkable about gigantic India facing off with the Philippines as one of its main rivals in the call center industry; but even a superficial look-see at India’s and the Philippines’ paths to independence and their democracies, suggests to anyone, I think, the potential not only for greater mutual understanding but for problem-solving, too. As Re-constructing Colonial Philippines: 1900-1910 by Patricio Abinales points out,
The U.S. Congress approved the colonization of the Philippines but refused to provide sustained financial support for the undertaking. In fact, the Congress allotted only $3 million for the Philippines in the entire period from 1903 to the formation of the Philippine Commonwealth. One economist called it colonial administration “accomplished ‘on the cheap.’ “Financial constraints were also complicated by the difficulty of attracting Americans to govern the colony. The solution to these problems was found in generating revenues from the colony’s own resources, particularly the existing crops that the colony was exporting abroad later years of Spanish rule. Enhancing this export economy, however, was not easy. American legislators, especially those coming from the agricultural regions of the U.S., vigorously opposed proposals that Philippine products enter the country tariff-free. As a consequence, the so-called “free trade” that introduced under American rule was not so free. The U.S. was very selective in the choice of Philippine products that could be exported to the American mainland. Only sugar, hemp and coconut were allowed open access to the U.S. market; and even these products would later be taxed in American ports. Selective entry of these goods however was enough to resurrect the export economy, and by the end of the decade much of it was re-energized because of the American market.
The second issue–putting people into the administrative and political structure–proved more successful because the Americans early on opened up the structure to Filipino participation. It is general knowledge that even as the war against Aguinaldo was raging, the Americans were already able to recruit prominent Filipinos to their side. These collaborators became the backbone of the Federalista Party, a party committed to full American control as well as the medium for introducing the party system to the Philippines. The Federalistas were also supposed to become the dominant Filipino party in the soon-to-be formed Philippine Assembly and American backing initially helped them to mobilize Filipino support.
And as he then adds,
By the end of the first decade, “regular provinces” comprised half of the Philippines. These provinces had elected and appointive Filipino officials, many of whom owed their positions to Quezon, Osmeña and the Nacionalistas. Combining their local political experiences learned from the last years of Spanish rule, with the “political education” they were getting from the Americans, the Filipinos proved within a short period of time that they had the ability to be equally adept at governing the colony. In its first year at work, the Philippine Assembly had already shown a marked adeptness in introducing additional provisions or new amendments to existing colonial laws, and in negotiating with the Philippine Commission and the Governor General over matters of policy formulation, funding and government personnel changes. Quezon and Osmeña were at the top of all these processes. They were fast becoming astute leaders of the political party they helped build, of the Assembly that they presided over, and of the colonial regime they co-governed with the Americans. If Rizal was credited for having conceived of the “Filipino,” and if Bonifacio and Aguinaldo were the leaders who gave this imagination a reality with the Revolution, to Quezon and Osmeña must be given the distinction of helping construct the political and administrative structure that would be associated with the term “Filipino.” The Americans may have created the colonial state, but it was these two leaders who gave flesh to it and putting the foundations that the future Republic would stand on.
But this also resulted in a problem that would continue, post-independence, though unacknowledged in terms of its origins:
A major reason for the American success was the cooperation extended by Muslim and Cordilleran leaders to the Americans. They regarded colonial rule as a means of protecting themselves against Christians and “lowlanders.” American military officials reciprocated this cooperation by resisting the efforts of Filipinos to extend their power to the “special provinces.” A working relationship eventually developed between these community leaders and the Americans whereby the former were given minor posts in the provincial government (“tribal wards” in the case of the Muslims) in exchange for agreeing to recognize American sovereignty. U.S. army officers who administered these areas also became their protectors against Filipino leaders, doing everything they can to limit the presence of Manila and the Nacionalista party in the Cordilleras and “Moro Mindanao.”
The only major resistance came from the Muslims at the hills of Bud Dajo and Bud Bagsak, when the army declared a ban on weapons and raised head taxes. American military superiority prevailed and over a hundred Muslim men, women and children were killed. Politically, however, these actions eroded the army’s standing and opened up an opportunity for Quezon to attack military rule in Mindanao. After the massacres, the army was forced slowly to concede authority to Manila and the Filipinos. The army’s powers were also clipped once the U.S. Congress authorized its partial demobilization, and once the American president ordered its withdrawal from the special provinces and its replacement by Philippine Constabulary units. Many American officers also preferred to continue their military careers in the U.S. mainland, seeing very little prospects in just limiting themselves to the Philippines. All these problems emboldened the Filipinos to assert their political presence in these special provinces. This was something that a weakened military government could not repulse anymore. In 1913, the army conceded its power to the Department of Mindanao and Sulu, a body controlled from Manila and by Filipinos. The Cordilleras’ status as a special province was also terminated and the Nacionalista Party began recruiting its first “Cordillerans” to join the organization.
Two major features therefore characterized the first decade of colonial rule. First was the full and effective unification of Las Islas Filipinas under American rule, and second was the division of colony into two major zones of administration reflecting the histories of their respective populations. These two zones were eventually unified under the Filipinization policy, but the distinctiveness upon which they were based continued to affect overall colonial development. Muslims and Cordillerans remained staunchly pro-American and anti-Filipino, while Christian “lowlanders” continued to mistrust and maintain a low regard for these “wild tribes.”
The result were rebellions in Mindanao and the Cordilleras in the 1970s and 1980s onwards.
And on an entirely unrelated note, this is clever and amusing: