SPEAKER 1: Please join me in welcoming Gina Apostol to the stage and to the microphone. Welcome, Gina.
GINA APOSTOL: As Professor Anderson was talking, a number of things came to mind as I was listening. So I actually ended up going through a number of things. First of all, one of the things that I will be doing is I'm conjoining two things for this talk. One of them is Aristotle. And the other is Borges, the Argentine writer.
So as you were talking about [INAUDIBLE]-- is it movies, is it film, is it art, is it history-- I thought about Aristotle and his comments he makes in the Poetics. I have to go through it by BrainyQuote online. So I was looking for it.
This is what Aristotle says in the Poetics. "Poetry is finer and more philosophical than history; for poetry expresses the universal and history only the particular." I was thinking about that because this issue of mediation that I think Professor Anderson is talking about-- how do we deal with histories, given that the way we approach them is so mediated?
He was looking at this novel that I'd written, The Unintended. And in this novel, there's a director, "Chiara Brasi, affirms to [? Magsalin ?] that she's the daughter of the director, of the unintended. [? Magsalin ?] confesses she saw the film several times in her teens. At one point, memorably, she recalls watching it frame by frame in a [INAUDIBLE] Avenue, of course, called locations dislocations about the [INAUDIBLE] voids in Vietnam War movies shot in equally blighted areas that are not Vietnam.
"The disturbing web of contorted illusions, hidden history of graphic anxiety, political ironies and astounding art direction resident in a single frame, for instance, of a fissured bridge in the Philippines, in real life dynamited by the Japanese in 1943 and still unrepaired in 1976. And rebuilt specifically and re-exploded spectacularly in the film's faux napalm scene against a mystic pristine river actually already polluted by local dynamite fishers.
The movie, for whatever reason, kept putting [? Magsalin ?] to sleep. Those she omits that detail before the filmmaker's daughter. There was something both engrossing and pathetic about it, about reconstructing the trauma of whole countries through a movie's elusive palimpsest. And what was most disturbing, of course, was that, on one level, the professor's point was undeniably true; our identities are irremediably mediated. But that did not mean [? Magsalin ?] had to keep thinking about it.
"Chiara seems unconcerned, however, by the scholarly implications of her father's cult classic. 'What she really needs,' Chiara says, almost upsetting [? Magsalin's ?] cup of chai, 'someone to accompany her on a trip.' 'Where to?' asks [? Magsalin. ?] 'I need to get to Samar.'"
So thank you so much, Professor Anderson, for reading that novel. It's, as yet, unpublished. But they asked me to think about the writing of the novel and the issue of history. And I want to point out that it is actually-- I just want to say in terms of in 1989 I was hypnotized in Baltimore, where I was studying at the time, by a lecture I heard on Rizal's novel, Noli Me Tangere, a novel that, in many ways, created the nation. And I do not use that word lightly, the verb "created."
Again, we're talking about art and history here. And in that moment, that still seems transcendent to me, amid the whiteness of Johns Hopkins, that scholar, that literature resurrected not only the novel, but my country, simply by translating a few lines from Rizal's Spanish, getting back to me at Hopkins results in more than long-distant, and, in my case, unexplored wit.
The scholar, of course, was Benedict Anderson. I believe at the time he was giving a lecture on ascension for imagined communities. A few years later, I end up going back to Rizal, and I blame all of this on Ben Anderson that I became obsessed, first by Rizal, who is a never-ending quest, I think, for a Filipino, and then consequently by the Filipino Revolution. And because I know my time is short and my interest in this issue can make me go on for hours, because actually it has been going on for decades, I'd like to summarize two things, Aristotle and Borges.
I will be talking about a reading of that war with the Poetics in mind, reading of that war, the Filipino-American War, and Aristotelian tragedy. And I will talk about a particular interest of mine as a writer, a reading of Borges from a post-colonial lens that is a deconstructive, a Pierre Menard reading of this text that, from my point of view as a novelist, has been powerful, enriching, instructive. In one of his stories, "Tlon Uqbar, Orbis Tertius," Borges posits "a world contaminated by the encyclopedists of the world of Tlon and the creators of Orbis Tertius."
In Borges' story, a megalomaniac businessman named Ezra Buckley--
That's Borges' name so you know. Paid intellectuals from all around the world to create this set of encyclopedias of Tlon. A world of fiction is inserted into so-called reality And the consequence is, as Borges states, that, quote, "the world has become Tlon," unquote.
It has often seemed to me in this research I have been doing on the Philippine war against the Americans beginning in 1899, really, coincidentally the year of Borges' birth, also the year of Nabokov's birth, to be honest, so. As I read the constructions by the Americans of the Filipinos, and as I recognize that in this war the voice of the Filipino is silent, occurring mainly in captured documents within military records-- the Filipino voice being a text within a text, mediated, annotated, and translated by her enemy-- it occurred to me that, as I once pointed out, the Philippines is like a Borgesian fantastic country, a Tlon, dreamed up by deceased capitalists.
As I read his American text that layered this history in order to uncover this country, the Philippines, it became my job, it seemed, as an artist and a citizen to pursue, like a spy, a detective, a doomed translator, a reading and rereading of that double in the text, the elusive Filipino, who in the experience of making this novel must be read [INAUDIBLE] through these others' words, the enemy's words in verse anew.
Professor Anderson mentioned The Revolution According to Raymundo Mata, which is actually the novel that I began writing after being so obsessed with Rizal. It's about a shadow Rizal. It was a product of my obsession with-- actually, I just kind of read almost everything that I could on Rizal. And currently I'm working on these two other novels. One of them I recently finished, just sent to my agent, called The Unintended. It's about the filmmaker. And the other one is quite a long drawn-out called William McKinley's World.
So those two are about-- I've been trying to deal with the Filipino-American War. My second novel, The Revolution According to Raymundo Mata, is a comic novel about the Philippine Revolution. I was going to read part of it. But I'm thinking I'll read a section.
"When [? Trina ?] [? Trona ?] described to me the Raymundo Mata manuscript, an obsessive term, perhaps, for the mess she held up in her hands, I have to say I was skeptical. She held up an assortment of unpaginated notes and mismatched sheaves packed in a ratty biscuit tin and stuffed in a tattered medical bag, the edges of the papers curled up in permanent rust.
"Then she thrust into my hand another stack, a neatly typed translation with notes. But even then I was not persuaded. In my experience, the voice of the Revolution is clouded by conflicting purposes. He is vulnerable to the cynicism of a world that, by the time he is done, has sadly changed.
"Our revolution failed, let's face it. We drove out a Spanish empire that already giving up the ghost. Then the Americans beat us to a pulp. They had guns. We wore slippers. Who were we kidding?
"Everyone acknowledges we got it worse than Vietnam. And the Battle of Manila Bay was way back in 1898. We lost big time. Why else do we have post-colonial conferences, except to invite everyone to pick at our scabs?
"Typically, the revolutionist's memoir emerges when the hero is beyond innocence, when the dream is dead, the gap between the irreducible, the mad flip-flop fever, the trauma that cannot be spoken, and the speech that cradles it, unnaturally chronological with suspicious clarity. And [INAUDIBLE] garnished by footnotes is only natural. After all, as a blog scholar said, and I quote in disgust, 'the gap between language and reality is the bane of the human condition,' unquote.
"However, in the histories of our revolution this is magnified by the speaker's own acceptance of his fall. We are left with a pathos of which he cannot speak, a rotten trick, if you ask me. This is the tragic underlying note of all our histories. And so I felt this familiar troubling pain below the diaphragm near the liver when I picked up the tin-can journals of Raymundo Mata, now conveniently stashed into this fine translated state.
"My surprise was great as I read on. But the storyteller is, I must admit, flawed, maybe mad does not diminish my faith in his story. In fact, his madness amplifies its truth. [NON-ENGLISH], December 17, 2004."
So the book was supposed to be the memoirs of Raymundo Mata, who was my shadow Rizal. And it has all these footnotes of different readers. And I meant for this novel, which is a comic novel-- people are interrupting the memoirs with their different versions of the Revolution. I meant for this novel to move into the American period, because a very obscure, but actually factual, Raymundo Mata died, in fact, I believe in jail in American captivity. And growing up in the Philippines, I thought there was only this one war, the one we called the Philippine Revolution.
But what I came to see was that in the Philippines, when we thought about our evolution we are really only talking about the War Against Spain. To write my novel Raymundo Mata, I wished to read only in the Filipino voices of the Revolution. I looked for primary sources by Filipinos, Filipino memoirs because I was interested in the quotidian Filipino voice for that novel.
But what I found was that in the accounts of the American War, the Filipino voice was very hard to find. I could not find a single memoirist who talked about the American War with any depth. They touched upon it but very briefly.
I found many memoirs of that war. Julio Nakpil-- he became the husband of, I guess, Bonifacio's wife. Santiago Alvarez, who was a revolutionary in the American war. [INAUDIBLE], of course. Emilio Aguinaldo wrote two memoirs, one of them in defense against the beautiful memorial castigated Aguinaldo by Apolinario Mabini. But these always focused on the war against Spain.
Now, these memoirists who survived the revolution lived past 1902 when the Americans declared the war over. The fighting when on until much later on, 1913. But no memoirist detailed the American part of the war.
In his book, Ilocano Responses to American Aggression, William Henry Scott knows that there is an unpublished chronicle of the war by the great Ilocano general, Juan Villamor. It is planned in three parts-- Villamor's so-called Inedita Cronica. The fact is this Inedita Cronica is likely unpublished because Villamor failed to write part 2. He did part 1, and he did part 3. But part 2 is a void. And my skin crawled when I realized what part 2 was very likely about. And you can guess Villamor wrote part 1 about the Spanish war. And he wrote part 3 about his post-war life.
But it seems he did not, or could not, write part 2 about the war against the Americans. It is a void. It remains a lack in Philippine history. I did not grow up reading about the American war. I had no-- there is-- we read about [INAUDIBLE]. We read about the [INAUDIBLE]. We read about Bonifacio.
I don't know about the [INAUDIBLE] soldiers who went down into [INAUDIBLE] region and helped the low-land Tagalogs in the war-- I have no clue about these things. And this mystery, of course, becomes very interesting for a writer of novels. But it's also very interesting to think if we are simply a human being thinking about history.
This gap, this lack of the Filipino voice in that war, when it is so valuable, so memorializing about the war against Spain-- and what Professor Anderson was talking about, we won the war against Spain-- brings out the spirit of detection of a puzzle or riddle. It is a post-modern lack that's just sweet bait for a novelist. I have read only one set of diaries contemporary with the American War-- the diary of General Simeon Villa, the doctor of Aguinaldo, a recording of the wanderings of the last of Aguinaldo's troops in northern Luzon.
The diary ends hauntingly on a blank page, on the date March 22, 1901, the day before Frederick Funston's forces capture Aguinaldo, who is betrayed by a band of Filipinos, the [INAUDIBLE] scouts at [INAUDIBLE]. That diary appears in the pages of US military records and in a US Senate hearing, a text within an American text, as part of the captured records of the revolution, translated from the Spanish into English by a military intelligence officer, JR Taylor. His translations are in his racist book, The Philippine Insurrection Against the Americans, which became the repository of what was then called the insurgent records.
They are now housed, I believe, and they are called now The Philippine Revolutionary Records at the National Archives of the Philippines. I think the country got them back in the 1990s. Apart from Simeon Villa, who is no emotional diarist in any way-- he's a recorder, which is very odd because-- for Filipinos here, who might get this-- Simeon Villa is the father of the great Filipino poet, ironically, the great Filipino poet in English, Jose Garcia Villa, whose father hated the language of his enemy, English. And his son became the foremost poet in that language in the country.
Apart from Villa's diary, I could find no Filipino survivor who wrote intimately about the war. So with no memoirs mostly, the primary documents on the Filipino-American War that I have found are American military records, US Senate hearings, photographs and stereo cards, and so on. The war is told by the enemy.
And when I started reading American documents, looking at the photographs and so on, I also saw this American war does not fit my comic novel. There was no way I could make the documents funny. They were deeply disturbing, because of course the war was tragic. Obviously, this is because the Philippines lost.
Instead of being offered so-called freedom, the Philippines was occupied by its enemy that had at first warned it was its friend. In short, America was the Filipinos' "frenemy."
In turn, America used Spanish methods they had condemned in Cuba, such as reconcentration camps, vilified by Hearst's yellow press in the run-up to the American war against Spain, and the water cure and so on. American soldiers were veterans of the Indian wars, and their adventure in the Philippines was brutal and as racist as the Indian wars. The great World War II hero of the Philippines, Douglas MacArthur-- Douglas MacArthur, his father, General Arthur MacArthur, was the military governor of Luzon.
He was called the General Sherman of northern Luzon for his outright burning of Philippine towns and villages, men making slash-and-burn actions in the Civil War, Arthur MacArthur having served under General Sherman at Shenandoah. Union and Confederate generals in the Philippines reunited, finding common cause in their homicidal adventure overseas. This is what Senator George Frisbie Hoar of Massachusetts said to his president-- a fellow Republican, Theodore Roosevelt-- in 1902.
Quote, "You have devastated provinces. You have slain uncounted thousands of people you desired to benefit. You've established reconcentration camps. Your generals are coming home from their harvest, bringing sheaves with them in the shape of other thousands of sick, and wounded, and insane, to drag out miserable lives, wrecked in body and mind.
"You make the American flag, in the eyes of a numerous people, the emblem of sacrilege in Christian churches, and of the burning of human dwellings, and of the horror of the water torture. Your practical statesmanship has succeeded in converting a people, who three years ago were ready to kiss the hem of the garments of the American and to welcome him as a liberator, who thronged after your men when they landed on those islands, with benediction and gratitude, into sullen and irreconcilable enemies, possessed of a hatred which centuries cannot eradicate," unquote. Save for a few points of wishful thinking, such as arrival as liberators, his words are blanks.
And of course, strangely, by 1946, as we know, Filipinos came to love the Americans, in fact. It did not take centuries to eradicate that hate, though it did take a brutal American military counter-insurgency in the years 1899 to 1913, which helped to repress memory, and then decades later, a brutal war with Japan, which in turn helped to distort memory. This peripeteia, this reversal of expectations in this case, where your helper turns out to be your occupier, it's a crux in the history of the Philippines.
In his Poetics, Aristotle talks of two key elements of a tragic plot-- peripeteia and anagnorisis. Peripeteia is a reversal of expectation, a scene of irony, in which the opposite of what the character, and thus the viewer, expects to happen occurs. Anagnorisis is recognition, in which a character, thus the viewer, turns from ignorance to knowledge.
Aristotle says that in a tragedy, the best plot climax should have peripeteia with anagnorisis-- after the reversal, recognition. And the ensuing scene of pathos, the scene of suffering that comes from that tragic plot, leads the viewer to catharsis, that purgation of emotions arising from the simulacra presented by the drama-- a purgation that for Aristotle is the key function of tragedy, a psychological function. For Aristotle, tragic drama is above all a cleansing of emotions, a suspenseful build up and then purging of emotions of pity and fear.
One can easily see all of these Aristotellic elements in the tragic drama of the Filipino-American War-- anagnorisis, or the turn from ignorance to knowledge, arising from reversal-- the horrible frenemy plot. And recognition of the so-called friend as enemy leads to war. I think it is important to understand how Filipino revolutionaries were in some way enamored of the American Revolution. They saw themselves as Washingtons and Jeffersons.
You see that in their military reports, in the captured documents in some way. Whereas, of course, we do need to understand that Washington had first been a soldier in the French and Indian Wars, the Filipinos who saw themselves as Washingtons did not see that to the Washingtons, the Americans, they could only be Indians. That peripeteia, that ironic reversal, is only one of the several reversals in this war.
I'm reminded here of a remark by the Filipino novelist NVM Gonzalez, responding to an American who listened to some Filipino writers in English during a reading. And the American said, it is interesting that Filipino writers seem to have no irony. And NVM Gonzalez replied, is it not ironic enough that I write in English?
The war, of course, is a long scene of unrelieved pathos, made more brutal by the situation's irony. From the beginning, the conclusion is foregone. Filipinos did not have too many guns. Many just fight with knives, barefoot.
In between battles or digging of trenches, the troops go back home and plant [NON-ENGLISH] or harvest their rice. They have recess from the revolution. As Rigoletto points out, many revolutionaries give up simply because of hunger. The slash-and-burn tactics to starve them, through re-concentrating villages, through intense counterinsurgency in the towns and so on are crushing.
Unfortunately for the Philippines, the catharsis of pity and fear, the psychological purgation of the emotions arising from the tragic irony of this revolutionary period, has been ongoing. In one sense, the effects of imperialism are a long, endurable scene of pathos, the post-colonial state being an extended expectation of catharsis, extremely long-deferred. But this suspended state of pathos also lies, it seems to me, in a tragic element that Aristotle does not belabor.
The scene of pathos in Greek tragedy is generally offstage-- Oedipus' blinding, Jocasta's suicide, the killing of Medea's children-- all great stories, wonderful scenes. Their horror is not dramatized, but only reported, usually by the chorus. Aristotle does not talk about the power of this void, the way offstage horror heightens pathos. In a sense, the horror of Oedipus' blinding is mediated, an explicit textual condition, merely told from the mouths of others.
This too, it seems to me, is the state of the Philippines in that war. Reading these documents in which the voice of the Filipino, the tragic victim of carnage and war, is mute in the texts that construct her, in which the story is told by another, but not by a sympathetic chorus-- by one's enemy-- one sees how this tragic effect, the effect the void, marks even more forcefully the horror of this history. My sense, both as a novelist and as a citizen, is that in this void lies the story of the colonized.
Even now with the suppression of that history, there is a huge distortion of memory that is crippling. Filipinos do not grow up learning about this war. Americans, as we know, of course, also know nothing much of this war. So my novel Raymundo Mata never really moved into the American period. But I have found myself returning to that period practically involuntarily because, to be honest, I don't want to keep thinking about it.
It's a traumatic wound, which in many ways, but not the only one, may be a reason why it is unremembered. I'd like to share some of the documents that I have found to illustrate the peculiar nature of this historical tragedy, this constructed textual condition, this fabulous Tolonian condition of a country conceived through the lens of its occupiers, so that it takes an immense effort of vision to see oneself whole. Ambiguity is richness, says Borges in Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote.
There is a richness, I believe, in the ambiguity begotten by this tragedy. For a novelist, for a citizen, for a Filipino, for Americans, we are beset by multiplicity. Of We always must conceive of ourselves through multiple lenses. But it is a richness, I daresay, both for the colonizer and the colonized. It is a richness extracted at great cost.
So I do have show-and-tell here. I have what you call a stereoscope. This was very popular. It was like the movies of the 1890s. So it's like a View-Master. So it has this doubled, and I can pass these around, as long as you return them.
I have these. These are the stereo cards. They're double pictures, and I'll pass this around. So you can-- and I'll show you how to use it. It's 3D, so you look into it, and you can adjust it so that you can see what they-- yeah, so this was their entertainment. It was like their movies, like their [NON-ENGLISH] and I'll pass it around.
I do have some other-- I became very obsessed with these documents, and I started collecting these on eBay.
And I don't know how to do this, but--
SPEAKER 1: What are we doing here? Screen. Oh. So OK, this is a section.
GINA APOSTOL: [INAUDIBLE]. I don't know if I should be showing this. Just go back. So sorry, where do I go? OK.
Here's a text that I thought was very interesting. It gives you-- anyway, so it can't do the internet, but this is the text in which I found the diary of Simeon Villa. This is another text that I found. It's called Our Islands and Their People. It's a book of photographs-- so very evocative pronouns.
Here we have a picture of a native fruit seller. And as for the lovely caption, "Native woman of the lower orders have an unpleasant cast of countenance, indicating a surly disposition. But this is due largely to their Malayan features. They are not as bad as they look." So this is a constant joke. I just found this so amusing.
But again, as a novelist, you have to keep thinking, what really was she saying to this guy, to this photographer? Like, foxy guy.
Why are you crying? So this is the group of a better class of women. So there are class issues as well, of how you would be constructed in these American texts. These are more agreeable. That's because it's inherited from their Spanish countenance. The Malay predominance, that's why they're unpleasant.
Another fruit seller-- few of them are good looking enough to excite poetic fancy, and their dispositions are not lovable. They're not lovable. Filipino boys and girls-- and again, you see race issues, the movement of the racial caste, the racial history of America, into the Philippines as well. Some of these children have the African cast of countenance, but there is no tinge of Negro in them, etc.
Prisoners of war-- they rarely stand or sit down. They squat like animals, indication of their low state of civilization. Now, these are the Macabebe, so we're actually-- they were supporters of the American War. They were supporters of the Spanish, and they were supporters of the Americans.
So they helped to capture Emilio Aguinaldo. And this is how they're called-- long-haired natives enlisted by General Lawton, fierce fighters. Their diminutive size is shown by comparison with the handsome American officer. I mean, come on.
And as they say in the Philippines, [NON-ENGLISH]. They could not even forgive the [INAUDIBLE]. The universal beast of burden throughout the Philippines, wild state, fierce and vindictive-- it becomes-- this is the one that I found really interesting. It is addicted to wallowing in the mud and marshy places. And it is said, if not permitted to do so several times each day, blood will ooze from its pores.
Anyway, William McKinley was a favorite subject of the stereo cards. I found a lot of them, and even him, I obsessively collected. I don't know why.
And this is clearly part of the entertainment value. Part of the entertainment was also propaganda-- Uncle Sam's burden, with apologies to Kipling, no apologies for the people. And here is a very common trope in the stereo cards-- the bodies of Filipino dead. You can imagine them, how intimate that is, with these cards, because you're looking at them so up-close.
And you have to recover your people, your world, through this, through these images. It's OK for them to die. That's fine-- dead Filipino on the battlefield. Through these stereo cards, the entertainment-- they would buy these from-- I think they would get them by mail, the way you would get your DVDs, your Netflix, your old-- whatever, if you still have that old kind of Netflix.
Sadness in victory-- our boys care for dying insurgents. What's really interesting about this is, who killed them? A sacrifice to Aguinaldo-- and if everyone knows, Emilio Aguinaldo was the leader of the Filipinos-- very problematic for Filipinos, because he also killed many great Filipino revolutionaries. He practically killed Bonifacio. And he did, I think, also order the death of Antonio Luna.
But he remained-- he was also-- we also need to understand how he was constructed by the Americans. So even as-- the multiplicity of looking at Aguinaldo is very interesting too, because he was also constructed as this strange, fierce man, an inhuman person, by the Americans. So that rosewood stereograph, also known as the Holmes viewer, is the precursor of such toys as the baby-boomers' View-Master. As the 19th century turns the corner, imagining itself into perspective, the wonders of stereopsis take hold.
The illusion of depth is a fetish, and soldiers might carry around with them-- from Albany, to Honolulu, to Manila-- treasured stereo cards of double tourist shots of the Grand Canyon, et cetera. Playing with these stereo cards and the war, I was fascinated with this thought, that our ability to see depth is a trick of the mind. Depth is an impression. Our vision is imperfect, only surmised.
A disparity exists between the site observed by the right eye and by the left. In order to see correctly, the human mind must compute. It's our ordinary way of seeing, not like a machine. Our mind must imagine in order to see 3D. That is how we see-- through illusion.
In the Holmes viewer, the calculation of the illusion of depth is manual, not mental. Your hand adjusts the picture, the two-picture stereo card on the slide, to create that ordinary miracle, our everyday way of seeing with our two imperfect eyes. With one mechanical flick, here a flat photographic world in doubled-mirror images, there turns into three dimensions-- voila.
A mania for reality took hold among hobbyists in the late 19th century. And so this goes back to that issue of mediation. Photography was only one of the means that made possible the fantasy of this true vision. William McKinley's world had a firm lease on the dream. Stereo cards of McKinley himself were sold everywhere, with William McKinley also having the distinction of being the first celluloid president, through the graces of Thomas Edison.
In the moving film by Edison's company, McKinley has a look of banality that suits him. In the Holmes viewer he is distractingly plump, with a cadaverous gaze. You look into the intimate, tender frame of the stereoscope, and his eyes' emptiness pops out, as if a sad future were already upon him, assassin's gun pointed at his blind eyes. There was an interesting epidemic of assassinations in the late 1890s. Professor Anderson talks about it in Under Three Flags.
On the Smithsonian website-- it's a good site to look for these, if you want to see more of them, if you like those things-- loc.gov. Search Philippine insurrection, and you come across them-- archived stereo pairs, soldiers wading across a shallow river, a battle scene through open country, a group of men with crates of food on the beach, a burned section of Manila, the burned quarters of the rebel president, Aguinaldo, firefighting measures, a soldier showing off the barrel of his Colt 45, etc. In the captions, insurgents are in quotes-- insurrection is not.
Rebel is a problematic term. History is not fully annotated or adequately contemplated in online archives. Photographic captions rebuke losers and winners alike. Soldiers, for instance, refer only to white males. Burned does not suggest who has done the burning. Firefighting measures is a generous term, given the circumstances.
The passivity of a photographic record might be relieved only by the viewer the photographs produce. And even then, not all types of viewers are ideal. Photographs of a captured country, shot through the lens of the captor, possess layers of ambiguity too confusing to grasp.
There is the eye of the victim, the captured-- stilled, and muted, and hallowed in mud and time. There is the eye of the victim, the captured, who may be bystander, villager, and blameless blamed. Though there are subtle shifts in pathetic balance, who is to measure them?
There is the eye of the colonized, viewing their captured history in the distance created by time. There is the eye of the captor, the soldier who has just wounded the captured. There is the eye of the captor in capital letters, the colonizer who has captured history's lens. There is the eye of the citizens, belligerent bystander, blameless, blamed, whose history has colonized the captured in a distance created by time.
And there is the eye of the actual photographer, the one who captured the captured and the captors in the camera's lens. What the hell was she thinking? I wrote a novel about the photographer of William McKinley's world. That was vastly unintended. And so I'm just going to open this up to any questions that you have about that history.
SPEAKER 2: So as a novelist, sometimes find that truth is stranger than fiction. And how do you do that and try and write convincing fiction?
GINA APOSTOL: No, I actually have a-- I do have a really hard time-- it's very cinematic already, the story of the Filipino-American War. And I have a hard time just not regurgitating things. I even had a hard time with this lecture, not retelling things that are-- basically, I take out the parts where I think I'm telling it. I'm telling too much of something that is actually the way to go.
I write them, though. It's kind of weird. I do write them, but I take them out. And I see how it works, how to patch things together. So that's what I tend to do. If I want to write about it, I just write about it.
SPEAKER 3: You talked about the rich storytelling tradition, especially with the Borges. And I wondered how that compared with your not finding any memoirs about the period.
GINA APOSTOL: There are no people-- the rich storytelling-- I think what Professor Anderson was talking about there-- the rich storytelling in the villages that he was talking about in the novels of Eka Kurniawan are pretty amazing. I do not get-- there are stories of the Filipino-American War, but they're really-- most of the stories about the Americans in the Philippines are really about World War II. It's about the Hershey bars and the chocolate kisses or whatever, so they really like those stories.
That's the memory that Filipinos-- that's why it's a very tender memory that the Filipinos have of the Americans. The story of the Filipino-American War-- it's really buried. People don't tell them. There's a story in Balangiga. Balangiga is the one place in Samar-- so it's part of the two islands where I'm from, [INAUDIBLE] and Samar.
And there's a massacre that happened in 1901. It was a massacre of-- first, the Filipinos killed the Americans, American garrison, around 36 people. Then the Americans, in retaliation, killed around-- the numbers go from 3,000 to 30,000, in the killing of the people of Samar in the aftermath.
And it's called Howling Wilderness, the Howling Wilderness massacre. General Jacob Smith, "Howling Wilderness" Smith, said, kill and burn. The more you kill and burn, the better it will please me. And kill Filipino males above 10 years of age. And so that was-- that's memorialized in Samar. They have some stories there. But there's really very little on the American part of the war, not even a plaques, not even memorializing on the-- we have a lot of memorials of the Spanish War, very little of the American-- yeah?
SPEAKER 4: Thank you so much for coming and for a really presentation, for the show-and-tell. I just want to ask, what's the source material for those pictures of the fruit sellers? Was that from the report in--
GINA APOSTOL: Our Islands and Their People, so it's an 1899 document. It's a book. I found it for $20 in a bookstore in Baltimore, and it was fascinating. It's actually about Puerto Rico, Guam, Hawaii, Philippines.
SPEAKER 4: Cuba.
GINA APOSTOL: Cuba, yeah.
SPEAKER 5: [INAUDIBLE] that question, I was wondering about the architecture that you showed [INAUDIBLE]. But then there was also [INAUDIBLE] who were standing over [INAUDIBLE]. I was wondering, which type of [INAUDIBLE]. But [INAUDIBLE] not being able to address that. I was wondering-- so since we know that about [INAUDIBLE].
GINA APOSTOL: That's an excellent question because that is the question. I think that's the question of the human, and it's not just the question of the Filipino. And I think that's why looking at this history is so beautiful and rich for us, because it tells us something not just of the Filipino. It tells us something our, our experience of reality, that it is multiple.
I think it's really important to recognize that if you look at these pictures, the colonizers, and the colonized, and the colonizers, and the colonizing. And we need to see that interesting braiding of these identities and these histories in all of us, both for the Americans who came-- because there's also an interesting history of the Americans coming to the Philippines. They had the Buffalo Soldiers, they had the blacks, they had the people running away. They had people defecting.
And they had a panoply of Americans of the late 19th century and early 20th coming in. It's a very rich history of the Americans in that war, if you-- and also, to think about the consequences of that war. It redounds to us, even now, because John Pershing, who was the military governor of Mindanao, who became the leader of the expeditionary forces in World War I, needed to create military intell-- he didn't have military intelligence.
So what did he do in World War I to create the first American military intelligence unit? He brought back his Filipino-American War comrades. The father of American military intelligence was a Filipino-American War soldier, Ralph Van Deman. His files are in San Diego.
And he-- so the military intelligence units, the creation of them came from the Filipino-American War. And Alfred McCoy talks about this in Policing America's Empire. It all redounds to us now. The NSA surveillance tactics are mimicked in the work that Ralph Van Deman did in the Philippines. Telegraphy is very big with them, the telegraph poles-- yes.
SPEAKER 6: I had a question. How do you use language, because when you talk about that period, there isn't any real Filipino language, right? People were speaking different languages and so on. How do you deal with that in your novel?
GINA APOSTOL: Again, that's a beautiful question, because for me as a writer, that is my question. For me in terms of writing this novel, what I was trying to really imagine-- and I still haven't completely imagined it. That's why William McKinley's book is still not done. It's 300 pages and not done. It's really awful.
I've been trying to imagine that mood, because Filipinos were writing. And Professor Anderson has just translated Isabelo de los Reyes, El Diablo, and [INAUDIBLE]. They were writing in-- there was writing in Spanish. There were the works of Rizal that moved the revolution. And practically, it provoked revolt, practically created the nation.
So there was writing in Spanish for those who would go to school. And there was, of course, speech. There was Tagalog and different-- but that move where here you are, speaking one language, and suddenly, you're speaking this other language. And of course, it's relevant to me because I grew up speaking that language. I grew up being taught in English.
If I went to school in the Philippines and I spoke a word of my language, I would be fined. First it was 5 centavos, then it went up to a peso. So language is vital, the issue of that change. So I write in English, and I have no, I feel no-- that's the other problem that I keep talking about, the other piece I keep talking about. I feel no compunction about writing in English.
I feel no-- there's no complication in me about the fact that I write in English. I do find it problematic when someone asks me, oh, you speak English so well, when I've been in America reading my novel. When I'm reading my novels, and they ask whether it's translated-- and, no.
And then they ask, oh, well, you speak English so well. You write so well. And-- err. And it's this recognition that you don't know why I speak English. It's because your country raped mine.
And it's very interesting. It's a very interesting existence. It's not a bitter existence. It's the existence of ambiguity in which we live, and which we must keep always confronting, because it makes us more, one, able to live with the complexity of the situations in which we find ourselves, and able also not to be a victim, because I don't think Filipinos should live with that victimhood. Yeah.
SPEAKER 7: I'm really curious about the African-American soldiers during the Philippine-American War, the Buffalo Soldiers, especially in terms of-- is there anything that you've read about how they felt, being dispossessed in their own country, and then sent 10,000 miles away to fight [INAUDIBLE]?
GINA APOSTOL: Cornell, the Cornell library has many of those books. They have books on the Buffalo Soldiers and on the Filipino-American black soldiers. I have not-- that part of my research, I haven't gotten to, because I've been looking for the Filipino voices. So I haven't really been looking at America. I'm putting that at the end.
But there are. There's a famous African-American-- it's famous, well known, his name is Fagin, F-A-G-I-N. And he defected, and he became part of the revolution, and I believe he died with the revolution.
SPEAKER 7: So there are no written documents from this group?
GINA APOSTOL: Yes, Schurman.
SPEAKER 8: At Cornell you had the first--
GINA APOSTOL: The Schurman Commission of 1912, yeah-- yeah, Jacob Schurman, the former president of Cornell, he was actually very pro-Philippine independence. But of course, he's dealing with a lot of other people. Yeah, the Schurman papers are here at Cornell.
SPEAKER 9: Is this all open language? This is something that I have to deal with too. Can you use English? Is it elastic enough to use it today to [INAUDIBLE] voice [INAUDIBLE] in the way people talk?
GINA APOSTOL: No, not really-- I think your writing is recognizing-- it's almost like you're recognising that phenomenological issue, that existential issue, that whenever we speak, whenever we use verbs, we are translating. We are [INAUDIBLE].
So you recognize that in the work that you do, the fact of translation. It is hyper-recognized in the texts of the post-colonial, because that's also the fact of your history. It's also so embedded in your history. But I think you have to think about it that way, in almost like a Kantian way, that you are translating. Yes.
SPEAKER 10: I'm not a historian in this area, so please excuse a perhaps very stupid question. But it's just incredibly fascinating, your story about the failure of the Filipinos to be able to deal with the American behavior. Is that in part because of the switch to English after that battle? Did they identify so much with the American culture that that was a-- to criticize the Americans became sort of criticizing themselves?
GINA APOSTOL: No, they were being killed. I think that was really a big issue, that they were hounded. The Filipino revolutionaries were hounded. There was a brutal counterinsurgency.
If you were captured and you didn't pledge allegiance, you're just going to die anyway. And then the other piece was-- so a lot of the Filipinos died, basically, in the war. And the Filipinos who were captured, in order to survive-- and this is an issue of survival too.
In order to survive, you returned, basically. They created-- they actually-- it was a very, very good-- Americans were very good, and they basically-- after Samar, at the Balangiga massacre, it seems that the tactic of the Americans changed, that they weren't going to go after out-and-out-- what George Bush called, what was that? The way--
SPEAKER 10: Shock and awe?
GINA APOSTOL: Shock and awe-- they stopped with the shock and awe, and they went with the co-opting. So they would have the revolutionaries who turned be the alkalde of the town, be the mayor, be the capitan. And so if you look at the politicians that survived or the families that survived, who might be now known in the Philippines, it's the oligarchy.
Basically, what came of the brutal American suppression of Filipino revolutionaries is what is-- now we know them as the oligarchs. I think it's been [INAUDIBLE]. That's one of the ways that-- and so if you're the person who's now the collaborator, not the enemy, your way of thinking about your war is going to change.
And I think almost all of these men who did not write their wars-- Manuel Tinio was a beautiful soldier of [INAUDIBLE], Juan [INAUDIBLE] obviously are. But they did not write their memoirs because they became, actually, land-grabbers also. And basically, they became part of the fabric of American society-- so an issue of survival and some banality is involved-- yeah.
SPEAKER 11: Where's the breakdown, generationally speaking, of at home using English or Filipino?
GINA APOSTOL: Of Tagalog-- well--
SPEAKER 11: You say you were brought up with English, but did your family--
GINA APOSTOL: I grew up with English, but the thing is, I grew up speaking Waray. So I grew up speaking three languages-- Waray, Tagalog, and English. In school we were taught Tagalog because that's the national language. And everything else was taught in English, but I grew up speaking Waray.
So all of us in the Philippines, we'll speak the language of our home, and we'll speak the language of learning, if you go to school. Tagalog is now very broad in the Philippines. It's actually the language of Luzon. It's not the majority language.
But now a lot of people speak Tagalog-- one, because it's taught in schools; and two, because of movies, television, radio.
SPEAKER 11: So what about your parents? Your grandparents probably--
GINA APOSTOL: My grandparents spoke Spanish. My mother's father still spoke Spanish. My mother grew up laughing at his language. So for her, it was very funny. And she grew up kind of doing English, kind of not.
English, for her, was just like this relic of war. You know, not that interesting for her. She didn't really speak it. She spoke Waray, and she did speak English to get to school. But it was really Waray. But she prayed in English. That's really important.
SPEAKER 12: Sorry.
GINA APOSTOL: OK, two more questions.
SPEAKER 12: Do you think that in the past, as with the American-Filipino War, that part of the problem with remember the war was the fact that it's a country with so many different islands and distinct cultures and languages that it's really hard to unify, or at least it was in the past?
GINA APOSTOL: Yeah, except that you have to recognize that the memorializing of the Spanish War is very prominent. It is profound, far-reaching. Everyone knows about those heroes. But why people don't know Manuel Tinio, why you don't really know Antonio Luna, unless you're [INAUDIBLE]. Why you don't know Mahilum in Cebu or Bohica in Leyte. I don't know why. That's for the historians, not me.
SPEAKER 13: Hi, so I was really struck by a parallel that you mentioned. You mentioned it two different times. So the first one is that you were addressing a gap in education in the Philippines, where they don't necessarily mention the Filipino-American War. But then you also mentioned later in your talk that even in the United States, that they don't really mention it either.
And so that struck me, especially going along with your logic of the colonizer and the colonized, and then also probably because there's Filipino-Americans in the audience today. So how do you figure the Filipino-American in the context that you're speaking about? And I'm kind of operating in the framework that you're setting out. Is a kind of a situation in which we become that what we hate? So in your framework of the frenemy that you had, is it that we become the enemy?
GINA APOSTOL: No, I don't think you should become the enemy. I thing for-- I don't know if I exactly understand your question. When I think about the Filipino-American in this Filipino-American War, part of it is just making it more visible, your connection to this country-- that your connection to this country is one of empire, violence, and then assimilation, and that this interesting concoction of realities that you have just need to be constantly analyzed.
Your perception of yourself-- and you say, for instance, that the Filipinos are full of [INAUDIBLE], shame. Where is that coming from? When you say-- I have a Filipino friend who-- she said, oh, my parents, they just always laugh at Manny Pacquiao because of his English. And I'm saying it is absolutely rational for Manny Pacquiao to speak the way he does. He grew up in General Santos. He's not supposed to grow up, so to speak, like a southern Californian. So just these issues of how to see the way we are through this lens of history, I think, would allow us to actually be more healthy, be more of a friend to ourselves than not.
SPEAKER 13: Yeah, I agree. I think the point that I was trying to make was that I think the framework of trying to use the colonizer and the colonized in the instance of today, and especially when you figure the Filipino-American actually-- I guess my point was that it complicates that.
GINA APOSTOL: It's very complicated.
SPEAKER 13: It complicates that.
GINA APOSTOL: Yeah, it is. It's complicated.
SPEAKER 14: Hi. I'm very fascinated. First of all, this was an excellent talk, very vibrant. And I think you've been collecting these stereoscopic cards, and I'm intrigued by the ways in which they are-- when you look at them, you're complicit in bringing the image together. But it is basically what our eyes do anyway, right?
GINA APOSTOL: It's what we do.
SPEAKER 14: But beside this--
GINA APOSTOL: Ordinary and complicit.
SPEAKER 14: Yeah, have you looked at all at [INAUDIBLE], because I'm wondering if it's coming out of the history of some of the photographing of the Civil War for a time--
GINA APOSTOL: Yes, it is.
SPEAKER 14: --in which bodies were actually artistically rearranged, and they all looked like this.
GINA APOSTOL: Yeah, I think there's a direct link to those, to that--
SPEAKER 14: Interesting, which suggests this kind of-- almost the way in which you write memory is through this kind of layering or palimpsest.
GINA APOSTOL: Exactly. That's a beautiful way to end this talk. Thank you. Yes, that is what memory is.
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Gina Apostol, author of 'Gun Dealers' Daughter,' talks about her novel in progress, 'William McKinley’s World,' and her research on the Filipino-American War, Oct. 27, 2015 as part of the University Lecture series. Apostol combines a discussion of historical documents -- in particular, the stereo cards of the war and online government documents -- with concerns about novel writing and nation construction.