Today, many conflicts are called “forgotten wars.” The Philippine-American War is truly a forgotten war. If the Spanish-American War was regarded by some contemporaries as a “splendid little war,” the Philippine-American War was a devastating and costly war. It was also the start of a century of shared experience between the American and Filipino people.
To mark the 125th Anniversary of the Philippine-American War, on Saturday, February 3, 2024, the MacArthur Memorial will partner with the Filipino American National Historical Society (Hampton Roads Chapter) and the Council of United Filipino Organizations of Tidewater to unveil the Memorial’s newly restored copy of General Emilio Aguinaldo’s 1899 declaration of independence.
In addition to the unveiling, a mini-symposium will examine the war from the perspective of the U.S. Army and the Filipino people. Historians and authors Dr. Brian Linn and Dwight Sullivan will provide brief talks about their works on Philippine-American History, and Dr. David O. Lozada will join us in a virtual presentation from Manila, Philippines. The event is free, and will be recorded for distribution to an international audience.
On January 5, 1899, General Emilio Aguinaldo declared the Philippines independent from the United States. That night, the Philippine newspaper La Independencia, printed copies of his declaration which were then put up all over the city of Manila.
The MacArthur Memorial collection’s copy of the document was one of these broadsides. That night, it was ripped down from a wall in Manila by an American servicemember, Edgar M. Tucker of the 20th Kansas Volunteers. Tucker wrote on the bottom of the proclamation: “Issued on January 5 —’99, which will no doubt be the cause of war with the Insurgents.” It was a prescient statement. About a month later, the Philippine-American War broke out.
In 1958, General Douglas MacArthur was given a scrapbook that contained this document. In 1964, the scrapbook was donated, along with many other items in MacArthur’s estate to the City of Norfolk’s MacArthur Memorial. Several years ago, MacArthur Memorial Archivist James Zobel discovered it in the folded-up pages of the scrapbook and immediately took steps to protect the document.
This copy of Aguinaldo’s proclamation is an incredibly rare artifact. Its provenance encompasses the complicated layers of American and Philippine history.
In 2023, donors from around the world came together to raise the funds necessary to conserve and stabilize the Memorial’s copy of Aguinaldo’s declaration. It will return to the MacArthur Memorial and be unveiled to the public during the 125th remembrance event. Following the event, it will go on permanent display in the MacArthur Memorial museum. (MacArthur Memorial)