James H. Blount served in the American forces that occupied the Philippines during the Spanish-American War of 1898, and later as a judge in the islands, and should know whereof he speaks. He begins by a narrative about E. Spencer Pratt, then the consul-general in Hong Kong. Pratt had sought to please his superiors in Washington by informing them about his efforts to establish cordial relations with the Filipino leaders in exile. He informs them about his meeting with the Filipino expatriates in Singapore with regard to the American intentions on the Philippines. At that time, the U.S. was looking for the Filipino revolutionary leaders' assistance in the inevitable war to take the Philippines from Spanish rule. Obviously believing that the U.S. government at that time wanted only to defeat Spain and liberate the Philippines, Pratt, although making no pretensions he could speak for the government, said things that were taken as assurances by the Filipino of America’s noble intentions. A letter from Secretary Day dashed his hopes: the U.S. did not recognize the Filipino revolutionaries, considering them only as “discontented and rebellious subjects”. As history went, after Dewey blasted the decrepit Spanish navy in Manila Bay, Aguinaldo returned to the Philippines, rallied his forces, and drove the Spaniards right inside the walls of Manila where they holed in. Whenever Aguinaldo pressed Dewey about American designs towards the archipelago, Dewey would give a vague answer. He could not afford to displease Aguinaldo while awaiting the arrival of American troops. The Filipinos declared their independence on June 12, 1898 and invited the Americans to witness the grand spectacle of inaugurating the first Philippine republic. The United States did not recognize the fledgling government. When the American soldiers finally arrived, the signal to take Manila was given, but the Filipinos were not allowed to take part in the surrender rites: the double cross had begun. Spain felt it would be more honourable to surrender to the Americans than to the barefoot Filipino soldiers. In the Treaty of Paris that December, the United States ceded the Islands to Spain at a cost of twenty million dollars. The Treaty was ratified by the U.S. Senate by a narrow margin. Relations between the two allies quickly soured, and in February, 1899, hostilities erupted between them. The Filipinos were no match against the disciplined Americans in pitched battle: the kill ratio was 16:1. Most of the natives who did not know how to shoot removed the front sight of their rifles; consequently, their aim was too high and they fired over the heads of the Americanos. They shifted to guerrilla warfare and a scorched earth policy. Aguinaldo, the Philippine President, ran his government on foot as he fled to the mountains.
The Americans found it impossible to distinguish friend from foe since every Filipino in the countrysides carried a bolo (machete) in his waist: in the daytime he could be a peaceful farmer, at night, he could be part of a bolo squad lying in ambush for the Americans. Due to the public uproar over news that the troops were having a hard time, the policy-makers in Washington downplayed the reports, claiming that only a small faction of the insurgents loyal to Aguinaldo were making trouble, that a great majority of the Filipinos desired peace and accepted American rule, that the peace campaign was nothing more than mopping up operations, etc. The military government soon gave way to a civil government while fighting raged on. To prevent the native population from supporting the guerrillas, they were herded inside concentration camps or prohibited from leaving their villages while search- and-destroy operations were conducted against the insurgents. Due to this practice (a precursor of the practice of “hamletting” against the Vietcong), hundreds of thousands of civilians died from starvation and disease. There was the so-called “water torture” which were applied against suspects. Atrocities were allegedly committed by both sides. Aguinaldo was later captured through a ruse planned by Col. Frederick Funston. A dispatch from Aguinaldo had fallen into the hands of the Americans. Deciphered, it revealed that the President was somewhere in the mountains of Palanan, Isabela, a distant province near the Pacific ocean. He was asking for some 200 additional bodyguards. Funston’s plan was simple: a group of Macabebes (Filipino hirelings loyal to Spain who had shifted allegiance to the Americans) would be disguised as revolutionaries. Funston and his men would act as their prisoners. Once in sight of Aguinaldo, they would fall upon him and catch everybody by surprise. The plan worked, to everyone’s disbelief. Blount’s work is significant in that it corroborates the Filipino nationalists’ version of Philippine history, depicting the Philippine revolution as one continuous struggle against Spain and later against America. It exposes the colonial design upon the Philippines long before the first shot was fired by Dewey’s armada in Manila Bay.