Chapter Three: Promises Made, Promises Broken

July 6, 1946

Independence Day

U.S. Officials lowered the Stars and Stripes and raised the flag of the Philippine Republic.

Filipinos struggled for generations to gain national independence. They filed petitions, gave speeches, staged demonstrations, and took up arms. Finally, on July 4, 1946, they achieved their goal. At a ceremony at the Luneta, the main square of the capital city of Manila, U.S. officials lowered the Stars and Stripes and raised the flag of the Philippine Republic. Manuel Roxas took power as the first President of the new republic.

At the Independence Grandstand, the U.S. flag was lowered and the Philippine flag was raised to fly alone over the country. Presidential Museum and Library, Philippines

Manuel Roxas

January 1, 1892 – April 15, 1948

First president of an independent Philippine Republic recognized by the United States

Born in Capiz in 1892, Manuel Roxas was one of the most influential Philippine politicians during the colonial and commonwealth eras. With Sergio Osmeña, he traveled to the United States in 1931 to lobby for Philippine independence. The resulting legislation, the Hare-Hawes-Cutting Act, would ultimately be rejected by the Philippine legislature, spearheaded by an envious Manuel Quezon. But their efforts laid the groundwork for Quezon’s negotiation of the 1935 Tydings-McDuffie Act, setting a ten-year timetable for Philippine independence. Roxas served in the occupation government during WWII. Though he claimed to have passed intelligence to Philippine guerrillas, many remained suspect of his service during the occupation. Backed by the support of Douglas MacArthur, Roxas won the presidential election and was inaugurated during the independence ceremony on July 4th, 1946.

Inauguration of Manuel Roxas. Presidential Museum and Library, Philippines
Filipino women sewing the U.S. flag that was to be lowered at the Independence Day ceremony. Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office
Veterans of the Philippine American War, led by Emilio Aguinaldo (center) march during the Independence Day ceremony. Malacañan Palace Presidential Museum and Library
“As I watched the Philippine flag being raised, I felt a mixture of emotions.”
An Untold Triumph: America's Filipino Soldiers

The promise of independence was first made by the U.S. Congress in the Jones Act of 1916. Then followed the ten-year plan set out by the Tydings-McDuffie Act of 1934. Japan offered an empty declaration of independence in 1943 in the middle of its wartime occupation. Ultimately independence was won by Filipino and American soldiers fighting together on the battlefields of World War II.

130th Infantry men with the first U.S. patrol to reach the Davao Penal Colony in Mindanao, Philippines, May 1945. U.S. National Archives

The two countries would not, however, go their separate ways. There were bonds between soldiers who had fought together. There were family ties between Filipino Americans and their relatives back home.

The Aduana Family, 1962. Pattie Umali

U.S. and Filipino USAFFE servicepeople share a laugh for the camera. U.S. National Archives

Yet with every step that granted a political concession to the Philippines, the United States took something away. Legal agreements between the U.S. and the Philippines gave Americans considerable power over the new country. Trade regulations tied the Philippine economy to American interests.

The Philippine Trade Act of 1946. Library of Congress

Filipinos also found the path to immigration closed. Offices that processed their paperwork mysteriously closed, their officials recalled to the United States. Ever since 1934, Filipinos had been defined in U.S. law as foreigners rather than U.S. nationals. Most were barred from naturalizing as U.S. citizens. The Luce-Celler Act, adopted by the U.S. Congress on the eve of independence in 1946, lifted that ban in theory, but changed very little in fact: The law restricted Filipino immigration to just 100 persons per year.

U.S. President Harry Truman signs the Luce-Celler Act. Library of Congress

The military affairs of the two nations also remained bound together. Opportunities to serve in the U.S. armed forces shifted. The Philippine Scouts—a U.S. Army unit established in 1901 during the Philippine-American War—was phased out soon after independence.

Philippine Scouts, Company E, 57th Infantry Regiment. Philippine Scouts Heritage Society Archives

Oral History

That destroyer made a man out of me.

Rey Cabacar, WWII Veteran

Filipinos in the USAFFE

Filipinos could continue to join the U.S. Navy, albeit restricted to low-ranking service positions, most notably as messmen, who cooked the Navy’s food, and stewards, who acted as personal servants to Navy officers.

Filipinos in Navy pose on a large caliber naval gun with musical instruments and the ship dog. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command

Although hundreds of thousands of American troops left the Philippines after V-J Day ended the war with Japan, the U.S. forces did not leave completely. The Military Bases Agreement of March 1947 gave the U.S. access to 23 basing sites in the country, including the large facilities maintained by the U.S. Navy at Subic Bay and the U.S. Air Force at Clark Air Base.

Map of the Philippines with Subic Bay and Clark Air Base highlighted.

The Philippines now had its own military—the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)—which comprised a large army, a small navy, and an air force. The AFP reflected much that Philippine officials had tried to build in the days before Pearl Harbor.

Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). National Library of the Philippines

But the country’s military remained tied to the United States, with a dependence on U.S. equipment, training, and financial support—including a promise of $200 million in military aid. A Mutual Defense Treaty signed in 1951 formalized the alliance between the two countries. If this was independence, it definitely came with strings attached.

The Philippine flag being raised at the Independence Day ceremony. Sandaan: One Hundred Years of Filipinos in America

If this was independence, it definitely came with strings attached.

Next Section

  • 1945 – 1946

    Promises Made

    Like soldiers and sailors everywhere who fought under the American flag, Filipinos earned the benefits they were promised. Or so they believed.

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