PHILIPPINES FREE PRESS
“Filipinos keep out”
By Leon O. Ty
October 5, 1946–OUR cover photo in this issue was taken in Tacloban, historic provincial capital of Leyte, two weeks ago today. The arresting signboard bearing the notice “FILIPINOS KEEP OUT—EWAS DEDA,”* may still be standing where the FREE PRESS photographer snapped it — near a dump on the left side of the road leading to the PAL and FEATI landing fields in a barrio called San Jose, some seven kilometers away from the town proper.
This writer inquired of a few friends from Tacloban if there were any other signboards in that locality bearing the same notice.
“Lots of them before but now no more,” replied a young lawyer from Tacloban, “except that one you saw on the way to the airstrip. We do not bother about it because it’s too far from town anyway.
“When those signboards were first placed here, we started a rumpus and demanded of the local American provost marshal that either the wording be changed or the signs be removed. Sensing that we were really hurt and that we meant business, the officer lost no time in having the wording altered. As you go around Tacloban today, you will notice that the notice has been changed to ‘MILITARY RESERVATION—CIVILIANS KEEP OUT’.”
The people of Tacloban as well as those of nearby municipalities will readily tell you that they and the American, GIs there, especially the Military Police, are not on friendly terms. And for a good reason. The Americans know that they are not welcomed there and the Leyteños make no bones about their detestation for the GIs.
“We American soldiers know that the people here hate us,” a young GI from Chicago who introduced himself to the writer as Bob, remarked in a conversation. “One night while sitting in a jeep in Tacloban, a Filipino hit me on the head with something hard and I became unconscious. I was not robbed, just clubbed. And I ended in the hospital.”
It may be recalled that two years or so ago, the Americans and the Leyteños were the best of friends. General MacArthur’s boys who landed there on October 20, 1944, to strike the first blow in the liberation of the Philippines were welcomed with songs and flowers upon their arrival. had they been as the Prodigal Son, they could not have been received with more rejoicing. The people, figuratively killed the fatted calf for the Liberators and the latter responded with a demonstration of incredible generosity, genuine American acts of tolerance and a deep sense of understanding of local habits and customs.
“Those boys were real heroes in every way,” remarked a prominent citizen of in the course of a lengthy conversation on the subject of American MPs and their reprehensible conduct in many places in the Philippines. “Nothing can make us forget them or diminish our love and respect for them. They were the Americans we have read of in books. They freed us from a savage enemy, clothed and fed us soon after they landed and took care of our sick. We owed them life and all, but inspite of that, they did not so much as attempt to abuse us or give us the slightest cause to dislike them.
“In contrast, look at these MPs and newly arrived GIs today. Though we owed them absolutely nothing, they look down upon us, as though we were objects of derision and contumely. The MPs raid Filipino homes without search warrants from the civil courts on the pretext of looking either for GI goods or “stolen Army firearms.” They hurl epithets at Filipinos, especially the ignorant ones, and call them such highly insulting names as “gooks, flips, and monkeys.”
But the GIs, it may be said, also that their stay here has not been a picnic. Many of them have been shot and nobody knows by whom. Others had been badly beaten up. If these new replacements persist in making a nuisance of themselves in this town and continue to entertain the idea that because they have a white skin they belong to a superior class of human being, hence, privileged to abuse us, they will be, as they are now, disappointed. We shall show them any time, anywhere, what monkeys can do when grossly abused and insulted beyond endurance.”
Indicative of the bad blood that exists between American GIs and many people of Leyte is the following incident related to the writer by a government official of Tacloban:
One night not long ago there was a heated altercation between a GI and a bar owner which arose over a disagreement on prices of drinks. Before long, the slightly tipsy American soldier started shouting.
“You Filipinos are ungrateful dog,” cried the GI. “We liberated you from the Japs but you do not show any appreciation for what we have done. If I had my way, I would give you back to those yellow savages.”
A hot reply
“So you liberated us from the Japs,” snarled back the bar owner with sarcasm in his voice. “Not your kind. You are not the type that can liberate a people, at least not a drunken fool like you. And remember, Yank, those who liberated us did not talk like you do. Those boys were gentlemen. And we are grateful to them. We fought with them, suffered and died with them because they proved to us that they were good. And we would still do anything for them. But not for you who came here only a month ago. Not for your kind who belittle and insult us as though you were any better. Get out of my place before I stick a knife in your belly. You need not pay for the drinks if you can’t afford it.”
The strained relations between American GIs and Filipino civilians in Leyte, southern Samar, Puerto Princesa, Palawan, Zambales, and other places where American air, naval and military reservations are located is bound to continue and worsen as time goes on. The cause of the difficulties is not, however, hard to explain, if one would but dig deep into the root of the matter.
The following conversation with a young enlisted American connected with the airforce in Leyte may shed some light on the question.
“I have heard that you Americans here are quite unpopular with the Filipino civilians. What’s the reason?” the writer asked.
“It’s a long story, bud,” he replied. “But if you are willing to listen, I’ll explain it. In the first place, I hate to stay in your country. I didn’t like to come to the Philippine Islands. And I can’t understand why I am here when the war was over long ago. Besides, you are and independent people now. You aren’t a part of us anymore, are you? I had a good job back home and a sweet girl I wanted to marry as soon as I had enough savings.
“My heart is not here. I’m always thinking of the folks back in America. I can’t help it. I want to go back to school, wear nice civilian clothes instead of this damn uniform. But how can I go home when the Army has got me tied up here? So, what do I do to keep me from thinking of home? I drink and drink liquor, any kind of liquor and then get into trouble with your people. Why do my buddies get into all kinds of mess here? Same reason.
“I know that some GIs are really first-class heels but the majority of the boys here are swell kids. Believe me. Don’t mind the snobs among us who call you all sorts of dirty names. They are not educated. They do not represent the real American people. They are the scum of America. That’s why they get into trouble often and when they get beaten up, they deserve it.”
The defiant and resentful attitude among Filipinos towards any act of prejudice and discrimination from local American soldiers has, in recent months, served notice on U.S. military and civil officials here that the former hate to be told to “KEEP OUT” IN THEIR OWN COUNTRY.