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Documenting Empire: Frank L. Crone's Photographs of Colonial Philippines

V. Coda: The Aftermath of Cultural Imperialism

"EDUCATING THE FILIPINOS: The True Value of American Educational Work not to be Measured by the Amount of Spoken English Acquired."

As Director of Education, Crone wanted to implement an educational model in the Philippines that would make the country "a great storehouse of Western learning and civilization, upon which the Orient may freely draw" and that would stimulate the "intellectual awakening" of the Filipino.  Despite this lofty ambition, the Filipino under American colonial rule was denied acceptance into the world from which Crone's ideals came.  The Filipino could learn English and read Longfellow and Irving, but they would never achieve a level of true equality with their colonizers.  In the 1920s and 1930s, the U.S. government considered a number of options on how to deal with the Philippine colony.  Granting it independence was one option; ushering the colony into statehood, as the U.S. did with Hawaii, was another.  Keeping it as a colony was the default option.  The U.S. government, like Crone, argued that the Philippines was not yet ready for its independence.  Members of the American political elite argued that the "racial deficiency" of the Filipino could not possibly allow the Philippines to become a U.S. state and would only taint the middle-class Anglo-American majority.  Thus, the Philippines remained a U.S. colony until the end of World War II.  During the American colonial rule, however, a number of Filipinos immigrated to the United States to work, primarily in the harvesting fields of California and Hawaii.  But once they reached U.S. soil, they were not considered citizens and instead held the vague status of "national."  The Crone Manuscripts include a document that outlines Crone's recommendations for immigration control of Filipinos.  (Upon his return to the States, Crone was considered to be an expert on the Philippines and was often approached for his advice on policy regarding the Islands as well as business opportunities there.)  He denounces interracial marriage and details the "type" of Filipino that should be allowed or denied travel to the States.    Having an American education did not grant the Filipino acceptance into American society; they remained the racialized Other.

Renato Constantino considers English instruction in Philippine schools to be "the first and perhaps the master stroke in the plan to use education as an instrument of colonial policy," a policy that profoundly transformed the ways in which Filipinos viewed their history and themselves.  "The success of the colonial weapon was complete and permanent.  In exchange for a smattering of English, we yielded our souls.  The stories of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln made us forget our nationalism.  The American view of our history turned our heroes into brigands in our own eyes, and distorted our vision of our future.  The surrender of the Katipuneros [the members of the military uprising under Andrés Bonifacio, and later General Aguinaldo, against Spain and after the revolution, against the U.S.] was nothing compared to this final surrender, this leveling down of our last defenses. ... [W]ithin the framework of American and Filipino goals and interests, the schools guided us toward action and thought which could forward American interest."

The decades of the Philippines under the American colonial regime have left Filipinos with a complicated historical legacy.  Journalist Conrado de Quiros characterizes the Philippines' colonial legacy as a central factor that shapes the ways in which Filipinos today understand themselves and their sense of being in the world.  "And then you realize that the fact of Filipinos migrating abroad is really just the tip of the iceberg. ... Most of us are expatriates right here in our own land.  America is our heartland whether we get to go there or not."  While de Quiros's description of what could be called a colonized mindset may play a role in Filipinos' idealization of the United States and decision to (im)migrate, the desire of many Filipinos to leave the motherland is also (perhaps primarily) motivated by the global struggle for labor and capital.  What then is the relationship between those who have not left and the diaspora?  According to historian Vicente Rafael there is a distinct connection between the Filipinos' immigration to the U.S. and the colonial legacy of the Philippines: "Balikbayans [immigrant Filipinos based in (primarily) North America who periodically visit the motherland] are disconcerting not only because they seem to corroborate the terms of colonial hegemony; they also mirror the 'failure' of nationalism to retain and control the excess known as overseas Filipinos. ... Not only are balikbayans akin to U.S. colonizers; even more dismaying is their similarity to the collaborators of the past.  Their departure amounts to a kind of betrayal of national particularity.  Yet, the fact that they are merely enacting a historical role laid out before them makes them far more intimate with the people who they leave behind."

Crone's collection of photo albums at the Lilly Library provides a rare visual representation of this pivotal moment in Philippine history and the rise of American imperialism.  The photographs remind us that the process of colonization is not merely one entity exerting power over another, but that an exchange takes place—not just in capital and labor, but in actual life and historical experience and influence between the colonizer and colonized.  The immediate presence of each subjects' face seems to resist grossly truncated versions of history that discuss colonization as a one-way exertion of domination and influence.  In Culture and Imperialism, a book-length study of imperialism's cultural impact on both colonizer and colonized, Edward Said, a groundbreaking figure in the field of postcolonialism, calls for more complex ways of writing history and interpreting the world that challenge imperial narratives—ways modeled "not on a symphony but on an atonal ensemble ... to elucidate a complex and uneven topography."  To do so, "we must be able to think through and interpret together experiences that are discrepant, each with its particular agenda and pace of development, its own internal formations, its internal coherence and system of external relationships, all of them coexisting and interacting with others."  We may easily balk at Crone's parent-child trope used to explain the relationship between the United States and the Philippines, but to leave unquestioned the dominance of empire and to ignore the complex, uneven topography of history is just as injurious as to accept Crone's parent-child trope unequivocally. 

In the words of Roland Barthes, "The Photograph then becomes a bizarre medium, a new form of hallucination: false on the level of perception, true on the level of time: a temporal hallucination, so to speak, a modest shared hallucination (on the one hand ‘it is not there,’ on the other ‘but it has indeed been’): a mad image, chafed by reality."  The Philippines' colonial past itself is equally haunting—to reimagine it and re-experience it through images is to conjure up what seems like a hallucination, "a mad image" all on its own.  But to look at the order of the world, to look at these photographs, we understand: "it has indeed been."

"EDUCATING THE FILIPINOS: The True Value of American Educational Work not to be Measured by the Amount of Spoken English Acquired."

Newspaper clipping from in an unknown American publication in the Philippines.  Scrapbook, Crone Mss.