Wednesday, August 21, 2013


Guam civic leaders were all concerned in October of 1926 when news came to the island that a Philippine politician, Eduardo Mercaido of Masbate, had introduced a resolution in the Philippine Legislature advocating the annexation of Guam by the Philippines, which was, at the time, a kind of territory of the U.S. with limited self-government.

One of Mercaido's arguments in favor of annexation was the prior historical and cultural links between Filipinos and Chamorros.

When Mexico became independent in the early 1800s, the Marianas became a province of the Philippines.  Look at any list of provinces of the Philippines in the latter part of the 1800s and the Marianas is one of them.

Now all this was strongly opposed by Guam's leading citizens.  The reason was because Chamorros knew that the Filipinos, in general, wanted independence and were patiently waiting for the right circumstances to obtain it.  Earlier that same year, in July, the Philippines legislature had actually asked the U.S. to hold a plebiscite on independence in the Philippines. A reporter for the Chicago Tribune added that people on Guam believed that the Philippines did have the means to govern Guam and that the island would fall into the hands of the Japanese, which ruled all the islands around Guam in 1926.

Had Guam been annexed to the Philippines while it was under the U.S. flag, Guam might lose its connection to the U.S. and remain part of an independent Philippines.  Chamorros did not want to become part of an independent Philippines.

Enough older people were still alive in 1926 to have known and seen the Filipino political prisoners who were sent to Guam both during Spanish and American regimes.  These "insurrectos" and "deportados," as they were called, did not get in trouble for simply making speeches, but for leading armed revolt against either the Spaniards or the Americans.  Chamorros saw the Filipinos as strongly headed towards becoming an independent nation one day.

Chamorros contrasted themselves, on the other hand, as docile and loyal to the U.S., grateful for the blessings of American rule which they did not want to lose by being made a part of the Philippines.

The Guam Recorder offered prizes for essays against annexation.  The first prize went to Agueda Iglesias, who later became Agueda Johnston.  The second went to Veronica San Agustin, who later married a Perez; the mother of Gerry Perez of GVB and GEDA fame.

Veronica's essay included the following, "Our President, who art in the United States, hallowed be thy name; thy judgment come; grant us this time our citizenship and protect us from falling into the hands of any other nation.  Amen."  This gives you a sense just how attached many Chamorros, at the time, were to American rule, even with its imperfections.

For all their blood ties (some of these Chamorro opponents of Philippine annexation had Filipino grandfathers) and historic connections to the Philippines, Chamorros at the time saw themselves as a separate people and did not want to lose the benefits they enjoyed under American rule.  It wasn't perfect; many Chamorros quietly resented some injustices under the Naval Government.  But it was better than being on one's own, they believed, or being under another flag.

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