The Republic of the Philippines is a country in South East Asia, located in the western Pacific Ocean some 1,210 km (750 mi) from mainland Asia. It consists of 7,107 islands and forms in physical geography a part of the Malay Archipelago. The 333 years as a Spanish colony (1565-1898) and 48 years as an American colony (1898-1946) have been the greatest influences on its culture. It is, with East Timor, one of the two predominantly Catholic nations in Southeast Asia and also one of the most westernized nations in the region with a unique blend of East and West.
How Phis Helped Shape The Course of a Nation
By Jay-Raymond N. Abad, UC Irvine, 2002
The Spanish Empire, spanning from Latin America to Asia, was once the most powerful the world had ever seen. However by 1898, Spain's position and influence as a colonial power began to deteriorate. Revolutions for independence began to rise in parts of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam and in the Philippines. Within the United States, sympathizers for the rebels in these terroritories began to grow. The court of public opinion was heavily swayed by William Randolph Hearst, the father of future Pulitzer Prize Winner William Randolph Hearst Jr. (UC Berkeley 1929) who portrayed the Spaniards as oppressive and cruel tyrants. All came to a head when on February 15, 1898, the Battleship Maine was reportedly sunk by the Spanish in Havana Harbor in Cuba. Among those on board was Lt. Wat Cluverius, (Tulane University 1895), future president of the General Council. In April of that year the United States Congress officially declared a state of war with Spain. It would be the beginning of the United State's rise to a global power and one of Phi Delta Theta's most remarkable contributions to history.
With fighting throughout many parts of the crumbling Spanish Empire, the root of Phi Delta Theta's presence in the Philippines can be traced back on January 26, 1899, when 30 members of the fraternity assembled in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, to officially form an alumni club. Surgeon David D. Thornton (University of Wisconsin 1894) was elected President while Lt. James B. Kemper, (University of Cincinnati 1899) was elected as the Secretary. It was the most remote gathering of Phis ever recorded. After a single meeting the original 30 members would never gather again but other Phis would carry on their legacy. An established alumni club would remain in the Philippines for decades. By the time the war ended with the Treaty of Paris, 286 Phis had served, more than any fraternity.
The war with Spain greatly expanded the sphere of influence of the United States. With the annexation of Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines, America had become a superpower. However, there were many who oppposed imperialism on the grounds that the United States merely supplanted Spanish power with their own. Though the war with Spain had ended, a new and more costly war would begin.
Citizens of the Philippines widely believed that they would be granted independance once Spain was defeated. However, when the Phillipines once again became a colonial possession, this time by the United States, an uneasy tension between the Filipinos and Americans began to grow. On the night of February 4, 1899 Pvt. William W. Grayson encountered three armed Filipinos. A subject of controversy to this day, Grayson fired and killed at least one Filipino when he ordered them to stop. By the time the night was over, fighting had broken between the two sides. Pvt. Grayson's commander and the officer in charge of the sentry post that night was a young Phi officer, Lt. Burt Whedon (University of Nebraska-Lincoln 1900) who later became a lawyer in New York.
It was in the Philippine-American War where one of Phi Delta Theta's greatest soldiers would rise. Colonel Frederick Funston (Kansas, 1880) who had helped the Cuban rebels with their cause served with great distinction in this new conflict. For his daring exploit in capturing a fortified position against Filipino rebels, he was awarded the Medal of Honor, Phi Delta Theta's first since the Civil War. However it was his capture of Emilio Aguinaldo, the leader of the rebellion that garnered Funston fame and the admiration of American society. Using a desguise, he and his men were able to infiltrate Aguinaldo's base. Although it would take several more years before the guerilla fighting throughout the country would subside, Aguinaldo's capture was a turning point. Aguinaldo tried to convince others in the rebellion to lay down their arms and seek cooperation. Emilio Aguinaldo occupies an important position in history because he would eventually become the first President of The First Philippine Republic. Funston would assume the position of Military Governor of the Luzon Province
The Philippine-American War is regarded by many historians as the first Vietnam because of its length and unpopularity. More than 4,000 U.S. soldiers were killed in the conflict. In the homefront, many prominent literary figures including Mark Twain spoke out against American imperialism. Still others, like Carl Crow (Univ. of Missouri 1907) tried to offer an impartial view of America's newest lands.
In the years after the war, many Phis served not only in the military with regards to the Philippines but also within its government and educational systems. The number of Phis who served in some capacity in the island nation is immeasurable. Many Phis such as Fremont Morse (U.C. Berkeley 1879) and Caspar Hodgson (Stanford 1896) helped construct a working infastructure with their knowledge in engineering and cartography, while others like evangelist William L. Stidger (Allegheny College 1910 ) assisted in missionary work. Guy Potter Benton, best known in the Greek world as the Grand Patron of the Delta Zeta Sorority served as the President of the University of the Philippines which today is regarded as the best public institution of higher learning in that country. The most influential Phi to to serve was Dwight F. Davis. Best known as the donor of the Davis Cup in Tennis he was a highly decorated WWI veteran, and former Secretary of War under President Calvin Coolidge. Davis became the Governor-General of the Philippines. He was the only fraternity man to hold that position.
For years, the Philippines became a favorite destination for Phis who were seeking employment or adventure, but the advent of World War II would end all that. The Philippines were attacked by the Empire of Japan just one day after Pearl Harbor. For months, American and Filipino Forces fought a desperate battle to hold on to the country. General Douglas MacArthur, by orders of President Roosevelt, left the Philippines for Australia leaving General Jonathan Wainwright in command. Wainwright directed the defense from Corregidor Island, a tiny island in Manila Bay. The responsibility of defending the Bataan Penisula, (main land Philippines) fell on the shoulders of Major General Edward King. King desperately tried to fight off the Japanese forces, however it was not to be. On April 9, 1942, running low on food and ammunition, King reluctantly ordered the surrender of his troops on Bataan Peninsula. Over 70,000 soldiers surrendered, the largest in American military history. General Waingwright would hold on to Corregidor for another month before he too was forced to surrender with 10,000 men. Both King and Wainwright would spend years in a prison camp.
Years would pass before American Forces would attempt to recapture the country. When the time came, two other distinguished Phi Generals would add their names to the history of the Philippines. Lt. General Charles P. Hall (Univ. of Mississippi 1909) a hero of WWI lead his XI Corps in liberating the country. His corps recaptured the same ground that General King had so valiantly fought to defend years earlier. Major General Edwin Patrick, (Indiana University 1916) also fought for the liberation of the islands when he commanded the 9th Division. While trying to observe the fighting, General Patrick was killed in action. He was the highest ranking Phi killed in WWII and the highest ranking Phi to ever be killed in any war. For his courage under fire he was decorated with the Distinguished Service Cross. The Philippines was finally liberated in early 1945.
The Philippines were finally granted their independence on July 4, 1946. The Manila Alumni Club eventually dissolved and many Phis left the island nation. However the influence of members of Phi Delta Theta in helping shape the country and being associated both with its dark and prosperous times will forever be remembered. No other fraternity can lay claim to such a storied history regarding a nation half a world away.