#MondayThoughts No. 25: A Filipino’s Perspective to World War I

Yesterday completed exactly the first century of the commemoration of the armistice that culminated the First World War.

The current leaders of the players of the Great War have already paid tribute to their fallen and called upon peace and reconciliation.

One of them, President Trump, reportedly skipped the ceremony due to rain while others braved it. Of course, this was rebuked for disrespecting the 100,000 lives of American soldiers who fought of many fronts in Europe and netizens quickly contrasted with his predecessor.

Imagine if he was a soldier 100 years ago, he has to endure not just the adverse weather but also the gas and the bullets that come with it. Those men sacrificed their comfort zones to be sent into trenches in favor of fighting for a peaceful and free world.

Anyway, the very landmark commemoration has left to a perspective of Filipinos clueless on its contribution.

Before K-12, the textbook of Philippine History (taught on first year high school) mentioned with emphasis on the Second World War but not the First. You would know it by its monuments and historical sites now scattered around the archipelago.

A century ago, we were under the Americans. We had an autonomous legislature (via Jones Law) but we were not allowed to fly our own flag and were forced to flutter theirs.

Nevertheless, in April 1917, when then-US President Woodrow Wilson declared war. The Philippine Assembly swiftly responded with the formation of the National Guard as a contribution to the American Expeditionary Force contingent to provide support to the war-weary Allied forces.

We were very loyal and supportive of the colonial master through different means:

  • apprehending anyone from the Central Powers and seizing their properties, particularly from Germans and Austrians,
  • commissioning of constructing a destroyer and a submarine (with the former, named USS Rizal, being completely materialized)
  • oversubscribing to their war bonds
  • enlisting 6,000 Filipino men to their army


Filipinos in America were able to fight under the US Army. About 4,000 workers in Hawaii enlisted and fellowmen from other parts of the US volunteered as well.

While many Filipino figureheads will be remembered as casualties in the Second World War, we barely heard that there is one in the First.

His name was Tomas Claudio.

He was enlisted to the Army on November 2, 1917, and fought in Chateau-Thierry, France under the leadership of Gen. John Pershing and died on June 29, 1918, at 26.

He is buried at the Manila North Cemetery and his name is forever embellished in an elementary school and a college, along with his statue, in his hometown of Morong, Rizal.

Other contributions for Filipinos include the production of supplies for refugees and coconut shell charcoal for gas masks.

It’s so unfortunate that the Philippines also have the contribution to the Great War but it seems to be dwarfed from the limelight and being disregarded for being too small.

But with the current situation on national education, with the constitutionality of K-12 and removal of Filipiniana subjects as core college subjects, I think the responsible bureaucracy should append lest we forget.

For more information, check at the source from Diego Vicente A. Magallona’s presentation.

Timow out.


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