Organizer and Chair: Alfred W. McCoy, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Discussant: Rosanne Rutten, University of Amsterdam
In the formal deliberations of the Philippine Constitutional Convention of 1934, the elected delegates were annoyed by an embarrassing presence. Into this elite assembly of lawyers and legislators marched one Hilario C. Moncado, the elected representative from Cebu Island who boasted-among his qualifications for drafting a constitution for this new nation-a low golf handicap, the power to heal the sick, and an ability to fly. To restrain the potential embarrassment of his messianic outbursts, the elite politicians in charge appointed Moncado as the Convention's "Official Time Keeper" and seated him beside a large clock whose black sweep hands against a white face seemed the very symbol of modernity, precision, and power. Taking his office seriously, Moncado attended every session in utter silence until a speaker exceeded his time and then, invested with the power of his office, cut the miscreant off mid sentence, no matter how prominent or powerful. Whatever contribution Moncado may have made to the Constitution's punctuality, the burden of office restrained him from making any input into the social or ethical concerns of the impoverished Cebuano constituents who worshipped him as prophet and elected him to express their hopes for social justice.
Whether annoying or amusing or neither, Moncado's presence at the Constitutional Convention can serve us as a cameo of the problematic role of that subaltern stratum beneath the visible political elite. Whether in rebellion against, retreat from, or service to the social order, these invisible figures act as the social fulcrum for mobilization of lower class networks that comprise, in their sum, "the Filipino masses." In both academic literature and elite biography, however, these critical actors intrude into the national political narrative only occasionally through brief, oblique references to shadowy men called "liders"-a faceless, nameless category whose role in electoral politics is left unexamined and undefined.
This panel seeks to probe beneath the elite stratum of prominent office holders, congressmen and mayors, seeking thereby to understand the lives of those who have, for the century past, served as the agents of lower class mobilization for revolt, revolution, industrial action, electoral participation, or religious retreat. While the elite have used their economic and social capital to capture electoral office, their campaign coalitions have, since the 1920s, relied upon liders who can deliver diverse constituencies from slums, villages, labor unions, kin networks, guerrilla armies, bandit gangs, or religious sects.
Instead of an impersonal social survey of this stratum, the panel will approach this problematic through biographies of two sorts of lower class leaders-those who have organized autonomous mass organizations, unions and religious sects, that project them into regional or national prominence; and individual peasants who have used violence to achieve an ephemeral, localized influence as bandits, gangsters, rebels, or political brokers. By giving name and voice to those so long obscured by named national heroes and prominent politicians, the panel seeks a fuller understanding of the processes of Philippine political history and a correction to established paradigms for analysis of this society.
The idea of the panel is thus several fold: (1) to improve upon the blighted state of Filipino biography, both elite and ethnographic; (2) to apply something akin to a "subaltern" model to Filipino society seeking an understanding of how the processes of political history operate beneath the level of known, named national elites; and, (3) allow authors to develop materials, novel and curious, that will allow us, in unplanned and unpredictable ways, to approach new perspectives on Philippine politics.
Brian Fegan, Macquarie University, Australia
Dionisio Macapagal was born a poor peasant in Central Luzon. During the 1920s and 1930s he was a tenant farmer. Always an independent thinker, opinionated and proud, he joined the series of peasant unions and anti landlord anti US conspiracies that included Tanggulan, Kapatiran Magsasaka, Sakdal, KPMP. Consistent with that he welcomed the Japanese as a Ganap and worked for them as a foreman laborer in Manila. At Liberation he returned to his home village, hauled logs from the Sierra Madre on a 6x6 truck "bought" from a GI, and bought a farm from the proceeds. Established as a smallholder, he became a supporter of the KMP during the Huk rebellion and then and after a stalwart supporter of land reform. In the village he was teniente del barrio until the 1960s, a faction leader for the LP of his numerous Macapagal angkan he was a village notable. The paper interweaves his career in peasant movements and electoral politics with family history, attempting to combine biography with life cycle and relate both to wider changes in the world of a villager who was sometimes too obstinate to bend with the wind and who was not obscure to those who lived near him.
John Sidel, University of London
In the past few years, a spate of kidnappings, bank robberies, and other violent crimes has combined with increased media coverage of illegal activities such as smuggling and gambling to draw attention to the widespread phenomenon of "criminality" in the Philippines. These developments, moreover, call into question the widely held-scholarly and popular-view of "crime" in the archipelago as a form of "primitive rebellion" against the encroachments of a predatory state and the intrusions of capitalist production relations upon Philippine society. In Tagalog movies, novels, comic books, and popular legends, and in occasional journalistic and scholarly articles, criminality has appeared essentially as a form of class struggle and criminals as the "primitive rebels" and "social bandits" depicted by the British historian Eric Hobsbawm. In these accounts, Filipino outlaws emerge as authentic local heroes of the poor and downtrodden, whose success in evading "the law" is attributed to their Robin Hood like popularity, to their intrinsic powers, anting anting, and charisma, and to the "weakness" of the state.
While scholars, comic book writers, and movie directors have often concurred in these depictions of primitive rebellion and social banditry in the Philippines, their accounts raise questions about the relationship between crime and its social representation in the archipelago. Indeed, revisionist scholars have cast new light on the origins, dissemination, and social significance of the English ballads that first brought Robin Hood to popular culture. Similarly, Hobsbawm's social bandit has come under considerable attack from critics who see crime less as a form of popular protest and class conflict than as a mode of economic accumulation and political domination. In this vein, recent scholarly accounts have portrayed bandits in such settings as China, Corsica, and Latin America as playing complex and multi-faceted roles in state formation, class conflict, and popular culture. Elsewhere in Southeast Asia, a reconsideration of Burmese dacoits, Javanese jago, Malay penyamun, and Thai nakleng is already well under way. In light of this rich and nuanced literature, a reexamination of crime and its social representation in the Philippines is clearly in order.
This paper recasts Filipino "outlaws" as subcontracted agents of an essentially predatory state, resembling not so much Hobsbawm's social bandits as what Anton Blok and other scholars define as mafia: entrepreneurs who use private monopolies on formally unlicensed violence as a means of social control and economic accumulation. Case studies of the most successful mafia bosses during two successive historical periods-famed pirate leader Isabelo "Beloy" Montemayor (1946-72) and notorious slum gang leader Ulysses "Boboy" Alega (1972-1992)-highlight the changing geography, organization, and social representation of crime against the backdrop of the evolving political economy of Cebu Province. Comparing both the popular movie versions of these two gangsters' lives and the historical circumstances surrounding their careers, this paper concludes by discussing the relevance of these two Cebu case studies for criminality throughout the Philippines.
Michael Cullinane, University of Wisconsin
In 1914, at 15 years of age, Hilario Camino Moncado (1898-1956) joined many other Cebuano youths as labor migrants to the sugar and pineapple fields of Hawaii. He died 42 years later as the wealthy head of several overlapping Filipino organizations operating in the U.S. and the Philippines, in particular the Filipino Federation of America and the Filipino Crusaders World Army. To many of his followers (some 20,000 alleged members by 1950), he was "the master," a prophet with supernatural powers and their representative to the outside world. In the late 1930s, Moncado also moved widely and with some success through the American and Philippine political arenas, managing to get himself elected to the Commonwealth's Constitutional Convention in 1934. To his detractors, Moncado was little more than a charlatan, a clever confidence man who devised an efficient system to extract money and support from his docile following. This paper will explore the life of Moncado, his complex relationships with his followers and competitors, and the context of his remarkable career.
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