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United States Rule, Elites, Education, and Economy

cavalry base, tenant farming, Clark Air Base, Philippine economy, functional literacy

The United States defined and justified its colonial role as one of tutelage; that is, preparing the Philippines for eventual independence. While a few Filipinos remained opposed to American colonial control, virtually all of the ilustrados, who made up the educated and wealthy classes, saw economic and political opportunity under American tutelage. Many of the U.S. policies in the Philippines reinforced the dominant position of the ilustrados within Philippine society. Most of the vast landholdings of the friar estates, which the civilian administration purchased from the Vatican in 1904, were sold to members of the already wealthy ilustrado elite. Most agricultural workers, meanwhile, continued to toil the land as tenants. In addition, most government positions at all levels were held by ilustrados, who were able to wield their wealth and influence to gain political power.

Education was touted as the means by which all Filipinos could achieve a rising standard of living. The United States established a national public school system, building on the existing parochial schools. Thousands of American teachers arrived to teach courses in the secularized and expanded system. English was the primary medium of instruction. Filipinos from every walk of life sought a secular education, and functional literacy increased from about 20 percent in 1901 to 50 percent in 1941. A middle class developed as upward mobility presented new, but still limited, opportunities.

Unrestricted free trade between the Philippines and the United States, established in 1913, had a decisive influence on the Philippine economy, which became an agricultural export economy producing sugar, abaca, copra, and tobacco for the U.S. market. Except for gold mining, there was little development of industry; manufactured goods were supplied by the United States on a duty-free basis. Economic development under U.S. rule tended to encourage large landholdings among a relatively small elite, leading to an increase in tenant farming among landless peasants. The global economic depression of the 1930s worsened the plight of the rural population.

The United States also established military garrisons in the Philippines, which became a strategic base for U.S. forces in the Pacific. The deep-water harbor at Subic Bay, near Manila, became a major anchorage for the U.S. naval fleet. The cavalry base at Fort Stotsenberg in central Luzon was transformed into an air-force installation, Clark Air Base.



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