Monday, March 6, 2017

The Ordeal of Samar by Joseph L. Schott | A Book Review

The Ordeal of Samar by Joseph L. Schott | A Book Review by iamnotabookworm

This book was my nephew's project. He was asked to come up with a book report or some sort of summary for this book. My smart nephew, knowing I love to read and he was crunching for time, asked me to read and come up with a summary. 

I also got curious about what this book was about. This was written by an American and this was about the ordeal of the American soldiers trying to clean Samar of insurrectos. The story revolved around the military campaign and court-martial of Major and Brevet Lieutenant Colonel Littletown Waller Tazewell Waller and his team of Marines when they were assigned to Samar, Philippines in the year 1902 during the American occupation after they defeated the Spaniards. This chronicled their violent and tragic story.

The first thing I noticed about this book was that it was taking the side of the Americans, obviously because the author was an American and I guess, the purpose of the story was to impart the experiences of the American soldiers. I wonder why my nephew's teacher chose to assign him this book. Weren't there any other book that was written by a Filipino? I mean, this is about Samar, would it perfectly make sense if a Filipino would write about it? Anyway, the book was based on the court-martial records and after reading it, it was fair and objective enough. I just wasn't comfortable with the idea that the teacher would use a reference book written by a foreigner. No offense.

As I said, this book talked more of the hardships of the American soldiers had to go through in order to clear Samar of the members of the Katipunan. It also exposed the horrors, tortures and deaths of the Filipino insurrectos in the hands of the Americans. I found that the natives in Samar, according to this book were tall and muscular, unlike the negritos that were living in Luzon. What easily came to mind was Lapu-lapu. The natives were called Googoos by the Americans or negroes, just like what they call the black people in America. Well, back then, discrimination was very rampant. I don't think our ancestors were even spared. 

In a way, I felt sorry for Major Waller. The executions done under his command were due to the natives plotting against them. Of course, it was a time of war and Filipinos were fighting so hard for our independence. We were under the Spaniards for more than 300 years. I think that was enough slavery and denial of freedom. We had enough. I think the Americans underestimated the cunning and bravery of our people. Armed only with bolos and farming implements, we fought them and killed a lot of them with the element of surprise. 

In short, some of the American officers during that time did go beyond and had taken advantage of their position. They viewed Filipinos as a group of people to be subdued and they thought that all means were applicable. But in fairness to Major Waller, he only acted in line of what he has ordered or in accordance of his duty. He was not involved in any torture. He lost a few of his men in the Samar campaign. I think the failure and controversy surrounding the Samar campaign, the execution of 11 natives by firing squad, the torture and other indiscretions by the American soldiers had lead to eventually giving the Philippines its independence. The American government realized that making the Philippines part of their rule will only cause them greater problems than benefits.

I give this book 3/5 bolo knives. I guess the objectivity of the author has made this book a good reference in regard to the events relating to Major Waller and his men. But if we talk about Samar's role in the Philippine Independence, I think it would have been more logical if an account written by a Filipino of the experiences of the Filipinos would have been more accurate. In a way, I am glad to have come across this book. It is always worth knowing the other side of the story. And the American-Philippine war is over, we look at these events to learn from them. 

This has been an educational experience.