World War II and the Philippines

Module Summary

In the pre-war period, the Philippines was already known for the economic disparities between the rich and poor that resulted from Spanish colonialism continued into the American period. As a result, peasant agitation for land reform was already evident prior to the outbreak of the war. This module focuses on the Communist movement known as the Hukbalahap (or Huks), which was initially formed in 1942 to resist the Japanese occupation. The formation of the Huks had many important implications for post-war developments. In order to subdue resistance, the Japanese military regime was ruthless in their attempts to suppress insurgency and to punish the families and villages that sheltered them, thereby encouraging further guerrilla action. After the war, the returning Americans adopted a policy of continued opposition to the Communist Huks, a policy adopted in part because of looming Cold War. At the same time US policy makers were willing to overlook the wartime collaboration of elite national leaders with the Japanese. This would become a contentious issue in postwar-Philippine politics.

This module is based on the presentation by Belinda Aquino (Professor Emeritus, University of Hawaii at Manoa) for the East-West Center’s 2011 National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Summer Institute for Teachers.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this module do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or the East-West Center.

Teaching Materials

PowerPoint lecture “Japanese Occupation of the Philippines”
Reading #1 (Taipei Times, Japanese war veteran speaks of atrocities in the Philippines)
Reading #2 (American Experience, Japanese atrocities in the Philippines)
Reading #3 (Wikipedia, Bataan Death March)
Reading #4 (Watawat.net, The Huk Rebellion)
Reading #5 (Ikehata Setsuho, The Japanese occupation period in Philippine history)

Key topics include: Catholicism, Chinese minorities, Christianity, cold war, communism, decolonization, democracy, European powers, fascism, imperialism / colonialism, independence movements, nationalism, post-war period, revolution, Spanish rule/American rule, warfare and combat, WWII in Southeast Asia.

We welcome comments from teachers on how you have integrated this material into your teaching, including what was useful and what wasn’t, and what additional resources you would like to see in or recommend for this module.