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Asian Collections: Library of Congress, An Illustrated Guide

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Inscribed Bamboo from the Philippines.
Inscribed Bamboo from the Philippines
. These specimens of Filipino writing in old Indic script, which are similar to ancient scripts used in neighboring Indonesia and to modern script incised on bamboo, were gathered on the island of Mindoro around 1938. The Library's collection of fifty-five bamboos in prose and twenty-two in verse provides a glimpse into Mangyan (Hampangan) and Tagbanua society. Many of the manuscripts reflect indigenous traditions that remained with the Mangyan because of their relative isolation. The Tagbanua manuscripts are cylindrical, while the Mangyan are often semicylindrical or tablets made from one-fourth to one-third of the circumference of the bamboo. (Fletcher Gardner Collection, Asian Division)

The Philippine Islands fell under Spanish colonial control within fifty years of Magellan's fateful landing in 1521. One of the earliest words the Spanish learned from local residents was "barangay," a group of people living under the authority of a chief, or "datu." The Spanish quickly saw the value of the system and used their relationships with the barangay leaders to administer the islands. From the beginning of Spanish rule, Roman Catholic missionaries exerted strong influence. With the exception of the southernmost island of Mindanao, where Islam had started to take root in the late fifteenth century, missionaries found fertile ground. The Philippines is now the only country in Asia with a Catholic majority. Under the Spanish colonial system, the friars of the Augustinian, Dominican, and Franciscan orders, and the Jesuits played a role well beyond the purely religious, often serving as powerful local administrators.

Spanish rule ended when American forces defeated the Spanish in 1898. Pres. William McKinley declared that the United States would replace Spain's "arbitrary rule" with "the mild sway of justice and right" and, despite local resistance, the Philippines came under U.S. administration. Following World War II and the Japanese occupation, the Philippines achieved full independence in 1946. Over the years, the Library has developed a fine collection on the history of the Philippines during this period.

Of the many languages and dialects spoken in the Philippines, about 90 percent of the population speaks eight: Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilocano, Hiligaynon, Bicolano, Waray-Waray, Pampangan, and Pangasinan. All are part of the Malayo-Polynesian-language family. When the Spaniards arrived in the sixteenth century, they found that a system of writing based on Indic script was in use. The script was used only for letters and messages, however, and no written literature or official records existed. Thus, early accounts of the Philippines are virtually all in Spanish, as are historical records of the Spanish colonial period. After 1898, English became the language of government and education. The Library's holdings on the pre-independence Philippines are, therefore, largely in these two languages and are found outside the Asian Division.

Doctrina Christiana (1593).
Doctrina Christiana
(1593). The first book printed in the Philippines, the Doctrina Christiana presents basic Roman Catholic doctrine not only in Spanish but also in Tagalog, which later became the national language of the Philippines. Tagalog is printed both in its Indic-derived writing system and in Roman script. Written by the Franciscan Friar Juan de Plasencia and printed with wood blocks by the Dominican Order in Manila, the Doctrina Christiana held by the Library is the only known surviving copy. (Rosenwald Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division)

Early Spanish accounts such as Diego de Aduarte's 1640 Historia de la Provincia del Sancto Rosario and the first book printed in Manila, Doctrina Christiana, can be found in the Rare Book and Special Collections Division. The Manuscript Division has material from the Spanish period, such as records of the Catholic Church in the Philippines from 1707 to 1799; a 1654 history of the Jesuits in Mexico, Guatemala, and the Philippines; and a microfilm copy of the Urbanite collection from the Vatican Library. The last covers English, French, and Spanish exploration from 1501 to 1626, including some material on the Philippines.

An interesting set of records from the Sulu Sultanate may be found in the Manuscript Division. About half of the items consist of correspondence from the Sultan of Jolo to the American governor of Sulu, in Arabic script and dating from 1901-1905 and 1914. The second group of documents is primarily in Spanish, with a smaller number in Arabic script, and dates from the late Spanish colonial period, 1889 to 1898. This group consists largely of reports from the Political-Military Governor of Jolo and includes some Spanish reporting on a rebellion in Jolo in early 1895 led by two local datus. Also of note are several documents dating from 1895 that provide a glimpse at the close relationship between the Spanish authorities on Mindanao and Datu Mandi of the Zamboanga region. Datu Mandi was later to become an ally of the United States after it replaced Spanish administration in the Muslim south.

The Manuscript Division also holds valuable material on the Philippine campaign of the Spanish-American War, notably the papers of Gen. John J. Pershing. Of special interest to students of the beginning of American involvement in the Philippines is the Wildman brothers' unique collection of documents and photographs from the turn of the century. Rounsevelle Wildman was American Consul in Hong Kong during the Spanish-American War and the following armed struggle between the Philippine independence movement and the United States from 1899 to 1901. He maintained close contact with pro-independence Filipinos in Hong Kong. His brother, Edwin, covered the Philippine war as a correspondent, and his journals and photos are also part of the Wildman collection. Other material on the Philippine war against the United States includes papers from the Philippine military commander Emilio Aguinaldo and the U.S.- Philippine war collection of some three hundred documents.

The Voice of the Philippine Revolution (1899).
The Voice of the Philippine Revolution
(1899). In the wake of Commo. George Dewey's destruction of Spain's Pacific Fleet in Manila Bay, Emilio Aguinaldo declared the independence of the Philippines on June 12, 1898. El Heraldo de la Revolución began semiweekly publication in September, continuing until fighting broke out between the Americans and Aguinaldo's forces on February 4, 1899. (Southeast Asian Collection, Asian Division)

The American colonial period and World War II are well covered by the Library's holdings. As the result of a microfiche project by the Jakarta Field Office, the Asian Division has hundreds of volumes from the American Historical collection documenting the American era in the Philippines. The General Collections and, to a certain extent, the Manuscript Division also have important material on the period. Of special value to scholars are the papers of William Howard Taft, who, before becoming President of the United States, chaired the Second Philippine Commission (1900-1901) and served as Governor-General of the Philippines from 1901 to 1904. A large collection of documents from Gen. Leonard Wood, an army officer who served as Governor General of the Philippines from 1921 to 1927, covers an especially difficult period in American-Filipino relations. The papers of Andres Soriano, who served on Gen. Douglas MacArthur's staff during World War II, are in the Manuscript Division. A number of rare photographs from the late 1890s to World War II, including photographs of the region, are held in the Prints and Photographs Division's Detroit Publishing Company collection.

A Trio of Filipino Patriots.
A Trio of Filipino Patriots
. Published by the Philippines Free Press in 1929, this poster-sized photograph shows the three leading figures of the Filipino nationalist movement in Europe in the late nineteenth century: Jose Rizal, Marcelo H. del Pilar, and Mariano Ponce. The trio was the moving force behind a movement called "La Solidaridad." (Southeast Asian Collection, Asian Division)

HOME  Preface  Introduction  The World of Asian Books  Chinese Beginnings  Tales from the Yunnan Woods  The Diplomat and the Dalai Lama  From the Steppes of Central Asia  The Japanese World  Korean Classics  Homer on the Ganges  White Whales and Bugis Book  Barangays, Friars, and "The Mild Sway of Justice"  The Theravada Tradition  The Southern Mandarins  Modern Asia  East Asia  Inner Asia  South Asia  Southeast Asia and the Pacific  Epilog  Publications on the Asian Collections

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( November 15, 2010 )
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