Saturday, 10 October 2015

Notes on the Posters of the Japanese occupation And its sponsored "Philippine Republic"

Notes on the Posters of the Japanese occupation
And its sponsored "Philippine Republic"

“Have no fear anymore! Fighting is now over! 

American forces who have been squeezing your land and your people with honey words and threatening swords for a long time have now entirely been driven away, by Protecting God of Asia, the Japanese forces. 

The only aim of the Imperial Japanese forces is to free the Filipinos from the oppression of the white men and establish a paradise for Filipinos on this beautiful land of Philippines.”

-Sebald, William J. "Dear Filipinos!" 
 World War II. 10 Nov. 2011. 
Web. 20 May 2012.  

At first, it seemed to be unusual to make a writeup that features anything that comes from the other side of the second world war, specifically those from those supported by the Japanese. This person may have tried its best to take some pictures of what was shown to the Filipinos that as if appearing their hated enemy as a friend, a redeemer, a liberator whose intention was to break the dominancy of both American and European power the Japanese described as maligning and oppressing Japan and its Asiatic kin.
But to its victims, it shows the contrary to Japan's assertions with all its actually existing impunities especially in countries Japan considered as enemy subjects, hence liable to be persecuted to the point of collective punishment. 

Mostly consists of posters, pamphlets, if not front covers of Japanese magazines made during the "Est Asia War", it seems that those rarely-shown works was trying to invoke a sense of new-found Filipinoness as "encouraged" by the Japanese in pursuit of a redeemed and renewed East Asia alongside Größdeutschland and Italy's revived Roman Empire. Quite interesting to see those featured works as expected, and also made this person think that how come mainstream historians rarely shown those "propaganda" especially those coming from the Filipinos themselves if not from the Japanese occupiers during the Japanese-sponsored "republic"?
Sounds traitorous though for Filipinos who are aware of the atrocities made by the Japanese during that tumultuous periods; of massacres, comfort women, looting, and bombings  coming from both friend and foe in Manila and other major urban enclaves of the archipelago.

But come to think of this: how come these posters were made in an impression that the Philippines was redeemed by the Japanese and was given "independence" that was controversial in character? Yes, it was controversial in a sense that so-called "independence" was sponsored by most people called as their enemy, worse, it failed to justify independence that makes itself existing in paper and certain ceremonies enough for people to consider the legitimacy of Philippine "independence". What more of its other terms such as "peace and order regained", "Moral Regeneration", and even "liberation"?

Remember, most Filipinos were loyal to the Commonwealth, to the Stars and Stripes, and its Materialism that made "Peace Time" really "Peaceful" in most Filipino's  yearning eyes.

Defending the Country at all costs

The "Bureau of the Constabulary" as shown by the Japanese war magazine "FRONT"

Trying to invoke the existence of independence, the Japanese occupiers, through its spnsored "republic" afforded to create a "Bureau of the Constabulary" to serve as the country's gendarmerie, if not an official armed force. In its creation, a handful of former members of the American-trained Philippine Constabulary were being indoctrinated, trained and worked in that outfit in exchange for their freedom. 
And in it includes Posters urging Filipinos to join that said outfit, maybe as an expression that the Philippines should be defended as an independent nation as well as volunteer in the struggle for East Asia. Some of which were those made by well known artist Carlos "Botong" Francisco, who featured much a sense of "new-found patriotism" such as men waving the flag of the republic if not guarding for peace and labour such as farmers harvesting their rice.

Poster made by Botong Francisco
depicting the Constabulary as "defenders of the Republic"
Another poster made by Botong Francisco
Most of the uniforms featured in the posters (as well as the front cover of "FRONT") were similar to those of the commonwealth-era Constabulary: from pith helmets, khaki coloured shirts and pants, even pockets for bullets. The difference was the adoption of the seal of the republic as featured in their helmets. 

However, the Constabulary was all but a showcase, and most members escaped and became guerrilla fighters, that somehow the Japanese didn't trusted as such.  Besides the constabulary, here were armed Filipinos loyal to the Japanese forces itself. Groups like the PALAAK "Bamboo Army", the Pambansang Pag-Asa ng Mga Anak ni Rizal (PAMPAR), the Japanese armed and trained "United Nippon", and the dreaded Makabayang Katipunan ng Pilipino (MAKAPILI) which was known for its collaboration and "rooting out" spies, including those of innocents unjustly killed by the enemy. 
In fact, coming from a court statement made during the Liberation, it stated that collaborators did afford "to arm with a 1903 Springfield rifle, caliber .30, undergo 10 days training, consisting of military drill, manual of arms, and a target practice," enough to consider having a paramilitary group supported by the enemy and be considered as legitimate "volunteers of the republic" than the "constabulary" that was supposed to be mandated by law.

An illusion of productivity 
amidst actual poverty

During the Japanese Occupation and its sponsored republic, means of production were controlled by the Japanese and be redescribed as a "planned economy" by the propaganda units. Rice, Corn, Cotton, Manila Hemp, to those of Minerals like Copper were produced to support the war effort instead of proving the demands of the populace. Cotton, for instance, were planted and harvested in once-sugarcane fields for it was used for making Nitrocellulose, an ingredient for explosives, besides those of cloth needed for the military such as uniforms and bandages.

And although it was true that "Production bears Prosperity", and "To Plant Rice means Survival", and other various phrases exhorted by propganda units, it did not alleviate the problem on food for the masses as the production itself were directly allocated to the enemy. Attempts to support the masses, such as the "Bigasang Bayan" (People's Granary) and the "Rice and Corn Administration" (RICOA) failed to resolve issues on malnutrition and its serious effects besides Japanese control of production and distribution (stressing the military over the civilian populace). Worse, outbreak of epidemics such as dysentery, malaria, and Tuberculosis were prevalent. Starvation was rampant that somehow equated the occupation to misery as compared to the American-sponsored "Commonwealth" with its facade of prosperity.

But besides agriculture, some pictures did encouraged industry. In fact, similar to the Germans and its occupation of vital industries in occupied Europe, the Japanese did occupied and transformed factories and farms to produce needed materials. As an example, the Japanese Imperial Forces occupied the Tanduay Distillery compound with the intention of converting it into an alcohol fuel factory, and it had applied Filipinos working for a worthless currency. 

Moral reform, the use of National Language,
and the desire for National Survival

Apart from meeting immediate ends, the occupation as well as the "republic" tried to make the vision for the "New Philippines" work through a series of moral regeneration programs. These programs somehow required reorganisation, be it those of abolishing useless offices and creating new ones more responsive to immediate needs as well as long term planning.

On the moral front, the "republic" reestablished the prewar code committee in order to create a civil code in which to strengthen Filipino civic and moral character. Ideally, the code may reflect the Christian and Hispanic, as well as Asiatic character of the independent nation especially those of emphasising the role of the family as the country's basic social unit, the role of the community, and other various ideals that sadly, were not being published.

But one of the legacies left during the "republic" was the ides of developing a nationalist-oriented and relevant education in pursuit of developing a Filipino character through the "National Education Board". Traditional values, establishing love for the flag and the language, as well as building schools intended to impart the wartime youths the desire for independence as well as forces that makes a nation capable to stand on its own, if not "making it great." The language of instruction, Tagalog, was highly recognised and used as the national language according to "Military Ordinance no.13" that concerns the use of the native tongue in public use which was enacted in 1942. In it, the occupation and its sponsored "republic" pushed programs to spread the use of the language to the extent of Filipinising titles, public ordinances, and names of offices at the beginning of 1943. Those who wrote in English soon trying to study and write stories and various forms of literature in Tagalog in which few were continued to write even after the war.

However, there were also attempts made by the Japanese to use the language of the occupiers also as its "official language." Similar to Spain and the United States in introducing their language and culture, the Japanese wanted to instill its culture, particularly through its language as the "Language of East Asia" as well as means to "open Filipinos" in Asiatic culture. 
With the same enthusiasm as the Tagalog language, pamphlets were distributed about basic Japanese, followed by magazines that has sections on basic study of the language. It was also made a basic course in both primary and secondary schools when it was reopened during the new regime.

Defending the "republic" and East Asia at all costs

As the Japanese continue to fight against the Americans, it even produced posters showing the "republic" as a belligerent force willing to fight against the invader. With posters "challenging the Americans" to those of a renewed conflict, it tries to show that the "republic" was supportive of the efforts made by the Japanese in defending "Newly-Liberated" East Asia against the Anglo-American, French, and Dutch invaders, as well as its domestic allies fighting as guerrillas. 

Some posters even provoke fear especially when American forces bombed vital installations such as in Manila. Others tend to assert Japan's goal of "building the New Philippines" from the ashes of Anglo-Saxon repression. 

In this poster featured above, the war against the Americans was also depicted by the occupiers as a renewed conflict. First was the Philippine-American war which was happened in 1899, and the 1944 which declared the Philippines under a state of emergency. However, Jose P. Laurel was reluctant to declare a state of war (and even not mobilising the Constabulary), thus, creating mistrust from the Japanese occupiers with the latter shifting support from the rabid collaborators like those of Makapili, PAMPAR, and PALAAK paramilitary groups.


The Japanese occupation bear much scars than illusions. Scars in a sense that people from all walks of life sought the actually existing repression made by the enemy, regardless of the latter's illusion of redeeming its fellow Asiatic kindred, specifically the Filipinos from its Anglo-Saxon occupiers, and to regain peace, order within a sphere what they called "Co-Prosperity". 

Through its so-called "republic", it was described as Japan's "gift" to the Filipino people knowing that the Filipinos had really desired for it yet denied from its Anglo-Saxon occupier. Complete with a constitution, certain laws and decrees, legislature through the National Assembly, and even a president through the person of Jose P. Laurel. Laure did tried his best to put things in order amidst chaos and instability, both from the occupiers, guerrillas, corrupt officials, and the common people themselves whose motives were those of survival. His administration did tried to insist moral reform and spritiual regeneration the way his predecessor, Manuel Quezon did.
And like Quezon, he used both Tagalog and English in his statements and speeches, that somehow trying to keep Filipinos together knowing that through unity, solidarity, cultivation of values justifies self-determination on the Filipino's behalf, no matter how it was described "puppet" by its detractors and be criticized for its negligences that brought death and suffering to most Filipinos during the occupation. "Peace Regained?" Maybe, for that peace wasn't based on justice as what the "republic" insist, but "Fear" as the occupier continues to remain in every place, field, or even a path likely for a Guerillero ambush.

Personally, it may deem strange to post what comes from the other side of the fence. But to think that those posters and pictures were rarely seen, why not let it show and see every scene that is much described as an illusion, delusion, propaganda, or even a fraud as it tries to downplay the actually existing repression that made most Filipinos really yearned for an Independence that was fought, rather than given from the occupier. Be it from the Anglo-Saxon, or a fellow Asiatic.

Kasaysayan: The Story of the Filipino People, Asia Publishing Co. Ltd. 1998
Japanese Cultural Propaganda in the Philippines, Asian Studies, University of the Philippines