Dualities of a History

By Jenny Huang and Andrew Lopez

This poem represents a dialogue between the Philippines and the United States that attempts to portray the relationship of the two countries during the Philippine–American War (1899-1902), throughout the US colonization of the Philippines (1998-1946), and arguably after.

“Dualities of a History”

Salvaging the savage

To rescue, recover, reclaim

Like a ship lost at sea

Savage you are to blame

Uncivilized and free

Monkey is your name

Uncontrolled, uneducated, violent

Here you ought to remain silent

Cross-eyed, knees bent

Let the U.S. represent

You call us savages

Have you looked in the mirror lately

Perpetual madness

Centuries sacrificed but still not free

Our backs are your stepping stones

As the gateway to China

You chew and spit out our bones

Like the milkfish we dine on

We were promised our independence

Yet it feels like a life sentence

The great empire’s destiny

To expand our territory

We come to your broken islands

Not invaders, but friends

Little brown brothers, why defend?

Amigos by day, guerillas by night

Such a dirty fight

Savages that need to be cleansed

Drop the guns and hold a pen

Accept your fate and assimilate

You hide behind good intentions

A nation full of politicians

You portray yourself with a business face

As imperialists, only to expand your space

Like so many more before you

Who’s footsteps do you need to follow?

Even if desired, we could never be brethren

This is the colored man’s burden

To always look up to a higher power

Not a god or a deity, but a man with desire

We are your salvagers,

Looking down like guardian angels

Assisting with food and medicine

It is the White Man’s Burden

To make human you half-devil, half-child

To take you from the wild

And give you degrees, not diseases

We had a little splendid misunderstanding

An unnecessary insurrection

Since 1898, you were freed

Salvaging the savage

Placed under the same roof

Native Americans, African Americans

Our skin dictated the truth

The truth that textbooks hide

I guess that’s just national culture

Because as long as we close our eyes

The past will remain our future

I remember God telling me

I am a savage

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