Friday, March 27, 2009

An Old Work

Raul Agner
Acrylic on canvas

The “Balangiga Massacre” or “Balangiga Encounter,” as some prefer to call it, happened in the small town of Balangiga in the southern part of Samar Island in September 1901. A company of American soldiers sent there to help clear the island of Filipino insurgents was nearly wiped out by sundang (long knife)-wielding townsfolk who became fed up with the restrictions and abuses of the soldiers. The townspeople, far inferior in arms than the occupying forces, hatched up a plan for a dawn attack on the soldiers. Dressed as women, and pretending to carry coffins of child cholera victims – which in truth contained bladed weapons, the men assembled in the church at midnight purportedly to say prayers for the dead. A brave woman risked her life by carrying several sundang hidden beneath her skirt to the church for the men to use as additional weapons. The attack on the American camp near the church was successfully carried out at dawn, signalled by the frenzied tolling of church bells, while the soldiers were having breakfast - the only time of day when they don’t carry guns. A few Americans survived the attack which the Filipinos considered justified given the superior weapons of the enemy and the unbearable extent of their abuses.
This painting was one of the artworks exhibited in the show "Echoes of Balangiga" in Hiroshima, Japan in 2002.

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