A Correspondent of "The Record" who participated in the movement on Panay describes the attitude of natives - rebels defiant

Special Correspondent of the Chicago Record

Iloilo, Jan. 9 - the City of Iloilo, the second port in commercial importance of the Philippine Islands, is situated at the southeastern extremity of the Island of Panay, 350 miles by water to the south and eastward of Manila.

Last may the city was held by a force of 3,000 Spanish land troops and several small gunboats, the largest being the Elcano, of 600 tons desplacement. Since that time the natives of panay, under the leadership of several able rebel chiefs, have closely besieged the place. many of the spanish troops were natives and mostly deserted to the rebel side. in November the Spanish general, Rios, fearing the disaffection of the remaining native troops, put them aboard a merchant steamer and sent them to Manila, where they were refused permission to land by the united states authorities. this left but a few hundred spanish troops to defend the city, and the general in command sent to gen. otis requesting that american troops be sent to take over the city.

An envoy was sent to notify the Spanish that the troops would soon arrive, and the 18th Infantry, embarked on the Arizona, the 51st Iowa Volunteers aboard the Pennsylvania and the Utah battery aboard the Newport were made ready for the expedition under the command of gen. M. P. Miller.

The baltimore was ordered by Admiral Dewey to accompany the transports and give what naval aid might be necessary.

The start for Iloilo

at 10 p.m. on Dec. 26 the squadron, led by the Baltimore, left Manila and proceeded on an uneventful voyage of thirty-six hours to Iloilo. When half the distance was covered the interisland steamer Butuan was met and spoke. aboard her was the envoy sent by Gen. Otis to the Spanish Commander at Iloilo. He reported that he had found the city in the possession of the insurgents, the Spanish troops having evacuated the town and sailed for zamboanga, on the southern shores of the island of mindanao, where the natives of the moro tribes are of all the polyglot tribes of the Philippines the most loyal to their Spanish masters.

This put a new face on the situation, as the object had been to take over the city from the spanish at their request, and at this time it is particularly desirable to all americans that by no overt act of our forces hostilities should be begun with the natives.

After a conference between Gen. Miller and Capt. Dyer of the baltimore, aboard the newport, the squadron proceeded, hoping to find the natives tractable and willing peaceably to give up the place.

The squadron dropped anchor in the snug harbor of Iloilo on the morning of Dec. 28, and almost immediately a boat came alongside the Baltimore with several insurgent officers, who asked if we had any instructions for their government from the insurgent government at Manila.

The Visayans who occupy the central islands of the philippines are a more peaceable and tractable people than the fire-eating tagalos of Luzon, and appear very willing to accept the American government, but the influence of the tagalos was exerted upon them to resist our occupation of Panay.

During the 28th and 29th frequent conferences took place aboard the newport between Gen. Miller and the insurgent officials, and on the morning of the 30th the latter agreed peaceably to turn over the city and its government to the american forces, provided the permission of the aguinaldo government could be secured.

The natives grow more warlike

The delay raised the hopes of the insurgents, and, thinking the American forces were afraid to attack the town, they became very pronounced in their opposition to our landing. At the southeastern point of the town stands a small stone fort of obsolete pattern. Over this the natives have hoisted the flag of their so-called filipino republic, and hundreds of them, working night and day, have thrown up a double line of sandbag breastworks, while on the walls of the fort a few antique iron muzzle-loading cannon have been mounted.

The native forces number some 8,000 men, but only about 1,200 have firearms, and these are of many patterns and mostly old.

At present it is the object of our government to make a peaceable conquest of the natives, but in case it becomes necessary to use force the baltimore's guns could lay the old fort in ruins and sweep the city and beach of iloilo from end to end in fifteen minutes, and the troops under gen. Miller could then land unresisted, so that the feeble efforts of the natives for defense are almost pitiful from a military point of view.

Foreign warships looking on

After it became evident that the native chiefs would not peaceably surrender the place Gen. Miller dispatched a small interisland steamer to Manila, asking for instructions and requesting an additional regiment of troops in case it should become necessary to hold the island of panay by force. upon the arrival of our forces here we found the german cruiser irene looking after the interests of some thirty german subjects, and the spanish gunboat El Cano came in from cebu and anchored close to the stone fort, being apparently on even terms with their late enemies, the natives.

On the last day of the year the British cruiser bonaventure came in to look after british interests, and three days later the British Gunboat rattler came in and went out with dispatches from the Bonaventure. thus iloilo is becoming quite a busy port. many of the foreigners and most of the native women and children have left the city in anticipation of an attack, some going aboard the vessels in the harbor and others to the adjacent island of guimeras. Business is almost at a standstill. As Iloilo is the shipping port for the rich sugar-growing districts of panay and negros this interruption of business comes heavily upon the foreign business firms which own the plantations and handle the output, so that all of them are particularly anxious for the united states to establish control and insure a stable government.

The Bonaventure brought advices for the american land and naval commanders of the President's proclamation announcing the acquisition of the Philippine Islands as united states territory, and orders from gen. otis not to use forcible measures against the natives if it could be avoided.

New Year's day at Iloilo

New Year's day passed quietly aboard the Baltimore and the transports, and a feeling of impatience permeated the ships from cabin to forecastle. The soldiers and sailors felt that they had come to take the city, and the idea of a peaceable conquest was not acceptable to them; it looked too much like giving in to a horde of undisciplined, half-civilized natives. Yet the thinking ones among the officers realize that if we can gain possession by a peaceable understanding it will save us from years of guerrilla warfare with a dangerous and elusive foe.

On Jan. 6 the gunboat Petrel arrived from Manila with dispatches and orders from Gen. Otis and Admiral Dewey. These orders still enjoin no hostile movements against the natives unless it becomes absolutely necessary for the protection of life and property.

The natives ignorantly ascribe our inactivity to fear of their forces and are greatly elated over their prowess. The foreign residents of iloilo, now taking refuge aboard merchant vessels in the harbor, unanimously predict that the only way to overcome the natives is by force. An english merchant who has spent many years in these islands says that the natives are so elated over the defeat of the spaniards in the philippines, for which they take all the credit, that they think they can easily defeat the american forces. it is a peculiar trait of the malay that what we call gratitude is entirely absent from his make-up. Years of oppression under spanish rule has led the native to think that any one who treats him with liberality and justice is devoid of sense. It is on account of this trait that the natives now give no credit whatever to admiral dewey's fleet and the army for the defeat of the spaniards, but ascribe it all to their own prowess.

Prophecy of fighting

So widespread has this idea become and so firm is the belief of the natives that the americans are afraid of them that most of the intelligent foreigners in the islands agree that the only way for the united states to establish their supremacy is by force of arms.

These men, especially the englishmen who have had great experience with similar tribes in the far east, say that after one or two crushing defeats the natives would be cured of their "swelled heads" and would come supplicating for mercy.

On the other hand, it is the policy of our government through its representatives here to meet the natives as friends, by which many years of warfare with them could be avoided.

Here at iloilo the natives assert that they will never give in to the American forces, but are determined to fight to a finish. Since the arrival of the petrel they fear that with her light draft the gunboat will steam up the shallow river, which nearly encircles the town, and take them in the rear. to prevent this they have loaded several scows with stone and scuttled them at the river's mouth in midchannel, thus playing the merimac game on the waiting americans.

What the outcome will be is hard to foretell, but it is safe to say that the natives here will not agree to a peaceable occupation of this place by our troops unless aguinaldo's so-called Malolos government so orders. if the fight comes it will be short and decisive, for our warships and trained troops the undisciplined natives stand no possible chance of success.

W. D.

Chicago Daily News, 1899-02-20, Page 3