HomeThe Journal of Historyvol. 54 no. 1 (2008)

"I come from one-time very murdering family": Rehabilitating Moros for the U.S. War Effort

Sharon Delmendo

Discipline: History, Political Science



From the beginning of the colonial period, both Filipino and U.S. officials used exaggerated stereotypes of "wild" Filipinos – particularly the Moros – as stratagems in arguments over Filipino independence. Caricatured images of Moros were propagated, particularly in U.S. popular culture, including by the American film industry. Even before the advent of World War II, Hollywood feature films functioned as propaganda on the Filipino independence issue. But as the war started and the Philippines became the focus of American identities – mainly because the "fall" of the Philippines constituted the largest American military surrender in history, but also because of anxiety over the upcoming grant of official Philippine independence set for July 4, 1946 – Hollywood began a new era of films set in the Philippines. Although Mindanao did not, from the American perspective, constitute a major military theater, Hollywood again harnessed caricatured Moros to serve the U.S. war effort – this time as subordinated protagonists rather than antagonists of "Filipino freedom."