Vicente L. Rafael is Professor of History at the University of Washington. His books include
Vernacularizing the Political
What was the relationship between sovereignty and revolutionary war among the Filipinos who overthrew Spain and later resisted the United States in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century? To what extent was a political theology of sovereignty, inherited from the Spanish regime, transformed into a discourse of emancipation by Filipino nationalist elites? How were both notions translated in turn into populist, Christian vernacular terms that stressed generosity, compassion, and the work of pity to account for revolutionary history? These are the questions that this chapter raises against the backdrop of more recent debates on the salience of theological legal notions of sovereignty for understanding the imperial power of the West. Through a close reading of Tagalog accounts, it shows how Filipino vernacular notions of freedom understood as compassion and pity invariably exceed and elude such Western notions during a time of revolutionary war.