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Sitting in Darkness: Americans in the Philippines

Sitting in Darkness: Americans in the Philippines

by David Haward Bain
Sitting in Darkness follows the paths of three people in the Philippines: an American soldier of fortune, a Filipino revolutionary leader, and an American historian who left the safety and limits of the library for the hazards of the jungle. What emerges is a narrative in which past and present are unforgettably entwined.

In March 1982, David Haward Bain


Sitting in Darkness follows the paths of three people in the Philippines: an American soldier of fortune, a Filipino revolutionary leader, and an American historian who left the safety and limits of the library for the hazards of the jungle. What emerges is a narrative in which past and present are unforgettably entwined.

In March 1982, David Haward Bain hiked 110 miles through the mountainous, sparsely populated coast of Luzon. Led by pygmy guides, he and his five companions crossed peaks, forded rivers, and negotiated jungles to retrace a historic expedition made during a pivotal but now forgotten American war.

What spurred Bain to attempt this trek were the personal sagas of two men who were symbols of their country's aspirations, headline makers at the century's turn, who are now largely unknown: Frederick Funston, a midwestern soldier of fortune and winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor, and Emilio Aguinaldo, the heart and soul of the Philippine insurrection against the United States.

While in the Philippines, Bain spoke with moderate oppositionists, government supporters, and communist guerrillas; priests, social workers, political scientists, and historians; policemen and peasants. Their voices give considerable insight into the tinderbox of repression and revolution that smolders in the Philippines today. An epilogue brings the history of Philippine-American relations up to date with a meditation on the assassination of Benigno Aquino, a return during the People Power revolution, and what they mean for the future of Philippine and U.S. power in that part of the world.

Sitting in Darkness is more than a history, although it is that many times over. It is that rare book in which yesterday and today are brought into sharp and simultaneous focus. It is a vast and meticulously executed chronicle of two nations and their people inextricably linked by politics and power, history and blood.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Sitting in Darkness took me to the Philippines on a voyage I never imagined. Bain not only writes of a terrible chapter in our shared history with beauty and clarity, but does something even more difficult. He makes us care about the country as it is today and understand the pain of its people." -- GLORIA EMERSON, winner of the National Book Award for Winners and Losers "Sitting in Darkness is a wonderful story of adventure, ambition, and betrayal set in a corner of the American past that few Americans have looked into -- and I suspect that those who do so through David Bain's excellent book will find themselves as fascinated and impressed as I have been."-- MICHAEL ARLEN, National Book Award winner for Passage to Ararat "Opinions may differ on the honor of United States involvement in the Philippines, but David Haward Bain deserves unanimous praise for his brilliant portrait of one of our most colorful military heroes. In boozy belligerence and savage ingenuity, Frederick Funston surpasses that other great brigadier-general, Evelyn Waugh's Ben Ritchie-Hook." --EDMUND MORRIS, Pulitzer Prize winner for The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt

"I don't know of anything quite comparable to this mix of history past and present, politics and personal adventure. And it's all done with a remarkable courage and storytelling skill that Mark Twain, another passionate anti-imperialist, would surely have admired." -- JUSTIN KAPLAN, Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner for Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain and the American Book Award for Walt Whitman: A Life

"Convincing, moving, and exciting, too. It reads like an adventure story in the highest sense; it also has the currency of truth and built-in political significance, transcending history, touching on contemporary American-Philippine relations. It's an unusual, quirky, wonderful book." -- TIM O'BRIEN, National Book Award winner for Going After Cacciato and The Things They Carried

"Speaks truth to power." -- SEN. EDWARD M. KENNEDY, award citation, Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Book Award (hon. men.), 1985

"I wish you the best of luck with Sitting in Darkness."-- CORAZON AQUINO, President of the Republic of the Philippines

"Sitting in Darkness is not only a triumph of literary and moral force -- it is a splendid example of the writer's personal courage as well. Stepping outside this video-saturated culture, in which so many writers seem numbed to history or contemptuous of it, David Bain physically reentered history, confronting the treacherous Philippine coast of Luzon as his protagonist Frederick Funston confronted it nearly a century ago. Few writers have ever honored their subject so gallantly." -- RON POWERS, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist; author, Mark Twain: A Life; co-author, Flags of Our Fathers.

"Meticulously researched...Mr. Bain is more than a solid historian; he is also a good writer...a great yarn, skillfully told." -- Steve Lohr, New York Times Book Review

"One of the year's ten most notable books...perhaps the sleeper of the year." -- Beaufort Cranford, Detroit News
Detroit News
This is a wonderful book...Is it adventure? Travel? History? The answer is all these and more...contains some of the best travel writing since Rebecca West's classic Black Lamb, Grey Falcon.
The Nation - Jonathan Kwitny
A tale of great people, wonderfully told.
New York Times Book Review - Steve Lohr
Meticulously researched...Mr. Bain is more than a solid historian; he is also a good writer...a great yarn, skillfully told.

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Meet the Author

DAVID HAWARD BAIN has conducted prose and poetry workshops at Middlebury College since 1987, and has been associated with the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference in varying capacities since 1980. Born in Camden, New Jersey and raised in Port Washington, New York, he was educated at Boston University and then lived in New York City for 14 years, working first in book publishing and then as a full-time writer.

He is the author of Empire Express: Building the First Transcontinental Railroad (Viking, 1999; Penguin, 2000). It is an epic narrative history covering not only the dramatic struggle to link the oceans with twin bands of iron but three decades in which America doubled in size, fought three wars, and discovered itself. A main selection of the Book of the Month Club and a selection of the History Book Club, Empire Express was a finalist both for the Los Angeles Times Book Award in History and the Francis Parkman Prize, and won the New England Historical Association's and the National Railroad and Locomotive Historical Society's annual book prizes; the author was elected a Fellow in the Society of American Historians. The work was featured on Brian Lamb's C-SPAN show, "Booknotes," and received extensive media and review coverage. It was adapted by PBS "The American Experience" into a 2-hour documentary (Hidden Hill Productions, Producer Mark Zwonitzer), airing January 2003; Bain served as co-producer and principal commentator. He has appeared in many other documentaries for PBS, its affiliates, The History Channel, and MSNBC.

His most recent book is Bitter Waters: America's Forgotten Mission to the Dead Sea, published by The Overlook Press in 2011. It concerns the adventures of a Virginia officer, Lt. William Francis Lynch, who conceived and led a scientific expedition to the Holy Land in 1848––just months following the end of America's war with Mexico, and months before the discovery of gold in California. This now obscure chapter of American history, taking place far away from its shores, captured the imagination of multitudes around the world in 1848 as Lynch and his small crew braved geographical and local tribal dangers to answer an important scientific puzzle, along the way illuminating ancient places avoided since biblical times. Lynch later published a worldwide bestselling account of his travels.

Bain published The Old Iron Road: An Epic of Rails, Roads, and the Urge to Go West, by Viking in May 2004, and in paperback by Penguin in May 2005. It centers around an eight-week road trip (summer 2000) along the 40th parallel, tracing many old emigrant routes (including the first transcontinental railroad) between the Missouri River and the Golden Gate, in a narrative shifting from historical yarns to modern-day sights and scenes. The book begins on the old Kansas trail between Fort Leavenworth and Omaha, where the author's grandmother was born in a covered wagon in 1889. An ebook edition is scheduled for summer 2013.

He is now at work on a historical memoir entitled The Girl Widow Unveiled: Unraveling Dark Secrets in an American Family. His short work has appeared in Smithsonian, American Heritage, Prairie Schooner (Readers' Choice Award), Kenyon Review, Columbia Journalism Review, TV Guide, and Glamour. He has reviewed regularly in The New York Times Book Review as well as Newsday and the Philadelphia Inquirer, and contributed many reviews to the Washington Post Book World and the Los Angeles Times, among others.

He lives in Vermont.

His website is: www.davidhbain.com

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