Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Setting the record straight

If you are ever in St. Paul , Minnesota, make it a point to visit the State Capitol and look fortwo commemorative plaques at the Capitol Rotunda.The first plaque of 1948 vintage glorifies theMinnesota 13th Volunteer Regiment for its valiant rolein the Spanish –American War. "They served the causeof humanity and freed the oppressed people of thePhilippine Islands from the despotic rule of Spain...", proclaims the first plaque. The second plaquecorrects the distortions contained in the first one.That there is a second plaque is in itself historical. The “tribute” in the first plaque makes reference to "...the Philippine Insurrection underChief Aguinaldo…" and lists all the battles gloriously won by the Volunteer Regiment . To those totally ignorant of Philippine history (as mostAmericans are) the military feats of Minnesota’s 13th Volunteer Regiment sound most impressive, but the truth is that the only battle fought by the Minnesota Volunteers against the “despotic rule of Spain” was that mock naval skirmish, on 13 August 1898, glowingly called “Battle of Manila Bay”.

The other battles fought by the Minnesota volunteers were not to “free the oppressed people of the Philippine Islands” but were against the Filipino people themselves whom they branded as “insurgents”. They were fighting the Philippine Revolutionary Army and the First Republic of the Philippines headed by a President, not a chieftain. How many more commemorative plaques in the USA bear such a plethora of historical distortions?

Interestingly enough, the Minnesota 13th Volunteer Regiment was supposed to have been sent to Cuba but at the last minute, they were ordered to board a train bound for San Francisco from where they were sent to the Philippines. Records attest that the commander, surgeon and chaplain of the Minnesota Regiment asked Gov. John Lind to recall the volunteers due to atrocities committed during the war. If only for that they should not have been honored with an adulatory plaque at the State Capitol.

For thirty- four long years, the Filipino community in Minnesota waged a relentless campaign to have a corrective plaque installed beside the erroneous one. They had hoped that by the Philippine Centennial in 1998, the gross historical distortions would have been corrected, but it was not possible. Far from discouraged, the Philippine Study Group of Minnesota and the Minnesota Historical Society set up an unprecedented “Philippine –American War” exhibit right at the Capitol, that ran from June, 1998 toDecember 30, 1998. There were newspaper clippings that reported war atrocities, revolutionary flags from that period, artifacts, pictures, as well as letters written from the field by the Minnesota volunteers revealing unbecoming conduct during the war. There was also an autographed picture of President EmilioAguinaldo.

Finally, on February 4, 2002, the 103rd anniversary of the Philippine-American War, Gov. Jesse Ventura ( a Vietnam War veteran), signed a bill funding the second plaque that effectively corrects the first one . At the unveiling, members of both Houses of the Minnesota Legislature were in attendance, so was the Philippine Ambassador and the Commander of the Minnesota National Guard who solemnly declared that there was an urgent need "to set the record straight".

( source: Adelbert Batica ,originally from Samar, now a US resident)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

They're sorry

No school in the entire United States of America,--except the Wydown Middle School-- has a football field and team and a yearbook called “Igorrote”. But, no one in that educational institution in Clayton, Missouri knew where that exotic name came from, until the school celebrated its centennial. It occurred to teacher Margie Kindt, and her social studies class that it was about time they discovered the meaning of “Igorrote” and its connection to the school, so they began to surf the Internet..

They were amazed to learn that Wydown Middle School was built over the original site of the “Igorot Village” in the “Philippine Reservation” of the 1904 St. Louis World Fair. They were almost horrified that Dogtown acquired its name because the Igorots ate dog and, during the duration of the Fair, were accused of slipping out of the grounds to steal and butcher neighborhood pet dogs. .Ms. Kindt’s pupils posted queries on the Internet hoping to get in touch with any of the descendants of the Igorots “imported” to the Fair who might still be living in the USA. These were picked up by Rex Botengan of the Igorot Organization in California. .

After an exchange of electronic correspondence, seventeen descendants now living in California and Maryland went to St. Louis, Missouri as guests of the Wydown Middle School centennial celebration. Mayor Francis Kenney,gave them the key to Clayton City.

The visitors performed a few dances and their spokesperson, Mia Apolinar Abeya gave a moving speech about how deeply honored they all felt at being invited to the very place where their great grandparents stood a century ago. She also said: ” We are here once more to make the gongs reverberate in their name [the grandparents] , in the name of the Igorot, and in our children’s name, for is it not the children who brought us back to this honored place so that we may be reminded , yet one more time, to treat all human beings equally regardless of how we look, what we eat, how we speak and what we wear?” What a poignant message!

In reponse, Martha R. Clevenger of Wyndam Middle School said that when people were put on exhibit at the Fair they were turned into objects “to be stared at, denigrated, pitied and despised…” and that “crass commercialism tarnished the noble motives of the exposition…” However, she also said that it was the objective of the Fair to “emphasize America’s need to retain and civilize its newly acquired Asian colony” which proves, yet again, how deeply social Darwinism and McKinley’s “civilize and Christianize“ rhetoric had taken root in America’s collective memory.

It was an emotional experience for Megan Bliss, an eleven year old, six-grader: ‘I don’t know if saying sorry makes up for what happened a hundred years ago” she was reported to have said, “ but it tells them that we care.” Her classmates were just as apologetic. The St. Louis Post Dispatch printed a human interest story about the “Igorrote” visit which said ,”…Clayton students learned that the best way to make amends is to learn as much as you can about the past, and even to say you’re sorry.” (source: Fermin, Jose D., 1904 World’s Ffair, The Filipino Experience: University of the Philippines Press, 2004)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Not once but twice!

First it was the 1887 “La Exposicion General de las Islas Filipinas” Madrid exhibit, then the “Philippine Reservation” at the 1904 St. Louis World Fair, but, not only once nor twice were Filipinos put on display and exhibited as “savage” and “uncivilized”. Spain and the United States of America made a spectacle of us many times over. In the 19th century, international fairs were the rage among European colonial powers. The avowed objective of these expensive and elaborate undertakings was to foment trade and commerce, to project the modernizing effects of colonialism, but, the real messages were Darwinian and undeniably racist. They were image-booster for the Empire, at the expense of the colonized natives.

In pavilions that were architectural and engineering marvels, Empires flaunted their colonial treasure troves-- samples of precious minerals and metals, flora and fauna of value, uniquely crafted products and warm bodies, in tribal rags. Photographs of natives ( if not the natives themselves) were taken somewhat ethnographically at all angles, pretending to be scientific, but, maliciously choreographed to perpetuate prejudice, stoke ignorance and provoke awe and disdain. The impact of those “savages” on display, on the 19th century American and European viewers must have been so incredibly profound, it penetrated their DNA.

Spain put Filipinos on display in many international expositions—London (1851), París (1855 y 1867), Vienna (1873), Philadelfia , USA (1876) and Ámsterdam 1883 and in Chicago (1893) as a special “region” in the Spanish Pavillon. The 1887 Madrid exhibit was by far the most widely publicized in three contenents by the “La Ilustracion Europea y Americana”. No less than the Ministro de Ultramar ( Overseas Minister) headed the Exposition committee; a counterpart “Comision Central” was established in Manila; Governor-General and the Archbishop of Manila, Fray Pedro Payno, were appointed chairman and vice-chairman, respectively

More than fifty Filipinos were shipped to Spain for the 1887 Madrid Exposition. A fabulous Crystal Palace was constructed as a green house for Philippine flora; on the placid artificial lagoon in front of it, there were all kinds of bangkas, traditional fishing equipment and carabaos bathing by the shore. Around the exhibit pavilions, there were ‘construcciones etnograficas”, that is, various types of nipa huts, in clusters, simulating idyllic pastoral villages. There were ‘casas de tejedores’ or weavers’ huts, of embroiderers, of metalcraft makers and abaca strippers. The tobacco company in Manila built a “bahay” complete with “cigarreras” rolling the famous Philippine cigar.

While the Spanish government was determined to portray the progress and modernization brought about by colonization, the Archbishop of Manila was still obsessed with the Patronato Real (Christianization being the sole reason for conquest). He had taken over the selection of exhibition materials and argued that the “ethnic diversity” of the archipelago had to be projected. Evidently, he wanted to guarantee the sociopolitical position and clout of the religious orders vis-à-vis the Governor-General and the lay government.

As a result, a“Rancheria de los Igorrotes” was set up with real ‘igorots’ who were made to sacrifice pigs ( not dogs) to the horror of visitors. For dramatic effect, a tree house was also constructed in the “rancheria de los igorrotes”. That is probably why, to this day, foreigners ask us if we live on trees. According to some historians, Jose Rizal, Antonio and Juan Luna and other Filipino studying and clamoring for reforms in Spain were absolutely enraged by the 1887 Madrid Exposition. #

Two tree houses

There was a tree house at the “Rancheria de los Igorrotes” ( Igorot Village) in the 1887 Madrid world fair; seventeen years later, in 1904, a “Lanao Moro Tree House’ perched on a tree at the “Moro Village” in the courtyard of the Ethnological Building of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition held in St. Louis “ The American world expositions from 1898 through 1916 were imperialistic fairs, reaching their full splendor in 1904 at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition,” wrote historian Jose D. Fermin in his book 1904 WORLD’S FAIR, THE FILIPINO EXPERIENCE (University of the Philippines Press,2004). “…Human exhibits became a regular fixture…The usual victims were the Native Americans, Blacks, Africans, Chinese, Filipinos and other nonwhite groups. “

To illustrate, Mr. Fermin said that at the 1893 World Columbian Exposition Dahomeyans of West Africa, Samoans, Javanese and Filipinos were exhibited in a manner that showed a “sliding scale of humanity.” In 1901, a showbiz company in Idaho offered to pay the US government 75 percent of their gross receipts to exhibit the newly-captured Pres. Emilio Aguinaldo at the Pan-American Exposition. Imagine, our first Chief Executive was in danger of being reduced to a fixture at fairs, like poor Geronimo the Apache chief captured by General Lawton (who ironically was killed by a Filipino general called Glicerio Geronimo).

At the St. Louis World Fair, which occupied 517 hectares, a “Philippine Reservation” was, significantly enough, located across an “Indian Reservation”. Undoubtedly, it was the principal lure of the St. Louis World Fair for it dramatically projected “extremes ” that glaringly contrasted “ savagery with civilization”; for example, juxtaposed with that Lanao tree house was a simulated American-style classroom where a Miss Pilar Zamora taught English. To quote Walter Steven, secretary of the fair: “…Igorot braves bow to the raising sun, kill a dog and dance …while on the other side, the neatly uniformed Scouts from the civilized tribes stand at attention as the American flag is raised...Contrasts are many and edifying in the Philippine Expositiion”

Two agencies --the Publicity Department and the very aptly called Exploitation Department-- were churning out edifying press releases to four hundred local newspapers ( specially Sunday and holiday issues) about the “Philippine Reservation ”, with thousands of pseudo-scientific photos, screen haltone cuts and zinc etchings. The Exploitation Department also printed and distributed millions of booklets, handbills, posters and special programs that publicized a variety of events at the “ Philippines Reservation”. As if that media hype were not intense enough, an umbrella publicity department orchestrated everything including foreign promotions in German, Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese.

More than twenty million visitors were enticed by the Exploitation Department ; no wonder those tree house stories have lingered to this very

Displaying ilustrados

Displaying ilustrados

When the St. Louis World Fair opened in 1904, the Philippine-American war was still raging. Although Pedro Paterno and other members of the Aguinaldo cabinet had already switched allegiance even before President Emilio Aguinaldo was captured in Isabela, a number of Filipino generals and their troops continued to valiantly resist American ‘s superior forces with guerrilla warfare. . In that context, there could have been no better device than the St. Louis World Fair to show the American people, and the international community, that the USA was not invading an independent republic but civilizing a “ Philippine Reservation” of savage tribes with “uncouth practices”.

In his revealing book --1904 World’s Fair, The Filipino Experience ( UP Press, 2004)-- Jose D. Fermin wrote there were vehement objections to the portrayal of Filipinos as savages fearing it would hurt our chances of regaining absolute Independence. The invasion and our clamor for Independence were crucial issues in USA’s electoral drama. Historian Maximo Kalaw said that the World Fair was a justification of US policy for it “… created in the minds of hundreds of thousands of Americans the indelible impression that the Filipinos have not yet emerged from savagery.”

Unwittingly perhaps, the ilustrados were also on display. Members of the Philippine Honorary Commission were sent to the United States not to live in the “Reservation” with their “savage” compatriots but to undertake a round of official tours and courtesy calls. Included in the illustrious list were : Philippine commissioners: T. Pardo de Tavera, Benito Legarda, and Jose de Luzuriaga; Chief Justice Cayetano Arellano, solicitor-general Gregorio Araneta and Judge Victorino Mapa.

Many provincial governors were invited: Tomas del Rosario, Bataan; Joaquin Ortega, La Union; Pablo Tecson, Bulacan, Juan Cailles, Laguna; Bernardino Monreal, Ssorsogon; Juan Pimentel, Camarines Sur and Norte; Alfonso Ramos, Tarlac; Epifanio de los Santos, Nueva Ecija; Manuel Corrales, Misamis; Juan Climaco, Cebu; Simeon Cruz, Batangas; Arturo Dancel, Rizal; Mana Crisologo, Pangasinan;

There were three media men: Jose de Loyzaga of “El Comerico”; Leoncio Gonzalez Liquet of “La Democracia” and Fernando Ma. Guerrero of “El Renacimiento” which shortly after was ordered closed by Dean Worcester for a defamatory editorial “Aves de Rapina” (Birds of Prey). .Fernando’s cousin, botanist Leon Ma. Guerrero, was the secretary of the Philippine Exposition Board, while Pedro Paterno was a board member. .

Because the St Louis Fair’s avowed objective was to foment trade and commerce, business people were included in the delegation like Ariston Bautista, whose Quiapo house still stands on a street with his name; coffee magnate Ramon Genato and Francisco Reyes, president of the Filipino Chamber of Commerce

The ilustrado lifestyle, was depicted in the elegant “ Manila Building” a re-created “bahay na bato” with fine furniture, paintings, carved panels, sculpture and other refinements. There were allegorical paintings by Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo; twenty one works of Juan Luna including the ‘Parisian scene”, (which after a century, Winston Garcia purchased for GSIS) and “El Pacto de Sangre” ( now in Malacanang) where Luna used Jose Rizal and Pardo de Tavera, as models for Sikatuna and Legazpi; Curiously, one of the largest paintings was a Fabian de la Rosa masterpiece entitled “Death of General. Henry Lawton”.

Evidently, it was the lure of the wild and savage that was unforgettable; the ilustrados on display left no imprint on the collective memory of the twenty million who went to that world fair. If they had, at least, made a dent, Americans would not be asking us if we still live in tree houses.#

After the Fair

At the turn of the 20th century, international world fairs were the rage in the United States of America and in Western Europe. Millions of dollars were spent on landscaping the fair grounds, on engineering marvels and ostentatious pavilions of marvelous architectural design. Ostensibly, those fairs aimed to foment trade and commerce that would redound to the benefit of colonies like the Philippines and possessions like Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Alaska, to name a few.

At the 1904 St. Louis World Fair, there were magnificent palaces dedicated to Commerce, Electricity, Manufactures and other scientific breakthroughs of that era. However, it was the savagery exhibited at the “Philippine Reservation” , those contrived villages of “uncivilized “Igorrotes and Moros, with trees houses and animal sacrifices, that have lingered in the collective memory of North Americans. Of course, to give a “balanced” picture of life in the P.I, there was a handful of ilustrados “on display”. Visayans dressed as Gibson girls and bands of Philippine Scouts and Constabulary, in crisp uniforms, parading and entertaining millions of visitors with lively tunes and American songs. But such urbane refinements have long been forgotten.

I was appalled to learn that one of those ilustrados “on display” was famous botanist, Leon Maria Guerrero, my great grandfather, After the St. Louis World Fair, he was interviewed by Alfred O. Newell, Chief of the US Department of Exploitation ( a huge P.R. office) who included the encounter in his book, THE PHILIPPINE EXPOSITION, WORLD’S FAIR, ST LOUIS, 1904. Dr. Guerrero, secretary of the Philippine Exposition Board, knew no English so he spoke through an interpreter. When asked about the effects of the Fair on the Filipinos, Dr. Guerrero said there should be closer commercial ties with the USA, reduced tariff for Filipino products like hemp, American capital to establish factories and to help native inventors like the one who invented a machine to extract hemp fiber. Significantly, Guerrero stressed that Filipinos did not want trusts (big monopolies).

As the Philippine-American War was still raging during the 1904 St. Louis World Fair, notwithstanding Pres. Emilio Aguinaldo’s capture in 1901, Alfred Newell asked Guerrero what he thought of Aguinaldo to which he replied. “All Fliipinos have respect and sympathy for one who has been their leader.” Then Newell asked that crucial question: ”Do you think the Filipinos are capable of self-government?” And Guerrero emphatically declared: “If the government of the United States expects to make an Anglo-Saxon of the Filipino, it will take a long time. …If taken as they are, as Filipinos, I mean, they are capable of governing themselves—now.” That was precisely what the St. Louis World Fair did not want to project, that Filipinos were capable of self-government.

No wonder the memory of the First Republic had to be severely extirpated and what better way than through savage displays at the “Philippine Reservation” of international fairs. After St. Louis, Filipino minorities continued to be ‘imported” to various fairs and carnivals in the USA and Europe like the Lewis and Clark Centennial, American Pacific Exposition , Oriental Fair in Portland, Oregon (1905) Jamestown Tercentenary Exposition in Virginia (1907), Alaska-Yukon Pacific Exposition in Seattle (1909), Ghent Exhibition in Belgium 1913 and the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco in 1915.

In the meantime, the Philippine Assembly convened in 1907 ( some of the ilustrados “on display” at St. Louis had won seats) and passed two laws , the first of which (1908) provided that “ no tribal people should be exhibited except those who were customarily fully clothed”, and the second, in 1914, penalized anyone who “exploited or exhibited tribal people “. The fine was five thousand dollars and imprisonment of not more than five years.

When Manuel L. Quezon was Philippine Resident Commissioner in the USA, he was invited to “Philippine Day” at the San Francisco Exposition where he lamented: “I have traveled to every part of the US and I have been saddened to learn how many misapprehensions exist here as to the real conditions in the Philippine Islands due… to the exhibition of the native Igorrote village at the St. Louis Exposition ten years ago.’ Yet, as late as 1931, the US War Department wanted to set up yet another “Igorrote Village” at the Paris Exposition and had the gall to demand that the Philippine Legislature appropriate US$50,000 for that purpose. Outraged, the Filipinos protested vehemently so wax figures and dioramas had to be used instead to project the US government’s enduring social Darwinism.#