Sunday, November 18, 2007

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.#

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