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)


joe said...

Hi Ms.Araneta,

Hopped thru Eric Isaac's(Wish You Were Here Blogspot). Enjoyed reading your series about the St. Louis Expo and the Igorots(and more tribes?) that i did a little googling(Google) and found this from the St. Louis Public Library. One thing that caught my attention was that the Igorots showed an interest in the presidential election in 1904 and were given polling places. Hhhmmm not savages after all that time! Thanks for rousing my curiousity.

Bugan said...

thanks for sharing this excerpt as it helps more people know about the igorots as a people:-)

greg adaya said...

Hola! Ms. Araneta,
I read this historical account before from of Jim Zwick. Unfortunately the site was closed before Mr. Zwick died. There are more than 1 thousand ethnic Filipinos that was displayed in that expo to justify their colonization of the newly independent Republic of the Philippines. That is they say, to educate their uncivilized little dog eating brown brothers. To the shock of the Illustrados and mainstream Filipinos reading Spanish newspapers in Escolta back home. Pres. Manuel L. Quezon still indignant of that incident, reminded the Americans during a speech on his visit to US that the Filipinos are already a civilized nation long before there was a country called USA.