By Mariano “Anong” Santos
PINOY Publisher and Editor-in-chief
As noted in our cover this issue, it is the 30th year of the celebration of Asian Pacific Heritage Month this May. PINOY Newsmagazine is sponsoring along with various community organizations a â€œConversation On Raceâ€ on Wednesday, May 14, from 6 to 8:30 p.m., at the Skokie Public Library Petty Auditorium. It is open free to the public.
Photo: Jose Rizal with fellow nationalist leaders Marcelo H. del Pilar and Mariano Ponce.
This issueâ€™s editorial on page 3 states the need for such an event. The Filipino Community in Chicago should be glad to know that it is also a jubilee of the visit of our National Hero Dr. Jose P. Rizal. On May 11, it would be the 120th year anniversary of his brief 1888 visit here in the Windy City.
His 19-day cross country travel in the US started in San Francisco on April 28. Like most of modern visitors who experience delay, Rizal was unnecessarily quarantined for 13 days because of anti-Chinese sentiment prevalent during that election year in the West Coast.
His Chicago visit occurred exactly six months after four of the eight anarchists convicted of starting the Haymarket Riot of May 4, 1896 were hanged on November 11, 1887 at the Cook County Jail. The celebrated case became a text book example of miscarriage of justice.
A biased judge and a railroading prosecuting government attorney were pressured by the exponents of yellow journalism of that time to come up with suspects in the bombing incident. They rounded up the political agitators who were aiding union workers that were demanding an eight-hour work day labor law. They were summarily convicted based on suspicious evidence.
The hanged anarchists became instant martyrs of American workers. In 1893, Illinois Governor John Altgeld gave a full pardon on the remaining three anarchists who were imprisoned and exonerated posthumously the five others (one of them committed suicide in jail).
The Haymarket incident in Chicago gave birth to the celebration of International Workers Labor Day. Ironically, it is only in the US where Labor Day is not marked on May 1st. Haymarket is just north of Randolph Street near Fulton Market, a favorite shopping place for Filipino immigrants in the 1970s. It is near Canal Street where Rizal disembarked from his train and did a walking tour of the bustling city for 14 hours.
His diary on his US travel had unusually sparse accounts. In Chicago, he wrote about the presence of Indian wooden statues in front tobacco and cigars shops which were part of a booming tobacco industry at that time. Later when he was already settled during his second trip to Europe, he recalled in a more detailed account his impressions of his US visit on his July 27, 1888 letter to his friend, Mariano Ponce.
Twenty five years after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation of Proclamation on January 1, 1863, the 27-year old Rizal bewailed the racism that was very prevalent in America. So, two months after he left New York City for Liverpool in England, Rizal wrote the following to his fellow expatriate, Mariano Ponce:
â€œI visited the largest cities of America with their big buildings, electric lights, and magnificent conceptions. Undoubtedly America is a great country, but it still has many defects. There is no real civil liberty. In some states, the Negro cannot marry a white woman, nor a Negress a white man. Because of their hatred for the Chinese, other Asiatics, like the Japanese, being confused with them, are likewise disliked by the ignorant Americans. The Customs are excessively strict. However, as they say rightly, American offers a home too for the poor who like to work. There was, moreover, much arbitrariness. For example, when we were in quarantine.
They placed us under quarantine, in spite of the clearance given by the American Consul, of not having had a single case of illness aboard, and of the telegram of the governor of Hong Kong declaring that port free from epidemic.
We were quarantined because there were on board 800 Chinese and, as elections were being held in San Francisco, the government wanted to boast that it was taking strict measures against the Chinese to win votes and the peopleâ€™s sympathy. We were informed of the quarantine verbally, without specific duration. However, on the same day of our arrival, they unloaded 700 bales of silk without fumigating them; the shipâ€™s doctor went ashore; many customs employees and an American doctor from the hospital for cholera victims came on board.
Thus we were quarantined for about thirteen days. Afterwards, passengers of the first class were allowed to land; the Japanese and Chinese in the 2nd and 3rd classes remained in quarantine for an indefinite period. It is thus in that way, they got rid of about 200 [actually 643 coolies, according to Zaide] Chinese, letting them gradually off board.â€
Author and political scientist, E. San Juan,Jr. in his essay, â€œRizal in USA,â€ commented:
â€œEvidenced by this and other works, Rizal definitely understood racism in theory and practice. But it is not clear to what extent he recognized how the absence of â€œreal civil libertyâ€ extends beyond the everyday life of African Americans, beyond the Asiansâ€”it is not even clear whether Rizal then considered himself Asian, though in his reflections on how Europeans treated him, he referred to himself as â€œdark skinned,â€ a person of color, especially in relation to European women. Rizal never forgot that in spite of being a relatively privileged Chinese mestizo, the Spaniards uniformly considered him an â€œIndio.â€
â€œThe term â€œIndioâ€ casts a subliminal shadow approximating that of the witch, or manggagaway, which Rizal diagnosed thus: the witch is the â€œshe-ass of ignorance and popular malevolence, the scapegoat of divine chastisements, the salvation of the perplexed quacks.â€â€
Rizal in his essay, â€œFilipinas dentro de cien anosâ€ (â€œThe Philippines within a century,â€ published in La Solidaridad, 1889-1890), hypothetically predicted the possible involvement of the US in the Philippines. Hereâ€™s what he wrote:
â€œIf the Philippines secure their independence after heroic and stubborn conflicts, they can rest assured that neither England, nor Germany, nor France and still less Holland, will dare to take up what Spain has been unable to holdâ€¦ Perhaps the great American Republic, whose interests lie in the Pacificâ€¦may some day dream of foreign possession. This is not impossible, for the example is contagious; covetousness and ambition are among the strongest vicesâ€¦ the European powers would not allow her to proceedâ€¦ North America would be quite a troublesome rival, if she should once get into the business. Furthermore, this is contrary to her traditions.â€
Rizal underestimated the temptation of expansionism exerted on the US by its ruling class. Less than two years after he was martyred at Bagumbayan overlooking Manila Bay, Admiral George Dewey sitting comfortably on USS Olympia fought the mock Battle of Manila Bay. Expansionist newspapers like those owned by William Randolph Hearst of New York and by Colonel McCormick of the Chicago Tribune hailed the battle as an â€œepicâ€ naval victory for the US.
The contrived battle was arranged by Dewey and Admiral Patricio Montojo to make it appear that the aged naval Spanish Fleet put up a fight. The four-hour battle resulted exactly to one American casualty, a portly engineer who died of heat exhaustion on that muggy May 1st, one hundred ten years ago–another jubilee day–that should not be celebrated by sane Filipinos in anyway. That American presence along Manila Bay that precipitous May Day had already doomed the hopes and expectations of the Filipinos on June 12, 1898.