I had my first taste of an international exposition during Canada's EXPO '67. On the heels of that experience came the 1970 World's Fair in Flushing, New York.
The Philippine exhibit site at EXPO '67 was staid and commercial, without a hint of the varied cultures that flourish throughout the islands. I don't recall anything that struck me as colorful or memorable or affirming. At the World's Fair in New York, on weekends, the local community groups would showcase Philippine dances, always with the Tinikling or the Singkil as the finale number. This stylized folk dancing was carried away by every foreign visitor as representative of the culture of the entire country.
History books tell us that in 1904, in St. Louis, Missouri, a tribute to the future of industrial progress, commerce and international harmony introduced the St. Louis World's Fair, also called the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. During that international exhibitionthe first in the U.S.we learn about the impact that the Philippine Village Exhibit had on the crowds.
This issue of OUR OWN VOICE 2004 is a centennial response to that event. In 1904, the Philippine Village Exhibit displayed America's colony in Asia. On the sprawling grounds of the Philippine exhibit site, village life was replicated as though it was transferred intact from the islands to the U.S. However, more than artifacts and rituals were on display; various tribes were recruited (1,100 Filipinos) to recreate their traditions and home life. Among the participants were the Igorots who became the main attraction of the Fair and who left behind a controversial legacy.
Prof. Jim Zwick (Syracuse University) who maintains the web site, www.boondocksnet.com, titles his article on the Philippine participation at the Fair, "The Philippine Reservation at the 1904 World's Fair" (italics mine). Was it the official name instead of a more generic "Philippine Islands Exhibit"? As in "Indian reservations" scattered in the United States, the use of "reservation" for the Philippine site is fitting perhaps for those times, but an anachronistic one for ours. Zwick states that "The display of Filipinos at St. Louis was intended to justify continued U.S. involvement in the Philippines."
For photographs and images of the tribes recruited for the Exposition, Zwick has put together an impressive list of publications and a portfolio of historic photographs of the Philippine participation in the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair.
In a commemorative Dialogue ln 2000 between Americans and Igorots (that took place on the actual grounds of the former Philippine Village site), former Director of Collections, Martha Clevenger of the Missouri Historical Society (MHS) spoke about the people and the times. The response of the representative of the Igorots was provided by Ms. Mia Abeya, who recalls her grandparents as among the recruits who were brought to America for the Philippine Exhibit. We are proud to present both speeches in this issue. We thank Dr. Duane Sneddeker, Director of Library & Archives (MHS) for granting us permission to publish the Clevenger speech as an essay. Ms. Abeya also graciously consented to the publication of hers.
What do we know about the motives of the Fair organizers in bringing about this Exhibit? We can only gatherfrom books and news articles about the timesthat visitors to the Fair considered the exhibit of brown-skinned "savages" and their rituals fascinating. It became the exhibit to gawk at and talk about.
The Philippine Village was a human zoo in the same fashion that we find exotic animals in cages fascinating to watch. Its legacy obliterated any new-found knowledge of a culture or its people. Instead, the term "dog-eaters" became synonymous with "Filipinos." The exhibit provided no reflection on the significance of non-Western cultures and rituals. It simply underscored the "duty" of colonial powers to take over and civilize people in the Rudyard Kipling way.
Lest we forget our ancestral roots, one hundred years to date, we honor the various strands of culture that make up the Philippines with an implosion of poetry in various tongues. These languages are still here with us todayrich in metaphor and rhythmic sound, used in chant and incantation. They have been passed on from generation to generation by way of traditional festive verbal sparring and preserved in prayer and praise. Handed down in storytelling sessions from parents to children, these "dialects" are now studied as languages by scholars and linguists; interpreted by artists and musicians, entwined in songs and dances; preserved by old timers in villages and scholars of history and heritage.
Our staff has plumbed the Diaspora for articles and submissions to reflect the 100-year evolving role of minority cultures and languages dwarfed by Pilipino and English literary works. Coordinating this commemorative issue is Victoria Paz Cruz, who also "midwifed" the OOV print edition. We are also fortunate to have enticed Aileen Ibardaloza, to be a member of the editorial team. Aileen's experience as a Brit Flip has expanded our outreach beyond the floating editorial offices in Virginia, Singapore, Davao and Manila.
We bring to the fore another year of issues introducing emerging writers and highlighting the work s of established ones. The year also marks the passing of a literary giant, Wilfrido D. Nolledo (But For the Lovers). To him, we dedicate the issues of 2004. He devoted his life to the invincible written word, crafting it to perfection in his stories and essays so that generations of readers and writers may arrive at the threshold of literary discoveryto enter and to stay.
CONTRIBUTING EDITOR FOR THE ARTS
Victoria Paz Cruz
GRAPHIC AND WEB DESIGNER
Carla Stephanie Cadorniga