FILIPINO HOS­PI­TAL­ITY OVER 500 YRS

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - FRONT PAGE - AMBETH R. OCAMPO

Filipino hos­pi­tal­ity went on overdrive the other night at the Asean Sum­mit gala din­ner and surely im­pressed the vis­it­ing heads of state who spent most of their time in­doors, shielded from the traf­fic, noise and hu­mid­ity that Filipinos en­dure daily. Justin Trudeau stole the show sim­ply by be­ing easy on the eyes in con­trast to Don­ald Trump strug­gling to main­tain a smile on a dis­agree­able face, if only to dis­tract Pi­noys from notic­ing his ill-fit­ting barong Ta­ga­log with sleeves a tad too long. If we are to gloss over Lapu-Lapu killing our first tourist, and Hum­abon slaugh­ter­ing the re­main­der of the strag­glers from Mac­tan dur­ing a post bat­tle din­ner, we can be­gin a brief his­tory of Filipino hos­pi­tal­ity from 1521 to Asean 2017.

Pom­pas, solem­nidades, ex­posi­ciones, fe­rias, fes­te­jos, fes­tivi­dades and cel­e­bra­ciones are but some of the key­words that in­di­cate the con­tent of bun­dles in the National Archives of the Philip­pines that a his­to­rian should mine to recre­ate the var­i­ous feasts that make for Filipino hos­pi­tal­ity in the Span­ish colo­nial pe­riod. The doc­u­ment bun­dles I have gone through cover the 19th cen­tury, mostly re­quests for re­li­gious fi­es­tas and some on pri­vate par­ties, as well as in­for­ma­tion on ap­pro­pri­ate mu­sic for fu­ner­als! Per­mits pro­vided lo­cal gov­ern­ment with fiesta rev­enue and re­lieved para­noid of­fi­cials that a large group of peo­ple gath­er­ing was not a re­bel­lion.

Doc­u­men­ta­tion on three royal vis­its to Manila are avail­able, namely: the Duque de Hed­im­burgo in 1869, and the Duque de Gen­ova and the Grand Duke Alexis of Rus­sia in the 1880s. Manila played host to only one king, Norodom I of Cam­bo­dia, who vis­ited in 1872, months af­ter the ex­e­cu­tion of the priests Gomez, Bur­gos and Zamora. Archival ma­te­rial is so de­tailed with in­di­vid­ual re­ceipts for all the ex­penses for the visit: ma­te­ri­als for tri­umphal arches, cloth for fes­toons and ban­der­i­tas, food and drink, so a good time could be had by all. Norodom was so im­pressed with Filipino hos­pi­tal­ity he or­dered one of his min­is­ters to ask the Span­ish gov­er­nor gen­eral for a com­plete list of ev­ery­one who had con­trib­uted to the suc­cess of the visit. Norodom later rained on all these in­di­vid­u­als var­i­ous medals and rib­bons of the king­dom’s state dec­o­ra­tions.

Span­ish kings and queens in Madrid were so re­mote to their sub­jects half a world away. Laws and procla­ma­tions were made in their name, their birthdays cel­e­brated and fu­ner­als mourned with ap­pro­pri­ate pomp in Span­ish Manila but they were all but imag­i­nary be­cause no Span­ish king had set foot in the colony from 1565, when Miguel Lopez de Legazpi took pos­ses­sion of the is­lands, un­til In­tra­muros was sur­ren­dered to the Amer­i­cans in Au­gust 1898. In the li­brary of the Royal Palace in Madrid is a doc­u­ment that nar­rates one of the strangest events in our shared his­tory.

Text­book his­tory records that our found­ing fa­thers es­tab­lished the First Repub­lic in Malo­los, the first in South­east Asia, but glosses over the fact that we were prac­ti­cally the last of the Span­ish colonies to de­clare in­de­pen­dence un­like those in Latin Amer­ica that freed them­selves by 1825. Fer­di­nand VII wanted to re­ward the Philip­pines for its loy­alty to the crown, af­ter all, Philip II on June 21, 1574, con­ferred on Manila the ti­tle “In­signe y siem­pre leal” mark­ing it as an “il­lus­tri­ous and ever-loyal” city. Since Fer­di­nand VII could not thank his loyal sub­jects in per­son, he com­mis­sioned a full-length por­trait from the court painter Vi­cente Lopez and sent it to Manila. The royal por­trait ar­rived in Oc­to­ber 1825, in a box draped with heavy black cloth to­gether with the ef­fects of Mar­i­ano Ri­cafort, newly minted gov­er­nor gen­eral. In De­cem­ber, Ri­cafort ar­ranged for the king’s por­trait that had been in­stalled in the sa­lon of the Ad­min­is­tra­cion de la Ren­tas del Vino in Bi­nondo to be trans­ferred and solemnly in­stalled at the Ayun­tamiento.

Fer­di­nand VII was not in Manila in per­son, but his por­trait was the next best thing, greeted along the way by a cheer­ing crowd es­ti­mated in the thou­sands. Ri­cafort de­clared a gen­eral amnesty first to mil­i­tary and later to civil pris­on­ers de­clog­ging pris­ons and putting them in the king’s debt. This doc­u­ment in Madrid, com­plete with wa­ter­col­ors of the var­i­ous floats and dec­o­ra­tions, saw the hos­pi­tal­ity un­furled not for a real per­son but a pic­ture.

———— Com­ments are wel­come at ao­campo@ate­neo.edu

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