Vote Vigan as one of New 7Wonders Cities
By Mariano “Anong” Santos
"Dean Worcester's Fantasy Islands: Photography, Film, and the Colonial Philippines." (Illustrated, 220 pp. University of Michigan Press, $29.) Right photo shows pinoy publisher at the fr. burgos heritage house.
From being one of the 1,200 nominees, the heritage City of Vigan made it to the short list of 14 world cities vying for the final New 7Wonders Cities of the World—thanks to the busy fingers of the Filipino netizens—by Dec. 2, Pinoys will do wonders again as when they pushed Puerto Princesa in 2011 to become one of the "7 New Wonders of Nature."
This global competition was also initiated by Swiss nonprofit New7Wonders Foundation which aims to preserve the world's man-made and natural heritage sites.
The other finalists in the New7Wonders Cities are Barcelona (Spain), Beirut (Lebanon), Chicago (U.S.), Doha (Qatar), Durban (South Africa), Havana (Cuba), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), La Paz (Bolivia), London (UK), Mexico City (Mexico), Perth (Australia), Quito (Ecuador) and Reykjavik (Iceland).
Wow! Vigan listed among these world-class candidates—including Chicago. Well, be not afraid. To others, they might only see a cluster of moldy "Bahay na Bato"—remnants of a despicable colonial era—but Pinoys, especially Ilocanos, just don't easily get intimidated.
The Ilocos Sur capital is already a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) heritage site —one of the six in the Philippines. It is praised as the best preserved example of a planned Spanish colonial town in Asia.
I am quite sure, thousands are casting their votes. Pinoys may vote online via new7wonders.com. According to New7Wonders, each voting session done online and via the mobile applications produces seven votes, one each for a different chosen finalist.
The Key to the Wonder
Despite the monsoon rains, I visited Vigan for the first time last August. It was like being caught in a time-capsule. I have a few suggestions for those who really take pride in calling it a heritage city to please give the Fr. Jose Burgos House the same substantial contents accorded to the Quirino and the Crisologo Houses.
Father Burgos, after all, was a primary influence on our National Hero, Jose Rizal, who at age 11 was radicalized by the execution of this progressive Filipino cleric. Another sad neglect in Vigan is the diminished recognition of Gabriela Silang, the brave heroine who was hanged at Vigan's Plaza because of her role and her husband's (Diego) leadership in fighting Spanish oppression in Ilocos. Though there are many monumental statues adoring the city's center, no visible tribute is given to the couple.
Lastly, the bone-white plaster pasted around the Catholic Church is a mindless act of indifference on preserving the heritage of Vigan. As I vote for Vigan to make the final list, I am hopeful that these suggestions will be taken into consideration. Maintaining the character of the old Spanish City is key to the wonder of this city.
'Most relevant' history month event
"Why Should We Know Dean Worcester?" a lecture held Oct. 15 at the Philippine Consulate General is the most relevant among the 22 events held during the month-long celebration of the Filipino American History Month in Greater Chicago.
Mark Rice, professor and chairperson of American Studies at St. John Fisher College, Rochester, New York, spoke of Dean Worcester, a zoologist who arguably was the most influential American on the formation of US imperial policy in the Philippines, from the years before the outbreak of the Spanish American War through the almost half a century of the American Occupation that ended on July 4, 1946.
Rice, a former Peace Corps volunteer in the Philippines, recently published, Dean Worcester's Fantasy Islands: Photography, Film, and the Colonial Philippines. Rice examined voluminous materials and thousands of photographs on the under-examined life and works of this colonial administrator who started as a member of the Schurman Commission sent by President William McKinley to the Philippines in 1899 to make recommendations on the course of action he had to take regarding the Southeast Asian archipelago.
His presentation of the manipulation and biases of Worcester's studies that greatly influenced the McKinley Administration to colonize the Philippines on the pretext of civilizing the "savages" took most of those in the audience by surprise.
The ethnic minorities like the Aetas, Igorots and Tagbanuas were wrongfully reported as the dominant Filipino population; that they were supposedly being exploited by educated tribes like the "Tagalogs." Many of the lecture attendees found Rice's revelations "shocking."
Gloria Calonge, wife of Chicago Consul General Generoso Calonge, told Rice, "Thank you for taking the time to share these aspects of our history. I admit, many of these came as new to me." The sentiment was shared by some in the audience.
Juanita Salvador-Burris, holder of doctorate degree in sociology, admitted that when she saw Worcester's photos of Filipino Tribal minorities while she was a graduate student at the University of Chicago in the 1960s, she took them as a mirror of ourselves as Filipinos, and she hardly questioned then the validity or integrity of the studies and literature produced by a biased scientist.
Worcester, Rice added, consistently opposed the granting of independence to the Philippines. He argued that the savages were incapable of self-government. After serving for 12 years as Secretary of the Interior, he resigned in 1913 and wrote The Philippines Past and Present—a two-volume history book that was used as a school textbook during the American regime.
For all his claims that the US was needed to establish democratic processes in its colony, Worcester sued Teodoro Kalaw, the editor of El Renacimiento and its publisher, Martin Ocampo for their editorial published on Oct. 30, 1908, titled "Birds of Prey," denouncing an unnamed American official for using his government position to enrich himself. Though not mentioned in the article, Worcester sued for libel.
The journalists were found guilty by an American judge and lost all the appeals all the way up to the Supreme Court. Kalaw was sentenced to one-year imprisonment and P3,000 fine while Ocampo was meted six months and P2,000 fine. But US Governor-General Francis Burton Harrison pardoned the duo.
Rice's book cited the letter-writing campaign of Worcester to malign Harrison.
Worcester's articles found a lucrative market in mainstream publications like the National Geographic. The New York Times was generous in its praises for his works. These helped pack lecture halls where Worcester earned millions in today's dollar equivalent. He enriched himself further with his fortune invested in cattle raising in Mindanao and in coconut plantations all over the islands.
The zoologist-carpetbagger with a camera who ventured into the Philippines in 1887 could easily claim the reputation of the first Photoshopper who duped America into its first colonial adventure. Mark Rice's book states that his photos commanded thousands of dollars.•