The first Filipino I ever met was a temporary teacher at West Byfleet Secondary School in Surrey. We were tall, obstreperous teenagers around 15 years old and he was a short, wiry man, probably in his 30s, with whipcord muscles and an easy smile who taught us PE (Physical Exercise). He was the only teacher I can recall who had the courage to mix it with us on the Rugby field. Rugby is a rough game, especially when played by 15 year old Brits, and the opportunity to cause some physical pain to a teacher was ever-present and taken advantage of. He was certainly Rizalian, he gave what he got, and he acted as an equal.
I can’t recall a single racist remark being made against him. In fact, we became rather proud of him as a sort of Local Hero when, spotting the lower floor of a house on fire and realising the occupants were asleep and unaware on the upper floor, had the presence of mind to throw a milk bottle through the upstairs window to wake them up. He undoubtedly saved their lives.
Sadly, like the Rose, I cannot recall his name.
I was reminded of him while flipping through the Rizal issue of the Philippine Republic for December 1925. What caught my eye was a small paragraph that may have been printed at the request of the Bureau of Insular Affairs in Washington possibly at the behest of the British Foreign Office. The British government was searching for five brave Filipinos in order to give them medals.
The Filipinos, identified only as E. Laxinto, R. Valencia, H. Sim, J Demerin and C. Fernandez, were apparently working aboard the President Lines passenger ship SS President Taft when they went to assist the crew of a shipwrecked British merchant vessel, the Mary Horlock. Says the report “Their conduct was of such meritorious character it was reported to the British government, which has awarded each of the five men a medal of gallantry”.
All I can find on the Mary Horlock is that she was a dry cargo carrier of 5,253 tons and served in WW1. She sank in the Western Pacific on January 26, 1924. As of the December 1925 issue those five Filipino heroes had yet to be found.
I wonder if they ever got their medals?