Was David Fagen A Stud?

David Fagin – His surname was spelt in different ways, in one of the few verifiable images of him. Click photo for full report.

One of my pet peeves is the use of random photographs of American-American soldiers, some dating from the American Civil War, labelled as “David Fagen”. They appear on most Facebook posts about one of the few Buffalo Soldiers to desert to Philippine Republican forces during the Philippine-American War.

Buffalo soldiers served creditably in the American Civil War, the Apache Wars, Cuba, Mexico, and the Philippines, in both the Philippine-American and World War Two.

In the Philippine-American War not a single Buffalo soldier was implicated in committing atrocities despite serving in hot-spots like Samar. That is not to say they were perfect, one Buffalo soldier cut off the arm of a Filipina so he could take her bracelet, but in general their behaviour was exemplary.

Most saw their service as a way of demonstrating that they were Americans, despite the shoddy treatment handed out to them in their home country.

So, taking a random anonymized photograph and mislabelling it as someone else deprives the man pictured of his identity, his honour, his courage, his existence.

None of the photographs supposedly depicting him were identified as such contemporaneously with one exception, the sketch given above, from the Salt Lake City Herald of 30 October 1900, which may be derived from a photograph of him in civilian attire. The article is based on interviews with those who knew him, both civilians and military and gives a fascinating insight into the character of David Fagen.

Does it change our image of him?

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When Ninoy Aquino Backed Martial Law

Beningo ‘Ninoy’ Aquino

(Part of an occasional series on US diplomats and their relationships with the Philippines)

Benigno ‘Ninoy’ Aquino’s death on 21 August 1983 on the apron of what is now the airport named after him, lit the fuse to the overthrow of the notoriously corrupt dictatorship of President Ferdinand Marcos  in February 1986. It led to the presidency of Corazon Aquino, and the controversial incumbency of Rodrigo Duterte, son of Ferdinand Marco’s former executive secretary, whose mother was a bitter opponent of Marcos.

The striking of the match that lit the fuse may have come as early as 1972 when Marcos made a strategic error – he arrested Ninoy Aquino.

Ambassador Frank E. Maestrone, who died in 2007, served as US Consular Officer from 1971 and was interviewed by the late Hank Zivetz for the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training Foreign Affairs Oral History Project, in 1989. He had a front-row seat.

He gives us a sense of the complexities underlying the road to Martial Law – violence on the streets, a weak central government unable to bring provincial war-lords to heel.

Among the surprises, perhaps, is that Ninoy Aquino would have supported Martial Law as a temporary measure. However, Marcos’s first step was to arrest the opposition, eliminating the moderate opposition entirely, which strengthened the Communist insurgency and leading to a quintupling of recruitment into the NPA.

Maestrone’s interview is given here without comment. 

Continue reading “When Ninoy Aquino Backed Martial Law”

Balangiga Bells – The Return

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It is rare that the study of history makes a difference, but it did in the case of the Balangiga Bells. The town, and its bells, have been part of my life for a quarter of a century and the work that I and Rolando Borrinaga put into establishing the real history of what happened played a role in the education program launched by US Veterans to get the bells returned.

Although my role was modest it is, nevertheless, one I am quite proud of.

The bells were returned to Balangiga on 15 December 2018. Sadly, I could not be there to greet them but I did get to see and touch them for my birthday two weeks later.

It was, for me, a moving and emotional moment as you can see below.

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Mushi-mushi, Halo-Halo To All That

Clarke’s, the first ice cream in Manila?

Language is a bit of a challenge trying to identify when ice cream and even halo-halo emerged. ‘Sorbetes‘ in Tagalog covers both frozen water/fruit juice confections and ice creams. In Spanish we have helado attached to chilled/iced products like quesos helado, mentioned in an 1875 Manila directory.

Aha, you may think: Cheese ice cream! But there is no cheese in quesos helados. A speciality of Madrid, these are variously coloured water-ice sorbets put into small shaped moulds with milk added. When frozen they look like little cheeses, hence the name.

Helado is also used for ice-cream, sorbete for sorbet, hielo for ice and sorbete de leche specifically for ice cream as well as Mantecado and helado Leche..

Upper-crust menus were often in French. Glace is the French for ice, creme glace is ice cream, and sorbet is sorbet, but, again glace can cover both sorbet and ice cream.

The same applies also in the English term ‘ices’.

A 1911 adverisement for La Campana. Note helados, sorbete and helado, also horchata.

A 1913 instruction to ice cream makers and sellers uses mantecado for ice cream, a term that does not seem to appear in 19th century Philippines.

Then there is garapinera. While often assumed to be an ice cream/sorbet maker even that may be unsafe. Online friend Zeidrick J Cudilla brought my attention to an 1866 Spanish-Visayan dictionary which mentions garapinyera as a box in which beverages are kept, but does not imply ice was used.

In Waray it refers generically to a container for water.

 

To add to the confusion, garapinera also refers to the insulated container vendors carried their product around in rather than the device it was made with.

You can watch how ice cream was made in Victorian times here:

So, as far as we know, the first unambiguous appearance of ice-cream was in 1902 during a visit by the USS Alert to the Philippines.

Continue reading “Mushi-mushi, Halo-Halo To All That”

Hot Times, Frosty Americans

William Henry Corbusier built the first American ice plant in the Philippines.

Although ice was available in Manila, cold storage was another matter. Posh houses, hotels and so on, could store vegetables, fruit and water in their ice boxes but unless you had a convenient cow in your yard, as the Tafts did, fresh milk was a luxury.

Vendors sold carabao milk which had been brought into Manila by train, kept in a store at ambient temperature overnight then put on the streets as late as 4pm. To say the least, it wasn’t in the best of condition by the time it was purchased, and any bacteria would be thriving well.

With no wholesale cold storage available various chemicals, including formaledhyde would be added.

No wonder canned milk was preferred by those who could afford it.

Americans, including 60,000 soldiers at any one time, demanded beef but it was often so putrid when imported from the US that even those who cooked it would run away and throw-up. Again, chemicals were used resulting in meat of varying degrees of inedibility.

Australia developed the first refrigerated ships and the Americans in the Philippines became the backbone of the Australian beef industry. But there was a need for somewhere cold to store it.

Another ice issue arose from efforts to fight infectious diseases through vaccination throughout the islands. Ice chests could keep vaccines fresh but ice was not available outside Manila, at least in the quantities needed.

Ice could be a matter of life and death.

Enter the all-but-forgotten American Civil War veteran William Henry Corbusier, the pioneer of American ice plants and cold storage in the Philippines.

Continue reading “Hot Times, Frosty Americans”

End Run

Here we are. The last decade of the 19th century and no confirmed sighting of ice cream nor the equipment to make it with, the garapinyera.

That gap may have much to do with the class structure of the Philippines at the time.

Who cared about the kitchen worker who made the ice cream? Much as no-one thought it important to gather the experiences of the common tao who bore the brunt of the Philippine revolution and the war of independence against the USA.

The comparison is certainly valid: Professional kitchens are as hierarchical as a military unit. A unit of kitchen workers, from dish-washer to Chef is known as a brigade. They do the work but are beneath being noticed in 19th century Manila.

Continue reading “End Run”

Down and Dirty

‘Dirty ice-cream’ refers to the product sold by street vendors rather than that bought in a shop and eaten at home or consumed in a cafe or restaurant.

‘Dirty’ in this context, it is widely believed, does not mean unsanitary. A ‘dirty kitchen’ in the Philippines is an area where raw food is prepared for cooking from which it is taken to the ‘clean kitchen’ for cooking and dishing.

In fact the term may have emerged in the first two decades of the 20th century frozen products from vendors were dangerous treats.

We may have Julius Witte to thank for it.

Milk vendor goes to work

Maybe it is significant that the earliest reference I have found to what today is referred to as ‘dirty ice cream, or at least sorbet flavoured water ice sold by street vendors,, comes in a book written in French by Alfred Marche and published in 1887, when Julius Witte was running his ice plant, the only one so-far known at the time.

Marche describes a typical Manila street morning with milk vendors carrying vases on their heads, sellers of fresh grass and hay for horses, Chinese barbers who also cleaned customer’s ears and trimmed their nose hairs, and sellers crying out “Sorbete! Sorbete!” ”

Jose Rizal also mentions a sorbet vendor in Binondo in Chapter Four of Noli Me Tangere, published in 1887 with the same cry.

The sorbeteros repeated the same shrill cry, Sorbeteee!while the smoky lamps still lighted the identical Chinese stands and those of the old women who sold candy and fruit.

Together, these suggest that ambulant vendors were a common sight by the end of the 1880s.

At the moment we don’t know the fate of Julius Witte’s ice business. His perfumery and ironworks continued but nothing is heard of the ice plant after the final years of 1880.

Did he sell it on? If so, it may have been acquired by one of two companies – San Miguel or Fabrica de Hielo.  Whatever was the case, the De Witte plant vanishes as the Philippines enters a new era.

 

Part Six: End Run

Part Four: Here Comes The Ice Man

Here Comes The Iceman

Julius ‘Julio’ De Witte, opened the first know ice plant in Manila,

In the 1850s commercial ice-making became viable. There were several technologies developed at the time but the most common used the evaporation of ammonia to produce the freezing effect. You experience a similar effect if you put rubbing alcohol on your skin.

These early ice plants reportedly produced an inferior product to New England ice, according to Mark Twain. Over time the technology improved and made its way to Manila.

It was no longer necessary to import ice all the way from the US although customs duties for imported ice remained at zero into the American period in the Philippines..

Julius Witte, who hispanised his name to Julio for business purposes had set up an ice plant at 21 Calle Barraca by 1873. Witte had an ironworks and dealt in perfume essences such as ylang-ylang.

While it is widely believed that any reference to sorbete automatically indicates ice-cream an 1875 guide references sorbet and what may have been ice-cream as separate products, sorbete and helado, but has no reference to a helado maker, indicating that there was no commercial ice-cream being manufactured in the Philippines at the time. If it did exist it was limited to restaurants and possibly private homes.

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The Reel LM Johnson and Philippine Independence Part Eight: After The Ball

Manila Fire Department, 22 January 1909

After The Ball

Like tantalising glimpses of spoor through the foliage, documentary reports of Johnson appear and disappear over the next ten years, from late 1899 to 1909. He never returned to Hawaii. At some stage, his wife and daughter seem to have rejoined him from Shanghai, returning to the US after his death.

By 1901 he had a stake in the Alhambra saloon and theatre on the Escolta, and travelled as far away as Australia to look for acts to fill its stage, something similar to what he had done at the Astor House Hotel in Shanghai. At one stage the Alhambra was earning as much as $700 a night, a hefty sum for the times.

He did return to Canada with his wife to celebrate his parents Golden Wedding anniversary in 1908 at Lake Annis, Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, still using his Philippine rank of Colonel.

Johnson was deputy fire-chief in the Manila Fire Department and his photograph appears in a 1909 souvenir program for a firemens’ relief brochure.

Continue reading “The Reel LM Johnson and Philippine Independence Part Eight: After The Ball”

The Reel LM Johnson and Philippine Independence Part Seven

Hawaiian Gazette 1898 reports Johnson at the celebrations.

There is no mention in Johnson’s account of the 12 June signing of the Declaration of Independence but his presence was reported by a San Francisco Chronicle correspondent, reprinted in a Hawaii newspaper”

“Leading natives made patriotic speeches, the Insurgent flag was cheered and Aguinaldo’s only regimental band played martial music. The reading of the proclamation declaring the Philippines to be free from Spanish tyranny was greeted with wild cheering. The strange battle-cry of the rebels rang out above the din and the truest enthusiasm was general.

The last speech of the day was made by Colonel L. M. Johnson, Chief of Ordnance on the staff of Agulnaldo, who is an American. He first declined to make a speech, but was carried to the platform. He likened the cause of the Filipinos to that of the American colonies in 1776, and said their liberation was as certain. When his stirring sentences were interpreted to the pleased crowd the cheering was louder than ever.”

Johnson’s service to Aguinaldo would explain why he was given the honour of being a signatory to the Declaration of Independence. By the time Johnson wrote his account the relations between Aguinaldo and the Americans was collapsing. Then, in early December, Johnson hit the Hawaii press headlines again, for a different reason:

His loyalty to the US, which formally annexed Hawaii during the Spanish-American War, was in question, and he had more to lose than his liberty.

Continue reading “The Reel LM Johnson and Philippine Independence Part Seven”