The Ibaloi doctor
(Continued from last week)
Interesting notes on his way back to the Philippines:
Discrimination and search for a brother who served in Europe
At the time Dr. Cariño was leaving Chicago to go back to his homeland, the Philippines was still a territory of the United States of America. As such, one of the powers held by the American government was the power to issue passports to Filipinos, especially those who wish to visit the ports of call of the transpacific vessels that were the mode of transport.
One of Dr. Cariño’s letters uncovered from the U.S. National Archives in Washington, D.C. details a frustrating effort at securing the passport to enable him to board a transpacific vessel and go down at the ports of call in Japan and China. Although he did not specifically mention the word “discrimination,” the tone and substance of the letter details the “mistake” of officials who were supposed to provide him the passports by classifying him as a “native American.” He showed uncommon resolve and calmness towards having the error rectified.
Another letter of Dr. Cariño addressed to the U.S. War Department reveals his search for his youngest brother, Castro Cariño, who enlisted with the U.S. Navy in Manila, then went on to see action in Turkey and Romania in 1918. Until today, our family never got any satisfactory response on what happened to my grandfather’s youngest brother. His heroism, very sadly, celebrated in obscurity.
Although many are aware that Dr. Cariño became the first Igorot mayor of Baguio City in 1946, very few people are aware that he weighed in on a critical issue of Philippine independence. In a 1932 letter to Senator Hawes that was eventually published in the Congressional Record, Dr. Cariño wrote:
“My Dear Senator: I have no doubt you will be glad to hear from a pagan. I am one of those 500,000 non-Christians who are misrepresented by selfish interests as indifferent or against Philippine independence. I am doubly glad to see a United States senator intensely interested to find out the truth on our demand for immediate independence. I am among the crowd who gave you a rousing welcome at the city hall, Baguio, a few days ago. You spoke to us of the minority pagans and Moros, numbering about 500,000 as compared with the 12 million Christian Filipinos who are undoubtedly solid for immediate freedom. But the American people should not be misled by selfish propaganda of some Americans that those 500,000 Moros and pagans are all against the freedom of their country. Nothing is so far from the truth than such representation by imperialists. There are many thousands of these pagans like myself who are just so zealous for freedom as any of their brother Christian-Filipinos. Their desire for freedom is pure, instinctive, and unpolluted. In 1907, when I was just a boy of 15 years and attending the public schools, my desire for freedom was just as strong as it is today, in spite of the fact that all of my teachers were Americans, all against independence and preaching that to be under the American flag is a blessing for Filipinos.
“My parents, relatives and family are all pure Igorotes, numbering about 100, and among those called headhunters. They are not highly educated, but they are all strong for independence, and nothing will satisfy them short of independence.
“True enough, there a few of these 500,000 Moros and pagans who are very ignorant and primitive and indifferent to what broad independence means, but still in their own communities and towns they love to be left alone, free and undisturbed by foreign civilization and government. They want to govern themselves and be left alone without interference from the outside.
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“Ever since the beginning of American administration in the Philippines, the so-called non-Christians have always been controlled and administered directly by American officials, who, as you know, preach retention to the Moros and pagans. In spite of that there are thousands of them with their Christian brothers in our demand for immediate independence.
“In conclusion I must say here that I admire your country and your good government, and we non-Christians are very thankful for what your country has done for us in particular, and for the Filipino people in general and for all these the Filipinos no doubt are grateful. We will always regard the United States of America as our father and benefactor. But it is very natural and an instinct for any people with self-respect and national pride to ask for their own government for which they are steady. We Filipinos are ready and united to embark in complete self-government. We have faith in the American people that the promises of Philippine independence embodied in the Jones law will be fulfilled, the sooner the better. We may find difficulties and hard times in the beginning, but we know they are the price of liberty and we know that we will finally be happy with our own country and government.”
Arguably, this may be one of the most cogent, coherent and sincere voices that eventually influenced the U.S. recognition of Philippine desire for independence. I did not see this letter until the time that I was in Chicago. I hope I can share its contents to a wider audience that one of the humble but determined U.S. scholar took to heart the best values that can be shared by America – freedom, democracy, education and social justice.