After Valentine’s Day yesterday, I would like to write on that elusive love of country called “Patriotism” that seems to have been lost among us, Filipinos, at least in the past decades from the 1980s to the present. This is a truly an intriguing subject to touch on in the midst of what is happening to our country today.
Over the past many years, I have been privileged to make friends with persons born in the Philippines of foreign parents in the 1930s and 1940s. Their parents were of different European ethnicities, such as Scottish, English, Czechoslovakian particularly Slovak, and of course, Spanish. What struck me is their love for the land of their birth in spite of not living here anymore and having settled in America or Europe.
Recently, I met Louis “ Lou” Kidwell Jurika through his first cousin, Peter Jurika Parsons. Lou was born in Manila after World War II of foreign parents who were both born in Zamboanga City in the 1910s. His paternal grandfather, Stefan Juirka, who migrated to America from present-day Slovakia, volunteered to fight in the American-Spanish War in the late 1890s as a patriotic naturalized-American.
However, instead of fighting in nearby Cuba, Stefan ended fighting against the Moros in Mindanao in the Philippines at the turn of the 20th century. After the war, Stefan went back, got married in Manila with his American bride and proceeded to Jolo for business. He later moved to Zamboanga where his children were born. His son, Thomas Jurika, later served in the US army and helped the starving Filipinos with food supplies in the liberation of Manila in 1945.
Thomas would marry his childhood sweetheart, Virginia Kidwell, who was also born in Zamboanga. Her father, Lee Kidwell, has a similar story as Stefan Jurika who also enlisted to fight in the American-Spanish War, but ended up in the Philippine Islands or “PI” as it was called then and even now to some extent by people in the US Mr. Kidwell later became known as the “Coconut King of Mindanao” with his vast coconut plantations.
What struck me with Lou’s love of the Philippines is that his home in the United States is “completely Filipinized,” as he calls it with three Amorsolo paintings in their dining room. One of the paintings is the portrait of his father, Thomas Jurika, who helped the starving Fernando Amorsolo during the liberation of Manila.
Our great national artist later asked Thomas if he could do a painting of him in gratitude for what the latter did for him and his family. After Warsaw in Poland. Manila was the second most devastated city during the second world war.
Lou has kindly invited me to visit Casa Jurika in Texas, which I look forward to. I can just imagine his house to be more Filipino than my sister’s house in New York and now in Florida, as well as my brother’s house in Sydney, Australia. We can only wish that
the 10 million Filipinos overseas can furnish and decorate their homes to remind them of their cultural heritage and Filipino identity.
In one of his visits to Manila, the immigration officer noticed that the passport of Louis K. Jurika stated this white guy in front of him was actually born in the Philippines. Rather curious, he was asked what he knows about the country of his birth. After reciting what he knew, his passport was stamped “Balikbayan!”
The astounded immigration officer asked Mr, Jurika to repeat to his colleagues what he just told him. So Lou recited the names of all the Presidents of the Philippines from Emilio Aguinaldo to the present with the corresponding provinces they came from. He also recited the names of the provinces of the Philippines from Abra to Zamboanga.
Roderick Hall, Manila Memories
Another fellow born in the Philippines of foreign parents is Roderick “Rod” McMicking Hall. Rod’s parents were of Scottish and Spanish ethnicity. His mother Consuelo is the sister of Joseph “ Joe” McMicking, the acknowledged brains behind the Ayala conglomerate and of course, the present-day Makati. She was born in Manila like his great Uncle Joe, who later served with the staff of General Douglas McArthur in WWII.
Roderick Hall is one of the four co-authors of the book Manila Memories, the stories of four young European boys in the Philippines during World War II. Through their narratives, they remember their lives in Manila before, during and after the Japanese Occupation. Sixty years after the world war, they looked back at their respective experiences through their book.
Rod and I share a common passion for history. He has donated more than 700 books on World War II to the Filipinas Heritage Library in 2010. This is a rich collection for us, Filipinos, to remember and learn the lessons of the last world war, which we hope to be the last at least in our lifetime. Rod sadly lost his loved ones in the said war.
What struck me about Rod in our exchange of emails over the years was his desire to acquire Philippine citizenship. This was some years back when he was already in his late 70s. While Filipinos are “dying” to obtain American, British, Canadian or Australian citizenship, Rod wants to become a Filipino citizen. Amazing!
Unfortunately, our Philippine government is so good in making things difficult for everyone, including those from the United Kingdom or United States who want to become Filipino citizens. I offered to help my friend when he told me the story of what the Philippine Embassy in London told him of his situation. However, it seems that he already had lost interest, which is understandable.
I will write more on other personalities in my future columns. It never ceases to amaze me how persons born in the Philippines of foreign parents seem to care more for our country and people than the Filipinos themselves. They still consider the Philippines their “homeland” even if they have settled abroad comfortably.
Rick B. Ramos at firstname.lastname@example.org