During World War II, the Philippines became a sanctuary for over 1,300 Jewish refugees from Austria and Germany who had escaped the Holocaust, according to a Filipino-American scholar.
Dr. Sharon Delmendo said recently that there could have been more, up to 30,000 families, if plans of then-Philippine President Manuel Luis Quezon pushed through.
She, however, added that the country taking in more refugees did not happen because of the “very deep-seated but unacknowledged anti-Semitism. . . of the US government.
The Philippines was under the American regime during the last world war.
Delmendo said Quezon even wanted to give Filipino citizenship to the Manilaners–what Jews in Manila were called–but, again, the US government intervened.
The Filipino-American scholar, who is on a week-long visit to the country, is giving lectures on the special ties that bind Jews and Filipinos in various venues in Metro Manila and Baguio City, Mountain Province.
On Tuesday, Delmendo talked about “An Open Door: Holocaust Haven in the Philippines” at the University of the Philippines Asian Center in Quezon City, with the Israel Embassy in the Philippines as sponsor.
Today, she will give another lecture at UP Baguio, also under the auspices of the embassy.
The lectures form part of “Thank You Philippines,” a year-long campaign that aims to recognize the role of Filipinos in giving a safe haven to Jews during World War II.
“I think it is an important history that I want to share to Filipinos. It is a history that Filipinos could—should—be proud of,” Delmendo said in an interview with The Manila Times of the Philippines opening its doors to a persecuted minority.
Delmendo’s lectures are divided into two topics, the first being the stories of individual Jews while they lived here, and the second, the untold efforts of the Quezon to save the Jews.
The whole picture will be featured in an upcoming documentary called “Open Door: Jewish Rescue in the Philippines.”
Delemendo co-produces the documentary with Noel “Sonny” Izon, the Filipino-American who told her the story of the Jews in the Philippines.
She remembered the story of Izon’s father, Esmeraldo who was a famous cartoonist of the Philippines Free Press.
The older Izon recovered from a serious illness, thanks to the care of a Manilaner doctor.
“Manilaners have this utang na loob [debt of gratitude]to Filipinos, and at the same time, many Filipinos also have utang na loob to Manilaners in return,” Delmendo said.
The Filipino-American scholar is also set to launch two books related to the documentary, both to be published by the De La Salle University Press.
On Friday, the lecturer will preview the first 35 minutes of her documentary to be followed by a longer presentation about the Manilaners.
To be held at the Ayala Museum, the event is free so Delmendo is inviting the public to come and listen.
The Filipino-American academic is a professor of English at St. John Fisher College in New York.
She is also a humanities scholar who specializes in Philippine-American studies.