Monday, September 30, 2019

The First Mangyans In America

THE LARGELY UNKNOWN FACT that among the non-Christian Filipinos brought by the Americans to the United States in 1904 to participate as living human exhibits in the St. Louis World Fair were five Mangyans from Bulalacao--Kabesa Sabong, Sinhigan, Daliwnan, Salayaw (who died there) and Karyo--was documented by Antoon Postma in a (somewhat disorganized) manuscript called The First Mangyans in America: Their Aborted Bamboo Mail 100 years after the expositionThe manuscript was based on Karyo's early account of the experience (page 30), told from memory thirty five years after the voyage and after being urged by US Army Contract Surgeon Fletcher Gardner, who was "instrumental in attracting and recommending these Mangyans (to Dean Worcester) as interesting tribal subjects to their curious countrymen at the World Fair." The manuscript also delves into the fate of the unanswered and presumably lost bamboo mail sent by the families they left behind in the Philippines and known to have been under the guardianship of Gardner, duplicates of which reappeared years later. Some of the most powerful messages in the bamboo mail was one reminding a husband not to gamble and another warning Kabesa Sabong that his wife will kill herself by eating a poisonous sea crab called tanggalungon if he didn't return by the month of April. Last is the amusing but perfectly understandable effect of the voyage on the returned Mangyans (as reported by American officials in Mindoro) after having seen the "Great White City": Kabesa Sabong's character change when dealing with his village subjects (which was promptly corrected by authorities), the trophies, certificates and souvenirs they brought home, and the intriguing suggestion (apparently by Harold Conklin) that Karyo may have had a wife (or wives, and even an offspring!) in America. If there ever was, Karyo's descendants should collect far more than the 50 silver dollars he was paid by the Americans when he returned home.

Mangyan gentlemen at the turn of the 19th century (Dean Worcester)