By Louis Chan
AsAmNews National Correspondent
It’s hard to predict which stories will be viewed and which ones will go ignored.
After a while you develop a sixth sense for these things, but once in a while, our editors are caught by surprise.
They never expected a story about the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair to go viral, but this one did.
Titled One of the darkest moments in Fil-Am history, the post by AsAmNews‘ newest writer Ed Diokno clearly grabbed people’s interest.
His blog talked about an exhibition at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair which depicted the Igorot tribal people of the Philippines as “savages,” the “head-hunters” and the “dog-eaters.”
“It probably resonated with a lot of Fil-Ams – first of all – because its a little known chapter in our American journey
and another example of undeserved American (white) exceptionalism,” said Diokno who was pleased to hear about his stories high number of page views. In his opinion, the exhibition was a way for the U.S. to justify its expansionism into the Pacific.
“American politicians still had trouble convincing the American public that the war against the Filipinos was a just war, to save our little brown
brother for Christianity because there was a strong anti-imperialist movement in the U.S. with Mark Twain as its chief spokesperson. By
emphasizing the tribal peoples (and not the freedom fighters), and their despicable custom of eating Fido, Americans at that time could feel
better about their Pacific expansion and see the need about transforming the Philippines into the Asian showcase for democracy and western
civilization. By the way, it was this war that gave birth to the word gooks in reference to Asians.”
The exhibition, in Diokno’s view, also set the tone for American’s perception of the Filipinos who subsequently immigrated to the United States as less than inferior. He says the recent crowning of Miss Philippines as Miss Universe is a very big deal in the Filipino American community.
“It boosts our familial amor propia(face, self-esteem), and lessens our hiya (shame). For a lot of the older Fil-Ams, there is still a need to overcome our shame of being less than, as depicted in St. Louis. However, among younger Fil-Ams, there is a sense of pride in those
indigenous cultures and anger at the way the tribes people (our predecessors/ancestors) were treated and showcased.”