July 23, 2008

Philippine Numismatics and Antiquarian Society Part 2: Not just coins...but Filipinos Pride

Former President Emilio Aguinaldo with Dr. Gilbert Perez, Dr. Jose P. Bantug, Dr. Galo B. Ocampo, and other PNAS Officers, photo was taken on June 17, 1956

Dr. Bantug thought of this association following an incident, which happened while he was in the United States. Dr. Bantug was then a government pensionado (pensioner) between 1904 to 1910. One night, a group of Filipinos were guest of a party in an American’s home. There was an impromptu musical program. One of the young Filipinos was asked to sing, and this he did with great gusto. Another one was asked to play the piano, and his fine performance was enthusiastically applauded. Some of the Americans showed marked interest in the young Filipinos.

During the dinner, the Filipino students were joined by more Americans. Dr. Bantug and a friend noticed that how closely they were being watched, especially as they ate. A few looked astonished, some perplexed, and one or two seemed quite amused. He could not understand what the sudden interest meant.

However, the mystery was soon explained. One of those present could not contain himself any longer and blurted out, “I thought you Filipinos were savages wearing G-Strings back in your home and the majority lived in the mountains.” Another smilingly added, “ We thought you lived in the tree-houses and did not know how to eat with fork and knives.

The American visitors further explained that they were surprised at what they were surprised at what they admitted was a pleasant revelation. They had discovered that the young Asians could talk intelligently on diverse subjects such as history, science, literature, religion and so forth. Many lasting friendship was formed that night.

The incident made a deep impression on the young Filipino students, who were mostly in their teens and early twenties. While flattered, they were not very happy to realize that many strangers thought their country was uncivilized, her people not too far from the barbaric and wanting in cultural refinements.

Then and there many of them resolved that they would show to the world that the Filipinos had an indigenous culture of their own even long before the coming of the Spaniards into the islands. Thus, as soon as he returned to his country, Dr. Bantug started collecting finely carved santos (saints), paintings, coins, artifacts, and whatever art objects he could acquire to prove that his country was not as backward as others as others had presumed it to be. And all his life he urged friends and relatives to do the same. He committed himself the vestiges of our rich cultural heritage. (To be continued)

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