FILIPINAS AT THE FAIR! The Philippine Exhibit was assigned the largest space in the fairgrounds of the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, and a multitude of structures were built to serve as exhibit halls and residences of some 1,100 Filipinos (mostly tribal groups) flown in to animate the event. No wonder, the Philippine Exhibit caused a major sensation
“Meet me at St. Louis…meet me at the Fair!”
So goes the lyrics of the period song that served as the unofficial theme of a magnificent American fair that was dubbed as “the greatest of expositions”, surpassing everything the world has seen before, in terms of cost, size and splendor, variety of views, attendance and duration.
The 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition, popularly known as the St. Louis World’s Fair, opened officially on 30 April 1904, to mark the 100th anniversary of the purchase of Louisiana from France by the U.S.- a vast area that comprised almost 1/3 of continental America. From this land were carved the states of Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, Oklahoma and sections of Colorado, Minnesota and Wyoming.
Save for Delaware and Florida, all the states and territories of America participated in all the activities at the sprawling 1,275 acre fairgrounds that took all of 6 years to build. As a U.S. territory, the Philippines joined 45 nations in organizing a delegation as well as the construction of its own exhibit grounds—the largest in the fair-- to house pavilions, recreated villages, presentations and native Filipino groups.
Much have been said about the Philippine representation that included “living museums” with ethnic tribes (Samal, Negrito, Igorottes, Bagobos), and regional groups (Visayans, Tagalogs) showing their traditional way of living in replicated villages.
Before large audiences, Igorots demonstrated their culinary practices by eating dogs, while Negritos shot arrows and climbed trees. A pair of Filipino midgets were also featured stars, together with English-speaking, harp-playing Tagalas who represented the more “civilized’ side of the Philippines.
On a more positive note, the Philippine Constabulary Band dazzled and thrilled crowds with their impressive and stirring performance of march music while the Philippine Scouts, composed mostly of smartly-dressed Macabebe soldiers ("Little Macs", as they were called by their American fans) , performed military drills with precision and aplomb.
Then there were the superlative government exhibits that showcased the richness of Philippine talents and resources. There were exhibits in various categories: Forestry, Arts, Crafts, Cuisine, Education, Agriculture and Horticulture, Fish, Game and Water Transport and other industries. Tasked with the purchase of collecting and installing these distinctively Filipino exhibits for the St. Louis World’s Fair was the Philippine Exposition Board, specially created by the Philippine Commission.
The Board was allotted an initial budget of $125,000, with a further appropriation of up to $250,000 to mount a world-class exhibit that would show the commercial, industrial, agricultural, cultural, educational and economic gains made by our islands under Mother America.
Recognitions were given by the organizers of the World’s Fair for country participants where their entries were judged by an international jury. Over 6,000 of various colors were won by the Philippines. Among those granted the honors were many outstanding Kapampangans who were represented by their inventive and creative works that wowed both the crowds of St. Louis and also the esteemed jury.
In the category of Ethnography, the Silver Prize went to the Negrito Tribe (tied with the Bagobos) that counted Aetas from Pampanga as among the tribe members. They wre represented by Capt. Medio of Sinababawan and Capt. Batu Tallos, of Litang Pampanga.
The Products of Fisheries yielded the following Kapampangan winners who produced innovative fishing equipment. Bronze Medals: Ambrosio Evangelista, Diego Reyes (Candaba); Fulgencio Matias (Sta. Ana); Macario Tañedo (Tarlac). Honorable Mentions: Alfredo Arnold, Epifanio Arceo, Pedro Lugue, Jacinto De Leon, Pascual Lugue, Mario Torres (Apalit); Eugenio Canlas, Teodoro de los Santos (Sto. Tomas); Andres Lagman (Minalin); Rita Pangan (Porac); Thos. J. Mair, Medeo Captacio (identified only as coming from Pampanga).
Pampanga schools also performed commendably, with various winners in the Public School Exhibits, Elementary Division. Bronze medal winners include the town schools of Apalit, Arayat, Bacolor, Candaba and San Fernando, while Honorable Mentions were merited by Betis, Guagua and Mabalacat.
In the Secondary School division, Pampanga High School of San Fernando too home the Bronze. From among entries in the General Collective Exhibit category, Mexico was chosen to receive a Silver Medal. The Bronze went to Macabebe and San Fernando, while Honorable Mentions list included Bacolor, Candaba, Floridablanca, Magalang and Sta. Rita.
The Fine Arts competition produced two Pampanga residents: Rafael Gil who won Silver for his mother-of-pearl art creation. Gil, and the highly regarded Bacolor artist, Simeon Flores (posthumous), also won Honorable Mentions for their paintings.
The culinary traditions of Pampanga were made known to the world at the St. Louis World’s Fair through the sweet kitchen concoctions of several ‘kabalens’. Angeles was ably represented by Trifana Angeles Angeles (preserved orange peel) ; Irene Canlas (preserved melon); Carlota C. Henson (preserves and jellies); Januario Lacson (santol preserves); Isabel Mercado (preserved limoncito); Atanacio Rivera de Morales (santol preserves, buri palm preserves); Zoilo and Marcelino Nepomuceno (mango jelly); Aurelia Torres (santol preserves) andYap Siong (anisada corriente, anis espaseosa) Mabalaqueñas also tickled taste buds with their homemade desserts: Rafaela Ramos Angeles (preserved fruit, santol preserves); Maria Guadalupe Castro (santol jelly) and Justa de Castro (kamias fruit preserve).
The World’s Fair at St. Louis closed at midnight on 1 December 1904, and was declared a huge success—thanks in part to the blockbuster Philippine exhibits enriched by the modest contributions of Kapampangans who proved equal to the challenge, to emerge as world-class citizens.