Saturday, November 21, 2009
Jose Rizal Cigars
After the fall of Manila in August 1898, and soon after Spain ceded the Philippine Islands to the Americans, the US Navy settled at Sangley Point in Cavite where the Spanish armada used to berth.
In 1908, the naval authorities put out the Navy Guide to Cavite and Manila for the Battle Ship Fleet "as a handbook for the use of officers and men of the great American battleship fleet that is soon to visit Manila and Cavite." It was distributed for free as a "practical guide and beautiful souvenir."
We supposed that the Guide was at no cost to the Navy since there were as many advertisement pages as the touristic sheets. It did not surprise us that the ads were placed by foreign businessmen--Americans, Brits, Germans--offering products and services that would make the visitors' stay in Manila and Cavite very enjoyable.
Before we even hit the title page, the Jose Rizal cigars bordered by a stars-and-stripes-inspired design already caught our immediate attention. It comes after the map of Manila that's ringed with blurbs that '"Jose Rizal" Cigars Are Liked by Everybody;' 'The Best that Money Can Buy "Jose Rizal" Cigars;' and '"Jose Rizal" No Other Cigar Sells Like It, Smokes Like It or Is Like It.'
The Rizal hang-over could still have been heavy around that time -- monuments rising in his honor and memory in almost every town, possibly every other baby boy being named Jose, commerative Rizal Days being held here and abroad esp. on December 30, and products being named after him (did they pay the Rizal family some kind of royalty?).
Well, we read somewhere that Jose Rizal and Alhambra were the popular cigar brands in the early 1900's. We know that there is a Jose Rizal matchbox, and probably lit our Marlboro and later Philip Morris with a Rizal palito. We stopped smoking many years ago, and we seldom use a kalan for cooking anymore. We wonder if Jose Rizal casa fuegos are still around now that there are already other means of lighting the fire.
If they believed the advertiser, US navymen probably smoked and chewed Jose Rizals during their tour here (they didn't have the blue seals yet in their commissary store?) and brought boxes home as souvenirs and give-aways to their folks back there in the mainland.
The Guide can be accessed online from the Southeast Asia Visions digital library collection of Cornell University.