Monday, January 18, 2010

Have You Seen the "Philippine Memorial to William Atkinson Jones" in Warsaw, VA?

Warsaw, VA is about 107 miles from Washington DC, two and a half hours by car via I-95S and US 17-S, if we want to visit the monument that is officially called “William Atkinson Jones Mausoleum,” also known as the “Filipino Memorial Tribute to William Atkinson Jones,” the “William Atkinson Jones Memorial Monument,” and the “Philippine Memorial to William Atkinson Jones.”

It's very likely that this Philippine memorial doesn't appear in the must-see list of kababayans in Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC when there are guests from the old country or other states to tour around.  We've visited practically all the historical and touristic sights in the two states and the capital, but we don't recall any of our dear friends mentioning this monument at all.

In its July 1926 issue, The Philippine Republic featured the memorial in the cover, calling it "The Filipinos' Tribute to the Memory of a Friend" erected by the Filipino people in honor of the late Representative William Atkinson Jones, of Virginia, author of the law which has become historic in Philippine-American history because it contained the promise of independence as soon as a stable government could be established in the Philippine Islands."

William Atkinson Jones was born in Warsaw on March 21, 1849. A Democrat, he served as a Congressman of Virginia for fourteen continuous terms from 1890 until his death on April 17, 1918.

On his death, the Philippine legislature appointed the Jones memorial commission composed of the Senate president Manuel L. Quezon, Jaime C. de Veyra and Teodoro Yangco, who were resident commissioners in Washington DC at the time of their appointment.  Funds were appropriated for the mausoleum, Don Mariano Bentliure of Madrid, Spain was commissioned to do the memorial, which he built in Spain and shipped to the United States for erection in Warsaw.

This "Gift from a grateful Filipino People," the marker on the monument states, was dedicated on June 20, 1926. It cost the Philippine government $35,000 [Php70,000 at that time - LFR] with donations from Filipino school children of their precious sentimos at that time. In Manila, the old Puente de Espana (Bridge of Spain) between Binondo and the city proper was rebuilt in 1916 and renamed in his honor--the Jones Bridge.
It was reported that around 8,000 Americans and Filipinos attended the dedication ceremonies.  The monument was unveiled by two young grandsons of Jones. Senator Sergio Osmena presented the memorial to the United States and Senator Carter Glass of Virginia accepted it.  The women in the delegation of Filipino officials lent color to the occasion in their native dress.

Those should cue us to something very important that we learned in our Philippine history classes in high school and in the university regarding our struggle for independence during the American regime -- the Jones Law, which he authored as the Philippine Independence Bill and signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson, also a Democrat, in 1916.
He was already ill around that time, but he could still passionately say before his colleagues in Congress: “Fervently believing with that great apostle of human liberty, Thomas Jefferson, ‘that the people of every country are the only safe guardians of their own rights,’my prayer is that the day is not far distant when we shall see arise in the Far East a free and independent Christian nation, to be known throughout the world as the Republic of the Philippine Islands.”

On August 18, 1916, Manuel Luis Quezon, Philippine Resident Commissioner in the US Congress paid him this tribute before the entire congressional membership:  "Mr. Jones, I have witnessed your untiring work on this bill; I have seen your unselfish devotion to the cause of Philippine independence, honestly believing that it was demanded by God’s own law, but also by the interests of your nation and mine. As the chairman of the Committee on Insular Affairs, you have considered it your paramount duty to write into law the covenant of your fathers and the spirit of America – freedom for all. By this bill, which is the result of your hard labor – labor you have carried out at the risk of your own life, for you have been working in spite of ill health—you are entitled, in my estimation, to a prominent place in the list of the advocates of human liberty. Surely your name will be written in letters of gold in the history of the Philippine Islands. You have earned not only the eternal gratitude but the love of every individual Filipino. God bless you.” 

"I can die happy now," he told Manuel Luis Quezon, Senate President, "because by this bill I have assured the independence of your country."

In grateful appreciation, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce presented him a gold tablet worth $10,000 [Php20,000 then - LFR] with a touching inscription, and Quezon gave him a cup that became famous, which were conspicuously diplayed in the Jones mansion near the memorial.  We wonder if the mansion is open to the public today so that Filipino visitors can look at these Jones gifts too.

With the Jones Law, legislative power was given to the Filipinos under a bicameral structure - a Senate and a House of Representatives. All members were elected except two Senators appointed by the American Governor General to represent the non-Christian sector.

The hard struggle for full freedom continued until the Tydings-McDuffie Act was unanimously accepted by our legislature in 1934, and the Commonwealth inaugurated in 1935. The countdown of ten years for independence began but we all know that the Japanese violently intruded into our national life.

Eighty four years ago, Vicente Albano Pacis, who was still active in the Philippine media in the 1960s, wrote that "the mausoleum is a wonderful piece of art ... and should prove to be a popular Mecca for Filipinos visiting the national capital."  Before the second world war when Jones was still in every Filipino's memory, Warsaw, VA could have really been a must to visit before they return to the homeland. 

Perhaps it is time to rebuild historical memories again.  Perhaps we can make a tour of the Philippine history imprinted in the American landscape -- for example, the relics of the Philippine-American war taken home as souvenirs of conquest in the Presidio in San Francisco, the Balangiga bells somewhere in a military camp in the midwest, the Jones Memorial, etc. and those of the diaspora of the Filipinos in America like the old Manila towns in Stockton, San Francisco, Louisiana and the Gran Oriente and Caballeros de Dimas-Alang Masonic lodges .  

Note:  For details of the dedication of the Jones Memorial, please click on the hyperlinks to full features in the 1924 and 1926 issues of The Philippine Republic, which are in the digital library collection of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

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