8 Incredible Rare Recordings From Philippine History

Gone are the days when you had to visit a museum or browse through someone’s private collection to get a glimpse of our country’s rich history. With a click of a button, any history buff can now witness some of the greatest mementos from the Philippines’ bygone era.

Also Watch: 12 Rare Pinoy Historical Videos You’ve Probably Never Seen

Here are 10 of the most fascinating recordings from Philippine history made available to us, thanks to the Internet.

1. President Manuel Roxas’ last speech (1948).

This is a footage of President Manuel Roxas’ visit to Clark Airfield on April 15, 1948. You can also listen to what would become Roxas’ last speech which he delivered in front of the United States 13th Air Force.

In the speech, Roxas congratulated Major General E.L. Eubank and the men under the latter’s command for the establishment of the American base, the rapid development of which attest to the “friendship between Americans and Filipinos.” He went on to criticize the communist activities which were threatening the world and praise America for showing its preparedness for war.

See: President Manuel Roxas’ last photo (and other haunting last pictures taken in Philippine history)

Shortly after he made the said speech, the 56-year old president suddenly fell ill and died a few hours later. His last speech was published on the front page of Manila Times under the heading “His Dying Words.”  

2. Gen. J. Franklin Bell’s mule pack train crossing the Agno River (1902).

Created and published by the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company, this footage shows a line of mules carrying supplies and crossing the Agno River in Northern Luzon, Philippines. This mule pack train is said to be under the command of Maj. Gen. J. Franklin Bell.

History books describe Bell as a cruel commander during the Philippine-American War. In fact, when he was assigned to control the insurgency in Batangas, Bell made his presence known by saying “All consideration and regard for the inhabitant of this place cease from the day I become commander.”

READ: The Music of Philippine Constabulary Band, Underdogs Who Wowed 1900s America

True to his words, Bell issued a series of orders throughout December 1901. He was credited with starting the reconcentrado policy which basically forced all people of the province to leave their homes and move to concentration camps. Anyone or anything outside of the reconcentration zone area would be confiscated, destroyed, or considered “insurgents.”

Bell’s Batangas campaign was so effective that after 7 months, General Miguel Malvar and his 3,000 troops were forced to surrender. However, the success came with a tragic cost: statistics compiled by the U.S. government revealed that at least 100,000 people died in the province due to war as well as pestilence and malnutrition brought by the overcrowded conditions in the concentration camps.

Also Read: 8 Dark Chapters of Filipino-American History We Rarely Talk About

The Boston Journal, on the other hand, defended Bell’s policy, declaring that Filipino houses were mere “structures of straw and branches, only a little more elaborate than Indian wigwarms.” They also concluded that Filipinos might “profit by compulsory removal from abodes that long use and neglect have made unwholesome.”

3. President Manuel Quezon’s “Message to My People” (circa 1920s).

Known as the father of the national language, the late President Manuel L. Quezon delivered this inspiring speech during a critical time in his life.

According to his grandson, Manuel L. Quezon III, the said landmark speech was recorded in the 1920s, “when he (President Quezon) was first diagnosed with tuberculosis and assumed he didn’t have much longer to live.” In other words, we can consider it as one of President Quezon’s last speeches ever recorded–and also one of the most inspiring.

Read More: 15 Mesmerizing Facts About President Manuel Quezon

Delivered in both English and Spanish, President Quezon’s “Message to My People” deserves to be heard by every Filipino, if only to remind us of our own independence which took many years and bloodshed to be achieved.

Here’s the transcript of the speech in English:

“My fellow citizens: there is one thought I want you always to bear in mind. And that is: that you are Filipinos. That the Philippines are your country, and the only country God has given you. That you must keep it for yourselves, for your children, and for your children’s children, until the world is no more. You must live for it, and die for it, if necessary.

Your country is a great country. It has a great past and a great future. The Philippines of yesterday are consecrated by the sacrifices of lives and treasure of your patriots, martyrs, and soldiers. The Philippines of today are honored by the wholehearted devotion to its cause of unselfish and courageous statesmen.

The Philippines of tomorrow will be the country of plenty, of happiness, and freedom. A Philippines with her head raised in the midst of the West Pacific, mistress of her own destiny, holding in her hand the torch of freedom and democracy. A republic of virtuous and righteous men and women all working together for a better world than the one we have at present.”

4. “Arimunding-Munding” by Jovita Fuentes (circa 1925).

“Arimunding-Munding” was a popular Filipino folk song about love and courtship during the American period. Among those who sung it was the legendary Jovita Fuentes, known in history as the “First Lady of Philippine Music” and the first Filipino international opera star.

Born in Capiz in 1895, Jovita already knew how to sing habaneras and danzas at the age of five. Her passion for music pushed her to get formal voice training after college. Soon, she became a voice teacher at the University of the Philippines Conservatory of Music from 1919 to 1924.

To take her opera singing to the next level, Jovita went to Milan, Italy where she trained under prominent Italian voice teachers such as Luigi Lucenti and Arturo Cadore. Jovita’s international debut happened on April 25 when she portrayed the role of Cio Cio San in Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. The performance–hailed as the “most sublime interpretation of the part”–was staged in Italy’s Teatro Municipale di Piacenza.

Also Read: 8 Filipinos Who Make You Proud To Be Pinoy

Jovita’s highly-acclaimed performance brought her international fame. Because of this, she easily landed lead roles for major operas such as Mimi in Puccini’s La Bohème, Iris in Mascagni’s Iris, and Salome in Strauss’s Salome.

To honor her achievements and contributions in music, Jovita received various awards such as “Embahadora de Filipinas a su Madre Patria” from Spain and a Presidential Medal of Merit in Music in 1958. She became a National Artist in music in 1976.

5. An American Diplomat’s Trip to the Philippines (1926).

When he was appointed American Minister to China in 1925, diplomat John Van Antwerp MacMurray (1881-1960) brought with him a motion picture camera which enabled him to produce a total of 28 silent 16 mm films during his stint in Asia.

The films–which are now preserved at the Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library in Princeton University–contain scenes that are not political in nature. Rather, they provide glimpses of the trips he made in China, Korea, and the Philippines, and the culture of people who lived in those countries during the 1920s.

The short film above contains rare footage of MacMurray’s trip to the Philippines in the fall of 1926. He traveled to the country with his wife to visit Governor General Leonard Wood in Manila and Camp John Hay in Baguio. They proceeded to Bontoc where they stayed with Governor John C. Early.

In Photo: Ifugaos in Wedding Dress (1900)

The trip they made from Baguio to Bontoc is shown at the beginning of the film (0:35-2:21). What follows is an Igorot festival which Governor Early organized to welcome his honorable guests on October 9, 1926. MacMurray was so amused by the Igorot dancers that he described the event in detail when he wrote to his mother.

According to MacMurray, the old man who appeared in every dance was a little bit drunk when the film was shot. Fortunately, some of the Igorots were kind enough to get the drunk man out of the way (6:11-6:18). He also described a “particularly uprightly and engaging head-hunter” who taught the townspeople the dance of another tribe (6:47-7:18).

6. A Solo Traveler’s Trip to the Philippines (1939).

Evelyn Reinhardt was a simple history teacher from St. Louis, Missouri whose only wish was to travel around the world before her 40th birthday. Besides, it would be more exciting for her students if she could complement her history lessons with real footage of her exotic trips to Europe and Asia.

With those goals in mind, Evelyn embarked on S.S. President Taft which departed from San Francisco, California on May 15, 1939. She returned to New York aboard the S.S. Nieuw Amsterdam on September 4, 1939–exactly twenty-three days before she turned 40.

READ: 8 Hidden Paradises in the Philippines That Will Take Your Breath Away

Indeed, she traveled the world within three and half months, documenting her adventures in Egypt, Netherlands, and Asian countries including Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Burma (Myanmar), French Indochina (Cambodia), Japan, Hongkong, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

Shown in the amateur film above are scenes taken by Evelyn during her Philippine tour. It shows specific landmarks in Baguio, Manila, and Cebu like you’ve never seen them before.

7. Zooming Over Luzon (1920-1939).

The short clip above is only one of many amazing old videos recovered from the archives of British Pathé, one of the oldest media companies in the world.

Entitled “Zooming Over Luzon,” it contains aerial shots of Manila and “Luzon’s white rimmed coral reefed coastline” taken from a biplane passenger aircraft. The film is described as “the first aerial motion picture log of our chief island possessions to be presented on any screen.”

BONUS: Manila (1985).

This rare 35 mm footage from the Kinolibrary archive film collections shows people, vehicles, and amazing scenes around the streets of Manila in 1985, a year before President Ferdinand Marcos would be overthrown by the EDSA People Power Revolution.

Here are other key events that happened in the Philippines in 1985:

  • Death of Julie Vega (May 6), a Filipina child actress and singer.
  • The Escalante massacre (September 20) in Negros Occidental where at least 20 people were killed by paramilitary forces of the government. Before the murders, the victims were engaged in a protest-rally to commemorate the 13th anniversary of the Martial Law declaration.
  • Typhoon Saling (October 18) landfalls on the Philippines, leaving at least 101 people dead.
  • The Philippine Daily Inquirer was founded (December 9) by Eugenia Apostol, Max Soliven, and Betty-Go Belmonte.
  • Death of Carlos P. Romulo (December 15), a Filipino journalist, diplomat, politician, soldier, and author.

Selected References

Delmendo, S. (2005). The Star-entangled Banner: One Hundred Years of America in the Philippines (p. 42). UP Press.

HIMIG – The Filipino Music Collection of FHL,. Jovita Fuentes. Retrieved 2 February 2015, from http://goo.gl/riodgM

Schirmer, D., & Shalom, S. (1987). The Philippines Reader: A History of Colonialism, Neocolonialism, Dictatorship, and Resistance (pp. 17-18). South End Press.

Van Rossum, H. (2010). Trips to Southern China and the Philippines, 1926 and 1929. The Reel Mudd – Films and other audiovisual materials from the Mudd Manuscript Library. Retrieved 2 February 2015, from http://goo.gl/cFcKFa


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