Looking Back

Silk socks for the President

Tracing the footsteps of our heroes abroad is easier than tracing their footsteps in the Philippines, where street names and landscapes change so often. Aside from heritage sites and structures, we should also preserve street names. We should oppose the renaming of any street over 50 years old because it has been “sanctified by usage.”

Trailing Artemio Ricarte in Yokohama, I was first directed to the memorial in Yamashita Park, but I insisted on finding the place where he lived, the site of the “Karihan Luvimin” that was probably the first Filipino restaurant in Japan. The address he provided was: “Artemio Ricarte Vibora. Karihan Café. No. 149 Yamasitacho, Yokohama, Japan malapit sa Post Office at Kagacho Police Station.” This exact address still exists; on it now stands the upscale Chinese restaurant Heichinrou. However, we have been informed that the original plot of Ricarte’s restaurant was subdivided, hence the Karihan Café might actually be located in a lower-end panciteria.


Mariano Ponce lived in Yokohama earlier than Ricarte. His address was 637 Miyokoji Yama, Kitagata, Korakigun. In August 1898 Ponce wrote: “I live in an exotic place outside the boundary of Yokohama. Korakigun is in the second electoral district (Yokohama being the first) of Kanagawa Ken or Kanagawa Prefecture. Our house has paper windows and a plank floor. It is situated at a height, near the terrace of a Buddhist temple and cemetery. From the first hours of the day till the late hours of the evening we hear the continuous beating of drums in the temples that serve to call the attention of the divine to the prayers of the faithful.”

Like his friend Jose Rizal, Ponce was multilingual. Unlike Rizal, however, Ponce found it difficult to memorize Japanese words. I think Rizal learned quickly because he had Usui Seiko to teach him, so Ponce followed his example and took a Japanese wife named Okiyo Udanwara. Ponce travelled to Tokyo frequently to meet up with the Japanese he had met and befriended in Europe.


In the two famous photos with Sun Yat-Sen taken in his Korakigun home, Ponce is in Japanese attire.

Another way to reconstruct Ponce’s life in Japan is to look at his expenses, as detailed in a letter to Galicano Apacible in March 1899:

“Expenses for December 1898: winter overcoat $9.70; trip to Kobe to receive the Commission 119.97; kitchen expenses etc. 85.49; gifts for Christmas and the New Year 37.10; topcoat 23.00; a pair of armchairs 8.00; wool shirts 4.50; writing desk 7.00; entrusted to Mr. Agoncillo 40.00; a desk clock 3.00; 10 marks for photographs 5.60; a winter suit 30.00; two mattresses 8.00; a blanket, gloves and a Japanese topcoat for house wear 14.40; a portfolio 4.30; 12 photographs 4.00; postage and telegraph 14.66; four trips to Tokyo to accompany the Commission 18.78; two invitations to Japanese friends 42.60; house, servant, transportation and other small expenses 26.00

“Expenses for January 1899: kitchen expenses etc. $89.64; silk shirts and socks for the President 109.00; A. Weinberger & Co. a telegraphic consultation to Europe 64.68; telegraphic reply to the above 38.70; Telemetro entrusted to the Director of War 10.00; trips to Tokyo 39.06; Cigars and cigarettes 6.00; one dozen handkerchiefs and travelling mirror 5.00; 100 calling cards 1.25; some décor for the sala 4.79; trip to Kamakura with some friends 9.00; embarkation of General Riego and Sr. Rivera 3.69; doctor and medicines 17.00; a pair of shoes 4.75; postage and four telegrams 49.80; house and servant 20.00; lavandera and small expenses 15.00; reproduction of the photographs taken by Mr. Luna; Smoking jacket 33.00; advance for things entrusted to Lichauco 30.70; books: International Law 2.35, Civil Code of Japan 6.00, Almanac de Gotha 5.50, Le Japon V[r]ai (The True Japan) 1.75, Korea 2.00, History of Japan 0.50

“Expenses for February 1899: household expenses 81.60; house and servants 20; a pair of charol shoes 5.00; trip to Tokyo on 7 February 21.84; wine, biscuits, etc. 9.00; February 9 invite for Dr. Sun Yat-Sen and others 17.40; trip to Sujita 7.50; telegram on 18 February 6.40; To Yokohama Specie Bank by telegram 12.88; newspapers, subscriptions 8.00; February 24 trip to Tokyo 9.00; box and bulk load sent to Hongkong 6.25; invite the ‘Yorodzu Choho’ 22.00; spent by Mr. Ramos and Mr. David 15.00; half a dozen utensils 6.00; a book ‘The Kojiki’ 4.00; Dentist 2.50; small presents for people of the press 38.00; entrusted to Mr. Nagano 200.00; salary of Japanese translator and interpreter 30.00; small expenses, transport, etc. 4.50.”

Are these the public relations expenses of the Japan representative of the First Republic? A smoking jacket? Silk socks for President Aguinaldo? Our Commission on Audit would probably disallow many of the expenses on the grounds that these were personal in nature, but Ponce justified the above as necessary to keep a good image with people sympathetic to the Philippine cause. Japanese journalists and politicians, Sun Yat-Sen and even a Korean prince were entertained in Ponce’s home outside Yokohama.

Ponce’s expenses help us understand how hard the First Republic fought to attain international recognition after the United States acquired the Philippines from Spain in 1899 for $20 million at the conclusion of the Spanish-American War


Comments are welcome in my Facebook Fan Page.

Read Next
Don't miss out on the latest news and information.
View comments

Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.

TAGS: artemio ricarte, featured column, mariano ponce, street names, yokohama
For feedback, complaints, or inquiries, contact us.

© Copyright 1997-2020 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.