With Ricarte in Yokohama
In Tokyo, the International House of Japan has a famous reference library that has on its locked Rare Book shelf a privately printed book, “Nippon in Spring” by Esmeraldo E. de Leon, the “Souvenir of the Second Filipino Students Educational Party to Japan in 1936.” Instinctively I knew the book would be relevant from the interesting ads in the back, for such products as Japanese-made bicycles and a pomade named “Tarzan” that predated more famous brands that date the people who recognize them: Bench styling gel, Tancho Tique, Three Flowers, and Vitalis.
De Leon’s diary of the 47-day visit to Japan says that on Sunday, May 10, 1936, after he and his companions heard Mass in Tokyo, they took a taxi to Yokohama and met the exiled general of the Philippine Revolution and the Filipino-American War: Artemio Ricarte aka Vibora (Viper). They didn’t have an address but located Ricarte’s home by inquiring from the US Consulate in Yokohama.
Finding Ricarte’s Karihan Luvimin restaurant, De Leon narrates:
“As we entered the front door we heard voices from the kitchen. A woman and a girl were speaking in Tagalog. We made ourselves noticed by greeting them also in Tagalog.
“‘Please sit down,’ the old woman said, ‘the General will be with you in a minute.’
“The moments that passed as we sat there eager to see this war exile seemed long and tedious, but when he finally emerged into the waiting room, I caught sight of his firm bold steps as he came forward to welcome us. In his hand there was a strong warm grip. All the genial hospitality was there, the outspoken frankness of a man who defied everything for love of country.
“‘And where are you from?’ he asked as we introduced ourselves.
“‘Three of us are from the north,’ I enumerated: Mr. [Narceo] Sambrano is from Vigan, Mr. Pedro Tabora from La Union, and Mr. Henry Kuhlman is from Tuguegarao. I am a Pampangueño but I speak the Ilocano dialect (sic) fluently.’
“The old General then began speaking to us in Ilocano, but he seemed to have lost full grasp of the tongue as he often found himself enmeshed in Tagalog. His voice was clear and vibrant. It has not lost its life.
“In the short span of an hour during which we talked and dined with him, we came to know him deeply. From the bright glow in his eyes we knew that from the bottom of his heart he was happy to see his countrymen. In fact, from the very ring of his voice we knew how touched he was when
Director Perfecto Laguio (who came in later with his wife) asked him if it was not true that he was ready to return to the Philippines.
“‘I must tell you that I really want to go back to our country,’ he said solemnly, ‘but there are a few more things I want to clear up before I return.’
“The General spoke highly of our Commonwealth President and predicted that under his leadership the country will prosper immediately. That he had a high esteem for President Quezon and that they are good friends we did not doubt as the pictures on the walls were mute testimonies of their regard for each other.
“That the General’s patriotism has not subsided with the years is also fully attested not only by the manner in which he keeps his house rich with relics of Philippine life and traditions but also by the trip made by his wife and granddaughter on the eve of the Commonwealth inauguration to present the Filipino flag as a gift of General Ricarte to President Quezon.
“As I curiously looked at the pictures on the wall, I came upon a calendar that appeared totally strange to me. The months and days were entirely different from our Roman calendar. Later I found out that in the General’s calendar, Sunday is Burgos, Monday is Zamora, Tuesday is Plaridel, Wednesday is Bonifacio, Thursday is Rizal, Friday is Gomez, and Saturday is Pingkian. The months have also the following equivalents: January-Tandang Sora; February-Romanluna; March-Lictopaciosalas; April-Malbatinyo; May-Caginaldiengko; June-Lukbanhizon; July-Tilapilakin; August-Cantironatibidad; September-Labongmainam; October-Lopeshaena; November-Palbaresfullon; and December-Talalimbon.
“During the interview we casually touched on the subjects of Bushido, Buddhism and Shintoism, and of the Japanese language.
“‘I am strong for the teaching of the Japanese language in our middle schools in the Islands,’ the General declared. ‘In fact, I have always advocated this to our assemblymen who come to visit me. I am also for a national language of the country. We need a mother tongue,’ he said.
“Another bunch of Filipino visitors came in by this time, and as the place was getting rather crowded we thought it was best that we took our leave. Those of us who brought their autograph albums kept the General busy for some time. Then he opened his bookcase and brought out some pamphlets which he autographed and gave to us as souvenirs.”
During the war, Ricarte was returned by the Japanese Military Administration to the Philippines, where he founded the Makapili. By then he was on the wrong side of history, and at the end of the war he joined the retreating Japanese troops to the mountains of Ifugao, where he died of old age in July 1945, scared of his own people.
Ricarte lived too long. Had he died on the battlefield in the Philippine wars of independence, he would have been a hero. But by joining the Japanese against his old enemy, the United States, he became, not a hero, but a heel.
* * *
Comments are welcome at [email protected]
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.