Presidio of San Francisco (November 23, 2009) — The Presidio Trust’s powerful and moving exhibit, War and Dissent: The U.S. in the Philippines 1898-1915 begins a three-month showing at the National Museum of the Filipino People in Manila in December. The exhibit’s nine themed galleries trace the rise of the Presidio into a major military institution and the growth of the United States into an imperial power.
“The exhibit was designed to be able to travel,” says Jeff Weik public programs manager with the Trust. “But we anticipated it would go locally to schools and community groups. I don’t think we ever imagined it would go to Manila.”
“It’s extremely exciting and quite an honor for the Trust to be presenting the exhibit at the Philippines’ national museum,” says Dr. Randolph Delehanty, the Trust’s historian and the creator of the exhibit.
War and Dissent grew out of a gift and a question. A Sacramento man, Alan Harlow, gave his grandfather’s diary and 80 photographs he had collected to the Presidio Trust library. Sgt. Hiram Harlow of the 51ST Iowa Volunteer Infantry had trained at the Presidio. The donation came with a question: Mr. Harlow wanted to know why his grandfather was in the Philippines at the end of the 19th century.
Using Sgt. Harlow’s diary as one of its sources, the exhibit explores the war in the Philippines from several points of view. Delehanty presents Sgt. Harlow’s story, the struggles of the Philippine independence movement against both Spain and the United States, and the experience of the Lopez family, three of whose brothers were imprisoned by the U.S. Army. Their sisters wrote a series of letters in 1901 and 1902, as the war was going on, trying to get their brothers out of jail.
It was a direct descendant of the Lopez siblings that was instrumental in bringing the exhibit to the Philippines. Victoria Lopez had heard of the exhibit and arranged to see it while vacationing in the Bay Area. “That photo is on my mantelpiece in the Philippines,” Ms. Lopez remarked at one point as she walked through the galleries at times with tears in her eyes. She finally asked, “Is this exhibit available to come to Manila?”
Now, after several months of negotiations, Delehanty and Weik will accompany the exhibit’s 53 panels to Manila for the opening. Delehanty will also give lectures, guided walks through the galleries and train docents.
“We’re very proud of the exhibit,” says Weik. “It touched a nerve with so many people here in the schools, in the Philippine-American community, beyond the Bay Area and internationally as well. It’s a story that needed to be told. It is being told and it started here.”
“I think the primary reason why this exhibit touched so many people,” adds Delehanty, “was because it was news to them. After all, this was €˜The Forgotten War’. It was a critical moment in American history domestically and internationally. It changed our stance in the world and we became a great power. And then there’s this backlash inside the United States that leaves a very distinguished record of dissent.”
The Lopez letters were also the basis for Shadows of War, a unique multi-media production staged during the exhibit. Produced by Bindlestiff Studio, a Filipino-American theater group based in San Francisco, Shadows of War incorporates live actors and music silhouetted against a backdrop of historical photos that illustrates the stories of the Lopez family and their involvement in the Filipino-American war. Several members of the original production are also going to Manila to train Philippine actors and crew members to present the piece.
War and Dissent originally ran at the Presidio Officers’ Club for four months from October 2008 through January 2009. It opens at the National Museum of the Filipino People in Manila December 3 and runs through March 7, 2010. The exhibit is being sponsored by the National Museum of the Filipino People, the Lopez of Balayan Foundation, and the Fundacion Santiago.
The Presidio Trust was established by the United States Congress in 1996 to administer the Presidio of San Francisco, an urban national park located at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge. The areas overseen by the Trust include expansive open space and spectacular views, a 300-acre historic forest, and rare and endangered plants and wildlife. The park comprises nearly 6 million square feet of buildings, including 469 historic structures that contribute to the Presidio’s status as a National Historic Landmark District.”