Sunday, September 6, 2009

85. 1939 PHILIPPINE EXPOSITION (Manila Carnival)

LIGHTS OUT. The last Carnival ended ominously with the start of the war in Europe. In just 3 years, the war would reach Manila, devastating the country and erasing every trace of our joyous Carnival days.

Interest in the Carnival began to wane in its last two outings, where attendance significantly dropped. After 21 years, the event was getting harder to sustain—and so was the interest of people who, it seemed, have seen it all. Sourcing funds was the biggest problem as corporate and private sponsors started to drop out and provincial participation wavered. There were other distractions for Filipinos like the threat of an impending War that was already raging in Europe. The mood, while upbeat, was also cautious—indeed, pistaym was about to end.

Three years of the Commonwealth had also started to change Filipinos’ mindset as they dreamt of the prospect of their own independence. In their most likely view, two decades of “celebrating Philippine-U.S. goodwill” was enough. Still to some others, the Carnival had just naturally ran its course. And so, in 1939, government decided to suspend its funding of the Manila Carnival to the dismay of the organizers.

Defending the cause of the 1939 Carnival, A.V.P. Hartendorp, an American editor wrote:

“ Jugglers and magicians, tight rope walkers, high divers and bareback riders, tumblers and contortionists, giants, dwarfs and fat ladies, clowns and pantaloons, chorus girls and hula-hula dancers, gypsies, fortune tellers and phrenologists, trained horses, 2 –headed calves, puppet shows, merry go rounds, ferris wheels and skating rinks, sparkling, beautiful girls behind black dominoes, dancing, romance, lights, music, noise, popcorn and peanuts—who is the man unburied, who is so dead that he can fail to respond to such things if only a year? And then there are the children. Ask the children whether they want the Carnival..”.

Not even this impassioned plea could make the government change its decision withdraw its funding for this event to be shifted to other nation-building priorities. The Carnival tradition which began in 1908, thus came to its glorious conclusion when the lights of the Manila Carnival—once touted as the greatest event in the Orient—blinked out for one last time.

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