Friday, November 21, 2008


During the 1930s, as the Great Depression unfolded -- scarring the lives of millions of Americans and spurring debates amongst seasoned economists as to what caused it -- the Philippines, a US protectorate, radiated confidence despite some dark clouds that hovered over its economic and political landscapes.

ruled ineligible for American citizenship and barred from immigrating to the United States, the Filipinos somehow never lost their faith in the Great American Dream. To ease this astonishing prohibition, the Tydings-McDuffie Act of 1935 allowed a quota of 50 Filipinos a year to immigrate to the US, though the anti-miscegenation law enacted two years later deemed inter-racial marriage (between a Filipino and a white American) illegal.

Nonetheless, this seemingly unwelcome mat didn't sully the inherent hospitality of the Filipinos.

During the late 1930s, while
a Miami port turned away the liner St. Louis with a boatload of 900 Jews (reflecting America's anti-Semitic policy during that period), about 1,200 German and Austrian Jews found sanctuary in the Philippines. They arrived in Manila's port from Shanghai while it was then under siege by the Japanese. Thousands more of these European Jews were to come and call the Philippines their new home.

And as millions of folks
across the United States grappled with the oppressive burdens of the Great Depression, over at the ultra-modern Crystal Arcade building on Escolta -- which had become Manila's "peacetime" stock exchange -- stockholders of mining firms feverishly traded stocks amongst themselves, though most were worthless. That was because these gold companies very rarely conducted any actual mining; thus, the "gold profits" they boasted, if any, were nothing more than paper profits.

The blinding prospect of becoming rich overnight somehow obscured reality, allowing the gold mine boom of the hard-up 1930s to continue undeterred.

But what was to eventually become a major hit amongst the local folks, which made many of them rich overnight indeed, was the Sweepstakes. In one instance, on September 8, 1935,
jockey Ordiales rode "Sugar Babe" to a victory, giving a 12-year-old peasant girl from Tayabas -- who was the holder of the lucky ticket -- a whopping 75 thousand pesos. An enormous fortune at that time.

Meanwhile, back in the States, it was also a race horse that was becoming a symbol of hope; a cultural icon, in fact.

This stallion's riveting tale of grit, grace, luck, and an underdog's stubborn determination was swaying over the nation's imagination. Over terrible handicaps this horse triumphed; becoming a champion and a legend of the racetrack. But more astoundingly, this horse healed the wearied soul of a nation battered by a staggering financial collapse. The horse's name was Seabiscuit.


The Philippines: A Unique Nation
by Sonia M. Zaide
All Nations Publishing O, Inc.

Manila, My Manila
by Nick Joaquin

Seabiscuit: An American Legend
by Laura Hillenbrand
Ballantine Books

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© Señor Enrique

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posted by Señor Enrique at 6:55 AM


Blogger BCS said...

Hi Señor Enrique, any more details about the peasant girl from Tayabas? Been wishing for a similar luck in my life for as far as I can remember... siiiigh...

November 21, 2008 10:56 AM  

Blogger reyd said...

Thanks for this feature about the past depression condition and of what we might be facing now.
We all need something to look up to that will give us hope for a better future. Past history gave us a lot of those and we surely need a lot more.

We need more of those Seabiscuits and luck with a single bright idea that can turn back this global crisis.

I have the book and saw the latest movie about "Seabiscuit". As a horseracing fan, I can only dream of owning one like him.

What's happening right now in the US is :

"See Business Quit" ~ it rhymes. :lol:

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you, in advance just in case.

November 21, 2008 12:05 PM  

Blogger Unknown said...

I didn't know the film "Seabiscuit" was based on a novel. It's an inspiring story. With the current financial crisis, we all need an inspiration.

November 21, 2008 1:36 PM  

Blogger nutart said...

Gee, Eric! I recall having to memorize that name of Tydings-McDuffy act (don't know whether I even spelled it correctly but doesn't matter). Didn't even know what it was all about! Kaya thanks again for bringing it back!
The US is really quite a country of IRONIES :-)! All these banning of inter-marriages and yet...a new people have sprouted out of these---of super-mixed lineages! :-D

My husband told me that we won't feel the global economic crunch because we simply have lived the crunch for quite a while and are comfortable na in it, thank you! ;-) Well, we had to reset our priorities and look at life in another way---inner na!

November 21, 2008 6:55 PM  

Blogger Dennis Villegas said...

Indeed luck and serendipity is the instant way to riches...I myself bet in Lotto once in a while, because you'll just never know...But it seems that the last time I betted was last year pa hehehe...

November 21, 2008 8:47 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, what luck for the girl who won 75thousand pesos from the Sweepstakes!

Couple of years ago, hubby and I got into the habit of buying lotto ticket everyday, betting on the same number combination each time. One evening, I was watching the draw live on tv, and to my amazement, our first, second and third numbers were drawn! I was holding my breath in excitement, but then, realizing we might just win the 200 million jackpot, some kind of fear gripped me. And that's when luck slipped away; the next three numbers did not match ours anymore. Sigh... I guess I was not ready to become rich. :(

We have long stopped the lotto habit already, though we still occasionally buy a ticket, not so much for the hope of winning but to be able to give our little share to charity for which the proceeds of the PCSO are intended.

November 21, 2008 9:33 PM  

Blogger Ebb Tide said...

I have seen the movie "Seabiscuit" many time and read the book too. Very inspiring indeed. I think the book is not about luck but more about perseverance during difficult economic times. Instant wealth is exciting but we appreciate our wealth more when accumulated over the long haul.

November 22, 2008 1:39 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I'm wondering how much P75,000 back in those days translates into today's value, BCS.

Don't have anymore info on that Tayabas peasant girl, but if she and her parents were wise with her winnings, I bet they could be one of the affluent families these days in that province.

As for luck in similar prospects, you may want to check out a story I'd once written on it, "Windfall":

November 22, 2008 7:23 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

My pleasure, Reyd!

Many friends in NYC are very anxious these days; most are concerned about losing their jobs, while others already did. Mortgage payments and their kids' college tuition fees are now on the line.

And on top of the current economic woes, there is also the issue of pulling out the US forces out of Iraq. Jeeez ... Obama does have a handful to deal with.

Yes, Americans can use someone or something to uplift their spirits and give them hope for a brighter economic landscape.

November 22, 2008 7:32 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

But like many films based on novels, this film adaptation was not as true to the book, but nonetheless a great movie with awesome cinematography, Luna.

Yes, I too find both the book and film "inspiring."

November 22, 2008 7:34 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

I think we have enough of the "belt-tightening experience", Bernadette, and hope we no longer have to get more of it.

A major "inner transformation" for the better is indeed a good idea. I wonder if many Americans are now realizing thge sheer "emptiness" brought about by excessive materialism and consumerism, which had only set them back with an average $20,000 credit card debt.

Many also succumb to the "homeownership American dream" without fully realizing the costs of actually owning a house and lot, besides the monthly mortgage payments involved.

I am really hoping that the US will soon device an immediate relief from this frightening financial quandary.

November 22, 2008 7:46 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Believe it or not, Dennis, seems like quite a number of Pinoys abroad have been winning Lotto jackpots, and have been coming home to build grand houses and living opulent lives. I think it's wonderful!

You really never know :)

November 22, 2008 7:49 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Years ago in school, Rhoda, my marketing professor said that "hope" if packaged properly could yield enormous profits. Hence, lottos and beauty products will forever rake in incredible revenues.

November 22, 2008 7:54 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

That is true, Ebb Tide -- anything worked for is much more appreciated in the long run.

Here in Manila, I have seen enough cases of descendants of hard working folks spending their inheritance money and assets as if there is no tomorrow :(

November 22, 2008 7:56 AM  

Blogger Amadeo said...

If we are now cringing at what is happening and unraveling in the US, remember that the 30’s unequivocal lessons are that the rippling effects of the malaise will reverberate in all parts of the globe – definitely including these shores. Recounting the 30’s then provide ample introductory data on how to react promptly and early – even given that the current situation is not completely similar to what happened then. Remember again that most wise politicians and economists are humble enough to admit that nobody really knows what is happening in the world’s economies today and how best to resolve them. Everybody is learning as we move along, from day to day. So any iron-clad pontifications churned out by media and other sources are at best calculated estimations and guesses.

Also, those who view the US with their narrow political prism, I can only recommend that you try to secure available information out there from all possible sources, so that your criticisms will truly be informed by facts rather than media spin or talking points. There are always many sides to the issues that we are confronted with. I say this because when scanning through blog entries I sense a narrow one-sidedness in how certain people comment on political and economic realities.

November 24, 2008 6:34 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Good point, Amadeo. If to this day conservative and liberal economists are still unable to find the root cause of the Great Depression of the '30s, I'm sure this new one will bear the same quandary.

However, there are tell-tale signs that may be attributed to the current ongoing US financial collapse. One of which was the banks aggressive issuance of pre-approved credit that some Americans had used as down payments toward the purchase of new homes.

But nonetheless, would most appreciate your shari g with us your insight as to what could have been possible causes of the current US economic downslide.

Many thanks, Amadeo!

November 24, 2008 8:03 AM  

Blogger Amadeo said...

However, there are tell-tale signs that may be attributed to the current ongoing US financial collapse. One of which was the banks aggressive issuance of pre-approved credit that some Americans had used as down payments toward the purchase of new homes.

Banks are creatures of profit and would never willfully do things to hurt that goal. If they threw away age-old traditional standards that could have protected them and everybody else, it could possibly mean that certain extraneous forces were applied to make them do it.

When home ownership in the US reached staggering proportions, like above 60%, well-meaning politicians inserted themselves into the equation by demanding from banks, through moral suasion or even possible shakedowns, that they too serve those less fortunate to come up with decent enough jobs or enough savings to make the required down payments. This gave birth to the subprime mortgages. And which ideology is more attuned to social re-engineering?

In 2005, when the subprime mess was rearing its ugly head, those responsible for regulatory oversight and regulation tried to rein it in. But were stymied. But again, by which ideology which laid its bets on the poor and dispossessed in the minority groups? Remember giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac started the cascading economic crises. In 2005, those two were precisely the subject for stricter regulatory oversight.

And we have not yet hit bottom. Some project that as many as 10 million illegal aliens got mortgages. Most of them will simply walk away from them. In one congressional district in Colorado, 10,000 actual foreclosures can be traced to illegal aliens, who simply walked away stripping the nice looking and relative new houses down to their copper piping and wiring. How many more foreclosures to drag the US economy down?

And while we are observing these, home values in populous states like California have already dropped 50% and more. Pension funds of about 80 million Americans, who hitched their futures to the markets, have similarly been decimated. And still counting. The other day the DOW Ind dropped to the 7k level, which would be half of what it was from its height.

November 24, 2008 8:41 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

Oh my. Truly alarming, indeed, Amadeo. A NY Times article featured how some senior citizens are unable to sell their homes these days and move to homes that will provide them with much required care. Hence, many American elderly folks are living in houses that are now too big and not too safe for them to inhabit alone.

Incidentally, some friends had emailed that rental fees in some areas have also been skyrocketing. And even more unfortunate, many have seen their 401Ks significantly decrease in value.

You're rght: we are yet to see the end of this.

Thanks, Amadeo.

November 24, 2008 11:29 AM  

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Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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