One of the most pleasing stories I've read lately was of the Frieder brothers. They were Jewish-Americans who ran a cigar factory up till the outbreak of World War II. They managed to arrange for the migration of about 1400 fellow Jews from Nazi-controlled Germany and Austria. This is a familiar story and theme.
I admit to growing up not thinking highly of my homeland’s own story. I could attribute it to a number of reasons. For example, I believe it would have been difficult for even the most dedicated and motivated teachers to substitute pride and accomplishment for the fear and discontent of the early 1980s . There was the material we had to learn from, books printed on recycled paper, filled with mostly dry and completely un-dramatic text. Pictures were seldom available.
Against a backdrop of slick, lavishly illustrated encyclopedias and magazines featuring America, Europe, Japan, and others, the stories of my country seem to easily fade into a drab and monochromatic echo of sorrow and loss.
I like to think that I did manage to avoid the sense of hopelessness and self-loathing that seems to come too easily when my country’s own history is concerned. The things that help are stories like that of the Frieder brothers.
The Frieder factory was in Manila, and the migration was with the knowledge and consent of the President, Manuel Quezon.
A whole lot has been written about the motives and roles of the players of that story. Certainly, the focus changes with each of the different accounts.
What remains constant is that at one point in our history, we performed an act for no real gain. We performed an act for a group not of our race or religion because, among others, such things didn’t really matter to us.
This was a time when the wealthier countries, the United States included, refused such acts, simply because those things did matter.
I would have liked knowing these things when I was younger.
But I am glad to know of these things now. I am glad to know now of our stories, filled with independence, maturity, and unique generosity.