THE TWENTY FIFTH OF OCTOBER
RENATO REDENTOR CONSTANTINO
October 25, 2004
Twenty four hours of forever just for today: let us confer immortality on the twenty fifth of October.
On this day in 1881, Pablo Ruiz came into the world. An obstinate man of many temperaments, he chose many names for himself as he cascaded through his conjured worlds. Once he called himself 'P.R.'; another time he named himself 'Pau.' In the end he settled for Picasso.
In the Polish city of Wroclaw at a world congress of intellectuals for peace in 1948, for the first and only time in his life, Pablo Picasso makes a speech: "I have a friend who ought to be here." He is "the greatest poet of the Spanish language and one of the greatest poets on earth, who has always taken the side of the unfortunate: Pablo Neruda, persecuted by the police in Chile, cornered like a dog," the famed painter declaims as the thunder of verse and canvas intersect.[i]
On this day in 1898 in Malolos, Philippines, the Filipino Military Academy was established. The school was set up to train officers in the revolutionary army of the Filipino Republic but it does not prosper: America invades the first republic in Asia three months later. It takes America over a decade before it finally crushes armed Filipino resistance. At least 250,000 Filipinos perish in the war between the US and the Philippines.[ii]
The regiment of Marvin B. Russell arrived in Manila Bay on October 25, 1900. Russell was a veteran of the Spanish-American War who rejoined the US army to take part in America's occupation of the nascent Philippine Republic. "[A]s we struggled through the jungles pursuing our elusive foe," wrote Russell in a letter to his homeland, "we grew to hate everyone, and sometimes we took our frustrations out by abusing hapless civilians who got in the Army's way."[iii]
On this day in 1929, American newspapers, bankers and businessmen spend the day and the entire weekend trying to assure the public that the US financial industry is stable and secure. On the same day the US stock market was lurching terminally, The Casa Loma Orchestra conducted by Glen Gray records "Happy Days Are Here Again."[iv]
From October 25 to October 26 in 1944, "the greatest naval battle in history" blazed and boomed across Surigao Strait in the Philippines.[v] Across the roiling waters the fleets of America and Japan lock horns. America emerges victorious and humbles the imperial Japanese forces. Years later, after extorting economic and military basing concessions from the Philippines in exchange for Philippine independence, the US rehabilitates the economy of Japan.[vi]
The child Sadako Sasaki, died on this day in 1955 at the age of twelve. Sadako was two when the atom bomb was dropped on her hometown of Hiroshima. She was 11 when she was diagnosed with what her city called "the atom bomb disease" - leukemia.
While hospitalized, Sadako's closest friend told her of a Japanese legend - if she folded a thousand paper cranes, the gods might grant her wish to be well again. Sadako folded medicine paper, newspapers, magazines and other scraps of paper her family and friends brought her. She folded and folded hundreds of cranes even as she watched friends and other people die in the hospital alongside her. One day Sadako realized her wish had changed. She no longer wished for her own health. "I will write peace on your wings and you will fly all over the world," Sadako whispered to her cranes as she wished for a world without bombs and wars.
Sadako manages to fold only 644 cranes before she dies, but friends, classmates, and family fold for her the remaining 356 cranes. The message of Sadako is lifted by other cranes: a statue of Sadako is unveiled at Hiroshima Peace Park; another is erected in Seattle. Thousands upon thousands of paper cranes fly over from all over the world, the manifold wishes of children and adults soaring across borders and time.[vii]
On October 25, 1960, Lady Liberty pays a visit to Decatur, Georgia, USA. Martin Luther King, Jr. is held over on old traffic ticket charges and jailed. He is denied bail and sentenced to four months of hard labor the next day.
American author John Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature on this day in 1962. "Literature," said Steinbeck in his acceptance speech, "was not promulgated by a pale and emasculated critical priesthood singing their litanies in empty churches - nor is it a game for the cloistered elect, the tin-horn mendicants of low calorie despair . . . Literature is as old as speech. It grew out of human need for it and it has not changed except to become more needed . . . The ancient commission of the writer has not changed."[viii]
On this day in 1966 the Black Panther Party was founded. America is shaken. At a massive anti-war demonstration in Manhattan six months after it's founding, prominent Black Panther member Stokely Carmichael denounces the Vietnam war draft as "white people sending black people to make war on yellow people in order to defend land they stole from red people."[ix]
On October 25, 1981 150,000 participate in an anti-nuke protest in London. Across borders and time Sadako's paper cranes continue to fly.
On this day in 1983, America - the protector of the weak and foe of oppression - invades Grenada, a country whose population numbered only around 100,000.
"There is something of mortality about the smell of musty books," said Pablo Neruda. "It assaults the nostrils and strikes the rugged terrain of the soul, because it is the odor of oblivion, or buried memory."[x]
To live is to remember. To keep away the mildew from memory's manuscripts - this is the urgent task at hand.
[i] Eduardo Galeano, Memory of Fire: Century of the Wind, W. W. Norton & Company, 1998.
[ii] "Keeping the Spirit of 1896 Alive," Onofre D. Corpuz, in Hector Santos, ed., Philippine Centennial Series, October 10, 1996. Adapted for the internet from a speech delivered by Corpuz on June 14, 1996 to the U.P. Alumni Council.
[iii] Letter of Marvin B. Russell Late member of Co. I, Thirty fourth, United States Volunteers. See The Arkansas News
[iv] From The Daily Bleed - a website that is often, as it self-description states, "a wake-up call that is better than boiled coffee." The site is managed by Bleedmeister David Brown and is freely produced by Recollection Used Books.
[v] From the Depart of Tourism website of the government of the Philippines.
[vi] "The narratives of friendship," Renato Redentor Constantino, Today, October 18, 2004.
[vii] Visit these two valuable sites for more information and for new ways to contribute world disarmament and peace: http://www.sadako.org/ and http://www.sadako.com/.
[viii] The Portable Steinbeck (Revised and Enlarged Edition), ed. Pascal Covici, Jr., Penguin Books, 1985.
[ix] Quoted by Arundhati Roy, in "Instant-Mix Imperial Democracy, Buy One Get One Free," transcript of audio address in New York, May 13, 2003.
[x] "Odors of Homecoming," Pablo Neruda, Novedades, 1952, in Pablo Neruda, Passions and Impressions, Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 1984.