If it has not done so already, the City of Ghent in Belgium is planning to name one of its streets after a Bontoc Igorot named Timicheg. Why the honor, you might wonder? Along with other Igorots, Timicheg was brought to Ghent by an American impressario to be displayed during the World’s Fair held in that Belgian city. So it’s sort of like the European version of the St. Louis World Exposition where Igorots were also displayed. As the story goes, the Igorots were then abandoned by their manager and our kailiyan Timicheg died reportedly because of depression and the cold weather.
Ambeth Ocampo has the story which I am shamelessly stealing and posting here. Anyways, are you related to Timicheg by any chance?
TIMICHEG by Ambeth Ocampo: The story begins with a letter from Adrian Elmer S. Cruz, third secretary and vice consul in our embassy in The Hague, that I received last month. He wrote:
“The city of Gent in Belgium is seeking our assistance to find out the name of an unidentified (sic) Filipino who died in Ghent, Belgium some time in 1913 during the World’s Fair. The following is the information provided by Mr. Andre Capiteyn of the City Archives Ghent:
“During the World’s Fair in Ghent 1913, one of the attractions was the so-called Filipino Village. In that village about sixty Filipinos ‘Igoroten van de Haino-stam’ [Igorots of the Haino tribe] were displaying their traditional activities. The whole show was organized by an impresario who traveled with his group all over Europe. One child was born during their stay in Ghent, a girl called Flandria. And one man died, at the age of 28, according to the newspaper, as a result of depression and the cold weather. At the end of the World’s Fair, the manager disappeared with the profits and left the Filipinos alone and helpless. Presently, the city would want to give a street name to said Filipino. Based on the newspapers of the time his name was TIMITEG, but the death certificate reads TIMICHEG.”
I have it on good authority that “Timicheg” is the way his name is pronounced. His death certificate states that he was from Bontoc, his parents were named Beda and Nomanchan, and if the data quoted above are correct, he was not from a “Haino tribe” but probably came from a place near the Aino River. Fortunately, primary-source research in the United States has been undertaken and written up by Patricia O. Afable, an anthropologist based in the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., who specializes in American Indians. Dr. Afable says that Timicheg was part of a group of 55 Filipinos from Bontoc who traveled to France in the spring of 1911. Their services were contracted by a veteran of the Filipino-American War named Richard Schneidewind who made friends with the Filipinos “displayed” in the St. Louis Exposition of 1904, where he maintained a tobacco concession.
What is interesting is that some prominent people in the Cordilleras, including the famous Episcopalian Bishop Brent, tried in vain to stop the departure of the Bontoc people because they were against the continuing display of “Igorots” in carnivals and freak shoes in the United States, after the St. Louis Expo where they were a big hit. Schneidewind took these people on tour through France, England and Belgium, but ran into financial difficulties, resulting in some of them wandering the streets of Ghent in search of food and money. Their interpreters, named Ellis Tongai and James Amok, even wrote a letter to US President Woodrow Wilson requesting for help to return home.
In December 1913, the US consul in Ghent took the Bontoc people to Marseilles, where they caught a steamer to Manila. One man allegedly jumped the caravan in Ghent and was last seen boarding a train to Brussels. Could this have been Timicheg who died of cold and depression in 1913?
The outlines of Timicheg’s story are very engaging indeed and we hope someone can flesh it out before the Ghent street is named after him.
Interestingly, a great grand child of Richard Schneidewind, the one who recruited the Igorots and abandoned them in Belgium, has a blog post on this matter here.