Thursday, June 30, 2011

Spotlight on Herbert Zipper

"Scratch an orchestra musician in Manila and you will find Herbert Zipper"

A Matter of Introduction

Herbert Zipper
In summer of 1995, while living in Zürich, I made a side trip to Munich, Germany.  It was my first visit to the Bavarian region and due to excitement,  I remember cramming on the historical places I wanted to visit, that in the end I actually ran out of places to go. Then I thought of Dachau. So in the last pace of my tour, I decided to drop by the Dachau concentration camp, about 20 kilometers from Munich.

 Once in Dachau, I chanced upon the list of people incarcerated there. There were  poets, writers, artists,  politicians and even musicians.  Dachau happens to be one of the early places where the Nazis started Adolf Hitler's Nazification progam, an experiment in terror and inhumanity. Intellectuals were among the very first ...... And true enough after they burned books, they started to burn people... Going to the list of musician/intellectual one name caught my eyes, the name; Herbert Zipper.
Dachau,  place of horrendous  brutalities in Nazi times

I recall, in the rehearsal hall of the old Manila Symphony Orchestra (MSO I) at  the Manila Metropolitan Theater,  two pictures hang on the wall,  that of  MSO founder, Alexander Lippay and Herbert Zipper  the orchestra's famous conductor. So there in Dachau I asked myself: "Is this Herbert Zipper and the celebrated Herbert Zipper of MSO,  one person?" I also remember some MSO old timers telling me; Zipper was MSO conductor before and also during the Japanese occupation. If it was him, how did he made it to Manila?
The author at Dachau's commemorative wall

When I went back to Zurich, I wamted to do further research, I wanted to find out more about this case, maybe of two Herbert Zippers? I went to Zürich Central Library to do a check. In the computer section of the library, I found out that Herbert Zipper, the former conductor and musical director of the MSO , was the same Herbert Zipper incarcerated at Dachau.

Incarcerated twice
What I found out later was much more interesting. In 1939,  Herbert Zipper was released from Nazi imprisonment.  Once free,  he got an invitation to direct the MSO with the recommendation of his fiancee, viennese ballerina Trudl Dubsky,  who was that time living in Manila and was a dance instructor. He made it to Manila the same year.  After  two years of leading the orchestra, disaster struck once again. Manila surrendered to the Japanese. Zipper was then incarcerated for the second time at the UST internment camp for civilian POW's.
The author at Dachau's main gate and that frightening message

A Viennese Jew
Herbert Zipper was born Aprill 24 1904 to a prosperous Jewish family in the outskirt of Vienna. He studied composition and conducting  under such renowned luminaries as Maurice Ravel  and Richard Strauss. In 1938 after the Nazi Anschluss (annexation of Austria), Zipper like many of Jewish descent was arrested and was sent to Dachau. In the concentration camp, Zipper together with musicians colleagues organized a secret ensemble, playing with improvised instruments on abandoned latrine. Together with a friend playwright Jura Soyfer he wrote "Dachau Lied" (Dachau Song) which became the protest song of the camp. Confronted with inhumanity they organized such activities to make life bearable. It gave him strength to go on and to somehow resist the inconceivable.
Zipper's "Ausweiss" or ID card
Herbert Zipper was then transfered to another camp at Buchenwald in 1939. Finally in the middle of the same year,  his family was able to secure his release. He went to Paris and from there traveled to Manila to lead the MSO and to be with his fiancee Trudl Dubsky,  where they were later married.  Manila that time was fast becoming a haven for Jewish refugees. President Manuel L. Quezon's program of providing asylum to European Jews is unique in history. While other countries refused to take them,  the Philippines was offering a place and even conceptualizing Mindanao as a permanent haven for Jews. So they came, there were businessmen, doctors, engineers and artist like Zipper and his wife who added their expertise to the already rich cultural scene of the country.

Collectively this Jewish refugees would be known as  "Manilaners".

Intelligence for the Allies
 When Manila fell to the Japanese, Zipper was incarcerated at UST for almost four months. Due to the liniency of the Japanese towards German and Austrian Jews in the early part of occupation, Zipper was released. He was asked to lend his services and that of the MSO to the Japanese cultural authorities. It was said that Zipper hid some of the instruments outside Manila, so that they would not play for the Japanese.

LIFE Magazine photo of the UST internment camp for civilian POW's after it was liberated
 Hard times it was during the Japanese occupation. The Zippers lost a lot of their precious posessions. Things were becoming unbearable in  Manila. Basic commodities were scarce,  but such hindrance did not push them into complete inactivity. There are times also that music has to wait for a different cause. Herbert Zipper's inactive days with music was spent gathering intelligence for the Allied forces. Somehow a communique was established. Zipper fed the allied intelligence with informations about the Japanese naval fleet dockings in Manila Bay. Also unknown to the Japanese that time, some members of the MSO were part of a guerilla intelligence group feeding the resistance with much needed infos about Japanese troop numbers and movement in the capital. That some of them, in their nightly gigs at clubs frequented by Japanese officers, were doubling as agent, gathering the needed intelligence.

 When liberation finally came, the American Liberation Forces through Mrs.Jane McArthur (wife of General McArthur), then asked Zipper to lead the MSO in a performance of Beethoven's Symphony no. 3 "Eroica" and Antonin Dvorak's New World Symphony. It was a scene to behold, watching the emaciated Herbert Zipper, fresh from the horrors of the liberation of Manila, conducting the MSO in the half ruined church of Sta Cruz. As if the whole country was saying; " We are still here. You did not completely destroy us!"

The Program that said a lot.
The MSO concert at the ruined Sta. Cruz Church May 1945

To America
After the war, like most Jewish refugees who came to Manila in the 1930's, Herbert Zipper and his wife emigrated to the US. There he received teaching positions to various music institutions and was active organizing and starting many community arts centers throughout the country,  returning only to Manila every summer to conduct the MSO in it's concert season. He also revived the Brooklyn Symphony, an orchestra of people and color,  heralding the truth of racial equality. In 1976 his wife Trudl died of  lung cancer,  but grief did not stop Zipper from continuing on his work in the arts. In the 1980's he began a series of trip to China imparting his knowledge to a new generation of young musicians.

Teacher of our teachers
 In the Philippines, Herbert Zipper is fondly remembered by the generation he trained and conducted as their "Maestro". That when asked about their musical training, most uttered such familiar line: "I was with Zipper".....".I trained under Maestro Zipper". Perhaps the younger generation of musicians does not realized it anymore, but Herbert Zipper was the teacher of our teachers.

One could only sum up Zipper's contribution in Philippine music as simply,  immense. With the of kind of outstanding young talents we have right now in classical music, one cannot help but wonder what could have been without the likes of Maestro Zipper imparting his knowledge to our country. Scratch an orchestra musician in Manila and you will find Herbert Zipper.

In 1995 Herbert Zipper's life was featured in a documentary film, Never Give Up: The 20th Century Odyssey of Herbert Zipper. It was nominated for an Oscar that same year.

Herbert Zipper died in 1997 in Santa Monica, California at the age of 92.


 Paul Cummins' Dachau Song: The 20th Century Odyssey of  Herbert Zipper. Is at the moment the only written biography of Herbert Zipper.

Frank Ephraim wrote a wonderful book entitled, Escape to Manila From Nazi Tyranny to Japanese Terror. It is a good source when dealing with the subject the "Manilaner". It dedicated two pages about Herbert Zipper. It is also interesting to note that Frank Ephraim mentioned that his mother sang in the choir with the MSO conducted by Zipper during a performance of Beethoven's Ode to Joy.

Benito J. Legerda Jr. - Occupation 42 and Occupation:The later years, two books that deals about the Japanese occupation provided me with new insight. It is also interesting to note that Benito J. Legarda's family were early patrons of the Manila Symphony Society and the MSO. In the book Occupation: The Later Years, one can find the photo of Zipper conducting the MSO in the half ruined Sta Cruz church...... Incredible indeed!

On Nazi history particularly about persecution of intellectuals in Nazi times, I cannot think of a better source but to mention "The Rise And Fall of the Third Reich, written by William L. Shirer. One can focus on book two, where the author dicussed the "Nazification of Germany"

 One can check on a link by Dr. Bonnie Harris websiteit is an outstanding study and it has eyewitness narrations  about the Jews of Manila. Thank you Dr. Harris!

Crossroads School in Santa Monica, California, one of the instutions where Herbert Zipper served  has a website lovingly dedicated to Herbert Zipper, (whom they fondly called Papa Z Please check it.

The story about some musicians of MSO being members of the guerilla movement was told to me by my violin teacher, Prof. Rizal V. Reyes, who also trained and performed under Herbert Zipper.


Monday, June 27, 2011

On the Trail of Rizal's Relation with the Katipunan

Rizal's Stance?

Primary sources and established facts point out clearly that José Rizal disowned the 1896 Revolution led by Andres Bonifacio and the Katipunan.  In his manifesto to the Filipino people written during his trial he wrote:
"On my return from Spain, I learned that my name had been used as a war cry among some who were in arms". ....

Then he wrote further: "From the beginning, when I had news of what was being planned, I opposed it, fought it, and demonstrated its absolute impossibility. this is the truth, and there are living witnesses of my words. I was convinced that the idea (the revolution) was highly absurd and what was worse, would bring suffering. I did more. When later, in spite of my counsels, the movement broke out. I spontaneously offered not only my services but my life and even my name to be used in any manner
thought opportune in order to suppress the rebellion.

Finally ending with this words: "Holding this ideas, I cannot do less than to condemn, and I do condemn, this absurd and savage rebellion, plotted behind my back, which dishonors the Filipinos and discredits those who could can be our advocates. I abhor this criminal activities and reject any manner of participation in them, condoling with all heartfelt sadness with those who have been unwary enough to have been fooled. Return then, to your homes, and may God forgive those who have acted in bad faith."

The said manifesto was never published. The Spanish Judge Advocate General recommended to Governor Polavieja to suppressed it. Many historians believes that Rizal was saved from shame of his manifesto being misinterpreted and disobeyed by the Filipinos in arms.

In his defense against charges of his association with the Katipunan Rizal pointed out to the court: "I know nothing of the Katipunan and have had no relations or correspondence with them. I do not know Andres Bonifacio, even by name...
Further on with his defense:"I have absolutely nothing to do with politics from the 6th July 1892 until the 1st of July 1896  when I was informed by Pio Velenzuela that an uprising would be attempted, I advised against it and tried to reason him out of it.

Andres Bonifacio

Flashback: Before 1896

On 3rd July 1892, a week after his return from Hong Kong, Jose Rizal founded the "Liga Filipina." It was inaugurated  that July night at No.176 Ilaya , Tondo Manila with  Ambrosio Salvador elected as President, Agustin de la Rosa, Fiscal; Bonifacio Arevalo, Treasurer: and Deodato Arellano, Secretary. On that same event, Rizal also met prominent patriots, members of the newly formed "Liga", who would later then play a big role in our history. Patriots like Apolinario Mabini, Andres Bonifacio, Pedro Serrano Laktaw, Timoteo Paez etc. The aims of the "Liga Filipina" were:

  1. To unite the whole archipelago into one compact and homogeneous body.
  2.Mutual protection in every want and necessity.
  3. Defense against all violence and injustice.
  4. Encouragement of instruction, agriculture and commerce
  5. Study and application of reforms.

Four days after the founding of the "Liga Filipina",  Rizal was arrested then deported to Dapitan. His deportation, signaled the end of the moderate path.  It was the start of the belief in arm struggle. On that same day, in a secret conclave Andres Bonifacio and  his colleagues in the beleaguered "Liga ", founded the Kataastaasan Kagalangalangan Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan or simply, Katipunan. It was a more radical group for it's main  objective was the independence of the whole archipelago through armed struggle; Revolution.
Bonifacio's Banner

 One perhaps could not think of a better Tagalog word to translate the Spanish "La Liga",  one word fits: Katipunan

The secret society grew from day to day. But even in exile José Rizal played a prominent role at least in it's rituals and daily practices. Teodoro Agoncillo in his book "The revolt of the Masses" wrote "In studying the method, procedure, structure of the Katipunan, one is inevitably moved to the conclusion that the society, such as it was, drew its inspiration from Masonry in matters of initiation rites and partly from Rizal's La Liga Filipina in matters affecting structures."

Rizal name was a Katipunan pass word and a battle cry. His pictures adorned most of it's secret conclave. To simply state it: José Rizal was the living inspiration of the Katipunan.

Never Knew or heard the Katipunan before?

When was the first time Rizal heard the existence of this secret society? (A society that was  becoming from day to day, evident even to the Spanish authorities) If he ever heard the word "Katipunan" did it  came to him that it was somehow  almost a perfect translation to the word Liga? Was he too busy with exile and with Josephine Bracken not to bother?

The Women's Chapter of the Katipunan (A Clear Evidence?)

Josefa Rizal
Again in Teodoro Agoncillo's "The Revolt of the Masses: "Prominent women in various communities were initiated in the Katipunan in the mid 1893. Among these women were Josefa Rizal (sister of Jose Rizal) and Angelica Rizal Lopez.(niece). Both women subsequently became officers of the women's chapter. Josefa Rizal was President  while Angelica Rizal Lopez was Fiscal."    Agoncillo  in quoting the memoirs of Gregoria de Jesus, also mentioned the Katipunan wedding rites of Andres Bonifacio  and Gregoria de Jesus whereby officer- members of the secret society was in attendance among them were Trinidad and Josefa Rizal. Relying on this sources, can it be speculated that there were substantial contacts between the Rizal sisters and the Katipunan before the revolution? Could it be that Jose Rizal had foreknowledge of the existence of the Katipunan long before that fateful meeting with Pio Valenzuela in Dapitan mid July of 1896? It is highly improbable that with his stature, Rizal would not be consulted by his sisters about the existence of the Katipunan. Perhaps Rizal was too busy to listen to them or maybe they did not mentioned it at all? Which is very remote. Rizal's reputation was so big for his family to be ignored. It is unthinkable that they did not even consulted him about this secret society.

And when Pio Velenzuela consulted Rizal in Dapitan, he came on the same ship which Trinidad took, coincidence?

Trinidad Rizal

A Family Oppressed

If there was a family in 19th century Philippines  who we can say really suffered under the yoke of the friars and a dysfunctional colonial system then it would have to be the Mercado-Rizal family of Calamba Laguna.

Starting with matriarch Doña Teodora Alonzo,  who was arrested on malicious charges of attempting to poison  her brother's wife, She was ordered to walk from Calamba to to the provincial capital of Santa Cruz, a distance of 50 km. She was then imprisoned in the capital for almost 2 and a half years.

Then there was the Calamba land row in the 1890's, were the Rizals and other families of the town were forcibly evicted from their homes and from the land they were tilling by the Spanish authorities acting on the request of the alleged owner of the estate, the Domnicans. Paciano and two brothers in law were exiled to Mindoro another was banished in Bohol. Doña Teodora and sisters Josefa and Trinidad was then summoned by the authorities. And for the second time Doña Teodora was a victim of another absurd accusation. She was charged of declaring her name improperly. The authorities pointed out that she should declare herself as Teodora Realonda y Rizal and not the mere Teadora Alonso. For the second time the mother of Rizal,  by that time aged  64 and almost blind, was forced again to walk the whole afternoon going to Santa Cruz,  with a daughter guiding her steps.

Who would not turn radical with this injustice? Who would not find the Katipunan unattractive?  Do the he women of the Rizal family saw the Katipunan as a means to gain justice to the wrongs done to them?  Revenge?

Jose Rizal in Survival Mode

The defense of Rizal, including his denial of the Katipunan, was the time when Rizal was fighting for his own survival . What went into his mind? Somehow there could be this thought of trying to evade death, to stay alive and fight another day. Did he already knew the existence of the Katipunan long before that meeting with Pio Valenzuela and  that he discouraged the armed struggle, not because he was against it completely but because it was simply premature?

He still held two options in his mind. First , was reform through negotiation and positive action. The last option; Revolution. It was too late to realize that he has no option after all.  From the very beginning,  events would actually find a way to resolve itself.

Overtaken by Event. Devoured by Saturn

Overtaken by the events, overtaken by the revolution,  that's how one can describe  Rizal during his last days. Pondering upon it deeper it was not only Rizal who was overtaken by the events.  Everybody involved in this history were overtaken. Bonifacio, the Katipunan, the Rizal Family, the entire country. The idea that Rizal spread, the inspiration of 1872 etc.,  was like a wildfire that went out of control. The changes Rizal dreamed of, the kind of revolution he wished had acquired a different face.

Goya's opus "Saturn devouring his children"

 Like that  painting of Spanish artist Francisco de Goya "Saturn devouring his Children", one by one the children of the revolution were devoured. Rizal was one of the first victims. Bonifacio would follow others would be swallowed. Same was true with the Katipunan as an organization itself.

Uncommon Silence

Did Rizal rectify the issues about him and the Katipunan? Perhaps he did. Before his execution he stacked his shoes and maybe also his clothes with papers and with messages. One of those those could be another manifesto supporting the revolution?  We will never know.

Days after the execution the Rizal family retrieved a piece of paper inside Rizal's gas burner. It was a verse, his swan song, the poem now known as "Ultimo Adios. The first who got hold of a copy were the Katipuneros, sent to them by the Rizals.

Paciano- Older brother of Jose Rizal
Rizal and the Katipunan,  leads also  to one personality, Paciano Rizal,  perhaps the person who knew more. It was Paciano during his early association with father Burgos who opened the sensibilities of the young Rizal towards socio- political issues, like the events of the Cavite Mutiny of 1872. Brothers are said to have made a mutual pledge, that Jose Rizal would continue his studies for the redemption of the country. It was Paciano who sent his brother Jose to Spain. It was Paciano who guided him trough in his studies.(Even deciding the best school for his younger brother) Paciano was the the leader of the Calamba tenants who challenged the Dominicans. Paciano was tortured and questioned by the authorities about his brother's association with the Katipunan. He was also the one who discouraged the planed rescue of Rizal by the Katipunan.

 Paciano was the "hidden Katipunero" of the family, (even reached the rank of General). Judging from the command he had among it's leaders one could not help conclude that he had long association with them, perhaps longer than we thought.

 But after the revolution and America took over. Paciano became silent. It was said that he never talked  about his younger brother ever again. Why the uncommon silence? Something heavy to bear?


Rizal the enigma, despite all the contradictions we see, he still looms larger and ever, a beacon. Truly the Laong Laan and the Dimas Alang that he wished to be.

 In the end, whether he had foreknowledge of the Katipunan or whether he supported it or not, Rizal would still be the foremost Filipino, a hero for the ages.

Rizal Monument, Manila

Saturday, June 18, 2011

"Look in my shoes" (Rizal@150)

Jose P. Rizal
 Come the most Valiant

In the morning of the 29nth of December 1896, a day before his execution,  José Rizal wrote a short note to his family. It was an urgent call of a man seeking to be heard by his family for the last time. It was a wish, hours before death to see his love ones for the last time. The note goes:

My dear Parents and Brother-Sisters
     I would like to see each one of you before dying,  though it may cost much pain.  Come the most valiant.  I have some important things to say.
Your son and brother who loves you,
                                                                                 José Rizal                                                                                            

Jose Rizal's mother(center), sisters and nieces
In the late afternoon of the same day, the women members of the Rizal family came to Fort Santiago to bid goodbye.  First was the mother,  Doña Teodora Alonzo. They had only a few minutes to speak. It was said that they were held by the guards apart. That mother and son ended their last conversation in tears. Then came the sisters one by one. To each Rizal gave a present. All were in tears.They listened to him intently but were speechless. Then came the important instructions, which must not be heard by the guards. So when it was the turn of his three sisters,  Lucia, Josefa and Trinidad, the three who had been with him in Hong Kong and who could speak English, the instructions was made clear and in secret.  He whispered that he is leaving some personal things to them. To Trinidad he gave an alcohol burner,  a present to him by his friends the Taveras and which he used in his cell. Then to prevent detection from the guards he whispered to Trinidad  in English "There is something inside it." And to another sister he whispered also in English "Look in my shoes." ( Trinidad would then contradict the account of that final meeting with his brother years later, claiming that Rizal remark was not in English but in Visayan)

That something inside the alcohol burner turned out to be the immortal untitled poem we now know as "Mi Ultimo Adios". But what was inside the shoes?

Rizal's alcohol burner

A Sister's Dilemma

Nobody in the Rizal family witnessed the execution of  their beloved José. During the early morning of  the 30th of December  the family remained at home in the extremity of grief, many of them in prayers.  They had made arrangement earlier to the authorities for the retrieval of the body. Narcisa in particular ordered coffin and hearse, to leave for the Luneta as soon as word was received that the execution had been carried out.When news came that all was over, the hearse was dispatched at once. But when it reached Luneta, the body was not there anymore. It was said that Narcisa in grief, spent the whole day going to different cemeteries trying without success to locate his brother's burial place. Then by chance in the late afternoon, she passed by the abandoned Old Paco Cemetery where she noticed a group of Guardia Civil. It was highly unusual for the Gurdia Civil to be there. She went inside without being questioned by the guards.  Then she noticed  freshly dug earth, a length of a man. Again highly unusual since in  Paco Cemetery that time,  coffins were inserted to niches. ( The so called "Apartment type" in our present time). She had the inclination that it was her brother.
Narcisa Rizal
Narcisa had a plaque made with initial of his brother in reverse R.P.J and bribed the cemetery guardian to mark it in the site. Hoping that someday, in better circumstances, they could retrieve the body and give it a proper burial.

In August of 1898,  a few days after the Americans defeated Spain in the mock battle of Manila, Narcisa obtained permission from the American authorities to have the body exhumed. It was found that the body was buried without a coffin. What was left with the clothes established the identity. The shoes had survived. Whatever was left inside the shoes was indistinguishable because of the decay. What was in the shoes?

Paco Park marker. Where the body of Rizal first laid.
A Manifesto?                                                  

What was inside the shoes could have had a great significance in the story of Rizal.  Perhaps it could have been  another copy of the poem now known as "Ultimo Adios",  he wanted to make sure that his final thoughts would not be lost, he secured two copies. One he put in the alcohol burner and the other in one of his shoe. That in case one get lost surely a spare is in hand . But that it is highly improbable since he was constrained by time and other circumstances to do another copy. Could it be that it was another poem? Improbable,  for the content of the "Ultimo Adios" speaks for itself: . A second poem would definitely make the first lesser in meaning and lesser in impact.

During Rizal's trial, he wrote a manifesto to which many historians concluded that he disowned the revolution. Fortunately for Rizal, the Spanish colonial authorities disallowed it's publication.

 Could the note that was left in his shoes be another manifesto this time calling the people to unite and fight for the revolution?

When end was imminent and death could not be impede, Rizal accepted his fate calmly.  Perhaps he was never a traitor to Spain but with this injustice now done to him and also learning his brother was tortured by the authorities because of him, what could have run into his mind? For José Rizal the last straw was none other than himself. There is indeed a big possibility that in the shoes was a note. And could it be that written in the said note was a call to unite behind the revolution?

December 30, 1896,  at exactly 7:03 was over.

Days after his execution, the family perhaps recalling the final instruction of José Rizal to his sister Trinidad about the alcohol burner,  finally retrieved a piece of paper inside.... It was the "Ultimo Adios". The Rizal family quickly sent friends and colleagues copies of the said poem. The Katipunan on the hills of Cavite was among the first to received a copy..I leave the conclusion to you.

Early photo of Rizal's tomb in Paco Cemetery