I must first apologize for the delay in publishing my blog which I try to do once a month. My wife and I just recently returned from a wonderful three week tour of Australia / New Zealand which was very enjoyable, interesting and exciting but also quite tiring. So after catching my breath, I am finally publishing my latest article. Thank you for your patience.
A few months ago, I wrote about the original Manila Polo Club located in the posh Pasay area where wealthy Americans and Mestizos built large mansions fronting beachfront property with their glorious views of Manila Bay. Part of that story dealt with a historical fork in the road when the Elizaldes, who were legends in the sport of polo, splintered off and created another polo club of their own, Los Tamaraos Polo Club.
The idea of colonialism was widespread before WWII. The British, Dutch, and Spanish governments continued colonization of Asian countries for their trade and natural resources that, of course, greatly enhanced their coffers. After acquiring the Philippines from Spain, many Americans found their new colony came with a great responsibility calling it “the white man’s burden”. Teachers were sent to educate and “civilize” the natives, the Burnham Plan was developed to beautify Manila and Baguio and a rash of entrepreneurs relished the economic opportunities they foresaw in this new market.
Not to say that this was a totally negative compromise as the cities and the people themselves benefitted from the education, commerce, health and beautification efforts that were done by the new colonists. But there seemed to be an overall sense of an innate white superiority over the Filipinos. They banded together socially in neighborhoods such as Ermita and Malate and had their own exclusive “white” clubs such as the Army Navy Club, Elks Club, University Club, the Manila Club (primarily British) and even public houses such as the Manila Hotel.
Victor Buencamino, the first Filipino veterinarian, said “I recalled that even the government-operated Manila Hotel was by practice if not decree an exclusive white abode for a good many years,” he wrote in his memoirs. [source: When Nationalism Obsessed Filipino High Society By Manuel L. Quezon III, Asian Journal article]
Discrimination was found even in cabarets such as Canson’s Santa Ana Cabaret; the Legaspi Club would have a demarcation line separating Filipino and American customers. The barriers started to drop, albeit slowly, one evening when Gov. F.B. Harrison, who had at the onset of his governorship installed a Filipinization program to supplant the American administration with qualified Filipinos, made a point to reserve a table for his party at the Lerma Cabaret that included his Filipino guests.
When the Manila Polo Club was founded by Gov. Cameron Forbes, eligibility into the club included this in the By-Laws, “No qualification in regard to nationality or religion shall be made.” However Forbes stated that “I had hoped that the Club would be a meeting place for people interested in health and outdoor sports; and while not exclusively for Americans, and others not native to the Philippine Islands, it was primarily for them.” Was this meant to exclude Filipinos ?
One of the more famous rifts of the late Thirties was when Manolo Nieto, aide to Pres. Quezon and a friend of the Elizalde family was denied membership at the MPC.
“…the Elizaldes forced an issue in the Polo Club by proposing and seconding Manuel Nieto for membership. (The Polo Club and the Army and Navy Club are the last stand of the “Old Timer” Americans.) [Nieto was rejected on the ground that he was only Quezon’s “gun-man” (which is very unjust!).] All four Elizaldes thereupon resigned from the club and took their polo team to the practice field in Camp Claudio. They are now seeking to lead the army polo players away from the Polo Club–but in vain.” [source: Diary of F.B. Harrison 3/24/1936, Philippine Diary Project]
This discrimination proved to be the impetus for the creation of two quite different but important social clubs in Manila before the war: Los Tamaraos Polo Club and the Wack Wack Golf and Country Club. I will be writing about Wack Wack in my next article.
From the very beginning, the Los Tamaraos Polo Club functioned very successfully as both a sports and social club, promoting and hosting international polo matches in the Philippines.
The Elizalde brothers (above: Manolo, Juan, Angel and Miguel) were primarily responsible for bringing world class polo to the Philippines. As far back as 1926, “Mike” and Angel Elizalde were part of a quartet that won the Far Eastern Circuit Cup (for the Manila Polo Club). In the years 1934 and 1935, the four brothers swept through tournaments without a defeat, again winning the FEC Cup for both years. Official recognition came from the American Polo Association and the brothers became one of the world’s highest handicapped brother teams.
On January 9, 1937 the Los Tamaraos Polo Club inaugurated its new clubhouse in Parañaque. Its polo field was rated as one of the best in the world. Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon was inducted as its honorary club president.
The club field and buildings were located just south of the Manila Polo Club on a rolling tract of high ground skirting the fast-developing Parañaque beach along the new Dewey Boulevard extension to Cortabitarte. The exterior of the clubhouse exhibited a predominantly Georgian design.
The beachfront area south of Pasay became quite attractive especially to the Americans and Filipino elite. Due to the location of both the Manila Polo Club and Los Tamaraos Polo Club, this residential district commanded high real estate prices where the wealthy built their mansions. Granted, Los Tamaraos was now integrated, but also rather limited to the upper class and wealthy. Most of its members were part of the exclusive social set of Manila’s elite.
MANILA (P.I.), Jan. 10, 1937 “Three thousand persons witnessed the dedication of the Los Tamaraos Polo Club by the President of the Philippine Islands (Señor Quezon), after which the Elizalde brothers won a closely-fought game from the Australian team comprising P. Braerj, A. A. Henderson, H. Finlay, and B. T. Allison, by six goals to five. The Australians received three goals start.
Smooth teamwork on both sides was a feature of the contest. Both teams were mounted on Australian horses, those of the Elizaldes being recently imported. The game attracted one of the largest polo crowds in the history of the Orient. A dinner-dance followed the game.” [Source: News article in the Sydney Morning Herald]
The stable called “Thoroughbred’s Row”. It took a large staff of grooms, veteran horse trainers and keepers to tend to the daily requirements of about ₱100,000 (1940 value) worth of horseflesh.
Left to right- Don Manuel “Manolo” Elizalde, Sr., his brother Don Juan Miguel Elizalde holding the trophy cup, Pres. Quezon, “Chick” Parsons and Earl Hopping Jr. Both Elizalde brothers would be imprisoned by the Japanese at Ft. Santiago during the Second World War. Only Don Manolo would make it out alive. [source: Paquito dela Cruz]
For more about the sport of polo in the Philippines, please refer to my previous article about the Manila Polo Club.
A huge thank you to Mrs. Patricia Ottiger for her invaluable help in sending me a digital copy of the Los Tamaraos Annual of 1940.
Bobby Aguirre’s Los Tamaraos Polo and Equestrian Club