On December 30, 1920, members of the Filipino Students’ Association of Minnesota, gathered at the Hotel Radisson to celebrate the life and to mourn the death of of Dr. Jose Rizal, a national hero in the Philippines . Twenty-four years earlier, Dr. Rizal had been executed by the then-Spanish colonial government on charges of sedition, rebellion, and conspiracy. A writer, Rizal’s work had called for political reform, and he had spoken out against Spanish abuses. His execution in 1896 further inflamed the the Philippine Revolution.
Two years later, in 1898, the United States became involved in the Spanish-American War, and in December 1898, Spain ceded the Philippines to the United States in the Treaty of Paris. While some fighting continued, this time against the United States, the aftermath of the Spanish-American War brought with it a close relationship between the United States and the people of the Philippines.
This photograph entered our collection undated; while we are confident that it was taken at the December 30 banquet at the Hotel Radisson during the 1920s, we don’t know which year. The event was held annually, and for most of the decade the program stayed very similar with only the specific speakers changing.
Hanging in the rear of the Hotel Radisson’s banquet room are the flags of the United States and the Philippines, and between them, an image of Rizal. According the Minneapolis Journal, speakers from area schools and churches highlighted the good will between the two nations, but also advocated for full independence. The speakers in 1920 included students and clergy from the University of Minnesota and the University of St. Thomas.
By 1928, things started to get complicated. While a dinner was still held at the Radisson on December 30, a competing dinner was held at the Nicollet Hotel. Both honored Rizal, but the group was splintered after a debate over dancing. The Nicollet Hotel group felt dancing at the dinner inappropriate. Speakers at the Radission dinner that night included Floyd B. Olson, then Hennepin County attorney, and St. Paul mayor L.C. Hodgeson.
On July 4, 1946, the Philippines gained full independence from the United States. December 30 remains a national day of mourning in the Philippines.