By Marivir R. Montebon
New York City – Very little is known about the Philippines being home to 1300 Jews who escaped from the Nazis during WWIl. Pres. Manuel Quezon, the country’s commonwealth president under the US, wanted to take in 30,000 refugees. But the US government allowed for only that number.
Despite the disproportionate size compared to millions of Holocaust victims, the rescue presents heroism and humanity, an inspiring willfulness to do good in the midst of chaos.
The one-hour film Rescue in the Philippines is produced by friends, historians, and grandchildren of some of the war survivors in 2013. Written and directed by Russell Hodge, Cynthia Scott, and Terry Irving, the film is an amazing insight on how the fledgling first republic in Asia bridged for people whose lives were imperiled by war.
The no-nonsense Rotten Tomatoes gave Rescue a 100 percent critics rating.
The rescue began while a bunch of friends were playing cards and smoking cigars at the Manila Hotel. Pres. Quezon, US High Commissioner Paul McNutt, and five Frieder brothers hatched a plan to evacuate Jews from Europe and resettle them in the Philippines with the looming WW ll.
The plan was inventive and refreshing, coming from men who had different cultural and political backgrounds.
The Frieders were businessmen from Cincinnati who started a tobacco business in the Philippines. They financed the resettlement of select Jews, mostly from Germany and Austria. Comm. McNutt and Pres. Quezon implemented an immigration policy that paved the entry of the war refugees.
Shown at the auspices of the Latter Day Saints Church on Columbus Ave. early November, the film is inspiring enough for any viewer to grasp the message of fraternity and safe-keeping for those who are poltically persecuted.
The LDS Public and International Affairs, the American Jewish Committee, and the Philippine Consulate New York cooperated to put up the film showing.
During the forum after the film showing, Filipino community leader Juliet Astoria shared a testimony of the fleeting presence of the Jews in the country. “We used to sing Hava Nagila. I learned this while I was growing up. We heard it on the radio. Everyone knows it in my time. We sang this on happy times.”
Philippine Consul Kerwin Tate said the film is timely. He added that the Philippines always welcomed refugees because as a country it has constantly been battered with human and natural calamities. “We know how it feels to be at a loss.”
For more information about the film, go to www.rescueinthephilippines.com