Jones Law Centennial Dinner celebrates momentous step towards PHL Independence

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016. Filed under: Happenings Local News
The Philippine Embassy in cooperation with the US-Philippines Society commemorates the centennial of the Philippine Autonomy Act of 1916 (Jones Law) by hosting the Jones Law Centennial Dinner on 30 August 2016.

The Philippine Embassy in cooperation with the US-Philippines Society commemorates the centennial of the Philippine Autonomy Act of 1916 (Jones Law) by hosting the Jones Law Centennial Dinner on 30 August 2016.

WASHINGTON, DC –  “Yesterday was a milestone in the history of the Philippines as a nation, and of Filipinos as a people. And we are gathered to commemorate a historic and momentous dinner that took place in this city, at a hotel not too far from here, one hundred years ago last night.”

Thus were the words of welcome from Minister Patrick A. Chuasoto, Charge d’Affaires ad interim of the Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C., to nearly 30 guests at the Romulo Hall of the Embassy on 30 August 2016. In cooperation with the US-Philippines Society, the Embassy commemorated the centennial of the Philippine Autonomy Act of 1916, more popularly known as the Jones Law, by hosting the dinner, which replicated a similar one by then Philippine High Commissioner Manuel L. Quezon on 29 August 1916 at the New Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C.

The Jones Law, named after its proponent—Congressman William Jones of Virginia—laid down the framework for a more autonomous government, preparatory to the grant of independence to the Philippines by the United States. Through this law, the Philippines saw the creation of a bicameral legislature, the introduction of a representative electoral process, and the recognition of the fundamental civil and political rights of persons living within the bounds of the Philippine Islands.

As the guests enjoyed the appetizer course consisted of chilled pickled okra, there was a brief presentation on the historical significance of the Jones Law and the 1916 Banquet at the New Willard Hotel from Erwin Tiongson, a professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, and his wife, Titchie Carandang-Tiongson. The husband-and-wife team also spearheads the ongoing project Philippines on the Potomac, and both researchers have tirelessly committed themselves to helping Filipinos and Filipino-Americans better understand the Philippines-US alliance, partnership and friendship.

The guests appreciated the presentation of the Tiongsons, and Minister Chuasoto noted that “it is in looking back, seeing how far the Philippines has come, that insights can be drawn for forging ahead into the future. We will endure, we will not waver, and we will toil as those who came before us did, in fighting for democracy, for freedom, for prosperity, for social justice. As a people with a deep sense of nostalgia, Filipinos will ever be mindful of the hard work of our forefathers that have taken us to where we are today in 2016. And we shall do what we can to protect and safeguard it with honor.”

With the period music The Manila Waltz playing softly in the background and the room lent some ambience by candlelight, the guests enjoyed a classic French menu that tried to replicate the 1916 dinner. After the okra, the main course was chicken with perigeux sauce, petit pois and potato lorette. Sliced Virginia country ham was served in platters. A light hearts of romaine salad capped the meal, before petit fours and peach mousse were served with coffee.

Representing the US Government at the dinner was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State W. Patrick Murphy who also offered remarks that emphasized the importance of the bilateral relationship between the Philippines and the United States.

The evening was even made more memorable by the presence of two great-granddaughters of Congressman Jones, Elizabeth and Anne, and Elizabeth’s own daughter, Marjorie Boehlert. In her after-dinner remarks, Elizabeth Hart Jones noted that the Congressman’s work on the Philippine Autonomy Act did not only take a great toll on his health, but also required a great deal of moral courage.

“At that age of empire building, it was a radical idea to let go of a treasured territory like the Philippine Islands. However, Congressman Jones had a profound belief that the United States had a more important mandate to promote freedom around the world,” said Ms. Jones. Quoting from the speech of a colleague of Congressman Jones describing the latter’s mood after the passage of the law, “he was only gratified to have helped extend the frontiers of human freedom.”

Erwin Tiongson, in ending his presentation, echoed the sense of greatness that Ms Jones’ remarks about her great grandfather imbibe. He said that “it is fitting that one of the more lasting memorials to William Jones is a bridge (in Manila). Fitting because what was the Bridge of Spain was renamed in 1916 in honor of the person who best represented the bridge between the US Government and the Filipino People. Fitting because Congressman Jones best represents the bridge between America’s global responsibility and its essential commitment to human liberty and self-determination everywhere. Fitting because Congressman Jones is the bridge that once again brings together Filipinos and Americans at dinner tonight, just as he did a century ago.”

Ambassador John Maisto, President of the US-Philippines Society, closed out the evening by recalling the legacy of democracy and representative government that was bequeathed to the Philippines by the efforts of Congressman Jones and others like him. “Tonight, we also celebrate the friendship between our two peoples and our shared history,” he added.

The Jones Law Centennial Dinner is part of the series of activities organized by the Philippine Embassy to celebrate the 70th year anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Philippines and the United States. For indeed, as Ms. Jones reminded the dinner guests in her speech, “Congressman Jones celebrated one hundred years ago right here in this city at a dinner very much like this one the fruition of many years of hard work that he undertook along with the great Filipino leader, Manuel L. Quezon. But the Bill was only the beginning of freedom for the Philippines, and of fervent friendship between our two countries.”

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