Imagination cannot invent so many contradictions as naturally exist in the heart of every individual. No one was more aware of this than Don Cesar Ortigas Nieto. He had enthusiastically and openly declared his approval and unconditioned backing of the American Conquest of the Philippines in1898.
He, a descendant of Catalan grandees turned traders, financiers and entrepreneurs in Spain’s last remaining colony – the Philippines. At the same time he nurtured a sympathy for the romantic and idealistic Filipinos who fought and died in order to liberate their country.
“Better to die on our feet as hungry and free men than to kneel before our Masters with a full stomach,” was the motto of the freedom fighters.
The interisland ships which criss-crossed the Archipelago were owned by the Ortigas Nieto.
“Our dozens of ships are at your disposal. They will be useful in blockading the hemp ports,” declared Don Cesar to General Arthur MacArthur, Chief of Staff of the American Armed Forces.
The famous Manila Rope came from hemp, a plant similar to the banana plant called abaca. The Philippines had the world’s monopoly.
The Ortigas clan as well as other Spanish clans owned hundreds of thousands of hectares of abaca and coconut plantations. That was another precious commodity.
Don Cesar was a millionaire in American dollars by the age of 21. He had made his fortune by legal means although the ethical and moral dilemma of his actions had been more than questionable.
He was also the subject of endless criticism by the Spanish families who viewed the arrival of the Americans as a catastrophe.
“Don Cesar has betrayed the land of his forebears.”
“The whole world is full of pots calling the kettle black,” he retorted.