Web Published: January 2000
Mirza Hossein R. Touty, a Persian Bahá', travelled to the Philippine Islands in 1921. A letter published in the Bahá' magazine Star of the West for 21 March 1922 (possibly the earliest record of a Bahá'í in the Philippines), was written on 22 August 1921 from Tambis, a barrio (sub-village) in Lianga, a town in the province of Surigao on the southern Philippines' island of Mindanao. Touty had left the Russian port of Vladivostok the previous January, and had come to Mindanao "unexpectedly":
My station at present is in a place called Tambis, about six miles from the seashore where a small port is situated called Barobo. Very near Barobo, about 10 miles from same is situated the small town of Lianga, where there is a small post office ....
Mirza Hossein Touty was evidently a subscriber to "Star of the West", as he noted in his letter that he was sending some money through the Lianga Post Office for his outstanding account with the magazine. As Touty wrote on letterhead belonging to a company named Lianga Mines Ltd., it seems reasonable to assume that employment had brought him to the Philippines. Prior to his arrival in the Philippines, he must have stayed in Shanghai, China, (and then, probably in Vladivostok) because a letter of his dated 7 January 1919 to "Star of the West" was written from Shanghai.
Before arriving in Tambis he must have first passed through or even stayed for a short time in Manila and/or Cebu because the route from Vladivostok passes by these two places (which are major cities) and because Lianga Mines Ltd. had offices in both places. When did he arrive? Sometime in 1921 between the months of January, when he left Vladivostok, and April because he had been in Mindanao for about four months already by the time he sent a letter dated 22 August 1921 from Mindanao.
He stayed in the Philippines for about five years (1921-26) during which time he had been teaching the Faith to Filipinos. Another part of his letter (as published in "Star of the West") reads:
One month previous I ventured on an island journey, beginning from Lianga .... across northern Mindanao toward Butuan.... My journey was partly by trail and partly in a dug-out canoe ....
Anywhere I find an interpreter for the local languages I deliver to them the new tidings of brotherhood ....
... I am surprised to find these islands good and virgin field for the Bahá'í Movement. I think, up to the present time, none of the Bahá'í teachers have ventured to come to these places. The islanders are very kino hearted, simple and ready to embrace the BahA'i teachings ....
He says that "it is essential to speak the Spanish language and if possible Tagalog...... He "hoped" that he will
... succeed in showing them [the islanders] the highway of brotherhood and conducting them to the hiah tent which is pitched by His Holiness Bahd'u'116.h for the whole population of the earth.
Mirza Hossein Touty also wrote letters to 'Abdu'l-Bahd, and the news of the Master's passing in November 1921 reached him a few weeks before 13 May 1922 (the date of his next letter from the Philippines):
It is not more than few weeks I have received the shocking news of our being left orphans. I have no word to express the grief of it. The only fact which we have to face is that our Master 'Abdu'l-Bahd is not physically with us. Then we have to do what we can in spreading the holy teaching of our Master. No matter how weak we are, may we make ourselves useful to the cause of Love and Brotherhood.
This letter was written to Mr. Alfred Lunt of the United States in answer to a call for contributions to the Temple Fund (for the Mashriqu'l-Adhkdr to be constructed in Wilmette). Mr. Lunt's reply is dated 13 July 1922 and reads in part:
I almost envy you the opportunity you must have now to occasionally bring the teachings to the attention of the Aboriginal inhabitants of that place [Mindanao], although I presurge this has to be done with the utmost wisdom and care.--'
Mirza Hossein Touty was also in touch with Mrs. Victoria Bedikian, an American Bahá', known widely as "Auntie Victoria" through her work with children, especially orphans. Sometime after 28 June 1923 (the date of Mirza Hossein Touty's last letter written from Lianga, to Mrs. Bedikian) he left for Cebu (his next letter was written from Cebu on 23 November 1923, to Mrs. Bedikian). He writes that 11 so far I have not succeeded to show them [Filipinos] the open highway of Brotherhood." But he says he "can not do anything but pray ... to show them the paved road of friendship to the open door of oneness of mankind." This particular letter was written partly in Cebu and finished in Manila, he writes:
... Temporarily I have left Lianga, and now am en route to Hong Kong .... I think it will be not less than 6 weeks that I will be able to return to Philippine Islands ...
It is not yet known when he returned but his next letter from the Philippines was written two and a half years after this. It is dated 23 January 1926 and written from Cebu (it is a circular letter):",,
As the spiritual waves of all the Bahá'í centers and assemblies all over the world are being directed to the Philippine Islands, surely [this] will have its effect on the hearts and souls of the Philippine nation. To my great regret so far I have not been very successful in introducing the brotherly Bahá'í love to them ...
... To introduce to the Philippines the Bahá'í love and brotherhood, it is very necessary for the Bahá'í teacher to speak Spanish although the younger generation and the populations of the largest cities and towns speak English. But English would not be enough for a Bahá'í teacher, should he give lectures in the provinces.
Touty reported that Mr. Siegfried Schopflocher, "en route to the United States,",and Miss Martha Root, on her way to Australia, each "gave a short and instructive lecture in Manila ... which appeared in Manila and Cebu daily papers". He says that "their lectures were a great hope for me, and helped a great deal.". The "Star of the West", in its April 1926 issue, paraphrases part of his letter:
...It is especially important for Bahá's to keep in touch with the people of that land [Philippines] who are students in America, or otherwise are residents here [United States], so that they may return to their homes informed and equipped to teach the Bahá' Cause, for the Filipinos are ready with an open heart and mind to embrace the Bahá'í teaching of love and unity ....
The last two letters written by Mirza Hossein Touty from the Philippines concern the publication of an article about the Faith in a local daily newspaper of Cebu called "The Advertiser".
The first is dated 6 April 1926 to Mrs. Bedikian, and the second is dated 15 April 1926 to Mrs., Louise Bosch of the United States. He says that he had
... arranged with Dr. Stangle, the English Editor of "The Advertiser" of Cebu, to publish a reproduction of [the] valuable article of Mr. Lunt in a condensed form, as much as the space of his paper allows him, which he kindly accepted and published ... last March 19th and 20th.
(The article by Mr. Alfred Lunt referred to is entitled "World Peace and World Court" which is featured in the November 1925 issue of "The Bahá' Magazine", formerly called "Star of the West".)
To our knowledge, this is when Mirza Hossein Touty's stay in the Philippines ended.-i-
1. During the American administration of the country (1898-1946), the Philippines was called Philippine Islands. The official name of the country now is the Republic of the Philippines.
2. Two Persian poems by Mirza Hossein Touty appear in the Persian section of "Star of the West". The first is in the 24 June 1913 issue and the second is in the 16 October 1914 issue. In the latter, a group picture of believers in Batun, Russia also appears and Mirza Hossein Touty is in this. His letter written in Shanghai, China to "Star of the West" is about a correction on the meaning of the word "caboos".
3. In the May 1923 issue of "Star of the West" (p. 59) it is noted that contributions to build the Wilmette Temple were coming in from the Philippines and other countries. Obviously the contribution from the Philippines came from Mirza Hossein Touty as can be read in the letters to and from Mr. Alfred Lunt, especially since there is no record of other Bahá'ís living in the Philippines at that time.
4. Regarding the circular letter, the U.S. National Bahá' Archives has one original and the National Bahá'í Archives of Taiwan had one but it was "mailed to Dr. R. Mohajir, the Hand of the Cause" in 1968, although they retained a copy of it on which the following is noted, "copy of circular letter from Mr. M. H. Touty to Shanghai Bahá'ís".
5. In Mr. Siegfried Schopflocher's article entitled "Reflections of a Bahá'í Traveler" published in "The Bahá'í Magazine" (formerly "Star of the West") February 1928 issue he says that he was on his way from Brisbane (Australia) to China via the Philippines.
6. Martha Root was posthumously appointed a Hand of the Cause in 1939 and Siegfried Schopflocher was appointed a Hand of the Cause in 1952.
7. After his stay in the Philippines, Mirza Hossein Touty returned to Shanghai, China where he lived for several years. He must have returned to Shanghai in 1927 because Agnes Alexander's "History of the Bahá' Faith in Japan, 1914-1938" indicates that Mirza Hossein Touty visited Tokyo in November 1932 and that he had lived in Shanghai for five years previous to that visit (p. 86). Also, in his letter dated I February 1929 to the Guardian he says that he has been in Shanghai for one and a half years. Two group pictures of the Shanghai Bahá'ís at that time are published in "The Bahá'í World". The first is in Vol. 3 (p. 361) and the second is in Vol. 4 (p. 421). Mirza Hossein Touty is in both photos.
He only started writing letters to the Guardian after leaving the Philippines. The first one was from Casa Blanca, Morocco in 1926. The Bahá' World Centre Archives Office notes that the "correspondence between the Guardian and Mirzd Ijusayn Tiati was in Persian."
We have not yet found the dates of birth and death of Mirza Hossein Touty and the only clues we have are the following: 1) Extract from a letter dated 3 June 1932 from Mirza Hossein Touty to Victoria Bedikian - "It is about 27 years I am a Bahá'í and I am 45 years old..." 2) Extract from Mr. Suleiman Suleimani's letter quoted in a letter dated 27 February 1968 from the National Spiritual Assembly of Taiwan to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Philippines - "The only reference on the beloved Faith regarding Philippines was a circular letter written by an Iranian Bahá' friend, Mr. Husayn Touty ... [who] recently passed on to Abha Kingdom in Shiraz". (Note: Mirza Hossein Touty's name transliterated from Persian is Mirzd Husayn Tiati.)
The bracketed words in quotes from letters are my additions, and spelling errors have been corrected.
The writers wishes to thank the Universal House of Justice - its Research Department, Audio-Visual Department, Archives Office; the Bahá'í Committee for China; Counsellor Vicente Samaniego of the Continental Board of Counsellors in Asia; the National Spiritual Assemblies of Canada, the Philippines, Taiwan, and the United States - its Research Office and National Bahá'í Archives; Mr. David Bough of,the Bahá'í World Centre; Mr. Rogelio Barbaran of Philippines; Mrs. Aria Barraquias of Philippines; Dr Humaida Jumalon of Philippines; Mr. Osman Jumalon of Philippines; Mr. David Mockon of Philippines; Mrs. Fe Samaniego of Philippines; and Mrs. Barbara Sims of Japan.
Letters from Mirza Hossein Touty
Date Place To Location
7 Jan 1919 Shanghai "Star of the West" U.S. National Bahá' Archives
22 Aug 1921 Lianga "Star of the West" U.S. National Bahá' Archives
13 May 1922 Lianga Alfred Lunt U.S. National Bahá' Archives
(reply dated 13 July 1922) U.S. National Bahá' Archives
15 May 1922 Lianga Victoria Bedikian U.S. National Bahá' Archives
21 Nov 1922 Lianga Victoria Bedikian U.S. National Bahá' Archives
28 Jun 1923 Lianga Victoria Bedikian U.S. National Bahá' Archives
23 Nov 1923 Cebu & Manila Victoria Bedikian U.S. National Bahá' Archives
23 Jan 1926 Cebu (circular letter) U.S. National Bahá' Archives
6 Apr 1926 Cebu Victoria Bedikian U.S. National Bahá' Archives
15 Apr 1926 Cebu Louise Bosch U.S. National Bahá' Archives
5 Jan 1927 (received) Casa Blanca Shoghi Effendi Bahá' World Centre Archives
1 Feb 1929 Shanghai Shoghi Effendi Bahá' World Centre Archives
17 Apr 1930 Shanghai Shoghi Effendi Bahá' World Centre Archives
4 May 1931 Shanghai Shoghi Effendi Bahá' World Centre Archives
14 Aug 1931 Shanghai Shoghi Effendi Bahá' World Centre Archives
29 Apr 1932 Shanghai Victoria Bedikian U.S. National Bahá' Archives
3 Jun 1932 Shanghai Victoria Bedikian U.S. National Bahá' Archives
× Jul 1932 Shanghai Victoria Bedikian U.S. National Bahá' Archives
25 Aug 1932 Shanghai Shoghi Effendi Bahá' World Centre Archives
× Aug 1937 Shanghai Martha Root U.S. National Bahá' Archives
13 Aug 1938 Shanghai Martha Root U.S. National Bahá' Archives
18 Aug 1938 Shanghai North China Daily News" U.S. National Bahá' Archives
31 Aug 1938 Shanghai Martha Root U.S. National Bahá' Archives
11 Sep 1938 Shanghai Martha Root U.S. National Bahá' Archives
The Archives Office at the Bahá' World Centre also notes that they -hold some Persian Tablets of Abdu'l-Bahá to Mirza Husayn Tuti, but they are of a general nature and do not contain any specific information about him. In his letter dated 15 April 1926 to Mrs. Louise Bosch, Mirza Hossein Touty says "While Abdu'l-Bahá was with us in this terrestrial world, I used to write to Him frequently, at least 3 or 4 times a year".