WATCH | Oral history: Legacy of Jim Turner, the Prince of Hobbit House
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HOBBIT HOUSE AND JIM'S BROTHERS WILL HOST A MEMORIAL TRIBUTE ON SATURDAY EVENING, SEPT. 17, AT HOBBIT HOUSE ON M.H. DEL PILAR ST., ERMITA, MANILA.
MANILA - Pidoy Fetalino, the Chief Hobbit, is joined by colleagues in Jim Turner's own Fellowship of the Ring in a brief but compelling video tribute (BELOW) to their American boss and "father", who came 51 years ago and never left, his heart stolen by the little people in the world-famous resto-bar he founded, Hobbit House.
James Turner, the peace corps volunteer who came to Manila as a handsome, idealistic young man from Iowa and then stayed, passed just before midnight Thursday (Sept. 8) after a lingering lung ailment.
Jim, as everyone called him, would have turned 78 on October 4 – a date picked by his Hobbit House staff and an impressive array of musicians who had cut their teeth there, to stage a "birthday concert" of sorts. Partly to cheer up Jim, and partly to remind people about going back to Hobbit House, which in recent times has not enjoyed the same level of patronage that once made it THE most "in" place to go to in Manila's tourist belt.
HOBBITUARY | Remembering Jim Turner, founder of Manila's iconic house of big little people
Enter the Hobbit House. Photographed by Chad de Guzman, InterAksyon.
The "little people" – the planet's tiniest waiters refer to themselves as kaming mga maliliit or just plain unano [midgets] – are certainly very much around, though there are just a little less than two dozen of them now. The night after Jim died, they put on their standard waiter uniform of white shirt and black vest and bow tie for both male and female, and bravely went about their tasks serving people on a Friday night.
As a political science grad, Jim followed political history keenly, and witnessed it up close in his adopted country. The day after coming home to Hobbit House on his second-to-the last hospitalization, we were watching TV in his room and he kept shaking his head as Donald Trump spoke. Jim was a lifelong Democrat. And then I asked what he recalled most about martial law in Manila, and he said it was the curfew in the early years. Some activists and progressive artists, or students, would take sanctuary in Hobbit House when they felt they won't have time to get home before curfew, and then stay the night till 5 a.m. On several occasions, police or the Metrocom, presumably, would knock hard on Jim's by-then-battened-down place, and "we would all just ignore them and keep quiet. Why should we open up for them?" he chuckled.
Today, the Fellowship of the Ring mural on one side of the entrance to the new Ermita site (since 2007) quickly establishes the place. The dimly lit world beyond the circular door – with the little people padding about and chatting with customers, and a midget from behind the bar, tiptoes to plant a cold beer bottle on the counter – reinforces that Middle Earth ambience.
Life goes on in Hobbit House after Jim Turner's passing, but for the little people whom he loved with a passion and who vow to love him always, it will never be the same again.
Click and watch this video below: