Thursday, March 25, 2010

Going to Kalibo and Capiz schools in the early 1900s

The 'Thomasites' will forever be in the history of Philippine education, they who arrived in our country on August 12, 1901 to implement the new public school sytem with English as the medium of instruction, and to train the Filipino teachers handle the new curriculum.

Ralph Kent Buckland was not a Thomasite.  He called their batch of American teachers the "Dorics" because they came here on board the USS Doric in December 1903.  This is the same ship that, on one of its return journeys to the United States, carried the first 15 "sakadas" to work in one of the plantations in Hawaii in December 1906 (Kreifels 1998).

There could have been other ships that arrived here with American teachers on board. But just like Buckland and the other Dorics, they do not figure as prominently in Philippine history as the Thomasites.
After reading his book, one gets the impression that he was not happy during the whole time he stayed "In the land of the Filipino" (1912).  As soon as he stepped out of the ship, he started complaining--food, hygiene, accommodations, etcetera.  His destination was Calivo (Kalibo today), and he was dismayed that their lodging had not been arranged--he was dismayed that American teachers who've been there for some time were hesitant to take them in temporarily.

He was not happy with the state of education of the Calivo people; he was dismayed that parents would rather have their pupils work rather than go to school; he complained about students memorizing lessons in English without understanding the meaning of words and terms. This was how his first day in the Calivo school was --

"As soon as we had breakfasted, B. [his supervisor] and I went over to the schoolhouse. The native teacher caught a glimpse of us while we were still far down the street. He rang his bell, and the hundred or so of children, all ages and sizes, crowded through the, door of the schoolhouse without any attempt at forming a line or of maintaining any order whatever. They all screamed, "El maestro, El maestro," as they piled in through the door to their seats. Perhaps the teacher did make an effort to enforce discipline. I can't say for sure; for I was too far down the street to make out more than the hustle and tussle of the run to get seats in the very front row.

"However, all was still as a mouse as we neared the schoolhouse door. There was not a whisper nor any nervous shuffling of the feet as with most children. Evidently, the pupils were all seated, awaiting breathlessly our appearance before them. They were in their seats and they all popped up like jacks-in-the-box and welcomed us with a thundering "Good morning, t'cher!" —accent heavy on the last syllable-as soon as they caught sight of us in the doorway. I had not expected such an ovation. An embarrassed flush rushed to my cheeks. B., by way of general introduction, said: "This is your new teacher," glancing toward me. Again, the whole school, as though moved by one spring, jumped up. A perfectly deafening "Good morning, t'cher!" rang out. After B. had told me where the lessons were, he left me in charge of the most advanced class. This class had been under two American teachers the year previous, each for a month or two at a time, and had been under B. for the last two months; so that the members of the class could hardly be expected to be very far along in their work. Almost all the arithmetic within their grasp had been learned in the Spanish language under the old regime; their English as a medium through which to express their ideas amounted almost to nothing at all. In arithmetic, they were in long division; but they were miserably grounded. They could scarcely do anything even with short division. They were not at all sure or quick in their product tables, and they could not carry very well in addition nor borrow very well in subtraction. In the solving of problems, they were completely at sea, partly because of the English, partly because of a natural slowness to see into things clearly, that is along the line of problems. … And their English! They could read fairly well in the second reader, Baldwin's; but, although they pronounced the words, passably at least, they had not even the faintest idea of what they were reading about."

That could very well be how it was when the first American teacher appeared in any public school throughout the Philippine archipelago.

We would like to think though that Buckland was writing only of his initial impressions. He was there when the normal schools in Capiz and Calivo were set up.  He was disappointed that only two of their first teacher graduates passed qualifying tests but there could have been improvements, only that he never wrote about such happy events "in the land of the Filipinos."

The photographs in the book though are very interesting--class pictures and photographs taken during a graduation ceremony in the 1900s.  These could very well say that, after the initial drawbacks, public education in Calivo and Capiz turned out to be as beautiful as the people in the photographs. 


Buckland, Ralph Kent. (c1912). In the Land of the Filipino. New York: Every where publishing company. Retrieved from of the University of Michigan collection "The United States and its Territories,1870-1925: The Age of Imperialism".

Kreifels, Susan. (1998, June 10). Filipinos celebrate how far they've come. Honolulu Star-Bulletin Article. Retrieved from

1 comment:

  1. Must have been a nightmare for him to teach my fellow Capiznon back then.. hahaha...