Sunday, March 25, 2012

In memoriam of the primary school teachers of our town's baby-boom generation ...

The elementary school teachers did not have a uniform before the second world war, they wore something traditional as this 1930 illustration shows.  Our primary grade teachers in the 1950s did not also wear a uniform, but they had their dresses sewn by their favorite among the town's seamstresses with the hemlines well below their knees.

Our father's cousin Pilar, a venerable spinster teacher, had passed away.  She was ninety-two. Even after her retirement long before the end of the past millenium, she continued to teach, this time at the pre-school center of the town's Aglipayan church. She was ma'am to many in our small coastal town, plenty of them counting to be her relative, thus calling her outside the schoolyard, basang (Ilocano for aunt), auntie, or lola Pilar. 

She was among the public school teachers who in the prime of their lives taught us who were born after the second world war, the so-called baby-boomers. She may be among the last of her colleagues who've been waiting for the call to move on to the great beyond.

We stepped into grade school when Ramon Magsaysay, this man all the adults in the neighborhood adoringly called Monching, was running for President of the Philippines.  To us children, he was just a picture in every wall and fence, his campaign jingle ‘Mambo mambo Magsaysay’ to sing along at the top of our lungs as we climbed trees or roamed around the neighborhood.

In 1953, we were saling-pusa (informal pupil) in our aunt Pilar's Grade 1 class because we were not of age yet.  We could have been a regular student if only we could reach our right ear by arching our left hand over our head, which meant, according to folk wisdom, we still lacked the height and therefore the head to tackle school life. 

There was no kindergarten school yet although the Protestants had something similar to it. It was possible though to make arrangements with Grade 1 teachers to accommodate informal pupils in their classes, something voluntary on their part, especially if the child was a relative.  That's exactly how we ended up learning the basic 'Rs (reading, 'riting, 'rithmetic) as an un-official grader under our father's cousin Pilar, in her class at the South Central Elementary School, one barrio away from our own. 

It took sometime for us to adapt to the new teacher, another spinster, when we formally enrolled in the first grade the next year.  Aunt Pilar though would be our Grade 2 teacher.

South Central was of post-war vintage.  It offered only up to Grade IV for some years, and the pupils had to finish their elementary schooling in any of the three other poblacion schools (North, East and West).  Thus, we did not have classes in a concrete building unlike in the three that had Gabaldon schoolhouses built in the 1900s.  Our rooms were wooden structures with floors of packed brown clay. We never polished wooden floors like our peers in the other schools. We swept the floor with brooms of coconut midribs (walis tingting), and watered it after classes in the afternoon to keep the dust down.

In the latter part of the ‘50s, government would build us elevated classrooms. Thus we graduated from the South (San Jose-Patrocinio now) Elementary School in a homeroom with wooden floors, which we swept with tambo brooms and polished with bamboo husks.  We remember that the Parents-Teachers Association (PTA) called for help in the construction.  We pupils were required to bring to school a pail of sand or stone for days before the builders, mainly parents or their representatives, began to take shifts in building the new schoolhouse.  

We were taught in English, and we  started reading with the English 'Pepe and Pilar' readers. We sang the national anthem (“Land of the morning … For us thy sons, to suffer and die.”), and pledged allegiance to the republic (“I love the Philippines; it is the land of my birth ...”) in English every flag ceremony of our South Central days. 

"Spoil the rod, and you spoil the child," was a philosophy that our teachers enforced, and our parents never complained.  

Our teachers checked on our personal hygiene quite regularly.  They would move around with a ruler to give our extended hands a whack if they found our fingers long and dirty.  Then they would peer at both our ears to check for unsightly dark orange earwax. 

They bore particularly on the girls’ hairs for indications of kuto (lice) -- the lis-a or eggs sticking on the stems of hair. They would be admonished to shampoo their hair with lye from burnt rice stalks. We remember that classmates who came to school dirty would be given a good bath right beside the school's water pump. 

The school kids in the lower grades learned from the older ones who among the teachers were most prone to pull ears or pinch legs or whack buttocks with a 1-inch wide, 1-yard long bamboo slat in case (a) you're noisy or quarrelsome, or (b) you did not do your assignment or you did not bring your industrial arts project.  Teachers rarely changed school assignments. They were not moved to other schools unless they got promoted as principals or head teachers.

We 'dreaded' most our industrial arts teacher. There were occasions when we felt lazy to bring the materials for our basket weaving or bamboo furniture making classes. We knew we'd all  be asked to go in front of the blackboard to receive our punishment, a whack on the buttock.  As we tittered, he'd raise the bamboo slat so high above his head, but we knew already that he won't let it land heavily on our behind.  We knew he knew that we padded our behind with notebooks. 

To escape his big whack, three of us cousin-classmates would volunteer to bring the school carabaos to the river for bathing esp. when the black berry (duhat) and cashew (casoy) were in season. We'd have a holiday climbing the trees in the area and feasting on the ripe berries or collecting the seeds of golden cashew fruits. 

It would be several generations before the public elementary school teachers started considering a domestic helper job abroad as an alternative way of keeping a family, or applying for a teaching position in the United States under a special visa arrangement. We do not remember seeing our teachers sell processed meats or commercial goods to sell.  They were accorded utmost respect in the the community.  Members of our generation would probably be the last who enrolled at the Philippine Normal College and other similar institutions because teaching was regarded a "noble profession."

Monday, March 12, 2012

The statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) of the gobernadorcillos of our Spanish past ...

They're not like the contentious SALN  of Chief Justice Renato Corona, or the same Civil Service form that people in government service, appointed or elected, must file every fiscal year to comply with law. 

The election returns and church records of our Spanish past provide us means to identify the members of a town's principalia or the principales who were elected to various positions in the local government--the gobernadorcillo, and the teniente primero, various ministers (called juezes) who attended to issues pertaining to peace (juez de policia), cultivated lands (juez de sementeras) and livestock/cattle (juez de ganados).

There were the so-called subalternos del pueblo (subalterns/subordinates of the town) comprising lieutenants (tenientes from segundo or second up to nth, depending on population size) and the alguaciles or sheriffs.  The lieutenants were still of the principalia, but the sheriffs were ordinary menfolk who did not sport the title Don.

The indio bravo or sumiso, brave or submissive, of the principalia could only aspire to  become gobernadorcillo (Capitan Municipal later), today's town mayor. He could not be Alcalde Mayor (Gobernador Civil later) of his province because that post was reserved for Spaniards.

To be a principal, one had to have visible wealth (farmlands and tenants, carabaos and horses, a decent house maybe of cana or madera, bamboo or wood, etc.).  Most important, he must be literate; who can leer y escribir - read and write - preferentially en Castellano.
The gobernadorcillo was elected by an electoral college composed of peers drawn by lots if there was large group of principales—six from incumbent cabezas de barangay (heads of barangays) and six from former capitanes or cabezas who had served for at least ten years.  The 13th elector was the incumbent town head.  This electoral set-up was in accordance with the laws of good government as amended by the superior decree of 05 October 1847.

The town head and the other Dons in the municipal tribunal did not file SALNs.  But the wealth of the gobernadorcillo candidates became transparent when the Alcalde Mayor, who presided over the elections together with the cura parroco/parish priest, submitted the election returns to the Governor-General in Manila for approval of the results or his recommendation as to who should be gobernadorcillo.

Thus, it was the Alcalde Mayor who revealed the wealth and other attributes of the contenders for the town’s top position, as illustrated by these election results in our hometown in Zambales in the 1800s --

In the 07 November 1848 elections for the 1849 term, D. Fruto Apolinario, who was the first town head as teniente absolute in 1846, received eleven votes, the highest, but the Alcalde Mayor D. Jose Sanchez Guerrero recommended the second placer, D. Pascual Espiritu (six votes) to be the next teniente absoluto.  He preferred Espiritu more than the incumbent, D. Martin Antonio.  Teniente absoluto was gobernadorcillo title when the town was still under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the capital town Iba. 

The number of carabaos (and horses) were listed in the "SALNs" of gobernadorcillo candidates included by the Alcalde Mayor in the election returns with his recommendation for appointment, which he submitted to the Governor General.  [Source of picture:  Givens, James David. (1912).  Scenes taken in the Philippines ...]
Guerrero had all the praises for Apolinario—a man of good character, knowledgeable in Spanish, owns arable lands and a house of bamboo and nipa, has 17 carabaos and 6 horses, and has served as teniente absoluto and cabeza de barangay “without blemish”.   Yet, he went for Espiritu, who was as well-off like Apolinario (though they didn't have the same number of livestock), has served as teniente primero and cabeza also “without blemish” but who has better disposition than Apolinario.

The first election of the town’s gobernadorcillo was held on 07 December 1849.  Nominated were D. Fruto Apolinario, D.Gelacio de los Santos and the incumbent teniente absoluto D. Pascual Espiritu.  The popular D. Fruto again garnered the majority vote (10), while D. Gelacio received 8 votes.

This time, Alcalde Mayor D. Jose Sanchez Guerrero rightfully endorsed Apolinario as the best who can discharge the duties of the position.  “Without blemish” was how he described Apolinario’s and De los Santos’s government service as teniente absoluto  and cabeza de barangay, respectively.   He reported that their houses were made of bamboo and cogon.  Apolinario had 7 carabaos and 4 horses, while De los Santos owned 5 carabaos, 5 horses and 3 balitas of arable land.

The cura could also write his own SALNs regarding the fitness of the candidates for public office. 

In the 06 April 1893 elections, for example, Fr. Maximino Martinez wrote the Alcalde Mayor about the qualifications of the three aspirants. 

He had the highest praises, and was obviously biased, for D. Juan Flordeliza:  “[He] is from this town, speaks Spanish quite perfectly, has held positions in the council with probity and wisdom, occupies a high social position and exerts some considerable influence in the town thanks to his long service and personal conduct, is endowed with extraordinary activity, integrity of character and poise that distinguish all his actions, the most ideal for the difficult position of Gobernadorcillo.”

He had reservations with D.Florencio Adamos:  “[He] is a native of Vigan from where he moved to this town some years ago, has modest knowledge of Spanish, has been cabeza de barangay, it is quite agreed that he has a spotless reputation, but he has been talked about being accused for reasons not very decent, he is religious and timid, very gentle and naive.”  

He had no friendly words for D. Cipriano Farrales incumbent Gobernadorcillo:  “[He] can express himself properly in Spanish, is of good character, has sufficient resources, but he is somewhat remiss and negligent in character, because of which, he does not have much influence in town.”

Obviously, the only hidden wealth that the Alcalde Mayor had no knowledge of were the peso or reales savings account of the candidates that were possibly deposited in undisclosed places in their houses, if they had extra money from their harvests or sale of livestock, or gains from businesses for those who ran casas de azucar, anilio, y algodon (sugar, indigo and cotton mills), and the jewelries of their spouses.

There were no impeachment cases for gobernadorcillos we noted in our town’s history.  But incumbents who incurred the displeasure of the cura, for reasons personal or official, were marked for life. 

  • Ereccion de los Pueblos – Zambales 1842-1894.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Filipina image in advertisements 100 years ago (1912)

We found five advertisements in the almanac for 1912 using images of the Filipino woman. 

La Campana had the Filipina in the traditional formal dress, a terno, scattering sweets and biscuits from her bag.  This was a confectionery and pastry maker; it made all kinds of sweets, biscuits and syrups.  They also ran a restaurant (a gran salon or big hall) on Rizal Avenue in Sta Cruz, Manila that offered lunch and refreshments. 

This Filipina was inviting the menfolk to go to La Asamblea at 141 Rosario St in Manila for their headgear (straw, felt and wool hats, etc.; buntal hats, hats from Baliwag, Bulacan and Calasiao, Pangasinan).  This shop of Canuto Fernandez also offered a variety of footwear, various kinds of perfume, fans, pipes made of amber; the ad didn't say whether these were for both men and women. If customers wanted better fit for hats bought there, adjustments were offered free.

The Filipino woman in the upper class of Philippine society rode horses in style too and dressed like her European counterparts.  This ad wanted horse riders, both the señoras y caballeros, to buy their riding boots at El Brillante, located at 110 Carriedo St in Manila.  Calzado medida could have meant "the boot that fits".  

The Cojuangco and Legarda ladies of recent times rode imported horses using modern riding garb when they went racing in national and international games. This picture reminds though of the rich leading ladies of classic Pinoy TV soap operas that are set in large haciendas, usually sugar estates.

The woman in long, flowing gown with scepter and tiara, opening a cabinet full of treasures (jewelry, precious stones and articles of value) could have just been an allegorical figure representing the Ildefonso Tambunting and Filomena Concepcion pawnshops.  Tambunting was in Plaza Sta. Cruz, and Concepcion was on Azcarraga (today's Claro M. Recto).  Tambunting is still around.  We haven't seen a Concepcion; it's a Lhuillier that stands in major towns and cities around the archipelago today.

The representations of the real Filipinas were in the background, one in dire financial straits pawning her piece of jewelry to a rich lady.  The ad probably was telling those in need to go to the pawnshops rather than to their richer kin, neighbor or landlady. 

There wasn't a University Belt yet at that time so there were still no students running to pawn some valuables at the above pawnshops after they've spent their allowances from their hard-working parents back home in the provinces.

A nude Filipina?  Probably, the advertiser was inspired by "pearl of the Orient," Rizal's endearing term for his country.

The top line in Spanish which translates to "the shell was opened and produced this oriental pearl" meant that the store La Concha at 82 Escolta was selling muchas bellezas nacarados, plenty of pearly beauties.  

By the way, the local name for the shell enclosing the nude is taklobo, an endangered specie, a large number of them can be seen in the conservation farms of the University of the Philippines Marine Institute.  These are not pearl farms however.  Today's Mikimoto pearls are produced in some farms in Mindanao using oysters.

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