Saturday, June 11, 2016

Changing of the guard in my hometown

The newly-elected mayor, vice-mayor and seven members of the Sanggunianng Bayan during their proclamation by Comelec on 10 May 2016 Photo by the author.

In the recent May 2016 elections, a woman was elected mayor, the first in the history of my hometown San Narciso, Zambales.  Dr. La Rainne Abad Sarmiento and her close rival to the post crushed the incumbent's hopes for a third and final term. It was her first try, and she succeeded with an integrated campaign network in all the town's barangays.

Sarmiento joins five other women who will head local government units for the next three years starting 1 July: three re-elected (San Felipe, San Antonio and Botolan towns) and two newly-elected like her (Cabangan and Masinloc towns) .

Sarmiento's victory toppled the 'dynasty' (the town folks' term) of the Lim brothers.  The older one completed three terms, and the younger failed to clinch a third term. The full-blooded Chinese brothers, scions of one of the owners of the local hardware store, are Filipino citizens.

In one way, the Lim brothers upset the long-held prejudice against 'non-locals' by blood or origin in elections for posts in the local government. The first 'non-local' or 'gang-gannaet' (stranger in our Ilocano idiom) was elected town councilor in the 1971 elections. He was from northern Zambales married to a local teacher. Before him, the local photographer attempted but he was rejected even if he had been a long time resident of the town.

The vice mayor and municipal councilors (in polo barong) elected before the declaration of martial law. 
From the collection of the author.
The 1971 elections was a historical turning point. It was the last democratic elections before Ferdinand Marcos imposed martial law in September 1972, nine months after the winners in the November 1971 elections took their oath  on 31 December 1971 (photo above).  

I was a fresh engineering graduate from the University of the Philippines, and my candidacy was an impulsive decision, unplanned.  I was the youngest of that last batch. Aware that I was elected only for a four-year term, and with no end of martial law in sight, I resigned in 1975. The rest served the Bagong Lipunan regime until the elections on 30 January 1980, the first local and national elections after the declaration of martial law.

The 1980 elections did not bring a change of leadership. The mayor got a renewed mandate, and he would serve until the EDSA revolution of 1986.

EDSA I, in a sense, was a turning point in local history. President Corazon Aquino replaced the 1,550 mayors of the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan party and four non-KB, and likewise municipal council members all over the archipelago with officers-in-charge until elections were held under the new Constitution of 1987.  The incumbent, a medical doctor, had already been mayor since January 1963. Cory Aquino replaced him with another medical doctor as officer-in-charge. They would face each other in the elections of 1988. The OIC lost that race to the long-serving doctor mayor. It was in the 1992 elections that the former clinched the title; the latter no longer ran for re-election.

The election results of 9 July 1846: San Narciso contra los temblores. From the Ereccion de Pueblos SD-14126 of the National Archives of the Philippines.

The first turning point in the history of San Narciso governance was the election of local officials on 9 July 1846. This was in accordance with the orders of Governor-General Narciso Claveria prior to his approval of a memorandum from the Alcalde Mayor of Zambales dated 11 July 1846  creating a civil town called San Narciso out of the four Ilocano barrios of Cabangan town.  The barrio of San Marcelino was included on 1 October 1846.

In the election results the town was described as "San Narciso contra los temblores" (literally, San Narciso against earthquakes), and the following were elected:   Teniente (absoluto) - Don Fruto Apolinario; Juez de policia (police) - Don Miguel Labrador; Juez de palmas (palm trees) - Don Timoteo Andres; Alguacil primero - Don Patricio Erese; Alguacil segundo - Cosme Agustin; and Alguacil tercero - Vicente Toledo.

Since San Narciso was a civil town still under the jurisdiction of Iba, the capital, and it had no parish yet (it was visita of the Iba church), the town head was called teniente absoluto but was actually discharging the duties and responsibilities of a Gobernadorcillo.

There were subsequent elections for teniente absoluto until the town was emancipated from the civil and ecclesiastical jurisdiction of Iba on 12 May 1849.  On this date also, barrios Bobolon, Sindol, Pamisarauan and San Marcelino were separated from Alasiis, which became solely the town of San Narciso.

Bobolon became San Felipe but Sindol opted to remain its barrio. San Felipe and Sindol were initially visitas of San Narciso. The civil towns of San Marcelino and Pamisarauan as San Antonio were attached to the church in Subic.  Until they obtained independent parishes from their religious matrices, the town heads were addressed as teniente absoluto. 

The election of  the first Gobernadorcillo, ministros and subalternos of San Narciso was held on 7 December 1849.  Teniente absoluto Don Fruto Apolinario was re-elected, this time as Gobernadorcillo, for the year 1850.

Ministros elected were:  Teniente primero (first lieutenant; in a way the vice gobernadorcillo) - Don Tito Mariano; Juez de sementera (agricultural lands) - Don Esteban Canonizado; Juez de policia (police) - Don Valentin Mayor; Juez de ganados (cattle/farm animals) - Don Joaquin Velasco.

Subalternos: Teniente segundo - Don Fermin Rivera y Valdez; third to fifth Tenientes - Martin Natividad, Pioquinto Matias and Toribio Bernabe; first to fifth Alguacil (policeman)  - Agustin Villanueva, Agustin Lucas, Julian Guerrero, Juan Vigilia and Faustino Somera.

Of course, through the years, there were other turning points in the history of San Narciso local elections: the last election before end of the Spanish regime, the first election under the Americans, the governance during the Japanese occupation and first one after World War II.


  1. Engr/Manong Liberato Ramos, re this sentence in your article: "In San Narciso, Cory Aquino designated a medical doctor as officer-in-charge; he was elected mayor in the election of 1988." - It was Papa who won in the 1988 elections. And the OIC medical doctor you mentioned won in 1992, when Papa didn't run anymore.

    1. Thanks for the correction. Appropriate revision done, Lani.