Saturday, December 30, 2017

The feast day of the Immaculate Conception is now a special non-working holiday

Republic Act 10966 "declaring December 8 of every year a special nonworking holiday in the entire country to commemorate the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, the principal patroness of the Philippines," was approved by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on 28 December 2017.

This Act originated from the House of Representatives was passed by the House and the Senate on 02 May 2017 and 11 December 2017, respectively. A copy has been posted on the online version of the print edition of the Official Gazette (see picture below). 

RA 10966 as posted on the Official Gazette webpage.

This will make twenty-one (21) national, regular and special (non-working) holidays to be observed in the country this coming year, 2018. Twenty were listed in Proclamation No, 269 that Duterte issued on 17 July 2017. 

Some of these fall on weekends: 25 February (EDSA People Power Revolution Anniversary), 31 March (Black Saturday), and 30 December (Rizal Day).

Two dates have yet to be set for the observance of national holidays Eidul Fitr and Eidul Adha, which depends on the Islamic calendar.

RA 10966, in a way, revisits legal and school holidays of Philippine past.

The feast of the Immaculate Conception was not in the school holidays prescribed by the Royal Decree of 20 December 1863, which created the "normal school for teachers of primary instruction for the natives of the Filipinas Islands," but there were other religious feast days included.

The decree provided that "the holidays of the normal school shall be Sundays, feast days, Ash Wednesday, the day set aside for the commemoration of the faithful dead, and also the saint's days and birthday anniversaries of their Majesties and the prince of Asturias, and the saint's day of the superior civil governor," and "the shorter vacations shall extend from Christmas eve to Twelfth-night, during the three carnival days, and from Holy Wednesday until Easter. During said vacations, the resident scholars shall remain in the institution."

When the Americans set up the school system, the schools were allowed fourteen weeks' vacation each year, two of which were the usual Christmas break. In addition to these regular vacations, an Act from the United States Philippine Commission established the following holidays in 1902:

          New Year's Day - January 1.
          Washington's Birthday -February 22.
          Holy Thursday - March 27.
          Good Friday - March 28.
          Independence Day -July 4.
          Occupation Day - August 13.
          Thanksgiving Day - November 27.
          Christmas Day -December 25.
          Rizal Day - December 30.

In addition, the following church fiestas may be observed as holidays by the schools:  

          Epiphany, or Three Kings' Day -. January 6.
          Purification of the Blessed Virgin -February 2.
          Ascension Day -May 11.
          Corpus Christi Day -June 1.
          Assumption Day -August 15.
          All Saints' Day -November 1.
          Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary -December 8.

However, in a proclamation of the General Superintendent of schools on 10 August 1904, the feast of the Immaculate Conception was not included in the "second holidays" for public schools. It retained the Marian event of  02 February, and the patron saint's day of the town was added.

The 1904 listing comprised the Epiphany or Three Kings, January 6; Purification of the Blessed Virgin, February 2; Ascension Day, May 1; Corpus Christi; Assumption Day, August 15; All Saints' Day, November 1; patron saint of the pueblo, one day only.

The women who went to Catholic schools for girls do remember that the feast of the Immaculate Conception was no-classes day. Thus, they were excited when they first heard that a law declaring this a holiday was under discussion in the Seventeenth Congress.

  • Blair & Robertson. 1906. Royal Decree establishing a plan of primary education in Filipinas. Appendix: Education in the Philippines. The Philippine Islands, 1493-1898; Volume XLVI, 1721-1739.
  • Atkinson, Fred W. The Present Educational Movement in the Philippine Islands. Chapter XXIX. Report of the Commissioner on Education For 1900-1901. Washington: Govt. Printing Office. 1902.
  • Department of Public Instruction. Bureau of Education. Appendix H. Some of the circulars of the General Superintendent. Annual Report of the General Superintendent of Education. September 1904. Manila: Bureau of Public Printing, 1904. Page 97.
  • The Government of the Philippine Islands. Dept. of Public Instruction. Bureau of Education. Appendix E. School Calendar. Seventeenth Annual Report of the Director of Education. January 1, 1916 to December 31, 1916.  Manila: Bureau of Printing, 1917. Page 129.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

'Naimbag a Pascua' (A Good Christmas) in boyhood country

The municipal hall of San Narciso, Zambales a-glitter with Christmas lights this year (2017).


More than a half a century ago, Pascua (Christmas) to us kids in the old hometown seemed to take too long in coming. When we learned to reckon its approach with the onset of the 'ber'-months, we had already lost the pure, innocent joy of waiting.

We can’t remember exactly what our great expectations were while the nights were turning colder, and we would need to wear a pranela (sweater) when we go caroling or simply prowling around with the neighborhood kids. 

We were told to be good so that Santa would bring us gifts come Christmas.  We have no recollection if Santa Claus ever came at all through the windows or the galvanized iron roof of our house of buho walls and bamboo stairs.

By November, our Inang (mother) would be having more sewing jobs to finish.  Her customers, friends and relatives, would be dropping by to have their dresses sewn for the Misa Aguinaldo (midnight mass) on Christmas Eve.  She would stay till late at night to fulfill her commitments, sparing enough time for her and my five sisters’ own clothes as these would be done last.

Memory tells us that we always wore a white polo shirt on Christmas.  Inang took care, we now think, to shield us from the usual taunts, no matter how friendly these were, that loud colors do not seemingly match our earth-brown skin tone.

In those days when we went to school in wooden clogs, and later in rubber sandals, Christmas was the only occasion when we had to wear shoes despite our heavy protestations.  Many a time did we suffer blisters at the back of our feet.  Probably, it’s because parents did not do much personal shopping then.  Unless they did, the bilin (request) system was deemed most convenient whenever a close friend or relative was bound for Manila or Olongapo.  They would trace our feet on a piece of paper and cut this out.  The shoes might fit the pattern correctly, but it did not assure the comfort of poor little kids who should look their angelic best on Christmas day.

Far from our childhood Christmas trees. These are competing 12-ft trees in our town's contest.

In our six Christmases at the San Jose-Patrocinio Elementary School, our Christmas tree, just like in most of the pupils’ homes, was the lowly kuribetbet shrub shorn of all its leaves.   Bands of green crepe paper about two inches wide were cut and then folded along its length.  Narrow strips were cut perpendicular to and along the fold, taking care to go just about halfway, and when done, the bands were spread open and refolded the other side to yield a leafy effect.  These were then wound around the stem and branches of the bare kuribetbet producing an evergreen tree on which to hang colored, usually red, paper balls and bells.  

Industrial arts projects in December invariably would be a parol (lantern), usually the simple bamboo star.  We would cover our projects with colored Japanese paper or cellophane and attached the rayos (rays) made of the same paper at two adjacent points of the star.  Sometimes, we would put a rim attached to all five points of the star.  Some would put a belen of cardboard at the middle, or some other decorative paper cut-outs all over.  When schools closed for the Christmas vacation, we would bring home our lanterns to be hung at our windows.

At home, we always had these breakable decorative balls to hang.  During those years, when the dollar exchange rate was taymes tu  (times two) yet, Inang would ask aunts married to US Navymen to buy these things for us in the navy commissary in Subic.  They had buying privileges even when their husbands were away at sea.  At the end of each season, Inang would have less decors to keep for the next year since the Christmas tree toppled over several times, or because we loved to look at the warped reflections of our faces on the balls’ surface, and we broke several of them.

In some houses, swaths of white cotton would be attached to the tree branches probably inspired by pictures of trees laden with snow in Christmas cards, which were all imported at that time.

We also made chains using crepe paper of various colors to wind around the tree. Tiny blinking color lights around the Christmas tree or hanging from the eaves of roofs were not yet in our imagination.  Electricity came around only at six o’clock in the evening, when the Ramos Electric, the power company of richer relatives, turned on their diesel generator to light up San Narciso.

We always asked Inang why we couldn’t have an aru-o (local pine) branch for a tree, just like what we saw in other houses.   We soon found out that this would not be evergreen at all. The needles would turn brown even long before the start of the Misa de Gallo or dawn masses (‘simbang gabi’ or night mass to the Tagalogs; we don’t know why), and would be scattered underneath before Melchor, Gaspar and Baltazar ever reach barrio Alusi-is.  Christmas would not end until January 6 when the Three Kings lead the parade from Alusi-is.

In later years, the bare kuribetbet would be painted all white, probably as a matter of fashion rather than as tangible proof of one’s ‘dreaming of a white Christmas.’  In high school, we did this as a matter of convenience; it did not take long to finish it.

Our childhood gift ritual was never that exciting.  We can’t recall ever jumping and yelling with glee when we found a gift lying beside us when we woke up in the morning of December 25.   We probably would get only a car model to be pulled with a string.  The girls in the family had dolls but not the walking and talking types, and Barbie was not yet born.

Our generation started schooling with English as the medium of instruction.  Our first Christmas song was “Silent Night.”  Thus the Christmas jingles that came with the early evening air in our childhood days were the strains of ‘ol is cam, ol is brayt’ as we, the neighborhood kids, went house-to-house caroling about the oli impan (holy infant).   We were happy with a five-centavo caroling token from each house.

Stingy house owners though would get a musical rapping from us --

            Bulong ti apatot,                                   Leaves of apatot plant,
            Paskuayo a naimot.                               Gifts to stingy people.
            Umulog ti makarurod                           Come down if your angy,
            Ta narnaran ti dandanog.                     And we’ll beat you with our fists.

-- as we ran away, scared that they would come down and face our dare. 

Friends who can hum the tune and sing some of the lines remember that they heard it first from their grandmothers.  Some words in the lyrics are archaic Ilocano.  This suggests that the carol is older than San Narciso, and might have been brought by the settlers all the way from Paoay.   

The chorus of the indigenous carol is an invitation to celebrate the Lord’s birth and to proclaim his power and glory –

Rambakan tay a pada-pada                        Let us all celebrate
Panakay-yanak to Dios ditoy daga             the birth of God on earth.
Umadani tay met kenkuana                        Let us all go to Him
Idir-i tay tan-ok ken gloriana                     proclaiming his power and glory.

The two narrative stanzas speak of His humility and mercy --

Ay dimtengen a ti Dios Apo                      Ay, the Lord God has come
Simnek kaasi na kadatayo.                       Because of His mercy to all of us.
Ti Mesias manipud ngato                         The Messiah from above
Immay nga'd la makipagbiag                       came down to live with us.

Maysa a rukib a paglinungan                   A cave that serves as shed
Ti kinayatna nga makapanganakan,        He preferred to be born in;
Ket kuloong met laeng piman                  And merely a manger
Ti inna pinili a nagid-daan.                     He chose to sleep in.

Before “Ang Pasko ay Sumapit” became the de rigeur anthem at the close of Midnight Mass, churchgoers sang the “Rambakan” in cheerful chorus as they troop out of church, greeting each and everyone along the way with “Naimbag a Paskuayo!”

Paskuami, Apo!  On Christmas Day, this is the salutary greeting of children going from house to house seeking gifts.  As a young boy, following Inang’s stern orders to just go to one’s relatives or godparents, I would be back at home in due time to hand out candies to fellow youngsters.  Cousins would stick around for a while hoping that Inang would instead give them a 5-centavo coin or two.  

Lucky are the kids whose godparents are around at Christmastime.  In my time, very rarely did I see my ninongs (godfathers) and ninangs (godmothers), real and surrogate, this last one being the wives of my ninongs.   Two of my ninongs were US Navymen, and when they came home to retire, we were old enough to talk to them in a buddy-buddy way though we still addressed them, with proper respect, 'ninong.'

Agmano (take his or her hand, and place it on your forehead) was the order of the day, whether you were calling on your godparents or older relatives, to show your respect.  Deep in your heart you wish all the time that they would add to your coins in the pocket rather than candies, and worst of all, suman paskua.  

Before refrigerators came to town, much to-do was given for the salapusup, preparing and wrapping glutinous rice into the suman paskua.  This delicacy would be kept in baskets that are hang in the kitchen.  There was no danger of spoilage; in fact, the suman tasted even better after a few days.   There would also be platters of leche flan resting on milk cans half-submerged in a basin of water to keep away the red and black ants.

Food for the Noche Buena would be cooked before the older ones left for the Misa Aguinaldo at midnight.  Unless we were properly motivated to join them to church so that we can watch the ‘walking star’, a parol pulled from the choir loft to the nativity scene in the altar, we would never be able to partake of the midnight repast. 

Sometimes there would be queso de bola, but we now think that these were put on the table to serve as décor. They would remain uncut even onto the New Year when it would serve a superstitious purpose, being red and round.  We preferred the taste of other cheeses like the ones that seemingly melted on the tongue.

Some families might serve ham, which their visiting kin bought from the popular stores in Chinatown or Quiapo in Manila.  But generally, there would always be special dishes of pork or chicken.

Pan americano, or suman, or puto, or the kutsinta ordered from Baket Tirsing would be sufficient to go with the meats and coffee or chocolate.  

Imported castanas, apples, pears, oranges and grapes were luxury food in our boyhood.  An aunt, widow of US Navyman, made sure she bought the stuff from the commissary in Subic and kept the fruits fresh in an icebox, for the family reunion lunch on Christmas Day.  

Again, chicken and pork, cooked in various ways, would be the main fare in the reunions on Christmas Day.  There might be lechon (roasted pig), quite a standard fare, no matter how long and tedious it would take to turn the bamboo pole spit over hot glowing embers.  

Year in, year out, it’s always a fiesta on Christmas Day --  the hustle and bustle around the sumptuous table, the gleeful shrieks of relatives who have not seen each other for years, the shrilly shouts of children having fun. 

Naimbag a Paskuayo! (Merry Christmas!)

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Andres Bonifacio featured briefly in a Madrid weekly journal (1897)

This illustration based on a photograph appeared in the
08 February 1897 issue of La Ilustracion Espanola y Americana

The Filipino revolution against the Spanish colonial masters broke out in August 1896. It wasn't 'breaking news' in Spain's news media. There was Cuba to occupy them anyway.

Six months later however a picture and a bitty item on Andres Bonifacio appeared in the 08 February 1897 issue of La Ilustracion española y americana, a weekly journal in Madrid. Three months later, Bonifacio was assassinated in Cavite, which, to our knowledge, also did not merit mention in the Spanish press.

La Ilustracion captioned Bonifacio's picture as 'presidente de la republica tagala.' president of the tagalog republic. In a single-sentence paragraph that followed, he was the 'presidente de la republica de katipunesca,' which thus acknowledged the armed revolutionary movement he led, but then callled the Katipunan a group of ungrateful mad children of Spain who wanted to establish the republic 'after the extermination of all the whites.' 

The reporter wondered how the very humble origin of Bonifacio--his livelihood depended on Fressel and Company, a commercial house in Manila--could have earned him the first place or top post in his group/ 

The 'government that the rebels formed' was listed as consisting of the Ministers of the Supreme People's Council: President, Andres Bonifacio; War, Teodoro Plata; State, Emilio Jacinto; Governance, Aguedo del Rosario; Justice, Birecio Pantas; Treasury, Enrique Pacheco.

This was followed by an obit to 'Teodoro Plata and other ministers and heads of the republic who were shot the day before yesterday in Manila [06 February 1897].' 

Obviously, a cablegram dispatched from Manila to Madrid came right on time just before Ilustracion got to the press on 08 February 1897.

The story then went to inform about what General Camilo Polavieja would do to finish the 'comedy government': attack Cavite, the entire province being a rebel stronghold except Carmona, which can be entered from Binan and Laguna de Bay. 

To isolate this 'core of rebellion', Polavieja established a line from Calamba to Tanauan and to a banana farm in Taal. He placed armed boats in both Laguna and Taal lakes. He wanted to cut rebel communications to central and northern Luzon. He used the line following the Pansipit river to cut the lines between the rebels and south Luzon. He guarded Manila Bay so that no arms and ammunition would land in Cavite, and there would be no communications between the Cavite rebels and those of Bataan and Bulacan.  

'The victory of our troops is assured,' the Ilustracion predicted, 'because it is very well prepared; but it will be expensive, because the enemy has had many months to prepare the defense. The land is favorable to them, some parts very rough and others marshy, and now the rice fields completely flooded because the Cavitenos broke the dams. Andres Bonifacio and his general Emilio Aguinaldo have about 60,000 men, of whom more than 20,000 well armed.'

Twists of fate, personal and historical, happened in the life of the revolutionary factions and their leaders, and the budding nation as well, after 08 February 1897. Polavieja did not march into Cavite, and three months later, Bonifacio died in the hands of Cavitenos,

Bonifacio stands frozen on a pedestal in Monumento, Caloocan City. The El Grito (the Cry) monument in UP Diliman has the unknown rebel still raising his bolo and flag in defiance. The modern Bonifacios are either fighting in the underground or seething with various advocacies in the social media or in parliaments on the streets when the occasion arises.

  • Report. 1897 February 8. Filipinas - Andres Bonifacio - titulado presidente de la republica tagala.  La ilustracion espanola y smericana. 41:5 (79 text, 88 picture). Retrieved from Biblioteca Nacional de Espana at

Friday, November 24, 2017

Unknown and lost forever: Juan Luna's prison wall paintings (1896-1897)

Paintings of Juan Luna in his prison cell at the military barracks in Manila as 
photographed by M. Arias y Rodriguez, which appeared in the 06 August 1900 
issue of La Ilustracion Artistica.

Political prisoner Juan Luna was locked in a dungeon in the ground floor of the cavalry barracks, "leaving him completely incommunicado," according to Manuel Arias y Rodriguez. The famous Spoliarium artist was arrested on 23 October 1896"for having been implicated in the Philippine insurrection against Spain."

He was writing about Luna's paintings on his prison walls in the 06 August 1900 issue of La Ilustracion Artistica, a weekly journal published in Barcelona.

M, Arias y Rodriguez (1850-1924) is well-known for his photograph of Jose Rizal's execution on December 30, 1896. He was, in a way, a war correspondent, a photo journalist, of La Ilustracion Artistica, Said to be sympathetic to the Philippine revolution against Spain, he sent his photographs of the Filipino insurrectos to the Barcelona journal; he also covered the Spanish side of the war.

How did the famous painter of the Spoliarium get to paint while in confinement until he was pardoned and set free on 27 May 1897?

Apparently, he was privileged to be supplied of  "books, colors and brushes" and thus, "for his pastime or leisure, [Luna] adorned the rough walls of the so-called dungeon with his works."

Arias y Rodriguez said that when Luna was released, he asked permission and was allowed by the head of the cavalry squadron to photograph the wall paintings. 

He described Luna's prison cell: "The dungeon consisted of a small room about three meters long by two and a half wide: a meter from the floor was a wooden floorboard that occupied the entire cell to avoid the high humidity of the floor, located at a level lower than the patio. In front of the front door there was a square window with light iron bars. The half-bleached walls had an unequal surface, almost like a rough stone, and the innumerable holes and cracks on them showed that they had not been repaired for a long time." 

He noted that "[s]ince this room had served as a dungeon for classes and soldiers, one could see in them some of those crude drawings that are usually found in such places, among which are the ones done by the aforementioned Filipino artist, which stand out."

The "ones done" by detainee Juan Luna were on the right and left walls. 

What Arias y Rodriguez sent to La Ilustracion Artistica was the picture of the left wall paintings comprising various images like a clock marking the hour when he was arrested (Luna brought the clock with him), an imitation of a bas-relief, a portrait of a stranger, a little girl and Sarah Bernhardt (a popular concert artist of that time).

We can imagine what was on the right wall, which Arias y Rodriguez described as consisting of several figures including a wall calendar with the date when Luna was arrested, and the seal of the Customs of Manila for the dispatch of packages.

The walls tumbled down from the bombs of the Second World War, and the paintings were lost forever.

Unlike Luna's prison paintings, the art works produced by political detainees of recent memory--the Martial Law years, for example--were expressions of their advocacy and insurrection against the dictatorial regime of Marcos, and the continuing repression of political action after the EDSA revolution.

P.S. Juan Luna went back to Spain after his release from his dungeon at the military barracks. When he learned of the assassination of his brother Antonio by Aguinaldo's men in June 1899, he decided to come back. But on his way home, he had a heart attack in Hong Kong on 7 December that same year.

  • Juan Luna prison wall painting. 1900 August 06. La Ilustracion Artistica. 19:971 (512, 518). Retrieved from Hemeroteca Digital, Biblioteca Nacional de Espana at 
  • Agencia Editorial. Manuel Arias y Rodriguez. Retrieved from

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Juan Luna's 'Death of Cleopatra' (1881) goes to Singapore

As first seen at the Exposition of Fine Arts in Madrid in 1881.
Source: La Ilustracion espanola y americana (30 June 1881)

News photo of La Muerte after 136 years.
Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer (16 November 2017)

Famous Filipino artist Juan Luna was first noticed in Spain because of his work La Muerte de Cleopatra (The Death of Cleopatra), competition entry number 379 in the Exposition of Fine Arts in Madrid that opened on 18 May 1881.

This historical painting was awarded a silver medal but it has never been seen again. The Museo Nacional del Prado kept it for 136 years. Luna fans will have to fly to Singapore to see it on exhibit at the National Gallery Singapore from 16 November 2017 until 11 March next year.

We first saw the news photo reproduction of La Muerte painting in the 30 June 1881 issue of La Ilustracion espanola y americana, a Madrid magazine, and read a review of it and other paintings in the Madrid exposition in the 22 June issue.

The reviewer said that Luna's work, which was in the fourth exhibition sala, caught the fixed attention of viewers; and he called the newcomer in the Spanish art circle as "energetic, frank, brilliant."

"The subject of the painting," he wrote, "is the death of that queen of Egypt whom Horace called the fatal monster, and Virgil a cursed woman; that one which Michelet said does not deserve mercy or admiration. .. In golden bed lies the corpse of Cleopatra, adorned with pharaonic magnificence; the slave Iras, also dead, is in front of the bed; the black slave Charmion, who has just placed the royal crown on her lady's head, falling at that moment, as if struck by lightning." The venomous asp had just done its job.

There is something missing, he added. And he took it from Plutarch: the emissaries of Octavio who were able to enter the mausoleum where "Caesar's and Anthony's mistress" and her slaves locked themselves in. One of the emissaries was supposed to have shouted to Charmion that Cleopatra does not deserve the crown, but the slave shouted back that she's most worthy of it, being the daughter of kings.

In the composition, the reviewer said, "one can see the faithful Charmion falling to the ground but you can not see or even guess that there were Roman intruders.

He noted that the many exuberant details on the canvas, and even the beautiful background, greatly distracted from the main theme of the work.

He concluded, however, that the painter is a promising luminary in the Spanish art scene.

Juan Luna would make a bigger splash in the Spanish media in 1884: the highest honor and praises his Spolarium gained, two news magazines having him in their covers, with one of the cover stories written by his friend Jose Rizal. In later years, reproductions of his works were featured including the paintings he did on the prison walls when he was incarcerated for rebellion in Manila. 


  1. Review of La Muerte in La Ilustracion Espanola y Americana. 25:23(406). 22 June1881. 
  2. Painting reproduction in La Ilustracion Espanola y Americana. 25:24(415). 30 June 1881.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

"Sangre Roja" - association of San Narciso public school teachers in the 1900's

There was no Gabaldon school building yet in San Narciso in 1910. The first one would be built in 1913 although the Gabaldon law (Act 1801), which appropriated Pesos 1-Million for constructing schools based on the designs of architect William Parsons all over the country, was enacted in 1907.

Male teachers, provincial representatives in a PTA event, 1909. Two of them are from Zambales.
Source: Cover of The Filipino Teacher, June, 1909..

The public school teachers of San Narciso though organized a society they called "Sangre Roja." There could have been a strong reason for them to adopt that name, which means "red blood" but which we can not seem to deduce from what "The Filipino Teacher" reported as "the tendency of this society [of being] (1) Recreative, and (2) Instructive."

"The Filipino Teacher" was the monthly magazine of the Philippine Teachers' Association (PTA) edited in English, Spanish and Tagalog. The San Narciso teachers belonged to the Zambales Teachers' Association, which became the provincial committee of the PTA in 1908. 

In their organizational meeting held in the hall of the Presidencia, the "Sange Roja" elected the following officers:  President - Mr. Victor Amos Altardino, Secretary - Mr. Marcos Fuerte,       Treasurer - Miss Maria Guidilla, and Vocales [Board members]: Mr. Gervacio Fedalizo, Miss Marcelina Academia, Miss Perfecta Amos, Miss Francisca Firme, Mr. Alejandro Dumlao, Mr. Esteban Guidilla.

That meeting was followed by an "interesting program", according to the magazine report which featured the following: 

1.  Preliminary talk by the President of the association “Sangre Roja” Mr. Victor Amos Altardino.

2.  Recitation, the Book of the Year, by Miss Maria Villanueva

3.  Flores Orientales, Waltz by the band of the Municipality

4.  Conference about the important [sic] of Poultry Raising by Mr. Victorio Posadas

5.  Morena Carmen, Waltz by the Band of the Municipality.

6.  Debate. Resolved that it is more beneficial for a girl to stay at home than to go to school

Affirmative – Miss Perfecta Amos, Mr. Benito Ebuen, and Mr. Apolonio Academia
Negative – Miss Marcelina Academia, Mr. Donato Amon and Mr. Pablo Cawagas

7.   Star Spangle[d] Banner and Marcha Nacional Filipina

We read several school programs in the early 1900/s in other places that featured a debate. This could have been an exercise for mastering the English language, an oral test for both the teachers and their students.

Our Narcisenian teachers of 1910 could have been on the job ever since the Americans introduced the new educational system in 1901. Some were qualified to teach after going through the crash course in the English language; others, after passing the Intermediate school (Grade 7), and later, completion of the high school course.. The Zambales High School in Iba was established in 1908, and if there were any Narcisenians there, they graduated in 1912. Eventually, graduates of the Normal School became the leading figures in the school system.

In those early years, there were more male teachers than female. Pensionados to the U.S. were mostly men. 'Gender-fair' was not yet in the vocabulary, and the salary was not equal between the two sexes..

Salaries were either insular (from the national government) or municipal (from the town coffers). The American teachers were paid more than their Filipino counterparts. Every time the Americans were given a raise, the Filipino teachers complained through "The Filipino Teacher" of the "unfair" treatment, and wondered when they would also enjoy the "limpak limpak" salary the Americans got. The Tagalog phrase was from an article in the Tagalog section of the magazine.

Although "the service is open to both sexes, however, on identical terms, and in many provinces, the women teachers receive an average larger salary than the men."  In 1904, for example, "the average salary for a native teacher [was] highest in the city of Manila ... P 72.67 per month for men teachers and P70.16 for women teachers; and it is lowest in Paragua [Palawan] .. P7.50 for the men and P 7.75 for the women. ... [In] Zambales, P9.92 for men and P11.37 for women." 

Thus in 1904, the maestros of San Narciso received an annual salary of  P119.04, while the maestras were paid  P136.44, The Americanos received more than a thousand pesos each.

Note: The teachers in the picture as numbered: 1.Mr. Anastacio Quijano (Gen. Secretary of The Filipino Teacher); 2. Mr. Bernardo Elayda (Zambales); 3.Mr. Francisco de Mesa (Pampanga); 4. Mr. Ciriaco de Leon (Bulacan); 5. Mr. Guillermo Santos (Pres., Executive Board); 6. Mr. Leoncio R. Gonzales (Advisor and Gen. Secretary Protempore); 7. Mr. Militon Cruz (Bulacan); 8. Mr. Emilio Pestaño (Manila); 9. Mr. Hugo de la Torre (Batangas); 10. Mr. Pablo de Guia (Cavite); 11. Mr. Miguel Nicdao (Pampanga); 12. Mr. Pedro Manalo (Rizal);13. Mr. Teodorico Bauson (Pangasinan);14.  Mr. Brigido Santos (Rizal); 15. Mr. Quirino Perez (Pangasinan); 16.  Mr. Zosimo Topacio (Cavite); and 17.  Mr. Marciano Peralta (Zambales).


1. Report on "Sangre Roja" in The Filipino Teacher, 4:3(4), August, 1910.

2. Report on the approval of  Zambales Teachers' Association as provincial committee of PTA in The Filipino Teacher, 2:6(6), December 1908.

3. Annual Report of the General Superintendent of Education. September, 1904. Manila: Bureau of Public Printing. pp 17-25.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Filipino Veterans receive the Congressional Gold Medal

Source: U.S. Mint

After 75 years, the United States finally recognized the Filipino veterans who fought with the American forces during the Second World War.

The Congressional Gold Medal was finally collectively awarded to the Filipino Veterans of World War II on 25 October 2017 at the Emancipation Hall of the U.S. Capitol. 

These Filipino Veterans served honorably in an active duty status between 26 July 1941 and 31 December 1946 under the command of the United States Army Forces in the Far East (USAFFE) within the Philippine Commonwealth Army, the Philippine Scouts, the Philippine Constabulary, recognized guerrilla units, the New Philippine Scouts, the First Filipino Infantry Regiment, the Second Filipino Infantry Battalion (Separate), or the First Reconnaissance Battalion, including those commanding or serving as U.S. military officers or enlisted soldiers.

Ceres Cawagas Busa receiving her father's medal from MGen. Antonio Taguba, US Army, ret.
(Photo courtesy of Sonny & Ceres Busa)

A personal note: one of the posthumous awardees was one of my father's good buddies, a popular teacher in my youth, Death March survivor Pantaleon Cawagas. His daughter Ceres Cawagas Busa received his award from retired US Army Major General Antonio Taguba during the ceremony.

The medal was designed and struck by the United States Mint. Its obverse side displays part of the range and breadth of the Filipino Veterans’ service in World War II. It shows a Filipino scout, a Filipino infantry regiment officer, and a guerrilla soldier. In the foreground is an infantryman on guard, symbolizing the soldiers’ fierce determination. “FILIPINO VETERANS OF WORLD WAR II” is inscribed.

The reverse side displays both the American and Filipino World War II-era flags. The design includes these inscriptions: “UNITED STATES ARMY FORCES IN THE FAR EAST” along the top border, “DUTY TO COUNTRY” and the key locations of “BATAAN & CORREGIDOR,” “LUZON,” “LEYTE,” and “SOUTHERN PHILIPPINES” in the central area, “ACT OF CONGRESS 2016” along the bottom, and upon a scroll between the flags, the significant years of “1941,” “1945,” and “1946.”

The 114th Congress of the U.S. passed the Public Law No. 114-265 or the Filipino Veterans of World War II Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2015 on 14 December 2016. Section 4 of this law provides that “President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives shall make appropriate arrangements for the award of a single Congressional Gold Medal to the Filipino Veterans of World War II in recognition of their dedicated service during World War II. The medal, following its award, shall be given to the Smithsonian Institution where it will be available for research and display. It is the sense of Congress that the Smithsonian Institution should make the gold medal available for display elsewhere, particularly at other appropriate locations associated with the Filipino Veterans of World War II.”

The Congressional Gold Medal is one of the highest civilian awards bestowed by the U.S. Congress as an expression of gratitude for distinguished achievements and contributions by individuals, groups, or institutions.

In recent years, the Medal has been awarded to recognize the services rendered during World War II of the 100th Infantry Battalion, the 442nd Regimental Combat, and the Military Intelligence Service (awarded in 2010); First Special Service Force (2013); Members of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders (2014); WWII members of the Civil Air Patrol (2014); and “Monuments Men” (2014).

P.S. A 3-inch bronze copy of the medal can be bought from US Mint at $39.95.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Formal education in my old hometown, San Narciso in Zambales

The names of 18 schoolboys and their fathers from the 
barangay of Don Clemente Jose in the 1846 petition.
(Source: Ereccion de Pueblos. SDS-14126. National 
Archives of the Philippines)
We can say that the documented history of formal education in San Narciso started on 22 February 1846 when the fathers of 104 Alasiis schoolboys sent a petition to Fr. Nicolas Martinez, parish priest of Yba and Vicar Forane of Zambales, imploring that they be allowed to hire maestro Don Julian Dias Ronquillo of Subic. 

The fathers wanted their sons to be taught their Christian duties-- ‘walang nalalaman unang-una sa katungkulan ng taong Christiano’—but they were worried about their safety as they walk the miles to the school in Cabangan. Hence, they wanted a maestro-in-residence.

Don Julian became the first teacher of Alasiis and of San Narciso town after its creation from the five Ilocano barrios between Cabangan and Uguit.

Education of the ‘Indians’ was a directive of the royal decree of 05 June 1574. This was iterated by the Raon Ordinance No. 93 of 26 February 1768: “it is strictly ordered that the [the provincial governors] request [the priests] … to establish schoolmasters in all villages, who shall teach the Indians to read and write in Spanish, and the Christian doctrine and other prayers.”

Almost a century later, the general system of primary schools in the country was established by the royal decree of 20 December 1863. The Normal School was founded; secondary schools and colleges followed.

The escuelas, separate for boys (niños) and girls (niñas), were under the control of the municipal government. There were no school infrastructures as we see today.

Teachers were appointed by the authorities in Manila. One of the early ‘maestros de escuela publica de instruccion primaria [teachers of the public school for primary education]’ of San Narciso was Don Jose Ferriols, a 23-years old Spanish mestizo from San Felipe who graduated from the Normal School. He had taught for three years when he was appointed to the post in San Narciso in August 1871.

Don Juan Posadas, another graduate of the Normal School, was appointed as the town school teacher in April 1874 with a monthly salary of sixty pesetas. He served uninterrupted for thirteen years, which was more than the mandatory ten for Normal graduates. In 1888, he asked permission to resign because of poor health: chronic anemia and palpitation of the heart.

There were women teachers for the girls like Dna. Anastacia Garcia (1870s) and Dna. Telesfora Calimlim (1880s).

In 1896, Don Simeon de Villanueva y Pobre, a native of San Narciso, proposed to establish a private school here. He spent five years of secondary education at the University of Sto. Tomas from 1880 to 1885.

“For many years,” he wrote to the Governor-General, “it was my constant desire to open in San Narciso, my own hometown, a private school for adults, teaching in it the rudimentary elements of primary education, but putting more interest in the teaching of the Spanish language.” His petition was endorsed by the parish priest Fr. Francisco Moreno and the principalia headed by Capitan Municipal Rufino Fernandez. Don Simeon’s dream was not realized.

The American occupation brought a new educational system with English as medium for instruction. In 1902, the department of public instruction was re-organized as the Bureau of Education.  Teachers from America--collectively called 'Thomasites'--were spread throughout the archipelago to head school districts and to teach using primers and textbooks from America.   

The Americans set up the prototype of Philippine schools designed by William Parsons. The Philippine Assembly Act 1801 in 1908 appropriated US1-million to construct the so-called Gabaldon schoolhouses named after Assemblyman Isauro Gabaldon, author of that law.

Gabaldon school building plan of West Central (San Rafael-Natividad) Elem. School.
(Source: Bulletin No. 37-1912. School Buildings and Grounds. Bureau of Education)

The first public school building of San Narciso was for the ‘Central School’ built with an appropriation of P5,000 in 1912. It followed the bureau’s standard plan No. 10. This could be the Gabaldon building of West Central (now San Rafael-Natividad Elem. School), the first public school of the town according to oral and written accounts.

Construction begun on 03 April 1913 under a local foreman. “The building was completed inside of four calendar months at a total cost of P18,602.88,” the Bureau of Public Works reported, “including all surcharges, by administration, under a native foreman, the estimated cost being P21,000 and the appropriation P20,000.”  Don Teodoro R. Yangco, a well-known philanthropist of that time, donated P5,000 as part of the cost.

The school was formally inaugurated on 28 November 1913. It was a big event, according to the Bureau of Public Works Bulletin: “It being school holidays from the 27th to the end of the month, all the students of the Iba high school, over 200 strong, the pupils from Yangco school, San Felipe, and Olongapo, and a big crowd of citizens from all over the province and some provincial officials, all came down to San Narciso to witness the grand dedication of the school. … The most notable events were the various athletic meets, in which the students showed no less school spirit in rooting and singing for their teams than in the [United] States, and the elder folks forgot their customary visits to the cockpits. “

Secondary education was offered later, and those who desired it initially went to the provincial high school in Iba.

Alma mater of Pres. Ramon Magsaysay.

The first private high school of the town—Zambales Academy—was established in 1922. This was brought about by the difficulty of transportation to Iba, the increasing number of students tending to crowd the provincial high school, and the inability of that high school to accommodate all those who want to get a secondary education.

After the Second World War, Zambales Academy opened a college department offering education and secretarial courses. Its education graduates taught at elementary schools in the town and province.

In the late 1960’s, the school was sold to the joint venture of the Philippine Episcopal Church and the Philippine Independent Church.

The enterprising couple--Luis Abiva and his wife Asuncion Quiray—put up the Abiva High School before the outbreak of World War II. After the war, according to reports, Mrs. Abiva allowed a group of prominent town citizens to operate the school, renamed San Narciso Cooperative Commercial High School.  It became Zambales Commercial High School later, which was changed to Magsaysay Memorial Institute (MMI) in honor of Pres. Ramon Magsaysay after his death.

The Columbans acquired MMI in 1951. This was the first of the Catholic schools that the religious order established from Olongapo to Sta. Cruz. In 1962, the high school was incorporated into the Magsaysay Memorial College (MMC) with the addition of the elementary and college department.

The curricular structure of the elementary and secondary schools has transformed into the K-12 program, which added two years—the senior high school—to old system. These additional years provide pre-college tracks for the students to choose from: ABM (Accountancy, Business and Management), STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), HUMSS (Humanities and Social Science), and General Academic. Other tracks enable the students to work after graduation: Arts and Design, Sports and TVL.

Secondary education is offered by the private Zambales Academy and Magsaysay Memorial College and the public national high schools of La Paz and Namatacan. 

While MMC provides viable collegiate courses like education for high school graduates, the Philippine Merchant Academy (PMMA) beckons to those who are inclined to pursue careers in marine transportation and marine engineering.

Graduating cadet from San Narciso in PMMA Class 2017.

PMMA, which relocated from Fort Bonifacio to San Narciso in 1998, dates back to 1820 when it was created as Escuela Nautica de Manila. Juan Luna, its most famous alumnus, was 17 years old when he graduated as Piloto de Altos Mares (Pilot of the High Seas) in 1874. Its transformation from Philippine Nautical School to PMMA in 1963 has produced midshipmen/women, and merchant marine officers in shipboard and offshore positions as shipping executives and technical consultants.

Today, there are fifteen public, and four private and sectarian, elementary schools. Three public national, and two private, schools offer secondary education. High school graduates of the town and other municipalities go to MMC for collegiate courses, or to PMMA (if they pass the rigid entrance examinations) for maritime studies.

Education has brought Narcisenians to prominence here in the country and in foreign lands. Their contribution, in many ways, have brought changes in the social, cultural and economic fabric of San Narciso. 

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The golden gala mantle of Our Lady of La Naval de Manila

Rafael Casal and Arnold Reyes designed and 

executed, respectively, the new mantle of Our Lady 
for the La Naval of 2016.
In the inventory of Santo Domingo Church properties in 1750, according to our friend historian Romeo B. Galang in his Cultural History of Santo Domingo (2013), only the images of Our Lady and San Vicente had big silver frontal or pechero.

He also wrote that the 'the gala vestments of the images were rarely seen by the public [and] were used only during important feasts such as La Naval procession and the octave preceding it.' 

The gold vestments of the image of Our Lady of La Naval could have started during the feast of October 1890. Galang wrote --

"[O]n the Sunday before the high mass, the image of the Virgin was borne in procession, accompanied by the images of San Pio V and Santo Domingo, richly vested in traje de tisu de oro [vestments of gold thread].  

"Only one other image of the La Naval procession – that of San Antonino de Florencia – was known to have golden vestments."

In his caption of the picture of the mantle, 'the gala mantle of Our Lady, made of woven gold threads ornately decorated with brocades, is still preserved, and was used during the Canonical Coronation of the image of 1907,' he wrote.

The mantle as seen from the back.

By tradition, the image of Our Lady has always been called the "Santo Rosario"; hence, the mantle is also referred to by that name: the Santo Rosario Gala Mantle.

Last year, the Dominicans marked the 800th anniversary of their order (Order of Preachers). In celebration, a new gala mantle was commissioned that would harmonize with the silver frontal, which dates back to the nineteenth century.  

Artistic details of the mantle embroidery.

Artist Rafael Casal designed in 2015, and it took almost three months to make the full-scale drawing; and actor Arnold Reyes and his Bordados de Manila executed the intricate design for nine months. We were able to talk with these two artists about their work before the start of the grand procession last year.

That new gala mantle which Our Lady wore during the October 2016 procession was described as of 'golden hue and embroidered lavishly with gold thread befitting a Queen. Design elements such as ribbons and garlands were culled from Western sources and melded with a local motif, the tamborin. Certain components rendered in high relief, possess almost sculptural effect.'

Furthermore: 'The mantle is replete with symbols pertinent to the history of the Dominican Order and perhaps devotion to the Holy Rosary. Eight tiers of celebratory swags (symbolic of eight centuries of the Order) intertwine with festoons and garlands of roses (alluding to the devotion to the Holy Rosary). These are held together by a plethora of flowing ribbons. Hanging from these ribbons are tamborin medallions bearing seals of the BVM, the Order, the Holy See and the city of Manila. Alternating with the swags, draped tamborin beads call to mind the countless rosaries offered by devotees for over four centuries since the arrival of the first Dominican missionaries in our country.'

It was described as 'a testament to the unwavering devotion and fidelity of  ... the Camarera of Our Lady to the Santo Rosario. It is also a shining example of Philippine artistry and craftsmanship at its best!

  • Souvenir Program. Maria: Ina ng Awa. La Naval de Manila 2016 / September 29-October 9, 2016. Sto. Domingo Church, Quezon City.
  • Galang, Romeo B. (2013). A Cultural History of Santo Domingo. Manila: UST Publishing House.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The 32nd International Coastal Cleanup day in San Narciso, Zambales

The 32nd ICC on the coast of  host town  San Narciso, Zambales.

The Philippines joined the annual global observance of  the 32nd International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) Day on Saturday, 16 September 2017 with the theme, “Together for our Ocean”.

Zambales was the focal province for the national observance led by ICC Philippines. San Narciso, our hometown, with an estimated 11,000 volunteers from its seventeen barangays, played host to provincial, regional and national government officials, CSOs and NGOs. 

This year, the aim was to surpass the 2015 number of volunteers but also to promote Zambales as an environment-focused province. Hence, the vision of creating an e-cropolis in the vicinity of Mt. Tapulao in Palauig, a mountain area cooler than Baguio, an ideal site for retirement houses of local and foreign seniors, and for an international convention center.

Students and teachers walked a kilometer from the town plaza to the cleanup site.

San Narciso town was conveniently accessible to the volunteers from outside the province being midway between Subic and Iba. It is the surfing capital of the province. It is also implements a marine biodiversity management flagship program-- marine turtle conservation and protection, the only one in Zambales--and this month happens to be the start of the nesting season of the Olive ridley species..

This year’s ICC Day is the fourteenth observance in the Philippines after its commitment through Presidential Proclamation No. 470 issued on 15 September 2003. There was no nationwide observance last year, however, because the government declared a state of lawlessness. The Ocean Observancy accepted the cancellation for the safety of volunteers.

ICC observance in the Philippines in September 2015.
(Source: ICC Philippines 2015 Report)
In the 30th ICC Day in 2015 though, the Philippines was the top participating countty with 256,904 volunteers from 47 provinces, who cleaned up 1,162.8 kms of coastline, collecting 301,772 kgs of trash in the process. Of the total number of volunteers, 308 used watercraft, and 296 went underwater, to collect debris.

Zambales was number one in the top 10 of volunteers, followed by Batangas, Metro Manila, La Union, Cebu, Cavite, Antique, Catanduanes, Pangasinan and Leyte, in that order.

The province had 89,042 volunteers who collected 8,902 bags of trash that weighed approximately 61,407 kg from an estimated 372.1 km-long coastland, the longest in the list. The total of debris items collected was 5,392,915. Of these, the top ten debris amounted to 3,394,304 items comprising from the largest to the smallest: food wrappers (1,208,950), cigarette butts, straws/stirrers, other plastic bags, grocery plastic bags, plastic bottle caps, plastic take-out/away containers, plastic beverage bottles, plastic lids, and plastic cups and plates (140,545).

Last year’s 31st ICC Day, with the non-participation of the Philippines, the top three participating countries were the United States (183,321 volunteers), Hongkong (76,311), and Canada (24,475).

The Top 20 participating countries in ICC Day 2016 and weird items found in the marine debris.
(Source: Ocean Observancy's ICC 2017 Report)

There were 504,583 volunteers from 112 countries and locations who collected 8,346,055 kgs of marine debris from along 24,136 kms of beaches, coasts and waterways, comprising 13,840,398 debris items.

Top 10 items collected in the Philippines on ICC Day 2015.
Source: ICC Philippines 2015 Report.

The ICC was initiated by Ocean Conservancy in 1986 is the largest volunteer effort held annually every third Saturday of September to deal with trash, one of the biggest threats to the oceans.

On ICC Day, volunteers around the world remove trash and debris from beaches, waterways and other water bodies, identify the source of the debris, and record information on the debris collected. These activities can ‘change behaviors that cause pollution [and] raise awareness on the extent of the marine debris problem,’ and data analysis of results can ‘aid in better-informed policy decisions and improved solid waste management programs.’

Volunteers record the kind and material composition of objects they collect. The information is ‘instrumental in helping determine the effects that specific materials are having on ocean habitats. … scientists and ocean advocates will be able to identify the best remedies and advocate for solutions that will lead to a healthier ocean.’

Top 10 items collected worldwide on ICC Day 2016.
(Source: Ocean Obsservancy's ICC 2017 Report)

According to Nicholas Mallos, conservation biologist and marine debris specialist of Ocean Conservancy: ‘The ability to pinpoint the types and amounts of material on beaches and in the ocean – not just the kinds of products – makes the data more informative when supporting marine debris policy.’