By Dr. Gregorio F. Zaide
PAGSANJAN,Famous in song and story is the little town of Pagsanjan, situated at 101 kilometers south of Manila and can easily be reached by car or bus in two hours. It is world-renowned not only because of the Pagsanjan Falls, whose enchanting beauty fascinates tourists from all corners of the globe, but also because of its panoramic vistas, its fine homes and lovely women, and its talented citizens, whose achievements in war and peace reflect glory to the Filipino nation, and its cosmopolite culture which is a harmonious amalgam of Asian, Hispanic, Mexican, and American heritage.
A MINI-TOWN OF GLOBAL FAME
Geographical SettingLike a graceful swan, Pagsanjan perches on the riparian delta formed by the confluence of two cool rivers called Balanac and Bumbungan. Originally named Pinagsangahan, meaning "branching" or "juncture", the town was given a Hispanic name by early Spanish colonizers, Pagsanjan, because they found it extremely difficult to pronounce its polysyllabic name.
The town is bordered on the east by the green Balubad Mountain, a tiny spur of the Sierra Mountain range; on the west by the town of Santa Cruz (Laguna's provincial capital); on the north by the legendary San Isidro Hill and Laguna de Bay; on the northeast by the town of Lumban (famous for embroideries) and the other towns of Baybay, including Paete (famed for wood-carving) and Pakil (celebrated for the turumba, traditional folk dance and song in honor of the Virgin Dolores); on the southeast by the mountainous towns of Cavinti and Luisiana; and on the south and southwest by the somnolent Mount Banahaw and the upland towns of Magdalena, Majayjay, Liliw, and Nagcarlan.
Pagsanjan, one of the small towns of Laguna Province, has a total area of only 43.7 square kilometers. As a municipality, it consists of the poblacion(town proper) and 14 barrios, namely; Anibong, Biñan, Buboy, Cabanbanan, Calasuchi, Dingin, Lambac, Layugan, Magdapio, Maulawin, Pinagsanghan, Sabang, Sampalocan and San Isidro.
The climate is moderately tropical and healthful even to the white men. As affirmed by Frays Manuel Buzeta and Felipe Bravo, Augustinian missionary-chroniclers, in 1850; "Pagsanjan's climate is salubrious moderately tempered." There are two distinct seasons - the dry and the wet. The dry season begins in March and ends in June; the wet season lasts from July to October. The interluding period, from November to February, is neither too dry or too wet. It is veritably a tropical springtime, a delightful season for the natives and the foreign tourists.
Pagsanjan is a well-watered town. Annually, it receives an abundant rainfall. There are so many natural springs, especially in the barrios, so that the town virtually floats on a sea of subterranean waters. Thus an old saying of Pagsanjeños runs as follows: "Dig in any part of our town, and you'll strike water, not gold. Gold is valuable; but to a thirsty soul, water is more valuable."
Pagsanjan, unlike those towns located near the active volcanoes (Mayon, Taal, Hibok-Hibok and Mt. Pinatubo), has never been devastated by volcanic eruptions. Like all other towns of the Philippines, it experiences considerable damage from the yearly typhoons, such as Jean (December 26, 1947), Gertrude(September 1, 1948), Yoling (November 19, 1970), Konsing (June 25, 1972), and Gloring (July 16, 1972), and from occasional earthquakes, notably those in 1795, 1828, 1863, 1880, 1887, 1903, 1969 and 1972.
The Economy of PagsanjanThere are no mines of gold, silver, chromite, and other mineral ores in Pagsanjan. The wealth of the town comes from fertile rice lands and coconut plantations; from the rivers which teem with fresh-water fish; from poultry and stock-raising (pigs, carabaos, cows, and goats); from cottage industries (tailoring, woodcarving, and making of coconut charcoal); and from tourism. Two industries for which Pagsanjan was famous during the Spanish and American regimes were the making of jewelries and the production of nata de piña. The men were expert goldsmiths and they used to make fine jewelries, such as rings, bracelets, earrings, and other ornaments in gold and silver. The Pagsanjeños in former years acquired nationwide fame for discovering the making of the delicious nata de piña which consists of mold of the sour variety of native pineapple boiled in syrup. The secret of aging the pineapple mold and the timing of boiling it in syrup was a careful guarded know-how, transmitted from grandmother to mother and from mother to daughter throughout the generations.
As a matter of fact, a Pagsanjeña named Emerenciana Rivera won two gold medals and certificates of honor for her unsurpassed nata de piña which she exhibited in the Hanoi International Exposition (1903) and the Panama International Exposition (1915).
Lamentably, the making of fine jewelries and the production of nata de piña declined since the advent of our Republic, so that now they are extinct as lucrative town industries. In their place has emerged tourism as a new booming industry. Like a magic magnet, the bewitching Pagsanjan Falls is attracting thousands of tourists (local and foreign) year after year, so that Pagsanjan is now rated as one of the 25 top destinations in the Philippines. Accordingly, it ranks in prestige with Niagara City (United States), Acapulco (Mexico), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Costa Brava and San Sebastian (Spain), Capri and Naples (Italy), Copenhagen (Denmark), and Biarritz and Monte Carlo (French Riviera).
A Town Where Ecumenism ReignsDuring Spanish times, Pagsanjan was a bulwark of Catholic Christianity. All Pagsanjeños were Catholics, for the only religion permitted by Spanish authorities was Catholic Christianity. Today Pagsanjan is a town of many religions although Catholicism remains the dominant faith of the people. Long before His Holiness Pope John XXIII persuaded the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) to adopt the universal policy of ecumenism, the Pagsanjeños, being intelligent and tolerant, already practiced it by tolerating other religions to exist in their town.
Presently, many non-Catholic religions exist in Pagsanjan, like the Philippine Independent Church (popularly called Aglipayan), Iglesia ni Cristo, and various Protestant sects, such as Baptist, Presbyterian Seventh Day Adventist, Jehovah's Witness, and Mormon. A few Pagsanjeños, who are either atheists or deists, do not belong to any established religion.
Despite the existence of many religions in their town, the Pagsanjeños live together in harmony and in peace. They do not quarrel over matters pertaining to religion. They never have any bloody religious conflict, like that which convulsed Christian Europe during the 17th century or that which is now raging with virulence in Northern Ireland and Lebanon. In fact, Catholic Pagsanjeños freely marry with Aglipayans or Protestants, and vice-versa.
Attractive Sights of PagsanjanStanding like a lone sentinel at the western entrance of Pagsanjan is the historic stone town gate with three Roman arches and topped by two lions guarding Spain's royal escutcheon. This town gate was built in 1878-1880 during the administration of Don Manuel de Yriarte, Spanish alcalde mayor of Laguna. Many Pagsanjeño polistas labored for two years to finish it. A polista was an able-bodied male from 16 to 60 years old who was drafted annually during Spanish times to render forced labor (polo) in public works for 40 days a year.
In the heart of the poblacion is the well-groomed, rectangular plaza, originally named Plaza de Reina Regente Maria Cristina in honor of Queen Regent Maria Cristina who ruled Spain from 1855 to 1902 during the minority of King Alfonso XIII, her son. It was also constructed by Pagsanjeño polistas under the supervision of the friar cura. Both this plaza and the town gate were belatedly inaugurated amidst festive ceremonies on July 23, 1894, with Dr. Pedro A. Paterno, distinguished Filipino statesman-patriot, as guest of honor and speaker. In bygone years a towering sharp pointed obelisk called Agujo de Cleopatra(Needle of Cleopatra) stood at the center of the plaza. Each of the four sides of this obelisk contained a marble slab. On the first slab was inscribed: "A Ministro Segismundo Moret, Creador de las Juntas de Reformas Ultrarinas -- 1869"; on the second slab: "A Don Antonio Maura, Autor del Real Decreto de 19 de Mayo 1893"; on the third slab: "A Don Ramon Blanco, Gobernador y Capitan General de las Islas Filipinas"; and on the fourth slab: "A Don Angel Aviles, Director General de la Administracion Civil." The splendid obelisk was dedicated to Queen Regent Maria Cristina.
In 1961 the whole obelisk was removed from the plaza and re-erected on a vacant space of Plaza Colonel Francisco Abad near the bridge spanning Balanac River. Its site at the town plaza is now occupied by a tall flagpole which was donated in 1973 by the civic-spirited Tan clan headed by General Manuel Yan, former Chief of Staff of the Philippine Armed Forces. On the western end of the plaza stands the monument of our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, facing the flagpole and the historic Catholic church.
At the strategic corner of Rizal Street and General Severino Taiño Street, facing the town plaza, is the Municipal Building. The ground which it occupies is hallowed with nostalgic memories of the past. It was the site of the Gremio de Naturales (Local Government for Natives) during the Spanish period. During the revolutionary period it was occupied by General Taiño's troops. Later in 1899-1903, it was occupied by the American forces. Subsequently, it became the site of the first Laguna High School from 1903 to 1911.
Looming high near the plaza is the historic Catholic church which was originally built of bamboo and nipa in 1688 by the Pagsanjeño polistas under the supervision of the Franciscan missionary, Fray Agustin de la Magdalena, first parochial priest of Pagsanjan. This crude bamboo-and-nipa church was replaced in 1690 by a magnificent one, made of massive adobe stones, firmly cemented with lime mixed with carabao milk and roofed with red tiles hardened in fire. In 1847-52 Fray Joaquin Coria, talented friar-engineer, built the high stone belfry of Mexican style and the huge dome of Romanesque design, with the Pagsanjeños furnishing the labor, materials, and funds. This wondrous church, the pride and glory of the town during colonial times, was destroyed by American bombing planes on March 15, 1945. Over its ruins the present church has been constructed, a replica of the old, although it lacks the original's majestic dome.
It is interesting to note that the town patroness is Our Lady of Guadalupe, whose first sculptured image was installed at the main altar in 1688 -- a gift from Mexico. In July 1835, two centuries and half later, His Holiness Pope Pius XI, by his Papal Brief, proclaimed Our Lady of Guadalupe as the perpetual National Patroness of the Philippines, as she is in Mexico and other Latin American republics. The original image of the town's patroness was destroyed during the American air raid on March 15, 1945. Years later, in 1958, the Mexican Catholics, having learned of the tragic loss from Consul Fe Palma, donated a life-sized image of the Virgin to Pagsanjan. This second image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was made by Mr. Ramon Barreto, noted sculptor of Toluca, and can now be seen in the town church.
Also worth reminiscing is the fact that the restoration of the beautiful Catholic church was due largely to the Manila Pagsanjeños, whose love for their native town and Our Lady of Guadalupe never fades. Under the able leadership of Engineer German Yia and Dr. Rosendo Llamas, the Pagsanjeños who were living in town and those residing in Manila, in other towns, and in foreign countries generously contributed their precious time and money for the restoration of the sanctuary of their beloved patroness out of debris and ruins of World War II. In due time about P400,000 (pesos) were collected during the massive fund drive, and with this amount the present magnificent Catholic church was successfully erected. Within this church now reign in an aura of glory two images of Our Lady of Guadalupe -- one of which was carved by Maximo Vicente, prominent Manila sculptor, and the other one which came from Mexico.
On top of the legendary San Isidro Hill is the public elementary school (named Francisco Benitez Memorial School), whose upland location and beautiful buildings and playground are invariably unsurpassed by other public schools in the Philippines. From the front portal of this school, one can view the sweeping panoramas of Mounts Cristobal and Banahaw, the distant towns of Majayjay, Magdalena, Santa Cruz, and Lumban, and the sparkling waters of Laguna de Bay. Unique in architectural style is the Home Economics Building of this school because it was patterned after the Teahouse of the August Moon in Kyoto. It was built by Municipal President Baldomero Cosme in 1912, shortly after his visit to Japan.
Natural Wonders of PagsanjanDespite its small size, the town of Pagsanjan is richly dowered by God with natural wonders. The crowning glory of these wonders id the triple gift of nature -- the awe-inspiring gorge, the roaring rapids, and the enchanting Pagsanjan Falls. More of this triple wonder will be fully described in Chapter 4.
What enhances the scenic beauty of the town is its location at the juncture of the twin rivers -- Bumbungan and Balanac. Such location does not only enhance the beauty of the town, but is also economically strategic. For it makes Pagsanjan the crossroads of commerce and travel in the second district of Laguna Province. The fresh waters of the twin rivers are still unpolluted by industrial waste products, greenly verdured on both banks, and teeming with delicious fishes.
The flaming sunrise above the coconut palm-fringed summit of Balubad Mountain in the east and the saffron sunset over the western rim of Laguna de Bay titillate the imagination of man, for they are truly a wondrous joy to behold.
Beneath the upstream bend of Balanac River is a mysterious cavern called Doña Pascuala Cave. Only the bold and skilled divers can see its dark interior because of the river's ice-cold water and strong currents. According to local legend, it was once inhabited by a beautiful mermaid.
Near the entrance of the gorge leading to Pagsanjan Falls, there is a cauldron-shaped bend of the Bumbungan River called Kawa-Kawa (Huge Cauldron). The water there is very deep and, at the bottom, it is so dark that a powerful diver cannot see anything. According to legend, somewhere at the muddy bottom lies a mammoth church bell, which during colonial times, the Pagsanjeños angrily hurled into the deep waters of Kawa-Kawa, because every time it was rung its thunderous peals frightened the pregnant women who consequently suffered miscarriages.
Moreover, there are many mineral springs in Pagsanjan, including the Bumbungan Spring, the San Sebastian Spring, the San Isidro Spring, and the Anibong Spring. These springs are of therapeutic value. It is also the source of the ever-flowing lukewarm water of the swimming pools of the Pagsanjan Falls Lodge and Resort.
Maytime Festivals of PagsanjanMay is the best month of the year to visit Pagsanjan. To feast-loving Pagsanjeños, it is the time for merriment, romance, and music, the serenade songs, rising with melodic sweetness to the accompaniment of throbbing guitars or wailing violins. Since the Spanish period, Pagsanjan has been famous for three May time festivals, namely the Fiesta de San Isidro (Feast Day of St. Isidore), the Flores de Mayo (The Flowers of May), and the Santacruzan (Festival of the Cross).
The Fiesta of San IsidroAnnually on the 15th of May, the barrio of San Isidro, its patron in Pagsanjan celebrates the Feast Day of San Isidro, its patron saint. Because many of the inhabitants of this barrio are farmers, it is proper that San Isidro, the patron of farmers, be its patron saint. This barrio fiesta is not as grandiose as the world famous Dia de San Isidro of Madrid, Spain. It is, however, worth seeing because of its arcadian jovialty and rustic vivacity.
The highlights of the Fiesta of San Isidro are the carabao race, the procession of farmers and their families, and the exciting fireworks. The thrilling carabao race is usually held in the afternoon. The winning carabao and its rider are cheered lustily by the crowd, and are given a valuable prize, for instance, a cavan of rice seeds or a new iron plow.
The procession of the farmers is a delightful thing to see. The men wear white barong tagalog and red kundiman trousers. They are barefooted. For headgear, they use the rattan salakot. The women wear patadyong in red kundiman. They are either shod in bakya (wooden shoes) or are barefooted. The most attractive sight of the procession is a gorgeously decorated carreton (cart) pulled by a big, slow-moving carabao. This carreton carries the patron saint, Saint Isidro, flanked by several barrio beauties dressed in red kundiman. Behind the carreton marches a brass band playing stirring music.
As the lively procession cavalcades along the road, loud explosions of fireworks rock the whole barrio. When the people of the poblacion hear the thundering sounds, they say to each other: "The barrio folks of San Isidro are celebrating the fiesta of their patron saint."
The Flores de MayoThe most unique of the May time festivals in Pagsanjan is the Flores de Mayo (Flowers of May), a colorful festival of flowers in honor of the Virgin Mary. It is exclusively an "all-girls" affair. All participants are girls, especially the pretty ones. During the prewar years this festival began on May 1st when the little girls in town, dressed in white vestidas (dresses), marched to the church in the afternoon to hear the novena and to make a floral offering to the Virgin. This was repeated daily until May 30th.
Since the Liberation (1945), the Flores de Mayo has seemingly lost its religious spirit. It has turned out to be a beauty pageant -- display of feminine pulchritude, precious jewelries, and dress fashions; in short, it has become more of a tourist attraction. The Virgin Mary, attired in elegant raiments, still accompanies the procession, but she is eclipsed by the beautiful and bejeweled Reina de las Flores who is usually from manila. Hundreds of people who watch the procession take for granted the presence of the Virgin Mary. They are more fascinated by the beauty, expensive dresses, and dazzling jewels of theReina de las Flores and other pretty participants.
Today the festival of the Flores de Mayo is no longer traditionally held on the 31st of May. To attract more people, especially the tourists, it is now celebrated during the last Sunday of May.
This May time festival is still supervised and managed by the Hermano Mayor, Hermana Mayor, Hermanito, and hermanita -- all of whom are chosen yearly. Both Hermano Mayor and Hermana Mayor shoulder the heavy expenses of the gala spectacle.
The SantacruzanThe most popular and most widely publicized of Pagsanjan's May time festivals is the Santacruzan (Festival of the Cross). Behind this festival is an interesting tale, which is partly historical and partly legendary, concerning the discovery of the Holy Cross (upon which Christ was crucified) by Empress Helena in Jerusalem during the reign of her son, Emperor Constantine the Great (306-337). According to tradition, she found, with the help of Bishop Macarius of Jerusalem, this sacred relic deeply buried beneath Calvary (Golgotha) hill.
Out of this search and the discovery of the Holy Cross originated the May time festival of the Santacruzan. This festival is always held in the month of May because of the belief that the recovery of the Holy Cross occurred during this month.
In the past, Santacruzan was celebrated in Pagsanjan for nine evenings, the last evening being the grandest spectacle of them all. For eight evenings the children (girls and boys) held a religious procession in town, chanting the words and music of Dios Te Salve. The center of attraction was a small girl dressed in queenly robes and carrying a small cross, accompanied by a small boy attired as an emperor. The girl represented Empress Helena and the boy Emperor Constantine the Great.
The procession ended at the home of the Hermano Mayor or Hermana Mayor. In front of this house was the traditional pabitin, a small hanging bamboo raft laden with fruits, candies, and other delicacies which was raised or lowered by a rope. All the children who took part in the procession would gather beneath the bamboo raft, they would jump high to catch the hanging fruits and delicacies, but could not reach them. Then all of a sudden the man holding the rope would release it, causing the loaded raft to fall. A mad scramble ensued as the children jostled each other to grab a ripe pineapple, a bag of candies, or a bundle of suman. It is interesting to note that the practice of having a pabitin was a Mexican contribution to our culture. In Mexico today it is called piñata. It is a jolly feature of the Mexican Christmas custom known as the posada.
On the ninth night, the last evening of the festival, the Santacruzan was celebrated in grander scale. This time the partakers were young ladies assuming the roles of Reina Elena (escorted by a young man as Emperor Constantine), Reina Sentenciada, Abogada, Reina Mistica, Matusalem (Methuselah), etc.
Since World War II the Santacruzan in Pagsanjan has undergone several changes, making it quite different from its prewar prototype. One change is the shortening of its celebration to only one night, usually on a Saturday night. The second is the elimination of its religious spirit for it has become truly a beauty pageant to attract more spectators, especially the tourists. The third change is the procession around town which is supposed to enact the search and discovery of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem by Empress Helena and her retinue, which has become a colorful parade of beautiful girls, including movie stars, and their gallant escorts who are either cinema male idols or popular basketball players. And lastly, there are more members of the cast taken from the Old Testament, history and folklore, thereby making it really a grandiose pageantry and spectacle.
Presently, the Santacruzan festival has the following characters; Methuselah, portraying the biblical oldest woman; Divina Pastora (Divine Sheperdess),Abogada, a lady in academic cap and gown; Justicia, a lady in chains, representing the queen who refused to join Empress Helena in the quest for the Holy Cross; Reina Mora and the black savages, symbolizing the existence of paganism at the time of the finding of the Holy Cross; St. Macarius, the old Bishop of Jerusalem who helped Empress Helena in her mission; the three pretty ladies representing Fe (Faith), Esperanza (Hope), and Caridad (charity), which are the three cardinal virtues; Reina Ester, Judith, Reina Sheba, and King Solomon -- all taken from the Old Testament; Reina de las Flores, Banderada (Flag Bearer), and Reina Helena, who is escorted by Emperor Constantine the Great. The different beauties have their respective escorts.
At times, certain variations are made in the cast. For instance, in the Santacruzan Festival held in Pagsanjan on May 12, 1974, there were three Santa Elenas, namely Santa Elena I (Miss Lotis Key, movie actress), Santa Elena II (Miss Leila Hermosa, another movie actress), Santa Elena III (Miss Marimel Soriano Gagan, "Miss Pagsanjan of 1974"); and one emperatriz (Miss Ma, Rosario N. Santos, the "Miss Green Race of 1974" of the Philippines).
Great credit is certainly due to Mrs. Carmen Caballes Soriano, the permanent Hermana Mayor of the annual Santacruzan festival of Pagsanjan. She is a well known couturiere of movie star and starlets in Greater Manila and is a daughter of Colonel Pedro Caballes, a revolutionary hero of Pagsanjan. Every year she spends her own time, efforts, and funds to celebrate the Santacruzan in her beloved town, a colorful festival which has gained national recognition because it greatly attracts tourists, thereby enhancing the glory of Pagsanjan.
End of Chapter 1.
THE PAGSANJEÑOS:People are the greatest asset of a nation or community. Without people, there can be no society; and without society, no nation can exist. As a great Chinese philosopher, Mencius (372-289 B.C.) once asseverated: "The people are the most important element in a nation; the spirit of the land and the gains are next; the sovereign is the least important." So it may be said that the Pagsanjeños are God's best gift to Pagsanjan.
A MANY-SPLENDORED PEOPLE
A People of Multi-Racial AncestryLike other Filipinos, the Pagsanjeños represent a gorgeous tapestry of races. In their veins flow the bloods of the East and the West. Contrary to Kipling's imperialist credo that "East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet," The East and the West do meet and blend harmoniously in the veins of Pagsanjeños.
Since dawn of history, the Pagsanjeños have freely intermarried with other races and nationalities. Never have they been afflicted with the virus of xenophobia. Pre-dominantly Malayan in racial origin, they posses the ethnic influences of the Chinese, Indians (Hindus), Japanese, Thais, Arabs, Spanish, Mexicans, Americans, British, French, Italians, and other nationalities.
It is precisely this multi-racial ancestry which enables Pagsanjan to produce men of remarkable talents and women of alluring beauty.
Foreign scientists and scholars who had visited the Philippines during colonial times, notably Sir John Bowring (British) in 1858-59, Dr. Feodor Jagor (German) in 1859-60 and Alfred Marche (French) in 1879-81 and 1883-85, affirmed that the best interracial crossing in the Philippines was the Chinese-Malayan, whose descendants possess the superlative qualities of both races, namely, the frugality, fortitude, and wisdom of China and the courage, adventurous spirit, and pride of Malaysia. As Sir John Bowring said: "The mestizo descendants of Chinese fathers and Indian (Malayan) mothers form incomparably the most prominent portion of the Philippine populations."
Most of the Pagsanjeño families, especially the affluent, enterprising, and intellectual ones, are descendants of Chinese-Malayan ancestors. Other families have infiltration of Japanese, Arab, Hindu, Thai, Indonesian, Spanish, British, American, Mexican, French, and Italian bloods.
Many Pagsanjeños have distinguished themselves in all branches of knowledge and in all realms of human enterprises -- in arts and sciences, in politics and diplomacy, and in war and peace. As a matter of fact, in almost all professions or occupations under the sun you will find Pagsanjeños. Because of this versatility of her people and their high culture, Pagsanjan came to be known during the Spanish period as the "Atena de la Provincia de Laguna" (Athens of Laguna Province). In our time, it may be asserted that Pagsanjan, with her intelligent and talented citizenry, can be a sovereign mini-republic, like Athens and Corinth in ancient Hellas and Genoa and Venice in the Middle Ages.
The Population of PagsanjanPagsanjan is one of the towns in the Philippines without any frightful problem of population explosion. Since her foundation as a town in 1668, the annual increase of her population seldom exceeds 2%. Unlike other Filipinos, the Pagsanjeños do not proliferate like mushrooms. Most of them are too intelligent or too busy in the daily pursuits of their professions to waste their time manufacturing babies.
According to demographic statistics, in the year 1668 the population of Pagsanjan was only about 1,000. In the ebb and flow of time it increased to 1,900 in 1750; 2,700 in 1762; 3663 in 1818; 5856 in 1845; 6361 in 1903; 7,538 in 1918; 8,865 in 1939; 9,282 in 1948; 10,691 in 1960; 14,568 in 1970; 16,132 in 1975 (and 28,999 in 1995 population census).
Presently, the town is faced with a problem affecting population, and that is "brain drain." Annually, many young Pagsanjeño Physicians, nurses, medical technologies, educators, engineers, accountants, dentists, chemists, diplomats, and scholars, like autumn leaves blown by the winds, have gone away to reside in Manila and other towns and in foreign countries, like the United States, Canada, Holland, England, West Germany, Italy, Spain, and Saudi Arabia where they find greater opportunities for a better life. To aggravate this mass exodus to other places, many affluent and talented families since the end of World War II have moved to Greater Manila where they now reside permanently. These Pagsanjeños who migrated to other places in the Philippines and in foreign countries represent the cream of Pagsanjan citizenry.
Magnificent Obsession of the PagsanjeñosWherever Pagsanjeños reside, be it in their native town or in other places (Greater Manila, other provinces of the archipelago, and in foreign countries), their affection for Pagsanjan and their loyalty to their ancestral heritage, never fade unlike a summer rose. Enshrined deeply in their hearts are the nostalgic memories of their beloved town and even if they are descendants of Pagsanjeño fathers or mothers who married with other people, they fondly regard themselves as Pagsanjeños and are proud of it. This evidently evinces the validity of the old saying in Pagsanjan during the bygone eras of her Camelot-like greatness: "Once a Pagsanjeño, always a Pagsanjeño."
And no matter how rich they may be or how much successful and honored they are in their respective professions, Pagsanjeños and their descendants never forget Pagsanjan. Whenever their beloved town needs help, financial or otherwise, they never hesitate to give it.
Many Pagsanjeños, especially those living in Greater Manila, cherish a magnificent dream to return someday to Pagsanjan and spend the twilight years of their life in their adored birthplace. And when they die, it is their fondest hope to be buried in the old town cemetery where their ancestors and relatives now rest in eternity. Unfortunately, only very few of them for reasons beyond their control have realized this dream -- truly an impossible dream to many far-away Pagsanjeños. Only some fortunate Pagsanjeños, after retiring from their professions, like the biblical prodigal son, happily return home. Once more they live among their townmates, sharing in their joys and sorrows, and offering whatever God-given talents they may have for the glory and welfare of the town which they passionately love.
Character Traits of the PagsanjeñosLike all peoples of the world, the Pagsanjeños are hospitable and friendly to all visitors, especially the foreigners. They are warmhearted, fiesta-loving and witty. In time of peace, they are amiably peaceful, civic-spirited, and cheerful; in time of war, however, they are brave, intensely patriotic, and fight with fury. They are loyal and proud of their beloved town and ancestral heritage.
God has generously endowed the Pagsanjeños with remarkable intelligence. Often times Pagsanjeño students graduate in high schools as valedictorians and finish university courses with high honors. They distinguish themselves in all professions. Whenever a Pagsanjeño wins in literary, oratorical, and musical contests or receives awards in arts, sciences, and letters, the town folks smile with a usual comment: "Pagsanjeño yata iyan" (He is really a Pagsanjeño).
Character Traits of the Pagsanjeños(Continuation)... Another sterling trait of Pagsanjeños is the talent in music. In colonial times almost every home in Pagsanjan had a piano, a harp, a violin, a guitar, or any other musical instrument; the town then reverberated daily to the sound of music. During the 19th century a brass band called Banda Pagsanjanwas established by a music lover, Francisco Guevara, a government escribano (clerk). It was hilariously dubbed by the witty Pagsanjan folks as "Bandang Pilit" because its members were recruited by force. Don Francisco, with the help of the friar curate, selected the best musicians in the pueblo and compelled them to join the band. It was the brass band which Dr. Jose Rizal mentioned in Noli Me Tangere (Berlin, 1887) that played well during the town fiesta of San Diego (Calamba).
Before World War II, there were Pagsanjeños playing in first-class orchestras which performed in night clubs at Manila, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Kobe, Yokohama, Singapore, Bangkok, and other Oriental cities and in the cities of Canada and the United States. During that bygone era, the children's orchestra under the directorship of Mr. Antonio F. Zaide, music teacher, furnished fine music to the visitors and in school programs. The members of this unique orchestra were school children, boys and girls from the age of 7 to 14.
Other good traits of the people are their religious tolerance, fine sense of humor, love for education, fondness for sports, cosmopolitanism, and resiliency to adversity.
And now comes the bad character traits of the Pagsanjeños. The first is their predilection for gossip. Like the Madrileños of Spain, the Parisians of France, and Neapolitans of Italy, they are gossipers, particularly the women. Gossiping, as a matter of fact, is a daily pastime in town.
The second bad trait is vanity. The Pagsanjeños are prone to boast of their intellectual superiority over the inhabitants of other towns. With hyperbolic pride, they boast of the glories of their town and the wondrous achievements of their town mates. They acclaim with windy extravaganza the bewitching beauty of Pagsanjan Falls and the elegance of their homes. So irritating is this vainglorious mania of the Pagsanjeños that the residents of other towns lampoon them as mahangin (windy). Whenever the Pagsanjeño begins to praise the greatness of his town at a social party in Manila or in any other town, the guests usually giggle, whispering to each other: "Yan na naman ang hangin ng Pagsanjan" (Here goes again the wind of Pagsanjan).
After World War II, many Pagsanjeños have succumbed to two vices -- gambling and drinking. Mahjong games are now rampant, especially on Saturdays and Sundays. They are played in the homes of prominent families and in the gambling dens. Other popular forms of gambling are monte, black jack, cara y cruz, jueteng, and tupada (illegal cockfight). The San Miguel gin, "ang inumin ng tunay na lalaki" (the drink of a real man) is popular, especially among teen-agers. Other local hard drinks which have gained popularity among the town boracheros (drunkards) are Tanduay Rum and White Castle. Stateside wines, including White Label, White Horse, Johnny Walker, Napoleon Brandy, and Fundador, are exclusively for town elite because of their prohibitive prices.
It is gratifying to note that the compulsive gamblers and shameful drunkards of Pagsanjan constitute a small minority of the town population. The majority are still uncorrupted by gambling and alcoholic drinks; they invariably represent the decent and exemplary citizens of the town. It is to be hoped that the rising generations would not follow the bad example of their gambling and hard-drinking fathers.
End of Chapter 2.
THE LEGENDS OF PAGSANJANThe people of Pagsanjan have a rich folklore which is part of their cultural legacy from their forefathers. It consists mostly of interesting legends which have been handed down orally from generation to generation and are happily preserved to the present day. Seven of these legends are the following: "The Legend of Pagsanjan Falls," "Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Bandits," "The Legend of San Isidro Hill," "The Legend of Doña Pascuala Cave," "The Buried bell of Kawa-Kawa,: "The Legend of the Golden Cow," and Why the Lanzones Are Sweet."
The Legend of Pagsanjan FallsThe Pagsanjan Falls, which foreign visitors acclaim as "enchanting" and "gorgeous", is rich in legendary lore. Long, long ago, recounts one legend, there were no falls. There were only the foliaged highlands, the twin rivers, called Bumbungan and Balanac, and the alluvial delta (where the town of Pagsanjan now nestles). On the eastern bank of the Bumbungan River lived two old brothers named Balubad and Magdapio.
For many years, the two brothers enjoyed a rustic life of peace and happiness. But one day calamity struck. A terrible drought brought ruin and death. No rains came for successive months. The soil became dry as tinder. The blooming flowers and food plants withered and died. The birds, deer, wild hogs, monkeys, and other animals disappeared. The rivers, creeks, and mineral springs dried up. Not a single drop of life-giving rain fell from heaven.
Balubad and Magdapio suffered immensely. Day and night, they prayed for rain, but the gods did not heed their prayers. The older and weaker of the two brothers, Balubad, died of thirst. Magdapio, with a sorrowing heart, buried him on the slope of the mountain overlooking the river delta. This mountain is now called Balubad.
Left alone in a waterless world, Magdapio agonizingly trekked to the upper region of the arid riverbed. He reached the high rocky cliffs, after an arduous journey. To his utter disappointment, he found no water.
"Ye gods!" he sobbed bitterly, "Where is the water?" In despair, he angrily hurled down his big cane among the rocks.
Suddenly, a spring bubbled on the spot where the cane fell. Rapidly it grew bigger. The fresh waters roared down the canyon walls, soon becoming a booming waterfall. Amazed at the miracle, Magdapio fell on his knees and thanked the gods. He drank the cool water until he felt new energy surging in his blood. Thus emerged the world famous Pagsanjan Falls.
Originally, the waterfall was named Magdapio, after the legendary patriarch. In the summer of 1902, An American Presbyterian missionary, Reverend J. Eugene Snook, happened to visit the Magdapio Falls. He was enchanted to see the falls and was thrilled by "shooting the rapids." Upon his return to Manila, he wrote a story of his visit to the falls which he named "Pagsanjan Falls". His story, with an accompanying photo of the falls, was published in a popular Manila newspaper, The Cablenews American, and was widely read in the city and in the provinces. Thus the waterfall came to be known as Pagsanjan Falls, a name which has gained fame in the tourist world.
Our Lady of Guadalupe and the BanditsDuring the last decades of the Spanish regime the provinces around Manila -- Bulacan, Batangas, Cavite, Tayabas (now Quezon Province), and Laguna -- were terrorized by tulisanes (bandits). The inhabitants in these bandit-infested provinces were in constant dread of the marauding brigands. The Guardia Civil(the Constabulary during the Spanish times) was impotent to curb the rampaging brigandage. These supposed guardians of peace and order during the Spanish period proved to be more efficient in oppressing the helpless population than in protecting them from the tulisanes.
On the chilly midnight of December 8, 1877, the people of Pagsanjan were soundly sleeping. Many of them were having beautiful dreams about the coming fiesta of their beloved Patroness (Our Lady of Guadalupe) and the Christmas season. The town was silently shrouded in darkness, for it was a moonless night.
A band of bandits which had plundered the upland town of Majayjay the previous evening stealthily approached the western entrance of Pagsanjan. These bandits were led by the notorious Tangkad, the terror of the Tagalog provinces. He was a ferocious Chinese-Tagalog mestizo, physically strong as a wild carabao and tall as bamboo shoot. Because of his height (6 feet 2 inches), so rare for a native, he was known as Tangkad (tall man).
As the armed bandits were about to enter the slumbering town, suddenly a beautiful lady in milky white dress and holding aloft a shining sword appeared before them. Tangkad and his men stopped, spellbound by the strange apparition.
The beautiful lady drew a line across the road and said: "Listen to me, evil men of the night, I know who are you. This is my town, whose people are under my protection. I don't want you to loot and plunder this town. So beware, tulisanes! If you cross this line to molest my people, you will die!"
The bandits, who were brave men in fighting their enemies, trembled with fear. For the first time in their turbulent lives, they were paralyzed with terror. Before their very eyes, the mysterious lady vanished, leaving a rare fragrance in the air. Immediately, Tangkad and his frightened men turned about and fled into the mountain.
This strange incident would have been unknown were it not for the insomnia of a sabungero (cockfighting addict) who was living near the scene. Because of his inability to sleep, he was fully awake that midnight. Through the window of his nipa hut, he witnessed the dramatic event.
The next morning Mang Juan, the old sabungero, rushed to the church and excitedly told the friar cura what he had witnessed. The cura promptly summoned the town officials and the leading citizens and informed them of Mang Juan's story. Like the Spanish cura, the town officials and citizens were skeptical, thinking that it was a figment of Mang juan's alcoholic imagination.
"Now, Mang Juan," said the town gobernadorcillo, "Your story is fantastic. maybe you were drink again last night. If you don't stop telling such foolish stories like this, I'll be forced to put you in jail."
"No, no sir," replied Mang Juan, "What I told you is a true story. By all the saints in heaven, I saw it actually! I swear, I was not drunk last night. If you don't believe me, I'll show you the place where our beloved Patroness stopped the bandits!"
To find out whether or not the sabungero was telling the truth, the cura, local officials, and prominent citizens proceeded to the place. They were guided by Mang Juan. Upon reaching the place, Mang Juan told them: "Here is the exact spot where our Patroness appeared before the bandits."
The old Spanish friar, the town officials, and the leading citizens looked on the ground. To their great surprise, they saw the line drawn by the Patroness' sword, the clear traces of her footprints, and the blurred imprints of the bandits' bare feet. Thus they came to believe the amazing tale of the old sabungero.
The Pagsanjeños, to express their gratitude to Our Lady of Guadalupe for saving their town from the bandits, erected the ornate stone gate on the very line drawn by her sword. The construction of this town gate began in 1878 and finished in 1880. It has miraculously survived the blows of nature and man in the past years, such as the earthquakes, typhoons, revolutions, and wars. It still exists in an everlasting aura to remind the visitors from all parts of the world of the glory that is Pagsanjan.
The Legend of San Isidro HillMany, many years ago, a poor but very pious tenant farmer named Mang Isidro worked in the hacienda of Don Juan Diego, a rich man of Pagsanjan. he lived alone in a nipa hut on a small hill situated north of the town. This hill now bears his name.
Every morning Mang Isidro spent many hours in the town church. Aside from hearing the daily Mass, he recited long prayers to many saints. Accordingly, he was usually late in his farm work every day.
Despite the daily loss of valuable hours in his farm work, his rice crop was always bountiful. Unlike his fellow farmers, he had no problem of pest infestation and rat devastation. No wonder, the farmers who cultivated the rice fields adjacent to his farm were amazed. Year after year, they worked harder than Mang Isidro, but they harvested lesser crops. They become envious of Mang Isidro. One of them, a malicious peasant farmer, tried to discredit him by gossiping to Don Juan, the landlord, that Mang Isidro was wasting many precious hours in church, thereby neglecting his farm duties.
To verify the slanderous gossip, Don Juan made a surprise visit to his farm. He arrived at Mang Isidro's nipa hut at 9 o'clock in the morning. The old tenant was absent because he was still in the church praying to his favorite saints.
Don Juan was angry and waited with impatience at the nipa hut. An hour later Mang Isidro came and was surprised to see his landlord. "Oh, Don Juan," he apologized respectfully, "I'm very sorry to be late. I did not know you're coming, otherwise I would have shortened my prayers."
"You lazy, good-for-nothing tenant," roared Don Juan in volcanic fury. He hurled so many expletives at his poor tenant, who silently endured the verbal storm. In the midst of his furious tirade, Don Juan suddenly stopped because he felt terribly thirsty. "Isidro, give me some water to drink, I'm very thirsty."
Mang Isidro thrust his wooden staff into a rock near his hut. Fresh cool water instantly bubbled out of the rock. Shocked by the miraculous spectacle, Don Juan, forgetting his anger, fell on his knees and begged his old tenant to forgive him. For him, Mang Isidro was indeed a holy man who possessed the miraculous power of a saint.
Since this incident, Don Juan became considerate and kind to his old tenant. Many years later, after Mang Isidro died, the Pagsanjan folks came to revere him as a saint.
The hill where Mang Isidro had lived and labored was named San Isidro after him. The rock where he used to obtain water still exists.
The Legend of Doña Pascuala CaveThe upstream bend of the Balanac River is called Doña Pascuala because the land bordering this particular spot was once owned during the Spanish times by a rich old spinster named Doña Pascuala. Its north bank is made up of adobe stone which drops sharply into the water. About ten feet below the river surface is a dark subterranean cave known as Doña Pascuala Cave. Young boys used to dive into the water to see this cave. Fishermen also explore it to catch giant lobsters (ulang) which usually hide there.
Long, long ago, it is said that a handsome young fisherman, while fishing in the river, was surprised to see a beautiful mermaid combing her hair on the rock. She smiled at him, beckoning him to approach the rock.
Lured by her bewitching beauty, the young fisherman swam toward her. The mermaid invited him to her cave which was located beneath the rock. He accepted her invitation, for he was curious to see what was inside the cave.
Diving hand in hand into the water, the couple emerged in a beautiful room filled with fabulous treasures. The mermaid gave him some gold coins and asked him to live with her. Evidently, she was in love with the handsome fisherman. "I will give you all the riches that any man can have," she said, "if you stay with me".
The fisherman graciously refused the mermaid's offer. He confessed that he was already married and had a wife and a child. The mermaid was unhappy to know that he could not accept her offer.
Sadly, she bade him good-bye. Her parting words to him were: "Go back to your wife and child. Keep the gold coins I gave you, but never tell anybody where you got them. Farewell, my love."
The fisherman returned home. With great excitement, he showed the gold coins to his wife, "Where did you get these gold coins?" asked the wife.
Forgetting his promise to the mermaid, the fisherman told her, "A beautiful mermaid gave them to me. She lives in a palatial room under the rocky bank of the river."
As soon as he revealed the mermaid's secret, the gold coins turned into common clay. the room filled with treasures beneath the river bank became a dark gloomy cave. And the beautiful mermaid was seen no more.
The Buried Bell of Kawa-KawaOnce upon a time a giant church bell from Mexico arrived in Pagsanjan. It was a gift of the Mexican people who learned from the old friar missionary, who had served as a parish priest in Pagsanjan and had retired to the Franciscan monastery in Guadalajara, that in the town of Pagsanjan, in the distant Filipinas, there was a shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, who was also Mexico's beloved Patroness. Unfortunately, the town church had only a little church bell which was not worthy of the Holy Virgin. The Mexican catholics, who were fervent devotees of Our Lady of Guadalupe, generously raised the necessary funds and ordered the foundry men of Puebla de los Angeles to cast a giant bell.
As soon as this gargantuan bell was finished, it was carried by a pack of ten hardy burros to the port city of Acapulco, where it was loaded on the galleon, the San Carlos. This galleon crossed the Pacific Ocean safely and arrived in manila in 1773.
From Manila, the giant bell was transferred to a big casco which navigated the Pasig River, sailed across Laguna de Bay, finally reaching Pagsanjan, which was then the capital of Laguna Province, the Pagsanjeños happily received the bell, the biggest they had ever seen, and installed it at the church belfry.
The bell was really so big that when it was rung, its booming echoes reached as far as Majayjay and Pakil. Several pregnant women in town were frightened by the thunderous sounds of the bell so that their babies were born prematurely. The children, too, were terrified and cried every time the bell was rung.
The town folks soon urged their gobernadorcillo (town executive) to change the giant bell with a smaller one. The gobernadorcillo brought their complaint to the friar cura. "Padre," he told the cura, "our people are complaining about the big bell. Its booming sounds are causing our pregnant women to give premature births and frightening our little children. Let us change it with a smaller bell."
The friar cura heeded the people's complaint and directed the gobernadorcillo to dismantle the giant bell. With the help of many able-bodied Pagsanjeños, it was loaded on three large bancas tied together as a raft and ferried up near the Bumbungan River. Upon reaching the Kawa-Kawa, near the entrance of the gorge leading to Pagsanjan Falls, the huge bell was hurled down the deep and dark water. Owing to its massive weight, it quickly sank to the muddy bottom of the river.
Since then, the giant bell has remained buried in Kawa-Kawa. It no longer rings to frighten the pregnant women and the children of Pagsanjan.
The Legend of the Golden CowOnce upon a time there lived a golden cow in the verdured hill of San Isidro. This hill, looming high in the north was then a superb pasture land.
For numberless years the golden cow roamed in San Isidro Hill. She grew fat because of the nutritive grasses which sprouted abundantly on the hillsides. There was something strange about this cow. Every time she ate she faced the east, directions of the rising sun, with her tail facing the west, the direction of the setting sun. in other words, she ate in the east and unloaded her excreta in the west.
It is this peculiar eating habit of the golden cow that explained why the families in the ibaba section (east side) of Pagsanjan were getting poor, while those in the ilaya section (west side) were growing rich. The old folks in town said that, to all intents and purposes, the golden cow devoured the wealth of the families in the ibaba and deposited it in the ilaya. So it came to pass that the families living in the ilaya were rich, while those in the ibaba were poor.
The families living in ilaya were the affluent mestizos (descendants of Malay-Chinese ancestors) and those in ibaba were poor naturales. Angered by the ever-growing prosperity of the mestizos, the naturales rushed to the hill one day to catch the golden cow. Their intention was not to kill the cow, but simply to tie her permanently to a huge tree so that she would eat in reverse position, that is face turned toward the west and tail toward the east. If this could be done, the families in the ibaba would become rich and those in the ilaya, poor.
Unfortunately for the ibaba hunters, they could not find the golden cow. This strange cow disappeared somewhere in the hill of San Isidro. Day after day, the men from ibaba searched everywhere, but in vain.
Until the present day the affluent Pagsanjeño families are in the ilaya, west side of the town and the poor ones, in the ibaba, east side. Someday, the old folks predict, the mysterious golden cow will reappear in San Isidro Hill. Should she happen to reverse her position while eating, the presently wealthy families of the ilaya may become poor and the currently poor ibaba families may become rich. Que sera, sera!
Why the Lanzones Are Sweet?Today the lanzones are among the sweetest fruits in our country. Because of their rare sweetness, they are called the "Queen of Philippine Fruits."
Long, long ago, however, the lanzones were not sweet, as they are today. In fact, they were very sour, like vinegar. During those early years they grew in wild abundance in our town and in other towns in the Baybay region. Nobody cared to gather them, much less eat them because of their sour taste. Even the pigs, carabaos, and birds refused to eat them.
One sunny morning a beautiful lady arrived in Pagsanjan. She rested at a little tienda (sari-sari store) near the western entrance of the town. Seeing numerous ripe lanzones hanging from the branch of trees growing around the store, she asked the old woman who was the store owner: "What is the name of those beautiful fruits? They must be nice to eat."
"Lanzones po, señora," replied the old woman, "but they are not good to eat. Nobody eats them."
"Because they are sour."
"That cannot be true," answered the beautiful lady. "With such pretty skin with the color of gold, they must be delicious."
"My dear lady," said the woman, "if you doubt my word, eat them yourself."
During the conversation between the beautiful lady and the store owner, many curious spectators, men, women, and children, came to the store. They were attracted by the beauty of the mysterious lady. They all laughed when they heard the lady said that the lanzones must be delicious to eat.
The beautiful lady approached the nearest tree and plucked a bunch of ripe lanzones. She took out one fruit, pinched it, removed its skin, and ate it. Smilingly, she turned to the crowd at the store saying: "Very delicious." She continued eating, to the great amazement of the gaping people who expected her to throw away the sour fruits.
After getting more bunches of lanzones, the beautiful lady said good-bye to the surprised people and merrily continued walking towards the town of Lumban. The Pagsanjeños were spellbound. They could hardly believe what they had seen and heard.
No sooner had the strange lady gone away than they rushed to the lanzones tree. They ate the fruits and lo! The lanzones tasted very sweet. The lady was right. "But how come that the sour lanzones suddenly became sweet?" they asked each other.
A young woman, the prettiest belle of the town, happened to examine the sweet lanzones she was eating and cried in great joy: "Look! Look at the lanzones! There's an imprint of the lady's finger-mark in them!"
The people pursued the lady to thank her for the miracle. They ran up to the town of Lumban, but saw no trace of the beautiful lady. They asked an old boatman who was sitting at the river bank if he had seen a beautiful lady. "What beautiful lady?" he answered. "I've been sitting here all morning. The only woman who crossed the river was my termagant wife. And she's neither beautiful nor a lady."
The Pagsanjeños returned to their town very much mystified. They asked every one they met in town: "Who was that beautiful lady who miraculously made the lanzones sweet? And why did she disappear before we can thank her?"
Suddenly, a little girl twelve years old jumped in joyous excitement, screaming: "Yes, I know. She's Our Lady of Guadalupe! I remember now she looks exactly like our beautiful patroness."
"Yes," everybody said in unison. "She must be our miraculous Virgin of Guadalupe!"
Thus it came to pass that by pinching the sour lanzones and leaving her fingerprint on them, the Virgin had transformed the sour lanzones into one of the sweetest fruits of the Philippines.
End of Chapter 3.
PAGSANJAN FALLSIn recent years Pagsanjan has become the premier tourist spot of the Philippines. More than 500 tourists from all parts of the world daily visit the town, from Monday through Sunday. These tourists are ferried to the enchanting Pagsanjan falls in native bancas paddled by expert boatmen. They all experience a thrilling memory of adventure, seldom surpassed in their lifetime. As Dr. Marguerite J. Fisher, American lady professor and globe-trotter, said: "I just love Pagsanjan, with its picturesque waterfalls and rapids. I've been there thrice and I've shot the rapids a number of times."
SHOOTING THE RAPIDS
Upstream Banca Trip to the FallsUnlike the Niagara Falls (U.S.) which is located within the periphery of Niagara City, the Pagsanjan falls is situated three miles outside of the town of Pagsanjan somewhere in the rugged highlands of Cavinti. Its site is a national territory under the supervision of the Parks and Wildlife Office of the Bureau of Forestry Development. The only passable route to it is the Bumbungan River of Pagsanjan.
To reach Pagsanjan Falls, tourists or visitors have to ride on bancas (native canoes) manned by skilled Pagsanjeño boatmen (bankeros). The upstream trip to the Falls lasts more than one hour and the return trip is less than an hour. It is on this return that one has to shoot the rapids -- an unforgetable thrill of a lifetime. There are fourteen roaring rapids in all.
The trip upriver is a rather slow process, for the two boatmen are paddling against the stream currents. Before entering the gorge, one would see a broad bend or curve of the river, whose water is extremely deep. This bend is called Kawa-Kawa. According to local legendary lore, the muddy bottom of this bend contains a giant bell, whose thunderous peals frightened little children and pregnant women many, many years ago.
The gorge, the gateway to the world-famous Pagsanjan Falls, is hemmed in by rocky cliffs as high as 300 feet, lush with tropical vegetation -- wild orchids, ferns, and vines. In early morning one may see little monkeys chattering among the vines and birds of multi-colored plumage gamboling or flirting among the bushes. "The gorge of Pagsanjan," commented Mrs. Isabel Anderson, American author-traveler in 1916, "is very beautiful." As the banca glides smoothly through the gorge, one may feel the sepulchral silence and cool atmosphere which comfort the agonizing heart or soothe frayed nerves.
Before reaching the gorgeous Pagsanjan Falls, one may behold many mini-falls, especially during rainy days. The first of this mini-falls is the Talahib Falls. Farther on are the Kaluykuy Falls and the misty Bridal Veil Falls. The other mini-falls, numbering more than nineteen during the rainy months, have no names. Many of these are unseen during the summer season.
After more than an hour of difficult journey upstream, during which the boatmen have to drag the banca, with two passengers on board, or lift it up across the rapids, the real thing emerges in view -- the enchanting Pagsanjan falls, whose booming waters cascade down a 300-foot high rocky cliff in full splendor. The echoes of the falling waters fill the air with symphonic thunder like the crash of a Wagnerian opera.
Behind the curtain of the cascading waters is the mysterious Devil's Cave, so named because its opening looks like the profile of a devil's face.
The base of Pagsanjan Falls is a huge natural swimming pool. Its water is clean and rather cold. A good swimmer can dive and swim to his heart's delight.
The Exciting Shooting of the RapidsThe climax of the visit to Pagsanjan Falls is the exciting "shooting the rapids" during the return trip. It is a rare experience of one's lifetime. The rapids, winding through boulders and roaring downstream with the velocity of an express railway train, are frightening to see. Shooting these rapids is relatively safe, for the Pagsanjeño boatmen, with their inborn dexterity in rowing and amazing skill acquired by many years of experience, have the know-how to navigate them.
Many foreign visitors have enjoyed this unique adventure of shooting the Pagsanjan rapids. As a British traveler P. Armitage, gladly remarked: "Shooting the rapids is the most thrilling experience of my life. I've been to many capitals of the world, but the Pagsanjan trip is worth all the trouble." This is affirmed by General Chatechai Choonhavan, Thailand's Foreign Minister, who said: "Shooting the rapids is a thrill that is unequalled anywhere."
First Written Account of a Trip to Pagsanjan FallsHistorically, the first written account of a trip to Pagsanjan Falls was by Joseph E. Stevens, an American trader-traveler from Boston. With four American friends, he made a banca trip to Pagsanjan Falls on Holy Thursday, March 22, 1894. In glowing words he described his exciting experience as follows:
After breakfast we went down to the river and got into five hollowed-out tree-trunks (bancas), preparatory to the start up into the mountain gorges. It was worse than riding a bicycle, trying to balance one of the crazy affairs, and for a few moments I feared my camera and I would get wet. However, nobody turned turtle, and we were paddled up between the high coconut-fringed banks of the wonderfully clear river before the early morning sun had looked over mountains into whose cool heart we were going.
End of Chapter 4.
THE PAGEANT OF PAGSANJAN HISTORYLike a golden thread which is woven into a gorgeous tapestry, the saga of the mini-town of Pagsanjan is a part of the grander pageant of Philippine history. In both war and peace since it appeared in history's limelight, its gifted people have played a notable role in the written annals of the Filipino nation.
The Origin of PagsanjanPagsanjan first loomed in history as a barrio of Lumban, a town founded in 1578 by the famous Fray Juan de la Plasencia, Franciscan missionary-historian. The other barrios were Longos (now Kalayaan), Paete, Pakil, Cavinti, and Santa Cruz. The first settlers of Pagsanjan were eight Christian Chinese and Japanese traders named Diego Changco, Alfonso Changco, Mateo Caco, Jose Jegote, Juan Juco, Diego Suico, Marcos Suico, and Eugenio Vinco. Highly impressed by the strategic location of the barrio at the juncture of two rivers, they established their trading settlement and engaged in betel-nut industry.
Because they had no wives, they married the daughters of the native families. Out of these interracial marriages sprang the first Sangley mestizos and mestizas of Pagsanjan. It should be noted that the Spanish colonizers called the Chinese Sangley, which term originated from the Chinese word shang-lu, meaning "traveling merchant." In due time, lured by the burgeoning prosperity of the settlement, many native families from the surrounding communities (Lumban, Cavinti, Santa Cruz, and Pila) migrated to the barrio. Also more Chinese, in search of greener pastures, came and married the native women.
Throughout the ebb and flow of time Pagsanjan became a flourishing trading center of Eastern Laguna.
Foundation of Pagsanjan as a TownAs the barrio folks of Pagsanjan prospered, they become irritated by their dependency on Lumban, and soon aspired for pueblohood (township). According to local tradition, a dramatic incident hastened their desire to separate from the mother town (Lumban). One day Pagsanjan's cabeza de barangay (barrio head) named Francisco Umale flared in anger during a meeting of local officials in the town hall of Lumban because his protest against the arbitrary imposition of new taxes on his barrio was superciliously ignored by the presiding official, the gobernadorcillo (town executive) of Lumban. In flaming wrath, he hurled his anger on the conference table, saying in great indignation: "If my people cannot get justice from you, we will separate and establish our own pueblo. Goodbye to all of you!" After his fiery speech, he walked out of the meeting.
The Pagsanjeños, unanimously supporting their brave cabeza, petitioned the Spanish alcalde mayor of Laguna (who was then residing in Bay, the first capital of Laguna Province) and the Spanish governor general in Manila to elevate their barrio to a pueblo. Fortunately their petition was approved.
On December 12, 1668 Governor Genaral Juan Manuel de la Peña Bonifaz (1668-1669) issued a gubernatorial decree creating Pagsanjan as a town. The first gobernadorcillo elected by the people was Francisco Umale, the courageous cabeza who had defied the Lumban authorities.
Although the new town became politically independent, it still remained religiously dependent on Lumban. It was not until 1687 that it became a regular parish, by virtue of a Pastoral Letter of Msgr. Felipe Pardo (1677-89), Archbishop of Manila, dated November 12, 1687. The first parish priest of Pagsanjan wasFray Agustin de la Magdalena, former missionary in Mexico. It was he who chose Our Lady of Guadalupe as town's patron saint, whose image came from Mexico with love.
Two Centuries of Disunity (1697-1893)Not long after the rise of Pagsanjan as a town, the people were rent asunder by socio-racial differences, into two rival groups, namely the mestizos(descendants of Chinese-native parents) and the naturales (pure-blooded natives). The mestizos, beccause of their business acumen and high culture, became wealthy and socially prominent, while the naturales remained poor.
The widening gap between the mestizos and the naturales climaxed in 1697 when the Spanish authorities created two local governments in Pagsanjan, namely, the Gremio de Mestizos and the Gremio de Naturales. This was in consonance with Spain's colonial policy of divide et impera (divide and rule). Each gremio had its own officials, town hall and jail.
To aggravate the cleavage between the mestizos and naturales, there were also established two rival cofradias (confraternities) in town, such as theArchicofradia del Santisimo Sacramento for the mestizos and Archicofradia de Nuestro Padre Jesus for the naturales.
Pagsanjan Becomes Laguna's Second Capital (1688)In the year 1688 the capital of the Province of Laguna was moved from Bay (the first capital town) to Pagsanjan. The transfer of provincial capital was ordered by Governor General Gabriel de Curuzealegui (1684-1689), upon recommendation of Don Mateo Lopez Pera, Spanish alcalde mayor of Laguna.
Thereafter, Pagsanjan basked in the magnificent glow of greatness. The town was the center of culture and learning in the whole province, so that it came to be called the "Athens of Laguna." At that time it began to acquire considerable prestige as a town of talented men, beautiful women, and elegant homes. In fact one of the Spanish alcalde mayores who administered the province, Don Juan Pelaez, married in 1810 a pretty belle of the town named Josefa Sebastian Gomez.
The provincial capitol was a big colonial home located on a lot at Calle Real (now Rizal Street) which is presently owned by the heirs of the late Don Manuel Soriano. The provincial jail was also located at Calle Real which is now owned by the heirs of the late Crispulo Fabiero.
For 170 years (1688-1858) Pagsanjan was the capital of Laguna Province. During this long period the town bloomed as the commercial and cultural center of the province.
Resistance to the British InvadersDuring the period when Pagsanjan was Laguna's capital the British invaders came and captured Manila on October 6, 1762. Before the fall of the city, however, the royal treasurer named Don Nicolas de Echauz Beaumont, carrying government funds amounting to P222,000 pesos, escaped and reached Pagsanjan, where he was welcomed by the people. A few days later Archbishop Manuel Antonio Rojo, acting Spanish governor general and a prisoner of the British, sent two emissaries to Pagsanjan ordering the people to surrender the funds and the town to the British conquerors.
The brave Pagsanjeños, out of loyalty to Spain, defied Archbishop Governor Rojo. The Spanish alcalde mayor, who was hated by the people because of his cruelty and corrupt administration, cravenly turned pro-British and commanded the people to give up the funds and to accept Pax Britannia. The Pagsanjeños led by their valiant gobernadocillo, Francisco de San Juan, rose in arms and killed the cowardly alcalde mayor, his cousin and his son-in-law.
On December 9, 1762, three days before the Feast Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe (12th of December), the British invaders under the command of Captain Thomas Backhouse attacked Pagsanjan. The intrepid San Juan and his men depended the town with great fury, but they were defeated by the superior arms of the enemy. They fled to San Isidro Hill. The British invaders, enraged by the stubborn resistance set fire to the church and the houses around the town plaza, after which they continued their march to Batangas. Immediately after the enemy's departure, San Juan and his men rushed to the burning church and rescued the image of their patroness and suceeded in putting out the flames at the church and the private homes.
Afterwards San Juan and some Pagsanjeño volunteers went to Bacolor (Pampanga), where Don Simon de Anda, fighting oidor (magistrate) of the Royal Audiencia of Manila, established his war camp and carried on the resistance against the British invaders. Upon arrival at his war camp, San Juan presented the funds of P222,000 pesos to Anda and offered his military services. In due time he demonstrated his fighting prowess in combat so that Anda promoted him colonel of the troops.
Colonel Francisco San Juan survived the war against the British. He returned to Pagsanjan, where he was joyously given a conqueror's welcome.
Provincial Capital Moved to Santa Cruz (1858)Since the opening of the Philippines to world trade, by virtue of the Royal Decree of September 6, 1834, there arose an awakening of economic progress. Domestic trade and foreign commerce burgeoned. The new material prosperity brought about the booming commerce with the United States, England, France, Spain, and other foreign countries changed the economic climate in Manila and the surrounding provinces.
Spurred by the greater demand for coconut, copra, rice and other products of the lakeshore towns of Laguna in the Manila market, Capitan Luis Yangco, rich Chinese industrialist, established a steamship transportation service between Manila and Laguna's lakeshore towns -- Biñan, Calamba, and Santa Cruz, the Laguna terminal of the Yangco shipping line, became prosperous. Daily, the Yangco steamers crossed Laguna de Bay, linking Manila and Santa Cruz.
Because of the soaring economic bonanza and strategic location of Laguna, the Spanish authorities moved the capital of Laguna from Pagsanjan to Santa Cruz in the year 1858. The Spanish alcalde mayor of the province then was Don Esteban Perez Tapalla.
The Pagsanjeños, of course, were sad at losing the capital-ship of the province. However, they found consolation in the fact that their town was still more famous than Santa Cruz. The only claim of Santa Cruz to prominence was its commercial prosperity. On the other hand, Pagsanjan's Fame rested firmly on its beauty, the high intelligence and culture of its people, its magnificent homes and beautiful streets, the Pagsanjan Falls and other wondrous sights which delighted visitors from all parts of the world, and the peerless achievements of its talented sons and daughters.
Educational Decree of 1863Prior to 1863, there was no public school system in the whole Philippines. Consequently, there was no public elementary school in Pagsanjan as well as in all other towns in the archipelago. The children of school age in Pagsanjan studied in the classes established and operated by private tutors.
and Pagsanjan's First Public School
To improve the educational system in our country, the Spanish Crown promulgated the famous Educational Decree of 1863 which was signed by Queen Regent Maria Cristina of Spain on December 20, 1863. This significant educational decree was actually written by Don Jose de la Concha, Minister of Colonies (Ultramar). It provided for (1) the establishment of a public elementary school in every town to be financially supported by the government and (2) the opening of a normal school for men in Manila.
Pursuant to the Educational Decree of 1863, the first public elementary school was established in 1864. It was opened at the tribunal municipal of theGremio de Naturales (now the Municipal Hall of Pagsanjan). Tuition and textbooks wee free, so that the children of the poor masses gladly attended the school. Thus it came to be called Escuela Pia which means "Charity School". Many of the children of the rich mestizo families preferred to study under private tutors.
The Great Fire of 1893The greatest calamity that befell Pagsanjan during the last decade of Spain's rule was the so-called :Great Fire of 1893." To Pagsanjeños, this was a horrendous calamity, just as the Great Fire of Rome in A.D. 64 was to the Romans. Until the present day (1970's) the old folks in town, who were eyewitness to the conflagration, still remember this terrible episode.
On the windy evening of January 28, 1893, as most of the town people were sleeping, a fire suddenly blazed in a nipa hut near the plaza. Because many residential houses around the plaza then were made of nipa and bamboo, the fir quickly gutted them, and fanned by the winds, it whirled with roaring velocity westward along two parallel streets -- Calle Real (now Rizal Street) and Calle San Isidro (now Mabini Street) -- reducing their houses to ashes.
All the houses from the plaza to the compound of Don Vicente Llamas on Calle Real were completely razed to the ground. The high adobe walls on Don Vicente's home finally stopped the destructive conflagration. On the San Isidro Street, the damage was equally appalling. All the houses (except the stone house of Don Pedro Rosales) on the hilly side of San Isidro Street were burned to ashes.
To prevent the repetition of the "Great Fire of 1893", the municipal authorities prohibited the construction of nipa houses on Calle Real and around the plaza. They also established the ronda which was the nightly patrol of citizen volunteers so that in case of fire they could promptly put it out or give immediate warning to the sleeping town folks. It is interesting to note that the Pagsanjeños blamed their hated parish priest, Fr. Marcelino Tapetado, for the devastating fire for two reasons: (1) he did not show any sorrow at the tragic losses of the fire victims, and (2) the fire originated at the house of his favorite sacristan.
A few days after the "Great Fire", some bold illustrados of Pagsanjan sent a written petition to Governor General Ramon Blanco (1893-96) denouncing Padre Tapetado and requesting his transfer to another parish. They were Jose Unson, Elias Lavadia, Mariano Llamas, and Roman Abaya. The governor general, being ignorant of the local situation, endorsed the petition to Padre Tapetado. The latter, in retaliation, denounced the authors of the petition asfilibusteros, enemies of God and Spain. Since the word of the fraile (friar) during the Spanish regime was accepted as "gospel truth" by the government authorities, the four brave illustrados were soon wanted by the Guardia Civil, Lavadia and Llamas were caught and were sent into exile. their comrades,Unson and Abaya, were fortunate to elude arrest by fleeing to Balubad Mountain.
Maura Law of 1893 and Reunification of PagsanjanMay 19, 1893 was one of the significant dates in Philippine history. On this date Queen Regent Maria Cristina promulgated the Municipal Reform Decree which created a more autonomous municipal government in every town in our country. This royal decree was popularly known as the Maura Law of 1893 after its author, Don Antonio Maura y Montañer, Minister of Colonies. Pursuant to the Maura Law, two local governments of Pagsanjan, namelyGremio de Mestizos and Gremio de Naturales were abolished and were replaced by a single local government called Tribunal Municipal (Municipal Government). The chief executive of the new municipal government was the capitan municipal (municipal captain), assisted by the teniente mayor (chief constable), teniente de policia (lieutenant of police), teniente de ganados (lieutenant of cattle) and teniente de sementeras (lieutenant of the fields). All these municipal officials were elected by twelve electors (chosen among the town ex-officials and tax payers). The method of election was by secret ballot. With the promulgation of the Maura Law of 1893, the Pagsanjeños were reunited as one people -- no more
The first municipal captain to be elected under the Maura Law was Santiago Hocson (father of Mr. Ernesto Hocson), a graduate of the Escuela Normal Superior de Maestros in Manila and former school teacher in Lumban and later Pagsanjan. Incidentally, he was also the last gobernadorcillo of the Gremio de Mestizos.
Pagsanjan's Role in the Philippine RevolutionPagsanjan played a big role during our libertarian struggle against Spain in 1896 and later against the United States, in 1899-1902. On the night of December 12, 1894, Feast Day of our Lady of Guadalupe, a youthful merchant named Severino Taiño and his close friends met secretly in a bodega (warehouse) owned by Mariano Crisostomo and founded a chapter of the Katipunan, a revolutionary society which Andres Bonifacio established in Tondo, Manila, on July 7, 1892. This Katipunan chapter was called Maluningning (Ever Shining). Its members were Santiago Crisostomo (president), Mariano Crisostomo (older brother of Santiago), Severino Taiño, Claro Zaide, Sergio Garcia, Francisco Abad, Pedro Caballes, Gregorio Rivera, and Severo Sumulong. Later Claro Zaide was chosen treasurer and Severino Taiño, general.
Shortly after founding the Katipunan chapter, Taiño and his friends secretly propagated the revolutionary ideals of Bonifacio's Katipunan in the town and in Lumban, Paete, Pakil, Siniloan, Cavinti, Santa Cruz, Magdalena, and other towns of Laguna.
On November 14, 1896, General Taiño raised the red flag of revolution in Pagsanjan. Hundreds of patriots in the town and from surrounding towns rallied around his banner. The following day, with an army of 3,000, he attacked the Spanish garrison which was strongly entrenched at the Catholic church. The assaulting patriots, armed with a few muskets, bamboo, spears, bolos, and anting-antings (amulets), fought courageously, but they were driven back by the Spanish cazadores who were well-armed with rifles (Mauzers) and artillery. General Taiño and his surviving forces retreated to Pagsanjan.
Undaunted by their defeat in Santa Cruz, Colonel Francisco Abad, bravest officer and compadre of General Taiño, attacked on November 16 a Spanish column marching from Batangas to Santa Cruz, at Sambat (crossroad located between Pagsanjan and Santa Cruz). The fight was bloody and fierce. Colonel Abad, riding his fast horse, fearlessly charged the enemy lines. He was killed by a volley of gunshots. His men, without a leader, were routed by the Spaniards. Because of his heroic death in combat, local chroniclers have acclaimed him as the "Hero of Sambat."
Owing to the superiority of the Spanish armaments and the arrival of more enemy troops in Santa Cruz, General Taiño and his patriot forces evacuated Pagsanjan, retreating to the mountains. They continued the fight for freedom by means of guerilla tactics.
The conclusion of the famous "Pact of Biak-na-Bato" (December 14-15, 1897) stopped all hostilities in blood-drenched Philippines. As history reveals, the peace brought about by this pact did not last long because Spain's broken promises.
Shortly after the destruction of the Spanish fleet at Manila Bay on May 1, 1898 by Commodore Dewey's squadron, General Emilio Aguinaldo returned from his exile in Hong Kong. He proclaimed recrudescence of the revolution against Spain and urged all patriots to arms and fight for freedom's sake. In response to Aguinaldo's proclamation, General Taiño rallied his forces and resumed the libertarian struggle. With the help of the troops of General Paciano Rizal (brother of Dr. Jose Rizal), he attacked the Spanish army in Santa Cruz. When he could not crush them by assault, he besieged the town beginning June 24, 1898. For more than two months, the bottled Spanish army tried to break the siege, but in vain. Finally, on August 31, Don Antonio del Rio, last Spanish civil governor of Laguna, seeing that everything was lost, surrendered to Generals Taiño and Rizal. At long last, General Taiño redeemed his defeat in Santa Cruz on November 15, 1896 and avenged the death of Colonel Abad in Sambat on November 16. Unfortunately, he did not live long to witness the dawn of Filipino freedom because he was treacherously killed on October 25, 1898 by a Spanish renegade, Lieutenant Casteltor, who had joined General Miguel Malvar's staff, during a barrio fiesta in San Pedro, Laguna.
It should be noted that on June 12, 1898, the Declaration of Philippine Independence, a historic document written by Atty. Ambrosio Rianzares Bautista, Biñan patriot and relative of Dr. Jose Rizal, was proclaimed at Kawit, Cavite. Three months later, on September 15, the famous Malolos Congress convened at Malolos, Bulacan, under the presidency of Dr. Pedro A. Paterno. The province of Laguna was represented by two Pagsanjeño intellectuals, namely, Judge Higinio Benitez and Maestro Graciano Cordero. Both of them participated in the drafting of the Malolos Constitution and were among its signers. This Constitution established the First Philippine Republic.
During the War of Philippine Independence (1899-1902), a Pagsanjan brigade led by Col. Pedro Caballes fought in defense of Filipino freedom. This fighting brigade was part of General Cailles' army which resisted the invasion of Laguna Province by American troops commanded by Henry C. Lawton. On April 10, 1899, Santa Cruz (Laguna's capital) fell into American hands. The following day Lawton's cavalrymen occupied Pagsanjan.
Early Years of American OccupationAfter the downfall of the First Philippine Republic (1899-1901), the people pf Pagsanjan accepted Pax Americana. By cooperating with the American authorities and rehabilitating their war-ravaged country, they hoped to regain someday in the arena of peace their nation's independence which was lost in the arena of war. But first, they must rebuild their ruined country out of the ashes of a lost libertarian struggle (1896-1902) and prepare themselves, politically and socially, to be worthy of independence, as their great fellow Lagunense hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, wrote in his immortal writings. Accordingly, they welcomed the new political and educational changes introduced by the United States.
On June 19, 1901, the new municipal government was established in Pagsanjan by the Second Philippine Commission headed by Judge William H. Taft. For lack of time and facilities, the first municipal president named Prudencio Francia was appointed and installed into office. On March 2, 1903, the first official census under the American rule was taken throughout the Philippines to prepare the people for the coming local and national elections. This census showed that the total population of Pagsanjan was 6,361.
The first local election by means of secret ballot was held in Pagsanjan in November 1903. A young illustrado, Roman Abaya, won at the polls, thereby becoming the first elected president of the town. One of the eight elected councilors was Crispin Oben, a young promising lawyer.
Coincident with the introduction of the democratic local government, the free public elementary school, with English as the medium of instruction, was opened in the town in 1903. The first teachers were American soldiers who laid their guns and taught the children the rudiments of the English language. A night school was also opened for the adults (including municipal officials and employees, policemen, and barrio officials). In the same year (1903) two young Pagsanjeños, Timoteo Abaya and Genoveva Llamas, were chosen to be among the first 100 Filipino "pensionados" to study in the colleges and universities of the United States.
In 1903, the first provincial high school, called Laguna High School, was established in Pagsanjan. It was housed at the municipal building until 1911 when it was transferred to Santa Cruz. The first American teachers who were assigned to teach in the Laguna High School were dedicated educators, to whom truly belongs the glory of having brought the torch of American democracy and the English language to our shores. Speaking of them, Dr, Narciso Cordero, Jr., an eye-witness of the early years of the American regime, wrote:
The American teachers stationed in Pagsanjan were as much a source of curiosity to the town folks as we have been to them. They had volunteered their services with a mixed spirit of adventure and missionary zeal to help "civilize a backward people." It just happened that Pagsanjan at that time boasted of a high degree of culture and had a high percentage of illustrados, steeped in Victorian mores of conduct. These were critical of some of the American teachers, who dressed shabbily, walked about in the streets munching bananas like children; sat on chair with feet crossed on their knees; and had dirty fingernails.....However, all of them made themselves pleasant to the town people. One in particular, Shirley E. Robert, is especially remembered by old-timers. He was a Harvard graduate, with a distinct Harvard accent, and spoke English fluently.Two non-Pagsanjeños who studied at the Laguna High School in Pagsanjan rose to fame in later years. The first was Basilio J. Valdez from Manila, who later finished medicine at the University of Santo Thomas, served as medical officer in the French Army during World War I (1914-18), and became a member of President Quezon's War Cabinet during World War II (1938-45). the second was Leopoldo B. Uichanco from Calamba, who became a distinguished scientist and Dean of the U.P. College of Agriculture in Los Baños.
Aside from propagating the English language, the American teachers (college graduates as well as ex-soldiers) introduced in Pagsanjan the American games (baseball, volleyball, swimming, etc.); Yankee music and songs; and the American customs (Halloween, Christmas caroling, exchange of Christmas cards, etc.).
In less than a decade the Pagsanjeños, because of their high intelligence, came to assimilate the English language and the American culture. In 1907 the youthful lawyer and former councilor, Crispin Oben, who learned the English language from an ex-American soldier, was elected to the First Philippine Assembly, representing the Second District of Laguna. He was the first Pagsanjeño to sit in the legislative body of our nation. In subsequent years other Pagsanjeños were elected to the House of Representatives, Philippine Legislature, under the Jones Law of 1916, namely Eulogio Benitez and Aurelio Palileo, both lawyers.
Campaign for Philippine IndependenceNotwithstanding their material prosperity under the American flag, the Pagsanjeños yearned for the restoration of their freedom and republic which their nation once enjoyed during the revolutionary era of 1898-1901. They were vigorously led by Speaker Sergio Osmeña who launched the peaceful campaign for Philippine Independence during the closing session of the First Philippine Assembly on the night of June 19, 1908, the 47th birthday anniversary of Dr. Jose Rizal. On the historic night, Speaker Osmeña addressed the members of the Philippine Assembly, as follows:
Allow me, gentlemen of the House, following the dictates of my conscience as a delegate, as a representative of the country, under responsibility as Speaker of the House, to declare solemnly as I do now before God and before the world, that we believe that our people aspire for their independence, that our people, consider themselves capable of leading an orderly life, efficient for themselves and for others, in the concert of free and civilized nations, and that we believe that if the people of the United States were to decide at this moment the Philippine cause in favor of the Filipinos, the latter could, in assuming the consequent responsibility, comply with their duties to themselves and to others, without detriment to liberty, to justice, and to right.This independence declaration of Speaker Osmeña was unanimously ratified by the members of the Philippine Assembly, including Assemblyman Crispin Oben from Pagsanjan.
In February 1919, shortly after the end of World War I (1914-18), the First Independence Mission, headed by Senate President Manuel L. Quezon, left Manila for the United States to request the U.S. Congress to grant independence to the Filipino people, as was promised in the preamble of the Jones Law of 1916. One Pagsanjeño named Conrado Benitez accompanied this historic independence mission as one of the technical advisers.
The First Independence Mission, as well as other missions dispatched in subsequent years, failed to get the cherished independence. At long last, the OSROX Independence Mission, headed by Senator Osmeña and House Speaker Manuel A. Roxas, succeeded in securing from the U.S. Congress theHare-Hawes-Cutting Act (January 17, 1933). This law provided for a ten-year transition prior to the granting of the Philippine independence, the framing of a Constitution of the Philippines by the Filipino constitutional delegates, and the establishment of the Commonwealth of the Philippines.
Unfortunately, Senate President Quezon, jealous of the success of Senator Osmeña and House Speaker Roxas, persuaded the Philippine Legislature to reject the Hare-Hawes-Cutting Act. Boasting that he could get a better independence law, he led the last independence mission to America. What he obtained from the U.S. Congress was the Tydings-McDuffee Act (March 24, 1934) which was, in truth, a slightly revised copy of the Hare-Hawes-Cutting Act.
Framing of the 1935 Philippine ConstitutionPursuant to the Tydings-McDuffee Act, the Philippine Constitutional Convention was convened at the session hall of the House of Representatives, Manila, on July 30, 1934, to begin the task of framing the Constitution. It was composed of 202 delegates who were elected by the people on July 10th. The two delegates who represented the 2nd District of Laguna were Dean Conrado Benitez, a son of Judge Higinio Benitez; and Pedro Guevara, former senator and resident commissioner.
Under the presidency of Senator Claro M. Recto, famous jurist and statesman, the 1934-35 Convention seriously tackled the difficult work of writing our nation's constitutional charter. Delegate Benitez played an important role in this historic work. He was a member of the Sub-Committee of Seven, whose members were dubbed the "Seven Wise Men" because they wrote the final draft of the Constitution on February 8, and signed by the members of the Convention on February 19, 1935.
After the signing of the Constitution, it was forwarded to Washington, D.C. for approval by the President of the United States, as stipulated by the Tydings-McDuffee Act. On March 23, 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt approved it. The final step was the ratification by the Filipino people in a nationwide plebiscite held on May 14, 1935.
The Sakdalista Uprisings and the PagsanjeñosOn May 2-3 1935, shortly before our nation ratified the Constitution, the pro-communist Sakdalistas, by order of their supreme leader (Benigno Ramos, founder of the Sakdal Party), rose in bloody uprisings in 14 towns of the Southern Tagalog provinces and in Central Luzon. The chief purpose of this armed tumult was to plunge the country into chaos and prevent the ratification of the Constitution.
Happily, the violent risings of the Sakdalistas were suppressed by the Philippine Constabulary. According to Acting Governor General Joseph Ralston Hayden, the fiercest fights took place in the three towns of Santa Rosa and Cabuyao (Laguna) and in San Ildefonso (Bulacan), where the rebel Sakdalistas were able to seize the municipal buildings. In these three towns the Sakdalistas (men and women), numbering between 5,000 and 7,000, were routed by the government forces.
Several days, before the eruption of the Sakdalista uprisings, the Sakdalistas in Pagsanjan, who numbered about 400, were ordered by the lieutenants of Benigno Ramos who was safely ensconced in far-away Japan to join the armed upheaval. They were mostly poor tenants in the barrios and gullible uneducated men in the poblacion. Prominent among them were Pacifico Abad (who introduced the Sakdal movement in the town in January, 1935), Antonio Abella, Estanislao Abarquez, Anacleto Ebio, Ricardo Ruperto, Asias Walo, and Manuel Zalamea. Fortunately they were more peace-loving than their sanguinary counterparts in other Sakdal-infested towns so that they did not participate in bloody uprisings.
Pagsanjan During the Commonwealth PeriodOn May 14, 1935, the Pagsanjeños voted overwhelmingly for the ratification of the Constitution. When the Commonwealth of the Philippines was inaugurated at Manila on November 15, they rejoiced with music, cheers, and prayers. The popular comment in the town was: "Now we are on the road to independence." Even the unlettered masses were glad at the birth of the Commonwealth, which they called Ka-manuel after President Manuel L. Quezon. Shortly after his induction into office, President Quezon reorganized the government of the Philippine Commonwealth. In this government there were at least three Pagsanjeños who were appointed to public service, namely: Dr. Jose Fabella, Secretary of Health and Public Welfare; Dean Conrado Benitez, Assistant Secretary to the President; and Julio Francia, City Assessor of Manila.
Pagsanjan continued to flourish during the Commonwealth period. The Pagsanjeños enjoyed material prosperity. Their homes, town plaza and church, streets, and town gate were as beautiful as in colonial times. Their sons and daughters were studying in the colleges and universities of Manila and also in foreign universities. Many gifted Pagsanjeños continued to excel in the professions -- arts and letters, economics, chemistry, dentistry, engineering, business, music, and education.
But the jolly good years in the life of man or nation cannot last forever. And so it was for the beautiful and affluent town of Pagsanjan. Suddenly on the chilly morning of December 8, 1941, calamity struck -- the explosion of war with Japan (the Pacific phase of World War II).
Pagsanjan's Interlude of AgonyThe wartime period from December 8, 1941 to April 16, 1945 was an interlude of agony in the history of Pagsanjan. The people of the town were stunned when they heard that Japan had attacked the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. Fearful Pagsanjeño families residing in Manila and other provinces evacuated to their native town. The National government designated Pagsanjan as one of the evacuation centers. As a result, the town was flooded with refugees from Manila, Pampanga, Pangasinan, and other provinces. In less than a month's time, the town's population had doubled in number.
In response to President Quezon's appeal for fighting men, numerous young Pagsanjeños (including the sons of prominent families) joined the USAFFE (United States Armed Forces in the Far East) under the command of General Douglas MacArthur, America's famed militarist. Many of them never returned home, for they either perished on the battlefields of Bataan and Corregidor or in the prison camp of Capaz, Tarlac.
After the cheerless Christmas Day (December 25, 1941), the Fil-American forces which were losing the fight at the Atimonan-Mauban sector began their retreat to Bataan via Pagsanjan. The Pagsanjeños, growing apprehensive over their fate, began to evacuate to Paete, Pakil, and other towns in Baybay region. In the afternoon of December 28, the USAFFE engineers blew up the river bridges. The next day the last remnants of the surviving troops left the town in big army trucks, bound for Bataan. As they departed, more Pagsanjeño families fled to other towns and to the distant barrios.
At noon of December 30, 1941, Rizal Day, the vanguard of the victorious Japanese invaders entered Pagsanjan. They were welcomed by a few Pagsanjeños headed by the town president (Emilio Aquino). Fortunately, the Japanese soldiers behaved well. They told the few Pagsanje#241;os that they came as friends and should not be afraid of them. Because no atrocity was committed by the enemy, all the Pagsanjeño families who fled to other places soon returned to their empty homes.
Despite the Fall of Bataan and Corregidor, the people of Pagsanjan remained loyal to America and democracy. At the risk of their lives, they supported with men, arms, food, and funds the guerilla warfare against Japan. They themselves suffered immensely because the Japanese troops commandeered their homes, foodstuffs, pigs, cows, carabaos, and chickens.
For helping the guerillas, many male Pagsanjeños were brutally killed by the Japanese. Among them were Dr. Dominador Gomez, Vicente Santos, Augusto Abary, David Austria, and Julio Labit. Also the Pagsanjeño guerillas who fell into Japanese hands were executed. Greatest among them wasCipriano Zaguirre, former town president and local commander of the Fil-American guerillas. He was executed by the Japanese on the night of August 25, 1942. He is now acclaimed in the town annals as the "Guerilla Hero of Pagsanjan."
While the Pagsanjeños were agonizing under Japanese occupation, General Artemio Ricarte, famous revolutionary hero who preferred to live in exile at Yokohama than to take oath of allegiance to America, visited Pagsanjan on January 14-15, 1942. He addressed a vast multitude of Pagsanjeños from the balcony of the municipal building, urging them to cooperate with Japan. The Pagsanjeños, who respected him for his valiant record during the Philippine Revolution, listened attentively and applauded him warmly, but they never heeded his advice because they knew that he was a puppet of the Japanese military authorities.
Even with Japan's recognition of "Philippine Independence" and the establishment on October 14, 1943 of the "Republic of the Philippines," with Dr. Jose P. Laurel as President, the Pagsanjeños refused to collaborate with the Japanese military authorities. Being an intelligent people, they knew that the Japanese-given independence was phony and the Japanese-sponsored Republic of the Philippines, a puppet government.
As time went on, the tide of war turned against Japan. On their hidden radio sets, the Pagsanjeños secretly listened to short-wave radio broadcasts from San Francisco (California) and Australia. Accordingly, they learned that the Japanese air-land-sea forces were losing the battles in the Southwest Pacific area and that General MacArthur was hopping from island to island towards the Philippines. During the early months of 1944 the Pagsanjeños (as well as other Filipinos) suffered more atrocities inflicted by Japanese kempei-tai (secret police) and soldiers. With patience, courage, and hope, they endured their sufferings and prayed to God within the privacy of their homes to hasten the dawn of their liberation.
In the midst of their agony, the Pagsanjeños suddenly heard the gladsome news of General MacArthur's successful landing in Leyte on October 20, 1944. This news was secretly leaked to them by some bold townmates headed by Mr. Salvador Unson, secret adviser of the town guerillas. Cheered by the Leyte landing, they waited day after day and prayed more for the success of the American liberators. From clandestine radio broadcasts, they learned of the liberation of Mindoro (December 15, 1944), MacArthur's landing of Lingayen (January 8, 1945), and the entry of the American and guerilla liberating forces in Manila on the evening of February 8, 1945.
The Destruction of a Beautiful TownAs Pagsanjeños were awaiting expectantly the coming of their liberators, suddenly in the morning of March 15, 1945, several waves of American bombers and fighter planes swooped down on their town and subjected it to a terrific carpet bombing which completely destroyed the Catholic Church, the municipal building, and the residential houses around the town plaza. Fortunately, the human casualties were slight -- four residents, including a baby, were killed. The Japanese soldiers who were billeted in the private homes also suffered very few casualties -- one killed and four wounded.
After the horrendous American carpet bombing, the frightened troops set fire to many residential houses along the Rizal, Mabini and General Taiño Streets. As the flames gutted the beautiful homes, the evacuated the burning town, retreating towards the Sierra Madre Range.
Not all homes, fortunately, were destroyed by the horrible conflagration. Those which were burned were the elegant homes in town, especially in Rizal Street, which were of colonial vintage. Consequently, on the wings of war vanished the magnificent homes of the affluent Pagsanjeños, with their romantic azoteas, attractive red-tiled roofs, and including the valuable oil paintings, antique furniture, pianos, jewelries, and other heirlooms. Gone also were the age-old Catholic church, with its grandiose white dome, and the historic image of Our Lady of Guadalupe which came from Mexico.
Also destroyed by American bombs and Japanese-set fires were the private libraries of the illustrados which contained priceless rare editions of books on history, politics, geography, mathematics, religion, and sciences; the old images of saints which had been preserved and worshipped at the family altars; and the complete historical records of the church and municipal archives so that it is now impossible to write the full history of Pagsanjan since its foundation in 1668, for they have no duplicates in the archives of Spain, Mexico, Vatican, and other foreign countries.
The Liberation of PagsanjanOn April 16, 1945, a month after the departure of the last Japanese soldiers, the vanguard of the American liberators, accompanied by the guerillas from Pagsanjan, Santa Cruz, and other towns, entered the town. This was the so-called "Liberation of Pagsanjan." What really was liberated was a ghost town in shambles, inhabited by a few families which were unable to evacuate to the barrios. Once upon a time Pagsanjan, like the legendary Camelot, was a community of happy and prosperous people, great in beauty and rich in culture. Now what the liberators saw was a desolate town of weeping ruins and cold ashes. There was no joyous welcome for the liberators, no wild greetings of gratitude, and no warm exuberance of liberation, for most of the people were in their evacuation camps in the barrios.
When news reached the barrios of the arrival of the American liberators, the refugee families rushed back to town. Sadly, they viewed the dolorous destruction of their homes and beautiful town. Instead of tears of joy, they shed tears of sorrow for their great material losses. They were, however, consoled with the thought that they were alive and free again. The Japanese reign of terror was over, and the dove of peace once more hovered over their beloved town.
Resurgence Over the Ashes of WarEver resilient in spirit like their durable bamboo plants, the Pagsanjeños, spurred by indomitable courage and buoyant hope, began to rebuild their devastated town. Within a short time, a new Pagsanjan, like the fabled phoenix of Heliopolis, arose over the ashes of war.
Thanks to the war damage funds generously given by the United States, new homes appeared over the ruins of the old; the Catholic church, municipal building, and schools were rebuilt; the river bridge were reconstructed; the town plaza and the streets were cleared of war's debris and were planted with flowering plants and shade tree..
Fortunately, three of the cherished historical relics of the town remained intact, undamaged by the bombs and flames, namely, the historic town gate with three Roman arches, topped by two lions holding Spain's royal escutcheon; the old colonial town plaza which was named after Queen Regent Maria Cristina of Spain; and the majestic obelisk called the "Needle of Cleopatra."
Postwar Pagsanjan is not as superbly beautiful as the prewar one. It is, however, reasonably presentable; at least, it is more elegant than many postwar towns in the Philippines.
Of Paramount interest is the fact that the God-given talents of the Pagsanjeños survived the holocaust of war. Such inherent talents can never be destroyed by war's blasting bombs and raging fires. Many gifted Pagsanjeños, especially those living in Greater Manila and in foreign lands, have continued to distinguish themselves in all professions, thereby keeping evermore aglow the traditional glory of their beloved town.
End of Chapter 5.
PAGSANJAN UNDER THE THIRD PHILIPPINE REPUBLICOn July 4, 1946, the Republic of the Philippines was inaugurated with colorful ceremonies at Luneta, Manila. This historic ceremonies were highlighted by the lowering of the American flag and the raising of the Philippine flag, symbolic of the end of American rule in the Philippines and the birth of the Philippine Republic. This republic, historically speaking, is the Third Philippine Republic to emerge in history's limelight. The first was the Malolos Republic (1899-1901); and the second, the Japanese-sponsored Republic of the Philippines (1943-1945).
During the three decades of our Republic, the blowing winds of change swept the town of Pagsanjan, bringing portentous events which shaped the contemporary history of the town.
Exodus of Pagsanjan Families to Greater ManilaBecause of the destruction of their ancestral homes in Pagsanjan and the threat of the Huk movement in the towns and barrios of Laguna province, many Pagsanjeño families evacuated their native town and lived permanently in the Greater Manila area. This exodus of Pagsanjeño families was an irreparable loss to the town because they mostly represented the elite of the local population. Most of them were the rich landlords and the talented intellectuals. A few prominent families noted for their lineage and inherited wealth, however, remained in town and cooperated with the common people in the rebuilding of their ruined town.
The rich Pagsanjeño families who left the town resided in Manila, Pasay, Makati, Caloocan City, and San Juan, where they built their homes and reared their families. Some of them sold out their ancestral residential lots in Pagsanjan, for they had no intention of restoring their old homes in town. They became absentee landlords, for they simply employed some persons called encargados to manage their family rice farms and coconut plantations.
Although they lived far from their town, these migrant Pagsanjeños cherished in their hearts an eternal affection for the town where they were born. Those who possessed God-given talents achieved distinction in arts and sciences, in politics and diplomacy, in business and banking, and in other professions. Their achievements, of course, enhanced the celebration of the town fiesta (December 12th), Christmas season, All Saint's Day, Flores de Mayo, and Santacruzan, they try their best to visit childhood friends.
To the credit of these Pagsanjeños or descendants of Pagsanjeño parents, it must be said that whenever their financial or moral support is needed by their town for any community project, for beautification program, or for the annual fiesta of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Patroness of Pagsanjan), they gladly give it. For instance, the historic stone town gate, one of the historical relics of Pagsanjan, was finally restored to its former colonial condition in May, 1975, because of the funds generously contributed by the Pagsanjeños in Greater Manila. The municipal government could not do it for lack of funds. Aside from giving financial assistance to the town, the prominent Pagsanjeños in Greater Manila help many of their jobless kababayan (townmates) secure employment in the national government, in private schools and colleges, and in commercial firms. So it can be said that no matter how far-away the Pagsanjeños live, their hearts are in Pagsanjan.
Re-Establishment of the Municipal GovernmentSoon after the liberation of Pagsanjan, the municipal government was re-established. Pursuant to the orders of the Commonwealth Government which was restored at Malacañan on February 27, 1945 under President Sergio Osmeña, the following local officials constituted the Municipal Council: Mr. Emilio Aquino, municipal mayor; Dr. Casimiro Garcia, vice-mayor; and Dr. Mariano Z. Macalalag, Dr. Felix G. Yan, Dr. Zosimo Fernandez, Mr. Pio Caballes, Mr. Restituto Caballes, Mr. Guillermo Limlengco, Mr. Pable del Mundo, and Mr. Sancho Zalamea, Jr., as councilors. The municipal secretary wasMr. Primitivo Cabreza.
Because the municipal building was destroyed during the war, the Municipal Council held its sessions at the old house belonging to the heirs of Don Crispin Oben. This was located at the corner of Rizal Street and Santiago Hocson Street.
In December 1947 certain changes were made in the line-up of municipal councilors. Three new designated municipal councilors, Mr. Antonio Alvarado, Mr. Cornelio Oliveros, and Mr. Herminio Llamas, replaced Mr. Pio Caballes, Mr. Pablo del Mundo, and Mr. Sancho Zalamea, Jr.
First Elections Under the RepublicThe first local elections under the newly born Republic of the Philippines were held throughout the Philippines on November 8, 1947. In Pagsanjan the two rival political parties -- Liberal Party and Nacionalista Party -- presented their official candidates for local positions. The LP candidates were Atty. Alberto Crisostomo for municipal mayor, Dr. Casimiro Garcia, vice-mayor; while the NP candidates were Don Manuel Soriano for mayor and Dr. Quintin Cabrera, vice-mayor. The independent-minded citizens, who were disenchanted with both political parties, drafted their own candidates, namely, Mr. Rosalio Abary, a peasant leader, for municipal mayor, and Dr. Gregorio F. Zaide, historian and university professor, for councilor.
The majority of the candidates elected in Pagsanjan on November 8, 1947 were Nacionalistas. They were Don Manuel Soriano (municipal mayor), Dr. Quintin Cabrera (vice-mayor), and four NP councilors -- Dr. Mariano Z. Macalalag, Mr. Restituto Caballes, Mr. Gerardo Abanilla, and Mr. Zosimo Maceda. The Liberals won only three seats in the Municipal Council -- Dr. Felix G. Yan, Mr. Vicente Llamas, Jr., and Mr. Ricardo Fabella. They obtained the last three places of the eight seats in the Municipal Council. Dr. Gegorio F. Zaide, the only independent candidate to win was elected No. 1 councilor, having garnered the greatest number of votes cast for the councilors.
In the subsequent times certain changes were made in the Municipal Council due to the resignation or death of some members. In February 1948 Mr. Gerardo Abanilla resigned to accept a teaching job at the University of the East in Manila, and was succeeded by Mr. Guillermo Limlengco. Councilor Vicente Llamas died in January 1950, and was replaced by his widow, Mrs. Cristeta Pacheco Llamas. In July of the same year Mrs. Llamas resigned because she transferred her permanent residence to Quezon City, and was succeeded by Mr. Ramon Lava.
Huk Reign of Terror in PagsanjanDuring the administration of President Manuel A. Roxas (1946-1948) the communist Hukbalahap (Hukbo ng Bayan Laban sa Hapon), or People's Army Against Japan, loomed as a threat to our Republic. This peasant organization was founded by the Communist Party of the Philippines on March 27, 1942 in the forested area of Sitio Buwit, Barrio San Lorenzo, Cabiao, Province of Nueva Ecija. It was headed by Supremo Luis Taruc of Pampanga.
Despite the "mailed fist" policy of President Roxas and the vigorous anti-Huk campaign of the armed forces, the Hukbalahap movement proliferated in the provinces of Central Luzon and the Southern Tagalog region. On August 26, 1950, the 54th anniversary of the "Cry of Balintawak," a formidable Huk force, reinforced by Huk fighters from the barrios of Pagsanjan, Santa Cruz, and Pila, attacked Santa Cruz (provincial capital). They routed the PC soldiers and burned the garrison. For several hours, they were in control of the town. After looting the provincial capitol and the homes of the rich families, they left the town because of the coming of the PC reinforcements.
President Elpidio Quirino, successor of President Roxas, failed also to suppress the Huk Movement. At the height of the Hukbalahap power from 1948-1953, the Huks, who were then supported by the barrio folks, established an invisible government in various towns in Laguna and Quezon Provinces, as well as in Central Luzon. Pagsanjan then agonized under the Huk reign of terror. The town people, including the municipal officials, were compelled to pay taxes to the underground Huk government. Such taxes were in form of cash, rice, and medicines. Accordingly, the town people who also paid taxes to the government of the Republic were doubly taxed. They had no other choice, but to pay to the Huk tax collectors. If they did not pay, the Huks would kidnap or kill them. The government armed forces could not protect them from the Huks.
A prominent physician Dr. Zosimo Fernandez, defied the Huks and refused to pay anything to them. One day in the middle of 1953, the angry Huks kidnapped his wife and daughter. He was forced to pay a ransom of P40,000 for their release.
The Huk terror ended in Pagsanjan shortly after the election of Ramon Magsaysay as President of the Philippines in November 1953. With his famous policy of "bullets and reforms," he succeeded in crushing the Hukbalahap Movement, thereby saving democracy in the Philippines. At long last, the dove of peace hovered again over Pagsanjan's skies.
High Tide of Dirty PoliticsNo sooner had the Huk menace disappeared when another evil arose. This was dirty politics. Unscrupulous politicians, by means of "gold, goons, and guns," perpetuated themselves in power. Most elections since the Quirino administration were tainted with massive vote-buying and election frauds. Aside from the scandalous buying of votes, certain avaricious politicians hired armed goons and maintained private armies to terrorize the people to vote for them. As a consequence, politicians, especially in Pagsanjan, acquired a bad reputation which is quite unfair because not all politicians are bad.
Before the war, politicians were fine breed of men. They were God-fearing, honest, and with integrity and social conscience. Many of them died poor because they spent their family funds for the welfare of the people. Because of their dedication to public service and their noble character, they were beloved and respected by the people. Contrary-wise, the postwar politicians were a disreputable breed of men who used their positions in the government to enrich themselves. Thus it came to pass that many politicians who were poor when they were elected into office became millionaires within the span of a few years.
During the era of dirty politics (1954-1971), the municipal government of Pagsanjan (also in numerous municipalities in the country) deteriorated. The local officials corrupted the people by buying the latter's votes during elections. And the people, on their turn, corrupted the officials by demanding a high price of their votes and even continued to ask money from officials after the elections. The town voters, with exceptions, of course, were not interested in the election issues and in the character and qualifications of the candidates; what concerned them mostly was "how much can the candidates give them for their votes." No wonder, they had a corrupt government which they deserved. As Dr, Jose Rizal said in his famous essay The indolence of the Filipinos: "Peoples and government are correlated and complimentary. A corrupt government is an anomaly among a righteous people, just as a corrupt people cannot exist under rulers and wise laws. Like people, like government."
The Drift Toward ChaosAside from dirty politics, our nation was plagued by serious problems which menaced our Republic and society. Among these problems were the unchecked rampage of graft and corruption in all levels of our government -- national, provincial, city, and municipal; the widening gap between the rich and the poor; the rising tide of criminality and lawlessness; and the emerging peril of the NPA (New People's Army) and Maoist student subversives. As the years rolled by, these problems worsened, causing the rise of a national crisis.
On the night of August 21, 1971, the Liberal Party held a rally at Plaza Miranda, Manila, to proclaim the eight NP senatorial candidates and the candidates for positions in the City of Manila in the coming local elections on November 8, 1971. Just as Governor Felicisimo T. San Luis of Laguna (the master-of-ceremonies) was announcing the names of the NP candidates, suddenly two fragmentation grenades, hurled by unidentified persons, exploded on the platform, killing eight persons and wounding 120. Among those wounded, seriously or otherwise, were Senator Jovito Salonga; Senator Sergio Osmeña, Jr., and wife; Senator Gerardo Roxas and wife; Congressman John Osmeña; Congressman Ramon Mitra; ex-Congressman Eddie Ilarde; Congressman Ramon Bagatsing, NP candidate for Mayor of Manila; and Governor San Luis of Laguna.
The "Plaza Miranda Massacre" aroused the anger of our nation. The Pagsanjeños, who believe in fair play and justice, were openly indignant. Many of them had witnessed the dastard crime on their TV sets.
A few hours after the "massacre," President Marcos signed Proclamation No. 889 suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the entire country.
Cultural Events in Pagsanjan (1972-1975)As a town of cultured people, the municipality during the martial law regime gave emphasis to cultural development and progress. In conformity with the biblical injunction that "man does not live on bread alone," Mayor Zaide, himself a scholar and lover of culture, pursued a cultural policy to keep aglow the glory that is Pagsanjan.
Among the important cultural events in town during the martial law were the following:
1. Public concert of the world-renowned Pangkat Kawayan (Singing Bamboos) at the town plaza on the summer twilight of May 26, 1972. These unique musical ensemble of 50 boys and girls, ranging in age from 7 to 13, played their bamboo musical instruments with exquisite artistry. They are pupils of the Aurora A. Quezon Elementary School in Quezon City. Under the baton of its gifted director, Mr. Victor Toledo, the bamboo band gave lilting renditions of Filipino and Western music that fascinated the huge crowd. The credit for bringing this Pangkat Kawayanbelongs to Professor Corazon Maceda, a distinguished Pagsanjeña music professor and pianist. It is said that this famous bamboo band was founded on September 6, 1966 by Miss Laura R. Gorospe, principal of the Aurora A. Quezon Elementary School.The Pagsanjeños, with their superiority complex and cosmopolite culture, welcomed all these distinguished visitors with their traditional hospitality, but never accorded them any official honors. They are, as a matter of truth, very choosy in giving honors to foreigners and even to their fellow Filipinos.
This centuries-old Pagsanjan tradition was, however, broken in 1974. On November 23, 1974, U.S. Ambassador William H. Sullivan, accompanied by his charming wife (Marie) and a party of distinguished American and Filipino officials, visited Pagsanjan. The municipal officials and people of the town, cherishing nostalgic memories of Fil-American relations in past years, received him with warmest hospitality and joy. Aside from erecting a grandiose bamboo arch in front of the municipal building containing the names of the Ambassador and his party, they welcomed him with colorful parade, a Te Deum Mass at the Catholic church, a military review of the R.O.T.C. lady cadets of the Pagsanjan Academy, and a memorable program at the plaza which was highlighted by the presentation of the symbolic town key to the visiting American ambassador by the municipal mayor, and concluded by the Ambassador's eloquent brief remarks, The school band of the Union College of Santa Cruz, Laguna, furnished the music during the ceremonies.
Evidently, Ambassador Sullivan was deeply impressed by the enthusiastic ovations accorded him by the vast crowd of Pagsanjeños. No other foreign visitor, as a matter of fact, has ever been given such a gala reception. He truly captured the hearts of the Pagsanjeños because of his genial personality, intellectual brilliance and charisma.
The historic visit of Ambassador Sullivan and his party was climaxed by an unprecedented phenomenon. The Municipal Council, in an emergency session held at the Pagsanjan Rapids Hotel shortly after lunch, voted unanimously to adopt Ambassador Sullivan as a "son of Pagsanjan." This was the first time a foreigner was conferred such an honor.
Restoration of the Historic Town GateOne of the historical relics and tourist attractions of Pagsanjan is the historic town gate which stands at the western entrance of the town. It was built in 1878-1880 by the Pagsanjeño polistas (under the supervision of Fray Cipriano Bac, Franciscan cura) of natural adobe stones welded together by lime and carabao milk. On top of the triple-arched gate was Spain's royal coat-of-arms in gold and yellow colors guarded by two red Castillan lions.
The old town gate has survived the changing epochs of Pagsanjan's history. During the Spanish and American periods, it was known as the Puerta Real(Royal Gate) and the street passing through it, Calle Real (Royal Road). It is now called Rizal Street in honor of our country's national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal.
After the liberation of Pagsanjan from the Japanese, the municipal authorities who had no sense of history and had never seen the historic monuments in foreign countries unfortunately bastardized the historic gate by having it painted in gaudy pink color, including the royal coat-of-arms and the two lions, so that it came to appear like a modern gate of a noisy carnival city or like an old woman, whose wrinkled face is vulgarly covered with a heavy make-up. To add injury to insult, the word "PAGSANJAN" on the upper part of the gate's western facade and the date of its construction 1878-1880 below it, were erased and replaced by the English word of greeting "WELCOME", and on the eastern side of the facade was inscribed in ungrammatical English the words "THANK U, COME AGAIN."
To right the wrong done to the old historic town gate, Dr. Gregorio F. Zaide, the historian-mayor of the town, launched a cultural crusade to restore it to its original condition in order to revive and preserve the aura and nostalgic memories of its golden past. Undaunted by the paucity of municipal funds, he sought the financial aid of the affluent and civic-spirited Pagsanjeños in Greater manila. These out-of-town Pagsanjeños generously furnished the needed funds amounting to P5,000 (five thousand pesos). After obtaining the necessary permission of the National Historic Institute in Manila, the restoration work on the town gate started under the supervision of Engineer Tito Rivera.
Upon completion of the work on May 25, 1975, a large copper plaque was installed on the wall of the first arch. This plaque contains the names of the generous donors, as follows:
To these civic-spirited Pagsanjeños, who kindly financed the restoration of the historic town gate, the municipal government and people of Pagsanjan owe a lasting debt of gratitude.
End of Chapter 6.
THE GLORY THAT IS PAGSANJANThree elements have given glory to the mini-town of Pagsanjan since colonial times, namely:
The Real Glory of PagsanjanOnce upon a time, in those halcyon years before World War II, Pagsanjan was a great town basking redolently in the effulgent glow of glory. This town was then famous for its talented people, attractive homes, tree-shaded streets, and high culture. Like legendary Camelot, it loomed proudly as a citadel of intellectual aristocracy.
Unfortunately, cataclysmic World War II and the ruthless Japanese occupation (1942-45) devastated beautiful Pagsanjan. As rebuilt over the ashes of war, it is no longer as respondent as the one which was destroyed by American bombs and Japanese fires. Thus its prewar greatness, as symbolized by the magnificent mansions on Rizal Street (formerly known as Calle Real or Royal Road) is gone. Gone also are the cool, tree-shaded pedestrian lanes, the splendid old Catholic church with its Romanesque white dome, and the historic Municipal Building.
Although the town's greatness vanished in the flames of war, it has retained its glory. This glory is not the recently renovated town gate and church, the picturesque twin rivers, the scenic schoolhouses on San Isidro Hill, the well-known Bumbungan Springs, and the famous Pagsanjan Falls and rapids. All these things, being mundane in nature, would disappear in God's own time. For instance, the town gate, the church, and the schoolhouse can be demolished by earthquake or hurricane. The twin rivers may, in due course, dry out on account of drought or perish due to pollution. And the Bumbungan Springs can be destroyed by a long drought or by a horrendous earthquake. To these material things are applicable the popular Latin maxim: ""Sic transit gloria mundi" (Thus passes away the glory of the world).
The real glory of Pagsanjan is, verily, the enduring achievements of the gifted Pagsanjeños. These achievements in war and peace are recorded in history and cannot be wiped out by wars, revolutions, earthquakes, fires, typhoons, and other convulsions of nature. Not all Pagsanjeños, of course, have contributed to the flowering of their town's glory because not all of them have been endowed by God with talents. As the Holy Scriptures say: "Many are called, but few are chosen."
First Distinguished Pagsanjeños in HistoryThe first Pagsanjeño to emerge with distinction in history's limelight was the valiant Francisco de San Juan (1722-90). After his heroic defense of Pagsanjan on December 9, 1762 against the British invaders, he joined the forces of Governor Simon de Anda in Pampanga and fought courageously the invading enemy. For his military exploits he was promoted master-of-camp (colonel). After the war, he became alcalde mayor of Tayabas Province, a rare honor indeed because during the Spanish epoch only peninsulares (Spaniards born in Spain) or creoles (Spaniards born in colony) were usually given appointments as alcaldes mayores of the provinces.
Another Pagsanjeño to win fame during the Spanish period was the famous Father Pedro Pelaez (1812-63), great scholar and nationalist, whom historians hail as the "Father of the Filipinization of the Church" because he boldly championed the rights of the Filipino secular priests to administer the Philippine curacies. After his tragic death during the earthquake of June 3, 1863, he was succeeded by Father Jose Burgos, his brilliant student at the University of Santo Thomas.
Also distinguished was the learned teacher Santiago Hocson, who was the last gobernadorcillo of the Gremio de Mestizos in Pagsanjan and the firstcapitan municipal under the Maura Law of 1893. He was the only Pagsanjeño to have been decorated by the Spanish Crown with the prestigious Grand Cross of Queen Isabel the Catholic.
During the closing decades of the Spanish regime the most popular form of mass media was the moro-moro, a blood and thunder stage show which depicted the battle between Christians and Muslims (Moros), with the former always victorious. A Pagsanjeño dramatist, Mariano Zaide (1827-94), achieved considerable distinction not only in his natal town, but also in other towns of Laguna and in Manila for his thrilling moro-moro plays. These plays, particularlyMilecadel (said to be his masterpiece), were staged during the town fiestas in many towns in Laguna. This Milecadel was a romantic story of a dashing Christian prince who saved the life of a beautiful Muslim princess, whom he came to love; he finally married her, after defeating in single combat several Muslim suitors.
Because of his dramatic talent, as well as his fluency in Tagalog, Spanish, and Latin languages, he became to be called Mariano Esopo, after the famous writer of fables in ancient Greece named Aesop. Lamentably, all the original manuscripts of his dramatic works were burned during the "Great Fire of 1893" in Pagsanjan.
Prominent Pagsanjeños in the Philippine RevolutionThe first Pagsanjeños to join the revolutionary Katipunan of Andres Bonifacio and to sow the seeds of revolution in the Second District of Laguna wereSeverino Taiño, Francisco Abad (Taiño's friend and compadre), Mariano and Santiago Crisostomo (brothers), Tomas Torres, Sergio Garcia, Gregorio Rivera, Severo Sumulong, Claro Zaide (brother-in-law of Taiño), Pedro Caballes, and Manuel Zalamea. The president of the Katipunan chapterMaluningnin in Pagsanjan was Mariano Crisostomo, a rich landlord and businessman.
As a revolutionary leader, General Severino Taiño rose to fame for raising the first cry of the Philippine Revolution in Pagsanjan on November 14, 1896 and later liberated the provincial capital of Santa Cruz from the Spaniards on August 31, 1898. His intimate friend, Colonel Francisco Abad perished in combat against the Spanish enemy in the furious fight at Sambat on November 16, 1896. He is now acclaimed in local annals as the "Hero of Sambat." Claro Zaide, a wealthy carriage manufacturer, was the financier of the Pagsanjan katipuneros.
Two Pagsanjeño intellectuals represented the whole province of Laguna in the famous Malolos Congress. They were Higinio Benitez, a judge and lawyer, and Graciano Cordero, a teacher and scholar. They participated in the drafting of the Malolos Constitution of 1899 and were among its signers.
The Pagsanjan in World War IIDuring the Second World War the Pagsanjeños demonstrated their courage, patriotism, and fighting spirit. As soldiers, guerillas, and civilians, they fought well for freedom and democracy against the Japanese invaders.
Many Pagsanjeños, as officers and soldiers of the USAFFE, bravely resisted the enemy at the bloody battlefields of Atimonan, Mauban, Bataan, and Corregidor. Among those who survived the war were Colonel Victor Gomez, Cipriano Ramiro, Salvador Ramiro, Atty. Jose Guevara, Dr, Ildefonso Gomez, Dr. David Cabreira, Dr. Augusto Hocson, Fidel Llamas, Luis Rivera, Elias Lavadia and Remo Lavadia.
After the fall of Bataan and Corregidor, the Pagsanjeños launched a guerilla war against the Japanese conquerors. Pagsanjan became a secret center of guerilla activities. Numerous citizens in town supported the guerillas at the risk of their lives. Among them were Emilio Aquino, municipal mayor; Manuel Soriano, who later succeeded Aquino as municipal mayor; Dr. Antonio Gomez, physician and rich landlord; Eriberto Gomez, businessman; Pedro Pablo, high school teacher; Pio Caballes and Emilio Gomez, businessmen; Dr. Salvador Umale, dentist; and Salvador Unson, landlord and professor.
Many Pagsanjeño guerillas suffered imprisonment, torture, and death for freedom's sake. Outstanding among them was Cipriano Zaguirre, former townpresidente and local commander of the Fil-American guerillas. He was taken prisoner by the Japanese who tortured him for several days, and, finally executed him on the night of August 25, 1942. By sacrificing his life for the cause of freedom and democracy, he deserves to be accoladed as Pagsanjan's guerilla hero. In recognition of his heroism the grateful municipal government named a public square "Plaza Zaguirre" after him, at the center of which now stands his life-size monument.
Many Pagsanjeño guerillas and their civilian supporters also lost their lives during the war. They were like-wise tortured and executed by the brutal Japanese soldiers. Among them were Dr. Antonio Gomez, Vicente Santos, William Labit, Jorge Gallardo, Paulino Cataluña, and James Reyes.
A Town of Six Generals and A CommodoreOf the 1,400 towns in the Philippines, Pagsanjan is the only one to have produced six army generals and one navy commodore. First among those army generals was General Severino Taiño of revolutionary fame, in whose honor has been named a town street leading to the town of Lumban. He fought valiantly against the Spanish troops and, with General Paciano Rizal's cooperation, liberated Santa Cruz, Laguna on August 31, 1898.
The other five Pagsanjeño generals after Taiño are Lieutenant General Manuel Yan, who retired as Chief of Staff of the Philippine Armed Forces and has become Philippine ambassador to Thailand, and the four: Brigadier General Fidel Llamas, Brigadier General Elias Lavadia, Brigadier General Cipriano Ramiro, and Brigadier General Luis (Bobby) Rivera.
Of the six Pagsanjeño generals, only one died in combat. He was Brigadier General Ramiro, who perished in a helicopter crash in Barrio La Union, Castilla, Sorsogon Province on June 30, 1973 while campaigning against dissidents.
The lone navy commodore from Pagsanjan is Commodore Remo Lavadia, brother of Brigadier General Elias Lavadia. The rank of commodore in the navy is equivalent to brigadier general in the army. Thus it may be said, in the final analysis, that Pagsanjan has produced a total of seven generals (including Commodore Lavadia) -- a proud record indeed for a little town. This record is unsurpassed by any other town not only in the Philippines but also in other countries of the world. Its uniqueness is enhanced by the fact that two of seven Pagsanjeño generals are brothers -- Elias and Remo Lavadia.
Prominent Pagsanjeños in EducationPagsanjan has produced many distinguished teachers and educators. At least five Pagsanjeño teachers achieved distinction during the last years of Spanish rule and the first decades of American occupation, namely, Santiago Hocson, Graciano Cordero, Gervacio Unson, Felipa Fernandez, and Genoveva Llamas. Santiago Hocson, after graduation from the Escuela Normal Superior in Manila, taught in Lumban and later in Pagsanjan, after which he served as the last gobernadorcillo of his native town. Don Graciano Cordero, a graduate of the College of San Juan de Letran and former member of the Malolos Congress, taught Latin and Spanish to young boys to prepare them for college studies. Don Gervasio Unson, a graduate of the famous Escuela Normal Superior, acquired distinction as a maestro in Laguna and later in Tayabas (Quezon Province), where he married and resided permanently.
(Note: According to descendants of Gervasio and Maria Cabreza Unson, they were married in Pagsanjan, Laguna on February 20, 1879 before moving to Lucena, Tayabas where they resided permanently. See Unson Family Website).
The first two famous Pagsanjeña maestra were Miss Felipa Fernandez and Miss Genoveva Llamas. Miss Fernandez was well-known as a strict and learned teacher in Manila. One of her brightest student was Librada Avelino, who became famous as the founder and first president of Centro Escolar de Señoritas. Miss Llamas, a sister of Dr. Rosendo R. Llamas, was the first Pagsanjeña pensionada (1903) to the United States where she specialized in home economics. As a matter of fact, she was the first teacher of home economics in Laguna. Like Miss Felipa Fernandez, she died as an old maid. Because of her dedication to the teaching profession, she had simply no time for romance.
In subsequent years more Pagsanjeños gained prominence in the field of education. Among them maybe mentioned Mr. Timoteo Abaya, a 1903 government pensionado to the United States who became the first Pagsanjeño to become academic supervisor of Laguna; Dr. Francisco Benitez, an eminent educator and first Dean of the U.P. College of Education; Dean Conrado Benitez, founder of the U.P. College of Business Administration and great professor of economics; Helen Z. Benitez, (daughter of Dean Conrado Benitez) became President of the Philippine Women's University; Don Vicente Fabella, founder of the Jose Rizal College; Sor Josefa Soriano of the Sisters of Charity, founder of the Escuela de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe in Pagsanjan; Professor Luis Rivera (1887-1921), first Filipino instructor in Sociology at the University of the Philippines; Professor Jose Abanilla and Professor Salvador Unson, both professors of Economics at the Far Eastern University; Professor Arturo Guerrero, president of the Trinity College (Quezon City), and Pedro Llamas, founder of Pagsanjan Academy.
One of the great elementary school teachers ever produced by Pagsanjan is Mrs. Narcisa Abella Fabella. She was a dedicated teacher with a heart of gold.
A Triumvirate of HistoriansPagsanjan also surpasses other towns of the Philippines for having produced a triumvirate of historians -- Dean Leandro H. Fernandez (1889-1948),Dean Conrado Benitez (1889-1971), and Dr. Gregorio F. Zaide (1907-19??).
Dean Fernandez, former Head of U.P. History Department and Dean of the U.P. College of Liberal Arts, was a Ph.D. (History) graduate from Columbia University. Owing to his many administrative duties, he produced few historical books, such as the Brief History of the Philippines, a textbook in the elementary schools of the Philippines; Story of the Philippines, a reference text for elementary school pupils; and The Philippine Republic (his doctoral dissertation in Columbia University).
More distinguished as an economist than a historian, Dean Benitez had written the following historical works: History of the Philippines, a textbook in the high schools; Stories from Philippine History, a reference book for high school students; and The Philippines Through Foreign Eyes, written in collaboration with Dr. Austin Craig.
Dr. Zaide, former student of both Deans Benitez and Fernandez, had been the first Head of the F.E.U. Department of History and was the first professor emeritus of the Far Eastern University; President of the Philippine Historical Association for three terms; Life Member of the American Historical Association (Washington, D.C.); and the only Filipino member of Mexico's Instituto Panamericano de Geografia e Historia (Mexico City) and Instituto de la Independencia Americana (Buenos Aires). He was a recepient of many honors for historical research and writing, such as the Diploma of Honor and Gold Medal (1932) awarded by U.P. Alumni Association, Republic Cultural Heritage Award (1968) given by the Philippine Republic, and Plaque of Honor for Historical Research (1973) awarded by the U.S.T. Alumni Association.
Most traveled and most prolific of Filipino historians, Dr. Zaide had conducted historical researches from 1957 to 1967 in the archives and libraries of the United States, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Portugal, Spain, France, England, Vatican, and other foreign countries. He has written more than 50 books, among which are Philippine History for Elementary Schools, an elementary school textbook which replaced Fernandez's Brief History of the Philippines; Philippine History: Development of Our Nation, a high school textbook which replaced Benitez's History of the Philippines; World History, a high school textbook which replaced Lane's World History; Philippine Political and Cultural History (2 volumes), a standard textbook for colleges and universities; and Nations of the World, a textbook for Grade VI, elementary schools.
Eminent Pagsanjeños in LiteratureIn the realm of literature many Pagsanjeños have attained eminence. The first one to gain national prestige is Godofredo Rivera, affectionately called "Godo" by his townmates. Still energetic in the twilight of his life, he is the doyen of Filipino newspaper columnists. His splendid book titled Little Things(Manila, 1950) is a gem of wit and humor.
Generoso Liwag, without the blessing of a formal college education, was the first Pagsanjeño to become a star reporter. His pungent news stories on Philippine politics and politicians in the prewar Manila Tribune were widely read throughout the Philippines.
Other good journalists produced by Pagsanjan are Salvador U. Kimhoko, publisher of The Bayanihan (newspaper in Laguna Province) and writer of historical essays; Eulogio "Logie" Benitez, a son of former Representative Eulogio Benitez; and Virgilio A. Maceda, feature writer in The Manila Times.
Dr. Narciso Cordero, Jr. a medical professor by profession, wrote an autobiographical book entitled To While Away an Idle Hour (Quezon City, 1971). It contains delightful anecdotes about the life in Pagsanjan during the early American period.
Another Pagsanjeño who possesses literary talent is Professor Hernando Abaya. A noted journalist, he had written two exciting books -- The Betrayal of the Philippines and The Untold Story of the Philippines.
In the gloaming of its greatness, Pagsanjan produced a trinity of writers, known in Manila's literary circles as the "fabulous Zaide brothers" -- Gregorio, Jose, and Salvador. Evidently, these Zaide brothers have inherited the literary talent of their illustrious grandfather, Mariano Zaide, the "Aesop." They all began their writing career as newspaper reporters in various Manila dailies. Later they shifted to the greener pastures of literature. The oldest of the trio,Gregorio, finished his graduate studies in the University of the Philippines (M.A., 1932) and the University of Santo Tomas (Ph.D., 1934), and became a historian. Jose turned to diplomatic service of our Republic. Salvador, the youngest of the brothers, gave up his job as political reporter and columnist in The Evening News and became Chief of the Division of Publications, National Science Development Board (NSDB).
More known as a historian, Dr, Zaide, after retiring from teaching at different universities and colleges in Manila, has returned to journalism. He became president, publisher, and columnist of the Junior Citizen, weekly social studies periodical for public and private schools with a total weekly circulation of 400,000 copies.
Gifted Pagsanjeños in MusicMusic, like literature, is in the blood of the Pagsanjeños. It is interesting to that during Dr. Rizal's time the Banda Pagsanjan, owned by a Pagsanjeño government clerk named Señor Guevara, was famously known in Laguna and surrounding provinces. Rizal, in his Noli Me Tangere, mentioned this band as one of the music bands which played in the town fiesta of San Diego (Calamba).
During prewar years, Pagsanjan daily throbbed to the sound of music. Almost every affluent home in town had a piano which was then a status symbol, Even in the homes of poor families could be seen certain musical instruments, particularly the guitar. It was customary for Pagsanjeño children to study music. For, according to Pagsanjan tradition, no education is complete without music.
The most outstanding pianist in Pagsanjan during the early years of the American period was Consuelo Zaide. Aside from her virtuosity as a pianist, she was a prominent music teacher not only in Laguna but also in Manila, Batangas, and Tayabas (Quezon Province).
The only Pagsanjeño pianist which has achieved international celebrity as a piano virtuoso, composer, and music teacher is Professor Calixto R. Llamaswho resided permanently in San Francisco, California. He is a brother of Dr. Rosendo R. Llamas. Other good pianists among Pagsanjeños are Miss Corazon Maceda, Dean of the Conservatory of Music of the Philippine Women's University; Rafael F. Zaide, former pianist on board the trans-Pacific Empress of Russia and in Macao's night clubs who later joined the diplomatic service of our Republic; Mrs. Rosario Cosme Bernardo, accomplished lady pianist and her daughter Mrs. Rosario Bernardo Sison (music teacher in Manila); Sor Rosa Soriano, former student of the famous Sor Battig of the Conservatory of Music, St. Escolastica College; and Mrs. Conrada Cosme Yaneza, gifted pianist and music teacher.
Most outstanding of the many good violinists produced by Pagsanjan is Sergio Esmilla, Jr. A talented son of Judge Sergio Esmilla, Sr., and Oro Llamas (an accomplished pianist), he has been hailed in the Philippines and abroad as a violin virtuoso. He was the violin soloist of Manila Symphony Orchestra.
Other good violinist are Salvador U. Kimhoko, Saturnino Aquino, and Antonio F. Zaide. A skilled bass player is Rogel Taiño, who is also a gifted music composer. He composed the inspiring "Pagsanjan March."
Of unique interest is Dr. Narciso Cordero, Jr., a distinguished professor of medicine, who is a remarkable player of the pito, a strange flute-like musical instrument. With this instrument, he plays both classical and popular music with exquisite artistry.
Long before the advent of the radios, the Pagsanjeños loved to sing. Every day the town rang with the echoes of all songs. During moonlit night it was customary for a young Pagsanjeño to serenade the girl he loved. Either he himself or a hired troubadour sang the love songs to the accompaniment of a throbbing guitar.
Before World War II, the best male singer in Pagsanjan was Valentin Borlaza, the leading tenor of the Catholic Choir. Because of the remarkable resonance and volume of his voice, he came to be called the "Caruso of Pagsanjan."
Famous among the Pagsanjeña singers were the three Flores sisters -- Florida (Mrs. Sintaco), Paquita (Mrs. Caballes), and Rosario (Mrs. Rabago). They were the female singing stars of the Catholic Church Choir. The town still has good female singers, such as Mrs. Lourdes Layos, Mrs. Loida T. Fabiero, Miss Jane Oliveros, and the members of the Maligaya Choir.
During the "Gay Twenties" (1920s) the Aglipayan church of Pagsanjan had a magnificent orchestra. It was organized by Mr. Crispulo Fabiero, a gifted musician and orchestra conductor. Later a children's orchestra was organized by Mr. Antonio F. Zaide, violinist and music teacher, at the Pagsanjan Elementary School.
Worthy of special mention is the Aquino Family Rondalla, the musical pride of Pagsanjan. It consisted of Saturnino Aquino (father), director and violinist; Maria (mother), vocalist; and children, Lina, violinist; Nelia, vocalist; Tony, clarinet and vocalist; Rogelio, guitarist; Erlinda, vocalist; Arturo, bass; and Argel, drum and vocalist.
Now (2001) residing in Bronx, New York; Lakambini Zaguirre-Ramos (daughter of the famous psychiatrist Dr. Jaime C. Zaguirre), is a concert pianist, teacher, accompanist, Music Director, choir director, organist and cantor.
Gifted Pagsanjeños in Fine ArtsMany Pagsanjeños have an inherent talent for art. Unfortunately, only a few of them bothered to develop it. Thus until the present day no Pagsanjeños has ever finished from any school of fine arts, except four who finished the architectural course and became professional architects. These are Ceferino Cabreza, Eusebio (Bobby) Abella, Jr., Aida Cruz (now Mrs. Formoso), and Olga Yaneza.
Famous artist of Imelda Marcos is Oscar de Zalameda, famous for his original oil paintings.
At least, two living Pagsanjeños are known to be gifted artists. Despite their lack of formal training in painting, they have produced paintings of remarkable artistry. The first is Mario Macalalag, better known in the local movie world as the dashing Mario Montenegro, hero of many thrilling motion pictures. He is a gifted son of Gerardo Macalalag, former vice-mayor of Pagsanjan, and Desiree Collin (French woman).
The second is Delfin Resoso, a popular house painter. It is a pity that his inborn gift for painting is being wasted on commercial sign boards and buildings. Being a poor man, he has to do such an artisan job in order to make a living. If he, as well as Mario, had been given the opportunity of tutorship under such masters of brush as Fabian de la Rosa, Fernando Amorsolo, and Victoria C. Edades, they could have become great artists.
Pagsanjeños in World of ScienceThe first Pagsanjeño to practice medicine in town was Dr. Narciso Cordero, Sr., a graduate of the UST College of Medicine and Surgery. He rose to prominence during the early years of the American regime. After him, came other Pagsanjeño doctors, namely Dr. Dolores Zafra, first lady physician of Pagsanjan; Dr. Rosendo R. Llamas, distinguished obstetrician; Dr. Zosimo Fernandez, successful general practitioner in Laguna; Dr. Ramon Abarquez, Jr., heart specialist; Dr. Sixto Maceda, gynecologist; Dr. Pedro Lavadia, surgeon; Dr. Zozimo (Boy) Fernandez, Jr., internal medicine; Dr. Gracia Fernandez Ramos, pediatrician; Dr. Eufemio Macalalag, Jr., urologist; Dr. Jaime C. Zaguirre, brain surgeon, famous psychiatrist; Dr. Ildefonzo Gomez, therapeutist; and Dr. Cipriano Abaya, former director of the provincial hospitals in Vigan and Bacolod.
A Pagsanjeño physician who has attracted international attention is Dr. August E. Hocson, chief flight surgeon of the Philippine Airlines (PAL) and a retired surgeon general of the Armed Forces of the Philippines with the military rank of colonel. He represented the Philippines in the 21st International Congress of Aviation and Space Medicine at Munich, West Germany.
The first Pagsanjeño dentist was Dr. Antonio Llamas, Sr. After him, appeared other dental graduates from Pagsanjan, such as Dr. Concita Cabreza Zalamea, first Pagsanjeña dentist, who is still practicing her profession as lady dentist at the FEU Dental Clinic; Dr. Mariano Macalalag, former vice-mayor of Pagsanjan; Dr. Salvador Umale, former municipal councilor of Pagsanjan, and Dr. Felix Yan, also a former municipal councilor and is now practicing his dental profession in Manila.
The first Pagsanjeño to become a pharmacist was Exequiel Zaide, a graduate of UST College of Pharmacy. After graduation in 1905, he worked for some years as assistant pharmacist at Botica Boie in Escolta Manila. He returned to Pagsanjan in 1911 and established "Farmacia Zaide", the first drug store in town.
Of international prestige as a scientist was Dr. Felix Hocson, former dean of the U.P. College of Pharmacy and member of the National Research Council of the Philippines. He represented the Philippines in the United States Pharmacopoeial Convention held in Washington, D.C., in 1940.
Other pharmacists produced by Pagsanjan are the Cordero sisters: Elisa Cordero Rivera, wife of Godofredo Rivera, and Pacita Cordero Galian, wife of Dr. Galian; Mrs. Consuelo Francia Unson (widow of Salvador Unson); Mr. Eriberto Rivera, chief pharmacist of Metro Drug (Manila); Mrs. Maria Aquino, who is also a fine singer.
The pioneer nurses from Pagsanjan are Miss Asuncion Alvarado, Mrs. Timotea F. Fernandez (widow of Dr. Zosimo Fernandez), Mrs. Cornelia Bermudez Maceda, and Mrs. Inocencia Zaide Gatchalian. They were all graduate of the School of Nursing of St. Luke Hospital (Manila). After them, many Pagsanjeñas took up nursing because of the great demand for nurses in the United States, Canada, England, Holland, and other foreign countries.
The first Pagsanjeña to achieve distinction in science is Mrs. Carmen Llamas Intengan, a nationally known authority on nutrition. She was a recipient of the Presidential Award on Science in 1968.
Pagsanjan has produced many good engineers. Among them may be mentioned German Yia, a mechanical engineer who became a ranking officer of the well known Atlantic Gulf Company; Gonzalo Abaya, distinguished electrical engineer in Manila; his younger brothers Angel Abaya and Alberto Abaya, both civil engineers; Ramon Abarquez, Sr., mining engineer who had been connected with the Bureau of Mines; Leopoldo Abad, a retired electrical engineer of the MERALCO; Escolastico (Tico) Lavadia Fernandez, former civil engineer of the city of Manila; Serafin Limuaco, civil engineer and contractor of public works in Manila and the provinces; Ramon Mijares, Jr., civil engineer who had built the water system in the city of Brunei and now practicing his profession in Pagsanjan; and Tito Rivera, civil engineer and popular contractor of public works in Laguna.
Distinguished Pagsanjeños in Economy and BusinessIn the world of economy and business many Pagsanjeños have distinguished themselves, thereby adding luster to their town's glory. The first Pagsanjeño to achieve distinction as a certified accountant was Don Vicente Fabella. His younger brother, Adolfo, also became a prominent accountant. By making the Jose Rizal College one of the most successful private schools of commerce, the two enterprising Fabella brothers proved their business acumen.
Other Pagsanjeños who won notable distinction in our business world are Cesar C. Zalamea, first Filipino president of the multi-million dollar Philippine-American Insurance Company and a member of the Monetary Board of our Republic; his father Sancho Zalamea, a successful businessman in Manila; his uncle Enrique, a retired banker; Cesar Z. Lanuza, a knowledgeable economist and a Governor of the Board of Investments (BOI); Julio Francia, Jr., business entrepreneur and past president of the Philippine Chamber of Industries; Cesar Abaya, head of a successful plumbing business in Greater Manila;Eduardo Villanueva, senior accountant of the prestigious Sycip, Gorres, Velayo & Company; Jose S. Hocson, manager of the Security Bank Branch in Pasay City; Armando de la Cruz, successful manufacturer in Mandaluyong; Mrs. Soledad B. Cabrera, lady banker and manager of the Pagsanjan Rural Bank; and Mrs. Edwina C. Manansan, well known in hotel and wood-carving business.
Pagsanjeños in Government ServiceMany Pagsanjeños have risen to prominence in government service. Most outstanding was Dr. Jose Fabella, Secretary of Health and Social Welfare under President Manuel L. Quezon.
Other Pagsanjeños who have achieved distinction in government service are General Manuel Yan, former AFP Chief of Staff and Philippine Ambassador to Thailand; Cesar Z. Lanuza, former head of the Philippine Reparation Mission in Tokyo with diplomatic rank of Minister and a member of the Board of Investments; Pelagio Llamas, Philippine ambassador and head of the Philippine Consulate General in New Orleans; Atty. Selby Abaquin, former ambassador to Brunei and Indonesia; Dean Ramon Oben, former Commissioner of the Bureau of Internal Revenue; Victor Z. Cabreza, retired Chief of the Administrative Services, of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR); Jose Cosme, Assistant Director of the BIR branch in Iloilo Province; Armand Fabella, Chairman of the Reorganization Commission of our Republic; Honesto G. Nicandro, one of the key officials of the Central bank; Judge Amador Gomez of the Court of First Instance in Cebu; Judge Eduardo Abaya of the Court of First Instance in Batangas; Julio Francia, Sr., former city assessor of Manila;Jose Zaide, former press attache' of the Philippine embassies in san Francisco, Tokyo, Bonn (West Germany), and the Hague (Netherlands) and formerly detailed at the Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong; Rafael F. Zaide, who served as cultural attache' in the Philippine embassies at Hong Kong, Seoul, Taipei, and Pnom Penh; and Salvador F. Zaide, chief of the Division of Publications, National Science Development Board.
On the level of local government, Dominador Labit has achieved distinction. A former public school teacher, he became administrative officer of the provincial government of Laguna. For his efficiency and devotion to public service, he was conferred the Distinguished Honor Award by the Civil Service Commission in 1969.
A Town of Six Provincial TreasurersOnly the little town of Pagsanjan of all towns in the entire Philippines has ever produced six provincial treasurers. This is a record which is worthy of special citation.
The first of these six Pagsanjeños who became a provincial treasurer was Catalino Lavadia, elder brother of Municipal President Pedro Lavadia and uncle of the Lavadia brothers (Brigadier General Elias Lavadia and Commodore Remo Lavadia). He served as provincial treasurer of Isabela.
The other five Pagsanjeño provincial treasurers were Dionisio Fabella (Cebu), Lorenzo Palileo (Cotabato), Jose Zaguirre (Nueva Viscaya), Marcial Yia(Pampanga), and Ricardo Buenafe (Laguna).
Prominent Pagsanjeños in PhilantrophySome Pagsanjeños, who are rarely endowed by God with a civic conscience, generously gave substantial donations for the welfare of their natal town. Foremost among them are the many-splendored couple -- Dr. Rosendo R. Llamas and his wife Doña Guida Hocson. This couple financially supported the beautification of the town plaza and the reconstruction of the Catholic church. Dr. Llamas donated part of his rice land for the extension of the Crisostomo Street and all his surgical instruments to the Pagsanjan Puericulture Center. Before his death in 1974, he donated P400,000 for construction of a building for the U.P. College of Medicine (his Alma Mater) and another sum of P200,000 as scholarship fund for indigent but bright medical students. Doña Guida, from her personal funds, donated a P50,000 trust fund for the Pagsanjan Puericulture Center and a smaller amount for the restoration of the historic Town Gate to its original condition. It is interesting to recall that the National League of Puericulture Centers of the Philippines, in its Diamond Anniversary Convention (1973), conferred on Doña Guida the prestigious "Outstanding Humanitarian Diamond Award" in recognition of her humanitarian services.
The late Engineer German Yia, spending much of his time and personal funds, spearheaded the costly reconstruction of the town Catholic church which was woefully ravaged during the war. He also donated P250,000 for the construction of Research Center Building for the U.P. College of Engineering (his Alma Mater).
Two civic-spirited clans in Pagsanjan are the Lanuzas and the Yans. The Lanuza clan, headed by Doña Julia Zaide Vda. de Lanuza, donated the carillon to the central elementary school of the town. Her son, Cesar Lanuza, donated a large piece of land which enabled Barrio Biñan to have a barrio elementary school. Through his efforts, when he was still the head of the Philippine Reparations Mission in Tokyo, the Municipality of Pagsanjan was able to acquire its fire-fighting equipment, including a big truck.
Other civic-spirited Pagsanjeños who generously gave donations for the welfare of their town are the following:
Pagsanjeños in Social Work and Community DevelopmentDuring the glowing decades of the American regime, Doña Damiana Vda de Fabella emerged as the outstanding civic leader of Pagsanjan. A wealthy matron with a social conscience, she freely contributed her valuable time and funds to help the poor victims of fires and floods. In 1927 she founded the Puericulture Center of Pagsanjan and the Pagsanjan Women's Club.
After Doña Damiana's death, the torch of civic leadership was carried on by Miss Francisca T. Zaide, General Taiño's niece who later became Mrs. Luis Godoy. Under her presidency, the Pagsanjan Women's Club became the leading civic club in town because she rallied the young ladies, including college co-eds, and involved them in community welfare.
When World War II ended in 1945, Doña Salud Fabella Unson, a worthy daughter of Doña Damiana, took over the presidency of the Women's Club. She rehabilitated the Puericulture Center Building which was destroyed during the war and obtained relief goods from the United States for the destitute families of the town.
There are still many civic-spirited citizens in Pagsanjan who are concerned with social welfare and community development. Among them may be mentioned the following: Mrs. Consuelo F. Unson, patroness of humanitarian activities; Mrs. Solita B. Cabreza, past president of the Pagsanjan Women's Club; Mrs. Josefina Y. Benitez, president of the Women's Club; Mrs. Aida Fabiero Abaya, government expert in community development; Mr. Hernan Velasco, teacher and indefatigable leader in social work; Mrs. Adela Perez Abaya, president of Pagsanjan Beautification Committee; Mrs. Remedios Rivera Llamas, president of the Laguna Rural Improvement Club; Mr. Antonio Llamas, teacher and one of the founders of the Maulawin Barangay High School; Mr. Eufemio Macalalag, Sr., active participant in socio-economic affairs; Mr. Antonio Rabago, former teacher and guerilla, municipal councilor, and tireless social worker; and Mr. and Mrs. Ricardo Fabella, active husband-and-wife tandem in barangay activities and scouting movement.
Distinguished Pagsanjeños in the Arena of PoliticsThe first Pagsanjeño to win distinction in national politics was Atty. Crispin Oben, illustrious father of Dean Ramon Oben. He was elected to the First Philippine Assembly (1907-09) during the election of July 30, 1907, representing the Second District of Laguna.
After Assemblyman Oben, three more Pagsanjeños were elected in subsequent times to the House of Representatives of the Philippine Legislature. They were as follows: Atty. Eulogio Benitez (1919-22), son of Don Higinio Benitez and younger brother of Deans Conrado Benitez and Francisco Benitez; Atty. Aurelio Palileo (1923-25); and Estanislao A. Fernandez (1949-53).
The first Pagsanjeño to be elected to the Philippine Senate was Estanislao A. Fernandez, son of a Pagsanjeño father, Estanislao Fernandez, Sr. and nephew of Don Graciano Cordero, member of the Malolos Congress. He won in the election of November 10, 1959 as a senatorial candidate of the Liberal Party.
In the election of November 14, 1967, Miss Helen Z. Benitez (daughter of Dean Conrado Benitez) was elected to the Senate. She was one of the senatorial candidates of the Nacionalista Party.
Again, in the election of November 8, 1971 another Pagsanjeño, Atty. Ernesto Maceda, was elected senator under the Nacionalista Party banner. He was a former city councilor of Manila, head of the PACD (Presidential Assistance on Community Development), and Executive Secretary. (Note: Ernie Maceda is the Philippine Ambassador to the U.S.; under Pres. Joseph Estrada; 1999-2000).
Pagsanjeños in the Service of GodThe majority of Pagsanjeños are Roman Catholic in religion. Others are Aglipayans, adherents of Iglesia ni Kristo, and members of various Protestant sects. By and large, Pagsanjeños are never religious zealots, for they firmly believe in religious freedom and in ecumenism. Their achievements in religion are much less than in arts, literature, education, politics, social work, and sciences. For until the present time they have not produced a bishop, an archbishop, or a cardinal. It is evident that they generally prefer the dolce vita than the monastic life.
Since early times the children of Pagsanjan have aspired to become physicians, nurses, engineers, educators, lawyers, scientists, and writers. Very few, indeed, show any inclination to become a priest or a nun.
So far only a handful of Pagsanjeños or Pagsanjeñas have consecrated their lives to religion ad majorem Dei gloriam (for the greater glory of God). The first Pagsanjeña to become a nun was Sor Bernardina Obial. She joined the Nunnery of Santa Clara in Manila after the Philippine Revolution (1896-1902) and died in 1941, a few weeks before the eruption of the war with Japan.
Other devout and pious Pagsanjeñas who followed Sor Bernardina's footsteps are the following: Sor Bonnsilda Abaya (Holy Ghost Sister), Sor Maria Emerncillo (Sister of Charity), Sor Rosario Fernandez (Sister of Charity), Sor Pilar Fernandez (Sister of Charity), Sor Amia Limlengco (Carmelite Sister), Sor Josefa Soriano (Sister of Charity), and Sor Rosa Soriano (Benedictine Sister).
A few Pagsanjeños, in response to the spiritual call, have become priests. Among them are the following: Father Celso Afuang (Benedictine), Father Henry Moran (Jesuit), Julio Obial (secular priest), and the Unson brothers: Cipriano Unson (Jesuit) and Willy Unson (Jesuit). The last two are the sons of Cipriano Unson and Salud Fabella.
Of unique interest, is the case of Father Wilfredo Torres Dulay, son of Mrs. Maria Torres Dulay who is a Pagsanjeña. This youth, after his ordination as priest of the Immaculate Heart of Jesus, volunteered for missionary work in foreign countries. Now he is a missionary among the Indian inhabitants of Guatemala, a Republic in Central America.
Mention should be made of Mr. Mario Z. Lanuza, founder of the Cursillo Movement in Pagsanjan. He was the only Filipino Cursillo leader who was able to have a personal interview with Father Hervas at Ciudad Real, Spain in the year 1966. This famous Spanish priest is the founder of the world-wide Cursillo Movement which has sparked a revival of Christian fervor among the Catholic nations of the world.
A Town of Beautiful WomenUntil the present time Pagsanjan is famous for its beautiful women. According to local tradition, "a pretty girl is born yearly to every family in Pagsanjan, if such family is beholden to God."
The first Pagsanjan beauty to emerge in history was Josefa Sebastian Gomez, a daughter of one of the town's prominent families. It is said that when the newly appointed Spanish alcalde mayor named Don Jose Pelaez arrived in 1809 at Pagsanjan, which was then the capital of Laguna Province, he was given a bienvenida (welcome) party at the casa real (official residence of the alcalde mayor). Being a bachelor, he was fascinated to meet the local party belles. What particularly attracted him most was Señorita Josefa, whose alluring beauty captivated his Iberian heart.
In succeeding weeks, the young alcalde mayor wooed the beautiful señorita, finally winning her love. The next year (1810) they were married in the Catholic church amidst pageantric pomp and aplomb. Out of their wedlock was born a son named Pedro Pelaez, who was destined to become one of our nation's great men.
Dr. Jose Rizal, our national hero and a connoisieur of beautiful women, fell in love with a Pagsanjan beauty, Leonor Valenzuela, whom he affectionately called Orang. This lovely Pagsanjeña was a daughter of Capitan Juan and Capitana Senday of Pagsanjan. She was the first Leonor in Rizal's life, the second being Leonor Rivera.
The first Pagsanjeña to win national distinction for her beauty was Virginia Llamas, the Queen of Manila Carnival in 1922. Later she married her escort, Carlos P. Romulo, the world-famed journalist, diplomat, soldier and statesman.
The first Pagsanjeña to achieve international fame because of her beauty and charm is Maria Rita Santiago, the 1968 Queen of the Pacific. Her mother,Nida Rufino, is a pretty daughter of the Rufino family in Pagsanjan.
There are still many beautiful girls in the town. They are daughters of rich and poor families. Irrespective of their socio-economic status, they possess something in common -- beauty. It is regretful that they have not been given the opportunity to participate in national and international beauty contests because they are provincianas, without influential patrons and without proper connections to sponsor their entries to the nominating committees in Manila. It is a matter of truth that there are more girls with natural beauty and grace in the provincial towns than in Manila, Caloocan, Pasay, and other cities of our country.
End of Chapter.