PAGSANJAN, In History and Legend
By Dr. Gregorio F. Zaide
PAGSANJAN UNDER THE THIRD PHILIPPINE REPUBLIC
On 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.
Because 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 Government
Soon 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 was Mr. 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 Republic
The 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 Pagsanjan
During 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 Politics
No 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 Chaos
Aside 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 Kawayan belongs 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.
2. Visit of the Delegates of the Second World Congress of International Volunteerism to Pagsanjan on December 7, 1972. A welcome party consisting of the members of Pagsanjan Women's Club and prominent citizens welcomed them at the town gate. Mayor Zaide presented the symbolic key of the town to Mrs. Ripley, president of the World Congress of Volunteerism. At the reception given in honor of the visiting delegates held at Pagsanjan Rapids Hotel, Dr. Zaide gave the welcome address and Governor Felicisimo T. San Luis introduced Madame President Ripley, who delivered a delightful speech on the humanitarian objectives of International Volunteerism. The delegates came from Australia, Brazil, Costa Rica, United States, and other countries.
3. Asean Agricultural Extension Seminar held at Rio Vista Resort, Pagsanjan, on April 7-8, 1973. Attended by delegates from Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, and Singapore. Main speakers were Director Jose Saguitsit of the Bureau of Agricultural Extension and Governor San Luis of Laguna.
4. Literary and Musical Program for the visiting Madame Olive Farquharson of England, President of the Associated Country Women of the World, at Rio Vista Resort, on March 19, 1973. Attended by the community development workers of Laguna, Governor San Luis, and mayor Zaide. The eloquent speech of President Farquharson was enthusiastically applauded.
5. Public Performance of the High School Band and Choir of the Clark Air base High School, consisting of 250 American students (boys and girls). Held at the campus of Francisco Benitez Memorial Elementary School on the evening of May 19, 1973. Mayor Zaide gave a brief speech, welcoming the visitors to the town.
6. The rare event called Ugnayan, a "cultural inter-linking through music." Sponsored by Mrs. Imelda Romualdez Marcos, it was a gala performance at the Cultural Center in Manila of the unique compositions of Professor Jose Maceda, based on various tribal chants played on native musical instruments. The people of Pagsanjan and other towns in our archipelago gathered at their respective town plazas on the night of January 1, 1974 to hear the radio broadcasts of this Ugnayan.
7. Visit of the Magistrates of the Supreme Court and the Secretary of Justice on May 18, 1974. This visit was masterminded by Associate Justice Estanislao A. Fernandez, first Lagunense to become member of the Supreme Court and a son of Pagsanjeño father. It was the first time in history that Pagsanjan played host to the illustrious jurists of our nation. Those who came not only to visit the town, but also to see the famous Pagsanjan Falls and shoot the exciting rapids were:
Chief Justice Querube C. Makalintal and wife8. Seminar on Strengthening and Internalizing Moral Values, held at the Francisco Benitez Memorial Elementary School on July 29-30, 1974. Attended by the municipal and barrio officials, public and private teachers, and civic-spirited citizens.
Associate Justice Calixto O. Zaldivar and wife
Associate Justice Enrique M. Fernando and wife
Associate Justice Claudio Teehankee and wife
Associate Justice Antonio P. Barredo and wife
Associate Justice Felix V. Makasiar and wife
Associate Justice Antonio V. Esguerra and wife
Associate Justice Cecilia Muñoz-Palma
Associate Justice Ramon Aquino and wife
Associate Justice Estanislao A. Fernandez and wife
Secretary of Justice Jose Abad Santos and wife
9. Seminar on the New Philippine Constitution, held at the Municipal Hall of Pagsanjan in the afternoon of August 23, 1974. The two guest speakers were Mayor Zaide who discussed the "Genesis of the Philippine Constitution of 1973" and Judge Alejandro G. Dimaano who explained the "Basic Provisions of the New Constitution." Attended by government employees, public school teachers, and prominent citizens of the town.
10. Historic visit of Ambassador William H. Sullivan and other high-ranking American officials and their wives on November 23, 1974. They were accompanied by high Filipino officials and by Associate Justice Estanislao A. Fernandez, who invited them to our town. This was the first time that Pagsanjan was visited by top members of the American Embassy and their wives. Those who came were Ambassador Sullivan and his wife Marie, Mrs. Til Purnell, wife of Minister Lewis N. Purnell; USAID Director Thomas Niblock and wife Ann; USIS Director Maurice Lee and wife Anne; Consul General David Betts and wife Kay; Economic Counselor Terrel Arnold and wife Yvonne; Peace Corps Director Barry Divine and wife Susanne; USAID Deputy Director Arthur Hummon and wife Dorothy; Attache' Thomas Donahue and wife Ann; Malacañang Secretary Guillermo de Vega, Secretary Ismael (Mel) Mathay, Jr. and wife Sonia, and Associate Justice Fernandez and wife Soledad.
11. Public Performance of Cabesang Tales by the PETA (Philippine Educational Theatre Association) and the Kalinangan Ensemble at the Inner Quadrangle of Francisco Benitez Mamorial School on the night of March 7, 1975. The story of Cabesang Tales is found in El Filibusterismo by Dr. Jose Rizal. Under the direction of Mr. Felix Padilla, the members of the cast gave an excellent performance so that the huge crowd, consisting of government officials, teachers, students, and barrio folks, accorded them a tremendous ovation. The success of the fine performance was also due to Mrs. Felicisimo T. San Luis, charming wife of the provincial governor, who sponsored it and provided the magnificent props.
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 confer
Restoration of the Historic Town Gate
One 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:
1. Ambassador & Mrs. Gregorio Abad
2. Mr. & Mrs. Cesar C. Abaya
3. Mr. & Mrs. Jose R. Cosme
4. Mr. & Mrs. Armando de la Cruz
5. Hon. & Mrs. Armand V. Fabella
6. Justice & Mrs. Estanislao A. Fernandez
7. Dr. & Mrs. Casimiro C. Garcia, Jr.
8. Dr. & Mrs. Augusto E. Hocson
9. Gov. & Mrs. Caesar Z. Lanuza
10. Gen & Mrs. Elias G. Lavadia
11. Dr. & Mrs. Rosendo R. Llamas
12. Dr. & Mrs. Eufemio Macalalag, Jr.
13. Dr. & Mrs. Jose Mananzan
14. Mr. & Mrs. Aquilino Soriano
15. Dr. & Mrs. Gregorio F. Zaide
16. Hon. & Mrs. Cesar C. Zalamea
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.
Exodus of Pagsanjan Families to Greater Manila