Monday, August 25, 2008

*101. Finding Faces from the Past: ENRIQUE CAGUIAT

MYSTERY MAN, REVEALED. Enrique Caguiat of Arayat, a man of many achievements, merited a feature in the book, Pampanga's Social Register 1936, by Kabigting, which listed the high and the mighty of Kapampangan society.

One of the most challenging part of research is finding the identity and background information of nameless people staring at you from a photograph. I have quite a number of Kapampangan subjects whose backgrounds and even identities, I am afraid, will remain forever unknown to me. I collect them not only because they are kabalens, but also these old photographs are antiques in themselves, freezing time for us to glimpse at our old ways, how we looked, dressed and how we socialized.

A picture that immediately attracted my attention is this 1915 photograph of a young man in his 20s who sent this picture to an acquaintance in Sta. Rita with an eloquent dedication: “Tula, bandi at sicanan ing pagnasan cung idala na keca Simang, niting banuang daratang. “ ( Happiness, wealth and health are what I hope this New Year will bring you, Simang”). It was signed with a flourish by a certain E. Caguiat, who added a date, Dec. 31, 1915 and address, P.O.Box 962, Manila.

I have often wondered who this gentleman was, handsome and smart-looking in his black Americana with a stiff collar. A folded hanky protrudes from his breast pocket. His well-pomaded hair, parted almost in the middle, reflected the grooming style for men in his time. His arm rests on a pedestal with a sinuous art nouveau 3-leaf clover design, on which one can also see his banded straw hat. Not lost on the viewer is a ring on his left finger, next to the pinkie, indicating his married state.

I thought—just like other hundreds of pictures in my albums-- I would consign this portrait to anonymity until I got myself a copy of the Pampanga Social Register, a book published in 1936 that featured who’s who in Pampanga—achievers, elites, businessmen, children from de buena familias, politicos and accomplished professionals. There, on page 31 was a small, familiar picture of one Enrique Caguiat—the same E. Caguiat in my mystery photo.

Enrique was born on 15 July 1893 in Arayat, Pampanga, (which meant that he was but 22 when he sent his picture above). He studied at the University of Washington in Seattle and earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. He became a First Lieutenant of the U.S. Army but soon held a civilian job. At the time the book was printed, Enrique was a treasurer of A.C. Gonzalez and Co. , which held office at 314 Philippine National Bank Bldg. in Escolta.

On the side, he was also in the construction business as a masonite dealer, and was also connected with firm of Clarke and Larkin, Certified Public Accountants. He was a member of the Wack-Wack Gold and Country Club, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and the Philippine Columbian Association—exclusive clubs reserved for the rich and the privileged. His wife was the former Lourdes Reyes, with whom he had 5 living children in 1936: Enrique Jr., Jose, Teodoro, Lourdes and Teresita. The Caguiats resided at 8 Hollywood Drive in San Juan.

I have also identified the recipient Simang as Maxima de Castro, who turned out to be a direct descendant of the founder of Angeles, Don Angel Pantaleon de Miranda. Stumbling on pieces of information such as these make collecting generic photos worthwhile. Suddenly, the subject acquires a name, an identity and comes alive. It is hoped that the dear reader can contribute more information about the life and times of Enrique Caguiat, a proud Arayateno and a Kapampangan achiever

(*NOTE: Feature titles with asterisks represent other writings of the author that appeared in other publications and are not included in the original book, "Views from the Pampang & Other Scenes")

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