Monday, November 26, 2012

*317. DR. RAFAELITA HILARIO-SORIANO: Kapampangan Scholar, Educator, Diplomat

DR. RAFAELITA HILARIO-SORIANO, Compleat woman personified. This san Fernando-born Kapampangan was an educator, a scholar, a researcher, a historian, a cultural advocate, a diplomat--excelled in all her chosen fields.

 A woman who broke barriers in her time, Dr. Rafaelita Hilario-Soriano was first and foremost, a Kapampangan erudite whose impressive background, diverse experience and love of local culture set her high above the rest, enabling her to assumer and master many roles—from an acclaimed educator, writer-historian, socio-civic leader to an ambassador to the world.

Her parentage foretold of an illustrious future: she was born in San Fernando on 2 July 1915 to Judge Zoilo J. Hilario of Bacolor and Trinidad Vasquez of Hinigiran, Negros Occidental. Hilario, an eminent zarzuelista in his hometown, would rise to become an important figure in Philippine judiciary and politics—he would become a judge of the Court of the First Instance and a congressman.

Rafaelita would grow up in the capital town with siblings Evangelina (herself, a leading light of Kapampangan language and culture) Tiburcio, Ofelia, Efrain and Ulysses. In San Fernando, Rafaelita first attended Santos Private School, and moved to Pampanga High School for her secondary studies.

Upon graduation, she went to Manila with her widowed grandmother, Dña. Adriana Sangalang vda. De Hilario, who put up a boarding school for Bacolor students. She enrolled at the Philippine Women’s University and obtained an A.B. Political Science, minor in History in 1936. She next went to U.P. for her Master’s degree in the same field of study, which she completed in 1938.

 With her brilliant academic record, she was soon swamped with teaching offers. She became an instructor at Sta. Isabel College, Holy Ghost College, and National University. In 1940, however, she was offered to organize the Liberal Arts College at the Laguna Academy in San Pablo City. She went there together with Miss Paulina Gueco (sister of the late Sen. Jose Diokno) and became the dean of the college.

Her stay in San Pablo proved to be short-lived as the next year, she won a Levi Barbour Scholarship at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Rafaelita’s supposed two year –stay in the United States was extended due to the second World War. She made use of the extra time by earning a second Master of Arts in Public Administration.

It was about this time that she decided that the insulated life of an academician was not entirely proper when her country was at war, so she packed her bags for Washington, where she took a job as a research assistant in charge of the Philippine Section, Military Intelligence Division of the War Department. She held on to this job until the war came to an end with the surrender of Japan.

 Comforted by the thought that her family in Pampanga was now safe, Rafaelita returned to Michigan to get her doctorate. She earned her Ph.D. with her well-researched thesis about the role of propaganda in the Japanese occupation in the Philippines. While completing her higher studies, Rafaelita found time to wed Dr. Jesus Soriano, a gastro-enterologist, at St. Mary’s Chapel in Ann Arbor.

 In 1948, Rafaelita—with husband and daughter Maria Elena in tow—finally set sail for the Philippines. Upon her comeback, Rafaelita became a lecturer at her alma mater, University of the Philippines, Lyceum and at Arellano University. The indefatigable Rafaelita founded the Philippine Civic Organization. She was also elected as National Vice President of the YMCA, chairman of the Political Action Committee and Director of the Philippine-Michigan Club. On the side, she also worked at the Department of Foreign Affairs, which put her already multi-facetted career on yet another path—Foreign Service.

 Rafaelita proved her mettle by being named as a Chairman of the Information, Culture, Education and Labor Activities Committee of the SEATO (Southeast Asian Nations Treaty Organization)--only the second woman to preside over an international conference. Her contribution was immediately recognized by the United Nations Association of the Philippines (UNAP).

 In 1970, she was appointed as Secretary-General of the SEATO Council of Minister’s Meeting in Manila, which she handled with utmost proficiency. This led to her being named as an Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Israel, where she was warmly received by Pres. Salman Zhazar. She thus joined a few, but elite number of early women ambassadors like Trinidad Fernandez and Pura Santillan-Castrence, who blazed the trails towards the feminization of diplomacy.

 When she retired from government service, she took up her pen to write several acclaimed books about Pampanga’s rich history: Shaft of Light (1991), Women in the Philippine Revolution (1996, editor), The Pampangos (1999). In March 2000, Rafaelita Hilario-Soriano was named as one of the 100 Filipino Women of the Millenium, a well-deserved accolade. This accomplished Kapampangan who wore many hats, assumed many roles and mastered them all, passed away on 1 January 2007.

Monday, November 12, 2012

*316. Gotta Travel On: MACARTHUR HIGHWAY

THE LONG AND WINDING ROAD. The main road in Dau, circa 1915. By the the Commonwealth years, the Americans had built 220 kms. of concrete roads in Pampanga, ending in Dau., to accommodate Pampanga's motor vehicles, which ranked 5th in number, nationwide.

In the early ‘60s, before NLEX and SCTEX, the only way to travel to Manila from Pampanga was by the old Manila North Road—or MacArthur Highway, as it was more popularly known to motorists. Named after Lieutenant General Arthur MacArthur, Jr, the military Governor-General of the American-occupied Philippines from 1900 to 1901, the long highway stretched from La Union, to the provinces of Central Luzon (Pangasinan, Tarlac, Pampanga, Bulacan) and finally to the city of Manila. Under the American Regime, road-building was at its most brisk, and by 1933, Pampanga had over 220.1 kms. of 1st class roads, ending north in Dau.

As a child, I remember some of those trips so vividly well as they were moments to look forward to. After all, it was not very often that kids like us were taken out for long rides to the big city. So, every time our parents announced that we would be going to Manila, we knew the occasion would be something special—a family reunion, a fiesta in Blumentritt or perhaps, a visit to our cousins in Herran (now Pedro Gil St).

Our trips were always scheduled on weekends, and as early as Friday morning, our parents would already be preparing for the trip. Dad would be checking on and tuning up the Oldsmobile, while Ma would be looking for tin cans that would serve as our emergency “orinola” (urinal) or vomit bag, in case of motion sickness or incontinence. We always left in the early dawn, with most of us still drowsy and asleep--no later than 5 a.m. , as mandated by my ever-punctual Dad. With water bottles and half-a-dozen or so hardboiled eggs, we thus began our 99 km. journey to the capital city.

From our house in Sta. Ines, Mabalacat, my Dad would drive out onto the main highway, towards Dau and Angeles. Past those familiar places, we proceeded to the capital town, San Fernando, with Manila still 57 kms. away. We would just coast along till San Vicente in Apalit, the highway a bit dusty and bumpy at this point. Upon hitting the rickety bridge of Calumpit, I knew we were no longer in Pampanga—we were in the Tagalog province of Bulacan, home of my favourite ensaimada de Malolos. I knew, because we would always stopped in the capital town to buy these pastries, cheese-topped and overloaded with red eggs.

From Malolos, it was off to Guiguinto, a town with an intriguing name for a 6 year old—I had often envisioned it either overrun with salaginto beetles or sparkling with golden lights. I remember the tall electric posts that lined the highway as we approached Bigaa, Tabang, then Bocaue. I once overheared adults talking about the “kabarets”of Bocaue in hushed whispers, but I've never seen girls dancing on the highway! Fixing my gaze on the world outside through the car window, i would see early risers buying bread from bakeries, Mobilgas stations and their lighted signs wishing travellers “Pleasant motoring!, Baliuag buses picking up passengers, ricefields that stretched as far as the eyes can see.

I would already be impatient and bored at this time, even as the features of the bucolic towns of Marilao and Meycauayan (where are the bamboo trees?) loomed clearer with the rising sun. But all this fretting would stop as soon as we got a glimpse of this tall obelisk in the distance—the Monumento—a landmark that told me that, at last, we were in Manila. If we were going to Sta. Cruz, we would veer towards the Monumento, gawking at the sculpted images of the revolucionarios and the doomed Gomburza padres as we made a half-loop towards Manila proper. After some two hours of driving, we did it--the “promdis” have finally arrived!