Tuesday, February 21, 2017


A DILLER, A DOLLAR, A $500 SCHOLAR. Original batch of Filipino pensionados from 1903, taken in 1904, at Sta. Barbara, California. In this group are at least 3 Kapampangans who studied in U.S. universities as part of the government scholarship program initiated during the Taft administration.

At the end of the Spanish era, it has been estimated that less than one tenth of one percent of the population could be considered educated (roughly a thousand per a million people). Thus, an idea was conceived in 1901, broached first by the Taft Commission, to educate Filipino students in America so they could “acquire a thorough knowledge of the western civilization”.

Mr. William Alexander Sutherland, secretary to Gov. William H. Taft, is credited with planting the seed of the idea, which aimed to bring about closer relations and a better understanding between America and its new wards. Thus, on 26 August 1903, the Philippine Commission passed Act No. 854  that authorized the sending of the first 100 Filipino students to the United States for four years of study in American colleges and universities.

The collective name for these scholars was “pensionados”, which was actually a misnomer, as it is the Spanish equivalent of “pensioner”, a retired person who receives a pension or stipend from a private or government body. Even so, the American administrators stuck to the name, in 1903, and it proved to be the most successful scholarship project ever instituted in the Philippines.

The recipients, carefully selected from all the provinces went on to become the cream of Philippine civil service, academic, professional and entrepreneurial ranks. Mr. Sutherland, who would be named superintendent of the program,  determined that 75 of the first 100 would be culled from the public schools. The rest would be chosen by a committee composed of a Philippine Commission member, the Executive Secretary and Mr. Sutherland,, based on the population and importance of the different provinces.

The pensionado program had three phases that spanned from the Taft governorship to the Commonwealth period, extending to the years before the war.  The most well-known pensionados would be the original batches that would number about 200 scholars.

The scholars were shipped in batches to the United States, the first on 9 October 1903 numbered 104. The “Pensionado Leaving Day” was reported in 22 newspapers, and the send-off was marked with music, oratories and free San Miguel Beer refreshments. Also present was Gov. Taft who advised the boys to keep their feet dry, desist from eating too much candy, and reminded them that they were missionaries of their islands to America.

Thus, armed with their $500 allowance ($5 was allotted for personal expenses), the students began their 30-day journey across the Pacific to chase their dreams in their new mother country. Pampanga was proudly represented by 2 Kapampangans in this pioneering batch. In the succeeding years, a few more would qualify for the pensionado program, and would return back to the Philippines to achieve so much more—as accomplished builders of progress, educators, esteemed doctors, engineers, professionals and as heroes.

ABAD SANTOS, JOSE. (1904, San Fernando)
University of Illinois and George Washington University)
(b. 1886/d,1942)  Abad Santos joined the 2nd batch of pensioandos in 1904 and went to the University of Illinois and George Washington University to take up Law. Fifth Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines. Served briefly as the Acting President of the Commonwealth of the Philippines and Acting-Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines during World War II, in behalf of President Quezon after the government went in exile to the United States. Killed by the Japanese forces for refusing to cooperate during their occupation of the country.

BALUYUT, SOTERO (1904, San Fernando)
(b. 1889/ d.  1975). Studied at the Santa Ana Central and High School, California, University Summer Schools of Illinois; and University of Iowa, where he obtainhis Civil Engineering degree. Worked with the Bureau of Public Works on his return to the Philippines, as assistant engineer of Pampanga and Cavite in 1911. Elected governor of Pampanga in 1925, 1928 and 1937-1938 and  served as senator for the Third Senatorial District. Became Secretary of Public Works and Communications in President Quirino’s cabinet.

DATU, MAURO M. (1905, San Fernando)
Studied at Purdue University, Lafayette, Indiana, graduating in 1908. Upon his return, he became a teacher, and then principal of a school in Baliuag, Bulacan. In 1918, he was appointed as an enumerador for Baliuag, for the Philippine census project.

DE LA PAZ, FABIAN (1904, Macabebe)
(b.1889/d.1946 ) De La Paz went to Macomb College in Illinois (now University of Western Illinois) where he earned his education degree. Back in the Philippines, the teacher was appointed Principal of Tondo High School in Manila. He took night classes at the newly opened University of the Philippines in Manila where he finished law. Congressman from 1928-31 (8th Philippine Legislature) and 1931-34 (9th Philippine Legislature).

ESPIRITU, JOSE (1903, Apalit)
 Studied at the State Normal School, Trenton, New Jersey and graduated with a degree in Education.

GOMEZ, LIBORIO (1903, Sto. Tomas)
(b. 1887/d. 1958) Complete his doctoral studies at the University of Chicago in 1908 . Bacteriologist, pathologist,medical educator, scientist. On his return to the Philippines, he served as pathologist at the University of the Philippines, San Juan de Dios Hospital, and Far Eastern University. Served as bacteriologist at the Bureau of Science until 1923 when he was appointed as Professor of Pathology and Bacteriology at the University of the Philippines, College of Medicine.

GUTIERREZ, PERPETUO (1905, Floridablanca)
Went to the College of Physicians and Surgeons and became a specialist in dermatology and venereal diseases, doing graduate work at Columbia and Johns Hopkins Universities. Dr. Gutierrez would later become head of the Department of Medicine at the Institute of Medicine of Far Eastern University.

LICUP, ROMAN  (1905)
Studied at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana and  Armour Institute, Chicago. Joined the government service upon his return and became an assistant manager of the Manila Railroad Company in 1909. He stayed on for over 42 years, but was separated from the company due to internal reorganization. He sued the government, but lost, and died a pauper.

Studied at the Agricultural Collge in Ames, Iowa.

Attended State Normal University in Normal, Illinois.  In Sutherland’s list, he is identified as a Pampanga student, but the records of FANHS (Filipino American National Historical Society) lists him as coming from Manila.

Attended the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Chicago, Illinois. His roommate was Jose Abad Santos. Became an assistant professor of surgery upon his return to the Philippines .Was a charter fellow of the Philippine College of Surgeons. He was one of Pres. Quezon’s trusted physicians. His daughter is the operatic singer, TV, movie and theater personality, Fides Asencio-Cuyugan.

Nothing is known about him, not even his school he attended is known.

http://www.orosa.org/The%20Philippine%20Pensionado%20Story3.pdf  The Pensionado Story

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

*422. San Fernando's LOURDES S. SINJIAN, Dama de Honor, Manila Carnival 1924

OUR LADY OF LOURDES. The statuesque Unding was a princess in the Manila Carnival court of Queen Trinidad Fernandez. She was a grandchild of former San Fernando gobernadorcillo (1844-1875), Don Bernardino Singian de Miranda.Author's Collection.

The earliest known Kapampangan participant in the Manila Carnival of which there is pictorial documentation is Lourdes Sinjian (Filipinized into Singian) of San Fernando. There was another Kapampangan entrant by the name of Benita S. Reyes who topped the preliminary voting in Pampanga, but apparently, her candidacy did not prosper and virtually nothing is known about her.

On the other hand, Lourdes did much better, joining the court of the 1924 Manila Carnival Queen, Trinidad Fernandez, as one of the 6 lovely “damas”. Lourdes, nicknamed “Unding”, (b. 23 October 1903) was the grandchild of Don Bernardino Singian de Miranda (former gobernadorcillo of San Fernando where he served several terms between 1844-1875) with second wife Clemencia Gotiangco of San Fernando. Her parents were Anselmo Singian and Paz Soler.

A statuesque “mestiza Española”, she spoke flawless Spanish, Kapampangan, Pilipino and Cantonese, in a voice that was strong and vibrant. Her patrician manners only served to complement her elegant bearing. At the coronation of the Queen, she was escorted by another mestizo, Ito Kahn. 

A niece, Gabriela D’Aquino recalls that during the Japanese Occupation, Unding’s imposing height and no-nonsense demeanor served her family in good stead. Japanese officers who had come to invite her young cousins to parties were often intimidated by Unding and left the house alone.

 After the war, Lourdes and her mother went to Hong Kong, to follow her sister Maria Paz (Nenita) who had left the Philippines to marry a Hong Kong native, Gaston D’Aquino. Choosing to reside in the British Colony, Lourdes was never at a loss for company. Vicente Singian, for example, was the Philippine consul in Hong Kong in the 1950s. The famed surgeon Dr. Gregorio Singian, together with his wife, made frequent travels there as well. Both were her cousins. 

 Relatives would recall that Lourdes made a perfect tour guide whenever family members came a-visiting. In one such shopping spree at a Hong Kong store, she would pretend to be a stranger, but when she would sense a dishonest deal, she would berate the shop owner in eloquent Cantonese! 

With her relatives though, Lourdes spoke in Kapampangan, often reminiscing about her days in Pampanga and Manila. Lourdes did not leave Hong Kong until her mother, Paz, fell ill and had to be flown back to Manila for treatment at Clinica Singian. After her mother’s death, she remained in the Philippines only to return to Hong Kong in the 1960s to care for her ailing sister Nenita.

 Upon the death of her sister, Lourdes took over the household and continued raising her sister’s children Gaby, Gaston Jr. and Gerardo, running a household with discipline and efficiency. Known for being nimble and spritely even in her old age, Lourdes remained unmarried until her death in Hong Kong on 4 July 1993. Her remains were brought back and interred at the Mount Carmel Church in Manila.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

421. FRAY BALDOMERO ABADIA: Martyr of O’Donnell

SACRIFICE IN O'DONNELL. The saintly Recoleto, Fr. Baldomero Abadia, who was a friend to two holy men--St. Ezekiel Moreno and Bl. Vicente Pinillo,  met his martyrdom in O'Donnell, Tarlac, a casualty of the Philippine Revolution.

That Kapampangans' reverence and love for their Augustinian friars could be gleaned from the many letters of praises written by town leaders and local folks, kept in the archdiocesan archives of Manila and in Spain. Many of these include requests for extension of the friars' terms, due to their good deeds and selfless service. Indeed,  the 18th-century chronicler Fray Gaspar de San Agustin described the faithful of Pampanga as being “ very good Christians, most respectful of their ministers.”

This kindly and accommodating attitude, however, was severely put to a test during the Philippine Revolution against the repression of Spain. The revolutionists’ growing animosity towards their colonial master spilled over to the Catholic church and its leaders, with fatal consequences.

One such tragic victim of circumstance was the saintly Fray Baldomero Abadia. Abadia was born in Jarque del Moncayo in 1871. His father Marcos had this idea of naming his sons after Queen Isabel’s generals—and so this son was named after the Prince of Vergara, Don Baldomero Espartero. His older brother had earlier been named Leopoldo, after the first Duke of Tetuan, Don Leopoldo O’Donnell.

Baldomero entered the Recoletos community of Monteagudo, Navarre province, where, on 4 October 1887,  he professed his vows.  During his stay at the rectory, he became acquainted with two future holy men—St. Ezekiel Moreno, who, in 1885 had just returned from the Philippines to be chaplain at the Augustinian Rectory at Monteagudo. The saint corresponded with  Baldomero before he embarked for Colombia in 1888.

With Blessed Vicente Ibanez Pinilla, Fray Abadia formed a lasting friendship.  They were after all, from the same province of Zaragoza (Pinilla was from Calatayud town), and knew each other’s families. Their friendship would even deepen when they had their 5-year philosophical and theological formation in the convents of San Millán de la Cogolla (La Rioja) and Marcilla (Navarra). The two missionary priests would make a trip to Philippines together, arriving in Manila on 18 September 1892.

Initially, both were assigned in Manila, but Fr. Pinilla was shuttled from Mindoro to Manila and back to Mindoro where revolutionists held him captive in Bongabong. His superiors thus recalled him from the Philippines and shipped him to Brazil. He would be martyred in Motril, Granada in 1936, along with seven others, during the Spanish Civil War. He and his companions were beatified by Pope John Paul II on 7 March 1999.

Meanwhile, Fr. Abadia’s assignment took him to Alaminos. Sometime in January 1896, he was made parish priest of a newly created O’Donnell town in Tarlac, a canny coincidence as the town—like the friar’s brother, Leopoldo O’Donnell—had been named after the same Spanish general. There, Fr. Abadia worked with tirelsslsy, unmindful of the dangers of a brewing revolution.  Historiologist Fray Francisco Sadaba noted of his work inn Tarlac:  "There he fulfilled the functions of his sacred ministry, for he was a young man of angelic customs and a truly apostolic spirit."

But at the end of August 1896, the Philippine revolution had exploded, spreading  quickly from Manila to the border provinces. Several Recoletos were murdered, and Fray Baldomero found himself in the danger zone. In his last letter to his family dated Oct. 27, he calmly reassured them that, for his safety, he was sleeping in the soldiers' barracks.

But he was not safe at all—Fr. Abadia  could not trust even his own parishioners. On October 31, Filipino insurgent troops entered O'Donnell and, as Sadaba described his cruel passing, the revolucionarios  "inhumanly sacrificed him in hatred of Religion and Spain." Fray Baldomero Abadia was not even 27 years old.

Romanillos, Emmanuel Luis A. The Augustinian Recollects in the Philippines, Hagiography and History., Recoletos Communications Inc. 2001.