Ateneo De Naga high school 1980

Those who do not remember history are bound to live through it again.

Friday, February 26, 2010

My love affair with the VeeDubs (VWs)

When I was young back in the early 1970’s, I remember feeling excited every time my uncle Jun visits our house in Naga. Back then my uncle used to work for Bayer Philippines agrochemicals as a regional sales representative. Whenever he goes around the small towns of Albay and Camarines Sur to visit his clients, I would tag along with him. Most of his clients are Bicolano farmers and farm supplies stores. When he started as a sales representative, he drove around on a Yamaha GT50 motorcycle. Due to his exemplary sales performance, Bayer rewarded him by giving him a service vehicle which was a 1974 Volkswagen beetle. My uncle would sometimes playfully call his Volkswagen as “Chicks-wagen”, or “VW Babe-tle”. Though it was a small car, it was very reliable and had a fuel efficient engine.

As I watched my uncle go through his day visiting and convincing farmers to buy his pesticide products, the whole experience planted in me a sense of interest towards the sales profession. I had the impression that a salesman’s workday does not seemed to resemble work at all because they go through their days almost leisurely. And while majority of the working class is laboring through the afternoon, sales people would just kick back on their favorite sofas and snooze the afternoon away. By late afternoons, the whole sales community would become active again to visit their clients which are then available to meet with the salespeople.

After college, I decided to pursue a career in the sales industry and my very first company vehicle was an earlier 1970s model VW Brasilia. The car broke down after a week and so the pharmaceutical company I worked for then had to issue me another vehicle. The replacement vehicle I got was a 1973 Volkswagen super beetle 1303S.

During the 1960’s through the 1980’s, the preferred vehicle of the sales profession was the Volkswagen beetle. The VW beetles were deemed ideal vehicles by companies because they were cheap and easy to maintain. When a salesperson meets or exceeds the company’s sales expectations, he/she is rewarded with a vehicle upgrade. The next step up from a Volkswagen is either a Mitsubishi Lancer or a Toyota Corolla.

To a young dashing sales person, being issued a company vehicle is a status symbol which elevates the person into a certain level of prestige. It also sets him/her apart from the sales force that is vehicle deprived. This behavior is commonly known as “Ubod nang Kayabangan”. To the lower echelon salespeople who are dependent on public transportation, this is a source of shame and discomfort. Whenever they are asked what kind of vehicle they drive, they would meekly claim that the brand of car that they drive is called “Cadi-lakad”, “Mitsubishi-Lakad (lancer), Mitsubishi-Pasahero (Pajero), “Toyota-Lift-Bag” (liftback) or “Walks-Wagen”.

Do you guys still remember the official Ateneo De Naga school van back in the 1960’s and 70’s? I could be wrong but I think the school van then was a model 1965 Volkswagen bus, which is also known as “Kombi”. The word “Kombi” came from a German word “Kombinationskraftwagen” (Combination vehicle). The Ateneo VW bus was colored blue with white stripes (I think) and on the front of the bus was painted the Ateneo knight. I am still searching for a picture of that school van because I would like to include it in my photo collection.

I remember one afternoon back in 1976 or 1977, I went to the wooden school garage which was next to the Jesuit house in Ateneo De Naga. I saw the Volkswagen van parked with its driver window rolled down and so I became curious and started checking its controls. From watching Fr. Millar, I have learned that there is a 2-step process to start the school Volkswagen bus. The first one is to turn the key to the “start” marker. On the lower left side of the steering wheel is a push button and when you push that button, it turns on the starter which turns the engine on. Finding no key in the ignition hole, I thought that nothing will happen if I push the ignition button. Being a curious kid, I pushed the ignition button and suddenly the van jerked forward hitting the back wall of the garage. There was a loud crushing sound and the whole wooden garage shook from the impact of the van hitting the back wall of the garage. I turned pale and dashed out of the garage faster than Speedy Gonzales. I think I broke an Olympic sprint record while running away from the Jesuit house garage. The helpers inside the Jesuit house went to the garage to investigate what was going on. They were all puzzled on how the school van moved by itself. They probably thought that some restless ghosts that had been rumored to haunt the buildings of Ateneo possessed the school van.

Twenty eight years after that incident, I became interested in vintage car restoration and decided to restore an old Volkswagen. It took me about half a year before I finally found the right Volkswagen to buy at the price I could afford. My first Volkswagen project was a 1963 VW bug that still ran on a 6-volt battery (Nowadays cars run on 12-volts). It had a 1200 engine and everything in the interior of the beetle is original. In the glove compartment, I even found a vintage postal stamp and an old drive-in movie ticket that dates back to the 1970’s. The engine starts but it has a long list of mechanical problems like the brake system does not work, the carburetor leaks, numerous oil leaks around the engine, etc. The interior body of the beetle is amazingly in good shape and still had the original 1963 paint in it. The seats and door panels were falling apart and so I had to replace them.

The second VW beetle I bought is a 1964 model. I bought it from a guy living with his wife at the desert about 80 miles away from our house. When I got to the house of the owner, I saw that the beetle was a “basket case”. It is called a basket case because almost all the body parts of the beetle were disassembled. The engine was still on the beetle but almost all the body parts were in boxes and plastic containers. It was an ugly duckling. I paid a cheap price for the bug and had a tow truck pick it up.

It took me about 3 months before I was finally able to put together most of the parts of the bug. After I replaced the whole wiring system with a brand new wiring harness, I crossed my fingers and turned on the ignition key. To my amazement, the engine came alive and it sounded good. I was surprised that I was able to get that engine to start after it sat at the desert for more than a year.

One thing I learned about Volkswagen restoration is that it takes time, money and a deep pocket of patience. Repair manuals are indispensable because they act like a bible during restoration. The fun part of vintage car restoration is the lengthy process of hunting for original parts. I discovered that the best way to hunt for parts is to stay connected with Volkswagen enthusiasts in our area.

When I started attending VW conventions and monthly parking lot gatherings, I found the culture of the VW fanatics to be laid back and quite informal. I immediately bonded with a number of guys who are into VW restorations and there would be weekends when they would drive their vintage bugs and buses to my house just to hangout and do repairs. We discuss all the new repair tips that we learned and possible restoration projects that we can get involve with.

Volkswagen vintage restoration is not just a simple hobby. A restorer’s garage functions like a slow moving time machine. It goes through a time consuming process that gradually brings back to life a man-made machine that saw its glory during an era which we now call “The good old days”.

When my Volkswagen beetles first rolled its wheels on the streets of California, I was still a small baby in a tiny town in the province of Albay. My VW Beetles rode through the Groovy years of the 1960s. Its wheels became misaligned when it attempted to do the popular 1960’s dance “Twist”. It honked its well wishes to the American servicemen & women before they were shipped to South Vietnam to fight the Communists. It witnessed the nation grieved when President Kennedy was assassinated back in November 22, 1963. It watched the British popular rock band, Beatles, perform for the first time on the “Ed Sullivan Show” in 1964. It proudly straightened up its wheels when it saw the passing of the first civil rights bill to stop racial discrimination on July 2, 1964. Its headlights flashed with glee when it saw ladies wearing the shorter version of the mini skirts back in the year 1965. Its lights deemed sadly when it learned that Mr. Walt Disney, the creator of Mickey Mouse, died of cancer in December 15, 1966. It lifted its trunk with wonder when it saw armies of Volkswagens loaded with people headed to Bethel, New York to attend the Woodstock festival that was held from August 15-18, 1969. It is during the Woodstock festival that the Beetles heard Jimi Hendrix played on his guitar the national anthem, which became a famous instrumental classic. It looked up to the evening sky when Apollo 11 landed on the moon on July 20, 1969.

My vintage Volkswagens have grown around me after I brought them back to life. My VWs are no longer just my cars because they have become part of my family. They are there not only for me but also for my children who watched me slowly build their own Volkswagens inside my garage. Hopefully when my children leaves the safety of our home, they will drive away the vintage VWs that I restored for them. And whenever they start their VWs, they will remember that their father is always with them.

It is not a car. It is a Volkswagen.

Joseph Ivan.


The word Volkswagen is a German word that literally means “People’s Car”. Prior to 1930, there had been numerous attempts to create an affordable “people’s car” in Germany with no profound success. Almost all the cars prior to 1930 costs above an average worker’s annual wage even though they were designed simple enough for an average person.

The story of the Volkswagen beetle began about the end of summer of 1933 when Ferdinand Porche was summoned by Adolf Hitler to hotel Kaiserhof in Berlin. Porsche (pronounced Porsh-Uh) had an outstanding reputation as an engineer and had been the chief designer for Daimler-Benz and owned his own engineering consulting firm. During the meeting, Hitler discussed his idea of a Volkswagen. Hitler proposed a people’s car that could carry five people, can cruise up to 62 mile per hour and has an engine that travels 33 miles per gallon. The engine also has to be air-cooled because most Germans then did not have any garages. When Porche asked Hitler for an idea of the price of the car, Hitler answered, “At any price, Herr Doktor Porche. Any price below 1,000 Reich Marks!”.

Porsche turned pale upon hearing the price and thought to himself that Hitler’s proposal sounded like an order. Porche knew it was next to impossible to build a car at that price. One thousand Marks in 1933 was roughly equivalent to 250 dollars. Even Ford could not build an automobile that cheap. After leaving, Porsche dismissed the matter as a wild whim of the iron dictator. What Porche did not know was that Hitler intended to use the promise of a Volkswagen as a political device to win Germans to his regime. Mussolini made the Italian trains to run on time. Hitler wanted to give the Germans a car.

Less than a year later after the meeting, Hitler delivered an impassioned speech at the opening of the Berlin International Automobile Show where he promised the German public a small low priced car. Shortly after that, Porsche received an official order to have three prototype Volkswagen models ready within ten months. Hitler even arranged for the various members of the German Automobile Manufacturers Society to supply some of the component parts. In effect he was ordering the entire industry to produce the car. Porsche was extremely upset because he deemed the price to be impossible to meet. Porche knew that even Ford Motor Company, who rarely turned out less than one million machines of a particular model, spends about 2,600 Reich Marks per vehicle. But no one dared say no to the dangerous dictator, and so work began.

Hitler did not know then that Porche already designed and built a small car that closely resemble what Hitler had in mind. In 1932, Porche went to NSU Motorenwerke (A German car & motorcycle manufacturer) and produced three machines which closely resembled the modern Volkswagen. It has a rear air-cool engine with a squared-off body. Porsche came up with the same idea years earlier. Even the name was similar--Volksauto. But the design never came near to the production price that Hitler wanted. NSU and Porche dropped the idea until Hitler came along. When Volksauto was resurrected (Thanks to the Fuhrer), Porche began the time consuming process of redesigning it. Porsche established his workshop in his own private garage and, being a meticulous engineer that he was, refused to rush the project. While Porche was hard at work with the Volkswagen design, he was also building racing cars for Auto-Union and was really much more concerned with beating the Italians than satisfying Hitler's whim.

Hitler did not consider it a whim. In speech after speech, Hitler kept promising the German public their Volkswagen. Behind the scenes, the dictator kept a relentless pressure on both Porsche and the German Automobile Manufacturers Society to build the people’s car. Actually Porsche was being squeezed from both sides. Hitler was not to be denied of his goal while the manufacturers were holding back on their efforts to build the Volkswagen. The German manufacturers were very reluctant to participate in a project that would eventually offer them serious competition.

In 1935, Porsche visited America and toured the General Motors, Packard, and Ford assembly lines with a stopwatch in his hand. He made notes of the specialized machine tools and body dies that the American plants were using. He found the production methods of the U.S. plant very different to the Europeans. The American system turned out cars in great quantity, something no European had ever done. When Porsche returned to Germany, he realized that the German private owned companies could never finance this kind of operation. It would have to be done by the German government.

Porsche and a production team were then sent to America to recruit American technicians for the new factory. Key engineers who could speak German were signed up and American mass-production knowledge was ready to operate in Nazi Germany. Strangely enough, the American manufacturers did not show the slightest interest in the German scheme. Henry Ford said, "If someone else can make better and cheaper cars than I, it serves me right."

In 1938, construction began on the KdF Wagen factory. In 1939, several VW38s (pre-production) and VW39s (demonstration cars) were produced. Unlike its predecessors that had “suicide doors”, the new models had front hinged doors, split windows in the rear, larger hoods and many other minor differences. This edition of the car was the basis of the Beetle design after the war was over.

When the V38s were introduced, Hitler abruptly changed the name of the car to KdF Wagen. KdF stood for "Kraft durch Freude" which meant "Strength through Joy." This upset Porsche, as he was not a member of the Nazi party and he did not support Hitler's use of propaganda when advertising the car.

What is most significant about the entire Volkswagen project is that Hitler did not really care if the car ever went into production. The Volkswagen was a political device, a sop to his public, whose support he desperately needed for his military adventures. After Hitler invaded Austria, Czechoslovakia and Poland, the propaganda tool, Volkswagen, was all but forgotten. Marooned at the town where the Volkswagen factory is located are the American technicians and their families.

With the war fully under way, the now completed factory at Wolfsburg was called upon to produce a military vehicle. One of the vehicles that was produced was the Type 82 Kübelwagens. The Kübelwagen was a simple looking military vehicle that basically used the same parts as the KdF Wagen but had a flat-sided body and had a higher ground clearance. It was essentially the Germany's version of American jeep in WWII. Kübelwagens weighed only 1,100 pounds and two men could stand it on its wheels if it overturned. It served on all fronts - the mud in Poland; the freezing winters of Russia; the hot sands of Africa. Field Marshal Rommel once pointed out that a Volkswagen would operate where a camel bogged down!

During the war, the company also produced amphibious vehicles known as the Type 128 and also type 166 which was also called “Schwimmwagen”. This vehicle was powered by a 25hp engine, and had a retractable ducted propeller in the rear for water use. In the water, the Schwimmwagen could achieve a speed up to 15mph and steered in the water using its front tires. On land, it traveled at a speed of 50mph.

The KdF Wagen factory was a prime target during the war and it was partially destroyed due to the allied bombing. After the war was over, the British Army took over the factory. The British were interested in the factory because they needed light transportation. The factory was brought back up under the leadership of Major Ivan Hirst of the British Army.

By the end of 1945, the plant had produced more than 2000 cars, most of which were produced from spare parts that were left at the factory. Within a year, the factory had produced over 10,000 cars, all thanks to the assistance provided by the British government.

Sometime after 1945, the company was renamed Volkswagen by the British. The English occupiers also renamed the town where the factory was at as "Wolfsburg". Wolfburg is the name of an ancient local castle near the town. The British sought to give control of the company to able hands. It was offered to the Ford Company but they turned down the offer because Ford thought that buying Volkswagen is a waste of money. The French government also refused to buy VW. Nobody wanted to buy the Volkswagen Company! In 1949, the British government was finally able to relinquish the control of the Volkswagen Company to the German government. Heinrich Nordhoff was appointed as the senior executive of Volkswagen, a move which proved to be a very good one.

After 1949, production at Volkswagen steadily increased. Nordhoff's experience and knowledge proved invaluable for the company. Late in 1949, an idea for a utility/transport vehicle was developed, and by 1950, the VW transporter was born.

Volkswagens began exporting to neighboring European countries such as Denmark, Sweden, Luxemburg, Belgium, and Switzerland. As early as 1950, Volkswagen began producing Beetles in South Africa as well. Volkswagen commissioned an old German coach building company, Karmann, to build their Beetle convertibles. Every single convertible Volkswagen Beetle was completed by Karmann that is why there are special badges attached to all VW convertibles. In 1952, a Volkswagen dealership was opened in England. A few Volkswagens were imported into the United States in 1949 by Ben Pon, but they didn't immediately gain popularity. Very few were sold in their first year in the US.

The Hoffmann Company of New York, which imported Beetles in the early 1950s, eventually abandoned Volkswagen and imported Porsches instead. Volkswagen did not sell many cars in the United States until later in the mid-1950s.

Volkswagen transporters were not as popular as Beetles. In the first 5 years of production, there were 4 times fewer Buses built as Beetles. The VW Buses produced before 1955 had characteristically large engine access doors. Today, they are largely known as "barndoor" buses. Some people think that barndoor is supposed to be a reference to the side doors, but it is a misconception. These early barndoor transporters are very rare today.

Beetles built before 1953 looked almost identical to the KdF Wagen designed before WWII. Midway in 1953, Volkswagen changed the rear split windows of the Beetles and added a slightly larger oval window. This oval window was said to increase visibility out of the rear of the car by 33%. By 1955, Volkswagen came out with a new model called the Karmann Ghia. It used many parts from the Beetle to keep production cheaper, and less complex. The Karmann Ghia was a joint venture by companies Karmann and Ghia.

Volkswagen production kept increasing through the late 1950s. In 1958, the larger rear window that most people see in Beetles today was adopted. In each year, minor changes were made to the Beetle and the other cars in Volkswagen's lineup, but nothing very drastic. Volkswagen also had a very successful advertising campaign in the 1960s which helped contribute to its success in the United States. The Disney movie, Herbie, also helped promote the Beetle. The Herbie movies portrayed the Beetle as a "love bug." Later in the 1960s, Volkswagen produced over one million Beetles each year. 1969 was the most productive year for Volkswagen.

After the Beetle's boom years in the late 1960s, its sales began to decline. In 1967, the transporter underwent major design changes. In 1971, Volkswagen developed a new car called the Super Beetle. The Super Beetle had modern MacPherson struts in the front instead of the older transverse beam arrangement it had since the 1930s. This new suspension allowed the trunk to be deeper, thus creating more luggage space in the front trunk. Super Beetles were smoother cruisers on the highway. The ever increasing US government regulations on safety and emissions controls pushed the Beetle to its limits. The Beetle could not be adapted to keep up with the other cars in the industry. Volkswagen stopped production of the Beetle sedan in 1977 and stopped production of the cabriolet in 1979. Volkswagen of Brazil continued building Beetles and VW Vans until 1993. Volkswagen of Mexico still hasn't stopped building Beetles! In fact, the Beetle is by far the most popular car in Mexico.

VW facts:

The car was originally known as Käfer, the German word for “Beetle”. It was not until August 1967 that the Volkswagen Corporation began using the name Beetle in its marketing materials in the US. In Britain, VW never used the name Beetle officially. It had only been known as either the "Type I" or as the 1100, 1200, 1300, 1500, or 1600 which had been the names under which the vehicle was marketed in Europe. The numbers denoted the vehicle's approximate engine size in cubic centimeters.

Monday, February 08, 2010

The Historical Sites of Naga City

The Naga City Police Station at Barlin Street
Site of the Cuartel General of the Guardia Civil in Camarines. It was constructed of granite blocks and wood in 1870, shortly after the Guardia Civil succeeded the Carabinera de Seguridad Publica in 1863.

During the mass arrests in September 1896, Florencio Lerma (who was also held in the Casino Español); Cornelio Mercado; Don Tomas Prieto, alcalde of Nueva Caceres; and Macatio Valentin were brought to and tortured in the cuartel by Civil Guards under the direction of Captain Francisco Andreu, chief of the Guardia Civil in Ambos Camarines, and Don Ricardo Lacosta, Spanish civil governor of the province. The horrific torture wrenched the first of two legally infirm confessions from the frail pharmacist Prieto which the authorities used as basis for the arrest, torture and prosecution of scores of Filipinos in the province, some of whom were also subsequently forced to sign fabricated confessions under extreme duress.

Around midnight of 18 September 1898, two European Guards, a responding Spanish voluntario, Captain Andreu, his wife and children died in the cuartel when Filipino Civil Guard corporals Elias Angeles and Felix Plazo led an uprising of Bicolano and Tagalog Guards in Nueva Caceres. The action resulted in the formal surrender of the Spanish colonial government in Camarines, after more bloodshed, to the Filipino forces on 19 September 1898. Ciudad de Nueva Caceres and the province of Ambos Camarines thus became the first in the Bicol Region to be liberated by arms after three centuries and before the arrival of General Emilio Aguinaldo’s republican army in the city.

On 1 September 1901, following the organization by Captain Edward S. Luthi of a Philippine Constabulary Detachment in Ambos Camarines, the cuartel became the PC provincial headquarters. The occupancy by the Constabulary was interrupted by World War II, but the Constabulary soon returned after the war that saw Naga liberated from the Japanese Occupation forces on 13 April 1945 by guerrillas of Camarines Sur before the combined Filipino-American forces got to Naga, at that time the capital town of the province.

On 30 March 1978 the century-old building, which was by then the headquarters of the defunct Philippine Constabulary-Integrated National Police (PC-INP) in Camarines Sur. was totally razed by fire caused by faulty electrical wiring.

Site of the Casa Tribunal at Elias Angeles Street
Until 1839, the Casa Tribunal or “common house” at this site stood on grounds prone to flooding because of the Naga River that ran just behind the building. The river until that time veered rightwards just after the San Francisco Church, followed a course that is now roughly P. Burgos Street, then snaked left and ran roughly parallel to Elias Angeles Street until the river swerved eastward at the western end of Dinaga Street and continued into its present course.

Following Alcalde Mayor Manuel Esquivel y Castañeda’s project which rechanneled the twisting river into its present course and reclaimed the low-lying area from Padre Burgos and Dinaga, an improved, beautiful Casa Tribunal which provided free rooms to travelers stood on less soggy grounds in 1887. The Becerra Law of 12 November 1889 gave Nueva Caceres and six other principal towns in the Philippines the authority to organize their ayuntamiento similar to those in municipalities in Spain. The ayuntamiento in Nueva Caceres transacted official business in the Casa Tribunal. On 19 May 1893, the Maura Law changed the name Tribunal del Pueblo to Tribunal Municipio, and in Nueva Caceres people began to refer to the elegant ayuntamiento edifice of bricks and wood at the site as the municipio.

During the American colonial regime and the Commonwealth period, the building became the Municipal Presidencia. Destroyed by American bombs in World War II, it could not be immediately rebuilt as the city hall of the new city government of Naga due to a technicality. It was eventually rebuilt as a smaller wooden building that became the city police headquarters. After the century-old Spanish cuartel being used by the PC-INP burned down in 1978, the city government constructed a new building at the cuartel site which housed the Naga City Police Department. The former police headquarter building on this site became the Naga City Library until the latter’s transfer to its new, modern building in the City Hall complex.

Site of the Casino Español, corner Elias Angeles and Arana Streets
On this site stood the Casino Español, a spacious building of piedra china and wood that served as the social and recreational center of the male Spanish population of Nueva Caceres and neighboring towns.

Following the discovery of the Katipunan in Manila in August 1896, the Spaniards in Nueva Caceres organized themselves into homeguards and called their group the Cuerpo de Voluntarios. Patterning themselves after the Cuerpo Casino Español in Manila, the local volunarios made the Casino Español their headquarters.

When Civil Governor Ricardo Lacosta ordered to mass arrest all over Camarines starting in September 1896, the Casino Español became one of several holding areas for harsh interrogation and violent torture. Among those taken to the Casino were Antonio Arejola, Camilo Jacob (from the infirmary of the San Francisco Church), Florencio Lerma (who was subsequently transferred to the nearby Cuartel General of the Guardia Civil), Macario Melgarejo, Mariano Ordenanza and Manuel Pastor, and from Daet, Roman Cabesudo, Ponciano Caminar, Diego Liñan, Valentin Lipana, Gregorio Luyon, Adriano Pajarillo, and Pedro Zenarosa. Many arrests were made on mere denunciation by Spaniards in meetings in the Casino.

Two years after, in 1898, enraged Nagueños violently trashed the clubhouse during the bloody uprising led by Elias Angeles and Felix Plazo.

During the American regime, the building was acquired by pharmacist Julian de las Herras. American bombs destroyed it in World War II.

Site of the Casa Real at General Luna Street
By 1588, the Casa Real stood at this site. It was made of light indigenous materials and was the residence of the Alcaldo Mayor of Caceres who had jurisdiction over the entire Bicol Peninsula and Catanduanes. The building faced the Naga River which followed a course much nearer to it and remained so for two-and-a-half centuries.

In 1655, the Casa Real was of bricks and lime. The Alcalde Mayor still resided in the building. His jurisdiction had been delimited for more effective control to the geographical area roughly corresponding to present-day Camarines Sur. But because Nueva Caceres was the capital of the province (which at various periods included Camarines Norte) the Alcalde Mayor or Civil Governor also thereby exercised administrative control over the Spanish city which included the pre-Hispanic native villages of Naga, Tabuco, Camaligan and Canaman.

By 1792, in the site which was still vulnerable to sudden flooding from the wayward Naga River and to fire from the flimsy native houses crowded around the edifice, the Casa Real had been constructed with more durable stone materials. After the river’s course was straightened and the area up to the present Plaza Rizal cleared of homes and elevated with earthfill by 1839, the Spanish civil government as well as church authorities undertook a spate of public works projects. One of these was a new government building that, by 1887, had replaced the nearly century-old Casa Real. By then it was more popularly referred to as Casa de Gobierno. To the south side of the new government house was the civil governor’s residence, the lot and building of which were later acquired by an American, Judge Robert Manley, during the Commonwealth period.

Slightly damaged like other Spanish-vintage buildings in the 1898 uprising by Filipinos in Nueva Caceres, the Casa de Gobierno was enlarged and remodeled under the American colonial regime following the cessation of the Filipino-American War in Camarines Sur in the early 1900s. This was the same architectural icon that the invading Japanese Army took over in 1942 and which an all-Filipino guerrilla force in Camarines Sur wrested back, for the second time in World War II, from the Imperial Army of Nippon on 13 April 1945 before the joint Filipino and American soldiers arrived. Damaged by American bombing raids, the edifice was reconstructed under the new Philippine Government and remained the provincial capitol building of Camarines Sur until a fire destroyed it on 26 June 1976.

Calle Via Gainza (Peñafrancia Avenue)
Peñafrancia Avenue was first known as Via Gainza in honor of Bishop Francisco Gainza, O.P. (1863-1879), the 25th and considered by many to have been the greatest Spanish bishop of the See of Caceres.

Until around the second quarter of the 19th century, the thoroughfare was an unpaved road that stretched from the Peñafrancia Shrine in the present Barangay Peñafrancia to the San Francisco Church in front of what is now the Plaza de Quince Martires. Under his prelacy, Gainza widened and paved the road with stones and extended it to its present junction with the western end of Panganiban Drive that was then known as Calle Legaspi. Bishop Gainza’s design had the paved road with two outer lanes for opposing vehicular traffic and a middle lane for pedestrians.

Francisco Caracciolo Urreta Vizcaya de Gainza was born on 3 June 1818 in the city of Calahorra, province of Logroño, Spain. He joined the Dominican Order in 1833 and arrived on assignment to the Philippines in 1846. From a professorial chair in the University of Santo Tomas, he went on to hold various positions and assignments in and outside the country.

A month after he was consecrated bishop of Caceres at the Santo Domingo Church in Manila, he assumed his office in Nueva Caceres, on 19 March 1863. His episcopal rule saw the improvement of the Metropolitan Cathedral along with various churches in his See that at the time encompassed the Bicol Region and the eastern seaboard of Luzon up to Palanan, Isabela. He gave immediate, particular emphasis to the reconstruction and beautification of the Peñafrancia Shrine. A born linguist, he wrote the definitive history of the Patroness in the Bicol language in 1866. On that same year, he delivered his sermon in Bicol. An academic as much as a missionary, he had Fray Marcos Lisboa’s Vocabulario de la Lengua Bicol, long out of print since 1754, reprinted in 1865. The tome had been his basis for his study of the language.

As Delegate of the Pope, a position he held concurrently as bishop of Caceres, he spoke out openly and joined the archbishop of Manila and the bishop of Cebu in refusing to defrock Fathers Burgos, Gomez and Zamora as formally requested by the Soanish government in the Philippines.
As an educator he reorganized the curriculum of what is now the Holy Rosary Minor Seminary and turned it into the premier educational institution in Southern Luzon that produced priests and bishops and lay Bicolano and Tagalog professionals up to the early part of the 20h century. His most visible legacy is the present Universidad de Santa Isabel which he established first as a primary school for girls in 1868, then as the first Normal College for women in the Philippines, called the Escuela Superior, in 1875.

On the same year that he opened the Escual Superior, he organized and successfully held in Nueva Caceres the first agricultural and industrial exposition ever in the Bicol Region. On a more lasting note, he extended the novenary in the Metropolitan Cathedral to Saturday, a practice observed to this day and opened with the annual traslaciom of the Lady of Peñafrancia down the length of Peñafrancia Avenue that once was named Via Gainza in his honor and memory. In the 1920s Via Gainza was shortened to that stretch up to Paz Street only; from Paz Street southward, it became Mabini Street.

Calle Real (Elias Angeles Street)
Calle Real was one of the earliest streets in Spanish Nueva Caceres. It was laid out at about the time that the Castilian settlement was established as a city towards the close of the 1500s.
Originally, Calle Real ran in a northwesterly direction. From the eastern end of present-day Caceres Street (originally Calle Padian) it skirted the western bank of the original course of the Naga River at the central downtown area. It ended just beyond the Casa Real, and was connected by an unpaved road (in the area of P. Burgos Street now) along the northern side of the same river to the San Francisco Church in the east.

By the first half of the 19h century, Calle Real had been reoriented and lengthened in a more northerly direction that it retains to the present. With the transfer and construction of the Metropolitan Cathedral, the Seminario Conciliar and the bishop’s palace at their present site in the 1820s, the Ciudad’s central area enlarged with the rechanneling of the Naga River two decades later and the Colegio de Santa Isabel built afterwards, the paved Calle Real provided a wide and impressive avenue to which the road from Magarao, then called Camino para Nueva Caceres, linked up through the street that by 1899 would be called Bagumbayan.

Calle Real figured as a historic backdrop to events of September 1898, not the least having been the establishment of the Revolutionary Filipino Government of Camarines headed by Elias Angeles in the Colegio which faces the same street that witnessed the early shedding of Castilian blood and on which a delegation of Spaniards less than twenty-fours later walked to formalize the capitulation and end of Spanish colonial rule in the province.

On 15 January 1929, the Municipal Council of Naga (the name which had replaced Nueva Caceres) unanimously passed a resolution asking the American Governor-General of the Philippines for authorization to conduct a drive for public voluntary contributions to fund the construction of a monument to Elias Angeles. Twenty-nine years later, in 1958, the proposal remained unacted. In the meantime, Calle Real had been renamed Calle Elias Angeles.

Calle de Legaspi (Western portion of Panganiban Drive)
Until the 1830s, this street did not exist. It was part of the marshy land of the pre-Hispanic village of Naga then bordered by the eastern bank of the Naga River. The river at that time followed a course that ran roughly parallel to the present-day Elias Street, from what is now P. Burgos Street, to the western end of Dinaga Street.

By 1839 when the river had been straightened to its present course and the swampy land all the way to Dinaga had been filled up, a rudimentary road from the side of the ayuntamiento building known as the Municipio appeared. It served as a short cut from Calle Real to the new western bank of Rio Naga. A light bridge of wooden planks and bamboo railings provided the first direct link to the other side of the river, to the Camino Real that led to Pili and points beyond. Around 1850, a solidly constructed bridge replaced the wooden span. It eliminated the need for heavy, wheeled vehicles to take the roundabout way via Tabuco to reach the Camino Real in the Pueblo of Naga. Vehicular traffic through the short cut increased and it gained importance as a commercial artery. When the authorities during the second half of the 19th century began to improve roads and name them after illustrious Spaniards, the once lowly footpath became Calle de Legaspi.

Puente de Naga (Lt. Delfin Rosales Bridge)
Before Alcalde Mayor Manuel Esquivel undertook his reclamation project, the area bisected by the Rio Naga east of Calle Real was part of the Pueblo of Naga. At that time Naga was accessed from the Ciudad de Nueva Caceres by a bridge of wooden slabs at the river’s original bend south of the San Francisco Church. This bridge led to a road that is now approximately Balintawak Street and ran in a north to southwest direction to the Pueblo de Tabuco. Perpendicular to the road in Naga was the Camino Real going to Pili.

Following the completion of Esquivel’s project around 1839, the Camino Real was extended to the new eastern bank of Rio Naga while a road was laid out on the opposite side that became Calle de Legaspi. With the appropriation of government funds in 1844 for the construction of a sturdier link between the two points, the existing light bridge was replaced with a massively designed one of concrete in 1847. The bridge was named Puente de Naga, and until the early parts of the 1900s people referred to it by that name. In the 1920s the bridge was renamed in honor of Bicolano Jose Maria Panganiban, a leading light in the Propaganda Movement.

Following its passage by the Sangguniang Panlungsod on 18 October 1989, Naga City Mayor Jesse Robredo approved the ordinance that changed the name of the bridge to honor the memory of Lt. Delfin C. Rosales who sustained mortal wounds from enemy fire while rescuing a fallen guerrilla soldier on the bridge during one of the most significant events of the city’s history in the 20th century—the Battle for Naga in April 1945 by the combined Filipino and American soldiers.

Site of the House of Bicolano Martyr Tomas Prieto (Corner Panganiban Drive and Peñafrancia Avenue)
Around half a century after the reclamation of this land area bounded by the present Naga River on the east, P. Burgos Street on the north, and Elias Angeles Street on the west all the way down Dinaga to the river boundary with Tabuco on the south, Don Tomas Prieto acquired a residential lot on which he built a large house on this site. He allowed a poor Chinese to use a portion of the ground floor while he himself put up his pharmacy store that opened to present-day Peñafrancia Avenue and Panganiban Drive. His botica soon became a favorite meeting place for resident and visiting ilustrados. Gifted with a photographic memory, he entertained his friends and guests who included a Freemason and fellow pharmacist from Cavite, Victoriano Luciano, with verbatim recitations of passages and even chapters of politically banned publications, including Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. Luciano was likewise executed by the Spaniards in 1896.

Born on 18 September 1867, Tomas Prieto was the youngest of six children of Dee Se Co, a Chinese from Amoy, China, who took the name Marcos Prieto upon his baptism, and Juana Antonio, a resident native of Nueva Caceres. He spent his early years in the family house which was then at Calle Padian in what is now a part of the Naga City public market. Following his studies in the Seminario Conciliar de Nueva Caceres, he went to the University of Santo Tomas in Manila where he earned a Bachiller en Artes degree. He took up further studies in pharmacy and passed the examinations with the highest grades (sobresalientes) in 1888.

Returning to Nueva Caceres, he put up the first and only botica in the province at that time. He had an inclination for politics and by 1895 he was alcalde (equivalent to mayor) of Nueva Caceres. He still held the position when Spanish voluntarios from the Casino Español arrested him in his fairly new residence late in the evening of 16 September 1896 following an incriminatory confession by Vicente Lukban to the authorities in Manila.

Pronounced guilty by a Spanish military tribunal of the trumped-up charge of rebellion as defined in Articles 229, 230 and 232 of the Codigo Penal para Filipinas, he was executed by firing squad at 7:00 o’clock in the morning of 4 January 1897 at Bagumbayan Field in Manila together with his elder brother, Rev. Fr. Gabriel Prieto, and nine others from Nueva Caceres, namely, Rev. Fr. Severino Diaz, Rev. Fr. Inocencio Herrera, Manuel Abella, Domingo Abella, Camilo Jacob, Florencio Lerma, Mariano Melgarejo, Cornelio Mercado, and Macario Valentin. On 11 November 1896, nearly two months before the trial took place, Don Tomas Prieto’s house on this site and the properties of others arrested and executed with him were confiscated by the government on grounds of rebellion and disloyalty. Don Tomas left behind him his wife, Filomena Pasion, a niece of Mariano Arana, another martyred Bicolano from Nueva Caceres, and four young children. He was twenty-nine years old.

San Francisco Church
The church and parish of San Francisco antedated the erection of the Diocese of Caceres in 1595 by nearly two decades.

Originally of bamboo and other light materials, the church was built in this present site on a north-south orientation. Its puerta mayor faced its parish, the pre-colonial pueblo of Naga which lay across the Naga River that at that time curved from its southerly course to a westerly direction before winding southward again alongside present-day Elias Angeles Street.

By the middle of the 17th century, a church of bricks and lime had been constructed. Nearly two centuries later, San Francisco lost a portion of its parish when the river, straightened to its present course to mitigate flooding in Nueva Caceres, established the new boundary between native Naga and the Ciudad de Españoles. The two were connected about a decade afterwards by the new Puente de Naga, but the new boundary later precipitated an ecclesiastical controversy that contributed to the death of Fr. Gabril Prieto and Fr. Severino Diaz.

In the mass arrests of September 1896, the infirmary and basement of the San Francisco parish house were used for the interrogation and torture of some of those arrested from Nueva Caceres to as far as Libmanan. Among the detainees were Mateo Antero, Leon Hernandez (who was transferred to the provincial jail where he died from more torture), Camilo Jacob (transferred to the Casino Español), Eugenio Ocampo, Severo Patrocinio, Pablo Perpetua (later also taken to the provincial jail), Celedonio Reyes, Juan Razonable, and Vicente Ursua.

The infirmary, convento, and the church itself became the refuge of some 500 men, women and children when the Filipino Guardia Civil contingent led by corporals Elias Angeles and Felix Plazo rose up in arms against the colonial government towards midnight of 18 September 1896.

Following another attack by the Angeles-Plazo forces the next day, Civil Governor sent a letter from San Francisco offering to surrender the Province of Ambos Camarines to the Filipinos. In the afternoon of 19 September, a delegation of Spaniards signed the protocol of surrender in the Colegio de Santa Isabel, which became the seat of the new Filipino government of the province formed by Elias Angeles that same day.

Reduced to rubble by the heavy bombing of Naga in World War II, the church remained in ruins until the present new edifice was constructed.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Our batch mates at the War zone

There are a few batch mates whose careers have brought them to war zones. They are relatively safe but they do not enjoy the things that most of us take for granted. I just want to feature them in this short article to recognize their sacrifice that enabled their families to afford the comforts of life.

Let us continue to remember and pray for Reginald Reclusado who is in Afghanistan and Nelson "Boyet" Tuico whom I last heard is in Iraq.