PAGSANJAN, In History and Legend
By Dr. Gregorio F. Zaide
THE GLORY THAT IS PAGSANJAN
Three elements have given glory to the mini-town of Pagsanjan since colonial times, namely:
- Physical environment which includes location, favorable climate, fertile land, beautiful homes, and clean streets;
- Natural wonders, such as scenic splendor, Pagsanjan Falls, river rapids, etc.; and
- Achievements of its people in war and peace.
The first and second elements are elements that are ephemeral because they are material things which are as evanescent as a woman's beauty. The third element is eternal because the achievements of the Pagsanjeños are perpetually enshrined in history. Such achievements cannot be destroyed by typhoons, droughts, earthquakes, revolutions, wars, and other calamities. As Cardinal Spellman said: "The Glory of any country is not its rich natural resources, its beautiful cities, its palatial mansions and numerous cars, and its art galleries and fine highways; it is really the accomplishments of its people which are forever preserved in the annals of mankind."
The Real Glory of Pagsanjan
Once upon a time, in those halcyon years before World War II, Pagsanjan was a great town basking redolently in the effulgent glow of glory. This town was then famous for its talented people, attractive homes, tree-shaded streets, and high culture. Like legendary Camelot, it loomed proudly as a citadel of intellectual aristocracy.
Unfortunately, cataclysmic World War II and the ruthless Japanese occupation (1942-45) devastated beautiful Pagsanjan. As rebuilt over the ashes of war, it is no longer as respondent as the one which was destroyed by American bombs and Japanese fires. Thus its prewar greatness, as symbolized by the magnificent mansions on Rizal Street (formerly known as Calle Real or Royal Road) is gone. Gone also are the cool, tree-shaded pedestrian lanes, the splendid old Catholic church with its Romanesque white dome, and the historic Municipal Building.
Although the town's greatness vanished in the flames of war, it has retained its glory. This glory is not the recently renovated town gate and church, the picturesque twin rivers, the scenic schoolhouses on San Isidro Hill, the well-known Bumbungan Springs, and the famous Pagsanjan Falls and rapids. All these things, being mundane in nature, would disappear in God's own time. For instance, the town gate, the church, and the schoolhouse can be demolished by earthquake or hurricane. The twin rivers may, in due course, dry out on account of drought or perish due to pollution. And the Bumbungan Springs can be destroyed by a long drought or by a horrendous earthquake. To these material things are applicable the popular Latin maxim: ""Sic transit gloria mundi" (Thus passes away the glory of the world).
The real glory of Pagsanjan is, verily, the enduring achievements of the gifted Pagsanjeños. These achievements in war and peace are recorded in history and cannot be wiped out by wars, revolutions, earthquakes, fires, typhoons, and other convulsions of nature. Not all Pagsanjeños, of course, have contributed to the flowering of their town's glory because not all of them have been endowed by God with talents. As the Holy Scriptures say: "Many are called, but few are chosen."
First Distinguished Pagsanjeños in History
The first Pagsanjeño to emerge with distinction in history's limelight was the valiant Francisco de San Juan (1722-90). After his heroic defense of Pagsanjan on December 9, 1762 against the British invaders, he joined the forces of Governor Simon de Anda in Pampanga and fought courageously the invading enemy. For his military exploits he was promoted master-of-camp (colonel). After the war, he became alcalde mayor of Tayabas Province, a rare honor indeed because during the Spanish epoch only peninsulares (Spaniards born in Spain) or creoles (Spaniards born in colony) were usually given appointments as alcaldes mayores of the provinces.
Another Pagsanjeño to win fame during the Spanish period was the famous Father Pedro Pelaez (1812-63), great scholar and nationalist, whom historians hail as the "Father of the Filipinization of the Church" because he boldly championed the rights of the Filipino secular priests to administer the Philippine curacies. After his tragic death during the earthquake of June 3, 1863, he was succeeded by Father Jose Burgos, his brilliant student at the University of Santo Thomas.
Also distinguished was the learned teacher Santiago Hocson, who was the last gobernadorcillo of the Gremio de Mestizos in Pagsanjan and the first capitan municipal under the Maura Law of 1893. He was the only Pagsanjeño to have been decorated by the Spanish Crown with the prestigious Grand Cross of Queen Isabel the Catholic.
During the closing decades of the Spanish regime the most popular form of mass media was the moro-moro, a blood and thunder stage show which depicted the battle between Christians and Muslims (Moros), with the former always victorious. A Pagsanjeño dramatist, Mariano Zaide (1827-94), achieved considerable distinction not only in his natal town, but also in other towns of Laguna and in Manila for his thrilling moro-moro plays. These plays, particularly Milecadel (said to be his masterpiece), were staged during the town fiestas in many towns in Laguna. This Milecadel was a romantic story of a dashing Christian prince who saved the life of a beautiful Muslim princess, whom he came to love; he finally married her, after defeating in single combat several Muslim suitors.
Because of his dramatic talent, as well as his fluency in Tagalog, Spanish, and Latin languages, he became to be called Mariano Esopo, after the famous writer of fables in ancient Greece named Aesop. Lamentably, all the original manuscripts of his dramatic works were burned during the "Great Fire of 1893" in Pagsanjan.
Prominent Pagsanjeños in the Philippine Revolution
The first Pagsanjeños to join the revolutionary Katipunan of Andres Bonifacio and to sow the seeds of revolution in the Second District of Laguna were Severino Taiño, Francisco Abad (Taiño's friend and compadre), Mariano and Santiago Crisostomo (brothers), Tomas Torres, Sergio Garcia, Gregorio Rivera, Severo Sumulong, Claro Zaide (brother-in-law of Taiño), Pedro Caballes, and Manuel Zalamea. The president of the Katipunan chapter Maluningnin in Pagsanjan was Mariano Crisostomo, a rich landlord and businessman.
As a revolutionary leader, General Severino Taiño rose to fame for raising the first cry of the Philippine Revolution in Pagsanjan on November 14, 1896 and later liberated the provincial capital of Santa Cruz from the Spaniards on August 31, 1898. His intimate friend, Colonel Francisco Abad perished in combat against the Spanish enemy in the furious fight at Sambat on November 16, 1896. He is now acclaimed in local annals as the "Hero of Sambat." Claro Zaide, a wealthy carriage manufacturer, was the financier of the Pagsanjan katipuneros.
Two Pagsanjeño intellectuals represented the whole province of Laguna in the famous Malolos Congress. They were Higinio Benitez, a judge and lawyer, and Graciano Cordero, a teacher and scholar. They participated in the drafting of the Malolos Constitution of 1899 and were among its signers.
The Pagsanjan in World War II
During the Second World War the Pagsanjeños demonstrated their courage, patriotism, and fighting spirit. As soldiers, guerillas, and civilians, they fought well for freedom and democracy against the Japanese invaders.
Many Pagsanjeños, as officers and soldiers of the USAFFE, bravely resisted the enemy at the bloody battlefields of Atimonan, Mauban, Bataan, and Corregidor. Among those who survived the war were Colonel Victor Gomez, Cipriano Ramiro, Salvador Ramiro, Atty. Jose Guevara, Dr, Ildefonso Gomez, Dr. David Cabreira, Dr. Augusto Hocson, Fidel Llamas, Luis Rivera, Elias Lavadia and Remo Lavadia.
After the fall of Bataan and Corregidor, the Pagsanjeños launched a guerilla war against the Japanese conquerors. Pagsanjan became a secret center of guerilla activities. Numerous citizens in town supported the guerillas at the risk of their lives. Among them were Emilio Aquino, municipal mayor; Manuel Soriano, who later succeeded Aquino as municipal mayor; Dr. Antonio Gomez, physician and rich landlord; Eriberto Gomez, businessman; Pedro Pablo, high school teacher; Pio Caballes and Emilio Gomez, businessmen; Dr. Salvador Umale, dentist; and Salvador Unson, landlord and professor.
Many Pagsanjeño guerillas suffered imprisonment, torture, and death for freedom's sake. Outstanding among them was Cipriano Zaguirre, former town presidente and local commander of the Fil-American guerillas. He was taken prisoner by the Japanese who tortured him for several days, and, finally executed him on the night of August 25, 1942. By sacrificing his life for the cause of freedom and democracy, he deserves to be accoladed as Pagsanjan's guerilla hero. In recognition of his heroism the grateful municipal government named a public square "Plaza Zaguirre" after him, at the center of which now stands his life-size monument.
Many Pagsanjeño guerillas and their civilian supporters also lost their lives during the war. They were like-wise tortured and executed by the brutal Japanese soldiers. Among them were Dr. Antonio Gomez, Vicente Santos, William Labit, Jorge Gallardo, Paulino Cataluña, and James Reyes.
A Town of Six Generals and A Commodore
Of the 1,400 towns in the Philippines, Pagsanjan is the only one to have produced six army generals and one navy commodore. First among those army generals was General Severino Taiño of revolutionary fame, in whose honor has been named a town street leading to the town of Lumban. He fought valiantly against the Spanish troops and, with General Paciano Rizal's cooperation, liberated Santa Cruz, Laguna on August 31, 1898.
The other five Pagsanjeño generals after Taiño are Lieutenant General Manuel Yan, who retired as Chief of Staff of the Philippine Armed Forces and has become Philippine ambassador to Thailand, and the four: Brigadier General Fidel Llamas, Brigadier General Elias Lavadia, Brigadier General Cipriano Ramiro, and Brigadier General Luis (Bobby) Rivera.
Of the six Pagsanjeño generals, only one died in combat. He was Brigadier General Ramiro, who perished in a helicopter crash in Barrio La Union, Castilla, Sorsogon Province on June 30, 1973 while campaigning against dissidents.
The lone navy commodore from Pagsanjan is Commodore Remo Lavadia, brother of Brigadier General Elias Lavadia. The rank of commodore in the navy is equivalent to brigadier general in the army. Thus it may be said, in the final analysis, that Pagsanjan has produced a total of seven generals (including Commodore Lavadia) -- a proud record indeed for a little town. This record is unsurpassed by any other town not only in the Philippines but also in other countries of the world. Its uniqueness is enhanced by the fact that two of seven Pagsanjeño generals are brothers -- Elias and Remo Lavadia.
Prominent Pagsanjeños in Education
Pagsanjan has produced many distinguished teachers and educators. At least five Pagsanjeño teachers achieved distinction during the last years of Spanish rule and the first decades of American occupation, namely, Santiago Hocson, Graciano Cordero, Gervacio Unson, Felipa Fernandez, and Genoveva Llamas. Santiago Hocson, after graduation from the Escuela Normal Superior in Manila, taught in Lumban and later in Pagsanjan, after which he served as the last gobernadorcillo of his native town. Don Graciano Cordero, a graduate of the College of San Juan de Letran and former member of the Malolos Congress, taught Latin and Spanish to young boys to prepare them for college studies. Don Gervasio Unson, a graduate of the famous Escuela Normal Superior, acquired distinction as a maestro in Laguna and later in Tayabas (Quezon Province), where he married and resided permanently.
(Note: According to descendants of Gervasio and Maria Cabreza Unson, they were married in Pagsanjan, Laguna on February 20, 1879 before moving to Lucena, Tayabas where they resided permanently. See Unson Family Website).
The first two famous Pagsanjeña maestra were Miss Felipa Fernandez and Miss Genoveva Llamas. Miss Fernandez was well-known as a strict and learned teacher in Manila. One of her brightest student was Librada Avelino, who became famous as the founder and first president of Centro Escolar de Señoritas. Miss Llamas, a sister of Dr. Rosendo R. Llamas, was the first Pagsanjeña pensionada (1903) to the United States where she specialized in home economics. As a matter of fact, she was the first teacher of home economics in Laguna. Like Miss Felipa Fernandez, she died as an old maid. Because of her dedication to the teaching profession, she had simply no time for romance.
In subsequent years more Pagsanjeños gained prominence in the field of education. Among them maybe mentioned Mr. Timoteo Abaya, a 1903 government pensionado to the United States who became the first Pagsanjeño to become academic supervisor of Laguna; Dr. Francisco Benitez, an eminent educator and first Dean of the U.P. College of Education; Dean Conrado Benitez, founder of the U.P. College of Business Administration and great professor of economics; Helen Z. Benitez, (daughter of Dean Conrado Benitez) became President of the Philippine Women's University; Don Vicente Fabella, founder of the Jose Rizal College; Sor Josefa Soriano of the Sisters of Charity, founder of the Escuela de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe in Pagsanjan; Professor Luis Rivera (1887-1921), first Filipino instructor in Sociology at the University of the Philippines; Professor Jose Abanilla and Professor Salvador Unson, both professors of Economics at the Far Eastern University; Professor Arturo Guerrero, president of the Trinity College (Quezon City), and Pedro Llamas, founder of Pagsanjan Academy.
One of the great elementary school teachers ever produced by Pagsanjan is Mrs. Narcisa Abella Fabella. She was a dedicated teacher with a heart of gold.
A Triumvirate of Historians
Pagsanjan also surpasses other towns of the Philippines for having produced a triumvirate of historians -- Dean Leandro H. Fernandez (1889-1948), Dean Conrado Benitez (1889-1971), and Dr. Gregorio F. Zaide (1907-19??).
Dean Fernandez, former Head of U.P. History Department and Dean of the U.P. College of Liberal Arts, was a Ph.D. (History) graduate from Columbia University. Owing to his many administrative duties, he produced few historical books, such as the Brief History of the Philippines, a textbook in the elementary schools of the Philippines; Story of the Philippines, a reference text for elementary school pupils; and The Philippine Republic (his doctoral dissertation in Columbia University).
More distinguished as an economist than a historian, Dean Benitez had written the following historical works: History of the Philippines, a textbook in the high schools; Stories from Philippine History, a reference book for high school students; and The Philippines Through Foreign Eyes, written in collaboration with Dr. Austin Craig.
Dr. Zaide, former student of both Deans Benitez and Fernandez, had been the first Head of the F.E.U. Department of History and was the first professor emeritus of the Far Eastern University; President of the Philippine Historical Association for three terms; Life Member of the American Historical Association (Washington, D.C.); and the only Filipino member of Mexico's Instituto Panamericano de Geografia e Historia (Mexico City) and Instituto de la Independencia Americana (Buenos Aires). He was a recipient of many honors for historical research and writing, such as the Diploma of Honor and Gold Medal (1932) awarded by U.P. Alumni Association, Republic Cultural Heritage Award (1968) given by the Philippine Republic, and Plaque of Honor for Historical Research (1973) awarded by the U.S.T. Alumni Association.
Most traveled and most prolific of Filipino historians, Dr. Zaide had conducted historical researches from 1957 to 1967 in the archives and libraries of the United States, Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Portugal, Spain, France, England, Vatican, and other foreign countries. He has written more than 50 books, among which are Philippine History for Elementary Schools, an elementary school textbook which replaced Fernandez's Brief History of the Philippines; Philippine History: Development of Our Nation, a high school textbook which replaced Benitez's History of the Philippines; World History, a high school textbook which replaced Lane's World History; Philippine Political and Cultural History (2 volumes), a standard textbook for colleges and universities; and Nations of the World, a textbook for Grade VI, elementary schools.
Eminent Pagsanjeños in Literature
In the realm of literature many Pagsanjeños have attained eminence. The first one to gain national prestige is Godofredo Rivera, affectionately called "Godo" by his townmates. Still energetic in the twilight of his life, he is the doyen of Filipino newspaper columnists. His splendid book titled Little Things (Manila, 1950) is a gem of wit and humor.
Generoso Liwag, without the blessing of a formal college education, was the first Pagsanjeño to become a star reporter. His pungent news stories on Philippine politics and politicians in the prewar Manila Tribune were widely read throughout the Philippines.
Other good journalists produced by Pagsanjan are Salvador U. Kimhoko, publisher of The Bayanihan (newspaper in Laguna Province) and writer of historical essays; Eulogio "Logie" Benitez, a son of former Representative Eulogio Benitez; and Virgilio A. Maceda, feature writer in The Manila Times.
Dr. Narciso Cordero, Jr. a medical professor by profession, wrote an autobiographical book entitled To While Away an Idle Hour (Quezon City, 1971). It contains delightful anecdotes about the life in Pagsanjan during the early American period.
Another Pagsanjeño who possesses literary talent is Professor Hernando Abaya. A noted journalist, he had written two exciting books -- The Betrayal of the Philippines and The Untold Story of the Philippines.
In the gloaming of its greatness, Pagsanjan produced a trinity of writers, known in Manila's literary circles as the "fabulous Zaide brothers" -- Gregorio, Jose, and Salvador. Evidently, these Zaide brothers have inherited the literary talent of their illustrious grandfather, Mariano Zaide, the "Aesop." They all began their writing career as newspaper reporters in various Manila dailies. Later they shifted to the greener pastures of literature. The oldest of the trio, Gregorio, finished his graduate studies in the University of the Philippines (M.A., 1932) and the University of Santo Tomas (Ph.D., 1934), and became a historian. Jose turned to diplomatic service of our Republic. Salvador, the youngest of the brothers, gave up his job as political reporter and columnist in The Evening News and became Chief of the Division of Publications, National Science Development Board (NSDB).
More known as a historian, Dr, Zaide, after retiring from teaching at different universities and colleges in Manila, has returned to journalism. He became president, publisher, and columnist of the Junior Citizen, weekly social studies periodical for public and private schools with a total weekly circulation of 400,000 copies.
Gifted Pagsanjeños in Music
Music, like literature, is in the blood of the Pagsanjeños. It is interesting to that during Dr. Rizal's time the Banda Pagsanjan, owned by a Pagsanjeño government clerk named Señor Guevara, was famously known in Laguna and surrounding provinces. Rizal, in his Noli Me Tangere, mentioned this band as one of the music bands which played in the town fiesta of San Diego (Calamba).
During prewar years, Pagsanjan daily throbbed to the sound of music. Almost every affluent home in town had a piano which was then a status symbol, Even in the homes of poor families could be seen certain musical instruments, particularly the guitar. It was customary for Pagsanjeño children to study music. For, according to Pagsanjan tradition, no education is complete without music.
The most outstanding pianist in Pagsanjan during the early years of the American period was Consuelo Zaide. Aside from her virtuosity as a pianist, she was a prominent music teacher not only in Laguna but also in Manila, Batangas, and Tayabas (Quezon Province).
The only Pagsanjeño pianist which has achieved international celebrity as a piano virtuoso, composer, and music teacher is Professor Calixto R. Llamas who resided permanently in San Francisco, California. He is a brother of Dr. Rosendo R. Llamas. Other good pianists among Pagsanjeños are Miss Corazon Maceda, Dean of the Conservatory of Music of the Philippine Women's University; Rafael F. Zaide, former pianist on board the trans-Pacific Empress of Russia and in Macao's night clubs who later joined the diplomatic service of our Republic; Mrs. Rosario Cosme Bernardo, accomplished lady pianist and her daughter Mrs. Rosario Bernardo Sison (music teacher in Manila); Sor Rosa Soriano, former student of the famous Sor Battig of the Conservatory of Music, St. Escolastica College; and Mrs. Conrada Cosme Yaneza, gifted pianist and music teacher.
Most outstanding of the many good violinists produced by Pagsanjan is Sergio Esmilla, Jr. A talented son of Judge Sergio Esmilla, Sr., and Oro Llamas (an accomplished pianist), he has been hailed in the Philippines and abroad as a violin virtuoso. He was the violin soloist of Manila Symphony Orchestra.
Other good violinist are Salvador U. Kimhoko, Saturnino Aquino, and Antonio F. Zaide. A skilled bass player is Rogel Taiño, who is also a gifted music composer. He composed the inspiring "Pagsanjan March."
Of unique interest is Dr. Narciso Cordero, Jr., a distinguished professor of medicine, who is a remarkable player of the pito, a strange flute-like musical instrument. With this instrument, he plays both classical and popular music with exquisite artistry.
Long before the advent of the radios, the Pagsanjeños loved to sing. Every day the town rang with the echoes of all songs. During moonlit night it was customary for a young Pagsanjeño to serenade the girl he loved. Either he himself or a hired troubadour sang the love songs to the accompaniment of a throbbing guitar.
Before World War II, the best male singer in Pagsanjan was Valentin Borlaza, the leading tenor of the Catholic Choir. Because of the remarkable resonance and volume of his voice, he came to be called the "Caruso of Pagsanjan."
Famous among the Pagsanjeña singers were the three Flores sisters -- Florida (Mrs. Sintaco), Paquita (Mrs. Caballes), and Rosario (Mrs. Rabago). They were the female singing stars of the Catholic Church Choir. The town still has good female singers, such as Mrs. Lourdes Layos, Mrs. Loida T. Fabiero, Miss Jane Oliveros, and the members of the Maligaya Choir.
During the "Gay Twenties" (1920s) the Aglipayan church of Pagsanjan had a magnificent orchestra. It was organized by Mr. Crispulo Fabiero, a gifted musician and orchestra conductor. Later a children's orchestra was organized by Mr. Antonio F. Zaide, violinist and music teacher, at the Pagsanjan Elementary School.
Worthy of special mention is the Aquino Family Rondalla, the musical pride of Pagsanjan. It consisted of Saturnino Aquino (father), director and violinist; Maria (mother), vocalist; and children, Lina, violinist; Nelia, vocalist; Tony, clarinet and vocalist; Rogelio, guitarist; Erlinda, vocalist; Arturo, bass; and Argel, drum and vocalist.
Now (2001) residing in Bronx, New York; Lakambini Zaguirre-Ramos (daughter of the famous psychiatrist Dr. Jaime C. Zaguirre), is a concert pianist, teacher, accompanist, Music Director, choir director, organist and cantor.
Gifted Pagsanjeños in Fine Arts
Many Pagsanjeños have an inherent talent for art. Unfortunately, only a few of them bothered to develop it. Thus until the present day no Pagsanjeños has ever finished from any school of fine arts, except four who finished the architectural course and became professional architects. These are Ceferino Cabreza, Eusebio (Bobby) Abella, Jr., Aida Cruz (now Mrs. Formoso), and Olga Yaneza.
Famous artist of Imelda Marcos is Oscar de Zalameda, famous for his original oil paintings.
At least, two living Pagsanjeños are known to be gifted artists. Despite their lack of formal training in painting, they have produced paintings of remarkable artistry. The first is Mario Macalalag, better known in the local movie world as the dashing Mario Montenegro, hero of many thrilling motion pictures. He is a gifted son of Gerardo Macalalag, former vice-mayor of Pagsanjan, and Desiree Collin (French woman).
The second is Delfin Resoso, a popular house painter. It is a pity that his inborn gift for painting is being wasted on commercial sign boards and buildings. Being a poor man, he has to do such an artisan job in order to make a living. If he, as well as Mario, had been given the opportunity of tutorship under such masters of brush as Fabian de la Rosa, Fernando Amorsolo, and Victoria C. Edades, they could have become great artists.
Pagsanjeños in World of Science
The first Pagsanjeño to practice medicine in town was Dr. Narciso Cordero, Sr., a graduate of the UST College of Medicine and Surgery. He rose to prominence during the early years of the American regime. After him, came other Pagsanjeño doctors, namely Dr. Dolores Zafra, first lady physician of Pagsanjan; Dr. Rosendo R. Llamas, distinguished obstetrician; Dr. Zosimo Fernandez, successful general practitioner in Laguna; Dr. Ramon Abarquez, Jr., heart specialist; Dr. Sixto Maceda, gynecologist; Dr. Pedro Lavadia, surgeon; Dr. Zozimo (Boy) Fernandez, Jr., internal medicine; Dr. Gracia Fernandez Ramos, pediatrician; Dr. Eufemio Macalalag, Jr., urologist; Dr. Jaime C. Zaguirre, brain surgeon, famous psychiatrist; Dr. Ildefonzo Gomez, therapeutist; and Dr. Cipriano Abaya, former director of the provincial hospitals in Vigan and Bacolod.
A Pagsanjeño physician who has attracted international attention is Dr. August E. Hocson, chief flight surgeon of the Philippine Airlines (PAL) and a retired surgeon general of the Armed Forces of the Philippines with the military rank of colonel. He represented the Philippines in the 21st International Congress of Aviation and Space Medicine at Munich, West Germany.
The first Pagsanjeño dentist was Dr. Antonio Llamas, Sr. After him, appeared other dental graduates from Pagsanjan, such as Dr. Concita Cabreza Zalamea, first Pagsanjeña dentist, who is still practicing her profession as lady dentist at the FEU Dental Clinic; Dr. Mariano Macalalag, former vice-mayor of Pagsanjan; Dr. Salvador Umale, former municipal councilor of Pagsanjan, and Dr. Felix Yan, also a former municipal councilor and is now practicing his dental profession in Manila.
The first Pagsanjeño to become a pharmacist was Exequiel Zaide, a graduate of UST College of Pharmacy. After graduation in 1905, he worked for some years as assistant pharmacist at Botica Boie in Escolta Manila. He returned to Pagsanjan in 1911 and established "Farmacia Zaide", the first drug store in town.
Of international prestige as a scientist was Dr. Felix Hocson, former dean of the U.P. College of Pharmacy and member of the National Research Council of the Philippines. He represented the Philippines in the United States Pharmacopoeial Convention held in Washington, D.C., in 1940.
Other pharmacists produced by Pagsanjan are the Cordero sisters: Elisa Cordero Rivera, wife of Godofredo Rivera, and Pacita Cordero Galian, wife of Dr. Galian; Mrs. Consuelo Francia Unson (widow of Salvador Unson); Mr. Eriberto Rivera, chief pharmacist of Metro Drug (Manila); Mrs. Maria Aquino, who is also a fine singer.
The pioneer nurses from Pagsanjan are Miss Asuncion Alvarado, Mrs. Timotea F. Fernandez (widow of Dr. Zosimo Fernandez), Mrs. Cornelia Bermudez Maceda, and Mrs. Inocencia Zaide Gatchalian. They were all graduate of the School of Nursing of St. Luke Hospital (Manila). After them, many Pagsanjeñas took up nursing because of the great demand for nurses in the United States, Canada, England, Holland, and other foreign countries.
The first Pagsanjeña to achieve distinction in science is Mrs. Carmen Llamas Intengan, a nationally known authority on nutrition. She was a recipient of the Presidential Award on Science in 1968.
Pagsanjan has produced many good engineers. Among them may be mentioned German Yia, a mechanical engineer who became a ranking officer of the well known Atlantic Gulf Company; Gonzalo Abaya, distinguished electrical engineer in Manila; his younger brothers Angel Abaya and Alberto Abaya, both civil engineers; Ramon Abarquez, Sr., mining engineer who had been connected with the Bureau of Mines; Leopoldo Abad, a retired electrical engineer of the MERALCO; Escolastico (Tico) Lavadia Fernandez, former civil engineer of the city of Manila; Serafin Limuaco, civil engineer and contractor of public works in Manila and the provinces; Ramon Mijares, Jr., civil engineer who had built the water system in the city of Brunei and now practicing his profession in Pagsanjan; and Tito Rivera, civil engineer and popular contractor of public works in Laguna.
Distinguished Pagsanjeños in Economy and Business
In the world of economy and business many Pagsanjeños have distinguished themselves, thereby adding luster to their town's glory. The first Pagsanjeño to achieve distinction as a certified accountant was Don Vicente Fabella. His younger brother, Adolfo, also became a prominent accountant. By making the Jose Rizal College one of the most successful private schools of commerce, the two enterprising Fabella brothers proved their business acumen.
Other Pagsanjeños who won notable distinction in our business world are Cesar C. Zalamea, first Filipino president of the multi-million dollar Philippine-American Insurance Company and a member of the Monetary Board of our Republic; his father Sancho Zalamea, a successful businessman in Manila; his uncle Enrique, a retired banker; Cesar Z. Lanuza, a knowledgeable economist and a Governor of the Board of Investments (BOI); Julio Francia, Jr., business entrepreneur and past president of the Philippine Chamber of Industries; Cesar Abaya, head of a successful plumbing business in Greater Manila; Eduardo Villanueva, senior accountant of the prestigious Sycip, Gorres, Velayo & Company; Jose S. Hocson, manager of the Security Bank Branch in Pasay City; Armando de la Cruz, successful manufacturer in Mandaluyong; Mrs. Soledad B. Cabrera, lady banker and manager of the Pagsanjan Rural Bank; and Mrs. Edwina C. Manansan, well known in hotel and wood-carving business.
Pagsanjeños in Government Service
Many Pagsanjeños have risen to prominence in government service. Most outstanding was Dr. Jose Fabella, Secretary of Health and Social Welfare under President Manuel L. Quezon.
Other Pagsanjeños who have achieved distinction in government service are General Manuel Yan, former AFP Chief of Staff and Philippine Ambassador to Thailand; Cesar Z. Lanuza, former head of the Philippine Reparation Mission in Tokyo with diplomatic rank of Minister and a member of the Board of Investments; Pelagio Llamas, Philippine ambassador and head of the Philippine Consulate General in New Orleans; Atty. Selby Abaquin, former ambassador to Brunei and Indonesia; Dean Ramon Oben, former Commissioner of the Bureau of Internal Revenue; Victor Z. Cabreza, retired Chief of the Administrative Services, of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR); Jose Cosme, Assistant Director of the BIR branch in Iloilo Province; Armand Fabella, Chairman of the Reorganization Commission of our Republic; Honesto G. Nicandro, one of the key officials of the Central bank; Judge Amador Gomez of the Court of First Instance in Cebu; Judge Eduardo Abaya of the Court of First Instance in Batangas; Julio Francia, Sr., former city assessor of Manila; Jose Zaide, former press attache' of the Philippine embassies in san Francisco, Tokyo, Bonn (West Germany), and the Hague (Netherlands) and formerly detailed at the Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong; Rafael F. Zaide, who served as cultural attache' in the Philippine embassies at Hong Kong, Seoul, Taipei, and Pnom Penh; and Salvador F. Zaide, chief of the Division of Publications, National Science Development Board.
On the level of local government, Dominador Labit has achieved distinction. A former public school teacher, he became administrative officer of the provincial government of Laguna. For his efficiency and devotion to public service, he was conferred the Distinguished Honor Award by the Civil Service Commission in 1969.
A Town of Six Provincial Treasurers
Only the little town of Pagsanjan of all towns in the entire Philippines has ever produced six provincial treasurers. This is a record which is worthy of special citation.
The first of these six Pagsanjeños who became a provincial treasurer was Catalino Lavadia, elder brother of Municipal President Pedro Lavadia and uncle of the Lavadia brothers (Brigadier General Elias Lavadia and Commodore Remo Lavadia). He served as provincial treasurer of Isabela.
The other five Pagsanjeño provincial treasurers were Dionisio Fabella (Cebu), Lorenzo Palileo (Cotabato), Jose Zaguirre (Nueva Viscaya), Marcial Yia (Pampanga), and Ricardo Buenafe (Laguna).
Prominent Pagsanjeños in Philantrophy
Some Pagsanjeños, who are rarely endowed by God with a civic conscience, generously gave substantial donations for the welfare of their natal town. Foremost among them are the many-splendored couple -- Dr. Rosendo R. Llamas and his wife Doña Guida Hocson. This couple financially supported the beautification of the town plaza and the reconstruction of the Catholic church. Dr. Llamas donated part of his rice land for the extension of the Crisostomo Street and all his surgical instruments to the Pagsanjan Puericulture Center. Before his death in 1974, he donated P400,000 for construction of a building for the U.P. College of Medicine (his Alma Mater) and another sum of P200,000 as scholarship fund for indigent but bright medical students. Doña Guida, from her personal funds, donated a P50,000 trust fund for the Pagsanjan Puericulture Center and a smaller amount for the restoration of the historic Town Gate to its original condition. It is interesting to recall that the National League of Puericulture Centers of the Philippines, in its Diamond Anniversary Convention (1973), conferred on Doña Guida the prestigious "Outstanding Humanitarian Diamond Award" in recognition of her humanitarian services.
The late Engineer German Yia, spending much of his time and personal funds, spearheaded the costly reconstruction of the town Catholic church which was woefully ravaged during the war. He also donated P250,000 for the construction of Research Center Building for the U.P. College of Engineering (his Alma Mater).
Two civic-spirited clans in Pagsanjan are the Lanuzas and the Yans. The Lanuza clan, headed by Doña Julia Zaide Vda. de Lanuza, donated the carillon to the central elementary school of the town. Her son, Cesar Lanuza, donated a large piece of land which enabled Barrio Biñan to have a barrio elementary school. Through his efforts, when he was still the head of the Philippine Reparations Mission in Tokyo, the Municipality of Pagsanjan was able to acquire its fire-fighting equipment, including a big truck.
Other civic-spirited Pagsanjeños who generously gave donations for the welfare of their town are the following:
- Don Pedro Unson, father of Professor Salvador Unson, donated a piece of land which enabled the children of Barrio Cabanbanan to have their own elementary school.
- Mrs. Maria Abanilla Llamas generously gave to the Municipality of Pagsanjan a piece of her land for needed extension of Crisostomo Street.
- Mr. Mauro Bernardo, former municipal councilor, donated his rice field in front of the cemetery to be used as a rotunda of the projected Crisostomo Street extension.
- Doña Carmen Hocson Fernandez donated part of her land near the Town Gate which is now Zalamilla Street. She was the wife of Don Ramon Fernandez, former City Mayor of Manila and senator, and also the first Philippine Ambassador to the Court of St. James (London).
- Mrs. Josefina Garcia Buenafe freely gave part of her coconut plantation near the railway station in Barrio Maulawin and is now Soriano Street.
- Dr. Gregorio F. Zaide, who at the expiration of his term as municipal councilor of Pagsanjan (1947-1951) donated a piece of land near the Town Gate and this is now F. Zaide Street, named after his father, Francisco D. Zaide.
Pagsanjeños in Social Work and Community Development
During the glowing decades of the American regime, Doña Damiana Vda de Fabella emerged as the outstanding civic leader of Pagsanjan. A wealthy matron with a social conscience, she freely contributed her valuable time and funds to help the poor victims of fires and floods. In 1927 she founded the Puericulture Center of Pagsanjan and the Pagsanjan Women's Club.
After Doña Damiana's death, the torch of civic leadership was carried on by Miss Francisca T. Zaide, General Taiño's niece who later became Mrs. Luis Godoy. Under her presidency, the Pagsanjan Women's Club became the leading civic club in town because she rallied the young ladies, including college co-eds, and involved them in community welfare.
When World War II ended in 1945, Doña Salud Fabella Unson, a worthy daughter of Doña Damiana, took over the presidency of the Women's Club. She rehabilitated the Puericulture Center Building which was destroyed during the war and obtained relief goods from the United States for the destitute families of the town.
There are still many civic-spirited citizens in Pagsanjan who are concerned with social welfare and community development. Among them may be mentioned the following: Mrs. Consuelo F. Unson, patroness of humanitarian activities; Mrs. Solita B. Cabreza, past president of the Pagsanjan Women's Club; Mrs. Josefina Y. Benitez, president of the Women's Club; Mrs. Aida Fabiero Abaya, government expert in community development; Mr. Hernan Velasco, teacher and indefatigable leader in social work; Mrs. Adela Perez Abaya, president of Pagsanjan Beautification Committee; Mrs. Remedios Rivera Llamas, president of the Laguna Rural Improvement Club; Mr. Antonio Llamas, teacher and one of the founders of the Maulawin Barangay High School; Mr. Eufemio Macalalag, Sr., active participant in socio-economic affairs; Mr. Antonio Rabago, former teacher and guerilla, municipal councilor, and tireless social worker; and Mr. and Mrs. Ricardo Fabella, active husband-and-wife tandem in barangay activities and scouting movement.
Distinguished Pagsanjeños in the Arena of Politics
The first Pagsanjeño to win distinction in national politics was Atty. Crispin Oben, illustr
ious father of Dean Ramon Oben. He was elected to the First Philippine Assembly (1907-09) during the election of July 30, 1907, representing the Second District of Laguna.
After Assemblyman Oben, three more Pagsanjeños were elected in subsequent times to the House of Representatives of the Philippine Legislature. They were as follows: Atty. Eulogio Benitez (1919-22), son of Don Higinio Benitez and younger brother of Deans Conrado Benitez and Francisco Benitez; Atty. Aurelio Palileo (1923-25); and Estanislao A. Fernandez (1949-53).
The first Pagsanjeño to be elected to the Philippine Senate was Estanislao A. Fernandez, son of a Pagsanjeño father, Estanislao Fernandez, Sr. and nephew of Don Graciano Cordero, member of the Malolos Congress. He won in the election of November 10, 1959 as a senatorial candidate of the Liberal Party.
In the election of November 14, 1967, Miss Helen Z. Benitez (daughter of Dean Conrado Benitez) was elected to the Senate. She was one of the senatorial candidates of the Nacionalista Party.
Again, in the election of November 8, 1971 another Pagsanjeño, Atty. Ernesto Maceda, was elected senator under the Nacionalista Party banner. He was a former city councilor of Manila, head of the PACD (Presidential Assistance on Community Development), and Executive Secretary. (Note: Ernie Maceda was the Philippine Ambassador to the U.S.; under Pres. Joseph Estrada; 1999-2000).
Pagsanjeños in the Service of God
The majority of Pagsanjeños are Roman Catholic in religion. Others are Aglipayans, adherents of Iglesia ni Kristo, and members of various Protestant sects. By and large, Pagsanjeños are never religious zealots, for they firmly believe in religious freedom and in ecumenism. Their achievements in religion are much less than in arts, literature, education, politics, social work, and sciences. For until the present time they have not produced a bishop, an archbishop, or a cardinal. It is evident that they generally prefer the dolce vita than the monastic life.
Since early times the children of Pagsanjan have aspired to become physicians, nurses, engineers, educators, lawyers, scientists, and writers. Very few, indeed, show any inclination to become a priest or a nun.
So far only a handful of Pagsanjeños or Pagsanjeñas have consecrated their lives to religion ad majorem Dei gloriam (for the greater glory of God). The first Pagsanjeña to become a nun was Sor Bernardina Obial. She joined the Nunnery of Santa Clara in Manila after the Philippine Revolution (1896-1902) and died in 1941, a few weeks before the eruption of the war with Japan.
Other devout and pious Pagsanjeñas who followed Sor Bernardina's footsteps are the following: Sor Bonnsilda Abaya (Holy Ghost Sister), Sor Maria Emerncillo (Sister of Charity), Sor Rosario Fernandez (Sister of Charity), Sor Pilar Fernandez (Sister of Charity), Sor Amia Limlengco (Carmelite Sister), Sor Josefa Soriano (Sister of Charity), and Sor Rosa Soriano (Benedictine Sister).
A few Pagsanjeños, in response to the spiritual call, have become priests. Among them are the following: Father Celso Afuang (Benedictine), Father Henry Moran (Jesuit), Julio Obial (secular priest), and the Unson brothers: Cipriano Unson (Jesuit) and Willy Unson (Jesuit). The last two are the sons of Cipriano Unson and Salud Fabella.
Of unique interest, is the case of Father Wilfredo Torres Dulay, son of Mrs. Maria Torres Dulay who is a Pagsanjeña. This youth, after his ordination as priest of the Immaculate Heart of Jesus, volunteered for missionary work in foreign countries. Now he is a missionary among the Indian inhabitants of Guatemala, a Republic in Central America.
Mention should be made of Mr. Mario Z. Lanuza, founder of the Cursillo Movement in Pagsanjan. He was the only Filipino Cursillo leader who was able to have a personal interview with Father Hervas at Ciudad Real, Spain in the year 1966. This famous Spanish priest is the founder of the world-wide Cursillo Movement which has sparked a revival of Christian fervor among the Catholic nations of the world.
A Town of Beautiful Women
Until the present time Pagsanjan is famous for its beautiful women. According to local tradition, "a pretty girl is born yearly to every family in Pagsanjan, if such family is beholden to God."
The first Pagsanjan beauty to emerge in history was Josefa Sebastian Gomez, a daughter of one of the town's prominent families. It is said that when the newly appointed Spanish alcalde mayor named Don Jose Pelaez arrived in 1809 at Pagsanjan, which was then the capital of Laguna Province, he was given a bienvenida (welcome) party at the casa real (official residence of the alcalde mayor). Being a bachelor, he was fascinated to meet the local party belles. What particularly attracted him most was Señorita Josefa, whose alluring beauty captivated his Iberian heart.
In succeeding weeks, the young alcalde mayor wooed the beautiful señorita, finally winning her love. The next year (1810) they were married in the Catholic church amidst pageantric pomp and aplomb. Out of their wedlock was born a son named Pedro Pelaez, who was destined to become one of our nation's great men.
Dr. Jose Rizal, our national hero and a connoisieur of beautiful women, fell in love with a Pagsanjan beauty, Leonor Valenzuela, whom he affectionately called Orang. This lovely Pagsanjeña was a daughter of Capitan Juan and Capitana Senday of Pagsanjan. She was the first Leonor in Rizal's life, the second being Leonor Rivera.
The first Pagsanjeña to win national distinction for her beauty was Virginia Llamas, the Queen of Manila Carnival in 1922. Later she married her escort, Carlos P. Romulo, the world-famed journalist, diplomat, soldier and statesman.
The first Pagsanjeña to achieve international fame because of her beauty and charm is Maria Rita Santiago, the 1968 Queen of the Pacific. Her mother, Nida Rufino, is a pretty daughter of the Rufino family in Pagsanjan.
There are still many beautiful girls in the town. They are daughters of rich and poor families. Irrespective of their socio-economic status, they possess something in common -- beauty. It is regretful that they have not been given the opportunity to participate in national and international beauty contests because they are provincianas, without influential patrons and without proper connections to sponsor their entries to the nominating committees in Manila. It is a matter of truth that there are more girls with natural beauty and grace in the provincial towns than in Manila, Caloocan, Pasay, and other cities of our country.