We welcome today’s Charter Day guest speaker Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita. I recall in mid or late 60s, my friend and neighbor Jesus Ermita and wife Dr. Delia Ocampo Ermita were looking for me.
They wanted me to meet Jess’ nephew, a Major Eduardo Ermita of the Philippine Constabulary who was visiting Bacolod . I was the correspondent of The Manila Times then. That was the first and last time I met the now Little President. I followed up in the papers his rise to fame.
Jess’ nephew was not much of a talker, but obviously brilliant, and well behaved, without the swagger of a PMA graduate, a military officer. I recall telling Jess Ermita, “Your nephew will go places. He knows how to behave well in the presence of his uncle.”
He is a good lightning arrester. As Little President he attracts criticisms but they fizzle out. He is not controversial. He is like Jorge Vargas of Manuel Quezon. Vargas is the grandfather-in-law of Lito Coscolluela.
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Today is the 71 st anniversary of Bacolod as a city. Our young people need to look back where we came from and view all the trials and triumphs, the adventures and adversities, and the sacrifices and successes that Bacolod went through.
Bacolod has a very colorful history. I lost my copy of the book of my friend Judge Rafael Guanzon “Bacolod In the Most Eventful Years 1895-1945.”
Paeng Guanzon wrote of the second quarter of the century as the most eventful and memorable.
He wrote of the turbulence of the early 1920s when two labor groups clashed in the face of a growing sugar industry. There was the “Kusog Sang Imol (Strength of the Poor)” led by labor leaders and the pro planters group, “Ang Mainawa-on (The Concerned)”.
I recall the late post war Bacolod Mayor, Aurelio Locsin, telling me he was the leader of “Kusog Sg Imol” clashing with the Mainawa-on. But clashes then were not violent.
Today Zay de la Cruz unites than all.
There was the Joffar murder that became a celebrated case. The Intrencherado rebellion, the cholera of 1930 that killed many people. Those burying relatives would just fall there near the grave and would just be buried. The dead buried in groups were not in coffin.
I recall in 1960 while renting a house at 1 st Street , neighbors dug a well when there was water shortage. Just four feet below we found human skeletons. It was one of the burial sites during the cholera.
The great strike of the Federacion Obreras de Filipinas, a very big labor group staged a simultaneous strike in the wharves of Negros and Iloilo that crippled sugar shipments.
Bacolod then was just a small community, clustered around the Church and a very small population, compared to today’s nearly half a million.
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The ruling families then were the de la Rama, Gonzaga, Montelibano, Ramos, Ciocon, Ruiz de Luzuriaga, Ballesteros, Villanuevas… The Lizares and Lacson families were originally from Talisay.
The political leaders of the era were the Gonzagas, the Villanuevas, the Ramoses. The Gonzagas were the forebears of the late Mayor Romeo Gonzaga Guanzon, the Ramoses were the forebears of incumbent Mayor Evelio Ramos Leonardia, and the Montelibanos and Gatuslaos.
And there were many more I can only recall from the book of Rafael Guanzon which I cannot find now.
The famous lawyers at the time were Antonio Jayme, Matias Hilado, Agustin Seva, Ricardo Nolan, Rafael Alunan, Roque Hofileña, Valeriano and Agustin Gatuslao…
Some became “juez de paz” or justice of the peace that we call today as judges.
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Interesting too were the journalists of the era. There was no radio then. DYDL was the first radio station here and it came only in the 50s. Its first manager, I think, was our friend Rene Tan.
The writers at the time were mostly the “ilustrados” or the educated and well known professionals, mostly lawyers.
Foremost of them were Antonio Jayme who, like many others wrote in Spanish. According to Paeng Guanzon who was a Spanish professor himself, the early writers wrote in florid Castillan language or in Hiligaynon. They wrote beautiful poems, too.
The other writers were Manuel Fernandez Yanson, another lawyer, Agustin Seva, Jose Ruiz de Luzuriaga.
They wrote in publication like “La Libertad,” and also “La Igualdad” published in Manila .
The publication here was “El Civismo” of Aurelio Locson that lasted up to Sept. 21, 1972 and jolted up only with Martial Law. Don Aurelio didn’t see reason to continue with it.
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In the early years, Bacolod was just a small place, from Justicia St. , in the north to Libertad St. in the south. Mabini in the east and San Juan in the west.
When the city council changed Libertad to Pedro Hernaez and Justicia to Vicente Galo, people shouted, “In Bacolod there is no more justice and liberty.” Washington Street became Valeriano Gatuslao Street and Smith Street became Aurelio Locsin.
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We must adore Clio, the Greek Muse of History. She tells us where we came from. And therefore, will lead us to where we are going. Don Aurelio Locsin became Negros Press Club president in his 80s. I was close to him, having edited his “Country Post” and putting in English his communications. He was Spanish speaking.
From him, too, I learned plenty of Bacolod history the many leaders who were grandchildren or great grandchildren of Spanish friars.
It seemed all of them were. Locsin sired well known journalists Raul, Alfio, and Gerardo.*