Page 1


27G~

FILIPINAS HERITAGE LIBRARY

tE~jliI'

FAt


, •

I

"


AIDA


SRTA. LIBRADA

A VELINO


ADA ./ THE LIFE OF LIBRADA AVELINO or

THE DEVELOPMENT OF A SOUL By

FRANCISCO V ARONA and

V

ENGUSH-SPANISH EDmON


Copyright, 1935

P.

VERA & SONS COMPANY

An

Rights Reserved

/&49


A

CONFESSION

Two fundamental aims have guided us in the preparation of the present volume. FIRST.- To honor in a modest way the life of a woman who was herself the very soul of modesty, but who had accomplished so much for her people in the field of education. She succeeded in lmplanting here a system of education frankly and openly Philippine in character, which, although free from foreign and religious influences, yet, was on terms of perfect harmony and friendship with both. Not only did she establish a wholesome educational independence, but she made out of it an epic of achievement through the dynamic force of her character, of her courage, and of her spirit of self-abnegation. SECOND.-To incite abler and better pens than ours to write the biographies of men and women of this country, who, like Librada Avelino, have devoted their energy, talent and lives to the promotion of the happiness of their fellows and the collective welfare of the community. Biography, as much as, if not better, than the novel-and in this country there is no actiyity to speak of, in ihis latter field-appeals to us as the most timely and effectire form of literary expregsion at the present time, outside of the fragmentary and ephemeral contents of the newspapers. In the last analysis, every life is a novel, a drama 01' a tragedy, a hymn, 01' a poem. The chief advantage of the Biography consists in that iL being based 011 5


ADA

facts that had actually taken place, and the reader seeing before him the intrinsic merits and exemplary success of a life, the work may well serve as a positive stimulus both to him who reads and him who writes. In that sense, the present volume is a mere modest sketch. With all its points of strength and elements of weakness; its accuracies and inaccuracies, we trust that it may pave the way for others who may want to try their hands at the interesting art of biography-writing. Some day, when the work of Librada Avelino can better be judged by posterity, and the facts and feats discussed in this volume shall have assumed the character of an incontestable solidity, may ADA serve as an humble chip in the corner-stone of the arch of a definitive consecration. PEDRO DE LA LLANA FRANCISCO VARONA Manila, P . I. March 8, 1935.

6


TABLE OF CONTENTS PACE

A Confession .................................... :.. In Dlo Tempore . ... ........... . . . ................. Pedro the Apprentice . .. . .................. . .... . .. Panda can . .. : . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The First School . . . . .. . .................. . ........ "SplU'e the lWd and Spoil the Child" ........ . ....... Physical Education ...... ............... . ..... :.. .. . Paula ... .... ..... . ...... . ... . ... . ........ .. .. . .... Getting Ready ........ .. .................... . ...... Margarita Lopez Ada the Teacher Rizal's Letter . . .... ... ..... .... . ................... Fifty Years Ago .... . ..... .., ......... . .......... The New Ada ......... . ............. . .. . .......... Failures. ... . .. . ... .... ..... .. ............. . ..... . . The "Centro Escola r de Senoritas" .................. A Sacred Trust .................................... Teachers and Students ............................. Struggles and Conflicts .................. . ... .. .... Ada at Home-Death ....... . .. . . . .. . .. . ............

5 11 14 21 26 31 37 42 47 52 60 68 71 117 95 106 112 119 127 141

SECCI6N CASTELLANA Confesion .................................... In JlJo Tempore .. ......... . .... . ............. . .. .. Pedro EI Practicante . .. . ... .. .. . ...... .. . .... ..... Pandacan .. .. ...... ... . .. . . . .......... . ............ La Primera Escuela .. .. .................. . . . ...... "La Letra con Sangre Entl'a" . . . .. . .. ...... . ........ Educacion Fisica .................................. Paula ............................................. Preparacion ....................................... Margarita Lopez ................................... Mneslra Ada ...... .. .... . .... . ........... . ........ 7

165 159 162 167 172 177 182 187 191 195 202


PAGE

210 215 228 235 245 251 Profesores y A1umnas ............. . .. . ............ 258 Luehas, Conflictos, Difieultades ....... . .......... . .. 266 Ada Intima-Hada MadrinR .. . . .. . ................. 278

La Carta de Rizal Hace Medio Sig-Io Nueva Ada . ........ .. ............ . ......... . . .. .. Fracasos .......................... . ............. .. EI "Centro Escolar de Senoritas" .....•............ Fideieomiso ........ . .......................... . . . ..

LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS Miss Librada Avelino ........ ..... ........ Pro"tiBpiecc Calle Labores ........ .. ........... . ...... . ... . .... 1 lI'Iiss Libvada Avelino and Miss Carmen de Luna in 1911 107 Primera Jllnt a Direetiva del Centro Escolar de Senoritas ... . ............ . . ....... . . .. . . .. . .......... 247 La habitaci6 y e1 lecho donde ibrada Avelino paso los l,ltimos \"omelltos de su vi<\a ......... . ... . .. . 278

8


NE bl'ight and peaceful

the La Loma awakened by the invasion of an extraol"dinaj"y ??tultitude, The old necropolis crowned with innumerable tt"ees made venel'aule by age, with white mausolenms, with C'I"osses and ?nore crosses indicative of its p?'ofound silence, seemed to j'ejoice, The multitude that was then ~'isiting that place was no funeral cortege that used to go to it ?norning and afternoon fOl' the sole '{JU1'pose of depositing in a given excavated spot one coffin m.ore, That crowd was l'everent but vibj'ant with emotion, imbued with the ilr-repressible spirit of eternal ,~p?ing, and what was lYWj'e SU11)rising, it was a cl'owd composed of wo'men, of hundreds upon h~'n4reds ot 7uomen in long files, in gl'OUpS or ill co:mtless pairs, It was not a holiday, and, yet, the Ce-ntro Escolal', suspenderl its classes fOl' a nU'mbel' of how'oS so that its one thousand and five hundred students from the kindergarten classes to the collegiate departments, might take pal't in this unique pilglimage to the Cemetery on the occa.sion of the birthday of their Directress, Only a few weeks before that time that this dill'ectl'ess had died, and he?' mor-tal re-mains deposited in that cold and silent tomb, She was a sm<tll ~uonUtn, with equally diminutive but powerful eyes, alul in a certain corner of the cemetel'y, we could discent he?' tomb, also .mutll, on ?uhose m<trble tablets, the Sun was throwing a gentle kiss of 1Jeace, Soon afterwards, thp. small white tomb disappeared !,rom onr view, merged in that endless wave of youth, un;ifol-merl in white and pink, F01' a monLent, thel'e was a si-

O House of the Dead

~cas

D

?noi~~ing,


ADA

lence that seemed infinite. On the faces, and in the eyes of that crowd of young women beamed the spirit of gratitude and love for the unforgettable dead. And dltring the duration of that silence, we could imagine that Librcula A velino who had left the land of the living only a few weeks before, was resurrecting on the annwe1·sOff1J of her birthday in the mind and heart of every alumnus of the "Centro" who once received. guidance and inspiration during the thirty odd years of Ada's educational labors characterized by sBlf-abnegation and ilnterminablEl struggles. Librada A velino, as a pioneering figu?·e in tht>. field of modern education for the Filipino wO?nan, had devoted,her whol life to that work, having contributed with her influence to the fQ1·mation of the. moral and intellectud te.m1JQr of thousanuls upon thousands of Filipino women scattered throughout the length and breadth of the Philippine Islands. Of her, it can indeed be said with truth that a?nong the women of mtr race, she was to them the most beloved and blessed. How that fmitfnllife was reared; how she conductecl her struggles during the initial stages of he?· apo.~tleship; how she realized her ideals in the presence of seemingly in.,,'UT'nwuntable difficulties; and how, slmvly but surely, by sheer force of soul, of faith and of self-renunciation, she at last saw the full fl01vering of her audacious educational plan before she died at the age of si.'Cty...()ne,-these are among the topics which we intend to dwcuss and interpret within the nan·ow limits of the following cha.pters. 10


CHAPTER

I

IN ILLO TEMPORE That rare day to which we made reference in the prefatory lines of this chapter, is the 17th of January. Consulting the archives of the renovated Quiapo Church, in this church "of St. John the Baptist," according to the phraseology of the old papers there existing, we find that the then parish priest economo of that district, Father Eusebio de Leon certifies that "on the 19th of January, 1873, the Presbyter, Don Pablo Felipe Cruz, my co-adjutor, with my license, solemnly baptized in this Church under my charge, a girl two days old, to whom was given the name of Librada Avelino, legitimate child of legitimate marriage of Pedro Avelino and Francisca Mafigali ... " In accordance with this testimony of the Church, Librada Avelino was born on January 17. 1873, in Quiapo. The papers say furthermore that the parents of the child, Librada, were only residents of that district-on Tanduay St., according to the friends of the family-but that in reality they were born in the district of Santa Cruz, and tiJat they belonged to Barangay No. 13. However, if the life of a person is not all that we find recorded on a piece of paper almost tattered by the years, but in what subsists, even after death, in the memory and in the very life of his or her contemporaries, Librada Avelino, more than a native of Santa Cruz or of Quiapo, was a native of Pandacan. Some intimate friends of Librada Avelino yaguely remember her saying in a certain conversu11


ADA

tion that she was baptized and born in Quiapo. They could not specify what she actually said. In Pandacan however, some of the old neighbors who had seen Ada as a child scarcely able to crawl on the floor, protest a,gainst the slightest insinuation that Ada was from Quiapo. -"It is not possible, Sir, Ada was from here--" Da. Hermogena de Jesus Vda. de 1I1[0ser, a gray-haired lady of more than seventy years of age, a relative intimately connected with the Avelino family, said, ' I haye seen her grow with my own eyes, and I can even still imagine her running on these streets, which were then very narrow, or playing the game known as "buga" in which she was what you may call nowadays a champion. This co\Jflict regarding the place of birth of Librada A velino promises to be very mterestmg with the march of years, in spite of the apparently definite testimony of her baptismal certificate. The Pandaquefios seemed unmoved by this strong eyidence. Ree&Uing customs and usages of 70 years ago, they believe that Ada very well could have been baptized in the Quiapo Church due to a certain devotion of the sponsor of such baptism, and that the sacristan or clerk in charge of the baptismal register, inscribed the new Christian as a native of the district to which the church belonged. In those days when Pandacan was an island, she could be compared to a little female Sultan dreaming while murmured the Beata River. It was then easy to cross this body of water by means of fast and comfortable ban cas that abounded around its banles. 12


IN ILLO TEMPORE

We do not believe it opportune to insist any further in this sentimental doubt regarding the place of birth of Librada Avelino. Professing the traditional faith which we should have in written documents, we much prefer to join those who recognize in Librada Avelino a daughter of Quiapo. But how and why did her parents transfer with the little one to Pandacan? Who and what were Pedro Avelino and Francisca Mafigali, the newly married pair, who were now crossing the Pasig, as if they were crossing the very River of Life itself, she carrying on her arms the first flower of her love, side by side with him who seemed to survey the horizon with scrutinizing eyes, while the "banca" was slowly moving along the placid waters to the tune of the tender "Kundiman" hummed by the "banquero 1" Taking charge of the small baggage and household belongings formerly lodged in their house in Quiapo, was another woman who went with them, --<Jne with a serious character and an austere COUlJtenance, like those of Pedro. Her name was Aunt Juana, his sister and "Madrina" of his daughter at the same time. She remained unmarried throughout her life, and she always lived with her brother and niece. Don Pedro had another sister who later on separated from him, on her marriage, to make another home in the same town of Pandacan.

1""


CHAPTER II

PEDRO THE APPRENTICE Those who have taken notice of the words of Father EusebiQ de Leon on the baptismal certificate to the effect that his co-adjutor or assistant "solemnly baptized" the child named Librada Avelino would probably imagine that the act was more or less grandiose, all the church converted suddenly into a flame of light and the bells of the temple gloriously ringing to celebrate the event. But such was not the case. Pedro was poor. The Avelino couple was then a quiet pair, still trembling with fear before the problems of life which presented itself before them filled with interrogation points in the midst of the meagre resources then at their disposal. But a:fter all, taking into account the fact that the ecclesiastical phraseology applied to all baptisms had the same democratic stamp, it was well that it hid the modesty of the ceremonies incident to the Christianization of the greatest Filipino woman educator with the ritual expression above quoted. Like any other man who not only has contracted marriage but who finds himself face to face with the problem of parenthood, Pedro A velino had to subject both his intelligence and will to the highest tension imaginable. Sixty years ago in Manila, an ambitious but poor youth did not have many opportunities for selfadvancement. And it was worse for one endowed with an independent character, and who was desirous of carving his own future even at the price of 14


PEDRO THE APPRENTICE

innumerable adventures. Pedro Avelino had a regular education within the resources and capacity of a poor ordinary young man of that time. His son, Vicente, and his daughter, Remedios, who still survive him, still preserve as valuable mementos of the old man a small library containing his favorite books. According to them, these volumes are older than themselves, and in fact, they are interesting to note at this juncture, judging from the character of Pedro that must have been influenced by his favorite readings. In those days when religious books were in abundance, Pedro Avelino already read his "Gil BIas de Santillana" by Le Sage. He liked Dumas, especially his "Count of Monte Cristo." He was not afraid of Victor Hugo, and he possessed a copy. of "Les Miserables." And, of course, he had "Don Quixote." Later on, after the rev0lution, the "Noli Me Tangere" and "EI Filibusterismo" of Rizal, was added to these inexhaustible springs of human fantasy. A man of his type and intellectual inclinations, could not very well be an humble employee of a commercial house or a clerk in a government office tied to a fixed salary every month. The spirit of adventure, that tireless desire for self-improvement, flourished in his imagination. And being, on the other hand, endowed with a peaceful nature~ he was fond of working in peace with God and his fellow men. So, when he had to earn a living by being an employee, he finally worked in a drug store in Quiapo. He must have felt no little satisfaction when he began to initiate himself into the mysteries. of chemistry, when he began to know the rudimentary 17


ADA

secrets of the substances which science extracts from the quarries of nature, imprisoning them in tubes and bottles, to later mix them up, and convert them from poisons into medicines. All of these activities must have appeared to the young practitioner as an entirely new world of adventure that had a special appeal to his vivid imagination and analytic intelligence. Pedro Avelino, in this manner, became an excellent pharmaceutical practitioner. He was in love with his work. Our references point out to the fact that he became such a good practitioner that his services were in demand by such leading establishments as Boie's Drug Store, for instance. Afterwards, more confident in his knowledge, protected by the practise then in vogue by the Spanish government of giving due recognition to accredited practitioners, impelled by bis spirit of self-reliance and his constant curiosity to discover the unknown, Pedro with all his physical and mental equipment, proceeded to Batangas and Bataan, places too distant at that time to be explored by a young druggist of Manila. But Love intervened to detain the restless wanderings of the youthful scientist. It all happened one day in the early months of 1871. Young Pedro reached this town for professionl1l reasons. The parish priest of Caloocan was then sick. A number of friends from Manila informed Father Pascual, for such was the name of the priest, that the anthrax that made him suffer and gave him路 sleepless nights, could easily be curerl by a young man from the city, who had his own formula for an efficient lineament. By way of di18


PEDRO THE APPRENTICE

gression, it may be stated here that this remedy of Pedro Avelino is still used at the present time by friends of the faIl).i1y accustomed to its good results. The sick priest was then living with his niece, Francisca, and during the time that his pains were being minimized by the efficacious remedy of the young pharmacist, the latter was leaving the convent afflicted with another ailment, the sweet and eternal ailment of love. Francisca was an orphan and she had nobody else left in the world but her uncle the priest. She was from Lipa, Batangas. A simple woman strictly educated in the religion of her fathers, short of stature like her father, Pedro, and her daughter Ada, she was, in the opinion of her suitor, the most perfect type of a woman of those days. Her uncle, Father Pascual, was known in those days as a literary man in the vernacular, having traslated prayer books, novenas, etc., and up to the present time, some old women survive him and these have assured us that the "trisagio" that they are reciting was the Tagalog version of Father Pascual. Francisca Mafigali always prefered to make use of the "novenas" written by her uncle rather than try those written by herself inasmuch as in those times, it would have been an inconceivable audacity for women to venture into the field of literature, even if it be only the vernacular. The marriage of Pedro and Francisca took place, and from that time the Avelino family was founded. Now then, this family had already moved to Pandacan. They consisted of Pedro, his daughter. his sister-comadre, and his other sister who later married. Pedro had relatives in this town, and the 19


ADA

Pandaquefios always considered him one of them in spite of his inclusion within the Barangay No. 13 of the district of Santa Cruz, according once more to the baptismal certificate of Ada. After all the struggles of his early days, after surveying the possibilities of different places, this little conqueror of his own destiny, less adventurous then but more resolute than ever, decided to establish his store in Pandacan. Manila was experiencing a wave of migration. Opportunities for a nascent family desiring to blaze a way for itself, were lacking. Pandacan, on the other hand, was growing. This small neighboring island could be likened to a little flower on the point of unfolding its petals to the kisses of the tropical Sun. And here is this family of bees, as it were, ready to sip its honey. Pedro wanted to open here a small "estanco" while at the same time continuing with his drug business.

20


CHAPTER

III

PANDACAN Many old folks used to say that Pandacan was in reality Pandanan, the place where a certain plant lrntlwn as Pan dan grew in abundance. While Manila was developing at the other end, in the direction of the sea, where the Rajas and Lakanes had their courts established on the arival of the Spaniards, this small portion of a barrio surrounded by a branch of the Pasig River, would indeed be incapable of withstanding any wave of outside immigration because the pandanes monopolized all its space. And, per~aps, because of this scarcity of population, two centuries later, when Manila was filled with modern buildings, and its original streets were wiElened and increased, different people flocked to Pandacan to erect their houses there. Likewise certain places adjacent to Manila like San Juan Heights, the so-called New lV,Ianila and the very island of Balut in Tondo, formerly neglected and forgotten, are now being invaded by Dew residents. And then, the attraction of the river! Pandacan could not be reached without crossing this river. It would indeed be difficult to believe that the Spaniards of fifty years ago had failed in any attempt to connect Pandacan with Paco by means of a bridge. The most probable thing that happened was that they preferred to let things remain as they were at that time to preserve the romantic traditions associated with the place, and to have the refined pleasure of reaching it through leiSurely trips on bancas fanned by the gentle breeze of the Pasig. 21


ADA

It was a well-known fact that the English businessmen of that time, autere in appearance and seriousminded in nature, in order to forget their worries caused by their work in Manila, would on Sundays and holidays visit Pandacan, and for 'a few hours enjoy themselves, eating and drinking in their vacation houses erected in the place and generally surrounded by thick trees. Prominent official dignataries of the ancient regime used to do the same. And to cap it all, significant members of the religious orders were wont to meet during holidays in the convent of the town where the parish priest was a lrranciscan monk. Pandacan, at that time, appeared to be an humble anticipation of Baguio. At least, Pandacan meant thus to outsiders who made it their vacation spot. The natives of the town naturally considered it in a different light. Its iosolated geographical situation had a great deal to do with the formation of their free and independent character. It could also be said that the two peoples, the Spanish and the Filipino, who, in a bigger place like Manila, for example, were already beginning to experience some petty misunderstandings,when they met face to face in a remote and small banio like Pandacan, could not but put their differences in bolder relief. On the one hand, as happens to all pioneers desirous of hewing their way through the wilderness, the Pandacan islander had a boundless ambition of improving himself and his place even at the cost of the greatest sacrifice. This fact holds true i.n regard to the Pandaquefio up to the pi'esent time. Just as the natives of Capiz and of Cagayan de Misamis, to demonstrate their 22


PANDACAN

love of music would have a piano in every house; just as the residents of Iloilo and Ilocos to give evidence of their domestic industry, can show a spinning loom in their respective dwelling-places, so the native of Pandacan enjoys the greatest pride of his life whenever he can bank on the possession of an academic degree. Pandacan, during the childhood days of Ada, was a small town. There were not more than five hundred houses in it. There were only four narrow streets that could be likened to four little garden paths covered on both sides with thick folliage. Pedro Avelino lived in one of these streets, now known as, Calle Labores where the Philippine Independent Church is located. This street points like an arrow towards the old Catholic Church on the other side of the river. This Labores Street took its name from the chief industry of the women who lived on it-embroiderers, modistes, patient laboring women hidden in their houses, inclining their backs toward their working tables, experts in the art of sewing who used to embroider flowers, batterflies and birds over the stretched white linen before them. But Pedro did not have in his wife an eAi;raordinary embroiderer. He did not believe that a woman should help him to make a living. He could do the work alone, and the time of Francisca was too valuable to be devoted to other activities than attending to little Ada. The ground floor of their home was converted into a little store. whose principal business was what was called at that time the "estanco." With the sale of cigars, went. hand in hand, the sale of needles, threads, 23


ADA

clothes, and other articles that were always needed by the busy women of Labores Street. But the pharmacist in Pedro could not be neglected even in such a store as this. And inside the show-cases of his store could be found certain medicines, especially that famous treatment of his, pl'egnant with romantic associations. Ada, who was already bit of a girl, who could run up and down the stairs of the house where they lived, was the, life 0:1; that "commercial" establishment, which would otherwise be a quiet place. Only the voice of her father could keep her still. But after awhile the noise would reach its climax. It was then at that point when Ada would run away to the folds of he mother, where she found less r-esistence. She would then humbly implore permission to play again. This permission was generally granted by Ada's mother. Then the noise made by the little one was transfered to the street. Ada dressed in her "camisola," her feet naked and her hair arranged length-wise in the style of those days, converted herself into the leader of her playmates, that small band of children resembling a group of little chickens pushing each other behind assembled grains of palay. And after being tired, these little ones would go near the bank of the river to wash their white little feet therein, while relating and confiding to each other an interminable series of infantile "secrets." One day, the little Ada found herself in the company of her little friends. She was looking towards the other side of the Pasig where the roofs of the big white buildings of Manila outlined them24


PANDACAN

selves against the light of crepuscular skies, and she said: "When Papa and Mammi die, I'll be alone. To live, I'll live in a "papag." At night, I'll buy one centavo of 'lafigis', and the "timsim', I'll get from the chino. This will last me a few days. To eat, I'll buy five 'tiratiras' and 'linugao' with two cents. But when I become big, I'll not live anymore in a "papag". I want to have a big, big hOllse, with 'rejas' below the windows, and near these 'rejas', I will embroider. And Jill have many, many keys always hanging around my waist."

25


CHAPTER

IV

THE FIRST SCHOOL Those days of the childhood games and restless wanderings in and out of that peaceful and orderly home of the Avelinos must have been the happiest in Ada's early life. She did not even have the first worry of children, that of going to school. And she was the only daughter! Francisca did not have any children after Ada. It has been said that the education of a man or of a woman can be divided into two parts, namely, the one received at home and the other, what is given her or him at the school. In the home of Ada, her first school, she had three teachers: her father who crossed the river two or three times a day in order to work in the drug store; a man, who on arriving in his home, instead of engaging in interminable chats with the compadres of the neighborhood, would rather attend to the affairs of his little store; one who might as well as coiled a teacher of sobriety and ceaseless industry; her mother who taught Ad ahow to pray, for she prayed continuously and she wanted Ada to do likewise,-a woman who was always at home except on Mondays when she would carry Ada to the Binondo Church for it was St. Vincent's Day, or on Fridays, to Quiapo to kiss the brown hand of the Lord, or on Saturdays to Malate Church because it was the day of "Ntra. Sra. de Remedios",-a woman who might as well be classified as a model and teacher of deep piety and sublime simplicity; and her aunt-madrina, Juana, who took the place of Pedro in the store whenever he 26


THE FIRST SCHOOL

was out, who used to help Francisca in her home work, who carefully watched her niece all the time, who, in fine, could be called as the inspectress of Ada's moral development, and her vigilant disciplinarian. That home did not have any troubles of any kind. Pedro while conducting his small business must naturally have had his own differences with more or less habitual debtors, but he was a man who did not believe in court cases, or in making collections in any manner. He was fond of saying to himself: "It is far better to preserve a friend than his old debt collect, and him offend." We will later see how this super-Christian principle of Pedro came, as in a process of metempsicosis, to regulate the conduct of Ada, in the management of a business infinitely bigger and more complex than the drug store of Pedro. Francisca, on the other hand, could not cause Pedro the least trouble. Their relations based on the most perfect mutual understanding, would only be disturbed by the objections of Pedro to her taking in excess certain foods that he deemed harmful to her health, but which nevertheless she wanted to have at all costs. Then would follow a little weeping on Francisca's part. This was the greatest tragedy that could ever occur in that blessed home. At the age of five or six years, Ada was sent to school. Unlike the practise nowadays, the children of two generations ago went to school early should their parents decide it. Perhaps, because of the small number of things they had to study 27


ADA

aloud, more through their ears than their eyes or intelligence, for they had to shout their "A B C's" or their "Cartillas" or "Cat6n," the problem of the children's age was not seriously considered during the Spanish regime. It was enough that the children were not deaf. Ada's school was the public school of Pandacan. It was only a few blocks from her house. The little girls of the town went there. There was no other school in Pandacan except the one for boys which was also public. In Pandacan, until the present time, the name of "Maestra Luisa" is still remembered as if she was one of the Avelino family. Maestra Luisa Bacho! Enliowed with great vitality, this woman started her teaching career during the early years of her life, and continued teaching for years and years, even the grandchildren of her first students, making the latter shout the same lessons, the same prayers, and administering the same punishments on the most troublesome of the group. Maestra Bacho was then the teacher of Ada,-the first woman educator to give rise later on to the foremost exponent higher education for women that the Philippine Islands have so far produced. Notwithstanding her limited knowledge, for she was a merp primary school teacher of those days, Luisa had a special leaning toward mathematical subjects. Her pupils, in order to win her sympathy, and to placate her apparent severity, had to command the so-called "four principal tables," and Ada, the lively little Ada, who not only knew how to spell well, but also knew how to rapidly recite her prayers, and to add, subtract, multiply and divide, naturally became the 28


THE FIRST SCHOOL

favorite of Maestra Luisa. When old and weak. with faltering voice, she would recollect those days of long ago, whenever some old friend would remind her of that celebrated visit of the Governor-General to her school. How His Excellency would order her little students to stand before him in files! And how she, nervous, with cold, termbling hands, with the paleness of death upon her face, would implore all the saints of the calendar, including Virgin Mary, to help her little pupils to reply to the questions of the formidable visitor. It was during the critical moment one day that the Maestra remembered Ada. Ada was nof present in her class. She called for Ada, who, with naked feet, came running toward her teacher, unmindful of what was going on during all this time. She had just been playing the "buga."The "Kialumbibits" were still in her hands, and Maestra Luisa was pushing her forward in such a way that the Governor-General could easily notice her. "Hello, child!" said the Governor, "where have you come from? What is your name?" "Ada Avelino." "Do you know how to pray? To add? To embroider?" Maestra Luisa could not control herself any longer. She advanced toward His Excellency, and she murmurred: "Mr. Governor, this is the brightest girl of my class. She commands the "four principal tables" (adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing). "Now child, recite to me the four principal tables," commanded the Governor. 29


ADA

And Ada, with her "kalumbibits" strongly clasped within her hands, recited the "principal tables" with such accuracy and rapidity that the Governor-General, had to laugh and stop her. "That is enough. Very Good!" said the executive. And stretching his hand to the teacher, he congratulated her warmly. "Ada is the brightest girl of my class", concluded l\IIaestra Luisa.

30


CHAPTER

V

"SP ARE THE ROD AND SPOIL THE CHILD" In the midst of all this care-free and happy life,-a petted child in the house, games on the street, praises ill the school,-Ada, at the age of seven,--eame face to face with Sorrow for the first time. Her mother who nover had a particularly robust constitution, was suddenly taken ill with a fever that kept her in bed permanently. Coughing later set in, and one day, amidst the sighs and tears of her aunt, father and other relatives, Francisca died. Ada's father who was, by nature of a serious disposition, became more serious still during the period of mourning following the death of his wife. He buried himself in work, in order to forget. Her aunt-madrina now played the role of Ada's mother, -a rather brusque change for a little child accustomed to the tenderness of maternal love. The entire attention of the family was now directed toward the education of Ada. The discipline of sororw that ruled the Avelino home must have touched the soul of the little child who, perhaps, vaguely realized the fact that her improvement in class would be the highest possible tribute she could pay to the memory of her mother and at the same time would serve as a balm to sooth the moral suffering of her father. It may not be amiss to mention here in passing that there was an immense difference between the system of public instruction fifty years ago in this country, and the one in vogue at the present time. 31


ADA

Boys at that time were not very anxious to go to school for fear of the corporal punishment that seemed to be a part of the school program. But the girls feared this punishment more. A mixture of infantile ignorance and blind religiosity must have impressed upon the minds of the anonymous masses the belief that education, especially for women, was a luxury reserved only for the well-to-do families. The girls belonging to the poorer classes had enough with knowing how to pray, embroider, and attend to the afairs of the home. The prayers could easily be transmitted from mother to daughter by constant repetition from the very days of infancy throughout the entire period of their lives. The most intelligent children could study the so-called "Cartilla" with great facility under the direction of a little teacher of the neighborhood who taught them how to read-the only education permittted them by their parents. And if girl students happen to be rather brilliant, to the extent of learning how to write, well such knowledge was considered dangerous. To write! Perchance, these daring little kids might write letters to their lovers, without their parents even knowing how to descipher the combination of lines traced on paper by them! Such was the fear of the folks of old. The progressive families of that time were the only ones then who were not afraid of the school. They sent their daughters there. Aside from the separation of the sexes, at bottom the primary course of instruction for boys and girls was the same. Forst of alI, the course began with the "Cartilla" that cost two cents in any Chin32


"SPARE THE ROD AND SPOIL THE CHILD"

ese store. The rather fargile little volume consisting of about half a dozen pages was paper bound, and was in turn wrapped up in another piece of paper: by the parents so that it may not be easily damaged by the perspiring hands of the child constantly trembling with fear at the swing of the wrup of the terrible school master. With all this, the old folks say that a child of those days in order to learn how to spell, must have to consume at least twenty "Cartillas." With no less care with whicb the "Cartilla" was wrapped up, the pathe11ic "PUlltero," the piece of stick used by the students for pointing out letters, was prepared and sharpened. This stick was usually made of chicken feather. The so-called "Caton" served the same purposes as the 'CartiIIa", but it was a more advanced subject. The book was thicker and dearer in price. In both these books, the first notions of enumeration are included. Spelling covered one or two years. But the child was not expected to read correctly before learning how to recite the indispensable prayers, besides memorizing the Catechism. The prayers current at that time were known as the "Misterio," the "trisagio," etc. Then comes the lessons in writing, in the course of which, the teacher, with all his energy, used to train the little ones in the art of holding the pen correctly, of placing their fingers in the right position. The golf instructor at the present time while training a newcomer in the game 011 how to hold the stick with two hands, wouln have less work and worry than the teacher of the old days teaching his pupil how to write. The teaching of Arithmetic which was in many respects 33

IBRARY


ADA

mechanical and phonetic as in the case of the prayers, did not go beyond the traditional "four tables" --addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. To have a mastery of all these primary subjects, the child would need around three or four years of schooling, attending classes every day, from eight to eleven in the morning, and from two to five in the afternoon, except on Sundays and on the days of the numerous religious festivities that characterized that period. The school course began in July and ended in March. Corporal punishment in the educational system of those days was not merely incidental, but an admitted and preconceived pedagogical medium. It was part of the system, a ki짜d of sarcastic preparation for t~e future citizen. who was later on called upon to subJ~ct himself to simliar tortures for reasons more or less fatal. The punishment in the schools of those days which constituted the terror of the children had even reached an incredible stage of refinement. Dr. Paz Mendoza Guazon, in her interesting book entitled, "The Development and Progress of the Filipino Women," has the following to say with regard to this species of torture: "The punishments were not few and they were of various forms. The mildest was to stand still for hours; another to kneel down; a third, to stand with extended arms as if on a cross; a fourth, and the funniest, was the 'sisid candule', diving as though to catch a kind of fish called 'candule'. To do this, the girl crossed her arms on her chest and held the. left head so that the fingers of the right hand touched the left ear and vice versa. Then, she sat 34


"SPARE THE ROD AND SPOIL THE CHILD"

down and stood up repeatedly for hours, as rapidly as she was ordered to." The same author, speaking of the different instruments of punishment, has this to say: "The whip was used for punishing serious faults, and there were various kinds: long pieces of bamboo, petioles of the banana leaves, pieces of a long leather, and the tail of the ray fish. The last was the most painful ana was used only in extreme cases." We have said that corporal punishment was a deliberate part of the educational system of those days. But we can still further add that it was also part of the ideology of the masses of olden times who believed that it was the most effective way of correcting and improving their children. When the blows from the hand of the teacher rained on the backs of the children and the school itself was converted into an earthly branch of Hell, filled with the cries of despair and lamentation of the condemned ones, fothers of families were not lacking who would aprove the tragic whiz of the whip, and when they found out that their children were the victims, they would gloat over them, amidst clamors of approval. "Very good. Well done. He'll know better from now on," they would say. These punishments naturally could not be applied wtih the same severity to the girls. The woman teachers of the period would not do for such cruelty and the girl students two generations ago were more quiet and orderly than gil路]s of today. 35


ADA

And they had then their embroidery and sewing classes which distinguished their education from that of the boys.

36


CHAPTER

VI

PHYSICAL EDUCATION To the men and women of tomorrow who would like to recreate the past, it would always be intE'resting to ask the question: "If it is true, as gleaned from the writings of the Filipino crusader:,; of by-gone years from Rizal down to the most obscure patriot, that life in this country under the Spanish regime was brimming with danger, persecution and injustice, how was it that the children of that epoch, notwithstanding the corporal punishments administered in the schools, were so happy and care-free, enjoying an inf inite variety of games constantly cheering the days of their childhood? The public schools of thall period which totally neglected the physical education of the students, found an easy substitute for this omission in these games. In fact, what is happening now is just the reverse of what took place in those years. At the present time, the children are compelled to undergo courses in Physical Education in their respective schools, leaving the prayers to be said in their homes, under the direction of their parents. During the Spanish regime, the students were compelled to pray in their classes, without the slightest regard to their physical culture. Many of those childhood games of by-gone years are already almost forgotten. Among them may be mentioned the "patintero," a game of velocity and struggle; the "baticobre" a primitive reproduction of baseball in so far as the hitting and catching of the ball was concerned. In the case of the "baticobre," however, 37


ADA a flying piece of wood takes the place of the ball. Then there were other games known as "bota palo," the ferocious "Iakas-Ioob," the "batakfm," the "bunong brazo," and the "sumping." And when the dry season carne, when the rains had scarcely stopped, the fashionable kite of different sizes and colors would soar up and for hours and hours, woulrl remain amidst the skies of blue till parting day would linger and play on its fleeting wings. Men, women and children, would participate in this game. The games of the girls were even more picturesque still. The little Ada, for instance, was not only brilliant in her classes, but wes proficient as well in the "buga," the sintak," and the "siklot." Remembering those distant days of her infancy, Ada would say that her attachment to these games of agility, of hand, of sight and of calculation, was great. But she hated the "sal tang tinik" because of her low: stature. But swimming! Ah! Ada was from PandacaIlr-She was a little islander from a little island by the river- and she could swim like a duck. There were so many games and entertainments during that period that at every religions festivity only some cOijld be played, and during the Holy Week the children would show the greatest liveliness imaginable with their wooden toys. This was especially true on Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Saturday and Palm Sunday. On Saturdays of this sacred season, people living in tne coastal towns of the South would devote themselves to wrestling. And who does not remember those attractive paper rabbits, fishes, dogs llind butterflies 38


PHYSICAL EDUCATION

which the children of that time would drag along the streets on Christmas eve? There is one feature, however, which should be noted in connection with these games, and that is, notwithstanding their infinite variety, there is a characteristic common to them all,-the imposition of punishment on the losing side. This punishment was either corporal or economic. The common penalty in vogue consisted in the losing party serving the victor, amidst the mockery and laughter of those present. Inasmuch as the admission of defeat on the part of the defeated was tantamount to an admission of the {ltmishment and its attendant humilation, while on the part of the victor it meant a chance to enforce his abitrary orders on the vanquished, the games usually ended in discussions, protests and quarrels very similar to the political squabbles constituting an aftermath of our elections at the present time, where the defeated candidates accuse the victorous ones of all kinds of crimes, frauds and misdemeanors. The lack of the spirit of sportmanship in the political struggles of today was also a dominant feature of the childhood games of those by-gone days. But that noble spirit o~ comradeship between contending parties is now becoming part and parcel of the athletic games of the present time conducted under the auspices of the American administration. Bets and humiliating penalties are conspicious by their absence. Now, coming back to our question as to why, in the midst of that dark and dreary life two generations ago, the children were very playful and hap39


ADA

py, we believe that the picture of that epoch made by our propagandists and crusaders was a bit romantic and impressionistic. It is true that fifty years ago, ominous clouds loomed on the political horizon, presaging the ultimate tempest; and this could only be noted by the progressive elements of that period, who, being the natural interpreters of the people's yearnings for reform, had to feel, like the tallest branches of a tree, the initial lashings of the tempest. The anonymous masses, serene in .the enjoyment of their simple customs, had all the guarantees of peace. The government of that time wanted such a state of mind to prevail. And for a little boy or girl to forge ahead along a rather tortuous educational path, without any stimulus whatsoever, face to face with seemingly insurmountable difficulties on the one hand, and innumerable temptations to idleness and vagabondage on the other,-had to be guided by an inflexible purpose to carry out a dominant idea. Ada, having inherited the free and independent spirit of her parents, especially her father, necessarily must have belonged to the progressive elements of that time. And she continued studying under the guidance of "Maestra" Luisa, who taught her most proficiently in all subjects included in the primary course of instruction. She must have been ten years old. At times these little girls "would make home" in a little deserted corner of the neighborhood, where they would put little tables, plates and other household utensils beneath some sort of an improvised tent, placed by themselves on the selected spot. And Ada was the president 40


PHYSICAL EDUCATION

of that group of angelic communists. Ada would designate two or three of her companions to go to the nearby Chinese store llnd ask for salt; another group to get "sinkamas," and still another third group, with their respective little bottles, to get vinegar. The diminutive boss ordered that her subjects should not go all at once to the Chinese as a precautionary measure. Inside of half an hour, the little emissaries, would come back and appear before their chief, panting, running and laughing, each one with her corresponding loot which was aft.erwards deposited in sacks. The salt and the "sinkamas" were placed in separate sacks, opened by their little leader, while the little bottles of vinegar were one by one emptied into one big square-faced bottle. Then the table was spread, and a most animated banquet would take place-one worthy of the disciples Luculus.

41


CHAPTER

VII

PAULA Little Ada was on the point of completing her elementary courses in the school of Maestra Luisa when her father decided to marry for the second time a woman named Paula Arcilla from the same town of Pandacan. The friends of Paula were beginning to giggle among themselves, and were making fun of her because she was going to marry a widower. Her relatives, however, did not take the then impending marriage as a joke, and on more than one occasion they told Paula to think well beforehand of what she was going to do. The main objection of Paula's family to her marriage with Pedro was not because the latter was a widower, but because, they said that inasmuch ' as the very happiness of the girl was involved, and the truth must be told, in their opinion, Pedro was too dry, serious and self-centered an individual. Did not Paula figure it out for herself that a husband endowed with such an austere character could not make her happy? And that little girl, Ada, did not Paula perchance think that she would be her rival at home, her daily enemy? And seeing her every day, would not Ada think always of her mother whom Panula wanted to supplant? But Paula smiled. Possessing a strong feminine instinct, and a character entirely distinct from that of the diseased Francisca, Paula disarmed her rel atives by her boundless optimism. She wanted to be left alone, and in peace. She had already thought of all these objections, and felt confident 42


PAULA

that after all, Ada, her future husband and herself would be perfectly happy under one roof. Pedro was not dry. He was simply a hard worker, and was not fond of conversation. Yet, it is a fact that from this type of men, spring the best husbands for women who can understand them. We'll see in this particular instance. Paula determined that Ada would not merely be her step-daughter, but her real daughter. She would endeavor to make herself loved by the little one as if she were her own mother. Thus would Pedro love her the more. And what of the eventualities of the future? She might also have her own children-she might even die before her tim8--and she hoped and trusted that Ada would act as second mother to them in the same manner that she wanted to do towards Ada. This wise woman proved to be a veritable prophet. Ada and her two brothers and one sister that were born of this second marriage, grew up together, and were bound by such ties of affection seldom experienced by children from the same parents. The prophecy of Paula was fulfilled because she ca'tried out to the letter her program of love and of life within the walls of the new home. Many a time a hot discussion would take place between Paula and Juana. The aunt-madrina adhering, as was to be expected, to the rigid rules governing the care of Ada, had to face the broad-minded attitude of the Hberal step-mother. Pedro himself underwent a change to the great surprise of his sister. These days were indeed memorable and significant for the life of ACla. She must be around ten years of 43


ADA

age by this time, and the "maestra" did not have much left to teach her intelligent pupil. And that liberty with proper limitations, that sympathetic environment, a sort of blending of optimism and serene confidence in the future, did Ada a lot of good. On the threshold of maidenhood, with hel" judgment beginning to be formed, and standing at the cross-roads where she had to decide, as if by instinct, the course of her future career, Ada was greatly benefited by the liberal attitude of Paula. It gave Ada both vision and a broad perspective. We said in one of the previous chapters that Ada's teachers in her first school which was her home, were: her father, her mother and her auntmadrina, the trilogy of industry, piety and character. But these merely repllesented the discipline of the moral character of the future educator. She lacked the actual contact with the world where she had .to struggle and fulfil her mission; she still lacked that broad human sympathy so indispensable to an adequate comprehension and ultimate conquest of the difficulties of life, and Paula came at this time to complete that picture of born educators. Juana did not easily give up her strict rules in connection with the raising of Ada, even in the face of the broad tolerance of Paula. The last and definite struggle between these two influences took place when Ada, coming from one of her frequent visits to Manila, described to her aunt-madrina the enchanting charms of the new fashion in dress in vogue at that time and which was known as the "Paloma." At that time, the girls, out of an exaggerated sense of delicacy, were 44


PAULA

ordered by their parents to wear chemise and skirts one or two years before arriving at the age of puberty. Ada was telling her aunt-Juana that the 'Paloma" had a more attractive cut because there was a "tail" to it, unlike the clothing of a priest, adding that the new "camisa" no longer had tight sleeves, as in former days, but that now they were wide, more elegant and cooler ... The old madrina, upon hearing the description by her niece of the new fashion in dressmaking, that she supposed must have been a new invention of the devil, was totally shocked. Paula, who was hearing this dialogue all the time in a neighbor'ng room, could not refrain from smiling. She went down to the store to speak to her husband, and right then and there, they decided that Ada should have and wear her "Paloma" on the day of the town fiesta that was then approaching. When Juana saw her niece, days afterwards, elegantly dressed in the "Paloma" style, and gracefully waving her big fan, with a smile on her lips, as if asking her forgiveness in the presence of a fait acompli, the poor old woman could not but return the smile, and approaching Ada, she even helped to rearrange the folds of the so-called wide sleeves. So this is the "Paloma," she uttered. Not bad! And Ada appeared beautiful in that dress. But beware of lifting your arms so highyou don't have tight sleeves any longer as before, she warned. After this incident about the dress, the last line of resistance on the part of Juana against the broader moral development of her niece was over45


ADA

â&#x20AC;˘

come. And Ada, perhaps, since wearing the new dress, must have felt in her inmost soul that curious feeling of freedom and of courage experienced by college graduates wrapped up in their togas on Commencement Day.

â&#x20AC;˘

46


CHAPTER

VIII

GETTING READY Very few lives not only in the Philippines but also in other countries as well, can equal that of Librada Avelino when it comes to fixity of purpose. Sixty-one years she lived, and ever since she had a judgment of her own, from the days when she was beginning to learn her ABC from the well-known "Cartilla," she had devoted her entire attentiop to the realization of a single aim. She did not make any home, she did not indulge in the illusions o"f romance, nor was she attracted by the thousand and one other thipgs which an intelligent and capable woman could wish. Ada's entire existence was like an arrow J?ointed with unfailing accuracy toward a dominant purpose,-an imperishable ideal. Her last days under the tutorship of Maestra Luisa, with the stimulating influence of her stepmother and father at home, were days of voracious reading and study. The primary instruction that she had received from her old teacher, instead of satisfying Ada, only served to arouse in her lively intelligence a greater thirst for knowledge. Maestra Luisa first initiated her in the first notions of the "Monitor," in a rudimentary knowledge of Geography and of Arithmetic-beyond the four principal tables-of Spanish Grammar and Domestic Science, and prescribed for her outside reading "The Science of Woman," "The Troubadour of Childhood," this last book consisting of 47


ADA

verses calculated to awaken in the child an early love for literature and declamation. At that time, .t here lived in Pandacan a most popular personage to whom the young and the old alike looked upon with respect on account of his wide knowledge of Spanish Grammar. He was Mang Mundo-Fermin Raymundo. The admiration of the town for this man was more than justified when we take into account the fact that this old grammarian who could recite from memory all the rules of syntax and analyze the complexities of irregular verbs with surprising accuracy, was absolutely blind. Ada took lessons from Mang Mundo, and the latter's knowledge of Spanish Grammar must have been very extensive indeed, for later on, while Ada was studying in the schools of Manila, she continued visiting Mang Mundo in order to secure a clarification of her most difficult lessons. But if Pandacan was proud of her extraordinary grammarian, Mang Mundo, she had another object of legitimate pride-a much more prominent figure whose fame and reputation were the talk of the day. We refer to that unforgettable Ladislao Bonus, musician, composer and conductor, many of whose musical pieces are still being preserved by local devotees of the Art of Arts. To Pandacan went the musicians of Manila to consult Mang Ladislao, to secure his cooperation in a given concert, or, else, to get permission to play one of his pieces. Some people still remember that Rizal, a great admirer of the artistic talent of Bonus, went to visit him in Pandacan on more than one occa48

â&#x20AC;˘


GETTING READY

â&#x20AC;˘

sion, to secure the music for some of his own poems. And Ada, with the same thirst for knowledge, and for study, and, perhaps, at that time already having the presentiment of her future educational career, took music lessons from the noted artist. The fact that is not generally known even among the intimate friends of Ada is that the latter was a good pianist, and a great lover of music. Her love for this art was so exquisite and delicate-almost religious,-that she did not for one moment express this particular cult in the presence of strangers. It could truly be said that she considered the piano not a mere medium through which to fill the space with the harmony of sounds, or to show her virtuosity as a player, but rather as a confidant to which she might communicate the most intimate secrets of her heart. Ladislao Bonus had his house in Pandacan. It was converted into a natural conservatory of music. The Italian Opera troupes that now and then used to visit Manila, causing some sensation within its limited social circles, had to count on Bonus to complete its orchestra and choruses. And this aged Master, ever audacious in his artistic ventures, even formed an Orchestra band entirely composed of women, greatly admired and greatly in demand during all town fiestas. Because of this band, and because of the further fact that Pandacan was a little island that could be reached. only thrdugh small bancas, the Spaniards conferred on the town the deserved title of "Little Venice." The small and venerable town of Pandacan had already given all that it could give the little Ada, 49


ADA

and thus prepared, she decided to invade Manila. By this invasion we simply mean that Ada was ready to study i"n this city, because during the entire period of her student days in Manila, Ada came and went from Manila to Pandacan and from Pandacan to Manila, constantly visiting her friends and relatives. Coming, as she did, from the tutorship of Maestra Luisa, we can easily imagine that Ada's next plan of action was to select some reputed municipal school in Manila, with advanced courses of instruction. Now-a-days, aside from the many primary and intermediate schools erected in every district of Manila, there is also a corresponding high school. It was not so during the days of Ada. There was only one modest municipal school in each district. With all their limitations, however, they represented the best that the system of public instruction during the Spanish regime could giv:e. Teaching in those schools was more careful, and better supervised, and the teachers, better prepared. Ada, after having heard the recommendations of friends. decided to attend the Santa Cruz School, headed by a pious teacher named Emiliana Claro. She must have stayed here at least a year. Dona Emiliana was an old spinster, well known to her students for her great religiosity. The favorite punishment she imposed on her students was the saying of prayers of different varieties, very similar to the penalties given by a Catholic priest to a poor sinner after confession. This teacher, Emiliana, impelled by her mystic fervor, even thought of leaving the strange ways of the world, and of secluding her50


GETTING READY

self as a nun within the solitude of the cloister. And if Ada even had some vague premonitions of her real mission in life, she naturally could not stay long in the school of Dona Emiliana. Her mental horizon was so limited within the walls of that school. And so, she decided to transfer to another school which exercised an overwhelming influence, in later years, in the formulation of her audacious and revolutionary educational plans. This school was the school headed by Dona Margarita Lopez in Tondo.

)

51


CHAPTER

IX

MARGARITA LOPEZ Out of one thousand people who have known the name of Librada Avelino, or have been acquainted with her educational work, there is scarcely one who does not believe that the founder of the Centro Escolar had been educated in one of the big religious colleges for girls which subsist to the present day in the city of Manila. As one casts a glance over the imposing structure erected at the end of Azcarraga Street, and then directs his or her eyes along the other side of Mendiola Bridge to behold the concrete profile of the Centro Escolar University, one can easily be misled by a false association of ideas. Have not these massive and enormous monuments to the education of women,centers of learning to which thousands and thousands of daughters of Filipino families throughout the length and breadth of the country go to learn their first lessons in truth and wisdom, been founded by a woman who must have received her training from a similar institution? Yet the fact remains that Ada, from the days when she began her ABC to the time when she opened her first small school in Pandacan, took all her courses in the public schools. It would be an interesting and curious thing indeed to recall how, in the early years of the system of public instruction in the Philippine Islands, the average self-satisfied youth would proudly boast that he or she was a product of the public schools. This was indeed tantamount to saying that this 52


MARGARITA LOPEZ

student was the full flowering of the New Democracy, and that the training that he or she had received from the public schools represented the best that the country could give the student population through the medium of public instruction. This title of earthly glory, however, which was originally productive of self-conceit, and of which everyone was proud, was gradually losing its potent spell on the imagination of the youth as the founding of private institutions of learning by the very products of the government schools, was going on by leaps and b<mnds. This same phenomenon was noted by the generation of Ada fifty years ago. The poor young folks of those times could not say with pride that they had been reared in the public schools because the blows and other punishments that they received there could not at least be considered as gifts to be proud of. At any rate, the most brilliant graduates of the public centers of learning of the period established their own schools. The private school is indeed a peculiar and typical phenomenon in this country. During the Spanish regime, the public school was a self-evident necessity, inasmuch as the government at the time was rather stingy when it came to the opening of new schools at public expense. Amidst the density of the social and political darkness then reigning, any gleam of light, no matter how insignificant, was indeed welcome to dissipate the clouds of ignorance and fanaticism that enveloped the land. But in our own days when under the present Administration, the Philippine Government spends almost one-half of its appropriations. for the main53


ADA

tenance of public schools here, this phenomenon of the consequent increase, instead of decrease, in the number of our private schools, is hard to explain. Can it be because while a foreign government is imposed on us, the people would continue to nurse suspicions and fears about an educational system that they did not adopt of their own volition, but which have been imposed upon them by foreign influences? Can it be because the love of Filipino parents for their children was such that they would much prefer, whenever they could, to send them to private colleges where, they believed, the students were better cared for, not counting the cost of this luxury? As we have said, Ada did not attend any religious institution to secure an education. In the real sense of the word, she never experienced the life of a collegian. She practically exhausted everything that the private schools of her generation could impart. The highest grade attainable then -what one might call the apex of culture-was the completion of a Normal course for teachers. To be a teacher was the highest ambition of Ada's life to the realization of which she dedicated all her subsequent activities. She renounced the life of a college intern, with its uniform, ribbons and medals, notwithstanding the good intentions of her stepmother who was constantly urging her to go either to Santa Rosa or the Concordia. Audaciously, she visualized the unsuspected truth. Education which was the ambition of her early youth, and which incidentally was the only profession guaranteed by the government of the former regime, could not 64


MARGARITA LOPEZ

very well be acquired within the four walls of a semi-conventual college in which the students seemed to be aspirants to the mystic life of nuns. The public schools where boys and girls could breathe the air of freedom and acquire during the initial stages of their intellectual preparation the habits of struggle and fortitude as well as the notions regarding the duties and responsibilties of free citizens, were better. On the other hand, Ada did not fail to recognize the advantages of the refined education given by the religious schools to the young women of the.country, She understood the limitations of the public schools, the rudimentary nature of their methods of teaching, and she must always have asked herself how best to harmonize and coordinate the vigorous and sound simplicity of the school for the people with the cultural elements and classic traditions of the religious schools for the carrying out of an Ideal educational plan for the girl students of the Philippines. This happy blending of two distinct educational forces was found by Ada in the school headed by Dona Margarita Lopez. The famous school of Dona Margarita was located in Tondo, toward the extremity of Azcan'aga Street facing the sea. At the other end of this same street, the Centro Escolar University now stands. Dona Margarita was then keeping what we now would call a dormitory. With the only difference that hers was both a dormitory and college at the same time,-quite an original combination. It was a palatial structure of which she was the directress, inspectress, and the one in charge 55


ADA.

of the education of more than thirty girls from the different sections of the archipelago, sent to her by their respective parents for review preparatory to taking the examination for teachers. Dona Margarita was a tall, robust, and healthy woman. She had with her several assistants one of whom is still living. Her name is Dona Ignacia Vda. de Pineda -a worthy representative of that distant generation of woman intellectuals, who at her present age of seventy still preserves intact her great presence of mind and the affable social ways of a by-gone generation. Endowed \vith many exceptional qualities (especially for a Filipino woman of those days), the prestige enjoyed by Dona Margarita was unique. But she more than justified the admiration and respect in which she was held, not by means of an unnecessary austerity and hostile isolation, converting the school into some sort of a Tower of Ivory, but by throwing open the doors of her institution, leaving the windows equally open, so that the students might feel at home, and receive their visitors within the hours {lermitted by the regulations, and further, in order that they might acquire not only the knowledge in books but also that indispensable sense of adaptation to the world in which they moved, enabling them to live in peace with God and to remain respected by men. That was the main point. Dona Margarita was single up to the age of forty-two when she married and closed. her college. While she was directing her college, nobody, whether Filipino or Spaniard, dared to interfere, in the 56


MARG.ARIT A LOPEZ

least with its workings or with its delicate students, and when on occasions dances and other social functions were held in Tondo or San Nicolas, and Dona Margarita and her students were invited, they invariably attended, furnishing the most pleasant feature, the most attractive and beautiful note of the evening. Ada stayed in this private school of Dona Margarita Lopez all the time that she needed, to prepare for the teacher's examination. Dona Rosa Sevilla de Alvero, the most eloquent Filipino woman orator of our times, unflinching champion of the rights of the members of her sex, was also there. Within that group was likewise included Dona Florentina Arellano Vdal. de Nable, now dead, the muse of the poet, Jose Palma, one of our first and most admired writers during the Revolutionary Era. But Ada did not stay in that school of Dona Margarita Lopez simply to study. She was there to observe, and then on the basis of her observations, to formulate an inflexible plan, to see through the mirror of her own mind and spirit the complicated elaboration of a definite, dynamic and compelling purpose. And the more she was convinced that her plan was made, WIth greater enthusiasm she went back to her books and made her reviews. The great day at last arrived. Examination Day! An examination conducted in the old Ayuntamiento in the presence of a most solemn tribunal seated ill the middle of an imposing hall, and composed of one Jesuit, one Dominican Friar, one Reverend Priest of the Cathedral, a sister of Santa 57


ADA

Isabel, and His Excellency the Civil Governor presiding,-all of them seated in semi-circle conducting the most impressive ceremonies. This examination of the municipal teachers was always a great event. A distinguished crowd was always in attendance, ladies and gentlemen, friars of different denominations, relatives of the examinees, fearing for the fate of their children, filled to over-flowing all the available space. The aspirants to the teaching profession were impeccably dressed, but within the limits of modesty and discretion. They were made to stand in files before the picturesque Tribunal, ready for action. The examination was entirely oral. The exchange of questions and answers between the seated examinei:s, and the standing examinees, was as rapid as the coming and going of a ball in a "sipa" game. And the smallest of them all, the youngest of the future teachers, attracted the most attention from the very beginning, eliciting signs of approbation from all the spectators. Not a question was asked her by the members of the tribunal without its corresponding answer. At times, other questions that remained unanswered by the other aspirants, upon reaching her, gave rise to the most accurate replies from Ada, plus a gentle smile from her lips beneath the penetrating gaze of her powerful eyes. The examiners were satisfied. The ordeal must have lasted three hours. A brief deliberation follows. Their heads incline over the. presidential table, forming a circle. The Secretary begins to write down the grades of the aspirants. 68


MARGARITA LOPEZ

Ada, tightly holding her fan over her breast, hears her name mentioned among the successful candidates in the examinations for Elementary Teacher. She didn't want to hear more! Teacher . . , Teacher. . . She was already a teacher!

59


CHAPTER

X

ADA THE TEACHER Some old friends of Ada who are still living say that she herself ransacked her house for the frame on which to place her teacher's diploma obtained at the Ayuntamiento. The graduation was considered a great event by the Avelino family. Pedro Avelino who, as a general rule, was not talkative, was smiling and conversing the whole day. He received the congratulations of relatives and friends. Silently he looked around, as if measuring the capacity of his humble nipa house. Now that Ada is a teacher, he said to himself, this house would be filled with children and noise. Even before graduation, Ada, during her leisure hours, was already teaching the children of certain families, out of her irresistible love for the profession. But now, with her title duly acquired, her plan, as approved by her father and stepmother, was to open, as soon as possible, a school. All the children of Panda can who did not study in any school of Manila, or in the municipal school of the small town, gained admission into the school of Teacher Arla. No child paid any matriculation fee. In the same manner that her father, in his capacity as practising pharmacist, freely supplied the neighborhood with the drugs that he could give free of charge to the needy patients who approached him, his daughter, the young teacher, was so thrilled by the realization of her youthful dreams, that she could not, nor did she want, to speak of fees. After all, in such a small community like the Pandacan of 60


ADA THE TEACHER

those days, everybody treated each other as relatives. During Ada's time, aside from the teaching of children, there was also such a thing as the training of teachers. Ada herself submitted to this training under the direction of Margarita Lopez. Recently, when the craze for the acquisition of law degrees was at its height, there was in Manila a well-known group of professors and lawyers enjoying the reputation of excellent reviewers of students preparing for the "deadly" Supreme Court examinations. It is to be supposed that these examinations conducted by the Supreme Court correspond to the Ayuntamiento examinations of those years, and Ada, scarcely had graduated when she devoted herself body and soul to this interesting work of reviewing future teachers. But she was young- very young. She was about of the same age as the pupils she was going to teach, and it was then, when for the first time, Ada's personal magnetism and spiritual force was demonstrated. To begin with, several young ladies from the very town of Pandacan became her original students. A number of girls from the provinces also came to attend her classes. In view of the puritanic and conservative customs of those days, provincial families of any significance at all could not confide the care of their children to any person or any family who was not worthy of their greatest respect and confidence. But in the meanwhile the good record obtained by certain girls who had reviewed under Miss Avelino in the examinations for Municipal Teachers became generally lmown, and the store and home 61


ADA

on Labores Street was filled with girl aspirants to the teaching profession hailing from neighboring provinces. One day, a distinguished-looking gentleman went to the school-house of Ada, asking the first girl that he met at the door, for Miss Avelino. -"At your service, Sir" a lady answered. "I am Miss Avelino." The entrancing smile from her lips and eyes was not missing. -"You!" The man was dumbfounded. He looked at the young woman closely. Then, he introduced himself as Mr. Fernandez from Laguna. He was a father of three girls the oldest of whom aspired to be a teach r. She took the examination but failed. He wanted his daughter to have a better review. He heard much about this school of Maestra Ada. Fernandez once more scrutinized Miss Avelino from head to foot. And in order to be absolutely sure that he met the right party, he subjected his interlocutress to 路an almost endless series of questions. At last, the visitor satisfied himself, and after a few days, he came back with her daughtl'r. This Senor Fernandez was a Spaniard, tall and well-built, and his daughter, Felipa, a good type of a mestiza had the same stature as her father. This man must have related to his daughter his experience with Miss Avelino, but he must have forgotten to mention the youth of this teacher, her low stature, beca\lse when the future pupil was received by the little teacher, she, less prudent than her 62


ADA THE TEACHER

father, turned back, not wanting to enter the house. She said to her father, "But, daddy, is she going: to be my teacher? She is so little." Ada, with that perpetual smile on her lips, prf'tended not to have heard the lacrimose protests of the dissilusioned girl, succeeded in attracting the latter to her, and with the help of the father, Felipa in an attitude of resignation remained. She consoled herself with the thought that her stay there would only be for a few days. But the days lengthened into weeks, and the weeks into months. The reviews became more and more interesting under the easy methods employed by an intell'igent friend rather than a teacher and Felipa, instead of going away, brought to the school her two otner sisters, Rosario and Pilar, so that they might study together. Then, the students of Ada increased in number to such an extent as to be beyond the capacity of her school to hold. There must have been ten or twelve interns, besides the pupils who went there only during class hours. They hailed from the provinces of Bulacan, Laguna, Batangas and Tayabas. Like the liberal and modern school headed by Margarita Lopez, the home of Ada, which was at the same time a school, was a place which could be visited by young men who were known more for their talent and culture than for their social position or for their wealth. In this way, the social contact which, at the present time, is, to many of our young women, only a means through which they can hold an interminable series of dances and re63


ADA

ceptions, in the house-school of Ada, it was a medi!lm for the enhancement of education and culture. To that house went, for instance, law students of the caliber of Apolinario Mabini; Fernando Salas, who later on became co-founder of the Centro Escolar and subsequently appointed judge; Anselmo de Jesus, the poet; bachelors and brilliant students like the Rosario brothers, Arcadio and Francisco; Manuel Quezon and others. This Quezon was then a student of the San Juan de Letran College, great comrade, brilliant in his class, and very popular among his companions. He happened to be in Pandacan on vacation. One afternoon, while taking a stroll along the few narrow streets of the place, casting now and then a romantic glance toward the half-opened windows of houses around, he inquired from his friends about the young ladies of the same. Somebody informed him that on the other side of the town, was located the small school of Miss Avelino, and that, with the exception of one or two, the girls, who were preparing to become teachers, were beautiful. Student Quezon, thereupon indulging in the fond illusions 0 fa collegian, proposed that he and his companions visit the place. The latter then told him that the proposition was difficult, if not impossible, to carry out. They were dealing with a school. They did not know the ladies personally, despite the fact that one of them, a certain Miss Gallego, was from the very town of Quezon-Baler. And Quezon, already possessing those flashes of inspiration that has always characterized him, stupefied his friends with the emphatic declaration: 64


ADA THE TEACHER

"Well, fellows, inasmuch as you don't dare to go with me to that house, although you are from this town, come with me, and I'll take charge of presenting you to Miss Avelino and her girls." And Quezon went there, followed ny the other young men. He respectfully asked for Miss Gallego; then he introduced himself to the lady as her town-mate from Baler; afterwards, he asked Miss Gallego to present him to Miss A velino and her school-mates, and fin all)", Quezon, himself, acting as the great toastmaster of the occasion, in the midst of that impro\<ised reception line, mentioned one by one the names of his companions in the presence of the ladies. The work of Ada during the first years of her teaching wa'S one of intense preparation and study. She became cognizant of the fact, for example, that she, being from Pandacan, and a resident of Calle Labores, could not embroider and cut dresses in such a way as to stimulate her students along this line of work. She subsequently matriculated in the Concordia College in order to improve herself in this branch of teaching. The Cor cordia Sisters of charity were famous as embroiderers and dressmakers just as the Benedictine Sisters were expert piano instructors. Later on, the Asumption mothers arrived, and became the principal attraction in the educational circles of the women of those days. All the well-to-do families of Manila and the neighboring provinces with young daughters to educate, spoke well of the new college whose teachers would consist of scholarly sisters from France, 65


ADA

Spain, England and Germany. This institution mLlst have been very advanced indeed, because, for the first time, they would give in Manila a course leading to the diploma of a high school teacher. A great number of Elementary teachers, some of them with already several years of experience in the public schools, greeted the news with great joy, and they matriculated at once. Ada was one of them. The first class under the Asumption Sisters consisted of more than one hundred students. It was an extraordinary assemblage of faces and characters that could only be possible in an educational center greatly in demand. Girls who, after class hours, were found to be in different social strata, each one of them different from the other; white heirs of bureaucratic potentates and bearded military men; tender and delicate ladies conducted in carriages and accompanied by one or two servants carrying the surnames of families of high lineage; an then the humbler daughters of the country in chemise and "saya" (skirt) with their hair combed tight in the direction of the back part of their heads. In this class, amidst this vast crowd of femenine youth, of laughing, buoyant, giggling youth,-noisy, happy and care-free, the most naughty of whom would even pinch each other during class hours,- Ada discovered another girl who was to be the inseparable companion of her liie, her understanding friend and collaborator in the gigantic task of the years ahead. This young woman was a teacher like herself, small in stature and (jf the same age as herself, of serious countenance like hers, who took her studies seriously-路66


ADA THE TE.WHER

a woman who might be called the very soul of propriety, much inclined to thought and meditation. She was Carmen de Luna from Bulacan. The professors were all Asumption Sisters with the exception of the professor of Religion, who was a priest from the Cathedral-Father Tablares. The subjects included in the course leading to the acquisition of the High School Teacher's Certificate were, besides Religion, the following: Spanish Literature, Geography, Mathematics, Natural History, Hygiene, Botany, the Histories of Spain and of the Philippines, Physics, Drawing, Embroidery, and, finally, Pedagogy. French was an optional subject. Ada finished this course in one year. It should be noted that from t~e time of her first graduation ~p to this time when she was given an opportunity to amplify her studies under the direction of the Asumption mothers, Ada never ceased to read, to study. She was always a voracious reader. Her classmates still remember how Ada acquitted herself creditably in the three subjects where she majored, namely, Pedagogy, Literature and Mathematics. Her vast reading gave her an excellent mental elasticity, and in the class in Religion, unintentionally she would engage in animated discussions with Father Tablares. The good father, with great frequency, whenever he was unable to secure a aefinite clarification of certain points in the lesson on hand, would address himself to Ada thus: "Let us see what the philosopher of the class says."

67


CHAPTER

XI

RIZAL'S LETTER At this point, we should pause for a brief reflection. It was in the year 1893. Ada was twenty years old. She had secured her High School Teacher's Certificate. Everything that could be studied in the schools of the country at the time, she had studied, graduating with the highest honors. She was at the acme of her academic qualifications. In those normal times, when life was as smooth as the placid waters of a brook, it can be said that Ada, with her titles, her increasing reknown, her established school, her popularity and her youth, did not have to do anything else but to go from one success to another. She must have thought of this. In those distant years when the sanest and most constructive enterprises were liable to be suspected by the government as pernicious propaganda, as happened to the school of Ibarra in the "Noli Me Tangere" of Rizal, she, with her instinct and tact of a woman, under ordinary circumstances, would have followed the line of least resistance, an attitude of adaptability,-notwithstanding her customary liberalism,-in view of the fact that she never met with any reverses in her plans so far. Her home. was peaceful. She was happy. She could, if she only choose, remain thus to the end of her days. She did not aspire to anything more. Perhaps, some day, who knows, she might meet the man of her preference-with her school already established-and marry, putting an end to her pedagogical career. She had courtiers at68


RIZAUS LETTER

traded by her fascinating personality, her dealing, and above all, by her unusual culture, but these admirers were hesitating to go ahead with their romantic pretensions, when they saw, as if from a distance, the seriousness and fixity of determination of young Ada in connection with the development of her profession. Those who knew Ada personally did not only admire her, but highly respected her as well, for her advanced liberal ideas. Here is a woman, they said, without hypocrisies and superficialities. While it was the fashion of the d~y for women to be timid, to be full of sighs and to be religious, constantly making the sign of the cros at the least provocation, or on hearing some unexpected news, this little t eacher of powerful eyes and serene countenance remained natural, quiet, and preserved a moral fortitude which influenced those with whom she came in contact. She was devoid of all affectation in her manner5. Neither was she of a showy sort of a disposition, nor was she a woman fond of displaying that literary erudition and vast culture that by right was hers,-a temptation hard to resist in those days when a self-educated woman was considered a phenomenon, constituting the subject of the conversations in social circles. And Ada's own friends and companions.have testified to her enviable command of the Spanish language. Two years before Ada's graduation as high school teacher, a memorable event took place in Malolos. A group of young ladies (of the select class of the people) according to the phrase employed by Plaridel, proposed the establishment of a school 69


ADA

for the teaching of the Spanish language, but the church authorities of the period prevented the plan from being carried out. The girls organized a most vigorous protest against this unreasonable meddling, and Marcelo H. del Pilar, (Plaridel) that formidable battler from Eulacan who was in Barcelona at the time, addressed an enthusiastic appeal to Rizal who was then in London, so that the latter might send to the admirable young women of Malolos a short letter encouraging them to continue in their attitude and proceed with their propaganda. Rizal wrote the letter in the Tagalog dialect, as Del Pilar asked. But, instead of writing a brief message, comments Teodoro M. Kalaw, Rizal addl"essed to the young women of Malolos an historical and stirring epistle of an apostle. This letter of Rizal in itself forms an eloquent and soulpenetrating chapter of the ideology for which he fought and fell, perhaps, the most heart-felt letter that he ever wrote as a Filipino, a letter brimming with despair, with such a sense of hopelessness that it is to be doubted if he could express what he wanted to say except in the language that was his own. Rizal was addressing the entire womanhood of the Philippines through the courageous young ladies of Malolos, and he was thinking, not only of them but of their children as well, when he placed on paper the essence of his moral indignation. Reading this letter, many would, perhaps, be wondering how such an event, apparently isolated, namely, the failure of the opening of a school for the teaching of the Spanish language could give 70


RIZAL'S DETTER

rise to such bitter complaints, to such painful considerations, to such an emphatic and virile admonition on the part of Rizal. The author did not even remember to mention the teaching of the Spanish language, which was the aim of the young women of Malolos in proposing the establishment of the school. It is to be noted, however, that in those days, the ability to speak Spanish correctly on the part of an ordinary Filipino-and much more on the part of a Filipino woman-was not only a sign of progressiveness but also of challenge to the constituted authorities. In the "El Filibusterismo" of Rizal, can be noted the same incident between the university; students lI;nd eertain powerful influences who prevented the founding o~ the academy of the former. That youth which in fact El..'{isted probably at the time when Ada was still a little child, called itself "liberal." They used to hold secret confabs under the chairmanship of Felipe Buencamino, Sr., in the very town of Pandacan. They were men then. In the case of Malolos, women were the ones involved. The spiritual movement of the people for their own advancement and the assertion of their personality, employing as an issue the study of the Spanish language, was spreading. And Ada, not satisfied with her own school lessons in Spanish, every time that she went to visit the old grammarian, Mang Mundo, she not only took special lessons from him in his favorite subject, but also received from this venerable figure that vital understanding of the nascent nationalism, dynamic and liberating, that Rizal preached in his letter. 71


ADA

As we have said, at the age of twenty, Ada did not lack means with which to make a rich harvest of the benefits of a career won after a careful and solid prepartion. She must have possessed an enthusiasm that was well-founded, not only because of her adequate mental equipment but, also, because in her inmost soul, she felt the clarion call of an ideal of reform in the education of the women of her country, and which the deplorable situation then prevailing imperatively demanded. But to chan~e that condition of affairs, to transform that environment into something better was indeed an Herculean task necessitating the work of generations, eve~ if the number of teachers of the liberal temper of Librada Avelino were multiplied by the thousands. Education alone or its deficiencies was not the big problem of those years, however. The trouble was with the entire politico-social system then implanted in the country whose inhabitants groaned beneath the iron heel of an archaic colonial government incessantJly fomenting ignorance in the masses, spreading fanaticism far and wide, and mercilessly persecuting the few who 'dared to raise their voice demanding justice and reform. To crush this evil-this hydra-headed Monster which threatened to engulf the liberties of a people, the Revolution came. As Jesus Balmori poetically put it, the "lamp which exploded illuminating the soul of a people," contained in itself the tears of widows am! orphans, the sighs and sufferings of tortured prisoners, the blood of countless executed patriots, and, perhaps, also, and, above all, the irreparable insult to the dignity and self-respect of 72


RIZ.4.L'S LETTER

the Filipino woman so vigorously d~nounced by RizaI. In the Decalogue of the Katipunan, the valiant wielders of the famous sandata did not forget this point when Bonifacio included as one of its precepts the respect and protection due to woman, reminding every man of the fact that he had in his own home a mother, a sister or a daughter.

73


CHAPTER

XII

FIFTY YEARS AGO To My Count"YlVomen, The Young Women Of Malolos

Europe (February) 1889. When I wrote the "Noli Me Tangere," I asked myself whether bravery was a common thing in the young women of our people. I brought back to my recollection and reviewed those I had known :>ince my infancy, but there were only few who seem to come up to my ideal. There was, it is true, an abundance of girls with agreeable manners, beautiful ways, and modest demeanor, but there was in all an admixture of servitude and deference to the words or whims of their so-called "spiritual fathers" (as if the spirit or soul had any father other than God), due to excessive kindness, modesty, or perhaps, ignorance. They seemed faded plants sown and reared in darkness, having flowers without perfume and fruits without sap. However, when the news of what happened at Malolos reach us, I saw my error, and great was my rejoicing. After all, who is to blame me? I did not know Malolos nor its young women, except one called Emilia, and her J knew by name only. Now that you have responded to our first appeal in the interest of the welfare of the people; now that you have set an example to those who, like you, long to have their eyes opened and be delivered from servitude, new hopes are awakened in us and we now even dare to face adversity, because we have you for our allies and are confident of victory. No longer does the Filipina stand with her head bowed nor does she spend her time on her knees, because now she is quickened by hope in 74


PIFTY YEARS AGO

the future; no longer will the mother contribute to keeping her daughter in darkness and bring her up in contempt and moral annihilation. And no longer will the science of all sciences consist in blind submission to any unjust order, or in extreme complacency, nor will a courteous smile be deemed the only weapon against insult or humble tears the ineffable panacea for all tribulations. You know that the will of God is different from that of the priest; that religiousness does not consist of long periods spent on your knees, nor in endless prayers, big rosarios, and grimy scapularies, but in a spotless conduct, firm intention and upright judgment. You also know that prudence dpes not consist in blindly obeying any whim of the little tin god, but in obeying only that which is reasonable and just, because blind obedience is itself the cause and origin of those whims, and those guilty of it are really to be blamed. The official or friar can no longer assert that they alone are responsible for their unjust orders, because God gave each indiYidual reason and a will of his or her own to distinguish the just from the unjust; all were born without shackles and free, and nobody has a right to subjugate the will and the spirit of another. And, why should you submit to another your thoughts, seeing that thought is noble and free? It is cowardice and error to believe that saintliness consists in blind obedience and that prudence and the habit of thinking are presumption. Ignorance has ever been ignorance, and never prudence and honor. God, the primal source of all wisdom. does not demand that man. created in his image and likeness, allow himself to be deceived and hoodwinked. but wants us to use and let shine the light of reason with which he has so mercifully endowed us. He may be compared to the father 75


ADA who gave each of his sons a torch to light their way in the darkness, bidding them keep its light bright and take care of it, and not put it out. and trust to the light of the others, but to help and advise each other to find the right path. They would be madmen were they to follow the light of another, only to come to a fall, and the father could upbraid them and say to them: "Did I not give each of you his own torch 1"; but he could not say so if the fall were due to the light of the torch of him who fell, as the light might have been dim and the road very bad. The deceiver is fond of using the saying that "It is presumptuous to rely on one's own judgement," but, in my opinion, it is more presumptuous for a person to put his judgement 路 above that of others and try to make it prevail over theirs. It is more presumptuous for a man to c'onstitute himsel:li into an idol and pretend to be a communication of thought with God; and it is more than presumptuous and even blasphemous for a person to attribute every movement of his lips to God, to represent every whim of his as the will of God, and to brand his own enemy as an enemy of God. Of course, we should not consult our own judgment alone, but hear the opinion of others before doing what may seem most reasonable to us. The wild man from the hills, if clad in a priest's robe remain a hillman and can only deceive the weak and ignorant. And, to make my argument more conclusive, just buy a priest's robe as the Franciscans wear it and put it on a carabao cow, and you will be lucky if the carabao cow does not become lazy on account of the robe. But I will leave this subject to speak of something else. Youth is a flower-bed that is to bear rich fruit and must accumulate wealth for its des-路 cendants. What offspring will be that of a 76


FIFTY YEARS AGO

woman whose kindness of character is expressed by mumbled prayers; who knows nothing by heart but awits, novenas, and the alleged miracles; whose amusement consists in playing panguingue or in the frequent confession of the same sins? What sons will she have but acolytes, priest's servants, or cockfighters? It is the mothers who are responsible for the present servitude of our compatriots, owing to the unlimited trustfulness of their loving hearts, to their ardent desire to elevate their sons. Maturity is the fruit of infancy and the infant is formed on the lap of its mother. The mother who can only teach her child how to kneel and kiss hands must not expect sons with blood other than that of vile slaves. A tree that grows in the mud is unsubstantial and good only for firewood. If her son should have a hold mind, his boldness will be deceitful and will be used by him for vile purposes; it will be like the bat that can not show itself until the ringing of vespers. They say that prudence is sanctity. But, what sanctity have they shown us? To pray and kneel a lot, kiss the hand of the priest, throw money away on churches, and believe all the friar sees fit to tell us; gossip, callous knees, rubbing of noses ... As to the mites and gifts to God, is there anything in the world that does not belong to God? What would you say of a servant making his master a present of a cloth borrowed from the very master? Who is so vain, so insane that he will give alms to God and believe that the miserable thing he has given will serve to cloth the Creator of all things? Blessed be they who succor their fellow men, aid the poor and feed the hungry; but cursed be they who turn a deaf ear to the supplications of the poor, who only give to him who has' plenty and spend their money lavishly on silver 77


ADA

altar hangings for the church, or give it to the friar, who lives in abunc;lance, in tlie shape of fees for masses of thanksgiving, or in serenades and fireworks. The money ground out of the poor is bequeathed to the master so that he can provide for chains to subjugate, and hire thugs and executioners. Oh, what blindness, what lack of understanding! Saintliness consists in the first place in obeying the dictates of reason, happen what may. "It is acts and not words that I want you," said Christ. "Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in Heaven." Saintliness does not consist in abjectness, nor is the successor of Christ to be recognized by the fact that he gives his hand to be kissed. Christ did not give the kiss of peace to the Pharisees and never gave his hand to be kissed. He did not cater to the rich and vain; He did not mention scapularies, nor did He make rosaries, or solicit offerings for the sacrifice of the mass or exact payment for His Prayers. Saint John did not demand a fee on the River Jordan, nor did Christ teach for gain. Why, then, do the friars now refuse to stir a foot unless paid in advance? And, as if they were starving, they sell scapularies, rosaries, belts, and other things which are nothing but schemes for making money and a detriment to the soul; because even if all the rags on earth were converted into scapularies and all the trees in the forests into rosaries, and if the skins of all the beasts were made into belts, and if all the priests of the earth mumbled prayers over all this and sprinkled oceans of holy water over it, this would not purify a rogue or condone sin where there is no repentance. Thus, also, through cupidity and love of money, they will, for a price, revoke the numerous prohibitions, 78


FIFTY YEARS AGO

such as those against eating meat, marrying close relatives, etc. You can do almost anything if you bUt grease their palms. Why that? Can God be bribed and bought off, and blinded by money, nothing more nor less than a friar? The brigand who has obtained a bull of compromise can live calmly on the proceeds of his robbery, because he will be forgiven. God, then, will sit at a table where theft provides the viands? Has the Omnipotent become a pauper that He must assume the role of the excise man or gendarme? If that is the God whom the friar adores, then I turn my back upon that God. Let us be reasonable and open our eyes, especially you women, because you are the first to influence the consciousness of man. Remembe~ that a good mother does not¡resemble â&#x20AC;˘ the mother that the friar has created; she must bring up her child to be the image of the true God, not of a black-mailing, a grasping God, but of a God who is the father of us all, who is just; who does not suck the life-blood of the poor like a vampire, nor scoffs at the agony of' the sorely beset, nor makes a crooked path of the path of justice. Awaken and prepare the will of your children to:wards all that is honorable, judged by proper standards, to all that is sincere and firm of purpose, clear judgment, clean procedure, honesty in act and deed, love for the fellowman and respect for God; this is what you must teach your children. And, seeing that life is full of thorns and thistles, you must fortify their minds against any stroke of adversity and accustom them to danger. The people can not expect honor nor prosperity so long as they will educate their children in a wrong way, so long as the woman who guides the child in his first steps is slavish and ignorant. No good water 79

â&#x20AC;˘


ADA

comes from a turbid, bitter spring; no savory fruit comes from acrid 짜ed. The duties that woman has to perform in order to deliver the people from suffering are of no little importance, but be they as they may, they will not be beyond the strength and stamina of the Filipino people. The power and good judgment of the woman of the PhiL ippin~s are well known, and it is because of this that she has been hoodwinked, and tied, and rendered pusillanimous; and now her enslavers rest at ease, because so long as they can keep the Filipina mother a slave, so long will they be able to make slaves of her children. The cause of the backwardness of Asia lies in the fact that there the women are ignorant, are slaves; while Europe and America are powerful because there the women are free and well educated and endowed with 1ucid intellect ~nd a strong will. We know that you lack instructive books; we know that nothing is added to your intellect, day by day, save that which is intended to dim its natural brightness; all this we know, hence our desire to bring you the light that illuminates your equals here in Europe. If that which I tell you does not provoke your anger. and if you will pay but a little attention to it, then, however dense the mist may be that befogs our people, I will make the utmost effort to have it dissipated by the bright rays of the sun, which will give light, though they may be dimmed. We shall not feel any fatigue if you will help us; God, too, will help to scatter the mist, because He is the God of truth; He Will restore to its pristine condition the fame of the Filipina, in whom we now miss only a criterion of her own, because good qualities she has enough and to spare. This is our dream; this is the desire we cherish in our hearts; to restore the honor of woman, who 80


FIFTY YEARS AGO

is half of our heart, our companion in the joys and tribulations of life. If she is a maiden, the young man sl\ould love her not only because of her beauty and her amiable character but also on account of her fortitude of mind and loftiness of purpose, which quicken and elevate the feeble and timid and ward off all vain thoughts. Let the maiden be the pride of her country and command respect, because it is a common practice on the part of Spaniards and friars here who have rturned from the Islands to speak of the Filipina as complaisant and ignorant, as if all should be thrown into the same class because of the missteps of a few, and as if women of weak character did not exist in other lands. As to purity, what could the Filipina not hold up to others? Nevertheless, the returning Spaniards and friars, talkative and fond of gossip, can hardly find time enough to brag and bawl, amidst guffaws and insulting remarks, that a certain woman was thus; that she behaved thus at the convent and conducted herself thus with the Spaniard who on one occasion was her guest, and other things that set your teeth on edge when you think of them, things which, in the majority of cases, were faults due to c14ndor, excessive kindness, meekness, or perhaps, ignorance, and were all the work of the defamer himself. There is a Spaniards, now in high office, who have sat at our table and enjoyed our hospitality in his wanderings through the Philippines, and who, upon his return to Spain, rushed forthwith into print and related that on one occasion in Pampanga he demanded hospitality and ate and slept at a house, and that the lady of the house conducted herself in such and such a manner with him; this is how he repaid the lady for her supreme hospitality! Sinrilar insinuations are made by the friars to the chance visitor from Spain 81


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concerning their very obedient confesandas, hand-kissers, etc., accompanied by smiles and very significant winking' of the eye. In a book published by D. Sinibaldo de Mas and in other friar sketches sins are related in which the women accused themselves in the confessional and of which the friars made no secret in talk. ing to their Spanish visitors, seasoning them, at the best, with idiotic and shameless tales not worthy of credence. I can not repeat here the shameless stories that a friar told Mas and to which Mas attributed no value whatever. Every time we hear or read anything of this kind, we ask each other: Are the Spanish women all cut after the pattern of the Holy .Virgin Mary and the Filipinas all reprobates? I believe that if we were to balance accounts in this delicate question, perhaps ... But I must drop the subject because I am neither a confessor nor a Spanish traveler and have no business to take away anybody's good name. I shall let this go and speak of the duties of woman instead. A people that respects woman, like the Filipino people, must know the truth of the situation in order to be able to do what is ex路 pected of it. It seems an established fact that when a young student falls in love, he throws .everything to the dogs-knowledge, honor, and money, as if a girl could not do anything but sow misfortune. The bravest youth becomes 'a coward when he marries, and the born coward becomes shameless, as if he had been waiting to get married in order to show his cowardice. The son, in order to hide his pusilanimity, remembers his mother, swallows his wrath, suffers his ears to be boxed, obeys the most foolish order, and becomes an accomplice to his oWn dishonor. It should be remembered that where nobody flees, there is no pursuer; when there is no little fish, there can not be a 82


FIFTY YEARS AGO

big one. Why does the girl not require of her lover a noble and honored name, a manly heart offering protection to her weakness, and a high spirit incapable of seeing her satisfied with engendering slaves? Let her discard all fear, let her behave nobly and not deliver her youth to the weak and faint-hearted. When she is married, she must aid her husband, inspire him with courage, share his perils, refrain from causing him worry and sweeten his moments of affliction, always remembering that there is no grief that a brave heart can not bear and there is no bitterer inheritance than that of infamy and slavery. Open your children's eyes so that they may jealo"usly guard their honor, love their fellow-men and their native-land, and do their duty. Always impress upon them they must prefer dying with honor to living in dishonor. The women of Sparta should serve you as an example in this; I shall give some of .their characteristics. When a mother handed the shield to her son as he was marching to battle, she said nothing to him but this: "Return with it, or on it," which meant, come back victorious or dead, because it was customary with the routed warrior to throwaway his shield, while the dead warrior was carried' home on his shield. A mother received word that her son had been killed in battle and the army routed. She did not say a word, but expressed her thinkfulness that her son had been saved from disgrace. However, when her son returned alive, the mother put on mourning. One of the mothers who sent out to meet the warriors returning from battle was told by one that her three sons had fallen. I do not ask you that, said the mother, but whether we have been victorious or not. We have been victorious-answered the warrior. If that is so, 83


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then let us thank God, and she went to t he temple. Once upon a time a king of theirs, who had been defeated, hid in the temple, because he feared the popular wrath. The Spartans resolved to shut him up there and starve him to death. When they were blocking the door, the mother was the first to bring stone::;. These things were in acc@rdance with the custom there, and all Greece admired the Spartan woman for them. Of all women-a woman said jestingly-only you Spartans have power over the men. Quite natural-they repliedof all women only we give birth to men. Man, the Spartan women said, was not born to live for nimself alone, but for his native land. So long as this way of thinking prevailed and they had that kind of women in Sparta, no enemy was abl to put his foot upon her soil, nor was there a ,,(oman in Sparta who ever saw a hostile army. I do not expect to be believed simply because it is I who am saying this; their are many people who do not listen to reason, but will listen only to those who wear the cassock or have gray hak or no teeth; but while it is true that the aged should be venerated, because of their travails, and experience, yet the life I have lived, consecrated to the happiness of the people, adds some years, though not many to my age. I do not pretend to be looked upon as an idol or fetish and to be believed and listened to with the eyes closed, the head bowed, and the arms crossed over the breast; what I ask of all is to reflect on what I tell them, think it over and sift it carefully through the sieve of reason. First of all. That the tyranny of some is possible only through cowardice and negligence on the part of others. 84


FIFTY YEARS AGO

Second. What makes one contemptible is lack of dignity and abject fear of him who holds one in contempt. Third. Ignorance is servitude, because as a man thinks, so is he; a man who does not think for himself lacks personality; the blind man who allows himself to be guided by the thought of another is like the beast led by a hunters. Fourth. He who loves his independence must first aid his fellowman, because he who refuses protection to others will find himself without it; the isolate drib of the buri palm is .easily broken, but not so the broom made of the ribs of the palm bound together. Fifth. If the Filipina will not change her mode qf being, let her r ear no more children, let her merely give birth to them. She must cease to be the mistress of. the home, otherwise she will unconsciously betray husband, child, native land, and all. Sixth. All men are born equal, naked, without bonds. God did not create man to be a slave; nor did he endow him with intelligence to have him hood-winked, or adorn him with reason to have him deceived by others. It is not fatuous to refuse to worship one's equal, to cultivate one's intellect, and to make use of reason in all things. Fatuous is he who makes a god of him who makes brutes of others, and who strives to submit to his whims all that is reasonable and just. Seventh. Consider well what kind of religion they are teaching you. See whether it is the will of God or according to the teachings of Christ that the poor be succored and those who suffer alleviated. Consider what they are preaching to you, the object of the sermon, what is behind the masses, novenas, rosaries, scapularies, images, miracles, candles, belts, etc., etc., which they daily keep 85


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before your minds, ears, and eyes, jostling, shouting, and coaxing; investigate whence they came and whither they go, and then compare that religion with the pure religion of Christ and see whether that pretended observance of the life of Christ does not remind you of the fat milch cow or the fattened pig, which is encouraged to grow fat not through love of the animal, but for grossly mercenary motives. Let us therefore reflect; let us consider our situation and see how we stand'. May these poorly written lines aid you in your good purpose and help you to pursue the plan you have initiated. . "My profit wil~ be greater than the capital invested"; and I shall gladly路 accept the usual reward of all who dare tell our people the truth. May your desire to educate yourself be crowned with success; may you in the garden of learning gather not bitter, but choice fruit, looking well before you eat, because on the surface of the globe all is deceit, and often the enemy sows weeds in your seeding plot. All this is the ardent desire of your compatriot, JOSE RIZAL

86


CHAPTER

XIII

THE NEW ADA The Revolution naturally paralyzed the educational activities of Ada. The councils of war, the imprisonments, the bloody events af the day fol_ lowing each other in rapid succession, gave Manila a double aspect. Externally, the city appeai:ed to be calm, but in reality, it was working under the pressure of an Indescribable nervous tension, and continuous restlessness. Pandacan was the secret emeeting-place of the members of that revolutionary organization known as the Katipunan. The ideal location of the town was suitable for the hatching of secret plots, and the independent character of the people therein was good material for the effective carrying out of the rebellion. The 'cry of Balintawak" resounded simultaneously in Calooc:m and Pandacan. It took place on the midnight of a certain Saturday, August 29, 1896. The revolutionists who hailed from the same town, captured a platoon of civil guards stationed there, disarmed them, and took possession of the Municipal Building. There was no need of a single shot. Not a cry was heard. The entire neighborhood seemed to have taken part in the conspiracy. The head of the rebels of Pandacan was the famous Lieutenant Miguel, considered one of the most intimate coworkers of Bonifacio, the same man who circulated the rather fantastic news that on that memorable and bloody night of the uprising, the original flag of the Filipinos received by them centuries ago from Queen Elizabeth of Spain, will be displayed by the 87


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Katipunan. Then, the "Katipuneros," starting their "victory march," took bancas, and proceeded in the direction of Santa Mesa to reinforce the Bonifacio detachments in San Juan. But luck did not favor them this time. The Spaniards, knowing beforehand the reckless courage of these Filipino soldiers, availing themselves of better means of transportation, intercepted their march on Calle Valenzuela with a rain of shots. Many fell in this encounter. In Pandacan, are still remembered to this day the means of Catalino Manuel, Lorenzo de la Paz, Lazaro Eduardo, Felipe Blanco, Angel Mu- e long, and Severo Katol, who fell while serving under the command of the valiant Captain Bernardo and the resolute Benito Lozada. The day following this revolutionary episode, Pandacan appeared to be a deserted place, all the doors and windows of the houses closed, although inside of them the half-suppressed comments of the people were almost on the point of explosion. In the school-house of Ada, the worry of the girls can readily be imagined. The little teacher remained calm and serene all the way through. Endowed with that spirit of oriental fatalism and serenity in critical moments, she was radiating courage and fortitude to her students not by means of words but by the spell cast by her confident smile. She knew these revolutionists as everybody else in Pandacan knew them. They were good men. The entire country was up in arms, and these girls were not in路 .danger. Perhaps, this insurrection might end soon, and everything would be in peace once 88


THE NEW ADA

more. So, Ada advised her students not to be excited but to continue their studies. But the Revolution, instead of abating, persisted with greater vigor. The news of the day was becoming more and more alarming. Many men from Pandacan, friends and relatives of Ada, had mysteriously disapeared and rumors were that these people had all joined the forces of Bonifacio. Ada still hoped that quiet would once more be restored, and for this reason, she continued to teach her girl students, even during the time of the Christmas vaâ&#x20AC;˘ cations of 1896. Some of the girls even passed the December holidays of that year with her. But suddenly, unexpectedly, there took place an event that produced a more devastating commotion in the soul of Ada than all the deafening roar of the guns so far. We refer to the execution of Dr. Rizal on the morning of December 30 of that year. Aside from what the Filipino people felt for Rizal as the legendary champion of their rights and liberties, to the great body of Filipino young intellectuals of that time, of which Ada was one of the living militant spirits. Rizal was the standard of manhood, the model citizen, the man without an equal in the annals of the land, not so much for his patriotism but for his vast culture and scientific attainments acknowledged by foreign savants themselves, for his greatness and versatility as a writer and a poet. Ada wept after this execution, and invited her students on the morning of that December 30, to go to church, and hear mass. She was sad and silent the whole day. Then, she understood more fully the reasons why the Revolution 89


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was being fought and why the peace of former days was no longer possible. Ada's friends say that when the Philipine Republic was proclaimed in Malolos, the young teacher was inquiring about the truth of the news to the effect that the new government was intending to open its own university with its coresponding college for women, in accordance with a plan formulated by the educators of that period. She heard that her friends, Rosa Sevilla and Florentina Arellano, were then in the new capital of the Philippines as writers of the staff of the "La Independencia" of General Antonio Luna. Fortunate girls, she thought. She was burning with anxiety and desire to go to Malolos in order to teach in the projected college. She gazed in a melancholic sort of way upon the piles of textbooks uSed during the defunct regime-the Geography of Spain, the History of Spain, etc. So many days and sleepless nights of useless study! But inasmuch as she heard nothing further, she returned to her own classes. Pandacan, like many other towns in other parts of the archipelago, had its numerous fiestas. The Filipino flag was displayed on all windows. Men who in former times were of a peaceful bent of mind, could now be seen along the streets, dressed in the "rayadiIIo" of the aKtipunan, bearing an old gun on their shoulders, or carrying on their hips the bolo or the machete. Bands of music, especially the famous orchestra of the great director, Bonus, constantly played the new National Hymn. It was said that Pandacan enjoyed such a Katipunan reputation that during the last days of the 90


THE NEW ADA

Spanish domination in the Philippines, whenever a visitor to a house in Manila said that he was from Pandacan, the news was enough to make the occupant of the same to request him not to come up to avoid serious complications. And subsequently, the little town of Ada soon found the opportunity to confirm its fame. When hostilities broke between the Americans and the Filipinos, the Republic immediately ordered the enlistment of soldiers, and in Pandacan all the male residents, who were of age, presented themselves to the nearest recruiting station, except one for each family, who were allowed by the authorities to remain in order to take care of the women and children. The town became almost empty. The streets wore a sorry aspect once more. The former restlessness of revolutionary dayes was now converted into a veritable sense of helplessness and impotent dispair in the face of a greater approaching menace. The Americans took the first step by assigning to Pandacan an entire company of soldiers known as Company ilL" of the regiment of volunteers of California to watch the town at that time a mere barrio where five hundred nipa houses inhabited by women and children were erected. A report from the American Headquarters stated that this apparently harmless town was one of the most active centers of the advancing rebellion. An order was given to the Captain of the Company to burn the whole town, but the California volunteers, who evidently did not take their job seriously, instead of 91


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complying with the order, informed the people of the town about it to the end that they might be properly warmed. The people were told not to worry. This Company "L" was substituted by Company "M,' 'also composed of volunteers, and when told to pull the same Neronian stunt, also refused to comply with the order. Why burn these houses containing only women and children?, they asked. It later developed, however, that in the office of the Chief of the army of occupation, there was a diabolical and inflexible plan of action. Company "M" was called back, and was succeeded by another bunch of soldiers known as the "Washington Company" the very mention of whose name even today fills the'old women of Panda can with terror. The Captain of Company "M," before bidding good-bye to the people of Pandacan, told them to be careful of the next detachment. The majority of the soldiers composing it were ex-convicts, and some were Negroes. The people were told to close all the doors and windows of their houses, and to avoid any contact with them. And this military scourge at last arrived. Ada, always calm, was still hoping that nothing. serious would happen to the people of the town, after all. Her classes had been suspended temporarily, but she did not want to leave her Pandacan home, despite the insistence of her father that she transfer to Manila. But one day, notwithstanding the customary calmness of the town and people of Pandacan, even in the presence of the ferocious countenance. of the members of the "Washington Com92


THE NEW ADA

pany," an infernal outrage took place that made the old women of the place shed tears. It happened that certain American soldiers, drunk or merely sacrilegious, anxious to establish a new record of brutality, hurriedly went inside the town church, and finding there a corpse locked up in a coffin, broke this sacred box of the dead open, grabbed the golden comb from the hair of the diseased, and brusquely turned the cadaver around, face downwards. When the news of this horrible deed spread in Pandacan, Ada followed the advise of her father, and she proceeded to Manila. Two or three days afterwards, the town was in flames. The conflagration was carefully planned and artistically executed, in accordance with th outline made at the Army Head~uarters. Torches and cloth soaked in petroleum were employed for burning the nipa houses, together with a special kind of powder for strong material structures. With the exception of two houses, all Pandacan was converted into ashes. The town burned from seven o'clock in the evening to the following day. All the residents of the place. in order to escape from the suffocating effects of the smoke and fire, hastened themselves to the river nearby, with their children on their arms, and their bundles of clothing floating on the water. They remained there all night. Ada, from the windows of a kind friend's house in Manila, seeing the surging flames that burned her house and her town, must have rehearsed in her imagination the blending of the red color outlined against the sky with the red of the dawn of a new 93


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day. And it was true. That day marked the beginning of a series of new struggles on behalf of an ideal that she already knew was definite and undying.

I

I

94


CHAPTER

XIV

FAILURES

of

You can almost imagine the touching scene the meeting in Manila between father, step-mother and daughter, the day following the Pandacan conflagration, when Pedro, Paula and their three little ones went to Manila to see Ada. Paula and Ada embraced each other, weeping. Pedro was as hard as granite under the circumstances. The product of his more than twenty years of patient labor, at last co~erted into nothing! Paula was telling Ada that, perhaps, they could have saved their house from the 'tire had they granted the request of the soldiers for some whisky or 'ne before applying their burni g torches to the nipa shacks. All was lost! Everything was burned-the house, the store, the" pharmacy. For the first time in his life, when he was already old, he found himself in the presence of a yawning abyss. He would start all over again with worn-out tools but then, he now lacks the daring and aggressiveness of former years. Ada calmed herself. That typical Oriental smile was no longer on her lips, but she was unperturbed, and her eyes, still red from the tears occasioned by the recent misfortune, were beaming with that optimism which had never left her even in her greatest difficulties. She planned to open up a school in Manila immediately. She would consult Don Vicente Gonzalez. The latter sympathyzed with the idea of founding a school. He spoke with his brother, 95


ADA

Lucas, the distinguished jurist, and the latter lent a house of his on Fernandez St. in Sta. Cruz, to Ada. Don Vicente, as a first step in launching forth the new school, gave Ada his two children to be educated in her school. Don Vicente was a big-hearted old man whose greatest weakness consisted in helping the needy whenever the occasion demanded. He was one of the most conspicuous pharmacists in Manila, and he knew Pedro Avelino intimately as an expert pharmaceutical practitioner. During the Philippine Revolution against Spain, he and his family found refuge beneath the roof of the Avelino home in Pandacan, and now come his turn to help Ada in one of her greatest difficulties. At this time, it was unthinkable to re-open the school in Pandacan. The old little town was suddenJy converted' into a veritable cemetery. The house on Calle Fernandez, hidden in a certain corner of the Binondo Estero, was small, but it was deemed enough for the immediate purposes of Ada of commencing once more her educational activities. Da, "Garit," Margarita Oliva, Ada's cousin from Pandacan, joined her in this school, and she did not separate from her until she died as administratrix of the "Centro Escolar." Aside from the children of Vicente Gonzalez, the old pupils of Ada in Pandacan attended her school on Calle Fernandez. But times were far from being normal, and the students in the provinces were unable to come to Manila. They were hard days for Ada. Her father was already on the decline morally and economically, and her step96


FAILURES

mother, that good and und.erstanding woman who was encouraging him up to that time, was busy taking care of her three little ones. Ada found herself alone in her fight, al"me like a wounded eagle flying above a sea of political confusion into which the country had been plunged as a result of the change of soveFeignty. Never had she seen the future so dark with gloomy forebodings. All her previous preparation, her 'studies conducted in previous years with the greatest care--the very ideal and dream of her life--that profession of a teacher gained at the cost of 80 much sacrifice on the part of her family and herself,-all of these pr esented themselves before her as sinister phantoms mocking her in her impotence and insignificance. She had qualified triumphantly in the e:x;aminations needed for the acquisition of the High School Teacher's Certificate; she had measured up her industry and intelligence with those of her most brilliant classmates in the different colleges where she studied; she struggled and worked, as few people had done, to establish her school and make it permanent through the media of industry and enthusiasm. And she thought the fight was over. And now, at the height路 of her happiness and triumph when she felt that she wail nearing the goal of all her yearnings, dreams and desires, her Ship of Hope was dashed by the treacherous waves against the unseen rock, drowning everything that she had, including her home. But it is during these critical moments in the life of an individual that his or her mettle is tested. If Ada had not supposed that after meeting the difficulties of her student days, she still had to face 97


ADA

the more serious problems of life with its cruel and unexpected sommersaults, she would not also have suspected the fact that she had within herself an ir.on will that was unbreakable and unbending. Seeing that the little school on Calle Fernandez was languishing in a certain corner of Santa Cruz like a plant withering for want of water and sunlight to nourish its branches and roots, she closed it. But, instead of going backwards, she advanced. She went to look for a bigger house with a better location, and finally found one on R. Hidalgo St. which until now is being preserved. Ada lacked means. She did not have any money, but, in turn, she had that invincible determination to go forward. The Ada that we have known up to this point,-a sweet, conciliatory, tender, happy and dreamy soul,-had undergone a marvelous transfiguration. She still preserved her optimism more that ever but it was an aggressive and challenging optimism ready to express itself in action. One day, a political meeting was scheduled to be held in a local theater, in which the radicals of that- .period, romantic remnants of the army of the revollltion just ended, were supposed to deliver three or four speeches criticising those weak-willed Filipinos who wanted to approved the pact with the new government. Besides the speeches, a stin-ing poetic apostrophe addressed to Rizal, denouncing the abject surrender to the new regime, was to be recited on the occasion. The venerable Don Vicente Gonzalez wrote the poem. The veteran and poetic patriet looked in vain for the one who would recite the poem during the meeting. A few offered to declaim it for the occasion, but after a 98


FAILURES

closer scrutiny of its bitter tone, they desisted from the attempt. During that period, poetry was an effective political weapon. Don Vicente, rather impatient in the face of the prevailing hesitancy, exclaimed : "Well! A young lady read this poem this morning, and she offered herself to declaim it. I thought it would be better for a man to do it, but I see my mistake now. Inasmuch as there are no men who dare, a young woman will." Ada was the young woman referred to by Don Vicente and Ada went to the theatre that evening in her best dress, as the advance guard of the surging civic spirit among the women of the country. She had also a prepared speech with her besides the much feared poem. Fortunately or unfortunately, the meeting was not h,eld. The authorities who were not as yet so sure of the stability of the new political order, upon learning of the almost seditious character of the meeting, ordered its suspension. Ada's school on San Sebastian Street (now R. Hidalgo) did not meet with any better luck than did the one on Calle Fernandez. It was a bit bigger; it had students, but stability was lacking. The attendance of young boys and girls was of a temporary nature. It seemed as if they merely stayed there to mark time. The only stimulus she received during this period was the joining of her good friend, Carmen de Luna, in her rather doubtful and uncertain career. Dona Carmen, from this time onwards, had an uninterrupted association with Ada up to the time of her death when she assumed the presidency of the institution . They are now three-Ada, Ga99


ADA

rit and Carmen. A trinity that is one and inseparable. We can almost say here that when these three women joined one another in that school in San Sebastian, in the book of inscriptions of a better world that perhaps, watches the doings of our little planet, an invisible hand must have recorded the foundation of the "Centro Escolar." Ada constantly saw the one great obstacle to the progress of her career-her lack of command of the English language. She must have thought that this obstacle would be greater with the onward march of years. Teaching in the Philippines, from this time onwards would be impossible without an English language wrapping. Shades of Mang Mundo! What would the blind teacher say could he but come back to the land of the living? And once more, the new and aggressive Ada, once more compelled to meet the test, accepted the challenge of fatality without much路 ado. The newly established government was beginning to open its public schools, inviting the teachers during the former regime to cooperate with the American teachers in the task of public instruction. Ada offered her services to the government as a teacher in her own town. And she, the High School Teacher who graduated with the highest honors from the Assumption College, now plays the humble role of Maestra Luisa. She wanted to learn English, and she found the best means of doing it -by teaching the language. Every morning, on her way to the public school, followed by the girls living in her own home, before the beginning of her classes, she would take English lessons from the American teacher in the same school. Not content 100


FAILURES

with this, she also attended the night school in Sampaloc. And when the vacations arrived, she attended the summer school for teachers to enhance her linguistic preparation. And once more the fiery t emperament of the new Ada manifested itself during these classes. One day, she was attending the class in Philippine History. It appeared a bit anomalous that a few men recently arrived in the Philippines would teach its history to its own inhabitants, among whom were teachers. Prescott F. Jernegan, author of what we might call an American History of the Philippine Islands was explaining the day's lesson, according to his best judgement. Ada was not so much interested in the history of Mr. Jernegan as in the manner of his pronunciation of certain words in the English language, thus taking the lectures of Mr. Jernegan as additional English lessons. The teacher, Mr. Jernegan went on to speak about the Philippine Revolution, incidentally mentioning Aguinaldo as the chief of the Cavite bandits. Ada, upon hearing this, forgot her English lessons and worries about pronunciation. She rose up and protested thus: "Mr. Jernegan, Aguinaldo was not a bandit. Our revolutionists were not bandits. They were patriots just like the soldiers of the American Revolution in 1776." Some uproar took place in the class. Mr. Jernegan became red. He did not expect such an interpellation from any member of his class. He excused himself by saying that everyone had a right to his own opinion. And the lecture ended abruptly. 101


ADA

The future was still dark for Ada. The pet plan of her whole life, namely, that of running her own school, and teaching her own pupils, did not as yet show signs of realization. English appeared to her more and more difficult to handle. In those days of the renaissance of the nationalistic ideals and sentiments of the Filipino people, the Filipino Literature in Spanish flourished, and was effectively employed as a weapon against the plan of assimilation of the Filipinos. The state of mind of the Filipino young intellectuals of that time, of whom Ada was one, was rather hostile to the learning of English which they considered as an intellectual medium of conquest. In her case, however, inasmuch as she was practically wedded to the teaching profession, she had no other choice than to learn English. And because it was not possible for her to learn the language in Manila with the necessary concentration and sympathy, she closed her school on San Sebastian Street and abandoned her classes in Pandacan, and followed the GonzaleÂŁ family to Hongkong where they thought of residing for some time. Ada stayed in Hongkong for six months, trying to learn English. One member of the party died, and the rest naturally had to come back to Manila. Another failure! With due precaution, Ada, before sailing sent a carefully written letter to Dr. David P. Barrows who was then city superintendent of schools, asking if she would be allowed to keep her position upon her return to Manila. Among other things she wrote: "I am anxious to become a more efficient 102


FAILURES

teacher of English, and for this reason ask for the leave of absence. May I take with me copies of the books I teach in the public school here so that I may become familiar with them? If I go, shall I have my present position when I return 1" Thus wrote Ada in October, 1901 to the city superintendent of schools for Manila, Dr. DaVid P. Barrows-who later became President of the University of California-in rather elegant handwriting, and with the siguature: "Librada Avelino, Principal, Teacher, Pandacan Girls' School." Ada returned to Pandacah, and occupied her old post as principal of the public school there, just as she asked Superintendent Borrows. The latter was promoted a short time afterwards as Director of the Bureau of Education, and George O'Reilly took his place. With renewed enthusiasm, and with better preparation for her work, Ada once mOl'e conducted her classes. The girls were perfectly contented. Many families of Pandacan who were getting accustomed of the new order of things, after the return of Ada, sent their daughters to her school. But it must have been written in the Book of Fate that that period of her life should be filled with conflicts. The American principal of the school for boys adjacent to that of Ada took upon himself the additional duty of supervising her work as the head of the school for girls. He tried to do this supervisory work one day, but he never had occasion to do it again. The small principal teacher of girls categorically told this American to mind his 103


ADA

own business, adding that she was as much a principal as he. And because her colleague insisted in his authority, Ada left the class, followed by her pupils. A regular strike of students. The case reached Superintendent O'Reilly who requested Ada not to resign. Ada went back to the school, and after a few weeks, another clash between the two principals took place for the very reason which gave rise to the previous conflict. Another intervention of O'Reilly. This time, with a promise a transfer of the recalcitrant principal, and an increase in salary for Ada. "Don't go away, Miss Avelino," O'Reilly said. "I am ready to give you a raise. I'll make you the highest paid Filipina teacher in the whole country." " And :Ada, still unaccustomed to the newly imported manners in the country, was surprised at the rather crude way of assessing her teaching capacity by the amount of路 salary that she was going to receive.. At any rate, her only ambition in life was not to receive the highest salary while bolding the post of a teacher, but to establish her own college where she could teach in the way she pleased. She went away from the Pandacan School, disappointed. Her plans so nobly conceived were destined to end in failure, it appeared. She even thought at one time to take up the study of law, impelled by her insatiable desire to learn. A friend who was at that time taking up the law course succeeded in persuading not to become another Portia. She was born to be an educator, to direct and mould the mentality and character of the young womanhood of th~ <;ountry. Her mission was great, and her task enviable, vitally important to her people, 104


FAILURES

and very few could perform that task with success. The one who was advising Ada to stick to the teaching profession was Teodoro M. Kalaw, at that time editor of the daily newspaper, "El Renacimiento." Ada was convinced. And years afterw.a.rds when.. ever the directress of the "Centro Escolar" and Mr. Kalaw met, she always would thank him for "that advice."

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CHAPTER

XV

THE "CENTRO ESCOLAR DE SERORITAS" The reader who has followed us from the opening chapter of this book up to this point will doubtless realize the fact that these pages do not constitute the history of the "Centro Escolar" but an interpretative life of its founder. They have been devoted to the life of that extraordinary woman who, noh'Vithstanding seemingly insurmountable odds and struggles without number, made possible the existence of this great institution of learning, moulder of an excellent and solid type of Filipino mothers, daughters and citizens. The "Centro Escolar" then, for our purposes of the psychological analysis of that marvelous soul, although representing, as it does, the climax of Ada's creative geTtius and organizing capacities, was but the natural and inevitable flowering of the same. The industrious and Spartan character of Pedro Avelino; the simple and almost mystic life of Francisca Maiigali, the traditional severity of the aunt-madrina, Juana; the courageous liberalism of Paula Arcilla, blended, as it were, in the heart and mind of Ada, for the formation of her early training amidst the native surroundings of Pandacan, intensified and modified later on by the two revolutions, with the accompanying clash of ideals and principles, naturally must have given rise either to the breaking of her heart for reasons of its lack of adaptability to then existing conditions or to the over-whelming victory of a lofty ambition guided 166


Miss Librada AveJino and Miss Carmen de Luna in 1911 107


THE "CENTRO ESCOLAR DE SEiWRITAS

by noble and unselfish aims, after numberless and difficult tests. We are now at the beginning of 1907. Ada had just ceased wearing her black dress of mourning on the occasion of the death of her step-mother, Paula, in 1905. That was the only blow lacking to complete the cycle of her adversities. Her father, who was giving a definite and final farewell to the varied activities of his young manhood now secluded himself in his small drug store, taking advantage of the recognition granted by the government to second-class pharmacists. The old man must have transmitted to his daughter, more by his looks and resigned attitude than by words, the thought that now was the time for her to take care of her brotl~er and sisters. Up to t)J.is time, Ada was already accustomed to fight her battles alone. From now on, she also had to be one of the main pillars of the stability of her own family. This does not mean that she would have to take care of everybody in the house. The old man himself would not have permitted it. But on her shoulders now fell the burden of leadership of the family. This fact which ordinarily occurs in other lives and other persons, and which appears very natural to the oldest daughter of a family, in the case of Ada, however, it was another challenge to fate. In this country, the girls, on their marriage, instead of feeling themselves free from their parents, are more disposed to help them in every way imaginable, with the approval and cooperation of their husbands who, in the majority of cases, incline themselves more favorably toward the families of 109


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their wives than toward their own. But Ada, at the age of 24, in the year 1907, when she founded the "Centro Escol'ar," was not only married but did not have the least intention of entering into any marital relations. She had her own plans and ambitions which necessitated her renunciation of home and family life. And yet, at that time, those plans and ambitions were still far from actual realization. It was at this juncture that her spirit was rather depressed when she incidentally spoke to Fernando Salas, an old friend and visitor in Pandacan, regarding educational matters. Salas was already a lawyer, one of the promising young jurists of the time, a man of adequate intellectual equipment and moral responsibility. He was from Molo, Iloilo, arid belonged to a family of educators, his father havin peen an old and famous taecher during the Spanish regime. His words of advice to Ada regarding the latter's educational plans, carried with them the stamp of authority notwithstanding her failures in the past. Don Fernando was anxious to lend his help in the establishment of a college. He and his brothers, who were also teachers, wel1e conducting one in Iloilo, and they . thought of transferring it to Manila. He knew what it was to have girl students and to teach them. He had them in his college in Iloilo, which was called "Centro Escolar." "This would indeed be a most compreh~nsive educational plan, Da. Librada," he said, ''we will have one 'Centro Escolar' for boys and another 'Centro Escolar" for girls. We'd be associated, wouldn't we? What do you think of my plan?" 110


TIlE "CENTRO ESCOLAR DE SENORITAS

Salas' plan appealed to Ada. To her, all seemed well. That is, any plan of founding a college, to Ada appeared to be excellent, although it was not new, because it was practically the obsession of her whole life. The only thing that was new to her in connection with the realization of the plan was the friendly encouragement given to her by Fernando Salas. It mattered little to her whether or not her partnership with Salas would give rise to one or two colleges. What vitally concerned her was the thought that "her" college was going to be established at last, with someone's moral support for which she had been looking in vain all these years. The world, after all, was on run by men, and, perhaps, the support of one of them, to bEigin with, was needed, he must have said to herself. Ada transmitted the proposition of Salas to her associate, Da. Carmen de Luna, and both of them with Salas gave an equal share of the initial capital with which to finance the running of the "Centro Escolar de Senoritas." Of the "Centro Escolar de Varones" nothing more was heard either at that time or afterwards .

â&#x20AC;˘

111


CHAPTER

XVI

A SACRED TRUST The stupendous development of the "Centro Escolar" can be divided into three equal periods of time, each ending with the number "7"; the period of its foundation and stabilization, from 1907 to 1917; the period of its expansion, from 1917 to 1927; and, lastly, the period of its nationalization, from 1927 to 1937. If this final and logical stage of its development is not carried out to a successful conclusion, then, we venture the prediction that the Institution would rapidly decline and when, the third dec de closes, with it will also be closed the last page of that educational epic poem radiant with faith, courage, audacity and acrifice. From tHe date of the foundation of the "Centro Escolar" to the death of Miss Avelino, she practically shouldered the entire responsibility for its successful administration,-a responsibility which grew in magnitude and complexity with the march of years, and now that she is gone, the burden will naturally have to fall in other experienced hands. As a premonition of what we call the "nationalization of the Centro Escolar," in the by-laws governing the college, and approved three years after its establishment, on July 10, 19~0, the following provision in Article IV says: "The purpose for which this Corpo]lation is constituted is the opening of primary, intermediate and secondary classes, and later on the collegiate departments, and the teaching of everything wh:ich refers to the physical, 112


A SACRED TRUST

intellectual, moral and civic training of the individual, especially of woman. "For the realization and due fulfilment of this objective, the association will try to convert itself into one of real trust, as provided in Chapter XI of these statutes." Chapter XI of the by-laws refers to donations. The highest goal of the corporation in 1910 was merely to secure a total of P50,000.00 in endowments in the form of "easb and real estate." Upon reaching this sum the college would cease to belong to anyone, and thereupon would transform itself into a trust, in other words into a civic institutiol!l, and as su\!h it would be administered. We stated in the previous chapter that Fernando Salas, Carmen de Luna and Ada, each gave an equal share of money to start the initial financing of the "Centro Escolar." They gave two hundred and fifty pesos each. Three times two hundred and and fifty pesos give a total of seven路hundred and fifty. With this money collected on a certain day in April, 1907, the "Centro Escolar" was founded, the very institution that in November, 1934, when Ada died, represented over a million pesgs in assets, not counting the beautiful and imposing structure on Mendiola Street, and which is assessed at over one hundred thousand pesos, the exclusive property and the contribution of the couragEj,0us directress to the original "Centro Escolar." One or two years before the death of its founder, the "Centro" was duly incorporated so that it might sell stocks which, the reader must have realized, the society was not selling, for it limited the 113


ADA

number of its members to those whom it called honorary, numerary, super-numerary, benefactor, founder, professor, ex-professor, sympathizer, graduate, philanthropist, protector, helper, etc., etc. A veritable forest of names and adjectives to indicate the infinite variety of persons of good will, who were expected to help the institution carry out its audacious plans and fundamental objectives during the first years of its existence featured by lack of economic resources. The expected endowments and donations, however, did not come with the exception of a pathetic 20-peso bill from an unselfish resident of Pampanga. Ten yeaTs before the establishment of the "Centro Escolar," amidst great enthusiasm and explosions of popular jubilation, the "Sociedad Filomatica" was inaugurated, the same society that later gave birth to the once famous "Liceo de Manila." The poor, unknown, and unemployed Maestra Ada must have contemplated with noble and divine envy the spectacle of this intellectual and patriotic hit made by our foremost and most conspicuous men of science and economic resources, who, still fresh from the battlefields of the Revolution and perhaps carrying with them the smell of powder and the herbs of the mountains, and at a time when scarcely the smoke of the Pansfacan conflagration had died, the very first thing that they did shortly after the termination of the clash of arms, was to lay the foundations of a college genuinely Filipino, where they could educate the youth of the land -that same youth who constituted itself an heir ]14


A SACRED TRUST

of their defeats, but also of their imperishable ideals of country and freedom. And that small, humble teacher, constantly grappling with the difficulties of English Grammar, realizing the apparent uselessness of her previous preparation during the past regime, would, perhaps. have laughed at herself if somebody had told her that some day she would have a school as big as the "Liceo." At the head of the "Sociedad Filomatica" were the greatest Filipinos of their time: Leon Ma. Guerrero; Ignacio Villamor; Felipe Calderon; Alejandro and Jose Albert; Enrique Mendiola; Arsenio Cruz Herrera; 짜al'iano Limj ap; nad Maximo Paterno. All these men not only had brains but also plenty of money. And, with the exception of one or two, all were professors. And aside from them, the following eminent scholars were also members of the Liceo faculty: Dr. T . H. Pardo de Tavera, in the Department of History; Father Roxas and H. Magsa.lin in Philosophy; Mauricio Ilagan in languages including Latin; M. Cabigting in Geography and Statistics; Fernando M. Guerrero in Rhetoric; M. Vivencio del Rosario in Physics and Chemistry; M. Zaragoza in Painting; and Dr. Hernando in Mathematics, etc. The "Liceo de Manila" had its days of incomparable renown. Its program, as announced by its first president, one of the world's greatest botanists and scholars, Leon Ma. Guerrero, during the inauguration of the college to the effect that its mission was one of continuity and reconstruction, was amply fulfilled. The brilliant galaxy of edu115


ADA

cators composing the "Liceo" faculty was impelled by their love of country and of youth in their invasion of the educational field. Even the Liceo cadets wore the "rayadillo" uniform of the Katipunan. On top of the pillars of the Assembly Hall of the institution were placed laurel crowns bearing the name of some national hero. And as the lone pictorial decoration of the assembly hall, could be seen a masterly painting of the death of General Lawton shot through the heart while fighting the army of General Makabulos on the battlefields of San Mateo, Rizal. It was a picture nobly executed by a noted Filipino artist, one which, while inspiring respect for the valiant and fallen invader, yet fortified the heart and soul of the native contemplating the grandeur and significance of its artistry. When the "Centro Escolar" timidly and silently started its activities with its initial capital of seven hundred and fifty pesos, in a small house on Calle Azcarraga, formerly known as Iris St.-on the very spot where the imposing edifice of the college now stands, the Liceo was at the very apex of its reputation and achievements. Its first graduates had just gone out of its halls, a daring group of young men thoroughly imbued with the spirit of uncompromising Filipinism. They were a rather proud bunch of young men, conscious of their superiority,-a mental make-up which was, perhaps, an indirect result of the preachings of their professors. And that sentiment of racial pride was needed during those days. On the public forum at that time, constantly thundered the overwhelming oratory of Dr. Dominador Gomez, idol of the masses, expo116


A SACRED TRUST

nent of courage and of force. In the domain of the press, the great "El Renacimiento" was a veritable lightning-rod incessantly catching the indignation of those in power, and throwing it back to them with a more effective intensity in the form of lapidary thoughts expressed in that prose and poetry that from time to time has caused the crumbling of thrones and dissolution of empires. The Filipinos did not have much use for English at that time. They hated the public schools. They looked with suspicion upon all signs of conciliation with the civil government recently stablished. Face to face with the triumphant Federalism of that period, they shouted for the immediate independe ce of their country. The government, however, with th~ silent force Of the inevitable, was stabilizing itself, enlarging its field of action and influence thr0ughout the length and breadth of the Islands. The Philippine Assembly was being inaugurated. The first bill approved by the deputies provided for the creation of a permanent fund to be spent for the erection and maintenance of barrio schools. Steps by step, came the government supervision of private schools. Private school supervision? People asked. And these new-comers as the supervisors? Rather incredible, they added. But the realities of the situation had to be faced. This so-called governmental supervision naturally must have produced a depressing effect upon the proud people of the "Liceo de Manila." In turn, the little college of Ada was rather immune to any action coming from the bureau of education. It would not cause her the least worry. 117


ADA

In her heart and in her mind she entertained the same patriotic sentiments as the men of her country, but she understood more about this so-called government supervision of private schools than they. She was an ex-principal of the "Pandacan Girls' School." When others jailed, because of their irreconciliable spirit of non-surrender, Ada the woman knew how to temper her firmness with tenderness and sympathy, and she finally reached a goal that the strongest of men could only visualize in their dreams. The "Liceo de Manila," with all its immense capital, with all the reputation and prestige of its founders; with its body of the most eminent professors in the country at the time; and despite the favorable response of the people since the day of its founding, showed visible signs of decadence in the tenth year of its existence, until finally it disappeared from the scene. The "Centro Escolar," an insignificant creation in 1907 of a few women without resources and without renown, underwent, on the other hand, a spectacular transformation into the foremost institution of its kind dedicated to the complete and effective education of women in the Philippines.

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CHAPTER

XVII

TEACHERS AND STUDENTS In an old note-book of Ada we find written in English the following: "Dreaming and making good, this was what John Harvard did when, with his few hundred dollars, he made Harvard College possible. The founding of Yale Cellege with a handful of books was but a dream made good." She must have thought of her reckless and supreme adventure, as partly mirrored by the foregoing thought, when she decided to launch forth the "Oentro Escolar" into the educational world with an energy that knew no limits, transcending all the barriers which prudence and discretion might otherwise dictate. The "Centro Escolal'" came to life under the most auspicious circumstances. And the fact that this opportunity was grasped by the right woman for the task ahead, explains the success of the "Centro." The period when the Centro came into being was indeed propicious because the country, which had undergone a baptism in blood and fire, was beginning to experience the flames of the new nationalism. And the people naturally preferred to entrust the education of the children to those whose methods of teaching were in perfect consonance with the ideals of their native land. On the other hand, without ignoring the changed political situation here, and accepting the best and most useful that could be secured from it, Ada wanted the elimination from her pedagogy of all archaic and antiquated ways of imparting lmowl_ 119


ADA

edge, and the adoption of the modern and liberal tendencies in education within the limits of an elastic conservatism. Ada with her experience as principal teacher of the Pandacan Girls' School, and she was the first Filipino woman to occupy such a post under the newly established government, ano. to whom was offered by Superintendent O'Reilly the highest salary that a teacher could have at the time,-knew the details of the recently implanted educational system, and thus knowing them, she did not entertain prejudices against the same. At the same time, she embodied everything that was best in the educational system that once moulded 'the character and mentality of past generations of Filipinos. With t~s as a background, all that this woman lacked in order to triumph was, first, character, and, second, the genius for enterprise and organization. Her subsequent struggles and sacrifices, her demonstrated tenacity and audacity, proved that in will and spirit, she was equal to the task. The first years of the "Centro Escolar" were years of anonymity. A modest and well-planned college. Its limited resources which were not externally shown did not permit any expenses for propaganda purposes. Before gathering her students, Ada secured the services of her teachers first, and their selection was conducted through a process of analysis and elimination. Thus, she already revealed her sagacity, from the very beginning. The members of the faculty naturally had to respond favorably to the educational principles of 120


TEACHERS AND STUDENTS

Ada. This, coupled with the fact that she wanted to have the best professors available, with the minimum of economic resources, made her situation difficult. She did not offer the financial stimulus that a well-capitalized college offered. Hers was a task of creation-not of mere merchandising. Finally, her penetrating eyes discovered what her mind dictated that she should get. In a modest home on Calle Lipa, Sampaloc, there lived several young ladies whose culture and intelligence was the talk of the people of that time. Special mention should be made of one of them-Maria del Pilar Francisco, brilliant student of the Liceo and later of the Manila Law School (Escuela de Derecho). She was the first Filipino woman lawyer to qualify in the Supreme Court examinations. In Santa Mesa, there also lived two other ladies bearing the same surname, Felisa and Dominga, cousins of Maria, and others named Filomena and IJdefonsa Amor, both of whom were endowed with an exceptional intellectual caliber. These ladies were daughters of two brothers, Gabriel and Sabino Francisco, both printers by profession who had devoted all their savings to the education of their exceptional daughters. One by one, Ada enlisted them in her educational army. Maria del Pilar Francisco became the Secretary of the College. Because of the novelty of her title and intellectual reputation in the history of the nascent Philippine Feminism, Maria Francisco enjoyed a national reputation seldom had by any Filipino woman during that time and afterwards. Her picture appeared in all the papers of the al'chi121


ADA

pelago with her corresponding designation as "Secretary of the Centro Escolar de Senoritas." Up to the time of her death, and already a wife of Attorney Villaceran, Maria del Pilar continued in her post at the Centro, that is at present occupied by another national figure among the women of the country, the present president of the formidable Federation of Women's Clubs, Mrs. Pilar Hidalgo Lim. Mr. Salas proposed the appointment of Josue Soncuya as a member of the faculty of the Centro Escolar. Professor Soncuya, besides being a lawyer, is one of our most cultured educators identified with the classic traditions of the past, intimately acquainted with the history of this country and the racial psychology of the Filipinos, he having written considerably on these subjects. With his wide juridical knowledge, his constant advice and zeal, Soncuya practically became part and parcel of the Centro Escolar. He bas devoted practically his whole life to the service of the institution. Other members of the faculty came later on, among whom may be cited the eminent orator and man of letters. Manuel Ravago, one of the foremost exponents of Catholicism in the Islands; Alberto Campos, former captain of the Spanish army, Bachelor of Exact, Physical, Natural Sciences from the Central University of Madrid, a journalist like Don Manuel, and a popular actor. Campos is a big-hearted gentleman who had a boundless love for the youth of this country. There were other professors and instructors, experts in their respective lines. To specify cer122


TEACHERS AND STUDENTS

tain names only and not to include in our list all the others would indeed be an act of unjust discrimination. We mentioned a few professors here for the reason that they were the original incorporators of the Centrol Escolar in 1910. But it should be clearly stated here that during the thirty years of existence of the institution, the selection of all professors and instructors was made by the directress after consultation with the Board of Directors of the "Centro," and on the basis of the following: moderate modernism, respect for tradition, and, progressive FilipinisTl). Shortly before Ada's death, stilI persistent in her intellectual orientation, upon noticing the sudden multiplication of schools and so-called academies of fashion and dress-making, she opened up a class in cutting at the "Centro Escolar," and placed at the head of it, that incomparable genius of fashion, thJt supreme maker of Filipino dresses, her dear childhood friend, Pacita Lofigos. At the head of the Domestic Science Department, is that other extraordinary woman, the mention of whose name simultaneously evokes the home, the children and the progressive influence of the women of the country-Da. Sofia R. de Veyra. Fernando Salas was not connected with the Centro Escolar for a long time. He withdrew his capital. Later on, he was appointed to the judiciary. We said that the development of the Centro Escolar could be divided into three periods, the first being the period of its foundation and stabilization. Once this stage was attained by the proper selection of her professors and instructors headed by that fundamental trinity, consisting of Da. Car123


ADA

men de Luna, Margarita Oliva and herself, Ada now directed her attention, her mind and her soul to the care of her students who could almost be considered her "daughters." All her life, Ada considered the students of the Centro as members of her own family. As she herself put it: "It is a serious matter to confide young girls to the care of unknown persons for one, two, three, or, perhaps, ten or more years. Their care may be defective. They may acquire bad habits and imitate bad examples. Verily, it is necessary to first investigate the persons called upon to exercise vigilance on them." And she adds the following reflection which practically resumes her credo and educatinal philosophy: "Durin~ the ten months of every school year, we do not only try to impart upon our students that knowledge which will enable them to fight the battles of life with advantage to themselves if necessary, but we also endeavor to inculcate upon their hearts the sentiment of true patriotism, the feeling of national solidarity, of union among all the elements of our people so indispensable to the maintenance of the greatness and emancipation of our people. Within my own limited sphere of action, if at any time, I had felt any pride within me, it is in moments when I begin to contemplate the immense phalanx of our students and graduates hailing from Cape Bojeador to the Rio Grande of Mindanao solidly united in fraternal fellowship, feeling in their inmost soul the common aspiration of their people, namely, the greatness of their country; having but one cult, that of their beloved 'Centro 124


TEACHERS AND STUDENTS

Escblar', and for their motto, the inscription written on her banner in letters of living' light : 'Science and Virtue.' " The keen personal interest and enthusiasm with which Ada attended to her girl students were likewise shown in her dealings with their parents. She found time to receive them, to talk to them, to listen with almost infinite patience of their numerous requests, despite the fact that she was invariably occupied with a thousand and one other matters connected with the administration of the college, and to which she personally attended. The report submitted by Ada corresponding to the first even years in the life of the Centro Escolar says that in 1907, ther were 48 interns, 7 half-interns and 63 regular tudents eating and living outsime the school. Some families from Iloilo and Negros who ordinarily sent their daughters to the religious colleges of Manila "tried" the new "Centro Escolar" where Fernando Salas and Tomas Sison were teaching. People of both these provinces knew the reputation of both these gentlemen,- Salas, the educator and jurist, and Sison, the well-known writer. Following the end of the school year, those girls from Negros and Iloilo became the best advertisers of the Centro in their respective provinces. The story of Felipa Fernandez in Pandacan repeated itself. The girls spoke well of the liberality of the tender but firm direction of Da. Librada. They warmly commended the naturalness, the total lack of rigidity and artifice in the methods of teaching employed, the rules regulating the conduct of 125


ADA

interns that made them feel as if they were in their own homes. On Sundays during visiting hours, the receiving hall was like a tea-party scene. The girls would welcome their friends and relatives with the same familiarity and composure shown in their own houses. There was not much praying. But all the girls who wanted to hear mass on Sundays, or to have the Holy Communion were permitted to do so. The students can follow their own religious inclinations, but prolonged prayers during certain hours were non-existent. During the first few years of the Centro, the increase in the number of its students was tremendous. In 1910, the interns reached 157; the halfinterns, 56; and the regular students, 101. In 1914, the number of interns jllmped to 310; half-interns numbered 75; and the regular students, 160. It can readily be seen, from these figures, that the confidence of provincial families in the capacity and pedagogical preparation of the members of the faculty of the "Centro" was rapidly increasing. However, the greatest number of students ever had by this institution was in 1930, when the Centro Escolar University began to function. In 1930, according to th() present administratrix, Miss Generosa de Leon, the total student enrollment reached 1,600 from the primary classes to the Collegiate Departments.

126


CHAPTER

XVIII

STRUGGLES AND CONFLICTS One of the greatest difficulties encountered by the "Centro Escolar" and its founder shortly after its foundation was caused by the very success of the institution itself. From the school year 19091910 to the school year 1912-1913, according to Ada in one of her annual reports, "many applications for intern students had to be rejected for lack of room." Many girls, she added, had to avail themselves even of the influence of some prominent persons in their efforts to get in. During several school years there we e between thirty and forty students who could not be accommodated in beds, and who had to content themselves with sleeping at night on the aisles. The beds were placed so near each other as not to leave even sufficient room for people to pass in between. Ada no longer wanted to admit a greater number of students than the av路a ilable space permitted, but finally she had to admit double the number that could properly be accommodated, because of the insistent requests from many. In her report to the Board of Directors, she l'elated the embarrassing situation she was placed in before the pressure brought to bear upon her by certain girls who even exclaimed: "Put me under the bed. Put me in the bodega, in the kitchen,-anywhere." The enlargement of the college became imperative. Aside from the house originally occupied, the one adjacent to it had to be rented. Later on, with better economic resources, Ada and her associates 127


ADA

bought for the "Centro" both of these buildings with their corresponding yards. Little by little, they had to be torn down so that they might give way to new and bigger structures. Then, they acquired the neighboring yard belonging to one Mr. Azaola, for purposes of further expansion. Meanwhile, the well-known skating ring located in front of the college was rented, and there, additional classes that could no longer be accommodated in the old buildings, were held. And all of a sudden, in the manner of those fantastic mutations that we occasionally see in the films, the two original buildings of the college were merged in one massive edifice containing three stories, and covering a wide area of land. The yard of Azaola must have disappeared because of this new construction. Additional houses camp. to be acquired. One of them is located on Gastambide St., and another runs parallel to the College building toward the end of Azcarraga at the corner of Legarda, and was used for the holding of lect\lres. Does this not appear Napoleonic? But Ada did not stop there. In her desire to keep tract of all her students and even alumni long after their graduation, and with the object in view of extending over the greatest number of students and graduates the moral and intellectual influence of the Centro Escolar, she started the opening of a number of dormitories in places adjacent to the University of the Philippines. Some of these dormitories even served for the holding of classes of the "Centro Escolar University" when this institution did not as yet count with a building of its own. 128


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The financial daring represented by this expansion programme belongs only to men and women of extraordinary will-power. It was the singular fate of this woman genius crowned with the most exceptional qualities of mind and heart, not to be able to retain what she already had for a longer time than was necessary so that it may be transferred to other hands and other purposes all tending to the ultimate execution of an inflexible plan and the victorious realizations of a deathless id~. Devoid of ample resources commensurate with the scope and immensity of her dreams, \vith her audacity as a weapon, and her faith as a shield, Ada waged a continuous and relentless batHe against the combined forces of Chance and Fate, uncertain but unafraid, of the outcome, lilj:e one trying to cross a narrow and crumbling mountain pass with nothing before him but a bottomless abyss. And yet, there was no other way for her to follow than tht' one she took to reach the sublime goal of her yearnings, the end of her journey. We can almost imagine the astonishment, the mingled feelings of awe and surprise of Ada's associates upon seeing her embarking on such stupendous transaction, impelled by an invincible desire to push the institution onward from one victory to another, from one achievement to another achievement. And then, to cap it all, came the founding of the Centro University, one of the ideals moRt ardently supported by the very founders of the institution, according to their own words. In 1921, the first college of this University, that of Pharmacy was opened. Its building was 129


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then located on San Rafael Street. The following year, the College of Liberal Arts started. Then followed the College of Education. These last two were housed in the same bUilding. A year later again, the College of Dentistry on Lepanto Street. Subsquently, the Escuela de Derecho was acquired. A pause. Nothing in 1926. In 1927 and 1928 neither. Ada had in her original list ten colleges in all, big and small. The College of Optometry was established in 1930. But she thought that at least among the first colleges opened, the College of Medicine should not be lacking. Everybody told her that the College of Medicine was rather a big burden, expensive and difficult to bear because of its innumerable requirements. May this college be the cause of the three years of suspension in the opening of I\ew colleges? The gigantic soul of that diminutive woman was constantly accumulating new strenght and impetus from the ashes and shattered hopes of the past. She was measuring, calculating, comparing, meditating, figuring out the right opportunity to give the decisive blow. And the College of Medicine saw the light of day in 1929. And, as expected, the accompanying thousand and one difficulties came with it. A hospital where the medical students could deal with actual cases, was still lacking. But it was put up in a short time on General Solano Street. Almost all the patients were admitted free of charge. The main thing was for the college to have a hospital so that it might function. Yet, besides this hospital requirement, there were other conditions to be met, other formulas to be filled, and the necessary 130


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recognition from the government was not forthcoming for this reason. The students of both sexes attending the college were at a loss as to whether or not they should continue any further. This college lasted four years. Without government recognition, it was impossible for its graduates to take the examinations before the board. And the young students who knew little about rules and regulations and formulas governing private centers of learning, were beginning to ask questions. If, after all, the medical graduates would have to submit to an examination by the Board, why was the necessary recognition delayed by the government? The "Centro Escolar" was advancing with giant strides. That college of women and for women was progressing and the onward march was too fast even, for the colleges of men and for men. Ada faced the fight alone and unaided. Desperately but without the slightest complaint, without the faintest cry, she waved her banner high, and for four difficult years she maintained this college against all odds until its final and inevitable collapse. The adventure cost one hundred thousand pesos. But still, she did not close the College of Medicine. Her colleagues on the board of directors, taking advantage of her illness,-she was already exhausted from the bitterness of repeated deceptions,-took it upon themselves to decree the definite closing of the ill-starred college. When they informed her of the fact, she said nothing. If ever she had been indignant in her life at any time, she would have voiced her protest then and there. But Ada had never known what it 131


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was to be irritated. At as if looking at something from a distance, she said in a low but firm voice: "As soon as we can, we will open again a 'College of Medicine.''' Thua did one more struggle pass into the archives of life. And moreover, what a coincidence! This was not the first time that she had to wage a battle for the conquest of official "recognition." She began to remember the Gilbert-Avelino, or, rather, the Gilbert-Centro Escolar incident,twenty years back,-in 1913. The Centro Escolar which had just introduced the novelty of holding academic programs outside of its halls insufficient at the time of holding both the students and the public, was having such a gathering at the Manila Opera House. The purpose was the inauguration of the course for that year. The Secretary of Public Instruction, Vice-Governol' Gilbert was naturally invited to attend. He accepted the invitation and seated himself in the presidential box. Gilbert was well-known throughout the country at that time for his unusual zeal in implanting the use of English as soon as possible here. That constituted the esseIfce of his program as Secretary of Public Instruction. The "vel ada" began and the Vice-Governor took a look at the program. The program was written in Spanish. Among the twenty numbers of this program, he predicted two or three numbers in English such as a declamation or a speech in this language. Gilbert was disappointed. After the Symphony by the Orchestra, the curtain was lifted. Thunderous applause greeted the members of 132


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the faculty and of the board of directors of the "Centro." They sat down in chairs forming a semicircle on the stage. Ada was seated in the middle of the group as the presiding officer of the occasion. Professor .soncuya was designated to speak on behalf of the institution. He began to read the speech. Gilbert tried to listen with anxious ears. Soncuya's speech was rather long. And what was worse for Gilbert still, it was in Spanish. It was an academic dissertation, an able exposition of the educational purposes of the "Centro Escolar" hand in hand with an impassioned appeal for the freedom and independence of the country. That was too much for Gilbert. The Vice-Governor rose up in such a noisy and conspicu us manner so as to attract the attention of the public, descended from his box with his eyes flaming with fury, and went out of the theatre. The following day, all the papers of Manila printed in glaring headlines the sensational news regarding the indignation of Gilbert. They also printed the fact that the official recognition granted the "Centro Escolar" would be withdrawn on the ground that this private center of learning did not teach English, as prescribed by the Department of Public Instruction. Those were indeed days that tried men's souls, to use the words of Thomas Paine. Gilbert was hoping all along to receive a letter of apology and explanation from the "Centro." And thus a note of warning would have been sounded for the rest 133


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of the people. But, instead of sending this letter, Directress Librada Avelino addressed another communication to the fathers of the girls, giving a detailed report of the incident, as if submitting the same to their judgment. And instead of being bluffed and bulldozed by the American executive, Ada went direct to the people, not to the government, in search of justice and encouragement. . This occurrence, according to Ada, was a real warning that tested the patriotism of the Filipinos, for, after it took place, hundreds of congratulatory letters poured into the office of the directress. One of these letters said in part : "If I had a thousand daughters, I would place them all in your college." "Only one letter," said Ada, "disapproved the decision of the members of the faculty of the CentJ:o. And although one single singing bird cannot furnish the melody of Spring, it might be mentioned that in October, when this gentleman visited his daughter at the 'Centt路o,' he not only retracted what he said but even promised that, on his return to Manila during the following course, he would enroll in the 'Centro' both his other daughter and his niece." The official recognition withdrawn from the "Centro" was returned to it within a short time. Instead of suffering a decrease in enrollment, the number of students was greatly augmented. Either to her advantage or disadvantage, whenever Ada was provoked to fight, she never retreated. Her most intimate friend, Da. Carmen de Luna, once asked what she considered the most salient 134


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quality of Ada, replied without the least hesitation: "Her firmness." She would deliberate and think carefully, and endeavor to see the essential points in a given situation, before making a decision. She talked little, just like her father. But once she decided en doing a certain thing, nobody could change her. If some friend, in an effort to alter her mind, would say that what she proposed to do was just the reverse of the practice in other countries, she would invariably reply: "We have nothing to do with those countries." With this manner of being she naturally must have caused certain antagonisms during her time. Way back in 1911, the "La Democracia," the Opposition organ, levelled a vigorous attack against her. One day, in February, 1911, Speaker Osmeiia arrived in Manila from one of his trips to the South. He was in Zamboanga, the capital of Min~ danao, and our non-Christian brothers of that region gave him such an enthusiastic popular reception that the news of it was received in all the corners of the country with great rejoicing. And the Sultan, to better demonstrate the significance 01 that mass explosion of good will, he presented Mr. Osmeiia with the traditional kris as a symbol of peace, concord, harmony, and mutual help between the Christian and Mohammedan Filipinos. To celebrate this historic event, the people of Manila went En masse to welcome Mr. Osmeiia in Manila on his arrival. Ada decided that her 'girls should dress for the occasion to join the welcoming parade. And they did. The purpose of the same 135


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appealed deeply to her nationalistic sentiments. We can easily imagine that among the thousands of people that greeted Mr. Osmefia, "La Democracia" picked on Miss Avelino particularly for the tar_ get of its criticism. As always, Ada was ready with her reply and counter-attack. Despite the fact that she was sick at the time, she wrote a beautiful letter to the editor of "La Democracia," a letter which revealed the revolutionary principles of the "Centro Escolar," - a total novelty at that time,-with reference to the civic education of its students. Ada, among other things, said in that now famous letter: "I feel it my duty to make it of record, for your information and that of the public, but especially of the fathers of families who have entrusted the education of their daughters to us, that if the 'Centro Escolar de Sefioritas' had taken part in the public demonstration in honor of Speaker Osmefia on the 19th of this month, it was because the eminently patriotic work accomplished by the Speaker, required the enthusiastic approval of all Filipinos. "The public act to which we lent our insignificant adhesion was not political but PATRIOTIC in nature, and when it comes to giving support to movements like this, all of us from the 'Centro Escolar' including myself, can be counted upon for whatever help we may be able to extend. "We did not go to receive Mr. Osmefia personally, much less the President of the Nacionalista Party, but we went to extend our welcome to the 136


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illustrious Filipino who had just arrived from Zamboanga after having accomplished a highly patriotic work. "What we did to the Speaker we would be willing to do to any other countryman who, like him, can show us the performance of a work so beneficial to our beloved and unfortunate country. "We do not play politics in the 'Centro Escolar,' but we are trying to build up a country, and of this we are proud. And, despite the unjust and cruel criti!)ism of that paper, we feel that we possess sufficient courage to continue on the path we have chosen in connection with the realization of our humble educational work. "And, lastly, Mr. Editor, if at any time, the author of the article in question would like to do another act of charity, such as the correction of him who errs, if I be fortunate enough again to be the recipient of this boon, kindly do it publicly so that the lesson might be doubly beneficial to me. For this, I would feel doubly grateful to you. "Respectfully yours, "L. AVELINO." This participation of the students of "Centro Escolar" in civic and public events, has always been one of the typical characteristics of the pedagogy of Ada. This was her original individual contribu_ tion to Philippine education. That was her educational "style," if we may call it such. In previous years, the Filipino woman was always a secluded being indifferent to the activities of the outside world. Ada wanted to transform her into something different capable of adequately 137


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responding to the requirements of a new age, for she fully realized the fact that the present would require from her the fulfilment of additional duties toward the collective masses, a more intense struggle for life under the pressure of necessity and amidst an atmosphere of keener competition. So Ada decided to add another more fundamental book to the ones included in the official curriculum -the Book of Life itself with its Sun and air, its sounding seas, its worlds of melody and song, its highways and by-ways, its streets and plazas and multitudes and cults. There was not a single civic and patriotic celebration in which the students of the "Centro Escolar" did not take part. Scarcely was this institution founded when immediately it held a "ve~da" for the benefit of the "Gota de Leche," of the poor and the hungry. Shortly after the eruption of the Taal Volcano, the "Centro Escolar" was among the very first institution of learning that started a move to succor so many thousands of suffering victims. On the thirtieth anniversary of the founding of the Philippine Republic in Malolos, the "Centro Escolar" students went to the revolutionary capital of the country and graced with their presence the historic church of Barasoain. During the campaigns for the collection of contributions to the Independence Funds, the "Centro Escolar" students also gave their cooperation and they held the highest record among the other young women from other private schools. And lastly, when the Philippine Flag Law was approved, the "Centro" girls were the ones who embroidered the beautiful national ensign and later 138


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presented it to the members of the Philippine Senate. This flag can be found to the present day hanging upon one of the walls of the session chamber of that body. But all these charitable and patriotic activities do not represent the compendium of the philosophy of life which Ada wanted her students to adopt. Life is one vast universal drama of forces perpetually in conflict with each other, of diverse tendencies of thought and emotion contending for supremacy. It is an affair with many aspects, and Ada thought that her girls might as well be acquainted with some of them. Students were not condemned to a monotonous existence. They had their hours of study, recreation, of travel and social activity. One time they chartered the steamship, "Cebu" to visit places in the Southern part of the archipelago. During Carnival time, inasmuch as the girls were very fond of enjoying themselves during this season, Ada permitted them to go together in groups, in decorated automobiles, and in comparsas that even the most exclusive social clubs of Manila might as well envy. But the most interesting feature of this practical education sponsored by Ada is the annual celebration of the "Feria" of the "Centro Escolar," a kind of a I'petit carnival." Ada would say that in giving her girls the opportunity of organizing their own "petit carnival" with its little restaurants, booths and stores managed by themselves, she was initiating them into the world of business where they might learn some elementary principles of making a living. 139


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At the present time there are three associations functioning uncler the auspices of the "Centro Escolar," all independent entities managed by their own members. They are: the "Alumni Association," the "Centro Escolar" Federation composed of all the students of "Centro Escolar University, and the "Centro Escolar Association" composed of the students of the elementary grades and of the high school. From the year 1907 up to today the number of alumni, former students and present students would reach twenty thousand.

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I

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CHAPTER

XIX

ADA AT HOME-DEATH In the midst of all her successes and victories, was Ada happy? If our standard of happiness would be identical with that of the majority of mankind; if by happiness we understand the possession of influence, prestige or wealth, acquired either through luck or through hard, conscientious work, and by which we may gratify our desires, satiate our thirst for glory and power, and, perhaps, even satisfy our secret anxiety for revenge against those who have done us an injustice; then we can say that Ada never knew what happiness was. The fruits of all her vigils, labors and sacrifices were all given away to make others happy. She diq not claim them for herself. Her associates at the "Centro Escolar" still preserve intact her small, little private room near the left wing of the stairs of the main building. It is a modest room. It was there that she once lived, rested, meditated, read and prayed. She stayed in that place, simple and unpretentious, although the college buildings that she had erected were so enormous that a street of ordinary size could not contain all of them. Yet, in that little corner of the "Centro" building, she was the nervecenter, the very heart throbbing night and day to give life and vitality to the marvelous creation of her organizing genius. Her life was rich in love and sacrifice, and hers was one of the noblest hearts that ever throbbed within the human breast. 141


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Notwithstanding the numerous and complex problems connected with the administration of her "Centro," Ada never abandoned teaching, and up to the time of her death, she was the professor who had the greatest amount of personal daily contact with the students. Twenty minutes before eight in the morning, when the High School classes begin in the main building, Ada was already prepared. She would gather before her all the girls from the freshmaR to the Senior classes right in the Assembly Hall. She would give a little talk for a few minutes on the subject of good manners and right conduct, on Sacred History, or on any other subject calculated to mould t\:le character of the young girl students. After a light breakfast, she would go downstairs to inspect the classes from the kindergarten up. Whenever she found that a certain teacher was absent for certain reasons, she would take her place and teach the whole hour at times. From 10 :30 a. m. to 12 :00 M., she would attend to the business of her enormous enterprise, After 1 :00 or 2 :00 p. m. she takes her lunch. She never sleeps during the "siesta" hours. She either reads or writes. Reading was her only entertainment. Ada used to say that any day that she could not read some book, was to her a dead day. She attends to the affairs of her own office, receives the visitors, some of whom consult her even on family affairs. When the afternoon was already late, she would go to the other building, her "Centro Escolar University." Another inspection of the classes. From 142


ADA AT HOME-DEATH

6 :00 to 7 :00 p. m. in the main hall, the students of the different collegiate departments gather to hear the lecture lasting for about an hour. The lecture is generally given in the Spanish language that the Spanish learned in their classes may not easily be forgotten. At 8 :00 p. m., she goes back to her room to take her supper. Mondays were devoted by Ada to conference with the teachers. An exchange of observations and opinions regarding their teaching work would generally take place. Ada always reminded them of the one thing: never to appeal to either direct or indirect punishment for any student for purposes of correcting a fault. Another favorite theme of hers during these conference~ was the convenience and advantage of being able ~o get the best from the two prevailing cultures here, the Spanish and the American and incorporate these two elements into our own. Ada never knew what it was to rest. She was constantly occupied. Even during vacations, she would be busy preparing the outline of studies, conferring with the teachers on proposed ways of improving methods, or else attending to the financial side of the "Centro." And there are the Summer Classes to attend to. Ada, then, with or without classes to supervise, to soothe her spirit, had to content herself wtih the one great passion of her life-books. Her favorite volumes are being preserved in her little room at the "Centro"-books written by Emilia Pardo Bazan, Concha Espina and Fernan Caballero, an incomparable trio of Spanish woman novel143


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ists whose works have gained for them universal fame. Then, she had Don Quixote, two or three novels by Galdos, and the "Les Miserables" by Victor Hugo. Ada was also fond of History, especially that part of it dealing with the French Revolution. She had read many books concerning this event which changed the course of human events. But, above all, she read the "Noli Me Tangere" and "Filibusterismo" of Rizal again and again, with such concentration as to enable her to be completely familiar with the ideas, the characters, and the general philosophy of these works. The chief ambition of Ada in converting the "Centro Escolar" into a University would not be complete y realized, unless in a future not distant, the very graduates themselves of the "Centro" manage th~ affairs of the same and teach in its different classes. This was one of her fondest dreams. In fact, she already prepared a few of her intellectual and spiritual heirs for the work that she had expected them to do in later years. Two of them deserve special mention here--Generosa de Leon and Concepcion Aguila, who, in their own ways, are also Junior Adas waiting for the right moment to show their real worth as educators of the youth of the land. From the very beginning, Ada seemed destined by Fate to a life of perpetual struggle and sacrifice. Step by step, she climbed her way in the educational world, reaping successes wherever she went. But the climax of her career was reached when she successfully founded the "Centro University." 144


ADA AT HOME-DEATH

If Ada had listened to the objections of her colleagues to the realization of this gigantic project, the imposing edifice now standing on Mendiola Street wQuld never 'have come into being. Ada was inflexible in her purpose. She had a certain plan of action and she meant to carry it through. Her far-reaching educational programme was all that mattered. She had given her all to a noble cause, and she would not like to die before witnessing the full flowering of her earthly ambitions-namely the founding of a University worthy of the name. It was the best gift she could offer to the youth of the land. Let us for a moment again follow the workings of Fate in the life of Librada Avelino. During the same year tl).at the first COlmer-stone of the "Centro Escolar University" was being laid, Pedro Avelino, the venerable father of Ada, was dying. She deeply felt this death. She felt that something was definitely missing in her life just as she kissed the forehead of the deceased. Whlle the old man was living, Ada would visit him in Pandacan at least twice a week. There, side by side with her father who was the first teacher to initiate her into the first fundamentals of living, she would feel herself to be the same Ada fo her childhood days; she would forget all her worries, her anxieties and business troubles, and would carefully rearrange the clothing of the old man, clean the floor of the house, put in order the utensils of the kitchen, and the pieces of furniture on the Sala. How that old man enjoyed hearing Ada describe the childish escapades of her girls at the "Centro." During the 145


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Christmas season, Ada would invariably go to Pandacan and carry with her a little sack full of coins to be given to her old man so that the latter might distribute them among the little children of the neighborhood who always presented themselves before him asking for their Christmas gifts. Coming as an inadequate relief to her misfortune occasioned by the death of her father, was the official recognition accorded to her by the University of the Philippines just about this time. Amidst impressive ceremonies, the honorary degree of "Master of Pedagogy" was conferred upon her, but her thoughts would fly from her diploma to the fleeting shadows of her departed father. If he only lived! The ve'ry woman who renounced the comforts and joys of :family life in order to be able to educate the children of other families; the woman who ignored the allurements of love because of her other love for the youth of the land her devotion to the intellectual uplift of future generations of her countrywomen, should never have lost a father. Now, more than ever, she felt herself a most lonesome and desolate figure. For' the first time in the history of higher education in the Philippine Islands, the University of the Philippines had conferred the degree of Master of Pedagogy on a teacher. Ada was indeed signally honored with the distinction. Perhaps on that solemn occasion when she was given the singular honor, she must have remembered the examinations for elementary teacher which she had successfully passed at the old Ayuntamiento fifty 146


ADA. ,1T HOME-DEATH

years ago. Her father, Pedro, was then young and vigorous and he felt happy upon seeing his daughter qualify as a teacher. Following the ceremonies at the state University, the friends of Ada were planning to give her a reception with which to celebrate the event. But Ada, out of respect for her dead father, requested her friends not to proceed with the affair. And the ne>..i; day, with her customary punctuality, she performed her regular work as Directress of the "Centro Escolar." The same routine. The same hours were observed. Five years have elapsed. It was on a day in the month of November. The days and weeks followed each other in rapid succession, but Ada could be seen no more. She was no longer in the college. N either could she be found on the Escolta or on the Magallanes Drive on her way to the Ayuntamiento. Ada used to go out in the mornings after inspecting her classes for the purpose of attending to matters affecting the college. These matters fall 'Under two general divisions. Those referring to the intervention of the Commissioner of Private Schools in the running of the "Centro," and those that had to do with the financing of the same. The Commissioner of Private Schools had his offices at the Ayuntamiento, while the banks are located on the Escolta. That explains why Ada was always seen in these two places. In order that one might know whether Ada was in Manila or not, it was not necessary to make the inquiry at the "Centro Escolar"; it was enough 147


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that he or she, interested in her whereabouts, should stand around Plaza Goiti or Plaza Lawton at about 11 o'clock every morning. Very soon you would see an old Dodge automobile opening its way to a vast conglomeration of carromatas, taxis and other vehicles, and inside this old car, you could see the head of a little women peeping. through its windows,-a woman who could gaze at people squarely in the eye. That woman was Ada. First of all, she would go to the "Monte de Piedad"; then, she would wind her way to the Philippine National Bank on the Escolta, and, finally, the last stage of her morning journey would be a visit to the Bank of the Philippine Islands. She would be there, perhaps, to make some necessary adjustment of her accounts, to make a depos1t or else to secure the renewal of certain loans. From the Bank of the Philippine Islands, she would often go to the Ayuntamiento. The police on guard in the place was quite familiar with her. He would bow his head to her whenever they met. She was already in the Office of the Commissioner of Private Schools waiting to be called. Twelve o'clock would strike. It mattered not. She would be willing to wait. She did not care to sit down. Ada never sat down while she waited. As we said a while ago, on a certain day in November, 1934, that familiar Dodge car of the little woman must have disappeared for days and days from Plaza Goiti and Plaza Lawton! In the office of the Secretary of the "Centro," perhaps, some fathers of the girls would be inquiring where the Directress could be found. One would approach 148


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her with a request for a substantial decrease in the matriculation fees of his daughter while another would ask for a cheaper board and lodging. And a third visitor would request an extension for the payment of his or her indebtedness. The Directress enjoyed among her colleagues in the "Centro," a reputation for boundless generosity when it comes to the matter of reduction in the amount of matriculation fees or of total forgiveness of debts. The student or the interested parent, in a moment of need, would make a sentimental appeal to the :Directress and, little by little, the Directress in Librada Avelino would give way to Ada, the daughter of good Pedro, a man who did not likewise know how to collect debts and who was ever ready during his life-time to clothe the naked and to feed the hungry. If only the banklj could have such gentleness of spirit in dealing with their clients, our little world would certainly be a better place to live in. The Directress could no longer be found anywhere. She was sick. As was always her custom, Ada, whenever she fell sick, would immediately transfer to the house of her intimate and inseparable friend Dona Teodorica V da. de Jose. Her house is situated on Alhambra Street. This time, when she went to the house of Dona leang, Ada was feeling seriously ill. Dr. Luis Guerrero, her own personal doctor as well as the doctor of the "Centro," was called upon for medical advice. The doctor became serious after malting the necessary diagnosis of the case. Cancer in the stomach! The iron-willed Ada still wanted to 149


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cling to life. Whenever Dona Carmen would tell her something connected with the affairs of the "Centro" Ada would smile and gently reply: "Please fix everything for me in the meantime, because when I get well everything would be all right." Ada was in bed for two weeks. Her childhood friend, Mrs. Teodorica Vda. de Jose; her colleague Dona Carmen, the children of Mrs. Jose; those for_ mer students of Ada, Concepci6n Aguila and Generosa de Leon; Secretary Pilar Hidalgo-Lim of the "Centro"; Dona Sofia R. de Veyra; Vicente Avelino and Remedios Avelino de Linao,-all of these attended to her by turns during the last critical moments. The parish priest of Ermita, the Rev. Blaf, was called upon to administer the Hoy Sacrament to Ada. Likewise, a vast array of friends, teachers, students and ex-students of the "Centro" went to the house on Alhambra Street to pay a visit to the beloved Directress. Gradually, Ada was sinking, notwithstanding the invincible optimism of her entire life. She was tired. Tired of fighting, she finally found herself exhausted,-a living sacrifice on the altar of duty and conviction. But she was not sorry. Behind her trials and her fatigue, the grandeur of her achievements looms large. Her work belongs to History. The hour of resting at last has come. To the very last moment, Ada preserved intact the serenity of her soul, realizing, perhaps, even in her supreme helplessness that life was but a narrow vale between the cold and barren pea.k s of two eternities. A little later, she began to lose COD150


ADA AT HOME-DEATH

sciousness. Her vision was becoming more and more dim. Then finally came the darkness eternal. Shortly before she breathed her last, she said to one of her former students, Alicia Jose, the daughter of her bosom friend, Dona Teodorica: "My dear, work and study hard and be ready to offer all you have in the service of humanity and of our poor country." These were almost the same words addressed to Basilio by Elias before dying.

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Secci6n Castellana


CONFESION Dos propOsitos nos han guiado al escribir este libro. Primel'o, homar en la humilde manera que sabemos la vida de una. humilde mujer que tanto ha hecho POI' su pueblo en el ramo de la educaci6n. Ella ha logrado implantar un sistema de educaci6n abiertamente filipinista que, siendo libre de la influencia religiosa. y libre de la tentadora atraccion foranea, estuvo sin embargo en cordiales rerminos de amistad con ambas influencias. Y no solo ha conseguido establecer esa bella independencia educacion I sino que ha hecho de la misma un prodigioso exito gracias a su caracter, a su coraje y a su infinita abnegaci6n. Nuestro segundo propOsito es provocar en plumas mejores y mas aptas la afici6n de escribir biografias de nuestros hombres y mujeres que como Librada A velino han dedieado toda su vida, todos sus talentos y energias al bien de sus semejantes y de la comunidad. La biografia tanto 6 mejor que la novela-y tampoco tenemos actual actividad novelista--no.s parece el genero mas oportuno y practico para nuestras actividades literarias POl' el presente, fuera de la necesariamente pasajera produccion periodistiea. Despues de todo cada vida es una novela, es un drama 6 una tragedia, un poema 0 un himno. Pero la ventaja de la biografia consiste en que estando basada en hechos ocurridos y realizados, teniendo POI' delante el previo exito final de una vida, la obra es de positiva y segura inspiracion tanto 155


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para el que la escribe como para los que la habran de leer. En ese sentido' el presente libro es solamente un modesto boceto. Servira con sus aciertos y errores a estimular a otros. Algun dia, con mas pausa, cuando los hechos y las gestas que aqui se mencionan hayan llegado it ese estado de solidez que el historiador necesita para levantar sobre ellos el arco definitivo de la consagracion, nuestra ADA se dara por muy honrada si puede ocupar el puesto de la ultima piedra en ese arco. FRANCISCO VARONA PEDRO DE LA LLANA Manila, P. Th, Marzo 8, 1935.

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NA manana apacible y clara amaneci6 el Cementerio de La Loma invadido POl' una multitud extra07'dinaria, La vieja N ecr6polis cOI'onada de grises arboles venerables, de blancos mausoleos, de cruces y mas cruces delatoras de su quietud de lago, parecia sonreir, La multit1Ld que visitaba aquel 1ugar de los muertos no era un cortejo funebl'e de los que alii acuden cada dia, carla, tal'de, a depositar en la fo.~a abierta un ata1td mas. Esta Inultitud el'a re11erente pero rumorosa, animada de un espil-itu primaveral il'1'ep1-imib1e, y 10 que mas sorprendiu aun era toda compuesta de mujel'es; de cientos y cientos de t,vujel'es en largas filas, en grupos, en bandadas. Et Centl'o Escolatr sin sel' el diu festivo cerr6 sus c1ases POl' unas horas patra dal' lugal' a que sus mil quinientas alumnas, desde el kindel'garten hasta las aulas de sus distintos colegios facultativos, tomasen parte en esta sorprendente y rara manifestaci6n POl' el natalwio de su Directora, Hacia .~olamente unas semanas que esta Directora kabia muerto, y sus restos enterrados en ese Cementeria, Era una mujer pequefia, de ojos diminutos de un poderoso mil'ar, y en un angulo del Cementerio se veia su blanca tumba tambien pequefia sobre cuya ltipida de mWl"lnol el sol depositaba un beso de paz. Muy pronto la pequena tumba blanca desapatrecw de nVA3stra vista diluida en aquella ola de juventud y de uniforme blanco y I'osa, En la multitud se hizo un silencio que parecia infinito. En el rostro y en los ojos de aquellas niiias se leian la gmtitud y

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el a1nor a la muerta inolvidable. Y mientras dura,... ba aquel silencio se nos figur6 que Librada Avelino que habia deiado de ser solo hace unas cuantas semanas volvia a nacer en el dia de su natalicio repartida en el ser de cada alumna que recibi6 su inspira,... ci6n y guilL a lo l(Jffgo de sus treinta anos de laboT educacional, llena de abnegaci6n y de luchas. Librada Avelino cO?no la iniciadora de la edu. caci6n moderna de la m~tier filipina, ha dedicado toda su vida a esa labor habiendo contribuido con S~L influencia a formar el coraz6n y la mentalidad de miles y miles de muieres filipinas en todas partes del pais. De ella se puede decir con verdad que de entre las muieres de nuestra raza fue por ellas la mas amada y bendecida. C6mo se form6 aquella fructifera vida, como fueron sus luchas en los inicios de su apostolado, c6mo empui6 sus ideales en medio de dificultades casi insuperables, y cO?no, poco a poco, a fuerza de alma, de te y de p?路opia renuncia, consigui6 ver el termino de su audaz plan educacional antes de m01ir, a los sesenta y un a1ios de edad, es lo que intenta1路emos describir dentro de los estrechos limites de los capitulos siguientes.

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1.

IN ILLO TEMPORE ... El dia singular a que haciamos referencia en las !ineas proemiales que anteceden era el 17 de Enero. Consultando los archivos de la renovada Iglesia de Quiapo, en esta iglesia "del Sr. San Juan Bautista", segiin la fraseologia de los viejos papeles alH existentes, hallamos que el entonces cura parroco ec6nomo del citado arrabal, Padre Eusebio de Leon, certifica que "en 19 de Enero de 1878, el Presbitero, Don Pablo Felipe Cruz, mi coadjutor, con mi licencia, bautiz6 solemnemente y puso los santos 6leos en esta Iglesia de mi eargo a una nina de dos diM naeida a quien se Ie ka puesto el nombre de Librada ~'Velino, kija legiti'/1ba y de legitimo ma,.. t1-i1lwnio de Pedro Avelina y de Frandsea Ma,.. ngali .. . " De acuerdo pues con este testimonio de la Iglesia, Librada A velino naci6 en 17 de Enero de 1873 y naci6 en Quiapo. Los papeles dicen ademas que los padres de la nina Librada eran sola mente re_ sidentes en dicho arrabal-en la calle Tanduay, segiin referencias de 103 amigos de la familia-pero que eran naturales del arrabal de Santa Cruz y que pertenecian alli al Barangay No.13. Sin embargo, si la vida de una persona no es toda la que existe registrada en un papel amarillo POl' los anos sino la que perdura hasta despues de la muerte en la memoria y en la vida misma de sus contempora.neos, Librada A velino mas propiamente que de Santa Cruz 6 de Quiapo, fue natural de Pandacan. Algunas 'amigas intimas de Librada Avelino 159


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recuerdan vagamente haberla oido decir en alguna conversaci6n fugaz que ella habia sido bautizada 0 que habia nacido en Quiapo. No 10 pueden pl路ecisar. En Pandaca~ sin embargo, algunos de los mas viejos vecinos que han visto a Ada de chiquita levantando apenas cuatro palmos del suelo, protestan ruidosamente a la mera insinuaci6n de que Ada era de Quiapo. -No es posible, senor! Ada era de aqui,- nos decia Diia. Hermogena de Jesus, Vda. de Moser, una senora de mas de setenta anos de edad, de pelo totalmente blanco, pariente intimamente relacionada con la familia Avelino.-Yo la he visto crecer y puedo aun imaginarme verla corretear pOl' estas calles que ntonces eran muy' estrechas, 0 jugal' al "buga" con sus amigas. Ada era una gran jugadora del "buga" y podia ser en ese juego 10 que Vds. llaman ahora "camp eon". Este conflicto sobre el lugar del natalicio de Librada Avelino promete ser muy interesante al paso que vayan acumulandose los anos sobre la debil memoria de los hombres, a pesar del testimonio al parecer definitivo de su partida de bautismo. Los pandaqueiios no se achican frente a esta poderosa evidencia. Recordando costumbres y usos de hace sesenta anos, creen que muy bien pudo haber sido bautizada la criatura en la Iglesia de Quiapo pOl' algun voto 0 devoci6n especial que tuviera la madrina de la nina y que en dicha Iglesia, el sacristan o el escribiente encargado de liacer los registros de bautizo, siguiendo la f6rmula secular de esos registros, inscribi6 a la nueva cristiana COIIl'O natural del arrabal a que la Iglesia pertenecia. En aquellos 160


IN lLLO TEMPORE

dias en que Pandacan era una isla, una Sultanita que sofiaba al arrullo del rio Beata, era tan facil cruzar la faja acuatica que 10 separaba de Quiapo POl' medio de bancas c6modas y ligeras que pululaban a 10 largo de ambas orillas. La madrina de Ada era su misma tia, Juana, herman a de Sll padre. No creemos oportuno insistir mas en esta sentimental duda sobre el lugar del nacimiento de Librada Avelino. Profesando la tradicional fe que se debe de guardar en los papeles escritos prefiramos por de pronto alinearnos con los que reconocen a Librada Avelino hija de Quiapo. Pero c6mo y porque se trasladaron los padres con la unica y recien nacida hija a Pandacan? Quienes eran y que eran Pedro Avelino y Francisca Mafigali, el joven matrimonio que ahora cruza el Pasig como si cruzara el Rio de la Vida, ella llevando en brazos la primogenita flor de su amor junto a el que mira siJencioso con ojos escrutadores el horizonte, mientras la banca va bogando empujada mas bien que POl' el remo, porIa musica del kundiman que canturrea el banquero? Con ellos va, cuidando de los "balutanes," de los artefactos y enseres de la casa que han dejado en Quiapo para ponerlos en la nueva casa que van a fundal' en Pandacan, otra mujer de semblante serio, de continente austero como Pedro. Es la herman a de este, la "madrina y tia Juana". Juana fue soltera toda su vida y vivio siempre con su hermano y su sobrina. Pedro tenia otra hermana que mas tarde se separo de el al casarse formando otro hogar en el mismo pueblo de Pandacan . 161


CAPITULO

II.

PEDRO EL PRACTICANTE Los que se hayan fijado en las palabras del Padre Eusebio de Leon en la partida de bautismo que dicen que su co-adjutor "bautizo solemnemente" a la nina Librada Avelino probablemente se imaginarian que el acto fut! mas 0 menos grandioso, toda la Iglesia hecha una ascua de luz y las campanas del templo en repique de gloria. Pero no fut! asi. Pedro era pobre. EI matrimonio Avelino era entonce,s una pareja quieta y miedosa aun de la vida que se presentaba ante e!los !lena de interrogaciones en mcdio de la escasez de recurs os en que se encontraban. Menos mal que la fraseologia eclesiastica que tenia para todos los bautizos el mismo patron democratico de palabras, supo disimular la modestia de la cristianizacion de la mas grande educadora filipina con la expresion ritual que hemos acotado arriba. Como todo hombre que no solo ha contraido matrimonio sino que ya se veia confrontado cara a cara ante el problema de la paternidad, Pedro Avelino tenia que poner en alta presion su inteligencia y su voluntad para asegurar el bienestar de su familia. En Manila hace sesenta an os no se poaia decir que hubiese grandes ni much as oportunidades para un joven ambicioso, pero pobre. Sobre todo, para un caracter que preferia ser independiente y buscal'se POl' si mismo su camino en la vida, aun cuando tuviese que ir pol" ello en alas de la aventura. Pedro Avelino tuvo una regular educacion dentro de 10 que 162


PEDRO DE PR,tCTICANTE

un joven ordinaria y sin recurs os podia obtener entonces. Sus hijos que Ie sobreviven, Remedios y Vicente, aun conservan como preeiados recuerdos del viejo una reducida biblioteca que representa las favoritas lecturas de aquel. Segun estos hijos, estos volumenes lIevan mas afios que ellos mismos y son en verdad interesantes por 10 que dicen de las preferencias, del caracter y de la composicion interior, digamoslo asi, del hombre que los escogio como sus lecturas favoritas. En aquellos dias en que los libros religiosos abundaban tanto, Pedro Avelino leia su "Gil BIas de Santillana"; gustaba mucho de Dumas, especialmente de Sil "Conde de Monte Cristo", no se asustaba de Victor Hugo y tenia "Los Miserables" y, desde luego, poseia el "Quijote". Mas tarde, despues de la revolueion, el "Noli" y el "Filibusterismo" de Rizal se incol'poral'on a estas enormes canteras de la fantasia humana. Un hombre con estas pl'edilecciones espirituales no podia ser un resignado dependiente de comercio o acaso un escribiente de alguna ofieina del gobierno, definitivamente atado al sueldo fijo de cada fin de meso La aventura, el inagotable afan de mejorar de algun modo mediante el trabajo tenaz, flol'ecian en su imaginaclOn. POl' otl'a parte, siendo de cal'acter pacifico Ie gustaba laboral' en paz con Dios y con los hombres, y ya que tenia que ganarse Ia vida empleandose, Pedro Avelino trabajo en una farma.. cia en Quiapo. No seria poca la satisfaceion intirn.'l. que senti ria al inieiarse en los nristerios de la quimica, al conocer los secretos de las sustancias que la ciencia extrae de la Naturaleza aprisiomindolas en tub os, en garrafones, 0 en retortas, para Juego 163


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mezclarlas unas con otras para convertirlas de venenos en medicinas. Aquello Ie pareceria al joven practicante todo un mundo nuevo de aventuras que apelaban a su imaginacion y a su inteligencia analitica. Pedro Avelino de esta manera se hizo un excelente practicante en farmacia. Estaba enamor ado de su tra.. bajo. Nuestras referencias dicen que resulto tan buen practicante que sus servicios fueron utilizados en farmacias mas grandes, como la de Boie. Despues, mas confiado en sus conocimientos, protegido POl' e~ uso entonces del gobierno espanol de reconocer a los practicantes acreditados, siempre Ilevado pOl' su inclinacion de pro bar fortuna, d<! descubrir 10 mejor en 10 desconocido, se fue con sus conocimientos y bagajes a Batangas, y a Bataan, lugares entonces remotos para ser explorados pOl' un pobre farmaceutico practicante de Manila. Pero vino el amor a detener las inquietas correrias del joven cientifico. Fue un dia en Caloocan en los alb ores de 1871. EI joven Pedro Ilego a este pueblo POl' requerimientos de su profesion. EI cura de Caloocan estaba enfermo. Le hablan dicho algunos amigos de Manila al Padre Pascual--que asi se llamaba el sacerdote-que el antra x que Ie hacia pasar noches dolorosas en vela podia ser curado pOl' un joven de la capital que tenia su propia formula de un unguento eficaz. Entre parentesis, este unguento preparado pOl' Don Pedro Avelino, todavia 10 emplean hoy y 10 buscan amigos de la familia acostumbrados a su uso y a sus buenos resultados. Vivia con el cura enfermo su sobrina Fran164


PEDRO DE PRACTICANTE

cisca y, mientras la dolencia del viejo sacerdote desaparecia en breve tiempo gracias a la medicina del joven practicante, este en cambio, abandonaba el convento enfermo sin remedio de ese eterno y dulcisimo delor, el dolor de amar. Francisca era huerfana de padre y madre, y no tenia en el mundo mas que su tio, el cura. Ella era de Lipa, Batangas. Mujer sencilla, severamente educada en la religi6n de sus padres, de la misma estatUl"a bajita que Pedro, como su hija Ada despues, constituia 10 que su enamorado galan consideraria en aquel tiempo como la mujer perfecta de casa. Su tio, el Padre Pascual, era conocido en aque]Jos dras como un hom_ bre literario en la lengua vernacular habiendo traducido libros y novenas al tagalo, y aun sobreviven algunas serroras devotas que aseguran que el Trisagio que rezap es versi6n tagala escrita POl' el Padre Pascual. Pero Francisca Maiigali prefiri6 siem_ pre rezar estas novenas escritas POl' su tio que probar coger la pluma por alguna razon, ya que en aque110s tiempos hubiera sido una inconcebible audacia el que las mujeres se aventurasen POI' los campos de 'l a literatura, aun cuando esta no fuese mas que la vernacular. Las bodas de Pedro y Francisca se lIevaron a cabo y se fund6 desde entol1ces la familia Avelino. Y bien. Esta familia ya esta en Pal1dacan con su hija y la hermana-comadre, y la otra hermalla de Pedro Avelino que mas tarde se cas6. Pedro tiene parientes alIi y los pandaquefios Ie habian considerado siempre como uno del pueblo apesar de su empadronamiento en el Barangay No. 13 del arrabal de Santa Cruz, segun la ya cHada famosa partida de 165


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bautismo de Ada. Despues de sus luchas de soltero viendo las posibilidades de diferentes lugares, este pequeno conquistador de su propio destino, mas resuelto ahora pero a la vez menos aventurero, decidi6 plantar su tienda en Pandacan. Manila estaba abarrotada. En ella las salidas para una familia naciente que queria abrirse paso eran dificiles. Pan.. dacan era un pueblo que crecia. La vecina isla dimin uta parecia un botOn de rosa a punto de abrir sus corolas al SQI. Y he aqui a esta familia de abejas que acude presurosa a libar su mie!. Pedro planeaba abrir alli un modesto establecimiento de estanco en donde al mismo tiempo continuaria con su negocio de medicinas.

I

I

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CAPITULO

III.

PANDACAN Los viejos dicen que Pandacan era en realidad Pandanan, el lugar en donde el pandan crecia en abundancia. Mientras Manila se desarrollaba al otro extremo, en la parte del mar, en donde los Raxas y los lakanes tenian su corte a la Ilegada de los espanoles, este pedacito de barrio estrangulado en un abrazo por una rama del Pasig, seria un Jugar tan negligible para la habitacion de personas que los pandanes 10 monopolizaron para si, abrumadoramente. Y esta seria la razon porque un par de siglos despues cubierta Manila de casas y entretejida de calles, pobladores mas emprendedores o mas necesitados se hayan acordado de Pandacan para poner alii su casa con mas espacio y mas aire que respirar. Por el mismo proceso est{m pasando secciones vecinas a Manila olvidadas hasta hace poco y que hoy se estan Henando de nuevos residentes como San Juan, como el Hamado New Manila, como la misma Isla de Balut, en Tondo. Y luego la atraccion del rio. No se podia i1" a Pandacan sin cruzar el rio. Es dificil creer que los espaiioles hace cincuenta anos hayan encolltrado tan dificil el tender un puente entre Paco y Pandacan para comunicar esta isla con el resto de la capital, que hayan fracasado en la empresa; 10 mas probable es que encontraran tan romantico el conservar aislado el nuevo barrio que 10 dejaron asi deliberadamente para tener el gusto refinarlo de Jlegar a el bogando despacito, recibiendo la brisa fresca del Pasig. Era fama que los comerciantes ingleses, 167


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serios y monosilabicos, para olvidar sus trajines dentro de sus arcaicas oficinas en Manila, se trasladaban los domingos a Pandacan en donde tenian una 0 dos casas perdidas en alguna densa arboleda para pasar alli el dia bebiendo y comiendo. Altos oficiales y personajes del regimen de entonces hadan 10 mismo. Y para que nada falte, miembros significados de las distintas corporaciones religiosas solian reunirse tambien en fechas festivas en el c1asico convento del pueblo, donde el cura era un fraile franciscano. Diriase que Pandacan en aque.. llos primitivos tiempos parecia un modesto presentimiento de Baguio. Esto era 10 que Pandacan significaba para los extranos al lugar, para la gente de fuera que 10 habia tornado como un refugio fresco para su buen humor y su buen comer. Pero para la gente del mismo pueblo que alii crecia silenciosamente poco a poco, la situacion solitaria de Pandacan influia de una manera no despreciable en la formaci on de su caracter independiente. Se podia decir tamhien que los dos pueblos, el espanol y el filipino, que en un escenario mas grande como Manila ya empezaban a no enterderse, al encontrarse en un rincon tan limitado como Pandacan, no consiguierol1 mas que agudizar y destacar sus contrastes interiores. Por otro lado, como ocurre a toda inmigracion que funda un pueblo, el isleno de Pandacan llevaba en su alma un afan de mejorarse y de mejorar su lugar, capaz de llevarle a los mayores sacrificios. Es esto tan cierto en relacion COll el pandaqueno hasta el presente, que, asi como para certificar su amor a la musica los de Capiz y los de Cagayan de Misa.. 168


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mis dicen que en cada casa en esos pueblos hay un piano, y los de Iloilo 0 Ilocos para probar su industriosidad domestica dicen que en cada casa en muchos de sus pueblos hay un telar, en Pandacan constituye el mayor orgullo en cada familia, pobre 0 rica, el poder decir que un miembro de la misma ostenta un grado academico. Pandacan en los tiempos infantiles de Ada era una poblacion pequeiia. No llegarfan a quinientas casas en total las enclavadas alli. Lo cruzaban cuatro calles estrechas como caminitos de jardin hechas para recorrerlas a pie, cubiertas de alto follaj"! a ambo lad os. Pedro Avelino vivfa en una de esas callecitas, la mas centrica y la mas grande de elIas, que hasta ahora se llama "Labores"; exactamente alli donde hoy esta modesta pero firmemente levantada la Iglesia filipina. Esta calle pOl' otra parte apunta como una flecha contra la vieja Iglesia catolica que cierra su paso al fondo, al lade del rio. La Calle Labores ha tornado 8U 110mbre de la ocupacion de las mujeres que vivian a 10 largo de ella, bordadoras, costureras, pacientes obreras escondidas t'n sus casas, dobladas sobre el bastidor, magas de la aguja y del color de los hilos, que hacian encajes, flores, mariposas y palomitas sobre el blanco y estirado lin~. Pero Pedro no tenia una extraordinaria bordadora en su esposa Francisca ni creerfa mucho en el trabajo de la mujer para ayudar en el sostenimiento de su joven hogar. El se bastaba para ello, y el tiempo de Francisca era precioso y necesario para la atencion de la pequeiia Ada. Los bajos de la modesta cas a se convirtieron pronto en 169


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una tiendecita cuyo principal negocio, como ya 10 tenia planeado su dueiio, era el llamado "estanco". Iba con el expendio de tabacos la venta de cosas pequeiias como las agujas, los estambres, los hilos y las telas que necesitarian las activas mujeres de la Calle Labores, entre otros articulos caseros. Pero el farmacel1tico en Pedro no podia morir ni ser olvidado, atm en una tienda tan humilde. Y en la improvisacla estanteria figuraban algunas medicinas; asi como el unguento--el "emplasto"--de tan rom{mticos recuerdos. Ada que ya era grandecita, que ya podia COlTer por las escaleras de arriba a la tienda y de la tienda para arriba, era la vida y el alboroto de aquella "casa comercial" que de otra manera seria silenciosa. SoJamente la voz de su padre podia someterla al orden cuando el alboroto en vez de disminuir llegaba a su climax. Entonces Ada forzada aI silencio, daba la media vl1elta a replegarse hacia su madre donde encontraba menos res istencia. Alii, entre cuchicheos y suplicas, la chiquilJa gestiona el permiso que suele conseguir a hurtadillas de la santa mujer. Y el ruido y los gritos de la casa se trasladan a la calle. Ada en su cam isola, desnudos los piececitos, la breve cabell era duramente trenzada por detras al uso de aquellos tiempos, se convertia en la lider de aquella bandada de chiquillas como un monton de polluelos que pian alegres empujandose al rededor de unos granos de palay. Y cansadas de jugar, irian hasta la orilla del rio It. mojar alii sus pies mientras se cuentan cuentos y se confian unas a otras sus secretos imal1tiles. Una vez la pequeiia Ada iba con algunas de estas sus amiguitas y miraba a 10 lejos al otra lado del Pasig 170


PANDACAN

"en donde dibujaban sus moles los grandes edificios blancos de Manila destacados porIa luz del crepusculo, y las decia muy seria: "Si mi padre y ml madre se muriesen, me quedare huerfana y para poder vivir, vivire en un lankape; porIa noche, para iluminarme me comprare un centimo de 'laiigis' y el 'timsim' se 10 pedire al chino. Esto me durara POl' varios dias. Para comer, POl' dos cuartos tendre cinco 'tiratiras' y 'Iinugao'. Oh! pero cuando sea grande no quiero mas vivir en un lankape. Quiero tener una casa grande, grande, con rejas debajo de las ventanas, y junto a las rejas me sentare a bordar. Y voy a tener muchas, muchas Ilaves que las llevare colgadas de la cintura".

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IV.

LA PRIMERA ESCUELA Estos dias de los juegos infantHes y de las correrias alrededor de la casita pobre pero feliz y en perfectisimo orden, debieron ser los mas venturosos de la infancia de Ada. Ni siquiera tenia aun esa primera vaga preocupaci6n de los ninos, que es el ir a clase. Y era la unica hij a ! Francisca no tuvo nunca mas hijos des!'!ues de Ada. Dicen que la educaci6n de cada hombre 0 de carla mujer se divide en dos partes, la que se absorbe en el hogar y la que mas tarde se recibe en las escuelas. ~n este hogar de Ada, su primer colegio, tenia sus tres profesores: su adre, que cruzaba el rio dos 0 b:es veces al dia para trabajar en la botica, y que cuando r egresaba a casa en vez de descansar 0 de engancharse en charlas interminables con los com padres de los alrededores, 'se enfrascaba sin muchas palabras en las atenciones de su t iende_ cita, un maestro de la sobriedad y de la industriosidad sin tregua; su madre que la ensenaba a rezar pOl"que rezaba continua,m ente y hacia a Ada rezar muchas veces con ella, siempre metida en casa COll excepci6n de los lunes que se llevaba a la niiia a Binondo por ser dia de San Vicente, 0 los viernes a Quiapo para besar la mano morena del Senor, 0 sino los sabados, el propkio dia de su predilecta Ntra. Senora de los Remedios en Malate, maestra de la piedad y de la sencillez imponderable; y su tia-madrina Juana que ocupa el puesto de Pedro ell la tienda cuando este esta fuera, que ayudaba en los 172


LA PRIlI1ERA ESCUELA

quehaceres de casa a Francisca, que reprendia y vigilaba a su sobrina en todo tiempo, una especie de inspectorll. de su desenvolvimiento moral, celosa vigilante de su disciplina. Aquei hogar no tuvo nunca lios. Pedro en su pequeno negocio tenia necesariamente que haberselas con deudores mas 0 menos empedernidos pero no creia en pieitos ni en cobranzas a toda costa. Solia decir resignado que "era mejor conservar un amigo que revivir un recibo ya muerto". Mas tarde veremos COmO este principio archi-cristiano de Pedro vuelve como en metempslcosis a regular la conducta de Ada en el manejo de un negocio infinita_ mente mayor. Francisca, por otra parte, no podia causar a Pedro el meror disgusto ni la mas ligera querella. La paz de aquel amor mutuo tam hondo que era inexpresivo, solamente se turbaba cuando el marido que tenia sus nociones bien aprendidas sobre las propiedades noscivas de ciertos comistrajos tornados con exceso, reiifa a la mujer que se moria por esas cosas. Entonces Francisca se poDia a llorar y ahf teneis el maximum de tragedia que podia ocurrir en aqueUa bendita casa. A los cinco 0 seis anos, Ada fue enviada a la escuela. A diferencia de hoy, los ninos, hace dos generaciones, ernpezaban rnuy tiernos a aprender. si se les antojaba a sus padres disponerlo asi. Probablemente para 10 poco que tenian que estudiar, mas POI' el conducto de los oidos que de los ojos y de la inteligencia, el "A B C" de la Cartilla it gritos, el Caton a gritos, los rezos tarnbien a gritos 0 cantad os de una vez, el problema de la edad entraba. 173


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muy pOCO en la consideraci6n de aquellos educa_ dores del regimen pasado. Era bastante que los ninos no fueran sordos. La escuela de Ada era la escuela publica del pueblo de Pandacan. Estaba situada solo a unas cuantas esquinas de su casa. Todas las ninas del pueblo acudian alii. No habia otro tampoco en el lugar, con excepci6n de la escuela para varones, tambien publica. En Pandacan, hasta: ahora, todo el mundo recuerda el nombre de la maestl'a Luisa, como si ella fuera una de la familia. La maestra Luisa Bacho. Dotada de una viialidad admirable, esta mujel' que entr6 ensenando con el pelQ negro y los ojos vivos en la escuela de nifias de Pandacan, sigui6 en ese puesto POl' anos Y aiios hasta alcanzal' a algunas nietas de sus primeras discipulas, ya hecha una abuelita haciendo chillar a ~us discipulas las mismas lecciones, los mismos rezos y administrando los mismos coscorrones y demas castigos sobre las menos avispadas y mas traviesas. Luisa Bacho era pues la maestra de Ada, la primera educadora de la que iba a 8er, mas tarde, la educadora POl' excelencia de las mujeres de su pais. Apesar de sus limitados conocimientos, siendo, como era, Ulla mera maestra de escuela prim aria de aquellos dias, maestra Luisa tenia a orgullo su prediJecci6n POl' la Aritmetica. Sus disc:ipulas, para conquistar su simpatia, para aplacar su severidad aparente, tenian que dominar las llamadas Cuatro Reglas Principales, y Ada, la pequefia y vivaracha Ada, que no solo leia. bien y con rapidez, recitaba las oraciones sin respirar, sino que tenia al dedillo las famosas reglas, se hizo irremisiblemente la predilecta disci174


LA PRli1l1ERA ESCUELA

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pula de Maestra Luisa. Ya vieja y debil, con voz cansada, la pobre maestra vol via en S1, su rostro se iluminaba de pronto si alguien acertaba a l'ecordarla, una vez mas, c6mo fue aquella celebre visita inesperada del Gobernador General a su escuela. C6mo Su Excelencia hizo desfilar ante si a sus discipulas azoradas. C6mo ella, nerviosa, con las manos frias, palida, invocando a todos los santos y a la Virgen, les pedia que ayudasen a sus ninas en sus respuestas incoherentes a las preguntas bonachonas del formidable visitante. En ese angustioso instante se aco d6 de Ada. Ada no estaba alii entre las alumnas. Mand6 POl' Ada que vino reid ora y sin chinelas, ajena a todo 10 que pasaba. Venia de jugal' el "buga". Todavia tenia 10 "kalumbibits" en la mano, y Ma stl'a Luisa la emp ja hacia adelante de tal manera <!Iue la pudiera distinguir fiicilmente el Gobernador General. - Rola, la chiquilla! Y de donde vienes que estas as!? Como te llamas? - Ada Avelino. - Sabes rezar? Sabes surnar? Sabes bordar? Maestra Luisa no podia contenerse mas. Avanz6 hasta Su Excelencia y Ie sl1surr6 mas bien que Ie habl6: - Senor Gobernador, esa, es la mejor nina de mi clase. Domina "las cuatro reglas principales" ... - Vamos a vel', chiquilla, recitame la tabla de multiplicar. Y Ada, imperturbable, con los "kalumbibits" fuertemente apretados en la mano, recit6 la temida tabla de un modo tan desesperadamente rapido 176


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y {}reciso que el Gobernador la tuvo que parar riendo a carcajadas. -Basta, basta.. . Muy bien! Y volviendose a la maestra Luisa, la dio la mano felicitandola. -Ada era la mejor nina en mi escuela .... -concluia "Maestra Luisa".

)

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"LA LETRA CON SANGRE ENTRA" En medio de esta vida feliz rayana en celeste, nina mimada en casa, juegos en la calle, alabada en la escuela, Ada, a los site afios de edad, conoci6 personalmente por primera vez el dolor. Su madre que nunca tuvo una salud robusta cay6 enferma de unas calenturas que ya no la dejaron levantar de la camq. Las toses vinieron despues a acompaiiar a la fiebre y un dia, entre rezos y 80110zos de su tia, de sll padre y algunos parientes, vi6 que su madre cerraba sus ojos para siempre. Su padre que era de suyo de severo caracter, hizose mas hermetico que nunc a durante el periodo inolvidable del luto, entregandose como con rabia a su trahajo, para olvidar. Su tia-madrina es hoy la que la servia de madre, 10 cllal significaba para la chiquilla un cambio un poco fuerte viniendo como venia ella de la blandura maternal. Toda la atenci6n de la familia deprimida estaba en la educaci6n de Ada. La disciplina del dolor que cubria aquel hogar tenia que trascender en el alma sensible y tierna de ]a nina quien comprenderia vagamente que su comportamiento en clase seria el mejor tributo a la memoria de su madre y para aliviar el sufrimiento moral de su padre. Para illli!trar e1 contraste que existe entre la instrucci6n publica en Filipinas hace cincuenta aiios y la que ahora rige en nllestras escuelas se puede decir en primer lugar que no solamente los ninos eran rehacios en acudir a las escuelas por temor a los castigos, sino que las nifias que te177


ADA nian su escuela separada, eran mucho mas remisas aun. Una mezcla de exacerbada ignorancia, de pietismo ciego, habria hecho creer a las mas as humil des de entonces que la instrucci6n, sobre to do para la mujer, era un lujo peligroso solamente reservado para las familias pUdientes. Las mujeres, si eran de familia pobre, tenian bastante con saber rezar, bordar y atender a los quehaceres de casa. Los rezos podian ser trasmitidos de madre a hija sin pasar pOl' el papel impreso; a fuerza de repetirlos y de oirlos desde la infancia, se las pegaba al oido para toda la vida. Las mas inteligentes que pod ian aprender con facilidad la Cartilla bajo la ferula d alguna maestrilla vecina podian adquirir nociones de lectura pOl' algunos meses de tiempo, que es to do 10 que pod ian permitirlas sus padres a estudiar. Y si resultan realmente muy avispadas, llegaban inclusive a escribir, pero esto ya era una cuesti6n muy delicada. Escribir! Para que luego estas atl'evidillas muchachas vayan carteandose con sus novios, sin que elIos, sus padres, no puedan siquiera descifrar 10 que digan en esos gara_ batos trazados en el papel! .Las familias que podian considerarse progresivas eran pues en aquel tiempo las unicas que no se asustaban de la escuela y sus consecuencias y alIa mandaban a sus hijas. Aparte de la separacion de sexos, en el fondo la instruccion pl'imaria,- la unica que se daba en la llamada escuela publica,--era la misma para ninos como para nmas. Primero la CartilIa, que costaba dos cuartos en cualquier tienda de chino. Esta Cartilla fragi!, de media docena de paginas, 178


LA PRIMERA ESCUELA

con cubierta de papel de color, era envuelta en otro papel mas grueso por los cuidadosos papas para que no se rompa 0 se derrita en las manos sudorosas del angustiado nino que tiembla bajo el azote del domine. Con to do eso, los viejos dicen que hasta que un nillo llega a saber deletrear con cierta rapidez pOl' 10 menos tendria que consumir un as veinte Cartillas. Con no menos esmero con que se cubrm la Cartilla, se preparaba y se afilaba el patetico "puntero," el palito que usa el nino para ensenar las letras que lee, hecho de cana 0 del bej uquito de la hoja de coco, 0 de alguna pluma de galio. El CatOn servia 10 mismo que la Cartilla pero era de un metodo mas desarrollado. Era mas largo y mas grueso; y mas caro. En la Cartilla 0 en el Caton estaban incluidas timidamente las primeras nociones de contabilidad, comenzando poria enumeracion. En el aprendizaje del deletreo canturreado se tardaba uno 0 dos anos. Pero ya no se esperaba que el nino supiera leer mas 0 menos correctamente para que se Ie obligase ii aprender los rezos imprescindibles, ademas del fundamental Catecismo. Esos rezos eran el comunmente llamado "Misteria," el "Trisagio," etc. Vienen despues las lecciones sobre escritura en que el maestro pone toda su energia en educar la mano del nino, dedo POl' dedo, sobre como debe coger la pluma. Los entrenadores de "golf" ahora ensenando a un novato jugador como debe sujetar con las dos man os el palo correspondiente pasaria menos trabajo que el maestro de ayer ensenando a su discipulo a escribir. La ensenanza de la contabilidad en mucha parte tan mecanica y tan fonetica como la de los rezos, no 179


ADA

pasaba en general de las tradicionales "Cuatro RebIas," sumar, restar, multiplicar y dividir. EI dominio de todas estas materias cos tab a en general al nino un periodo de tres 0 cuatro an os de escuela, con cIases todos los dias, de Julio a Marzo, de ocho a once por la manana, de dos a cinco por la tarde, con excepcion de las numerosas fiestas reiigiosas y cfvicas. EI castigo corporal en el sistema educacional de ayer no era incidental sino admitido y preconcebido medio pedagogico. Era parte del sistema, una especie de preparacion sarcastica en que se sometia al futuro ciudadano a las mismas torturas que el estaba llamado a soportar mas tarde por motivos mas 0 menos fatales. EI castigo en las escuelas de ayer por los que aquellas se convirtieron en el terror de los niiios, habia llegado a un refinamiento increible. La Dra. Maria Paz Mendoza Guazon, en su interesante libro, "The Development and Progress of the Filipino Women," dice acerca de aquella variedad de martirios: "EI mas suave era el estar inmovil de pie por un as horas; otro el ponerse de rodillas sobre el piso llano 0 sobre granos de mongo; el tercero, el tener los brazos en cruz; el cuarto, el mas raro, era el 'sisid kandule': el nino se coge las orejas con los brazos cruzados y luego se siel1ta en cuclillas sobre el suelo y se levanta, en rapida e incesante moci6n, por una 0 dos horas hasta que se Ie diga basta." La misma autora, hablando luego de los instrumentos mas dolorosos de cas_ . tigo, menciona la palmeta y los tres cIases de latigo "para las faltas mas serias," el latigo de cai'ia, el hl.tigo de peciolo de la hoja de platano, el hitigo de 180


"LA LETRA CON SANGRE ENTRA"

cuero y el mas feroz de todos, el latigo de "rabo de raya" (pagui). La misma autora dice, aplacando el rigor de esta mendon, que este llitimo latigo se usa en "casos extremados." Deciamos que el castigo era parte deliberada del sistema educacional de antes y podemos aiiadir un poco mas; era parte de la elemental ideologia de . las masas entonces en 10 que creian que era el procedimiento mas eficaz para corregir y mejorar a sus hijos. Cuando los palos llovian y la escuela se convertia en una sucursal del infierno llena de gritos de desesperacion de los condenados, no faltaban padres de familia que acudian atraidos por el tragico supar de los latigos, y al encontrar que sus hijos eran las victimas, prorru pian en clamorosas aprobaciones. -Muy bien. Esta bien hecho. Asi se corregira. Asi aprendera!. .. Desde luego que estos castigos no eran ni podian ser aplicados en toda su crudeza a las niiias. Las mismas maestras no serviriim para tanta crueldad. Las discipulas por Stl caracter, sobre todo hace dos generaciones, sedan muchisimo mas qui etas y ordenadas que las niiias de hoy. Y tenian sus clases de labor, de bordar, de coser, que las diferenciaba definitivamente de los niiios en su educacion.

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VI

EDUCACION FISICA Para los hombres de los tiempos que vienen que quiel'an estudiar y reconstruir los tiempos qUfl fueron sera siempre una pregunta interesante la siguiente: "Si, como se desprende de los escritos de los laborantes de ayer desde Rizal para abajo, la vida en Filipinas bajo el regimen espanol era tan oscura, tan lien a de peligros y sobresaltos, de persecuciones e injusticias, como es que los ninos de aquella epoca, apesar de los castigos escolares eran tan alegres, tenian tantos juegos, una variedad infinita de juegos que hacian muy dichosa su infancia?" Las esouelas publicas de entonces que habian totalmente olvidado la educaci6n fisica, encontraban una reparaci6n a esta falta en estos juegos. De hecho, 10 que ocurre hoy es enteramente el reverse de 10 que ocurria ayer. Hoy se obliga a los ninos a jugal' en las escuelas para estimular su desarrollo fisico, dejando que los rezos 10 hagan en cas a a discrecion de sus padres. Mientras que ayer se les obligaba a l'ezar en c1ase dejando que su cultura fisica 10 atiendan elIos mismos como la naturaleza les diera a entender. Muchos, muchisimos de aquellos juegos infantiles ya estan olvidados 0 poco menos entre elIos el "patintero" que es de velocidad y de lucha, el "baticobre", un primitivo y duro remedo del baseball en 10 que se refiere al bateo y a coger la bola en vuelo que en el "baticobre" no es una bola sino un trozo silbante de madera. Y luego el Bamado "bota pan~", el feroz "lakas loob", 182


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el "batakan", el "bunong braso", 6 el "sllmpjng". Y cuando comenzaban los dias de secas, apenas cesaban las lluvias la sarangola majestuosa en I)iferentes tamanos y form as vestida de colores y coronada de zumbadores, llenaba el espacio azul. Ninos y adultos se mezclaban en este deporte. Para las niiias, esta variedad de juegos tipicos era mas pintoresca aun. La pequeiia Ada, por ejemplo, no era solamente sobresaliente en clase, sino tambien en el "buga", en el "sintak" y en el "siklot". Elvocando aquellos dias de su infancia ella decia que su afici6n a estos juegos de agilidad de manos y de la vista, y de calculo, era muy grande. Pero odiaba el "saltang tinik" porque era bajitao Pero nadar? Ada era de Pandaean, una islefia en aquella isla diminuta, y nadaba como un pato. Habia tantos juegos y diversiones en aquellos tiempos que los habia en cada epoca del ano y para cada seiialada festividad religiosa, inclusive durante la semana santa, en que los niiios lucian sus palmas en Domingo de Ramos y repicaban entre rezos durante las procesiones de Jueves y Viernes Santo sus matracas de cana. Y en muchos pueblos especialmente en los eosteros del Sur, en la plaza publica toda la noche del Sabado de Gloria se dedicaba al "bun6" entre los campeones de los diferentes barrios a. la luz de la luna 6 de las antorehas. Y quien no se acuerda de aquellos enternecedores "conejos" 6 peces 6 perros U ovejas con su lana rizada de papel en forma de faroles con ruedas que los ninos arrastraban por las calles POl' las noches de Navidad? Se advierte, sin embargo, en estos juegos ape183


ADA

sar de su multiforrnidad una caracteristica que los iguala, y es que con la excepcion de algunos muy contados, se impone al grupo perdidoso una penalidad al termino de la partida. Esta penalidad consistia tiD un castigo 0 en una apuesta que se embolsaba el vencedor. El castigo mas comun era el hacerse servir p~r el vencido, entre las risas y la mofa de los presentes. Siendo la admision de derrota una admision de castigo que implicaba humillacion p~r parte del vencido mientras que p~r parte del vencedor significaba un permiso abierto para la arbitrariadad de sus or denes, los juegos terminaban en discu,siones, protestas y trifulcas ni mas ni menos que much,liis de nuestras elecciones politicas de hoy dia en que. el derrotado acusa de fraudes, engafios y malas practicas al triunfante. EI"sportmanship" que muchos observadores echan de menos en nuestros juegos politicos, lIamemoslos asi, tampoco existia considerablemente en nuestros juegos infantiles de ayer. Pero ese noble espiritu de caballerosa camaraderia entre partidos contendientes ya se esta generalizando en la naciente juventud, en cuyos deportes introducidos bajo el nuevo regimen ya no entran para nada ni las apuestas ni la humillacion del vencido mediante penas mas 0 menos ridiculas. Volviendo a la pregunta de como podia se" que en medio de aquella vida hace dos generaciones tan oscura y tan sobresaltada los ninos fueran tan juguetones y tan alegres, creemos que la pintura de aquella edad hecha POl' nuestros laborantes ha side un tanto romantica e impresionista. Es verdad que hace cincuenta afios la atmosfera de este 184


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pais se iba prenando de nubes ominosas pero el denso aire que preconizaba tempestad solamente podian senti rio los elementos de la avanzada, los que podriamos lIamar los progresivos de aquel tiempo quienes, naturalmente, siendo los interpretes de la aspiraci6n popular a la reforma tenian que recibil' como las altas ramas del arbol las primeras sacudidas del tifan. Las masas, mientras continuaban en la beatitud de sus sencillas costumbres, tenian todas las garantias de paz. El gobierno de entonces las queria asi precisamente. Los ninos podrian ir a no a la escuela ya que esta se les bacia odiosa, y que jueguen todo 10 que puedan y quieran. Asi es que un nino y sobre todo una nina en aquella epoca, para que se decidiera a seguil' adelante en aquelIa senda t~rtuosisima de la ~ducacian sin ningun gran estimulo POI' delante, antes el conn'ario, en medio de tantas dificultades pOI' un lado, y de tantas tentaciones al ocio y al jolgorio pOI' otro, era preciso que Ilevase en su alma como en una lampara la llama de la vocacion. Ada, POI' si misma, POl' su familia, pOl' su padre en particular, que era lucbador e independiente, estaba lIamada a pertenecer al grupo que bemos lIamado de las pl'ogresivos de aquel tiempo. Y siguia sus estudios bajo la maestra Luisa y no dejo la escuela de maestra Luisa basta que esta Ie acabo de ensenar to do cuanto sabia sobre instruccion primaria. Tendria sus diez anos de edad. Aun jugaba en la calle con sus amigas. A veces se las ocurria a estas niiias "jugal' a la casa" y escogian un rinconcito desierto del vecindario, en donde ponian una mesita, sus platitos y demas enseres del bogar bajo una debil tol186


ADA

da colocada por ell as mismas. Y Ada era la presidenta de aquella sociedad de comunistas angelicales. Ada escogia ados 0 tres de sus compafieras para que vayan a unas tiendas de chino a pedir sal. Otras dos eran despachadas para traer sinkamas. Otro trecer grupito salla un poco mas tarde con sus botellitas correspondientes para obtener vinagre. La orden de la diminuta jefe era que no vayan a la vez para no asustar al chino desprevenido. Y a la media hora, las emisarias comparecian unas tras otras corriendo, hipando, riendo, cada cua) con su botin ante la lidell que abria un saco en donde se depositahan los racimos de "sinkamas" y los cucurruchos de sal, destaponaba un frasco vacio en donde se vertian las botellitas de vinagre. Preparaban la mesa y tenia lugar el banquete mas animado que jamas H yan presenciaqo los mar ardiehtes discipulos de Luculo.

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PAULA Finalizaba sus estudios elementales la pequena Ada en la escuela de Maestra Luisa cuando su padre decidio casarse por segunda vez con Paula Arcilla, del mismo pueblo de Pa,ndacan. Las amigas de Paula cuchicheaban entre SI Y la daban bromas porque se casaba con un viudo. Sus parientes, sin embargo, no tomaban la cosa a broma sino que la dijeron mas de una vez, con toda seriedad, que pensara bien en 10 que hacia. La objecion de la familia de Paula a su enlace con Pedro no era por 1a viudez de este precisamente sino porque, hablando la verdad, sin tapujos, ya que se trataba nada menos que de la felicidad de la muchacha, ese hombre, Pedro, les parecia hurano, seco, muy reconcentrado en Sl mismo. No Ie parecia a Paula que un marido con caracter tan severo no podia hacerla feliz? Y esa hija que tiene, Ada, no creia Paula que seria su rival en casa, su pequena enemiga de todos los dias? Viendola a ella alii se acordaria siempre de su madre a quien ella., Paula, trata de suplantar. Pero Paula se reia. Dotada de un fuerte instinto femenino, hecha de un caracter enteramente contrario al de la difunta Francisca, Paula tranquilizaba a los suyos con un optimismo"en su mirada y en sus paiabras que los desarmaba. Que no se alarmen y que la dejen en paz. Ella ya habia pensa{}o en todas esas objeciones, y ya veran como ella y su futuro esposo y la pequena Ada van a ser felices, despues de todo. Pedro no era hurano. 187


ADA

Era solamente my trabajador y qUlzas poco comunicativo comparado con los demas. Pero de esta clase de hombres es de donde salen los mejorel? maridos para la mujer que sepa comprenderlos. Ya 10 verano Y Ada sera su hija, no una mera hijastra. Se hara querer porIa pequena como si fuera su propia madre. De esta manera, Pedro la querra mas aun, si cabe. Ademas, que sabemos de 10 que puede venir manana? Ella puede tener sus hijos y morirse, y confiaba, esperaba, que Ada fuera la segunda madre para elJos entonces, como ella 10 ha sido, esperaba serlo para Ada. Esta sabia mujer fue una verdadera profetisa. Ada y sus dos hermanos que vinieron en las segundas nupcias de su padre, no se separaron jamas y han crecido amandose tan t iernamente como no 10 habrian hecho entre si muchos hermanos de padre y madre. La profecia de Paula se cum plio pOl'que aquella sagaz esposa cumplio al pie de la letra con su programa de amor y de vida dentro de la nueva familia. Muchas veces habia una acalorada discusi6n en casa entre Paula y Juana. La tia-madrina apegada, como era de esperar, a las rigidas practicas establecidas acerca del cui dado de Ada, tenia que encontrarse con la amplitud de criterio de la madrasta liberal. Pedro mismo estaba cambiado, con gran sorpresa de su hermana. Fueron estos dias n1emorables trascendentales para la vida de Ada. Ella frisaria ya en los once afios; Maestra Luisa ya no tenia mucho que enseiiar a la inteligente disci pula y aquella libertad discreta, aquel ambiente simpatizador, mezcla de fe, de optimismo y de risuefio reto al porvenir, Ie hicieron a ella mu188


PAULA

cho bien. En 108 umbrales de la doncellez, el juicio en plena alborada luminosa, puesta la pequeiia Ada en el delicado cruce de los caminos para que su instinto adivine La senda de su propio destino, aquella liberalidad de Paula, repetimos, para con ella y para toda su casa, fue como una ventana de par en par abierta POl' donde entraron el aire fresco y la luz que llenaron su inocente alma de vision y de perspectiva. Deciamos en uno de los capitulos anteriores que los maestros de Ada en su primera escuela que era su hogar, eran su padre, su madre y su tia madrina, la trilogia del trabajo, de la piedad y del caracter. Pero esto, para la formacion de la- futura educadora, solo representaba la discjplina interior. Le faltaba la simpatia humana, es talisman imprescindible para compren del' las dificultades de la vida hasta llegar a conquistarlas, y Paula villo para completar aquel magnifico cuadro de inconscientes padagogos. Juana no dio su brazo a torcer tan facilmente en su empeno de mantener a la pequeiia Ada bajo la severidad de sus normas pOl' encima de la sOllriente tolerancia de Paula. La ultima y definitiva lucha entre estas dos influencias tuvo lugar cuando Ada, viniendo de una de sus frecuentes visitas a Manila, conto a su tiamadrilla 째los encantos de la nueva moda que llamaban la "Paloma." En aquellos dias las ninas POl' un prurito exagerado de pudor, eran vestidas de camisa y saya POl' sus padres un ano 0 dos antes de la pubertad. Ada venia a contar a la tia Juana que la"Paloma" era un corte nuevo y mas bonito porque la falda llevaba BU cola y no a modo de una sotana 189


ADA

y la camisa, ay, la camisa, tia!, la camisa ya no lleva los brazos "pitis," esos "punos" tan horribles, sino que son unas mangas mas ancha~, mas elegantes, mas frescas... La viej a madrina, al oir a su sobrina describir entusiasmada la nueva moda que debia ser una nueva invenci6n del diablo, la reprendio escandalizada. Paula que oia el dialogo desde el cuarto contiguo, sin dejar de sonreir, se fu!! abajo a hablar con su marido en la tienda y alli mismo decidieron los esposos que Ada tuviese su terno de "Paloma" para ponerselo en el dia de la fiesta del pueblo, que se aproximaba. Cuando Juana vio a su sobrina dias despues elegantemente vestid a a la "Paloma," agitando sobre el sene su gran abanico de raso sonriendose ante ella como pidiendo su indulgencia ante el hecho consumado, la pobre vieja no pudo menos de devolver la sonrisa y, acercandose a Ada, todavia Ie arregl6 los graciosos pliegues de aquellas llamadas mangas anchas. Con No esta mal. Y Ada que esto era la "Paloma"! esta muy bien con el traje. Pero cuidado con alzar mucho los brazos, que ya no estan cerrados como antes! DesOe este incidente del traje, la ultima linea de resistencia de Juana a un mas amplio desenvolvimiento moral de su sobrina, estaba tomada. Y Ada, probablemente, desde que se puso el terno innovador, senti ria en su alma esa inefable sensaci6n del propio valor que sienten los graduados al verse envueltos en su toga en el dia solemne de su graduaci6n.

190


CAPITULO

VIII

PREP ARACION

Pocas vidas en general, aun l:ebasando los linderos nacionales, pueden igualar a la de Librada Avelino en cuanto se refiere ala devocion a un proposito. Sesenta y un aflos duro su vida y cada uno de esos aflos des de que tuvo uso de razon, acariciando con el puntero el ABC de la Cartilla, fue dedicado al unico fin, a la unica razon de su existencia. No forma hogar, no tanteo ni ell sa yo otras actividades, no entretuvo a la Ilusion con parlamentos frivol os sobre las mil cosas que una mujer inteligente y capaz puede desear. Puntiaguda y precisa la vida de Ada fue como una flecha disparada contra el Ideal. Sus ultimos dias, digamoslo asi, bajo la ferula de Maestra Luisa en la escuela, con el encantador estimulo de su madrasta y de su padre en casa, fneron dias voraces e insaciables de estudio. La instruccion primaria recibida de su vieja maestra en vez de satisfacerla no hizo mas que provocar en su inteligencia una gran sed de aprender. Maestra Luisa la habia iniciado en las 110ciones del "Monitor," en los rudimentos de la Geografia, de la Aritmetica-mas alla de las "Cuatro Reglas"-de la Gramatica Castellana, de la Ciencia Domestica, y POl' via de lectura tenia "La Ciencia de la Mujer," HEI Trovador de la Niflez," este Ultimo libro hecho de versos para enseiiar al nHio a declamar y despertar en ella aficion literaria. Habia en Pandacan en aquel tiempo un personaje popular muy conocido y al que viejos y jovenes 191


ADA miraban con respeto por su fama de conocer mejor que nadie en el pueblo la Gramatica Castellana. Sf.' llamaba Mang Mundo, Fermin Raymundo. La admiraci6n del pueblo hacia Mang Mundo era tanto mas justificada cuanto que el viejo gramatico que l'ecitaba las reglas de la sintaxis y aclaraba los vericuetos de los verb os irregulares con asombrosa certitud, era totalmente ciego. Ada tom6 lecciones de Mang Mundo y debieron de ser en realidad, tan positivos los conocimientos gramaticales del venerable maestro que aun mas tarde, estudiando en las escuelas de Manila, todavia seguia visitandole para la solucion de algunas de sus dificiles lecciones. Pero si Pandacan estaba orgulloso de su extraordinaria gramatico Mang Mundo, todavia 't enia otro orgullo mas, una prominencia mucho mayor, el eco de cuya fama Uegaba a todas partes. Nos referimos al inolvidable Ladislao Bonus, el musico, compositor y director, muchas de cuyas piezas musicales aun 10 conservan nuestros mas devotos cultores del divino arte. A Pandacan iban los musicos y aficionados de Manila para consultar con el buscadisimo Mang Islao, para con tar con su cooperaci6n en algun concierto, para orquestar una compoSIClOn. Algunos recuerdan que Rizal admirador del talento artistico de Bonus se habia ido a verle en Pandacan, para musical' una poesia de su composiCIOn, Y Ada con la misma sed de saber, de estudial', de perfeccionarse, en el vago pero persistente presentimiento de su misi6n educadora tom6 lecciones de musica bajo el notable artista. 1,0 que pocos saben, aun de entre las intimas amigas de Ada en vida, es que ella era una buena pianista, conocia 192


PREPA.RAClON

y gustaba intimamente de la musica. Su amor a este arle era tan delicado, casi religioso, que jamas consinti6 expresar su culto al mismo delante de extrafios. Diriase que tenia en el piano no un instrumento para poblar de armonias el espacio y procIamar su pericia de ejecutante, sino como un confidente a quien comunicaba a solas los secretos de su corazon. Ladislao Bonus tenia su casa en Pandacan converlida en un natural consel'vatorio de musica. Las compaiiias de opera italianas que de vez en cuando venian a Manila, pl'ovocando una enorme sensacion en aquel reducido mundo social, tenian que contar con Bonus para completar su ol'questa, sus coros. El genial maestro, incansable en sus audacias artisticas, llego inclusive a form,al' una orquesta toda compuesta de mujeres que el'a la admiraci6n de cuantos la oian, la atracci6n en toda fiesta. Por esta razon tan bella y por el hecho de que Pandacan era una islita al que se llegaba en bancas, los espafioles Ie confirieron al pueblo el mel'ecido titulo de "pequefia Venecia". Pandacan, el viejo y querido pueblo, ya habla dado de si todo 10 que podia dar a su pequeiia Ada, y Ada de esta manera prolijamente preparada, se disponia a estudiar en la ciudad misma. Viniendo de las manos de Maestra Luisa, se podria comprender que su natl11路al tendencia en Manila seria, para continuar sus estudios, escoger alguna escuela municipal con plan mas avanzado de ensefianza. Hoy dia, aparte de las grandes escuelas primarias e intermedias, en cad a arrabal de la ciudad se levanta una monumental high school, pe193


ADA

ro en los modestos dias de Ada toda esta bateria de escuelas era solamente representada por una que hoy no pasaria de escuelita municipal en cada distrito. Asi y todo aquellas escuelas municipales de Manila representaban 10 mejor que podia dar el sistema de instruccion publica del regimen pasado. La ensenanza en ell as era mas cuidadosa, mejor supervisada y los maestros y las maestras estaban mejor preparados. Ada, por las buenas referencias que habia oido, escogio la escuela de Santa Cruz en don de ensefiaba la piadosa maestra Emiliana Claro. Estaria aqui estudiando por un ano mas 0 men os. Da. Emiliana era una soltera ya bastante entrada en afios, fa~osa entre los padres de sus discipulas POl' su gran religiosidad. Su favorito castigo para las faltas de sus alumnas era el rezo en sus diferentes variedades, como las penitencias que los sacerdotes imponen en la confesion. Ult~mamente, la Maestra Emiliana llevada de su fervoroso misticismo penso inclusiye en dejar el mundo vistiendo el habito de monja. Ada, si era consciente, siquiera vagamente, del destino de su vida, no podia persistir en la escuela de Maestra Emiliana. Su horizOllte alii parecia muy limitado. Y se traslado Ii otra escuela que iba Ii influir distintamente, afios mas tarde, en su ideario pedagogico liberal. Esta escuela era la de Da. Margarita Lopez, en Tondo.

194


CAPITULO

IX

MARGARITA LOPEZ De cad a mil personas que conozcan el nombre de la fundadora del Centro Escolar y sepan de su labor educacional, apenas habra uno que no crea que Librada AveJino no haya hecho sus estudios en algun colegio de reJigiosas de los mas gran des que hasta ahora subsisten en Manila. Contemplando el imponente edificio levantado en la punta de la Calle Azcarraga y volviendo la cabeza para ver, al otro lado del Puente Mendiola, el gracioso perfil de la mole del Cenfro Escolar University, uno puede caeI' facilmente victima de una enganosa asociacion de ideas. Esos enormes monumentos a la instruccion femenina a donde acuden miles de hijas de familias filipinas venidas de todas partes del pais no habran sido creados por una mujer que en su juventud tambien debio haber recibido su educacion de otra institucion parecida? Sin embargo, Ada, desde que empezo con el abecedario hasta que abrio su primer pequeno colegio en Pandacan, hizo todos sus estudios en las escuelas publicas. Resulta hoy curioso recordar como en los primeros anos del desarrollo de la actual instruccion publica era el mayor orgullo de un joven, satisfecho de si mismo, el poder decir a todo el mundo que el era un producto de las escuelas pllblicas. Esto valia tanto como decir que el era la flor de la nueva democracia y su instruccion la esencia de 10 mejor que el pueblo podia dar a sus hijos POl' medio de las escuelas. Este timbre de gloria, sin embargo, que of us cab a al principio y 10 lucian tantos, quedo poco 195


ADA

a poco deslustrandose a medida que se multiplicaban las escuelas privadas fundadas POl' los mismos que preciaban muy alto el haber recibido su educaci6n de las escuelas publicas. El mismo fenomeno se registraba en la generaci6n de Ada hace cincuenta aiios. No podian los pobres jO\'enes de aquellos tiempos ufanarse de su excelso origen, es decir, de haber sido form ados en las escuelas publicas siquira porque los palos que alli recibian no pod ian constituir motivo de orgullo. Pero de todas modos, los mas sobresalientes de ellos, terminados sus estudios cedian a. la consabida tentaci6n de abrir su propia escuela. Esto de las escuelas privadas es un fenomeno peculiar y tipico en nuestro pais. Durante el regimen espaiiol la escuela privada era de aparente necesidad ya que aquel gobierno era muy tacaiio en multiplicarlas a sus expensas; en la densidad de aquellas tinieblas toda vela que se encendiese, no importa cuan pequeiia, servia en algo para atenuar la oscuridad ambiente. Pero en los dias contempol'aneos en que el nuevo gobiemo invierte casi la mitad de sus presupuestos en la instrucci6n publica pal'ece inexplicable que este fenomeno de las escuelas privadas, en vez de disminuir, se agrande. Sera pOl'que mientras dure en el pais un regimen impuesto, el pueblo continual'll. abrigando sus dudas y recelos ace rca del sistema educacional que el no 10 ha hecho ni 10 ha escogido sino que se 10 impusieron solamellte? Sera pOl-que el amor de los padres filipinos a sus hijos es tan raro y singular que prefiriran siempre que puedan, mandarlos a las escuelas 196


MARGARITA LOPEZ

privadas donde creen que estaran mejor cuidados cueste.lo que les cueste este prurito? Como habiamos dicho, Ada no ingres6 en ningun colegio local de religiosas para su educaci6n. En el veraadero sentido de la palabra, no probo nunca la vida de una colegiala. Ella agot6 toda la instrucci6n que en las escuelas publicas de su tiempo se podia absorber. EI grado maximo, el summum de la educaci6n mas avanzada en dichas escuelas era el magisterio-Ia ambici6n de su vida, el iman de todas sus actividades-y para perseguir10 y alcanzarlo Ada renunci6 a los llamados colegios con su internado donde estaban sus amigas y apesar de la buena voluntad de su madrasta que la animaba a ingresar en Santa Rosa 6 en Concordia. Audazmente, vislumbr6 la insospechada verdad. EI lagisterio que era la ilusion de su joven corazon y que casualmente era la unica profesi6n reconocida y garantida por el gobierno para las mujeres de entonces, no podia aprenderse tan bien dentro de un semi-con vento religioso en donde las educandas parecian unas aspirantes a monjas, como fuera, al aire libre, adquiriendo desde los inicios de su preparaci6n los habitos de lucha, la noci6n del sent.imiento publico. Pero, por otra parte, Ada no dejaba de reconocer las ventajas de la educaci6n mas refinada que en las escuelas religiosas se daba a -las niiias. Ella comprendia las limitaciones de las escuelas publicas, 10 rudimentario de su metodo, y habra sido una constante pregunta que bulJia en su tierno cerebro como hallar la formula de enlazar la educaci6n ideal de la mujer, la vigorosa y sana sencillez de la escuela del pueblo con In 197


ADA gentil distincion que Jos coJegios reJigiosos imbuian en sus aJumnas. EJ dia en que Ada ingreso en Ja escueJa privada de Da. Margarita Lopez encontr6 Ja soJucion aJ probJema que eJJa misma se habia pJanteado. La escueJa de Da. Margarita Lopez estaba en Tondo, hacia Ja punta que da aJ mar de Ja CaJJe Azcarraga. Precisamente aJ otro extremo de esa calle Jarga esta hoy eJ Centro EscoJar. Da. Margarita Lopez mantenia 10 que hoy lIamariamos un Dormitorio. Pero era un Dormitorio-CoJegio, digno y original. Se trataba de una casa palacial, grande{ en donde ella era la directora, la inspectora, Ja resp'etabJe encargada de la ed'ucaci6n de mas de treinta nifias venidas de diferentes provincias puestas alii por sus respectivos padres-porque tenian confiafua en Da. Margarita-para terminar sus estudios pre aratorios para el examen de maestra. Da. Margarita era una mujer alta, gruesa, de buena estampa. Era muy culta. Tenia consigo a varias maestras auxiliares y una de elias que aun vive, laO Sra. Da. Ignacia V da. de Pineda, es un admirable ejempJar de aquella genera cion intelectual femenina que a Jos setenta afios de edad aun cOl1serva Ja presteza mentaJ y las afabilisimas maneras sociales de ayer. Dotada de tan excepcionales cualidades para una mujer, filipina POl' aiiadidura, en aquellos tiempos, el prestigio de Da. Margarita Lopez era casi umco. Ella justificaba Ja admiraci6n y el respeto de Ja gente hacia ella de un modo genial: no mediante severidades ni hoscos aislamientos, convirtiendo su escuela en una especie de torre de mariil, sino abriendo sus puertas y sus encortinadas ventanas 198


MARGARITA LOPEZ

de par, para que sus discipulas se sientan como en casa, que puedan recibir a sus visitas dentro de las horas permitidas y que aprendan de esta manera no solo la ciencia de los IibrQs sino el arte de vivir en el mundo en paz con Dios y respetadas por los hombres. Porque, eso si. Da. Margarita Lopez era soltera hasta los cuarenta y dos afios de edad en que se cas6 y cerr6 su colegio, pero mientras 10 dirigia jamas ni propios ni e>..1;raiios, ni filipinos ni peninsulares, osaron cometer la menor descon~ide颅 raci6n al innovador colegio ni a sus delicadas nabitante!!. De cuando en vez, cuando en Tondo, en San Nicolas 6 algun otro an路abal, se daba un baile formal y se invitaba a Da. Margarita Lopez y a sus discipulas, estas acudian a la fiesta, y constituian la nota mas bella, mas atractiva, mas novedosa de la noche. Ada estuvo en esta escuela privada de Da. Margarita Lopez todo el tiempo que necesito. para empaparse en todas las materias de examen para el magisterio. Alii estaba tambien Da. Rosa Sevilla de Alvero, la mas brillante Ol路adora contemporanea, paladin tenaz de los derechos de la mujer filipina; alii estaba tambien Da. Florentina Arellano de Nable, ya difunta, la musa que fue del poeta Jose Palma, una de nuestras primeras y mas admiradas escritoras en los tiempos de la Revolucion. Pero Ada no estaba en aquella escuela de Da. Margarita Lopez solamente para estudiar sino, sobre todo, para observar y, de acuerdo con 10 que iba observando, madurar una determinaci6n; ver y contemplar dentro de si misma la claridad de un proposito, el redondeamiento de un plan. Y cuanto mas se persuadia 199


ADA

y se convencia que su plan estaba hecho y que su proposito era final, con mas ardor volvia a sus libros y repetia sus repasos. Llego por fin el gran dia. EI examen en el Ayuntamiento, ante el solemne tribunal en medio de una sala imponente, en semi-circulo sentados un padre Jesuita, un fraile Dominico, un reverendo Clerigo de la Catedral, una Madre profesora de Santa Isabel, y muy serio presidiendolos el ilusb路isimo Gohernador Civil. Este examen de las maestras municipales era siempre un gran acontecimiento. Mucha gente distinguida, dam as y caballeros, frailes de diferentes denominaciones, aparte los parientes de las examinandas t an azorados como estas, llenaba el espacio disponible para el publico, apretadamente. Las asp\rantes a maestras vestidas en sus mejores galas .tin pecar jamas contra la modestia y la discrecion, eran puestas en fila delante del tribunal policromo dispuesto a entrar en accion. EI examen era enteramente oral. Se armaba tal juego de preguntas y respuestas entre los examinadores sentados y las examinandas a pie que aquello parecia un juego de "volley ball.". Y la mas pequenita de todas, las mas bajita como tambien la mas joven de las futuras maestras era la que desde el principio del juego llamaba la atencion, y arrancaba murmullos de aprobacion de los espectadores, de cuando en cllando. No se la caia niguna pregunta sin la devolucion de la correspondiente respuesta y a veces preguntas dirigidas a otras que morian incontestadas, cuando llegaban a ella volvian a re200


MARG.4RITA LOPEZ VIVn" con una acertada contestacion, mas una SOI1risita serena, bajo la mirada penetrante. Los examinadores quedaban satisfechos. El examen habra durado unas tres horas. Una breve deliberacion entre ellos. Las cabezas se hacinan formando un circulo sobre la mesa presidencial y la mano del Secretario empieza a escribir sobre el papel las notas de las exarninandas. Ada, apretando con las manos el abanico cerrado sobre el corazon, oia leer su nombre en la Iista de las senoritas que han pasado el examen de Maestra Elemental. Y 110 quiso oir mas. Maestra... Maestra... Ya era mae,stra!

201


CAPITULO X

MAESTRA ADA Dicen las viejas parientes de Ada que todavia viven, que ella misma busco POl' toda la casa el marco en donde encuadro su titulo fresco y flamante de Maestra obtenido en el Ayuntamiento. La feliz graduacion fue todo un acontecimiento familiar. Pedro Avelino, de ordinario poco demostrativo, estllvo sonriente to do el dia recibiendo las felicitaciones de los amigos, de los vecinos. Sin hablar, miraba a cada rato al rededor como si midiera POl' primera vez el espacio y la capacidad de su modesto hogar de nipa. Ahora que Ada es maestra toda esta casa quieta y arreglada se llenarll. de ninos y de ruido. Aun antes de graduarse, Ada ya ensenaba en sus ratos libres a los hijos de algunas familias de su amistad, llevada de su aficion irresistible. Pero hoy, con el titulo debidamente conquistado, su plan, aprobado POl' su padre y su madrasta, era abrir cuanto antes, seriamente, una escuela. Toda la nineria de Pandacan que no estudiaba en algun colegio de Manila 0 en la escllela municipal del pequeno pueblo tenia cabida en la escuela de Maestra Ada. Nadie pagaba. Al igual que el padre que en su calidad de boticario practicallte suministraba gratis las medicinas que podia a los necesitados pacientes que se Ie acercaban, la hija y joven maestra, encantada de verla primera realizacion de sus ilusiones, no podia ni queria hablar de honorarios. Despues de todo, en una comunidad tan reducida como era Pandacan entonces, todos eran parientes 0 se 202


MAESTRA ADA

miraban como tales. Pero en aquella epoca, ademas de la ensefianza de los ninos, habla 10 que podriamos Hamar la ensenanza de los maestros. Ada misma se habia sometido a esta ensenanza bajo Margarita Lopez. Recientemente, cuando la avalancha en pos del titulo de abogado era grande y febril entre nuestros jovenes, se conoda en Manila a varios abogados y profesores de Derecho considerados como los mejores "repasadores" pai'a los estudiantes que se preparaban a someterse al mortifero "examen de la Corte." Suponemos que este temido examen de la Corte viene a ser 10 que seria ayer el exam en del Ayuntamiento 0 sea, el examen de las maestras elementales, y Ada, apenas se gradu6, se declic6 a esta interesal)tisima tarea de ensenar y de repasar 2_ futuras maestras. Pero ella era j6ven, muy j6ven. Seria solamente de la misma edad de las ninas de quienes iba a ser la maestra yaqui fue donde se hizo vel' pOl' primera vez la fuerza de atracci6n, la magnitud espirftual de aquella extraordinaria mujer. Para comenzar tuvo POl' discipulas algunas chicas del mismo pueblo y otras que siendo de provincias tenian sus parientes en Pandacan. Dada la rigidez de las costumbres de aquella epoca una familia provinciana de alguna significaci6n no podia confiar el ciudado de su hija en manos de una persona 6 de otra familia que no fuese mereceaora de su mayor respeto y confianza. Pero en el entretanto, el buen record de ciertas ninas que habian repasado bajo la Senorita Avelino en los examenes de maestra elemental iba cundiendo y poco a poco, la casa-tienda de la Calle Labores se llenaba de sefio203


ADA

ritas, futuras maestras venidas de diferentes partes. Un dia un senor serio de caracter distinguido se presento alli preguntando porIa Senorita Avelino, a la primer a chica que encontro en la puerta a recibirle. -Servidora de Ud. Yo soy la Senorita Avelino.--contestole Ada con la mas encantadora sonrisa de sus labios y de sus ojos. -Usted! .. . El hombre lIevaba el estupor pintado en la cara. Miro a Ada de pies a cabeza y vice-versa. El se dio a conocer. Era un tal Senor Fernandez, de La Laguna. Era padre de tres muchachas, la mayor de las cu'ales aspiraba a maestra. Sa habia examinado pero no tuvo suerte. EI queria qwe su hija tuviese un mejor repaso. Habia oido mucho de esta escuela de Da. Librada. El senor Fernandez volvio de nuevo a mirar a su interlocutora de hito en hito. Y para disipar sus iiltimas dudas, para convencerse de que ne se habia equivocado, sometio a Ada a una infinidad de preguntas. 路 POl' fin, eI visitante se dio pOl' satisfecho y a los pocos dias volvia con su hija. Este senor Fernandez era un espanol, alto, fornido y su hija, Felipa, un galIardo tipo de mestiza, era de su misma estatura. EI padre habra contado a su hija su experiencia con la Maestra Avelino, pero se habra olvidado sin duda de mencionar nada sobre su inesperada juventud, de BU exigua estatura, de tal manera que cuando la futura disci pula via que les recibia la pequena maestra, menos prudente que su padre cuando vino POl' primera vez, se echo ~tras y no quiso entrar en la casa. 204


MAESTRA ADA

-Pero, papa, nor Dios, esa va a ser mi maesTan ... tan chiquita! Ada, sin dejar de sonreir, pretendiendo no haber oido las protestas lacrimosas de la decepcionada alumna, la atrajo hacia si, y con la ayuda del padre, Felipa se resigno a quedarse. Siquiera POl" unos dias, se habra dicho para Sl para consolarse. Los dias se hicieron semanas, las semanas se hicieron meses, los repasos se hicieron cad a vez mas in teres antes bajo aquel metodo tan faciJ de aprendel' con una. amiga inteligente, seria y buena mas bien que con una maestra, y FeIipa, en vez de marcharse, se trajo a sus otras dos hermanas Rosario y Pilar para que estudiasen juntamente con ella. Ya eran muchas, para la capacidad de aquella casa, las que podriamos llama!; alumnas intern as de Ada. Sedan unas diez 0 doce nifias aparte las que siendo de Pandacan, iban solo aIli en las horas de clase. Las habia de Bulacan, de Laguna, de Batangas, de Tayabas. Al modo de la involvidable escuela de Margarita Lopez, liberal, moderna, para los usos de aquellos dias, a la casa de Ada podian ir a visitar jovenes bien educados conocidos mas bien que POl' su posicion social 0 pOl' su fortuna, POI' sus estudios y talento. De esta manera la sociabilidad que hoy para muchas de nuestras dalagas que estudian, es meramente fuente de baiIes interminables, era alli un valioso complemento de educacion y de cultura literaria. Alii iban los estudiantes de Derecho llamados Apolinario Mabini, Fernando Salas, que despues fue co-fundador del Centro Escolar y luego Juez; el poeta Anselmo de Jesus; bachilleres y aprovechados estudiantes como tra?

205


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los hermanos del Rosario, Arcadio y Francisco, Manuel Quezon, y otros. Este Quezon era un estudiante de Letran, gran camarada, brillante en clase, popular entre sus compaiieros. Estaba en Pandacan de vacaciones. Paseandose una vez con algunos .iovenes del pueblo, por aquellas contadas y breves calles, disparando Ii derecha e izquierda miradas romanticas a las ventanas entreabiertas, pregunto Ii sus amigos por las chicas del lugar. AIguien Ie dijo que al otro lado del pueblo estaba el pequeiio colegio de Ada donde a falta de una 0 de dos habia toda una coleccion de bellas dalagas que estudiaban para maestras. El estudiante Quezon abrio los ojos en ilusion de colegial, y propuso a sus acompaiiantes que fueran alia a visitar. Le dijeron que eso era harto dificil si no imposible. Se trataba de p colegio; no conocian a las chicas y por cierto que una de elias apellidada Gallego, era del pueblo de Quezon--de Baler. Y Quezon, demostrando ya poseer esos golpes de inspiracion que Ie caracterizan, dijo a sus amigos estupefactos : -Bueno, pues que no os atreveis siendo de aqui a lIevarme a esa casa, venid conmigo, y yo me encargo de presentaros it todos aDa. Librada y it sus niiias! Y Quezon se fue alia, seguido de los otros jovenes. Pregunto con todo respeto porIa Seiiorita Gallego, se presento Ii si mismo como su compoblamo de Baler, pidio que la Seiiorita Gallego Ie presentase a el aDa. Librada y a las otras niiias, y por ultimo, el, Quezon, actuando ya de gran presentador, en medio de aquella improvisada linea de 206


MAESTRA .4DA

recepclOn, clio a conocer uno POl' uno a sus compafieros a todas aquellas chicas. La labor de Ada en estos sus primeros arros de magisterio siguieron siendo en buena parte aun de intensa preparacion y de estudio. Se dio cuenta, POl' ejemplo, con cierto rubor, que siendo de Pandacan y vecina de la Calle Labores, su bordado y su costura no eran tan sobresalientes que pudiesen estimular a sus alumnas. Se fue a matricularse al Colegio de la Concordia para perfeccionarse en este ramo de la ensefianza femenina de entonces. Las madres de la Concordia eran famosas en el bordado, eomo estos dias las Benedictinas sobresalen en el pia'<lo. Y vino a Manila la primera Mision de Madres Asuncionistas que fue la sensacion en los circulos educacionales para sefioritas de aquellos tiempos. Todas las familias acomodadas de la capital y provincias limitrofes, que tenian hijas en edad de educarse hablaban del nuevo colegio en donde iban a ensefiar sabias madres francesas, espaiiolas, inglesas y alemanas. Seria tan avanzada la ensefunza en este colegio que se dara en el POl' primera vez en Manila, el curso para Maestra .superior. Muchas graduadas maestras elementales, algunas de elias ensefiando ya POl' algunos afios en las escuelas publicas, acogieron la noticia con alborozo, y se matricularon. Ada fue una de estas maestras inscritas. -Fue aquella una clase muy numerosa, con mas de cien alumnas. Un conjunto extraordinario de caras y caracteres como solamente se podia dar en una aula educacional muy solicitada. Nifias que despues de la clase, al volver a sus casas, se 207


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encontraria cada eual en mundos sociales tan distantes y diferentes, rubias herederas de potentados burocratas y barbudos militares, delicadas senoritas conducidas en coche, accompanadas de una 6 dos criadas, ostentando el apellido de linaj udas familias, modestas hijas del pais de camisa y saya, con el cabello lisa rematado en severo mono sobre la parte superior del craneo. En esta clase, entre esta multitud ululante de ninas que hablaban a la vez en horas de recreo, 6 que se reian y cuchicheaban y se pellizcaban-Ias mas traviesas-aull en horas de estudio, Ada encontro como violeta hermana entre tanta madeja, a la que despwยงs vino a ser la pareja de su vida. Era otra maestra como ella, diminuta como ella, de su misma edad, seriecita, que to~aba los libl"0s a p'echo, Sll semblante de l correctas fOl\mas lIeno de una expression pensativa. Se Ilamaba Carmen de Luna, de Bulacan. Las profes-oras todas eran madres asuncionistas menos en ReligioN que 10 ensenaba un Canonigo de la Catedral, el Padre Tablares. Las materias que comprendia el magisterio superior incluian, ademas de la Religion, la Literatura Castellana, la Geografi,a, las Matematicas, la Historia Natural con la Higiene y la Botanica, las Historias de Filipinas y de Espana, la Fisica, el Dibujo, el Bordado, y desde luego, la Pedagogia. Tambien se ensenaba el Frances para las que querian aprenderlo. Ada termino todo este curso en un ano. No hay que olvidar que desde su graduacion primera hasta que vino esta oportunidad de ampliar sus estudios en la Asuncion, Ada no ceso de estudiar, de leer. Era una voraz lectora. Y en c1ase sus con208


MAESTRA ADA

discipulas recuerdan aun como Ada se destac6 bien pronto en sus tres materias favoritas que nuestros pedagogos de hoy considerarian sus "majors": la Pedagogia, la Literatura y las Matematicas. Sus lecturas ya Ie capacitaban entonces a poseer una excelente elasticidad mental y en la clase de Religi6n, sin proponerselo, incurria a veces en dialogos bastante animados con el Padre Tablares. EI buen Canonigo con frecuencia, cuando no conseguia que Ie aclarasen algunos puntos de la lecci6n, se dirigia a Ada casi perdida en la inmensidad de aquellas cabezas perfumadas, exclamando: - A ver, que nos dice la fil6sofa de Ia clase!

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CAPITULO

XI

LA CARTA DE RIZAL Al llegar a este punto debemos hacer un alto para reflexionar. Era el ano de 1893. Ada tenia sus veinte anos bien cumplidos. Era Maestra Superior debidamente graduada. Todo 10 que en su pais se podia estudiar entonces para el magisterio 10 habia estudiado ella y con honores. Estaba en la plenitud, en el zenith de sus merecimientos y cualificaciones. En tiempos perfectamente normales en que la vida se deslizara placida como el arroyo en su cauce, podriamos decir que a Ada con sus titulos, con su renombre creciente, con su escuela establecida, con sus simpatias y su juventud, nada Ie faltaria sino seguir cosechando exitos cada vez mayores. Asi 10 pensaria ella tambien. En aquella epoca de inseguridades en que las empresas mas constructivas y sanas podian caeI' en la fatalidad de ser sospechadas POl' el Gobierno de tendenciosas cC'mo la escuela de Ibarra en el "Noli," ella con au instinto y su tacto de mujer, habia seguido una senda tan amistosa, tan adaptable, apesar de su natural liberalismo, que jamas conoci6 el mas pequeno contratiempo en sus actividades y planes. Su hogar, en paz. Ella era feliz. Hubiera seguido asi hasta el termino de sus dias. No aspiraba a mas. Acaso, algun, dia, quien sabe cuando, conoceria al hombre ideal de sus suenos de dalaga,-su colegio ya bien establecido,-se casada y daria POl' terminada su carrera pedag6gica. Tenia sus pretendientes y admiradores atraidos POl' su en canto personal, su trato y sobre todo su extraordinaria ilustra210


LA CARTA DE RIZAL

ci6n, pero se detendrian des de lejos al verla seriedad y la fijeza con que la j6ven maestra atendia al desarrollo de su profesi6n. Los que la conocian y la trataban entonces no solo admiraban a Ada sino que sentian pOI' ella un intimo respeto pOI' su sana pero avanzada liberalidad de ideas. He aqui una mujer, se decian, sin mojigaterias. Cuando 10 corriente era encontrarlas timidas y suspirosas, muy devotitas y haciendo la senal de la cruz, a cad a pequeiio susto 0 ante alguna observaci6n inesperada, esta pequeiia maestra de ojos vivos y de sonrisa serena se conservaba natural, despejada, con una fortaleza interior que influia en los que la hablaban. Era sin afectaci6n en sus maneras; absolutamente rehacia a todo 10 que podia considerarse displiegue de erudici6n literaturia, afan exhibicionista de su cultura, tentaci6n esta muy dificil de resistir en aquellos dias en que a una mujer altamente educada y educada casi POI' si misma, 10 consideraban como un fen6meno y constituia el tema de las conversaciones admirativas de la gente. Y 10 que decian ademas sus mismas companeras y comaestras: Ada tenia un envidiable dominio del castellano. Un par de aiios antes de la graduaci6n de Ada como Maestra Superior, en 1889, ocurri6 en Malolos un hecho transcendental. Un grupo de dalagas "de la clase escogida del pueblo," saglin frase de Plaridel, "respetadas pOl' su honrosa reputaci6n e hijas de 'maginoos'," quisieron fundal' una escuela para la enseiianza del castellano pero las autoridades ecJesiasticas de entonces impidieron que el plan se realizase. Las niiias organizaron una protesta 211


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ruidosa contra tan irrazonable ingerencia, y Plaridel, el formidable luchador bulakefio que estaba en Barcelona, apelo entusiasmado a Rizal que se hallaba en Londres para que dirigiese una carta en taga10 a las admirables y admiradas muchachas de Malolos animandolas a proseguir en su actitud y en su propaganda. Rizal escribio la carta en tagalo tal como se 10 pedia Mar'celo H. del Pilar. Pero en vez de escribir un mensage breve de estimulo, como comenta Teodoro M. Kialaw, dirigio a las malolesas una verdadera historica epistola de.apostoI. Esta carta de Rizal forma en si misma un radiante y sangrante capitulo del ideario POI' el que ha luchado hasta morir, acaso el mas sentido y mas lIeno de desesperaci6n, capitulo que guardaba tan en 10 mas recondito de su alma de filipino que, POI' 10 mismo, no podia expresal'lo como no fuera en el propio dialecto. Se dirigia el apostol POI' conducto de las nifias valerosas de Malolos a las mujeres todas de su pais y pensaba no solamente en elias sino en sus hijos al verter sobre el papel la esencia de su indignacion. Leyendo esta carta muchos se sorprenderan como un suceso, al parecer tan aislado, cual la apertura fracasada de una escuela de castellano pudiese dar lugar a tan amargas quejas, a tan dolor os as consideraciones, a tan viril admonicion POI' parte de RizaI. Ni siquiera el autor se ha acordado de mencionar de refilon la importancia de la lengua castellana que querian aprender las muchachas de l'vIalolos. En aquellos dias, sin embargo, el hablar correctamente el castellano era para el filipino ordinario--y muchisimo mas para la filipina-no solo un signo de progresivismo sino de 212


LA CARTA DE RIZAL

desafio a las autoridades constituidas. En "El Filibusterismo" se registra el mismo choque entre la juventud universitaria y ciertas poderosas influencias que no perrnitian a aquella seguir adelante con su academia. Esa juventud que de hecho existi6, probablemente cuando Ada era aun una niiia de pecho, se llamaba a si misma "liberal." Celebraba sus reuniones seCTetas bajo la presidencia de Felipe Buencamino, padre, precisamente en la pequefia isla escondida de Pandacan. Entonces eran los hombres. En el caso de Malolos ya eran las mujeres. EI movimiento espiritual del pueblo bacia su propio progreso y hacia la afirmaci6n de su propia personalidad, tal como 10 entendia entonces, usando el dominio del castellano como un "issue" y un reto, se gener alizaba. Y Ada, no satisfecha de sus lecciones en dicho idiorna en las escuelas a que atendia, cada vez que iba a ver a su viejo gramatico Mang Mundo, no solamente tomaba lecciones de castellano del venerable ciego vestido de camisa del pais, sino que comulgaba de sus manos la hostia del naciente nacionalismo liberador que gritaba Rizal en su epistola. Como deciamos, a los veinte afios a Ada nada Ie faltaba ya para cosechar en paz y en gloria los beneficios de su carrera ganada despues de una tan s6lida y detenida preparaci6n. Estaria poseida de un bien fund ado entusiasmo que Ie haria sentirse impaciente no solo porque sabia que estaba mentalmente equipada sino porque sentia en su alma la IIamarada de un ideal de innovaci6n y de perfeccionamiento quJe la deplorable situaci6n del pais en 10 que se referia a la educaci6n de la mujer 213


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demandaba con urgencia. Cambiar aquella situacion, sin embargo, transformar aquel ambiente tan tenebroso por el solo medio de la educacion significaba anos y generaciones de trabajo lentlsimo aun cuando se multiplicase por cinco veces mil el numero de maestras progresivas como Librada Avelino. No era la educacion 0 la deficiencia de la misma el mayor problema de entonces. Era todo el sistema politico-social del pais que gemia bajo la presion de hierro de un gobierno colonial arcaico fomentando la ignorancia en las masas, produciendo el fanatismo y persiguiendo a los pocos que osaban alzar la voz en demanda de justicia y de reforma. Para repeler este mal general vino la revoluCIOn. Usando de la frase poetica de Jesus Balmori, "aquella lampara que estallo iluminando el alma popular" encerraba en SI las higrimas de los huerfanos y de las viudas, el gemido de los presos en tortura, la sangre de tantos fusilados y tambien, acaso sobre todo, el agravio irreparable a la dignidad de la mujer filipina denunciado por Rizal. En el Decalogo del Katipunan, los rudos y simplistas sandatahanes no se olvidaron de este punto cuando Bonifacio, en reivindicacion, puso como uno de los preceptos el respeto y la proteccion a La mujer, recordando que cad a cual tiene en su casa a una madre, una hija y una hermana.

2U


CAPITULO

XII

HACE MEDIO SIGLO Europa (Febrero) 1889. A Las Compatricias J6venes De Malolos Cuando escribt el Noli Me Tangere m.e preguntaba a mi mismo si el valor e-ra cosa comun en las doncellas de nuestro 'Pueblo. AU71que MCta memoria, y pasaba revista a las que conoc! desde wi infancia" rara, era la que se me aparecia conforme a la imagen que yo me haMa formado . En verdad, sobraban las de dulce trato, de costumb1'es hermosas y de modesto porte, pero con todo ello iban mezcladas plena aquiescencia y servidumbre a las palabras 0 caprichos de los llamados "padres de almas" (como si el alma tuviese otro padre que no fuera Dios), por exceso de bondlUl, de modestia 0 de ign01 anc'ia acaso, cual plantas marchitas, sembradas y criadas en las tinieblas, cuyas flares carecen de pe1'fume, cuyos f1"Utos no destilan savia. Mas ahora que vino aqui la noticia de 10 ocurrido ahi, en vuestro pueblo de Malolos, comprendi mi errol' y harta fue mi alegria. No se me debia, eon todo, inculpar; no conoeia Ma- . lolos, ni a sus jovenes, exeepto a una Hamada Emilia, y atin a esta, solo de nombre. Hoy que habeis respondido a nuestros primeros clamores pOl' el biene~tar del pueblo; hoy que habeis dado el ejemplo a vuestras semejantes, que, eomo vosotras, ansian tener los ojos abiertos y librarse de la servidumbre, levantase nuestra esperanza y hasta nos atrevemos a afrontar el infortunio, pOl' tener a vosotras POl' aliadas, y confiamos en el triunfo. No tienen ya las filipinas baja la eabeza, si estan de hinojos; se les aviva ya la esperanza en el futuro; no existe ya la madre que contri215


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buye a la ceguera de la hija y que la cria en el menosprecio y moral aniquiiamiento. Ya no es la ciencia de las ciencias la sumision ciega a toda orden injusta, ni la suma condescendencia, ni la cortes sonrisa (mica arma contra el insulto, ni las humildes higrimas inefable panacea para toda tribulacion. Conoceis ya que la voluntad de Dios es distinta de la del cura; que la religiosidad no consiste en ponerse largo tiempo de rodillas, ni en las kilometricas oraciones, grandes rosarios, mugrientos escapularios, sino en la conducta sin macula, en la intencion sin pliegues y en la rectitud de criterio. Conoceis asimismo que la pruden cia no consiste en obedecer a ciegas cualesquiera caprichos de los diocesiUos sino 10 razonable y justo; porque de esta ciega obediencia traen origen esos caprichos, y, por esto mismo, las que los ocasionen seran las verdaderas pecadoras. EI jefe 0 el fraile no podra ya alegar que a el10s solo incumbre la responsabilidad de sus injustas ordenes; porque Dios concedio a cad a uno razon y voluntad propias, para distinguir 10 justo de 10 injusto; todos nacieron sin grillos, Iibres, y a nadie fuele dado !\ubyugar ia voluntad y espiritu de nadie. l Y por que se ha de someter a otro el pensamiento noble y libre? Cobardia es y error creer que la santi dad esta en la ciega obediencia, y soberbia la cordura y el d.on de pensar. La ignorancia fue siempre ignorancia, nunca prudencia y honor. No pide Dios, fuente de la sabiduria, que el hombre, hecho a su imagen y semejanza, se deje embaucar y cegar, sino que la dad iva de la razon de que nos hizo merced, brille y la utilicemos. Comparable es con aquel padre que fue dando a cada uno de sus hijos su corespondiente antorcha, para que se alumbrasen en las tinieblas, para que avivasen su llama, la 216


HACE MEDIO SlGLO

cuidasen y no la apagasen, confiados en la luz de los otros, sino para que se ayudasen unos a otros y se aconsejasen para dar con la senda. Locos de atar serian si cayeran de bruces por seguir la luz de otro, y el padre podria reconvenirles y decirIes: i. no os habia dado yo vuestra propia antorcha? Pero no podria decir otro tanto cuando el tropiezo se debiese a la luz dada por el, porque podria haber sido esta luz escasa y el camino malisimo. Es comodin ya del falsario este decir: soberbio el que confia en su prudencia; pero, en mi opinion, es mayormente soberbio el que quiere imponerse a la prudencia de otros y pugnar por salirse con la suya. Es mas soberbio el que se qui ere convertir en idolo y pretende p:ulsar los latidos del pensamiento de Dios; y soberbio en demasia y hasta blasfemo aquel que cada movimiento de sus labios atribuya a D~os y como voluntad de Dios cada uno de sus caprichos, y vuelva enemigo de Dios a su propio y mismlsimo enemigo. No debemos, ciertamente, confiar en nosotros mismos, sino consultar y oir antes a otros, y, luego, ejecutar 10 que creamos mas razonable; el Mbito 0 la sotana, por si solos, no crean sabiduria: aunque se sobrepongan las ropas al atrapado montaraz. sera siempre montaraz, y s610 engaiiara al ignorante y flaco de voluntad. Y para que estos sea mas concluyente, compren Vds. un h:l.bito talar de San Francisco, y vistan con el a una caraballa, suerte fuera que no se volviese indolente por el hc1bito mismo. Dejare esto para hablar de otra cosa. La juventud, semillero de flores fructiferas, debe acumular riqueza para su descendencia. i.'Que yastagos tendria]a mujer cuya bondad de caracter cifrara en farfullar preces, y supiera de coro unicamente a~uits, novenas y falsos milagros, cuyo esparcimiento fuera el 2~7


ADA

1}anguingue, 0 la confesion menuda de unos mismos pecados? l Que hijos tendria sino aco-

litos, sirvientes del cura 0 galleros? Obra fue de las mad res la servidumbre actual de nuestros compatriotas, por causa de la i1imitada confianza de sus am antes cora zones, del vivo deseo de encumbrar a sus hijos. La madul'ez es fruto de la infancia, y los ninos se aupan en el regazo de la madre. La madre que solo sabe ensenar como se hincan las rodillas y como se ha de besar la mano, que no espere hijos que no sean de sangre de esclavo. Arbol crecido en el fango, 0 es Iigel'o, 0 tan solo lena; y, si POl' casualidad sale de corazon osado, tal os adia sera.' trapacera, la utilizaria para el mal, como el murcielago que no puede dejarse ver sino al toque de animas. j Dicese que la prudencia es la santidad y el amor de Dios! Pero, l que santidad es la que nos ensenaron? Rezar y arrodillarnos mucho; besar las manos del Cura, dilapidar el dinero en iglesias, y creer cuanto venga en tal ante al fraile decirnos: chismograiia, callos en las rodillas, refrotamientos de nariz ... Respecto de los obolos y dadivas POl' caqsa de Dios, lhabra acaso en el mundo algo de que no fuera duefio el Criador? lQue direis de un criado que obsequia a su amo con trapo pedido prestado del propio amo? l Quien es el vano y enajenado que ha de dar Iimosna aDios, y luego ha de creer que la miserable cosa donada por el habra de arropar al Creador de todas las cosas? Bienaventurados sean los que auxilien al projimo, ayuden al pobre y den de comer al hambriento, pero que sean malditos los sordos a las suplicas del pobre, los que solo harten al harto, y prodiguen dineros en f1'ontales de plata donados a la iglesia, 0 al fraile que nade en la abundancia, en aprovechamientos por misas de gracia, en serenatas y salvas de 218


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verso j con tales dineros extraidos de los hues os del pobre, se hacen mandas al arno para' que este pueda hacerse de cadenas para subyugar mejor y asalariar verdugos sayones! i Oh, ceguera y cortedad de entendimiento! La primera santi dad es la obediencia a la razon, suceda 10 que suceda. "Obras y no palabras, es 10 que deseo de vosotros," dijo Cristo. "No es hijo de mi padre el que viene repitiendo padre 'mio, 1Jadre mio, sino el que vive segun la voluntad de mi padre." La santidad no esta en la chatura ni al sucesor de Cristo se Ie conoce POl' dar a besar las manos. Cristo no dio osculo de paz a los fariseos, ni dio m,mca la mana a besar. No cebo a los ricos y vanos Escribas; no ment6 escapularios, ni fabrico rosario~, ni solicito limosnas pOl' sacrificios de misa, ni se hizo pagar cuando oro. Si no se hizo pagar San Juan en el 1'10 Jordan, ni Cristo POl' sus ensefianzas, l pOl' que ahora los frailes no dan un solo trote sin la pecunia POl' delante? Y, como unos hambrientos, vend en escapularios, rosarios, correas y otras cosas, que son puro sefiuelo del dinero, con dano de almas, porque aunque se conviertan en escapu, larios todos los trapos de la tien-a, en rosarios todos los a,rboles del monte, y se cifian a la cintura todas las pieles de las bestias, y, sobre todo ello, se hagan signos de cruz y musiten oraciones todos los sacerdotes del orbe, y 10 hisopeen con toda el agua del oceano, no se conseguira purificar a un plcaro, ni remitirle culpas, si no se arrepiente. Asi, tambien, POl' codicia de dinero, las multiples prohibiciones se cancel an mediante precio, v. gr., la de no comer carne, casarse con parientes, com padres, etc., todo se torna hacedero. l POl' que? lEsta sujeto a la oferta y demanda DioS, y se of usc a con el dinero, ni mas ni menos que un fraile? EI forajido que se ha hecho de una 219


ADA b~tla. de composici6n l podra vivir tranquilo con el producto de su robo, porque sera conmilit6n en mesa donde los platos eran botin de rapina? l Ha llegado ya el Todopoderoso a ser un pobre de solemnidad para hacer el papel de carabinero 0 guardia civil? Si ese es el Dios a quien rinde culto el fraile, yo vuelvo mis espaldas a ese Dios. Seamos razonables y abramos nuestros ojos, sobre todo, vosotras las mujeres, porque sois las primeras en influir en la conciencia del hombre. Tengase presente que la buena madre no se asemeja a la madre creada por el fraile; ha de criar al hijo de manera que sea una imagen del verdadero Dios, un Dios no concll,sionario, ni codicioso de dinero, un Dios padre de todos, j usticiero; Dios no vampir~ del pobre, ni burlador de las agonias del atribulado, ni torcedor de la senda de la justicia. Des_ pierten y preparen la voluntad del hijo para cuanto es bueno y ordenado aprecio del honor, sincero y firme prop6sito, claro juicio, proceder pur~, honrados actos, amor al pr6jimo y respeto aDios; esto han de ensenar a los hijos. Y, como la vida viene acribillada de puas de card os, debe fortalecerse al animo para todo golpe del infortunio, y acostumbrar el coraz6n al peligro. No espere el pueblo honor, ni prosperidad mientra~ no eduque fuertemente al nino, mientras sea esclava e ignorante la mujer que ha de vigilar los pasos del hijo. Nada se puede beber de turbio y amargo manantial; no se sacara sabroso fruto de semilla agria. No son de poca manta los deberes que ha de c-umplir La muier para desvestir de padecimientos al pueblo, deberes que, fueren lo que fu.eren, no sobrepujariatn a las fw.erzc,s y al caracter de La mujer filipina. Son bien conocidos el poder y la p'rudencia de La m1tjer en Filipinas.. por eso ell os La cegaron, la. ataron y

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la tornaron pusilanime; y vitven sobre seguro, porque, mientras la mad1'e filipina fuera esda,va, esclavizarian a todos sus hijos. Esta e.~ la causa de la postraci6n del Asia: la mujlfr del Asia es ignorante y esclava; poderosa en E1,trOpa y en America, porque aUi la m1tjer es libre e instruida, lucida de inteligencia y fuerte de voluntad. Se sabe que andtiis escasas de libros que instruyan; se sabe que nada se introduce, dia por dia, en vuestra inteligencia sino 10 que de prop6sito ha de apagat' vuestra luz natural; se sabe todo esto, y, ,por eso, nuestro empeno en hacer llegar a vosotras la luz que se cierne sobre vuestras semejantes aqui en Europa. Si no ha de causa?' enojo 10 que he de Mcir, y se le ha de prestar alguna atenci6n, por espesa que sea la niebla que envuelva a nuestro pueblo, pondre diligencia sutna en disiparla con la hermosa !uz del sol, que fu1gira aunque ligeramente. No sentiremos faf(iga si vosotras nos a11udais; ayudara tambien Dios a descorrer la niebla, ya que El es el Dios de la verdad; volvera a su pristino estado el nombre de la mujer filipina, de quien ahora s610 se echa de menos propio criterio; que buen natural tienelo de so bra. Tal es nuestro anhelo soiiado y que hace nido en nuestro coraz6n; el honor de la mujer, mitad del coraz6n, companera en la felicidad e infortunio de la vida. Si ella es don. cella, que la ame el tnancebo no s610 po?' su hermosura y afable car6.cter, sino tambien por 81t feJrtaleza de: animo, alteza de miras que presten vida y levanten al debil 0 cobarde, 0 aparten vanos pensamientos; que sea una doncella orgullo de la patria, que infunda respeto, por ser comiin decir aqui, entre peninsulares y frailes venidos de alii, la facilidad 13 ignorancia de la filipina, como si el error de unas fuere de todas, y como si en otras tie1'ras no exis221


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tim"an mujeres de caracter debil, cuando, en puridad, i que de cosas podria la filipina reprocha1'las! . Con to do, por chismografia, y por lenguaraces, a los peninsulares y frwiles regresados les falta el tiempo para C(JJ1'carear, imprimir y desgaiiitcvrse, a par que rien y Laman injurias y carcajadas; que la Fulana aquella era asi; asi fue en el convento, asi con el peninsulal" a q~ÂŁien hos1Jed6 una vez, y otras co,~as que dan denterct cada vez que vienen a las mientes, cosas todas que, en la ?nayoria de los casos, eran faUas debidas al candor, a sobl'ada bondad, ma1(.sedumbre, 0 ceguera acaso, obra toda de los mismos difa?nadores, Vive un 1Jeninsulal', que hoy ocupa alto, rango, a quien hemos dado de comer y hospitalidad durante el tiempo que est1wo vagando por Filipinas, y que, cuando arrib6 a Espafw, imprimi6 a escape: que el pidi6 hospedaje una vez en Pampanga, comi6 y durmi6; que la seiiora que Ie acogi6 se condujo asi y asci, con el; de esta ?nane1'a c01'respondi6 a la su?na hospitalidad de la senora. Tales especies tambien insinita el fraile al primer visitante espaiiol ace1'ca de sus muy obedientes confesandas, besadoras de manos, etc., rehogadas en sonrisillas y muy significativos guinos. En un libro impreso por D, Sinibaldo de Mas y en otros trazos de frailes, se sacan a relucir pecados de los que en el confesionario se acusaron las mujeres, de que no guardaron ell os secreto para con los peninsulares visitantes, sazonandoles, a 10 mejor, con fatuidades y chismes impudicos indignos de credito. No puedo repetir aqui las desverguenzas que cont6 un fraile a Mas, a las que Mas no concedi6 valor alguno. Cada vez que oimos 0 leemos cosas de este jaez nos preguntamos unos a otros; lias espaiiolas son todas de la madera de Maria Santisima, y las filipinas, precitas 222


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todas? Creo que, si se han de ajustar cuentas en materia tan delicada, tal vez. .. Pero debo abandonar esto, que no soy confesor, ni trashumante peninsular con vara para lastimar la honra de nadie. Arrinconare esto, y hablare de los deberes de la mujer. Los pueblos que respetan a la mujer como el de Filipinas deben conocer la verdad de la situacion, a fin de que puedan cumplir con 10 que de ell os se espera. Parece cosa averiguada que cuando un joven estudiante se da al am or, todo habria de echar luego a perder: saber, honor y dinero, como si una joven no pudiera sembrar mas que desgracias. EI de mayor valor cuando se casa se vuelve cobarde; el de cobardia ingenita, desvergonzado, cual si esperase unicamente casorio para manifestar la propia cobardia. EI hijo, para encubrir su pusilanimidad, se encomienda a la memoria de su madre, traga hiel, aguanta bofetadas, cumpIe con la 'orden mas necia, se hace complice de la traicion. Ha de saberse que, cuando nadie se da a la fuga, no habra perseguidor; cuando no hay pez pequeno, no habra grande. lPor que no requiere 1a doncella de quien ha de amar noble y honrado nombre, varonil corazon que ampal'e su debilidad, y up alto espiritu inca paz de contentarse con ser padre de esclavos? Aparten de si al mied'o, conduzcanse noblemente y no rindan su juventud al flojo y de corazon engrumecido. Cuando esten casadas, deben ayudar a sus maridos, comunicarles brio, compartir con ellos la mitad del peligro, no atribularles, y dulcificar sus penas, teniendo siempre presente que no habra pesar que no sobrelleve un corazon denodado, ni habra herencia ' mas amarga que la de la infamia y la de la esclavitud. Abrid los ojos de vuestros hijos, para que celen y guarden su honor, amen al projimo, a la patria y el cumplimiento del 223


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deber. Imbuidles siempre que deben preferir morir con honor a vivir con deshonor. Las mujeres de Esparta os deben servir de ejemplo en esto; pondre aqui algunos de sus rasgos. Cuando entregaba una madre el escudo a su hijo que marchaba para la guerra, no decia mas que esto: "devuelvelo, 0 que te devuelvan," esto es, "que regreses triunfante, 0 te traigan cadaver," porque era costumbre tirar el escudo del derrotado que huia, 0 traer su cadaver encima del escudo. Tuvo noticias una madre de que habia muerto su hijo en la guerra, y el ejercito habra side derrotado. No chist6 palabra, di6 gracias porque su hijo se libr6 de la ig_ no~nia; pero, cuando el hijo regres6 con vida, al verle, se visti6 de luto la madre. A una de las madres que fueron a encontrar a los que volvian de la guerra, cont6 un guerrero que habian muerto en ella sus tres hijos. "No pregunto eso--dijo la madre--sino si hemos triunfado 0 no." "Hemos triunfado---eontest6 el guerrero-"Si es asi, demos gracias aDios," y se fue al templo. Una vez se escondi6 en el templo un derrotado rey suyo temiendo la venganza popular; convinieron los espartanos en encerrarle alli y matarle de hambre. Ouando condlenaron la puerta, la madre fue la primera que acarre6 piedras. Eran estos hechos alIi costumbre, pOI' eso admir6 toda la Grecia a la espartana. "De todas las mujeres-burlabase una-sois solamente las espartanas las que teneis poder sobre los hombres." "Natural-contestaron-de todas las mujeres, solamente nosotras parimos hombres." "EI hombre-decian las de Esparta-no ha nacido para vivir solo, sino para su patria." Y asi, mientras imperaban este modo de pensar y esta clase de mujeres, no hubo enemigo que pudiera poneI' el pie en el suelo de 224


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Esparta, ni mujer de Esparta que pudiera ver a un ejercito enemigo. No espero lfIUl se me crea po7' decirlo y6; muchos son los que no dan credito a la verdadera raz6n sino al htibito, a las canas, 0 a la desdentadura; pero si la vejez es venerable por su trabajosa experiencia, tambilJn la vida que lleve, consagrada al bienestar del pueblo, me concede alguna. experiencia, bien qlUl no mucha. No P'/'etendo que se me tenga por idolD, un diosecillo, y que se me crea, u oiga con los oios cerrados, baja la cabeza y los brazos cruzados sobre el pecho; 10 que pido es que reflexionen todas, y mediten, investigtUln y pasen, en todo caso, por el cedazo de la raz6n, cerniendo bien en el, las cosas de que dare testimonio. Primera, y de todas. Que s610 es pnsible la ti,路anf.a en unos, por la cobardia. y neg ligencia. en otros. Segundo. Lo qlUl hace a uno desP'l"eciable es su falta de dignidad y miedo cerval al despreciador. T ercera. La ignorancia. es servidumbre; porque, a tal pensamiento, tal hO'I'IWre; sujeto que carezca de pensamiento P'l"opio, careceTli. de pe"sonalidad; ciego, cuyo lazarilLo fuera eL pensamiento ajeno, se asemejar!a. a la bestia. que anduviese tras la soga. Cuarta. El que ame su independencia, debe ayudar primeramente a su pr6ji?no, porque eL que desampa;ra, tambien sera desatnparado; que la vainilla aisLada de burt se quiebra muy f6.cilmente, mas no la atada. escoba de vainillas de La palm era. Quinta. Si la fiLipina. no ha de ca'I'IWiar de P'l"ocedimientos, que no crie hijos: que se limite a da1rLos. Se la debe despojar de su seiiorio en el hogar; de otra manera traicionaria inconscientemente al mat-ido, al hijo, a la patria, y a todos. 226


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Sexta. Los homb,·es nacieron iguales, desnuMs, sin ligadura. No creo Dios al hombre pa;ra ser esclavo; ni le doto de entendimiento pard, ser cegado, n~ le adorn6 de razon para ser engaiiado por otro. No es una fatuidad no rendir culto al semejante, esclarecer la inteligencia y hacer uso de la razon en todas las cosas. El fatoo es el que se endiosa, el que embrutece a otros y anhela someter a sus capri.. chos cuanto es razonable y justo. Septi?na. Analicen bien que clase de religiOn es la que os ensefian. Yean bien si es la valuntad de Dios, 0 las ensefianzas de Cristo para socorrer al pobre, mitigar las penas del que sufre. Tengan en consideraciOn lo que se os viene predicando, el objeto de sermon, lo que ocultan las misas, novenas, rosarios, escapularios, imagenes, milagros, candelas, correas, etc., etc., que diaJriamente y a empellones, a gritos y a brazo partido, inculcan en vuestro animo, oidos, ojos; indaguen su punto de partida y su parade,·o, y, despues, contrasten esa religion con la pura de Cristo, y vean si esa mentida observancia de la ley de Cristo no gua,·da fJaridad con la pingue vaca lechera, 0 tal vez con el cebado cerdo cuya crasitud estimulada no fue por anwr al ani?nal, sino por fines de Lucro y explotacion desaforada. Reflexionemos, pues, y estudiemos nuestra situacion y vayamos echando cuentas. Que estas destrabadas lineas puedan ayudar a vuestro buen natural, al proseguir vuest,·o iniciado itinerario. "Mi provecho sera ?nayor que el trabajo invm·tido," y aceptOffe de buena gana el galalT"don de costumbre pam to do aquel que osare decir la verdad a nuestro pueblo. Que . eL exito corone vuestro deseo de instruiros; que en la huerta del saber no cojriis fruto acedo sino selecto, catando antes de englutirLo, porq~te sobre La costra de la tien·a todo viene mis226


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tificado, y no POCM veces s~Gele meter ciza1W el enemigo en medio del semillero. Todo ella es el vivo anhelo de vuestro compatricio. JOSE RIZAL

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NUEVA ADA La revolucion paralizo natural mente las actividades educacionales de Ada. Los consejos de guerra, los encarcelamientos, los sucesos cada dia mas tenebrosos que ocurrian en Manila daban a la capital doble aspecto, uno, de compostura exterior seria que procuraba estar serena, y otro, interior, Heno nerviosidad, de augustiosa inquietud. Pandacan era un nido de katipuneros. La situacion aislada de aquel pueblecillo 10 bacia ideal para los complots secretos y el caracter independiente que ya conocemos de aqueHa gente se prestaba a la rebelion. EI "grito de Balintawak" resono simultaneamente en C~loocan y en Pandacan. Fue un sabado a media nocbe en 29 de Agosto, 1896. Los revolucionarios que eran todos del mismo pueblo se apoderaron del peloton de guardia civiles alli destacado, tomaron sus armas y se posesionaron del Tribunal. No hubo necesidad de un tiro. No se oyo ni un grito. Todo el vecindario parecia 0 estaba confabulado. Encabezaba a los rebeldes de Pandacan el famoso Teniente Miguel considerado como UBI} de los intimos colaboradores de Bonifacio, el mismo que hizo circular el rumor fantastico que en esa noche cruenta del alzamiento general sera. desplegada por el Katipunan la original y autentica bandera de los filipinos recibida de la Reina Isabel siglos atras. Los katipuneros en triunfo se trasladaron en bancas a. Santa Mesa para reunirse con el grueso de las fuerzas bonifacianas hacia San Juan pero con tan mala suerte que los espaiioles enterados de 228


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su proeza y con medios mas ra,pidos se lapzaron a cerrarles el paso en la CalIe Valenzuela, recibiendoles a tir~s. Muchos cayeron muertos en el encuentro. Aun recuerdan en Pandacan a Catalino Manuel, Lorenzo de la Paz, Lazaro Eduardo, Felipe Blanco, Angel Mulong, Severo Katol, caidos bajo el mando del bravo Capitan Ramon Bernardo y del resuelto Benito Lozada. Cuando amaneci6 el dia Pandacan parecia un desierto, las casas cerradas, pero dentro de esta5, en murmullos comprimidos, hervian los comentarios. En la escuela-casa de Ada 5e podia imaginar la zozobra de aquellas nifias. La pequena maestra era la que menos se sentia inquieta. Dotada de aquella imperturbable serenidad oriental en ella tan pronunciada, fortalecia a sus disoipulas mas bien que con sus palabras, con su sonri a llena de confianza. Ella conocia a esos revolucionarios como los conocia todo el mundo en Pandacan. Eran muy buena genteo Era el pais entero que se sublevaba en todas partes pero ell as no corrian peligro alguno. Acaso muy pronto esta insurrecci6n terminaria, y todo vol vera a quedar en paz. Con que no asustarse, y a estudiar! Pero la revoluci6n, en vez de amainar y desaparecer, persistia. Las noticias eran cada vez mas alarmantes. Muchos hombres de Pandacan, conocidos, amigos de la infancia, parientes de Ada habian misteriosamente desaparecido y el rumor secreto era que se f\leron a unirse a Bonifacio. Ada aun esperaria que la tranquilidad volviese de alguna manera y por eso retenia a sus ninas, seguia dandolas clases e inclusive en las vacaciones chicas del Di229


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ciembre de 1896, algunas de aquellas continuaron en su casa a pasar con ella las Pascuas de Navidad. Pero vino la conmoci6n verdadera que por si sola produjo en el alma de Ada un efecto devastador que todas las asonadas y los tiros hasta entonces habidos no consiguieron provocar. Nos referimos al fusilamiento del Dr. Rizal en la manana del 30 de Diciembre de aquel ano. Prescindiendo de 10 que el pueblo filipino sentia por Rizal como el campeon mitol6gico de sus derechos, para la juventud filipin a intelectual de entoces, de esa juventud de que Ada era parte viva y militante, Rizal era el standard, el modele sumo, el tipo sin par, no ya POl' su patriotismo sino POl' su ciencia, admirada por los mismos extrangeros, por la versatilidad de su cultura; porque era un escritor de poderoso estilo, y, ademas, par ue era un gran poeta. Ada 1l0r6 esta muerte e invit6 aquella manana del 30 de Diciembre a todas sus ninas a oir misa. El dia 10 pas6 triste y en silencio. Ahora comprendia can mas claridad porque la revoluci6n existia y porque esa revoluci6n ya no podia retroceder a la paz de los dias que fueron para siempre. Las amigas de Ada cuentan que cuando la Republica Filipina quedo proclamada en Malolos la joven maestra estuvo inquiriendo sabre la verdad de la noticia de que el nuevo gobierno propio iba a abrir su propia universidad can el correspondiente colegio para senoritas de acuerdo con un plan modemo trazado par los pedagogos de aquella epoca. Habia aida que sus ami gas, Rosa Sevilla y Florentina Arellano estaban en la nueva capital filipina y eran redactoras de "La Independencia" del 230


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General Luna. Felices eUas! Ella iria a. Malolos para enseiiar en el planeado colegio; miraba con sonrisa melanc6lica el mont6n de libros de texto aprendidos bajo el regimen muerto, la Greo~afia de Espana, la Historia de Espana... Tantas horas, tantos desvelos perdidos. Pero como no tuviese mas informes de Malolos, volvio a abrir sus clases. Pandacan, como cualquiera parte del pais en aquellos dias, ardia en fiestas. La bandera filipina estaba desplegada en todas las ventanas. Hasta hombres un tiempo tan pacificos e inofensivos se paseaban hoy por las calles vestidos de rayadillo portando alg;unos un fusil 6 una vieja escopeta, casi todos llevaban colgado del cinto el bolo 6 el machete. Las bandas de musica, la famosa orquesta del gran director Bonus no se cansaban de ejecutar por eualquiera ocasi6n la nueva Marcha Nacional. Se decia entonces que Pandacan tenia tal fama de katipunero que durante los ultimos dias de la dominaci6n espanola en cuanto un visitante decia en Manila que era de aquel pueblo Ie cerraban la puerta rogimdole que no suba para evitarse serias oomplicaciones. Efectivamente el pequeno pueblo de Ada hall6 pronto la portunidad de confirmar su fama. Rotas las hostilidades entre americanos y filipinos la Republica orden6 el reclutamiento de soldados y en . Pandacan se ali staron todos los varones de cada familia menos uno que las autoridades permitian que se quedase para cuidar de las mujeres y los niiios. El puebo qued6 semi-vacio. Otra vez Jas calles aparecian tristes y desiertas. La inquietud es231


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peranzada de los dias revolucionarios se converlia ahora en una siniestra e impotente desesperacion ante la arrolladora fuerza del peligro. Las americanos como primera providencia destacaron en Pandacan una compafiia entera, la Comparua "L" del Regimiento de voluntarios de California para vigilar aquel barrio de un as quinientas casas de nipa con excepcion de dos 0 tres, todas habitadas POl' mujeres y nmos. El report que habia en el "Headquarters" decia que aquel pequefio arrabal inofensivo era uno de los focos mas activos de la rebelion en marcha. La orden l'ecibida por el capitan de la compafiia era quemar el pueblo, pel'O aquellos voluntarios californianos habian tornado su oficio medio en broma, medio en serio, y en vez de cumplir con la instruccion del estado mayor 10 comunicaron a la gente, diciendo adem as que no se preocupasen. Esta compafiia desobediente fue sustituida por la Compafiia "H", que como tambien era de voluntarios, tampoco quiso realizar la macabra hazafia. Quemar estas casas en donde no habia mas que mujeres y nifios! Pero se conoce que en el estado mayor del ejercito de ocupacion habria un espiritu diabolico, inflexible en sus planes. La Compania "M" fue a su vez Hamada para ir a otra parte y fue reemplazada por la Compafiia que las viejas de Pandacan Haman con terror la "Compailia de Washington." Esta ya no era de voluntal'ios. El Capitan de la Compafiia "M", al despedil'se de los vecinos les habia anticipado que se cuidasen mucho del proximo destacamento. Buena porcion de sus soldados eran ex-convictos y algunos 232


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negros. Cierren las ventanas, las puertas, no se metan c:on ellos. Y lIego la temida Compafiia. Ada, siempre serena, aun confiaba en que nada serio Ie pasaria al pueblo despues de todo. Sus clases estaban otra vez cerradas, pero se resistia a abandonar la casa apesar de los consejos de su padre que Ie aconsejaba que se trasladase a Manila. Pero un dia, apesar de la premeditada quietud del pueblo, que hn.blaba casi por seiias y andaba de puntiIlas ante el continente feroz y amenazador de la "Compania Washington," hubo un alboroto que hizo temblar, lIorando, a la viejas. Algunos sold ados borrachos 0 meramente acrilegos, ansiosos de establecer uu nuevo record de prutalidad, se metieron en la iglesia y hallaudo alI\ un ataud que encerraba el cadaver de una mujer, 10 destaparon, despojaron al cadaver de su peineta de oro y 10 pusielion boca-abajo. Cuando tan horripilante noticia circulo por el pueblo, Ada obedecio el consejo de su padre y se traslado a Manila. No pasal'on dos 0 tres dias y Pandacan, POl' fin, ardia por sus cuatro costados. Fue un iucendio ordenadamente preparado, ejecutado artisticamente, de acuerdo con algun programa ya viejo trazado por los tecnicos del estado mayor. Se usaron antorchas y petroleo para las casas de nipa, una polvora especial que resistia al agua para los edificios de materiales fuertes. Con excepcion de dos casas, todo Pandacan quedo literalmente converlido en carbon y cenizas. EI pueblo ardio desde las siete de la noche hasta el dia siguiente. Toda la poblacion, para protegerse contlla el quemante fuego y la asfixiante atmesfera, se hundio en eI rio hasta la cin233


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tura cargando a sus ninos 路en brazos con su "balutanes" flotantes sobre el agua, toda la noche. Ada desde Manila en la casa de alguna amiga compasiva, viendo el gran resplandor del incendio de su pueblo y de su cas a, habra confundido el rojo de los cielos con el rojo de la alborada de un nuevo dia. Y era verdad. Aquel era para su alma el nuevo dia en que se consagraba para nuevas luchas, para nuevos sacrificios en aras de un ideal que ella ya sabia que era definitivo e inquebrantable.

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FRACA808 Podeis imaginaros la escena del encuentro entre padre, madrasta e hija al dia siguiente del incendio cuando Pedro y Paula con sus tres pequeiins se fueron a vel' a Ada en Manila. Paula y Ada se abrazaron llorando. Pedro estaba hecho como de piedra. 8u labor de hormiga de mas de veinte aiios convertido en nada. Paula deda a Ada que quizas hubieran podido salvar la casa de haber podido ofrccer whisky 0 cualquier vino a algunos soldados incendiarios que 10 pedian antes de aplicar la antorcha al techo de nipa. Todo perdido, todo quemado; la casa, la tienda, el botiquin. Pedro sintio pOl' primera vez ante la ruina, que ya era viejo. Volveria a comenzar otra vez, desde luego, pero ya no tenia la fuerza y el acometimiento de los otros dias. Ada se sereno. La tipica sonrisa oriental estaba ausente de sus labios, pero su imperturbable optimismo que nunea la abandonaba en las mas duras dificultades, brillaba en sus ojos enrojecidos aun pOl' el Hanto. Abrira escuela enseguida en Manila. Consultaria su plan con Don Vicente Gonzales. Don Vicente cuando fue hablado pOl' Ada halI6 la idea excelente y hablo con su hermano Lucas, el distinguido y eategorico jurisconsulto Don Lucas Gonzales, y este cedi6 a Ada una casa suya en la calle Fernandez, en 8ta. Cruz. Don Vicente, para empujar cuanto antes la empresa hacia adelante entrego a Ada a sus hijos pequeiios para que estudien alli y empiecen las clases cuanto antes. 236


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Don Vicente Gonzales era singularmente un hombre bondadoso cuya debilidad mayor era caer en la dulce tentaci6n de hacer el bien al necesitado cada vez que se Ie presentaba la ocasion. Era farmaceutico, de los mas conspicuos en Manila, de ahi que conociera y quisiera a Pedro Avelino por la profesion de este como aprovechadisimo practicante de Farmacia. Durante la revoluci6n contra Espana el y toda su familia se refugiaron en la casa de Avelino en Pandacan y ahora Ie tocaba ayudar a Ada en los mas dificiles dias de su carrera. Ya era imposible pensar en reabrir, es decir, en reedificar una escuela en Pandacan. El viejo pueblecil~o era talmente un cementerio. La casa de la calle Fernandez era pequena, escondida en aquel vericueto cerca del Estero de Binondo pero para los fines ardientes de Ada de volver a comenzar in mediatamente resultaba mas que suficiente. Alla se la reunio la llorada Da. "Garit," Margarita Oliva, su prima de Pandacan que ya no se separo mas de ella hasta que murio siendo administradora del Centro Escolar. Ademas de algunos hijos de Don Vicente Gonzales acudieron a la calle Fernandez las acostumbrad as discipulas de Ada en Pandacan. Pero los tiempos no eran aun totalmente normales y las educandas de provincias que podian venir a Manila no llegaban. Fueron aquellos dias muy dificiles para Ada. Su padre decaido moral y economicamente por el reciente incendio, su madrasta, aquella alma buena y comprensiva que la habia alentando tanto hasta entonces, ahora ocupada en atender a sus tres pequefios. Se veia sola, sola y entregada it si mis236


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rna por primera vez, luchando con desesperacion como una ave herida yolanda sobre aquel mar de confusiones en que estaba sumido el pais con motivo del cambio de soberania. Nunca habra visto mas obscuro el porvenir. Toda su preparacion, sus estudios hechos con tanto esmero, la ilusion de su vida, aquel Magisterio que era el fruto de tantos sacrificios de su familia se presentaban a su mente como fantasmas burlones que se mofaban de su impotencia y de su insignificancia. Ella se habia cuaIificado victoriosamente en cuantos examenes eran necesarios para conquistar los titulos de su profesion; ella midio su inteligencia y su aplicaci6n con las de las mas brill antes compafieras en las diferentes aulas a que atendi6; ella lucho y trabaj6 como pocas por e tablecer su escliel y acreditarla a fuerza de intenso celo y ella creia que era esa toda la lucha que se necesitaba en su carrera y en la vida. Y he aqui que cuando mas feliz se sentia viendo como la nave de su ilusion es empujada pOl' vientos propicios vino 1a tempested a hundirlo todo, incluyendo su hogar, bajo las olas. Pero es en estas crisis cuando se revelan las mejores y mas rec6nditas cualidades de un alma escogida. Si Ada no sabia que despues de su dura labor de estudiantp. quedaba atm, mucho mas dura, la labor de la vida misma con sus crueles e inesperadas curvas, tampoco sobria ni sospecharia que tenia dentro de si un temple de acero. Viendo que la escuelita de la calle Fernandez languidecia en aquel rinc6n de Santa Cruz como planta sin agua ni sol para su desarollo la cerro pero en vez de retroceder avanz6 mas todavia, se fue 237


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a buscar un edificio mayor en una calle mas abierta y digna. Este edificio 10 encontr6 en San Sebastian, una de esas casas que hasta ahora se conservan cuadradas y bien plantadas, en la punta de la calle R. Hidalgo, a la derecha viniendo de Quiapo. Ada no contaba con medios. No tenia dinero, pero llevaba consigo una determinacion arrolladora. La Ada que conociamos hasta aqui, dulce y con ciliadora, feliz y ensonadora dalaga, estaba transfigurada. Conservaba su optimismo mas que nunca firme pero era un optimismo agresivo, desafiador, ansioso de accion. Una vez se anuncio que en un teatro local iba a celebrarse un miting politico en que los radicales de aquella epoca, remanentes 1'0manticos de la revolucion que acababa de morir, iban a disparar tres 0 cuatro discursos de critica acerb a contra los flojos de voluntad que pactaban con el nuevo gobierno. Ademas de los discursos iba a leerse una poesia, una especie de apostrofe a Rizal, denunciando al Martir la claudicacion ambiente. Esta poesia la escribio el venerable Don Vicente Gonzales. En vano busco el veterano y poetico patriota quien Ie leyese la composicion en el miting. Algunos se ofrecieron pero catando despues el tono amargo y pesando la exaltacion direeta de los versos, desistieron pusiJanimes. Entonces la poesia era aun arma de combate en politica. Don Vicente, impaciente, viendo tanto apocamiento exclamo: -Vamos, hombre! Una senorita leyo esta composicion esta manana y se me ofrecio a declamarla. Yo creia que era mejor que 10 recitase un hombre pero 路ahora yeo que me he equivocado. Ya 238


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que no hay hombres que se atrevan habra. una mujer! Ada era la mujer a que se referia Don Vicente y Ada se fue al teatro aquella noche elegantemente vestida, nueva amazon a del naciente civismo femenino, con su discurso hecho, ademas del temido poema. Afortunada 0 desafortunamente, el miting no se llevo a. cabo. Las autoridades inseguras aun de la estabilidad del orden publico y enteradas del caracter cuasi-sedicioso del miting ordeno su suspension. La escuela de Ada en San Sebastian no tuvo mucho mejor suerte que la de la calle Fernandez. Era un PIlCO mas grande, tenia mas alumnos, pero no acababa de estabilizarse. La as.i stencia de muchos de aquellos, la mayor parte ninos y ninas pequenos, parecia de caracter pllovisional como qui en, esperando mejor oportunidad, se detiene en un lugar para hacer tiempo. El unico aliento que recibio durante aquellos dias fue la incorporacion a su incierta jornada de la predilecta amiga y companera Carmen de Luna. Este su corazon gemelo no se separo mas de ella desde entonces hasta su muerte y hasta ahora que es la Directora en su lugar. Ya eran tres, Ada, Garit y Carmen. Juntas e indivisibles como una trinidad. Diriase que al reunirse estas mujeres en la escuela de San Sebastian, en el libro de in scripciones de algun mundo superior que vigila al nuestro una mano invisible registraba la fundacion del "Centro Escolar." Cada vez mas veia Ada el gran obstaculo claro y obsesionante que la cerraba el paso, su falta de 239


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conocimiento del ingles. Este obstaculo se decia para sl, sera cada vez mayor y mayor. La enseBanza en Filipinas de aqui en adelante sera imposible sin el contenido y la envoltura del ingles. Pobre Mang Mundo, que dira ahora el viejo maestro ciego! Y una vez mas la nueva Ada agresiva obligada a una cruenta lucha acepto el reto de la fatalidad a la primera ocasion, sin pestaiiear. EI nuevo gobierno empezaba a abrir sus escuelas con suma diplomacia invitando a sus filas a las maestras del regimen anterior para que ayudasen a enseiiar juntamente con los maestros american os. Ada se ofrecio al gobierno a enseiiar en la escuela de su pueblo. Ella, la maestra superior de ll\. Asuncion, descendia a ocupar el modesto sitio de Maestra Luisa. Se habia propuesto a aprender el ingles y encontraba la mejor forma de hacerlo enseiiandolo. Salia para la escuela por las mananas, seguida de las alumnas suyas propias que con ella vivian en su colegio, y antes de abrir la clase tomaba lecciones de lenguaje del maestro americano de la misma escuela. No contenta con esta preparacion todavia atendia a la clase nocturna de Sampaloc. Hasta que por fin llegadas las vacaciones, pudo dedicar mas tiempo a su preparacion linguistica en las clases de verano para maestros. Y otra vez el batallador temperamento de la irreductible nueva Ada se manifest6 en estas clases. Era en la asignatura de la Historia de Filipinas. Resultaba en verdad un poco an6malo que unos hombres recien venidos al pais enseiiasen la historia del mismo a sus propios habitantes que eran maes240


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tros nada menos, y Mr. Prescott F. Jernegan, autor del primer libro de texto sobre la historia que llamariamos americana de Filipinas, estaba tranquilamente explicando la lecci6n de acuerdo con su buen criterio. Ada no estaba talmente interesada en la historia de Mr. Jernegan como de la manera como este pronunciaba ciertas palabras en lngles tomando aquella conferencia como una lecci6n mas sobre el lenguaje. Hasta que el profesor muy seriamente pas6 a hablar de la Revoluci6n mencionando incidentalmente a Aguinaldo como "chief of Cavite bandits" (jefe de bandidos de Cavite). Ada, al oir esto, se olvid6 de su ingles, se oIvid6 de sus preocupaciones sobre la pronunciaci6n y se levant6 a protes11r. -Sr. Jernegan, AguinalC\o no fue un bandido. Nuestros re'volucionalrios no eran bandidos. Eran patriotas, tan patriotas como los revolucionarios de la guerra pm; la independencia de America en 1776! Hubo un pequeno alboroto en la c1ase. Mr. Jernegan todo colorado ante la inesperada interpelaci6n, se excus6 diciendo que cada cual tenia derecho a pensar como Ie parecia, y Be termin6 Ia conferencia. EI horizonte para Ada seguia aun oscuro. Su acariciado plan de toda Ia vida de tener su propil) colegio, sus propias alumnas, muchas aiumnas, no ofrecia sintomas de realizarse, ni tarde ni temprano. Su obsesi6n, el ingles, parecia cada dia mas dificil de dominar. Justamente en aquel tiempo florecia con el renacimiento de los ideales nacionalistas la literatura filipina en castellano como bandera de combate y 241


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como profesi6n de fe contra la asimilaci6n. El estado mental de la juventud intelectual de aquella epoca y a la que Ada pertenecia, era todo 10 mas hostil 6 arisco imagin~ble hacia el aprendizaje del ingles, que cOIl8ideraba como el vehiculo espiritual de la conquista. Pero, en el caso de ella definitivamente desposada con el magisterio no habia otro camino ni habia otro remedio mas que aprender el ingles. Y no pudiendolo aprender en Manila con la debida concentraci6n y la necesaria simpatia, cerrando su escuela de San Sebastian y abandonando sus clases de Pandacan, sigui6 con la familia Gonzales a Ifongkong en don de aquella pensaba residir por algun tiempo. En Hongkong aprenderia mejor el ingles. Alla estuvo POl' unos seis meses. La muerte visit6 inesperadamente a una compaiiera de la comitiva y tuvieron que regresar a Manila. Otro fracaso. Con acertada prevenci6n, Ada, antes de salir habia escrito al entonces superintendente David 1'. Barrows una carta preguntandole si podia conserval' el puesto de maestl'a a su vuelta. HI am anxious to become a more efficient teacher of English, and for this reason ask for the leave of absence. "May I take ~vith me copies of the books I teach in the public school here so that I 'Tnay . become m01'e familiar ~vith them? If I gr;, shall I have my p1'esent position when I return?" Asi escribia Ada en Octubre, 1901 al superintendente de escuelas de Manila, Dr. Barrowspresidente despues de la Universidad de California 242


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-en una carta escrupulosamente escrita, en caligrafia elegantisima, bajo esta firma, "Librada Avelino, Principal Teacher, !"andacan Girls' School." Ada volvio a Pandacan, y volvio a ocupar su puesto de principal como 10 habia pedido al Superintendente Barrows. Este ya habia ascendido a Director de Educaci6n y estaba en su lugar George O'Reilly. Con frescos entusiasmos y mejor reconciliada con su labor despues del viaje, Ada reanud6 sus clases. Las niiias estaban contentas. Muchas familias del pueblo que se iban acostumbrando al nue路 vo orden de cos as, con la vuelta de Ada enviaron sus hijas a la escuela. Pero estaba escrito que aquE'1 periodo de BU vida estuviera Ileno de conflictos. EI maestro principal de la escuela destinada a niiios contigua a la de Ada era un americano. Desde que Ada comenzo a resumir BU labor este colega suyo tomo como su deber adicional el supervisar y dirigir el trabajo de la maestra principal de niiias. Lo hizo un dia y ya no pudo repetirlo. La pequeiia maestra principal de niiias, sin dejar de sonreir, Ie dijo con firmeza que podia atender a sus propios asuntos pero no al de los demas, que ella era tan Principal de la escuela como el. Y como el col ega insistiera en su derecho 0 en su autoridad de entrometerse, Ada abandon6 la clase, seguida de todas sus alumnas. Una huelga regular de estudiantes. El asunto lIeg6 ante el Superintendente O'Reilly que suplico a Ada que no dimitiera. Ada volvi6 a la escuela y a las pocas semanas ocurria otro choque entre los dos principales p~r las mismas razones anteriores. Otra intervenci6n de O'Reilly, esta vez 243


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con promesa del traslado del recalcitrante principal y un aumento de sueldo. -No salga Yd. Miss Avelino,-decia O'Reilly -yo estoy dispuesto a aumentarla de sueldo de tal manera que sea Yd. la maestra filipina mejor pagada en todo el pais. A Ada, todavia no muy acostumbrada a las normas recien importadas, Ie sonaba a algo insolito este modo harto crudo de tasar su capacidad por la cantidad de salado que iba a recibir. De todos modos, su ambicion no era precisamente el mayor sueldo que pudiese percibir enseiiando sino el fun dar un colegio que pueda llamar suyo y ensefiar en el a sus anchas. Se marcho de la escuela de Pandacan. Estaba al borde del desaliento por las decepciones r ecibidas. Sus propositos tan noblemente concebidos no se realizarian nunca. Penso inclusive en estudiar el Derecho, llevada de su afan insaciable de aprender. Un amigo que tambien estudiaba entonces la misma carrera la persuadio a que desistiera de semejante empresa. Ella estaba destin ada a educar, a dirigiJ.", a mold ear la juventud femenina del pais. Era su mision, una mision grande, una labor envidiable, vital para las necesidades del pueblo y pocas como ella podian acometer esa labor. Quien decia a Ada estas observaciones era el entonces Director de HEI Renacimiento," Teodoro M. Kalaw. Ada se convencio. Y hasta muchos afios despues, cada vez que se encontraba con Kalaw, la directora del Centro Escolar nunc a se olvidaba de darle las gracias por Haquel consejo."

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EL "CENTRO ESCOLAR DE SE:&ORITAS" EI lector 6 la lectora que nos ha estado siguiendo desde el comienzo de este libro habra comprendido que estas paginas no son la historia del Centro Escolar sino de su fundadora. Estas paginas son dedicadas a la vida de aquella extr.aordinaria mujer que hizo posible tras de muchas luchas y adversidades la existencia de esa institucion educacional mol dead ora de un hermoso y solido tipo de madres hijas y cuidadanas filipinas. EI "Centro Escolar", pues, para los fines de este analisis de la formacion de aquella maravillosa alma, si ien es verdad que representa el climax de sus proez s geniales de crercion y organizacion no fue sin embargo, mas que una logica e inevitable floracion. Aquel caracter industrioso y espartano de Pedro Avelino, aqueila vida simplisima y mistica de Francisca Mafigali, aquella severidad tradicionalista de la tia-madrina Juana, aquel valeroso liberalismo de Paula Arcilla puestos y mezclad os en el corazon de Ada como en una retorta para hervirlos al fuego lento de una educacion esmerada y deliberada bajo la atmosfera autoctona de Pandacan, agitados luego violentamente p~r las dos revoluciones con BU choque colosal de ideales y de norm as, ten Ian que producir 0 el quebrantamiento de aquel corazon, roto por motivos de inadaptabilidad, 0 el triunfo an'ollador de la noble ambicion que formaran, hecha necesariamente de altos propositos, despues de duras y cruentas pruebas. Ya estamos en los comienzoB de 1907. Ada 245


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acababa de dejar el luto, es decir, el traje negro por la muerte de su madrasta Paula que muri6 a fines de 1905. Aquel rudo golpe era 10 unico que faltaba para completar el cicIo de sus adversidades. Su padre dandQ un adios definitivo a multiplicadas actividades que tenia cuando era mas joven y fuerte, se recIuy6 en su pequefia botica acogiendose al reconocimiento que el Gobierno concedia a Farmaceuticos de Segunda Clase. El viejo en su laconismo, mas que con las palabras habra dicho a su hija con su mirada, con su actitud resignada que a ella Ie tocaba ahora velar por Sus hermanos. Hasta entonceg Ada estaba ya acostumbrada a luchar ola y sin ayuda pero desde aqui pasaba ademas a ser el sosten principal de la estabilidad de su pro pia familia. Ello no queria decir que ella aportaria para el sustento de su casa. El viejo mismo no 10 permitiria. Pero 10 que llamariamos ahora el liderato de su hogar quedaba transpasado a su tesponsabilidad. Este hecho tan ordinario en otras vidas y en otras personas y que en las mujeres en las mismas circunstancias de ella como la hija mayor hubiera sido 10 mas natural, pues a esa edad ya estaria casada, en Ada, no obstante, era un reto mas del Destino. En nuestro pais las hijas al casarse, en vez de sentirse separadas de los suyos es cuando se hallan en mejor disosici6n de ayudarles contando con la cooperaci6n efectiva del marido que muchas veces por la boda resulta mas adicto a la familia de su mujer que a la suya propia. Pero Ada a los 34 afios que era esa en 1907 cuando fund6 el Centro Escolar, no solo no estaba casada sino que no tenia 246


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la menor inclinaci6n de serlo. Tenia sus planes, tenia su ambici6n que requerian la suprema renuncia al amor y a un propio hogar. Y esos planes y esa ambicion estaban, sin embargo, muy lejos de realizarse ! En esa tesitura desmayada, en esa depresi6n espiritual se hallaba cuando casualmente hablo con Fernando Salas, un antiguo amigo y visitante en Pandacan. Salas ya era abogado, uno de los jovenes jurisconsultos que t enian un gran porvenir por su empaque intelectual y su caracter de obvia respetabilidad Est e Salas ademas, que era de Mo10, Iloilo, pertenecia a una familia de educadores, su padre un antiguo y famoso maestro durante la soberania pasada. Sus palabras de estimulo, sus comentarios halagadores sobre los planes de Ada lIevaban paI1a esta, lIena ya de decepciones, el sella de la autoridad. Si, senor, fundarian un Colegio, afirmaba D. Fernando. En Iloilo el tenia uno, sus hermanos eran los maestros y marchaba tan bien que pensaba trasladarlo a Manila. EI sabia 10 que era tener alumnas y ensenar a mujeres. Las tenia en su Colegio en Iloilo. Se llamaba" Centro Escolar." Este sera un plan educacional comprensivo como no se ha visto otro, Da. Librada; tendremos un "Centro Escolar" para varones y otro "Centro Escolar" para senoritas. Formaremos una asociacion. Eh? Que Ie parece a Yd. mi programa? A Ada el programa Ie parecia bien. Todo Ie parecia bien. Es decir, toda idea de fundar un colegio era para ella una idea buena aunque no nueva porque era su sueno de todo el tiempo. Lo 249


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que ella encontraba nuevo en el plan de D. Fernando era el aliento, el necesario estimulo que recibia para volver a intentar reaJizar su obsesi6n. A ella Ie importaba poco si la Asociaci6n propuesta iba a tener uno 6 dos Colegios, 10 que la concernia vitalmente hasta el punto de latirsela violentamente el corazon de emoci6n era que "su" Colegio al fin iba a fundarse con el apoyo que necesitaba, ese apoyo moral que ha estado buscando y esperando en vano. Este mundo seguia siendo de hombres y hacia falta contar con uno siquiera para comenzar, se habra dicho para si. Ada comunic6 la proposicion a su companera D.a CarIl\en y ambas con Salas, por partes iguales, aportar,on el primer capital para comenzar cuanto antes e1 "Centro Escolar de Senoritas." Del "Centro Escalar de Varones" nunca se supo ya !lada, ni entonces ni despues.

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FIDEICOMISO EI estupendo desarrollo del "Centro Escolar" se puede dividir en tres period os iguales de tiempo que terminan en tres "sietes"; el de su fundacion y estabilizacion, de 1907 a 1917; el de su expansion, de 1917 a 1927; y el de su nacionalizacion que sera de aqui a uno 0 dos anos, 0 sea, el 1937. Si este ultimo desenvolvimiento no se realiza como la etapa final y logica de su existencia, entonces esa Institucion abra dacaido rapidamente y la tercera decada al cerrarse se llevara ella la ultima pagina de aquel poem a epico educacional hecho de sacrificios, de planes audaces, de valor y de fe. Desde que se fundo el "Centro Escolar " hasta que murio su fundadora esta sobrellevo practicamente sola la responsabilidad de tan tremenda obra cada vez mas grande, cada vez mas complicada, cade vez mas alta, y ahora que ella ya no existe, para sostener y continuar su formidable labor, aquella responsabilidad tiene que dividirse, tiene que organizarse, tiene que pasar a muchas e iniciadas manos. Como un presentimiento de esto que denominamos la nacionalizacion del "Centro Escolar," en los Estatutso del Colegio adoptados a los tres anos de su fundacion, Julio 10, 1910, Estatutos que aun existen, hay la siguiente disposicion en el Articulo 4째; "EI fin para el cual se constituye esta Cor_ poracion., es la ensenanza de la Instruccion Primaria, Intermedia y Secundaria, Estudios de Aplicacion y mas tarde las Carreras Facul251


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tativas, as! como todo aquello que se refiere a la educacion tanto intelectual y fisica, como moral y civica del individuo, especial mente de la mujer. "Para la consecuci6n y el debido cumplimiento de este fin, la asociaci6n procwra1"lL convertirse, de sociedad de caracter particular en fideicomisoo verdadero, en lo forma dispuesta en el Cap. XI de estos Estatutos." EI Capitulo XI de esos Estatutos se refiere a las Donaciones. La Corporacion en 1910 suspiraba como el colmo de sus aspiraciones, por conseguir reunir an total de cincuenta mil pesos en donaciones "en bienes inmuebles y en metalicos." Alcanzada esta sum a, el Colegio dejaria de pertenecer a nadie en particular "constituyendose en fideicomiso" 0 sea, en Institucion civica 0 comun, administrada como tal. Deciamos en el Capitulo anterior que Fernando Salas, Carmen de Luna y Ada aportaron por partes iguales el primer capital con que se fundo el "Centro Escolar." Cad a cual produjo doscientos cincuenta pesos. Multiplicada 'esta cantidad POl' tres da un total de setecientos cincuenta. Con este dinero reunido en un dia de Abril de 1907, se ha levantado un "Centro Escolar" que en Noviembre de 1935, a la muerte de aquella Hada que con su varita magica 10 saco casi del aire, reresentaba un valor en propiedades de un million de pesos sin incluir el hermoso e imponente edificio del "Centro Escolar University" en la Calle Mendiola avaluado en mas de cien mil pesos, propiedad exclusiva y contribucion de la valerosa Directora al "Centro Es252


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colar" original. Un ano 6 dos antes de morir su fundadora este "Centro Escolar" fue incorporado debidamente para emitir acciones pues hasta entonces, como el lector ya habra sospechado, la 80ciedad no las vendia, Iimitando su circulo de miembros it los que en los Estatutos se llaman efectivos y honorarios, numerarios y" supernumerarios, bienhechores, fundadores, profesores, benemeritos, favorecedores, ex-profesores, graduadas, colegiadas, filitntropos, protectores, meritorias, coadyuvadores 6 simpatizadores. Un bO/lque de nombres y adjetivos que vienen a indicar meramente la varied ad de perflonas de buena voluntad que ayudaron 6 pueden ayudar al Colegio it sobrevivir y llevar it cabo su atrevido apostolado en medio de la total car rencia de r ursos al tiempro de su fundaci6n. Diez arros antes de la f,undaci6n del "Centro Escolar," 5e cre6 en Manila con gran entusiasmo, con explosi6nes de jubilo popular, la '80ciedad Filomittica" que di6 a luz al inolvidable "Liceo de Manila." La pobre, la an6nima y desempleada maestra Ada, c6mo habra admirado 1I0rando interiormente de envidia noble y divina, aquel golpe intelectual y patri6tico de nustros mas conspicuos y culminantes hombres de ciencia y de dinero quienes oliendo aun algunos de elIos it p6lvora, a trinchera, a hierbas de los montes, humeando aun los restos del incendio de Pandacan, 10 primero que hacian al reintegrarse a la paz era abrir un Colegio neto, un Colegio propi"o, un Colegio filipino para educar en el a la juventud heredera forzosa de S~lS derrotas, si, pero tambien de sus ideales indestructibles de patria y libertad. 253


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Ella la pequeiia, la humilde maestrilla, desesperada en la lucha individual "que estaba trabando con la gramatica inglesa, viendo la inutilidad de toda preparacion pedagogica del regimen pasado, si la hubieran dicho a ella en aquel tiempo que algun dia tendria un Colegio tan grande como el "Liceo," se hubiera creido victima de un cruel sarcasmo. Estaban al frente de la Sociedad Filomatica nombres inmensos como afianzadores: D. Leon Ma. Guerrero, D. Ignacio Villamor, D. Felipe Calderon, D. Alejandro y D. Jose Albert, D. Enrique Mendiola, D. Arsenio Cruz Herrera, D. Mariano Limjap, D. Maximo Paterno. No se podia aportar mayor capital intelectual ni presentar mejor solvencia financiera. Todos estos en la lista, con excepcion de uno 0 dos, tenian sus catedras. Con ellos ensefiaban ademas el Dr. T. H. Pardo de Tavera en Histori a, el Padre Roxas en FiIosofia con el metafisico y venerable Magsalin, H. Ilagan en lenguas, incluyendo el latin, M. Cabigting en Geografia y Estadistica, Fernando M. Guerrero en Ret6rica, M. Vivencio en Fisica y Quimica, M. Zaragoza en Pintura, el Dr. Hernando en Matematicas, etc. El "Liceo de Manila" tuvo sus dias y sus alios de incomparable gloria. Su programa procIamado por su sabio Presidente, D. Leon M. Guerrero, en la inauguracion del Colegio cuando dijo : "Nuestra obra es de reedificacion y de prosecuci6n," fue bizarramente cumplido. Estaban en el campo educacional "POl' amor a la Patria y POl' amor ala Juventud." Hasta los cadetes del "Liceo" ten ian POl' uniforme el emocionante rayadillo. De las columnas del Salon de Actos colgaban coronas de laurel . 254


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portando cada una el.nombre de algun heroe nacionaJ. Y al fondo, como un cuadro mural, {mica d~足 coracion pictorica del Salon, la escena de la muerte del General Lawton de un balazo al pecho mientras combatia contra las huestes del General Makabulos en los campos de San Mateo, RizaJ. Un cuadro tan noblemente ejecutado que mientras infundia respeto al cardo y bravo invasor, fortalecia el corazon del desmayado nativo que 10 contemplase. Cuando se abrio el "Centro Escolar" timidamente, inconspicuamente, con sus secretos setecientos cincuenta pesos bien cont ados, en una casita de la Calle Azcarraga-antes Calzada del Iris-en el mismo lugar en donde hoy se levanta inabarcable el edificio del Colegio, el "Liceo" se hallaba en su apogeo. Estaba ya produciel\do sus primeros Bachilleres, jovenes de mentalidad sobria, agresiva en su filipinismo, inasimilada. Eran un poco des denosos y probablemente esto se deba Ii las predicaciones de superioridad que les daban sus sagaces profesores. Ese sentimiento era muy necesario en aquellos desalentadores tiempos. En la tribuna publica, en esa misma epoca tronaba la voz milagrera del Dr. Dominador Gomez, Idolo de la masas, el apostol del valor y de la fuerza. En la prensa, "El Renacimiento" hecho un pararrayos, recogia las iras del poder y las devolvia en verso y en prosa lapidarios. No querian el ingles, odiaban las escuelas publicas, miraban con recelo todo asomo de inteligencia con el gobierno civil recien establecido; frente aJ federalismo gritaban el inmediatismo, el urgentismo. EI gobierno, sin embargo, con la fuerza 255


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silente de 10 inevitable, se estabilizaba, ensanchaba su radio de influencia por todo el pais como la gota de aceite sobre una hoja de papel. La Asamblea Filipina se inauguraba. EI primer bill aprobado por los Diputados era para crear un fondo destinado a abrir escuelas en los barrios Vino poco a poco la supervision oficial de las escuelas privadas. Supervisar las escuelas privadas? Esta gente? Increible! Increible y todo, tenian que admitir la realidad. La sensaci6n que produciria esta disposici6n gubernamental en aqueIIas almas altivas no podria ser mas deprimente. En cambio, al pequeno Colegio de la pequefia Ada cualquier acci6n procedente del Bureau de Educaci6n IIegaba inmunizada. No podia causar innecesario escozor. Llevando en el corazon y en la mente los mismos ideales, los mismos sentimientos que los hombres de su pais, acaso mas ardientemente que eIlos, la Directora del tierno y recien fundado "Centro Escolar" venia de ser "Principal Teacher, Girls' School, Pandacan, Manila," y comprendia, comprendia . .. Donde los demas, por no ceder se quebraron, ella, mujer al fin, supo vestir de blandura su firmeza y consigui6 seguir adelante hasta llegar a la meta que los hombres fuertes solo vislumbraron en sus suenos. EI "Liceo de Manila" con su capital respetable, con sus sostenedores s61idos y prestigiosos, con su eminente profesorado, como no podia ofrecerse otro mejor en todo el pais, apesar de la rotunda acogida que mereci6 del pueblo desde que naci6, decay6 visiblemente al decimo ano de su existencia hasta desaparecer. EI "Centro Escolar" creaci6n insigni256


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ficante de unas cuantas mujeres sin recurs os y sin nombre en 1907, tambien ha desaparecido en sus formas originales pero para transformarse en una grandiosa instituci6n consagrada a la mas completa y eficaz educaci6n de la mujer en Filipinas.

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PROFESORES Y ALUMN AS , 'En un viejo cuaderno borrador de Ada Be dest aca en la primera pagina este pensamiento favorito en ingles, probablemente tornado de algun libro : "Sonar y abrirse paso era ellema de John Harvard cuando con unos cuantos cientos de dollars abri6 el Colegio de Harvard. La fundaci6n del Colegio de Yale mediante un monton de libros no fue sino un sueno que mas tarde se convirti6 en realidad." Copiando este estimulante y disculpador comentario, ella pensaria en su temeraria y suprema aventura al empujar a su "Centro Escolar" hacia una carrera ascendente que no reconocia ni !imites ni barreras. EI "Centro Escolar" vino a la vida de los Colegios en una epoca la mas propicia. Esta consideraci6n aiiadida al hecho de que la gran oportunidad haya ido a parar en manos de la mujer mas preparada para sa car de ella el maximum de provecho, explica el exitb de la empresa. Era la mas prop icia la epoca en que naci6 el "Centro Escolar" porque el pais vuelto a la normalidad y llevando en su alma el sello ya indeleble, hecho a sangre y fuego, del nacionalismo preferia en la educaci6n de sus hijos un metodo de enselianza mas aproximado a sus ideales. Por otra parte sin ignorar el cambio de situaci6n y aceptando 10 mejor y mas uti! de ese cambio queria en esa educaci6n el descarte de 10 antiguo y arcaico y la adopci6n de 10 moderno y liberal dentro de los linderos de un elastico conservatismo. Ada con sus alios de Maestra Principal 268


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de Pandacan, la primera que ocupaba ese puesto en la escuela recien abierta p~r el gobierno alii, a quien el superintendente O'Reilly ofrecia el sueldo mas alto a que podia aspirar una maestra del pais, estaba iniciada en el sistema de instruccion recien implantado y p~r conocerlo tan bien no tenia prejuicios contra dicho sistema. Al propio tiempo ella representaba 10 mejor de la pedagogia que formo la mentalidad y el corazon de las pasadas generaciones. Dadas estas prem\sas todo 10 que a aquella mujer Ie podria faltar para triunfar era el caracter, el genio emprendedor y organizador. Sus luchas y sus sacrificios, su tenacidad y su audacia probaron despUlls que ella estaba a la altura de su mision en espiritu y en voluntad. Fueron los primeros alios del "Centro Escolar" de una adecentada anonimidad. Un colegio modesto y bien intencionado. Su pobreza que era mucho mas grande de 10 que exteriormente se podia entrever no Ie perm\tia ningun gesto de propaganda 0 reclamo categorico, demasiado consciente de la limitacion de sus alc3lnces. Antes que las a1umnas, Ada se dedico a reclutar sus maestras mediante un proceso de analisis y de eliminacion que revelaba su genial sagacidad. EI profesorado tenia que responder al ideario que buIlia en su mente, y esto era tanto mas dificil cuanto que queria 10 mejor, sin, por otro lado, los naturales estimulos que un Colegio bien capitalizado ofreceria. Una obra de creaci6n, no de mere almacenaje. Sus pequeiios ojos penetrantes pronto dieron en 10 que buscaba su cabeza. En una modesta casa en la 259


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calle Lipa, Sampaloc, VIVIan varias senoritas inteligentes cuyos record cultural era la admiraci6n de la gente, especialmente el de una de elias, Maria del Pilar Francisco, alumna aventajadisima del "Liceo" y luego de la Escuela de Derecho. En realidad esta senorita era tan brillante que iba a ser como 10 fue, la primera abogada filipina. En Santa Mesa habia aun otras dos senoritas del mismo apellido, Felisa y Dominga, primas de Maria y de Filomena y de I1defonsa Amor, hermana esta de las dos ultimas, tambien de merecimientos intelectuales sobresalientes. Estas senoritas eran hijas de los hermanos Gobriel y Sabino Francisco, ambos obreros impresores que han invertido el jornal y los aho_ rros de su trabajo en la educaci6n de estas extra 01'dinarias muchachas. Todas estas, unas tras otras, fueron incorporadas por Ada a su apostolado. Maria del Pilar Francisco fue la Secretaria del Colegio. Por la absoluta novedad de su gloria y de su titulo en la historia apenas escrita del femenismo filipini naciente, Maria Francisco fue popularmente conocida en todo el pais como pocas mujeres 10 fueron despues, y su retrato publicado en todos los peri6dicos del Archipielago llevaba en la inscripci6n el obligado aditamento de "Secretaria del Centro Escolar de Senoritas." Hasta que muri6 ya siendo esposa del abogado Villaceran, Maria del Pilar continu6 en su puesto que ahora 10 ocupa una de las liders nacionales mas prestigiosas, la Sra. Pilar Hidalgo Lim, Presidenta de la formidable y poderosa Federaci6n de Clubs de Mujeres. EI Sr. Salas propuso el nombramiento del Sr. Josue Soncuya para ensenar en el "Centro Esco260


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lar." El profesor Soncuya ademas de abogado es uno de nuestros mas cultos pedagogos, templado en el molde chisico de ayer, familiarizado en el estudio de nuestra historia y de nuestra psicologia racial habiendo escrito ensayos muy valiosos sobre estas materias. A 10 largo del desenvolvimiento del "Centro Escolar" Soncuya con sus conocimientos juridicos, sus consejos y su celo ferviente, habiendo consagrado toda su vida al servicio del Colegio, ha sido un elemente caracterizante del "Centro Escolar." Luego estaban el orad or y eminente literato Sr. Manuel Ravago, uno de los campeones civiles mas simpaticos de la tradicion catolica; estaba el Sr. Alberto Campos, el Capitan Campos que fue del Ejercito espanol, Licenciado en ciencias exactas, fisicas y naturales po la Universidad Central de MadSid, periodista como D. Manuel, aplaudido actor, dotado de un cora2<on tan grande como su amor por la juventud de este pais. Estaban aun otros profesores de no menos valer en sus respectivos ramos, que fueron sumandose al grupo inicial atraidos uno por uno porIa silenciosamente activa e incansable Directora. Incurririamos en una involuntaria-no pOl' esa menos reprobable-discriminacion si persistimos en recitar nombres en esta resena, ademas de los que ya se mencionaron porIa razon privilegiada de haber sido los originales incorporadores del "Centro Escolar de Senoritas" en 1910. Pero es preciso decir que a 10 largo de los treinta an os de la Institucion, la seleccion de los profesores y profesoras hecha por su fundadora en consuIta con la Directiva no se ha separado del patron adoptado y estableci261


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do en los comienzos: modernidad moderada, respeto a la tradici6n y progresivo filipinismo. Hasta hace poco tiempo antes de morir Ada, tenaz en su orientacion, viendo que se multiplicaban las academias 0 escuelas de corte, abri6 en el "Centro Escolar" clases de costura y puso a su frente a esa mujercita genial tan cumbre como ella en el ramo del arte de los trajes filipinos, su amiga de la juventud, la sin par Pacita Longos. A la cabeza de la Ciencia Domestica esta esa otra mujer extraordinaria cuyo nombre evoca a la vez el hogar, los hijos y el avance de la influencia eficaz de las mujeres del pais, D.a Sofia R. de Veyra. D. Fernando Salas no estuvo conectado con el Colegio mucho tiempo. Retir6 su capital por el que se Ie pag6 bien e ingres6 en la judicatura. Deciamos que el desarrollo del "Centro Escolar" podia dividil'se en tres decadas, siendo la primer a de la fundaci6n y su estahilizacion. Esta parte una vez asegurada en su base por Ada mediante la seleccion de su profesorado al que encabezaba su trinidad fundamental-ella, la "Sub," Da. Carmen de Luna y la administradora "Maestra "Garit", D.a Margarita Oliva,-puso con mayor desembarazo toda su alma, todo su corazon en el cuidado y en la multiplicaci6n de sus alumnas, de sus "hijas." En toda su vida Ada al dirigirse a sus alumnas nunca las ha lIamado por otro nombre. Como ella misma dice en uno de sus escritos: "Cosa grave es confiar nilias a personas desconocidas durante un ano, dos tres y quizas hasta diez 0 mas alios. Pueden ser mal cuidadas, contraer malas costumbres, recibir ejemplos perjuQiciales. Indudable262


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mente sera necesario hacer una informacion sobre las personas que estan lIamadas a albergar a elIas y ejercer vigilancia sobre elias." Y aiiade estas observaciones sencillas que representan a modo de compendio intimo, todo Stl credo, toda su ambiciOn como educadora: "Durante los diez meses de eada ano escolar, no solamente ptocuramos nutrir las tiernas inteligencias de nuestras alumnas conocimientos utiles que les capaciten P'<lra luchar con ventaja por la existencia en caso de necesidad, sino sobre todo, procuramos infiltrar en sus sencillos corazones la savia vivifieadora de la virt ud y del verdader.o 'patriotismo, inculeiindolas la idea de que ahora, mas que nunea, tenem~s ne~esidad ,de una un.i6~ solida y mutua cooperac16n SI deseamos contnbUir a la emancipacion y engradecimiento de nuestro quetido pueblo. Dentro de mi humilde esfera de acci6n, si alguna vez he dado albergue en mi pecho al orgullo, ha side (en los momentos)cuando contemplo a nllestras numerosas alumnas procedentes desde' el Cabo Bojeador basta el Rio Grande de Mindanao, estar intima y fraternalmente unidas sintiendo en su alma la: misma aspiracion comun, el engradecimiento de BU patria; solamente un culto y veneraci6n, el de su idolatrado colegio, "Centro Escolar"; y un solo lema, el de su bandera: Ciencia y Virtlld." El fervor con que Ada atendia a sus ninas alcanzaba a los padres de ellas. Para recibirlos, para hablar con ellos, para escucbar con paeiencia 'infinita todo 10 que tienen que decir y que rogar tenia tiempo invariable aquella dinamica mujer increiblemente ocupada nd solo dentro sino fuera del Co263


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legio por los mil asuntos que la administr.aci6n del mismo requeria, asuntos que ella tampoco cedia que los atendiesen otros. Segun la Memoria rend ida por Ada a la Junta Directiva correspondiente a los primeros siete afios del "Centro Escolar", en 1907 habia 48 internas, 7 medio internas y 63 externas. Algunas familias de Negros y de Iloilo que de ordinaxip enviaxian a sus hijas a los colegios religiosos de Manila "pxobaron" el nuevo "Centro EBcolar" en donde ensenaban D. Fernando Salas a qui en conocian y sabian de su prestigio y el atildado escritor alIa muy conocid,o, TQmas Sison. A la vuelta despues del curro, a,~ellas ninas se convirtieron en pxopagandistas de su Colegio. Se repetia 10 ocurrido con la discipula Felipa Fernandez en la escuela de Pandacan. Las ninlj.S hablaban de lalliberalidad, de la tierna pero firme direcci6n de D.a Librada. Se hacian lenguas de aquel caracter natural, nada rigido ni artificial, del metodo de ensefianza y de aquellas regIas del intern ado que a veces creian que estaban ell casa. Los domingos por la manana 0 por la tarde la Sala de visitas parecia un tea party, las ninas recibiendo a sus parientes 0 amigos con la misma ingenuidad e igual compostura que 10 harian en su propio hogar. Y las ninas, aquellas ricas y mimadas herederas, acostumbradas a otros metodos has>ta entonees, excJamaban : "Asi dan ganas de estudiarl" Pero, habia ademas otra novedad que las lIamaba la atenci6n que por la sonrisa con que 10 decian no las desagradaba. No se rezaba mucho. Eso sl, todas, las que 10 queriarr, iban a misa, comul_ 26~


PROFESORES Y ALUMl'fAS

gaban los domingos. La Directora comulgaba casi todos los dorningos. En el Colegio cada una seguia natural mente sus devociones pero los prolongados rezos en masa a determinadas horas, no existian. La multipJicacion de la alumnas desde los primeros anos fue abrumadora. En 1910 las internas ya Jlegaball a 157, las medio internas a 56 y las externas a 101. En 1914 Jas internas subieron a 310, Jas medio internas a 75 y Jas externas a 160. Se veia claramente que Ja confianza y la fe de las familias de provincias en la pericia e idoneidad de las educadoras del "Centro EscoJar" eran cada ano mayores ateniendonos aJ desproporcionado incremento del internado. Sin embargo, eJ mayor numero de alumnas que tuvo el "Centro EscoJar" fue cuando ya tenia en pJeno fUJ;lcionamiento eJ "Centro Escolar University." En 1930, segun Ja administradora Srta. Generosa de Leon Ilego dicho numere a 1,600 entre internas y externas, abarcando desde la primaria hasta Jas distintas Facultades.

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LUCHAS, CONFLICTOS, DIFICULTADES Una de las dificultades mas duras que el "Centro Escolar" y su fundadora encontraron apenas comenzada la empresa ha sido provocada por su mismo hito. Desde el curso de 1909-1910 hasta el cm路so de 1912-1913 decia Ada en sus memorias, "se hubieron de rechazar algunas solicitudes para alumnas internas por falta de local; para poder ingresar se valian inclusive de la influencia de ciertas personas de significaci6n social; en varios cursos fluctuaban entre treinta y cuarenta las alumnas que no tenian cama y que solo se acostaban en los pasi1I0s. Las camas estaban ya colocadas tan aprentadamente que apenas quedaba entre elIas espacio por donde pasar." Ada ya no queria recibir mas del numero justo que permitia el antiguo local pero acababa por admitir el doble en vista de Ia insistencia con que aIgunas suplicaban, rogaban. En su informe a Ia Directiva, Ada pintaba sus apuros ante la presi6n mimosa de aquellas niiias en tal forma que algunas exc1amaban: "P6ngame debaj 0 de la cama! ; aunque sea en la bodega!; aunque sea en la cocina!" La ampliaci6n del Colegio se hizo imperativa. Primero, ademas de la casa original mente ocupada, alquilaron la contigua. Luego contando con algunos frescos recurs os compraron las dos casas con sus correspondientes solares. Estas dos casas fueron practicamente derribadas y renovadas. Mas tarde adquirieroll el solar vecino de la propiedad de un tal Sr. Azaola para ulterior y mayor expansi6n. 266


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En el entretanto, el conocido y popular salon de patinar situado frente al Colegio fue alquilado y alii se daban las clases que ya no cabian en los edificios propios. De golpe, como en las mutaciones fantasticas que vemos en los cines, las dos primeras modestas casas cortaban el espacio con su imponente gallardia convertidos en un solo inmenso "building" de dos y de tres pisos. EI solar de Azaola habia desaparecido cubierto por esta construccion. Y se adquirieron aun mas fincas vecinas. Una, en la calle Gastambide, detras del edificio principal, que fue arreglada para mas clases. Y otras dos en la misma hilera del Colegio hacia la punta de Azcan:aga formando esquina con la calle Legarda, que fueron destinadas para enfermeria. No es esto napoleonico? Pero Ada no se detuvo aqui. En, su afan de seg ir los pasos de sus alumnas, de sus hijas, ansiosa de seguirlas teniendo bajo el calor de su Alma Mater aun despues de Stl graduacion y con el ambicioso fin de extender la influencia moral, la jnspiracion del "Centro E scolar" al mayor numero posible de niiias educadas, Ada empezo a abrir algunos Dormitorios sobre todo en las calles vecinas a la Universidad de Filipinas. AIgunas de estas casas sirvieron despues para las clases de las diferentes facultades de la Universidad del Centro Escolar cuando esta todavia 110 contaba con propio edificio. El esfuerzo financiero que representaban estas expansiones no era para sobrellevarlo un animo ordinario. Era el destino peregrino de aquella genial mujer el que colmandola la diosa Fortuna de bendiciones estas no duraban en sus manos mas que 267


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el tiempo necesario para su traspaso a otras manos ya otras empleos, con la vista fija en la ultima realizacion de su ideal. Desprovista de grandes recursos proporcionales a la grandeza de sus suenos, con su audacia por arma y su fe por escudo, Ada tuvo que batallar sin tregua ni descanso con el azar, como quien cruza un estrecho y nada firme desfiladero sobre el abismo, unico camino que se la ofrecia hacia la meta sublime de su jornada. Se podia imaginar el escalofrio mitad espanto y mitad admiracion con que los colaboradores de Ada verian algunas de sus valerosas transacciones en su afan impaciente de empujar a la Institucion de una conquista a otra mayor. Hasta que vi no la etapa de la Universidad, "uno de los ideales mas ardientemente acariciados por los fundadores de esta Institucion", segun sus mismas palabras. En 1921 funciono el primer Colegio, el de Farmacia, orgullo del "Centro Escolar". Su edificio estaba en la calle San Rafael. Al ano siguiente, el Colegio de Artes Liberales. Al ano s.iguiente aun, el Colegio de Educacion. Estos ultimos estaban en el mismo edificio propio. Y otra vez al ano siguiente, el Colegio de Dentistas, en la calle Lepanto. Otro ano mas y fue adquirida la Escuela de Derecho para incorporarla a este solemne desfile de Colegios. Una pausa. En 1926 no hubo nada. En 1927 ni en 1928, tam poco. Ada tenia en su lista original diez Colegios de facultad entre gran des y de segunda importancia. El Colegio de Optometria se establecio en 1930. Pero por 10 menos de entre los primeros ya abiertos no debia de faltar el Colegio de Medicina. Todos decian que el de Medicina 268


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era pes ado, mas costoso, mas dificil por sus mil y un requerimientos. Seria esta la razon de la pausa de los tres alios. La gigante alma de aquella mujer diminuta media, calculaba, acumulaba fuerzas. Luchadora legitima y de sangre, esperaria la ocasion de acometer. Y fue lanzado a la vida el Colegio de Medicina en 1929. Efectivamente, como se esperaba, vinieron los anullciados mil y un requerimientos dificultadores. Hacia falta un hospital para la apropiada practica de los estudiantes y se puso el hospital con cien camas en la calle General Solano. Casi todos los enfermos estaban alii gratis. La cuestion era que hubiese un hospital para que el Colegio pueda funcionar. Pero ademas del hospital quedaban aun varuas condiciones que llenar, otras formulas que cum lir, y el reconooimiento del gobierno no bajaba por esta razon. Las alumnas y alumnos que seguian estudiando quedaban en entredicho. EI Colegio de Medicina duro unos cuatro alios. Sin el recollocimiento oficial era imposible que sus graduados se examinasen ante la Junta correspondiente. Estos estudiantes que no entendian mucho de leyes ni de reglas ni de requisitos se preguntaban intrigados. Si despues de todo iban a tener que someterse a la prueba ante la Junta examinadora del propio gobierno porque este era tan remiso en otorgar su reconocimiento a favor de su CoIegio? EI "Centro Escolar" estaba avanzando demasiado; aquel Colegio de mujeres para las mujeres resultaba harto veloz en su carrera aun para las mismas instituciones de hombres para los hombres. 269


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Ada afronto esta lucha sola y sostuvo desesperadamente su bandera sin quejarse, sin proferir un grito, POl' cuatro aiios, llevandose al final la peor parte. Cien mil pesos casto esta experiencia. Pero ella no cerro la Escuela de Medicina. Sus compaiieras en la Directiva aprovechando la ocasion de su enfermedad---cansada, amargada poria decepcion-dispusieron pOl' su cuenta y riesgo la clausura definitiva de la infortunada Facultad. Cuando Ie informaron del caso, Ada no dijo nada. De haberse indignado alguna vez en su vida hubiera estallado en protestas alii, en aquella ocasi6n. Pero Ada nunca supo 10 que era irritarse. Mirando a 10 lejos se limito a decir en voz firme y baja como en un juramento : -Tan pronto como pueda volveremos a abrir un Colegio de Medicina. Una lucha mas que pasaba al archivo de su vida. Y que casualidad. No era esta la primera vez que sostenia un fuerte conflicto a cuenta de un reconocimiento oficial. Se acordaba del famoso incidente Gilbert-A veline 0 Gilbert--"Centro Escolar" exactamente veinte aiios atras, en 1913. EI "Centro Escolar" que habia' introducido la novedad de celebrar sus actos academicos fuera del Colegio en donde el publico con todas las alumnas reunidas no cabrian, daba una velada en el "Opera House". Era la inauguraci6n del curso de aquel aiio. EI Secretario de Instrucci6n Publica, Vice Gobernador Gilbert, habia side naturalmente invitado y acudi6 ocupando el palco presidencial. Gilbert era conocido en todo el pais POl' su exaltada energia en forzar la implantacion 270


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cuanto antes del ingles en el pais. Era ese todo su programa como Secretario de Instruccion. La velada comenz6 y el Vice-Gobernador se cal6 las gafas para leer el programa. EI programa estaba en castellano! En los veinte nfuneros que con tenia adivino mas bien que leyo dos 0 tres quP. decian: "Discurso en ingles" por la nina tal; "De.. clamaci6n en ingles" por la senorita cual. El program ita empezaba a temblar en las manos del airado y fanatico Secretario. Terminada la "Sinfonia por la Orquesta" se alzo el telon. Entre los aplausos atronadores del inmenso publico aparecio la Junta Directiva con el Cuerpo de Profesores. Ocuparon las sillas en semi-circulo colocadas en el escenario. Ada estaba en medio presidiepdo el acto solemne. EI profesor Soncuya designado para hablar en nombre del Colegjo aquel ano empezo a leer su discurso. Gilbert aguzando el oido trat6 de oir. El discurso era en castellano. Y el discurso del profesor Soncuya era largo. Una disertaci6n en que se entremezclaban en armonioso conjunto los propositos educacionales con los sentimientos patri6ticos, independistas. AqueIIo para Gilbert ya era demasiado. El Vice-Gobernador se levant6 10 mas ruidosamente, 10 mas conspicuamente que pudo para que 10 notaran to dos, descendio del palco con los ojos lIameantes de furia y abandon6 el coliseo. AI dia siguiente los periodicos no traian otra noticia mas que la indignaci6n de Gilbert. EI reconocimiento otorgado al "Centro Escolar" sera retirado. Este Colegio no ensenaba el ingles como se prescribia por el Departamento de Instruccion PUblica. 271


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Fueron aquellos dias de verdadera prueba. Muy posiblement Gilbert esperaria una humilde explicaci6n con ribetes de arrepentimiento por parte del " Centro Escolar". Ello hubiera servido de saludable escarmiento para los demas. Pero en vez de eso, la Directora dirigi6 una comunicaci6n a los padres de sus alumnas dandoles cuenta de 10 ocurrido como sometiendo a su fallo el famoso y ruidoso incidente. En vez de achicarse atemorizada acept6 el reto del Vice-Gobernador y se fue al pueblo, no al Gobierno, en busca de justicia y aliento. "Este suceso, segUn Ada," sirvi6 de verdadera piedra de toque en la que los filipinos pudimos aquilatar nuestro acendrado patriotismo, pues en la Direcci6n han lIovido cartas, todas congratulatorias y alentadoras, y en una de elIas se decia : 'Senora, si yo tuviera mil hijas, a las mil lIevaria a su Colegio' y solo se recibio una en III que el remitente desaprobaba la decisi6n del Profesorado del Centro Escolar. Pero aparte de que una golondrina no hace verano, el aludido senor, cuando en Octubre hizo una visita a su hija en el Colegio no solamente se retract6 de 10 que habia manifestado en su carta, sino que indic6 que traera, para el curso entrante, a otra hija y a una sobrina." EI reeonocimiento retirado no tard6 en ser devuelto. El "Centro Escolar" en vez de sufrir bajas tuvo mucho mayor nfunero de alumnas despues. Para su beneficio 6 dano, Ada una vez provocada a luchar a euenta de 10 que hizo 6 dijo, no retrocedia nunca. Su hermana del alma Da. Carmen de Luna preguntada una vez eual era 10 que ella 272


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consideraba Ja m:is destacada cualidad de Ada dijo sin vacilar que era la firmeza. Pensaba y meditaba detenidam.ellte antes de tomar una determinacion. No hablaba mucho, al igual que su padre. Pero una vez resuelta a hacer algo nadie la deterua. Si Ie salian con la observacion de que 10 que se propollia realizar era contrario a las practicas de otros paises, se limitaba a contestal': "Nosotros no tenemos nada que vel' con esos paises." Pensando y llevando a cabo de esa manera sus planes se encontro un dia atacada duramente en un editorial de "La Democracia," eJ organo de la oposicion en 1911. El S~eaker Osmena Jlegaba a Manila eJ Febrero de aquel ano procedente de una recorrida por el Sur. Estuvo en Zamboanga, Ja sede de la morolandia de Mindanao, y los hermanos no cristianos de la provincia rindieron una recepcion de bienvenida tan cordial, tan inesperada, que la noticia repercutio por todo el pais alborozado. EI Sultan para perfilar mejor el significado de toda aquella manifestacion se acerco a Osmena y con las ceremonias debidas deposito en sus manos el kris tradicional en senal de paz, de union y de mutua ayuda entre los filipinos bautizados y mahometanos. Para celebr.ar el historico acontecimiento el pueblo de Manila acudi6 en masa a vitorear a Osmena a su Jlegada. Ada, digamoslo as!, visti6 a sus nifias para salir con ella y unirse a la manifestacion. El noble motivo apelaba a 10 mas hondo de BUS sentimientos nacionales. Lo menos que se imaginaria era que de entre tanta gente que se habia ido a saludar aJ Speaker Osmena, "La Democra273


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cia" Ie escogel:ia a ella como el blanco preferente de su mordacidad. Como siempre, Ada estaba alli con su replica y contra ataque. Enferma como se hallaba dirigi6 al Director del peri6dico esta hermosisima carta en que se revelan los principios innovadores del "Centro Escolar," totalmente nuevos en aquel tiempo, en 10 que se refieren a la educaci6n civica. Decia Ada al Director de "La Democracia"; "Me creo en el deber de hacer cons tar, r>ara satisfacci6n de Vd. y del publico en general y muy especialmente de los padres de familia que nos han confiado la educaci6n de sus hijas, que si el "Centro Escolar de Senoritas" ha tomado parte en la recepci6n entusiasta que se tributo al Speaker Osmena el 19 del actual, fue porque la labor eminentemente patriotica llevada: a cabo pOl' el Speaker, reclamaba de todos 101' filipinos la mas decidida y entusiasta aprobacion. "El acto al cual prestamos l1uestra insignificante adhesi6n, no fue un acto politico, sino patriotico y en este terreno, cualquiera persona 0 entidad, nos encontrara dispuestos tanto a mi como a todos cuantos pertenecemos al 'Centro Escolar' a coadyuvar con todas nuestras fuerzas y nuestro escasisimo valimiento. "No hem os ido a recibir al Sr. Osmena ni mucho menos al Presidente del Partido Nacionalista; pero si, al ilustre filipino que llegaba de Zamboanga despues de realizar una labor altamente patriotica. "Lo que hemos hecho por el Speaker, 10 haremos por cualquier otro compatriota que, como el, realizara un acto tan transcendental y beneficioso para nuestra querida y desgraciada patria. "No hacemO"s politica en el 'Centro Escolar', pues comprendemos no es esa nuestra mi274


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sion; pero si, hacemos patria y de ella nos enorgullecemos, por 10 que, a pesar de la injusta y cruel censura de que he sido objeto pOl' parte de ese periodico, nos sentimos con valor suficiente para continuar sobre esa pauta nuestros humildes trabajos educacionales. "POl' ultimo Sr. Director, si alguna vez el autor del articulo en cuestion deseara hacer una nueva obra de caridad, como el corregir a la que yerra, si he de ser otra vez objeto de ese acto caritativo, ruegole se sirva no hacerlo publicamente, en la inteligencia de que de esta manera la leccion me sera mucho mas provechosa; 'Y pOl' e1l0 Ie quedare doblemente agradecida. "De V d. respetuosamente, L. AVELINO." Esta participacion de las lumnas del "Centro Escolar" en actos civicos, en fiestas publicas, ha sido una de las mb tipicas caracteristicas de la pedagogia practica y valerosa de Ada. Su contribucion individual a la que podriamos llamar educacion nacional. Nosotros 10 calificariamos como su esti10. Aquella sagaz educadora partiendo del hecho de que la mujer filipina ha estado siempre recluida e indiferente a todo 10 que ocurre al rededor y fuera de su casa y dalldose cuenta de que los dias presentes requeriran de ella mas deberes hacia la colectividad, una mas intensa lucha poria vida bajo la presion de mayores necesidades, resolvio aiiadir un libro mas al numero de los requeridos por el "curriculum" oficial y ese libro era la vida misma actual con su aire, su sol, sus calles y plazas, sus multitudes y sus cultos. No habia celebraciones civicas <' patrioticas en que no participara el "Centro Escolar" con sus alumnas. Apenas nacido el Colegio 275


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ya celebraba su primera velada caritativa en beneficio de la "Gota de Leche" para los nifios pobres y mal nutridos. Con motivo de la erupci6n del vo1can de Taal el "Centro Escolar" en masa acudi6 a la inolvidable capital l'evolucionaria a visitar la Iglesia de Barasoain. En las campafias para la recau-' daci6n de fond os para la Independencia este Colegio coadyuv6 hasta batir el record de recaudaci6n entre los Colegios filipinos. POl' ultimo, cuando se aprob6 la Ley de la Bandera fueron las alumnas del "Centro Escolar" las que bordaron y entregaron al Senado filipino la hermosa enseiia nacional que preside las sesiones de dicha Camara. Pero no iba a ser patriotica 6 caritativa toda la interpretaci6n que Ada queria dar a la vida para sus alumnas. La vida como un poliedro tiene tantas facetas. Una vez un numero bastante de nilias se reuni6 y entre ellas costearon el viaje de un barco, el "Cebu", para visitar los diferentes puertos y cuidades del Sur. Y ya que en Carnaval la juventud se muere POI' verlo y disfrutarlo no seria mejar que las nifias vayan juntas, en comparsa, 6 en coches decorados para que sin separarse divierlan entre si? El "Centro Escolar" con sus comparsas lleg6 a ser el terror de los mas conspicuos clubs competidores de la alta sociedad manileuse. Pero la modalidad mas interesante de esta educaci6n practica ha sido la idea de la celebraci6n de la Feria del "Centro Escolar," una especie de "petit" carnaval. Ada decia que el dar oportunidad a las nifias a organizar su Feria, su pequefia ciudad de Momo, en donde los puestos, los "booths," los restaurancitos y otras tiendas son manejados por elias y 276


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capitalizados con su dinero, hace que aprendan a. organizarse, estimula su iniciativa, compran cosas en su minima precio para poderlas vender con beneficio. En la actualidad existen tres Asociaciones bajo la bandera del "Centro Escolar" enteramente autonomas y manejadas por sus respectivas miembros: La Asociacion de Ex-Alumnas; la Federacion "Centro Escolar" integrada lIor todas las alumnas del "Centro Escolar University;" y la Asociacion "Centro Escolar" compllesta porIa alumnas de las clases elementales y High School. Un total general aproximado de 20,000 alumnas y ex-alumnas desde el 1907.

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XIX

ADA INTIMA-HADA MADRINA En medio de sus exitos y triunfos, era Ada feliz?

Si nuestro patron de la felicidad va a ser la misrna que la de la mayoria de los mortales, esto es, disponer de la influencia, del prestigio y de la riguza que la suerte 0 el duro tl!abajo nos han dado para satisfacer nuestros gustos, para saciar nuestra sed de gloria, nuestra avidez de bienestar, acaso hasta nuestro inconfesado deseo de venganza contra los 'que no!:; hicieron alguna injusticia, entonces podemos decir que Ada nuuca conocio la felicidad. Los frutos de su labor y de us luchas y desvelos fueron para todos menos para su propio beneficio. Sus compafieras del "Centro Escolar" aun conservan intacto su cuartito escondido a la izquierda de la doble escalinata de la gran entrada. Es un compartimiento modesto, estrecho. Alii vivia, alii descansaba, am meditaba y rezaba aquella fundadora de los edificios educacionales tan grandes que no cabrian juntos a 10 largo de una calle regular. En aguel rincoucito, sin embargo, parecla ella el corazon que palpitaba noche y dia porIa vida y la salud del inmenso organismo de su creacion. Y como un real corazon, fue su vida toda hecha de amor, del mas puro amor porque solo se alimentaba de sacrificios para vivir. Apesar del cumulo de sus atenciones y problemas anejos a la direccion de la Institucion, Ada no dejaba de ensefiar y era hasta su muerte, la profesora que mas contacto teuia diariamente con todas las alumnas. 278


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Veinte minutos antes de las 8:00 a. m . en que comenzaban las e1ases de la High School en el edificio principal, Ada ya debidamente preparada, tenia del ante de si todas las niiias desde el primero al ultimo ano, en el Sal6n de actos. Daba su conferencia sobre urbanidad y maneras sociales, 0 sobre Historia Sagrada 0 sobre cualquier tema apropiado y de actualidad conducente a moldeal' el caracter de las educandas. Despues de un desayuno may ligera, descendia las escaleras para la inspecci6n de clases comenzando por el Kindergarten para arriba. Si hallaba alguna maestra ausente por algun inesperado contratiempo, Ada tomaba su lugar y consumia la hora enseiiando. A las 10 :30 a. m. hasta las 12 6 la 1 p. m. estaba fuera para atender a la parte del negocio de la Instituci6n. Comia despues, de 1 a 2 p. m. No dormia siesta. Leia 6 escribia. Leer era su unica diversi6n. Ada decfa que el dia en que no podia coger un libro 10 consideraba un dia muerto e inutil. Atendia los asuntos de su propia oficina, recibia a los visitantes, padres de familia que quedan verla, consultar con ella. Avanzada la tarde, se trasladaba al "otro edificio", a su "Centro Escolar University." Qtra inspecci6n de clases. De 6 a 7 p. m. en el Sal6n principal estaban a su vez reunidas las alumnas de las diferentes Facultades de la Universidad. La conferencia aqui duraba una hora y 10 solia bacel' en castellano para que las niiias no se olvidasen de hablarlo, despues de haberlo aprendido en la High School. A las 8 :00 p. m . volvia a su cual'tito a cenar. 279


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Los lunes los dedicaba a conferenciar con los maestros. Un intercanibio de observa-ciones y opiniones acerca de sus trabajos. Ada siempre les encargaba una sola cosa que recordar: nunca, jamas, apelar al castigo directo ni indirecto para corregir a cualquiera alumna. Otro tema suyo favorito era la conveniencia surna de entrelazar las dos culturas, Ia hispana y Ia americana, sacando de ambas 10 mejor para mayor ilustre y solidez de la nuestra propia, Ia recipiente de esas- bendiciones. Se dira que en las vacaciones ella tenia mas t iempo para alguna expansion, para descansar su cerebro y su cuerpo del trabajo intenso de los dias de clase. Pero esto no podia ser tam poco. Durante las vacaciones habia que preparar el curso que viene, el prog ama de estudios, los maestros, las mil atenciones sobre las alumnas due entran y las alumnas que salen. Y Iuego estaban las clases de verano. De modo que Ada con clases y sin c1ases para su solaz tenia que contentarse con su aficion, con su pasion de toda Ia vida, los libros. Aun se conservan en su cuartito sus mas favoritos, los de Emilia Pardo Bazan, de Concha Espina, de Fernan Caballero, la trilogia de cerebros femeninos espaiioles de renombre mundial. Vienen luego el "Don Quijote," dos 0 tres novel as de Galdos, libros de educacIon. Ada era tambi!~n muy aficionada a libros de Historia, particularmente de Ia Revolucion francesa. Pero decia ella, hablando del "Noli" y del "Filibusterismo" que en verdad no podria decir el exacto numero de veces que los habia lei do. Esos libr os de Rizal nunca Ie habian cansado. 280


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Volviendo a la vida intima de Ada, ha sido una vida de privaciones. No supo 10 que era ir al cine, por 10 menos no recuerdan sus discipulas y companeras haberla visto ir alguna vez. Preferia ir a la Opera 0 al teatro en cuanto habia alguna buena funcion y en ese caso se llevaba un grupo nutrido de ninas como invitadas suyas. Asi Ie costaba la entrada de cincuenta a cien pesos. Pero no podia estar sin elIas. Eran ordinariamente sus predilectas la huerfanas y las que procedian- de provincias distantes, estas PQrque ternan a sus familias lejos y aquellas pOl:que ella era huerfana tambien. Una vez se propago el rumor de que la Directora estaba un poco apurada de fond os, que pendia alguna disposicion judicial en relacion con el vencimiento de algun pago por el Colegio que no se podia satisfacer. Las nifias sin mas aV'eriguaciones se alarmaron, con-ian de un lado para otro nerviosas para comunicarse la noticia y muchas empezaron a gimotear. No sabian que hacer ni se atrevian a acercarse a la Directora que estaba en su despacho. Una de las pequeiias que oyo el noticion, una de las huerfanitas de Ada, corri6 a abrir su baul y se fue luego derechito al despacho. Al llegar, con toda naturalidad la chiquilla abri6 su manecita en donde habia dos pesetas. Las queria dar a Ada porque supo que ella necesitaba dinero. Era todo 10 que tenia y 10 tenia bien guardado. La Directora beso emocionada a la chiquiIla y desmintio el infundado rumor. La ambicion de Ada de alzar al "Centro Escolar" a la altura de una Universidad no sera. completamente reaIizada hasta que en el "Centro" asi 281


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como en el "Centro University" en un futuro inmediato no manejan los asuntos y ensefien en sus aulas las ex-alumnas mismas de la Institucion. Este era su suefio mil veces expresado. De hecho ya 10 empezaba ella a cumplir al cuidar y pl'eparar a algunas que llamariamos productos genuinos, pul'os, del "Centro Escolar." Alli estan a la cabeza las Srtas. Generosa de Leon y Concepcion Aguila, jovenes "Ad as," ramas lozanas de aquel tronco que cayo. Hacia ya algun tiempo que el Destino parecia que preparaba a Ada al des enlace de su vida de luchas y esfuerzos inagotables. EI programa de su mision se iba cumpliendo etapa pOl' etapa hasta alcanzar a su climax con Ill. fundacion de la Universidad. Ada, de habel' escuchado a Ill. oposicion que entre sus calaboradores se leV'anto contra su detel'minacion, hu):>iel'a muerto sin haber visto aun ni los cimientos del imponente edifieio. Obedeciendo a un presentimiento suyo 0 no, el hecho fue que se empefio en llevar a cabo su idea y pues habia quienes se oponian a ella, se ofrecio sola, pOI' su propia cuenta. y riesgo, a seguir adelante con el proyecto. Aquella heroina callada dispuso hasta de ciertas propieclades que tenia heredadas en Marinduque para sostener la realizacion de su plan. No queria morir sin vel' antes su Universidad, ultima de sus hijas, bien plantada y \lena de vida. Ahora esta Universidad pertenece en su servicios al "Centro Escolar." Constituye el mejor tributo de devocion personal que Ada podia ofrecer a la juventud femenina amamantada intelectual y moralmente POI' ella misma. Sigamos al Destino. Dentro del mismo afio en que se ponia la primera piedra de la Universidad 282


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moria Pedro AveJino, el venerable viejo de la huerfana Ada. Como sintio ella esta muerte. Algo 5e habia definitivamente roto en su alma al besar la fria frente del sagrado cadaver. Mientras el viejo vivia, Ada iba a verle a Pandacan POl' 10 menos dos veces a la semana. AlIi junto a su padre, su primer maestro en la austeridad y en lucha tenaz y sin palabras, volvia a sentirse la Ada de ayer y de siempre, se olvidaba de todos sus afanes, de sus grandes preocupaciones, y repasaba las ropas del viejo, las remendaba, barria la casa, ponia en orden los enseres de cocina, los muebles en la sala. Como e reia el viejo oyendola contar las ultimas travesuras de sus nifias. POI' Pascuas Ada comparecia inva: iablemente en Pandacan llevando su saquito de innumerables pesetiJIas para que el viejo las repartie ~ como era su codtumbre entre los hijos de la nu'merosa parentela, que venia para l'ecibir su bendici6n. Como una compensacion ineficaz a su dolor vino sin ella esperarlo, el reconocimiento de la Universidad Oficial. Ada era licenciada en Pedagogia "honoris causa." Su primer pensamiento fue para su viejo ido. Si el viviera! La mujer que l'enunci6 a tener familia para educar a las hijos de las demas familias; la mujer que ignoro desdefiosa el .amor POl' amor a la juvelltud y a su elevaci6n, no debiera nunca dejar de sel' joven ni perder jamas a sus padres. Es tan frio en el ocaso de la vida el sentirse sola! Ada quedo altamente reconocida a la distinci6n singular que la Universidad de Filipinas la confirie路 i'a tan bondadosamente proclamandoia la primera Li283


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cenciada en Pedagogia 'honoris causa" en la historia de la educaci6n en el pais. "Race treinta anos-se dirigia a ella el Presidellte Palma en el solemne momento de la investidura-Vd. y varias maestras filipinas presentisteis vuestra misi6n cual es la de educar y moldear a la mujer filipina en un ambiente de un generoso filipinismo. Y Vd. estaba a la cabeza de esas maestras. Por vuestra visi6n educacional y por la i1imitad9. confianza que os habeis conquistado en todo el pais, habeis fundado, desafiando adversas circunstancias, una 1nstituci6n que ha sido por una generacion una potente influencia para el bien en el seno de la familia filipin..a asi como en la vida nacional. Esa 1nstituci6n que habeis fundado comenz6 siendo una modesta es~uela hasta alcanzar las proporciones de Universidad." C6mo se acordaria Ada bajo la envoltura de aquella toga de honor, de sus examenes para Maestra elemental en el Ayuntamiento hacia cincuent~ anos! Entonces su padre era aun fuerte y estaba muy feliz en aquel memorable dia. Ada rog6 a sus amistades que desistan del plan de homenajearla en consideraci6n a su luto y asi acab6 la celebraci6n en proyecto. Ella con la puntualidad cronometrica que la costumbre de tantos an os ha impuesto, vol via a la manana siguiente a su programa de todos los dias. Ran transcurrido cinco afios. Era un mes de Noviembre. Un dia y otro y otro pasaron y a Ada no se la veia. No estaba en el Colegio, tampoco se la distinguia en la Escolta ni en el Pas eo de Magallanes camino al Ayuntamien284


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to. En la distribucion de sus horas matutinas, como hemos visto, despues de la inspeccion de c1ases Ada salia para atender fuera los asuntos que afectaban al Colegio. Estos asuntos se dividian en dos partes, la refe1'ente a la intervencion y supervision de la enzeiianza por el Comisionado de las Escuelas privadas cuyas oficinas estan en el Ayuntamiento, y la 1'eferente a los negocios y a la finanza del Colegio y de la Instit uci6n en general para los cualas habia que ir a la Escolta en donde estan los Bancos. Si queriais saber si Ada se hallaba en Manila no era nece,sario ir a averiguar!o en el "Centro Escolar." Bastaba situarse a las once de la manana en la Plaza Goiti 0 en la Pl楼a Lawton. Pronto veriais abri\ndose paso entre 1a balumba de carromatas, taxis y coches de uso flamantes, del ultimo modelo, un Dodge berJina viejo, casi gris y casi negro, y dentro del coche de techo alto, la cabeza semi-visible de su ocupante, una pequena mujer de cara serena, de mirada directa y abstraida. Esa era Ada. Primero ira a1 "Monte de Piedad," luego bajara al Banco Nacional, y como final de su 1'eco1'rida, al Banco de las Islas. Esos eran sus bancos. Ira a esos cent1'os del dinero para algun reajuste de cuentas, para el deposito de fondos, para la renovacion de obligaciones, etc. Y luego con el mismo semblante imperturba路 ble se trasla9ara al Ayuntamiento. El policia de guardia ya la conoce y la saluda afectuosamente. El policia admira a aquella mujer ilustre que Ie devuelve el saludo con una sonrisa familiar mientras asciende las escaleras. La misma falda negra, la 285


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misma camisa de jusi, portando el mismo abultado usado bolso de cuero oscuro. 路Cuan humilde, cuan insignificante, en su grandeza. Y alii estara arriba en los pasillos de pie esperando que el Comisionado de Escuelas privadas termine con sus otros visitantes. Ya seran las 12 6 mas. No importa. Ella esperara. No qui ere sentarse. Ada nunca se sentaba ~ientras eseperaba. Como deciamos, en aquel Noviembre el abuelo Dodge habia desaparecido por dias y dias de las Plazas Goiti 6 Lawton. En la Secretaria del Colegio algunos padres de familia preguntarian tambien por Ja Directora. El uno iria a pedir rebaja sustancial en la matricula 6 ep el pupilaje, por lIevar al Colegio dos 6 tres niilas. El de mas alia suplicaria un nuevo plazo para pagar. La Directora era el terror de las oficiales del Colegio en cuanto se trataba de rebajas y plazos, si no de actual perdon de deudas. Ya podiaan negarse en redondo a conceder. La nina 6 el padre intersados apelan a la Directora y la Directora pronto cede su lugar a Ada, la hija del buen Pedro que tampoco sabia cobrar deudas ni cuentas, y el "no" anterior se convertia en "si." Si en los Bancos tuvieran la misma gentileza de sentimientos todos serian felices. La Directora no se encontraba en ninguna parte pOl'que se hallaba enferma, Como habia sido siempre su costu!l1bre, Ada cada vez que se senti a enferma de algun cuidado se trasladaba a la casa de su intima 6 inseparable amiga desde la nifiez, la Sra. Teodorica Vda. de Jose. Esta casa esta en la Calle Alhambra, Ermita. y

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Esta vez se sentia mal y no podia acertar (Ie pronto que la molestaba mas. El Dr. Luis Guerrero su medico de todo el tiempo y el Doctor de todo t'l Colegio, fue Hamado. EI Doctor se puso muy serio despues de diagnosticar a la enferma. Cancer en el estomago. La pobre Ada no creia morirse aun. Cuando Da. Carmen Ie daba cuenta de los asuntos del Colegio sonreia al contestar,: "Reza tu mientras tanto, ya arreglare yo todo eso en cuanto mejore." Estuvo postrada en cama POl' quince dias. Su amiga entraiiable, Ja Sra. Vda. de Jose, su compafiera Da. Oarmen, las hijas de aquelJa, sus discipulas formadas pOl' ella misma desde Ja infancia como Concep~on Aguila, Generosa de Leon, Ja Secretaria Mrs. Mm, Da. Sofia de Veyra sus hermanos Remedios y Vicente con sus hijos se turnaban atendiendola. En prevision el P. Blaf, cura parroco de la Ermita, fue notificado y el sacerdote administro a Ada los Santos Sacl1amentos. Muchas ami gas, maestras, discipulas y ex-alumnas fueron asimismo alIa a visitar a la Directora. Ada se sentia debil cad a vez mas apesar del invencible optimismo de toda su vida. Estaba cansada. Cansada de luchar, rendida en la cruz de su propio sacrificio. Era un cansancio de que bien podia ufanarse viendo como en cambio dejaba su obra hecha. Al fin Ie lIegaba la hora de descansar. Dios que 10 tenia asi dispuesto anticipo el reposo eterno de Ada sumiendola en un sopor parecido a la inconsciencia horas antes de expirar. Unos dias antes de su muerte dijo su ultjmo mensaje a la juventud, unico y absorbente afan de toda su vida, 287


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cuando habl6 a su ex-alumna Srta. Alicia Jose, hija de su amiga, de este manera: "Trabaja y estudia mucho, hija; preparate a ofrecer todo cuanto puedas al servicio de la Humanidad y de nuestro pobre pais!" Las mismas sagradas palabras dirigidas a Basilio por el bravo Elias antes de morir.

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Ada : the life of Librada Avelino or the development of a soul  
Ada : the life of Librada Avelino or the development of a soul