SORSOGON CULTURE

Manila, August 11, 2003 (STAR) By Miguel A. Bernad, S.J.  - That enterprising and learned group, the Sorsogon Heritage Society Inc., has come up with the second volume of their Journal "Sarabihon." It contains several well-researched studies, also a literary section of essays and poems in Bikol and English and a "bookshelf" (book reviews of books on Bicol).

Three articles interested me. One is entitled "Landscape and History". The title delighted me because it seemed to indicate a similar conviction as mine that history and landscape are intimately linked. (My own views on this subject were expressed in a book entitled History Against the Landscape published by Solidaridad Book Shop in 1968). The article in the Sorsogon Journal (by Maria Lourdes de Vera) discusses two paintings of the Sorsogon harbor by Fernando Brambila, a member of the Malaspina scientific expedition that came to the Philippines in 1792.

The Sorsogon harbor was described by Malaspina himself as "Without doubt the most beautiful harbor produced by Nature."

A second article that interested me is by Dr. Henry Totanes (who teaches history at the Ateneo de Manila) entitled "American Sponsored Public Schools in Colonial Kabikolan 1901-1921." Among other things he includes a list of all the American teachers assigned to the Bicol region as of January 1902.There are no less than 64 in the list which gives an idea of how massive the American effort was to bring American culture and the English language to the Philippines.

It is interesting to see what the academic credentials of those 64 American teachers were. While many of them came from normal or vocational schools, a larger number came from colleges and universities: state universities (California, Washington, Nebraska, Arkansas, Missouri, Texas, etc.). A few came from well-known universities like Cornell, but more came from small colleges. Doubtless the majority of these teachers were non-Catholics, but at least one or two may have been Catholics. One came from Holy Cross College in Worcester, Massachussetts, a Jesuit institution.

A third article that interested me was on the Sorsogon Zarzuela. The zarzuela was a 19th century product, an art form distinctively Spanish (particularly distinctively Madrid) and different from other theatrical and musical art forms like the opera, the operetta or the musical revue. Its popularity in the Philippines was part of the cultural renaissance in this country in the late 19th century. That the zarzuela flourished in Sorsogon is an indication of the high state of culture in that region.

The author of the zarzuela article is Azucena G. Uranza, whose novels have received the Palanca and other awards. She has just published her third novel (entitled "Feast of the Innocents") and is working on the fourth.

The Journal of Sorsogon Studies (Sarabihon) is edited by Teresita E. Erestain and may be obtained from the Sorsogon Heritage Society at 400-D Delta Building, West Avenue, Quezon City.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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