by Apolinario "Naring" N. Orosa
My father Rafael Ylagan Orosa was born on October 24, 1904, the youngest son of Simplicio Orosa and Juliana Ylagan. I remember being told that the Orosas moved to Bauan following a very strong and destructive eruption of Taal volcano sometime in the early 1900's.
Simplicio was a seafaring captain of an inter-island vessel (information elsewhere named the ship "Bulusan") while his wife Juliana started a dry goods store in Bauan. The store was on the ground floor of their house and is what was once referred to as an "almacen." Simplicio died prematurely - in his early forties (age 45 in 1910) - thus Lola was widowed early and my father was orphaned while he was still a toddler. My father graduated from Batangas High School and later enrolled at the Philippine Nautical School in Manila as he wanted to pursue a maritime career like his father.
Widowed early and saddled with the problem of raising a big family, Lola became quite an entrepreneur. She would buy abaca fiber from Bicol, have it woven into "sinamay" and made to "kolambo" or mosquito nets, which she sold in Divisoria. She also had business interests in Bongabong, Mindoro and she occasionally sent my father to take care of her business there. It was during one of those trips that my father met and later married my mother, Fabiana Naguit. She was the daughter of the local hero of the Philippine Revolution against Spain. Her father Juanito Naguit was a friend of Emilio Aguinaldo and he was made the leader of the revolutionary forces of the entire island of Mindoro.
Shortly after my father's marriage, Lola persuaded him to give up his seafaring days and to concentrate instead on helping her in her business interests. But his last trip as a merchant seaman was quite a voyage. He was chosen to join a crew of Filipino seamen to sail to Danzig, Poland to take over a brand new ship bought by the Philippine government and sail her back to Manila. Incidentally, Danzig is the old name of Gdansk, a ship building town which later became famous in the 1980's as the home of Lech Walesa. Walesa founded the Solidarity Party (Solidarnocz) which toppled the Communist regime and eventually took over the Polish government. This was the beginning of the downfall of Communism in eastern Europe. Thus my father was able to travel in Europe extensively. They were able to sail the new boat, later christened "Banahaw" from Europe through the Suez Canal and finally to Manila. After that voyage, he settled down in Bauan to help Lola in her business.
Later, her worked for Madrigal and Company in a manganese mine in Siquijor Island. I think he was in charge of payroll and overseeing the shipment of ore to Manila. After a few years he quit his job in the mines and joined Tio Pepe (Jose Ylagan Orosa) who became a partner of a stock brokerage firm named "Angel Padilla and Company." He worked on the trading floor of the Manila Stock Exchange. Among his office mates were Augusto E. Orosa (son of Rafael's elder brother Vicente) and Carmelo O. Ylagan (son of elder sister Simplicia.) At the time around 1938 or 1939 there was a gold mining boom and the Manila Stock Exchange was quite active. The boom fizzled out just before the outbreak of the second world war.
With the outbreak of WW II, the regular shipping companies servicing the various islands in the archipelago stopped operations. Thus the only way to travel from Luzon to the eastern and western Visayas was limited to wooden sailboats of about 50 to 100 tons capacity. Bauan had quite a number of these "batels" and through word of mouth among stranded Visayans in Luzon Bauan became a hub of the batel trade. My father was a highly respected businessman, quite popular and he became a ship broker. People who wanted to charter a batel would usually go to my father - who knew all the boat owners. From a trickle of passengers the volume grew to such a heavy traffic that my father converted the house to a hotel - appropriately named "Sailboat Hotel." Miling Ylagan worked as manager and I helped out waiting on tables. (Naring would've been in his mid-teens.) The rich and famous "hacendero" families of eastern and western Visayas - the Lacsons, Lopez, Lizares, Gastons, Osmenas, etc. all passed through Bauan and spent some days at our hotel. Some of them usually left hundreds of sacks of sugar (a very scarce commodity during the war) for my father to sell. In addition to the normal passengers, some agents of the Allied Intelligence Bureau, an underground guerilla outfit in Negros Occidental also passed through Bauan and became friends of my father. The guerilla unit had direct contact with the forces of General Douglas McArther in Australia. During the war, we were among the first to receive U.S. propaganda material such as candies and the latest copies of Time and Life magazines. These came through via US Navy submarine landings in Negros.
It was at this time that a young, energetic and seemingly fearless young lady from Binan, Laguna named Severina "Binay" Rivera started coming to Bauan to buy and sell whatever goods were available. My father helped her in her business - sometimes giving her goods such as sugar on consignment payable after she had sold them in Manila. Travel to Manila (about 100 km) then was through old trucks fueled by charcoal, quite slow and messy and one had to go through several checkpoints manned by Japanese sentries. So it was through my father that Binay was introduced to "Tio Inte" (Vicente) after the war. In the early 1960's, when Binay engaged in a real estate business in Balibago, Angeles City (Pampanga) she asked Tio Inte to become the Chairman and General Manager. The company, named Diamond Baligbago, is still operating today.
There was a Japanese military garrison in Bauan during the war and somehow they learned of our support for the guerilla unit in Negros so we were placed on the "wanted" list. My father sensed that we were about to be picked up by the Japanese so he decided that we must all leave immediately and evacuate to Mindoro. That same night, we surreptitiously boarded bancas with outriggers and paddled all the way to Mindoro. The Bauan residents later told us that barely an hour after we shoved off from Bauan, a platoon of Japanese soldiers arrived at our house looking for the Orosa family. We stayed in Mindoro with some relatives and waited there until the liberation from the Japanese.
After the war we all returned to Bauan and my father continued the dry goods business at our house. Sometime in 1947 my father started talking to a close friend, Dr. Cenon Cordero and convinced him that as some sort of public service to the people of Bauan they should establish a local private high school. At that time families in Bauan had to send their children to Batangas City of Manila for their high school education. Thus the school was organized and initially located in an old residential building with only 47 students. Among the initial class was my brother Godo (Godofredo.) Over the years the school population grew, now numbering almost two thousand students and is housed in a large compound.
We are quite proud of our school. From the outset we tried to keep academic standards high. During the third and fourth years (junior & senior equivalent) the students have a much heavier workload of math and science compared to other schools in the Philippines. We stress the need for strict discipline among the students. Absolutely no fraternities or sororities are allowed and we keep a very close check on drugs, etc. My sister Alice taught at Bauan High School.
Twelve years ago the school organized "Sining Kumintang ng Batangas" a cultural dance group which have won numerous honors. Two years ago the group participated in a national folk dance competition organized by the Department of Education and we were named overall National Champion. The troupe has performed in various cities in the United States, such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Diego and a few others. The troupe has also participated in dance festivals in various places in France, Italy and Israel where it invariably received standing ovations. Every four years there is a kind of folk dance Olympics called "Folkloreiade" and the last contest was participated in by about seventy national groups from Europe, United States, Africa, South America and Asia. We were surprised that our troupe was chosen as the Philippine entry for that prestigious event held in Tokyo, where we received kudos and was presented on Japanese national television.
Last November 2001 the Bauan High School PMT (preparatory military training, or junior ROTC) entered the National Fancy Drill competition and was declared overall winner, besting some 23 other competing units from around the country.
During the 1998 Centennial celebrations, the Philippines had a year long exhibit at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC. Among the exhibits were twenty Christmas lanterns or "farols" made by Bauan High School students.
My father was a charter member of the Batangas Rotary Club and was quite an active Rotarian all his life. He was also active in the Boy Scout movement and was largely responsible for raising funds for the construction of the Boy Scout Building in Batangas City.
My father was quite a sportsman. During his years at the Philippine Nautical School he used to swim long distances non-stop in Manila Bay like from Paranaque all the way to the Luneta area. Later he became an avid golfer and played almost daily at the Caltex refinery golf course in Bauan.
My father passed away on Dec. 26, 1989 at the age of 85 years and two months.
Apolinario N. Orosa
November 8, 2002