Part of History
Gemma Cruz Araneta
Many people enjoy reading biographies because there is nothing more engaging than learning about the details of a famous person’s life.
To me, when a biography is intertwined with the history, it becomes even more edifying for it makes me realize that our lives, like it or not, are part of the nation’s saga. We tend to deny our own protagonic roles and are content to watch other personages, in silence and from a distance, forge our collective destiny with their own vision or lack of it.
Recently, I had a chance to peruse the yet unpublished biography of Mayor Calixto Cataquiz of San Pedro Tunasan, an exemplary public servant whom I had the honor to meet some years ago. Written by Jose Maria Alas and Arnaldo Arnaiz, the biography blends the intriguing history of the town with the rise of Calixto Cataquiz from young businessman to outstanding mayor.
Biographers Alas and Arnaiz relate that it all began: “..Before the Spaniards arrived and created what is now known as the Philippines, Mayor Cataquiz’s hometown was then called Tunasan (after the medicinal plant “tunas” which used to grow in abundance by the lakeshore). It was then heavily forested and swampy. Wild boar and deer used to thrive in this area. There was no social organization to speak of that was comparable to pre-Hispanic Manila. Thus the native Tagalogs who used to occupy the area were scattered in the jungles of Tunasan. At the onset of Spanish colonization, Tunasan was then a territory of Tabuco (known today as Cabuyao).
“Township began when the Spaniards, with the initiative and planning of the Franciscans, invited the scattered indigenous people into organizing themselves into a town (reduccion a pueblo, literally “reducing” scattered individuals into a component town) for their own benefit. With this in mind, the Spanish was able to easily disseminate its culture, religion, social organization, and other Western concepts of civilization to the indigenous (and oftentimes warring) tribes throughout the archipelago. Tunasan was then called Tunasancillo by the Spaniards and some of the natives who learned the Castilian language. Years later, Tunasancillo was separated from Tabuco. It became known as San Pedro Tunasan, with Saint Peter as its patron. For many years also, the Jesuits attended to the spiritual, social, economic, and cultural needs of the people.”
Often enough, you meet people (specially those in elected positions) who talk and act as if history started with them, absolutely nothing existed before they were sworn into office. Continuity seems to have become a national defficiency so we are cursed to go back to square one in utter disdain of history. Now, a glimpse at the other side of the Cataquiz clan: “During the American period, San Pedro Tunasan became a part of Biñan. Years later, in 1907, it became once more an independent town. But it sold a large part of its territory to nearby Muntinlupa; that part is now known as Barangay Tunasan.
“In 1914, the town simply became known as San Pedro…Thus, a unique mix of native and occidental was the cultural environment imbibed by the people of San Pedro from centuries of Western rule. This hodgepodge culture shaped the San Pedroeño heart and mind throughout the years…. In this unique setting a young Rosa Ramirez was reared. Unlike the Cataquiz clan, Rosa’s family was neither rich nor poor…Years later, while on a business trip to nearby Pateros, Rosa of San Pedro, Laguna met her future husband Rodolfo of Unisan, Quezon. Rosa was then observing the itik and balot industry of Pateros; she was planning to pioneer an itikan business in her hometown. Incidentally, Rodolfo was then visiting his brother who was living in the same area.”
Mayor Cataquiz told his biographers– “One of my mother’s close friends was actually the sister of my tio’s wife, And that’s how it all began.”–so Alas and Arnaiz wrote: “This same circle of Pateros acquaintances pulled them both towards their first meeting. And upon first glance, each other felt a surge of emotion that both knew immediately would blossom into a partnership that was written only in the stars…” This Tagalog union brought forth on 29 December 1948 the future mayor, of San Pedro, Laguna. And the town was never to be the same again. Entitled A DATE WITH DESTINY: One More Challenge! (The Life Story of San Pedro, Laguna Mayor Calixto R. Cataquiz) this biography promises to be a good read.
We thank Ms. Gemma Cruz Araneta for featuring our little book in Manila Bulletin. Her popular column ‘Landscape’ comes out every Tuesday.
Agradecidos por su amabilidad, Sra. Cruz- Araneta.