Don Vicente Alfante & the town of Sta. Cruz de Marinduque

lecaroz marinduque, alfante marinduque, sta. cruz marinduque, marinduque

Sta. Cruz have an imposing old church made of red bricks. Firs time I saw it, I knew the old Franciscan missionaries had a hand in its construction. These master builders had an affinity building using red bricks. Right beside it is the impressive old convent and school. It still houses a learning center. The Franciscan infirmary was moved here in the 1600’s from its old location in Pila.

The municipio consists of 50 barrios but with only fifty thousand residents. Its land, mostly forested, have scattered settlements. Like the rest of Marinduque, it’s blessed with scenic coastlines. What sets it apart is that it have three white sand islands off its coasts, all having great tourism potential.

The Lecarozes, well-known local politicians, hails from this town. The most significant ancestral house around here was built by this family in the early 1900’s. The longest serving provincial governor was a Lecaroz who held that office for more than two decades.

Maria Lisa, the present caretaker of the Lecaroz house in Sta. Cruz, claims that the house is in great shape. No structural damage but it did went through some minor repairs in the past. “It would last as long as we want it to be around,” she said. Maria sleeps on the upper floor. The ground floor has been rented out to a hardware shop.

Not far from casa Lecaroz is a much humbler but elegant wooden house built in the late 1920’s by the Alfantes. Its original owner, Don Vicente, passed away in the 1990’s. Leaving the house to his grandchildren.

I sat down and interviewed two of his granddaughter, Catalina, currently a kagawad, and Aurora Jean, a small business owner, named after the wife of President Manuel Quezon.

Their grandfather’s newspaper subscription to Nueva Era, the last Spanish newspaper in the country, kept coming long after his death. Aurora Jean said she wrote the publisher in Manila to have it stopped. My friend and distant relative, Guillermo Gomez Rivera, was the last editor and publisher of this newspaper. It closed shop 10 years ago.

Unlike his Lecaroz cousins, Don Vicente was a modest government employee in Manila—but his time was no ordinary time. He worked as a stenographer and proof reader when the country had an American governor. His name appears in the official roster of the civil service of 1913, along with Sergio Osmena, Manuel Roxas, Pablo Ocampo and Luis Ma. Guerrero. He personally knew most of these men. According to his grand daughters, he attended private parties held by these illustrious Filipinos.

Don Vicente Alfante worked in the Bureau of Forestry and later on for the Senate. But everything about him appears so down-to-earth. After his stint as a government employee, he retired as a farmer.

I then asked for a photo of Don Vicente from her grandchildren. “Oh, better we’ll bring you some of his letters,” they said. This, of course, is more than what I bargained for. I spent the next few hours browsing over his letters written in old Tagalog, Spanish and English. True to his profession as a professional stenographer and proof reader, his mastery of the languages of his time was remarkable. His penmanship was exquisite, his letters, clear and concise.

His letters to his wife were romantic–he was a true gentleman of culture. His messages were moving, it was difficult not to get emotional. In one of the letters he instructs his son, then living in the US, how to properly address his mother in his letters. His was a time when writing letters and sealing envelopes was not only an art but reflection of one’s culture.

Don Vicente’s Spanish letters were more formal. Most were addressed to men in public offices. Thanks to his clear and beautiful penmanship, the letters were all easy to read.

Like men of his generation, he was productive even during his retirement. I found this notebook where he wrote about medicines and healing techniques as practiced by medicos in Manila. He wrote pages dedicated to proper nutrition and diet. Because of the island being far from Manila, Don Vicente recorded these for his community’s benefit.

Stories of Rizal’s civil mindedness in Dapitan comes to mind—Don Vicente had that same spirit.

He also wrote down agricultural methods he sourced from the old Department of Forestry and Agriculture. He had several cows and farming lots. In a letter to the local agriculture agency he asked for permission to slaughter some of his cows and sell its meat to the public. These days, anyone could slaughter anything and sell them.

According to Aurora Jean, he was a very gentle grandfather. Not the kind of mestizo snub we all heard about growing up. He would greet his Licaroz cousins with “hola primo” and cordially converse with them in Spanish. But when he’s upset, they could hear him curse in Spanish! But never did he stay angry for long they said. He was a cerrado catolico. A wide reader and had spent the remainder of his life in the graceful wooden house he built for his family.

He died with his granddaughter, Catalina, beside him. His last words according to her were, “vamos, vamos!”

“Alam namin na dumating na ang mga mahal n’ya sa buhay na matagal ng patay, siguro kaya ganun ang sinabe n’ya, parang nagmamadali na s’ya umalis.”

Whoever they were, they spoke Spanish.

Don Vicente, unheard even in local town history, is the quintessential Filipino. Educated in the old-fashioned Filipino Spanish sense. He was civic minded, religious, a selfless family man who tried to impart everything to his children and grandchildren—sadly, only the house and those letters, remains of his heritage—everything else died with him.

The red brick church of Sta. Cruz. What has become common is the addition of a sheltered front which destroys the architectural appeal of our old churches. These extensions are eyes sores and does not add anything to the existing historical building. This practice must be stopped.

Details of Sta. Cruz’s old church. The retablo is worth viewing up close, the intricate wood carvings the precious santos’s were either made in Laguna or was imported from the overseas. The meter thick walls and center dome are impressive architectural gems.

The old convent and school. Utilized as a school for toddlers these days. There were many ill advised renovations (i.e., use of cement)that took place in the last decades. But overall, the church and town should be commended for allowing the structure to not only remain but used. As I haven’t been able to speak with anyone from the church, I could not verify where the old Franciscan infirmary is (or was) located. It was in the late 1600’s that the retirement house of Spanish Franciscans was transferred in Sta. Cruz from Pila.

The Lecaroz house. A stone throw away from the church. Typical style of old bahay na bato in the province. This house’s ground floor was for stocks, most likely, agricultural produce. But I could not verify if it had been a living quarter all along. The 2nd storey is were the rooms are. The capiz window are intact, the ventanilla are in good order. The floor is made of solid wood. There were also great samples of caladon inside. 

The Alfante house, not far from the Lecaroz, is a two storey house built utilizing mostly wood from the Marinduque forest. It is believe to had been built around the 1920’s. The Alfantes, according to family stories, use to own lots in Malate, near the church.

Writing his wife, from the Senado de Filipinas!

Don Vicente’s notebook containing technical-know-hows in medicine and agriculture. It also have pages dedicated to nutrition and other useful information. He most likely wrote these as reference after he retired.

An interesting authorization letter of a Sta. Cruzin man selling his cows to Dn. Vicente’s wife. The farmers letter is written in the Tagalog, the notario, in Spanish.

With Ms. Aurora Jean Alfante and Catalina Alfante-Mendoza. Behind us is the intricately designed wooden stair of Casa Alfante

3 responses to “Don Vicente Alfante & the town of Sta. Cruz de Marinduque

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