Sunday, December 11, 2011

Gallego Family Stories

Julio Gallego--My Great Grandfather

Manuel Viola Gallego--My Grandfather

Manuel Ongsiaco Gallego--My Father

Manuel Padilla Gallego--Moi

Here, I recount the stories of my father about my paternal family line. It starts with a bastard son of a Spanish nobleman in Galicia, northwest Spain. As the boy was growing up, living-off the land, his father took pity on him. The nobleman said to his son, "I cannot give you my title but I shall give you my sword. Go and seek your fortune in the colonies." The father assisted his son in joining the Spanish Navy and the son eventually served as an ordinary Spanish soldier in the Philippines, with hardly more than his karsonsilyo to his name. He is the original Manuel Gallego, my great-great grandfather, the quintessential Spanish aventurero.

Over time, Manuel Gallego (the original) rose through the ranks of the Spanish military establishment in the Philippines and distinguished himself to the point of being awarded a Spanish royal land grant of approximately 4,000 hectares in the vicinity of Guimba, Nueva Ecija. This was according to his son, Julio Gallego (my great grandfather), who gave his son, Manuel Viola Gallego (my grandfather), the title of such Spanish royal land grant at the time when Guimba had already an established community.

Manuel Gallego (the original) did not live long. He was planning to send his son, Julio Gallego, to Spain for a military education. However, he became seriously ill and died before Julio had the chance to leave for Spain. Hence, Julio was deprived of a proper military education. This was personally expressed by Julio to his grandson, Manuel Ongsiaco Gallego (my father), when he gave his 38 caliber Colt revolver to Dad upon returning from the US after graduating from the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) in the 1950's.

Colt 38 given by Lolo Julio to Dad after he graduated from VMI
(which happens to be the favorite gun of Al Capone--see picture below)

Al Capone's Handgun

Julio Gallego was married twice--both times to sisters (Juliana and Inocencia) of Maximo Viola, a friend of Jose Rizal, who would later become the patron of Rizal's first novel--the Noli Me Tangere. My family line is descended from Julio's second marriage, which was to Inocencia Viola and which appeared to have been under less than upstanding circumstances. So the story goes . . . Julio (then a widower of Juliana; they had one daughter, Amalia, who married Antonio Lamson; hence, Mang Boy Lamson (one of about 17 children of Antonio and Amalia) was the second cousin of Dad) climbed into the room of unsuspecting Inocencia (then only a teenager and truly an innocent country lass) and spent the night there, knowing full well that Inocencia would be a disgraced woman in the eyes of the entire town on the morning of the following day--unless, of course, he married Inocencia.

Manuel Viola Gallego was the eldest and only boy among the children of Julio and Inocencia. He often mentioned how he could not have pursued higher education if not for the sacrifice of his sisters, who were unable to pursue college to enable their brother to do so. In spite of this, Lolo Ego still needed to work while pursuing college and, later on, his graduate studies. In the future, Lolo Ego integrated an extensive working student program in the educational institutions he established--clearly having an appreciation of the strong work ethic he imbibed as a former working student himself.

In line with the age-old Filipino custom of helping siblings "complete" their higher education, Lolo Ego helped fund the education of his youngest sister, Purificacion Viola Gallego or Tia Cion (as Dad would call her), who completed her degree in pharmacy at the Manila College of Pharmacy in 1925. The following year, at the age of 25, Tia Cion married Filemon Tanchoco, then the Secretary-Treasurer of the Manila College of Pharmacy, the precursor of the Manila Central University (MCU).

Lolo Ego was handsome, intelligent and industrious. Most of all, he was a people-person. Even the few times I had encountered old-timers in Nampicuan who had interacted with Lolo Ego, they would describe him as a gentle individual who got along nicely with the townsfolk. He was almost what we would call a self-made man. I say "almost" because he could not have achieved or helped others as much if not for his wife. Caridad Ongsiaco, who we affectionately call Lola Ego, belonged to an affluent family, thereby relieving Lolo Ego, at least partially, of the drudgery of "putting food on the table" in pursuit of higher level aspirations.

Sidebar on MCU
In 1941, the Manila College of Pharmacy (MCP) suspended its operations as the Japanese forces occupied and looted its facilities, leaving only the shell of its two buildings in the City of Manila. After the liberation from the Japanese occupation in 1945, Filemon Tanchoco was the only remaining individual at MCP who could revive the institution but not without the help of his wife, Tia Cion, who, in turn, sought the help of her brother, Lolo Ego.

Not coincidentally, MCP's transformation and expansion was unprecedented during the years that Lolo Ego was the Secretary of Public Instruction (1946 to 1948). In light of the extensiveness and diversity of courses offered by then Manila Central Colleges (MCC), it was granted the authority to become a university. In 1948, the institution was known as Manila Central University with Filemon Tanchoco as its first president.

After Lolo Ego stepped down as the Secretary of Public Instruction, Tia Cion asked him if he would invest in the expansion of MCU.  After consulting his wife (Lola Ego, who would fund the investment from the proceeds of Rancho Caridad), Lolo Ego undertook the most ambitious initiative of MCU to date, which was to acquire the 10-hectare property of the Jesuit Novitiate of San Jose in Caloocan to serve as the new campus of MCU.

According to Dad, the only other serious buyer of the Jesuit property was Don Salvador Araneta, who had far more financial means to consummate the transaction. Yet, Lolo Ego's modest and gentle approach to negotiations persuaded the Jesuits to sell the property to MCU on installment!

For a number of years, Lolo Ego remained a shareholder of MCU. Early on, Tia Cion indicated the need to establish a cafeteria to serve meals to the students. This enterprise was assumed by Lola Ego with her cousin, Tia Itang, until it eventually grew to a substantial establishment. When Filemon Jr. (son of Filemon and Tia Cion) got married, his wife wanted to take over the operations of the cafeteria. When this was conveyed by Tia Cion to Lolo Ego, Lola Ego felt betrayed. She told Lolo Ego to divest their ownership interest in MCU and Lolo Ego obliged. Henceforth, the relationship between Lolo Ego and his sister, Tia Cion, had become distant.


  1. si Mr. Manuel Gallego ba yung nag panukala na gawing wikang pamnabsa ang tagalog subalit namayani pa yung ingles /. ? Wala po kasi akong makitang Manuel Gillego .

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