Monday, July 9, 2012

Our House in Rancho Caridad

Driveway to the Entrance Gate
Formerly the front of the house; currently the right side and rear of house

Currently the left side and rear of house
Driveway to front of house

Front of House
The wooden facade is flanked by the entrance staircase
and the ground floor and second floor kitchen.
This house was originally built by my grandfather (Manuel Viola Gallego or Lolo Ego) before World War II, as a "working house" in which to manage the business affairs of the farm. It was spartan at best, made of wood with concrete flooring on the ground floor--a testament to the modest means of the rice land owner. Concrete blocks served as foundation for wooden columns, which is still evident today in about half of the footprint of the house. The house had one bathroom on the ground floor for the help (which is still the same bathroom for the help today) and one bathroom on the second floor for the owner. The ground floor was where the family of the caretaker lived and where the farm employees would wait to be called to report on their work. Perhaps the only luxury of the house was a "torre" or a tower, which I never saw. It was said to have a view of the hacienda at the time the surrounding trees were in their infancy. The tower was removed by my father when he renovated the house after he inherited a portion of Rancho Caridad. (Dad's sister, Thelma Gallego-Villonco, inherited the other portion, which she sold to Vicente "Teng" Puyat.) At this time, land reform had reduced Rancho Caridad to a non-commercial enterprise (i.e., barely earning enough to pay for itself). Fortunately, the mango orchard Dad planted when he returned from his studies in Germany was now bearing fruit (quite literally). It had become and remains the key economic contributor to Rancho Caridad.

Today, we visit Rancho Caridad to enjoy the outdoors and the peace and quiet of a rural setting. Here, we are close to Lolo Ego and Lola Ego, whose remains are in the family chapel.

The resting place of Lolo Ego and Lola Ego

Historical Note
My grandmother (Caridad Ongsiaco Gallego or Lola Ego) inherited a modest hacienda of about 600 hectares, which was a combination of second growth forest and swamp land. It was raw and it needed work. As was the custom of the era, men--not women--managed farms in those days. So, Lola Ego may have owned it but Lolo Ego developed and took care of it.

In light of the hard-working reputation of the Ilocanos (who were hauled by the American's to Hawaii to plant pineapple in the 1900's), Lolo Ego (through his brother-in-law, Isidoro Del Prado, who was hired as the encargado or manager of the hacienda) enticed Ilocanos from the Ilocos region (along the typhoon belt and having stony unfertile soil) to plant rice on the farm, which had far superior climatic and soil conditions. According to Dad, Isidoro would bring trucks to the Ilocos region to haul and settle batches upon batches of Ilocanos in Nampicuan. This transpired over a period of 3 to 4 years.

In the late 1940's, Lolo Ego purchased the only high school in town (L. C. Gonzales Memorial High School), which was owned by then incumbent Mayor of Nampicuan, Dr. Jose Baguisi, and, harnessing his extensive experience in the education sector (having been a Secretary of Public Instruction), reinvigorated the same under the banner of Gallego Institute of Agriculture and Industry or GIAI, which served the community of Nampicuan for over 60 years (from the late 1940's to 2011) until Dad donated the school to the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Jose, Nueva Ecija.  The school is now known as St. Pius X Institute of Nampicuan.

Not long after Lolo Ego's pioneering development work at the farm began to bear fruit, institutionalized land-grabbing by government known ostensibly as agrarian reform gained momentum. Henceforth, the rice land owner was doomed. Unlike landowners of export crops (i.e., foreign exchange earners) like coconut, sugar and tobacco, who had larger tracts of land, were generally much wealthier and, not surprisingly, politically too powerful to be touched, the rice land owner produced and sold just that--rice, the most basic commodity and staple crop for local consumption. Rice land was not a source of wealth but a source of livelihood for an agricultural middle-class that was systematically destroyed for refraining to exert their political clout.

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