Ateneo De Naga high school 1980

Those who do not remember history are bound to live through it again.

Friday, October 29, 2010

A simple story about a Strong Filipina

I enjoyed reading this article about the life of a simple but brave woman named Maria Magdalena Vidal-Strong who struggled to sustain the needs of her family under difficult circumstances. Alice Strong, who is the daughter of Magdalena, decided to write her memoirs about her mother’s life. This memoir was read by Alice’s daughter (Elena Maria Vidal) and Elena decided to honor her mother and grand parents by posting their memoirs in her blog.

Maria Magdalena Vidal was born on May 25, 1904 on the island of Cebu in the Philippines. Her great- grandfather, Kiamko, was a Chinese national. She always told us that he was a merchant from Shanghai but we found out many years later that he was actually a notorious pirate.

After amassing a fortune through pillage, Kiamko eventually settled down on vast estates in the Philippines. He married a lady of Spanish-Malaysian blood, descended from one of Magellan's comrades who had settled in the islands in the sixteenth century. Kiamko's son, Alejandro Arnibal, inherited what had become an empire of fishing and sugar cane which he ruled like an oriental despot. His daughter, my grandmother's mother, was Mamerta Philomena Arnibal, an exotic beauty with dark skin and chiseled features.
Mamerta and her sisters assisted during mass in their floor-length mantillas made of pineapple fiber. During the period in the Philippines, the women sat on one side of the church and the men on the other. In spite of the segregation, Mamerta caught the glance of a poor young Spaniard named Jaime Vidal.

Jaime was from Barcelona in Catalonia and was working as an accountant in his uncle's cigarette factory. He was a descendant of the Sephardic Jews of Aragon, the conversos. When his eyes met Mamerta's, they both fell in love. Jaime came to her home and serenaded her under her window with his guitar. Alejandro disapproved of him as a suitor due to his lack of fortune. To show of Alejandro’s disapproval, he and his sons would pour buckets of water on Jaime while he was serenading Mamerta.One day, Jaime and Mamerta eloped. This made Mamerta’s father furious. The father disowned Mamerta and crossed her off the family tree as if she was never born. The father’s wrath never diminished even though Jaime and Mamerta were married and their union is no longer an issue to be ashamed of. Years later when Mamerta became a widow and needed of assistance, her family refused to extend any help to her. They really treated her as if she had died.Mamerta and Jaime had a son named Francisco. When Mamerta became pregnant a second time, there were political problems in the islands and they decided to relocate to Spain. Jaime went first to Spain to prepare a home for them. While Jaime was in Spain, he was killed in a riding accident.

Abandoned by her own family, Mamerta was at a total loss. She gave birth to my grandmother in May 1904. Unprotected, she was kidnapped and forced to marry a Filipino man whose name we do not know. He was cruel and beat Mamerta and baby Magdalena as well. By the time Magdalena was three years old, Mamerta feared for her life. She heard of an orphanage for mixed race children called the House of the Holy Child run by American missionaries. She took her little girl there and begged them to take care of her.

The House of the Holy Child was operated by the Anglican Church under the auspices of a former Boston socialite, Frances Crosby. She was a maiden-lady with no children of her own. She was enchanted by Magdalena and raised her as her own daughter, giving her the last name of "Crosby." Magdalena was baptized a Catholic but her "godmother," as she called Miss Frances, raised her as a high Anglican. Frances later married an Anglican clergyman, Father Barter. They were both devoted to my grandmother raising her as a proper young lady.

Magdalena was a bright and precocious child and wanted to be a teacher. She began teaching as early as age fourteen and by age twenty had her teaching certificate. It was then she met my grandfather, Herman Strong, from Alabama. He had a fiancée back in the States but when he became enamored of my grandmother he broke his engagement. Her foster mother did not approve of Herman because he was a Baptist. Wanting to be united as husband and wife, Herman and Magdalena eloped. They had four children and the youngest was my mother, Alice Strong, who was born in Baguio city in 1939.

Below are recollections taken directly from Alice Strong’s memoir notes:

When WW II broke out we were living in a beautiful, what would these days be called a subdivision, of 6 houses each one walled in for privacy and safety from robbers. House robberies were common in Manila, thus most houses had iron grills on the windows and these had the added safety of walls. I remember the street we lived on was named Colorado Street. I believe my father was doing well as an accountant because my recollections are that it was a fine house.

My mother had two servants who would cook and house clean, and my brother had a 'house boy' whose sole job was to take care of him. His name was Felix. When my father was taken off to Santo Tomas prison camp, Felix would ride his bicycle many miles across the city of Manila taking food my mother had prepared in order to keep my father from starvation. He remained part of our household during most of the war, as did the 2 servants. One was especially close to us, her name was Nena, and I cannot be certain if the spelling of her name is correct. The family photo of all of us standing in a doorway with my father holding me was taken at that location.

When the war broke out everyone in the neighborhood pitched in and built a community air raid shelter where we would all go during an air attack. The house had a beautiful garden with Banana Trees and other lush tropical plants. There were trees with wild orchids hanging from them. I believe it was told to me that orchids are a parasitic plant, the same as mistletoe, and would grow from the bark of trees. My mother loved flowers and had hanging baskets of orchids that had been cut from the bark and placed bark and all in hanging baskets.

It was at this location that my mother had a 'school' for her children and any neighborhood children who wanted to attend. In this way she helped the young people maintain their educational level and earned an income at the same time. She also tutored children of wealthy families in their home. I recall a car being sent for her and I would get to go along as well. I was in awe of the furnishings and size of the rooms of the large mansions we would go to for my mother's tutoring sessions. After the war started and gasoline was no longer available to private citizens, the car would appear being drawn by horses.

The school even had a theater arts program in which the students would perform in plays. I specifically recall the Christmas re-enactment of Dickens's Christmas Carol. I believe my sister, Floy, was Marley's ghost, and my brother, David, played the boy who fetches the Christmas Goose. A real goose was used, and a large bow had been tied around its neck. The scenes in my mind of the fun during rehearsals and the final performance of this play are still vivid to me.

I do not remember how frequently the Japanese soldiers would make their rounds, but my mother had prepared the students by teaching them Japanese songs which they would sing in case of such visits. She had been warned not to teach anything related to the USA, but US History and Geography were part of the curriculum along with the history and geography of South East Asia, and Japan. My mother was quite proud of the fact that after the war every one of these students was able to enter school at their grade level, and the parents were quite pleased about this as well.

Another way my mother earned income after my father was taken to prison camp was by renting the upstairs of the house to a Spanish family consisting of a mother and two sons. The sons were in their late teens or early twenties. Their names were Jorge and Miguel. I remember they were quite handsome and flirtatious. Jorge was my favorite and would take me on outings to the Zoo and other places. Nowadays with the fear of pedophiles this would be unheard of, but Jorge was like a big brother to me.

It was at this time that the whole city of Manila was flooded by the Japanese. I remember wading around in about two feet of water while everyone carried furniture upstairs. I do not know what caused the flood, but my mother said it was because the Japanese did not know how to manage the city water works having come from a rather primitive culture which did not consist of such advances. My son, Pat, who is well versed on WWII History, said the Japanese flooded the city in anticipation of the U.S. invasion.

As the war progressed we had to abandon the area and moved to a smaller house in a safer part of town, however the house consisted of two stories. In this house the air raid shelter was built under the stairway. I believe we spent most of the remainder of the war at this location. While at this location we were robbed by a person who climbed up the side of the house and entered one of the windows (no bars) and stole a bag full of electric light bulbs, which were a valuable commodity. The next day I remember seeing his muddy footprints up the side of the house. The Filipinos were quite adept at climbing. After that my mother slept with a 'bolo', which was a large machete type knife, under her pillow. We slept under mosquito nets and my brother was always getting tangled up in them during the night. It was quite comical, although he did not think so.

It was also at this house that we had a vegetable garden on top of the other air raid shelter built off the back of the house. A wall separated our house from the back yard of the other houses. We had a live chicken at the time that would peck bugs in the garden my mother planted on top of the air raid shelter. I do not know where my mother got the chicken, but she was very resourceful, and also made friends with the local Filipinos who were always helpful. The chicken was being fattened for my father, and we were greatly saddened when my mother cooked it and Felix took it to my father at the POW camp. Not only were we sad to see the chicken go, but we were sad to miss out on a tasty morsel. My mother also hid guerrilla fighters from whom we would receive vital information about future events of the war. If the Japanese soldiers came to search the house, the guerrilla could climb the wall and escape into the neighboring yard.

When the Japanese soldiers went from house to house confiscating cars, radios and other valuables, one of the neighbors slaughtered his horse rather than aid the Japanese with the use of the horse. Food of any kind was scarce at this time so he shared the horse meat with everyone in the neighborhood. My sister refused to eat any of it, but I was hungry enough that I ate it. Getting protein from Mung Beans and Sprouts did not quite satisfy my hunger.

In my brother David's notes of the war he mentions the Japanese Officer, Peco, who befriended us and would visit and bring canned goods and sugar. From my recollection we met Peco when he and another officer were in a truck that had broken down in front of our house. I recall the weather was rainy and the road was muddy. They either came to the door or my mother invited them in for coffee. Even though she had white sugar, which she had obtained on the 'Black Market', she served them brown sugar because she did not want to arouse suspicion by having white sugar. It was after this that he appeared one day with canned milk and white sugar. As my brother mentions in his notes, we knew it was confiscated canned milk. He visited several more times after that and had long conversations with my mother. We grew quite fond of him and loved his visits. He told us that when he was twelve he was taken away from his family and trained for war along with many many other young men, indicating that Japan was preparing for conquest years and years before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

My mother said Peco told her he was a Christian, and was opposed to the war but had no option but to fight. He showed her photos of his wife and baby. The last we saw of Peco was when he came and told us of the impending US invasion. He said that he was being transferred and did not know whether he would survive the coming battle. In his broken English he told my mother, "Americano coming, Boom Boom!" My mother already knew this based on information from her guerrilla friends.

One needs to know that after the Japanese invasion and destruction of the American military facilities in Manila, life went on as usual and the Japanese wanted to be known as beneficent conquerors. It should be mentioned that the Japanese were not at war with the Filipinos, but the USA. In spite of this there was limited food and other resources, and many people had fled Manila into the outlying areas. We, of course, remained in order to aide my father in prison camp. The monetary system was in shambles and the Japanese printed Philippine bills that were worthless. When my mother would go to try and buy food, she carried a bag full of this currency in order to purchase even a small item. During this time she sold or bartered most of our valuables in order to get food. In spite of this we were malnourished, but fared better than most because of my mother's, and I might add, my sister Floy's, ingenuity. After the war my mother weighed eighty-five pounds, and even though she was not a tall woman, at eighty-five pounds she was quite underweight. I would see her take food off her plate and give it to my brother, who was constantly hungry. He did not want to take her food but she would insist that she had had enough to eat.

My last memory of the war years was when the Americans invaded and we had to go into hiding for three weeks. We hid in the crawl space of a three story house along with many, many other people crammed into the space. My mother had been told about that this house, and that it was relatively safe during the bombing because three stories would deflect the worst effects of a bomb. It had already been shelled at an earlier time because I remember seeing a long crack in the roof.As I mentioned, the space was crammed with families, mostly women and children, and many injured people. My mother always carried first aid supplies with her and would nurse as many of the injured people as she could. I specifically recall a man on whom she had applied a tourniquet which we took turns holding in order to stop the loss of blood. I believe she saved his life. The only antibiotic available in those days was sulfonamide. My mother always had some with her. She was quite resourceful in obtaining first aid supplies.
In getting to this house we had to escape our neighborhood in the early morning hours while it was still dark. This turned out to be a dangerous procedure because the Japanese had planted explosive mines in the muddy road in order to blow up the American tanks that were to come through. My sister had watched through the night as the soldiers were planting the mines and memorized where all of them were. After the soldiers left we crept from our house and had to cling to the side of the house in order not to slip in the mud and be blown up. It was to this house that my brother and sister would return to get food and my sister would cook food and bring it back to the place where we were in hiding.

By then the Japanese were not so 'benevolent' and had established a curfew. Anyone seen out past the curfew would be machined gunned. If the person was a young woman she would be taken to go into sexual service for the Japanese soldiers. Little boys my brother’s age would be taken to pull the Japanese caissons because by then oil for motorized vehicles was almost unobtainable. In my brother's notes he tells of the time he was snatched off the street and hidden during one of the Japanese soldiers’ sweeps of the city. Many children became separated from their family, and I recall seeing children wandering around alone and crying.

My mother had given me and my brother strict instructions as to how to avoid being separated from her. I was to hang onto her hand no matter what, and my brother was to stay by my sister. My mother had prepared a bag which we were instructed to take when we had to move from place to place. It contained some food, clothing and first aid supplies.

After about three weeks of hiding under the house the final ordeal ended when we experienced an unnatural silence and assumed the fighting had ended. We did not know, however, whether it was the Japanese or the American army that had prevailed. Finally we heard tanks rumbling past and someone called out, "Is anybody there?" It was an American soldier. My mother said it was a welcome relief to see those blue eyes. The soldiers handed out chocolates, cigarettes, and Chiclets chewing gum. We were taken to Santo Tomas where my father had been imprisoned, but it was now an internment camp. Santo Tomas had previously been a University, but the Japanese found the setting a good one to use for prisoners of war.

We were 'interned' here while the Allied forces sorted everyone out with the help of the International Red Cross and arranged for all to be returned to their respective countries. Manila was a cosmopolitan city and its inhabitants were people from all over the world. So it was quite a task and one that took months or organizing in order to achieve this. My father was quite relieved to be reunited with us. He had not been able to get word of our whereabouts and knew we were trapped in the worst part of Manila where the most vicious fighting was taking place. His worst fear was that he would never see us again. He and his fellow prisoners knew that they were only going to be able to survive another month if the liberation had not taken place. Many of their fellow prisoners had already died of starvation or been bayoneted by the Japanese guards because of some infraction. My father wrote a book titled "A Ringside Seat To War", about his experiences as a prisoner at Santo Tomas.

Upon leaving we could see that the beautiful city of Manila was flattened beyond recognition. This city, known as 'The Pearl of the Orient' situated on the stunning, blue, Manila Bay, would never be the same again. Our lives as well were changed forever. Because there were no longer any harbors or docks, in order to board the ship that was to take us back to the U .S. we had to get into LST's, which were vehicles that operated on land and in the water. We climbed into these with just the clothes on our backs and a small bag of belongings, grateful to be alive, and grateful to the Allied forces who had liberated us at great cost in lives and resources.

The strain of the war had so taken its toll upon my grandparents. Their marriage failed and they divorced in the late forties. My grandmother returned to teaching. She was always a devoted Anglican and never married again. She eventually moved to Seattle, Washington which she said reminded her of Baguio. She would spend the summers with us in Maryland, and as she crocheted, she would tell me about her life. A stroke destroyed her health and she had to move to a nursing home. She died on November 12, 1987. She is one of the most beloved people of my life, whose influence upon me has no measure

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Who is your life's Technical Support?

Two weekends ago, my son handed me his computer notebook and told me that it had crashed. I checked the screen and it just showed a black screen with a bunch of chain-like codes that resembled Egyptian hieroglyphics. I then asked my son what he did that caused the crash. I felt that my question is a dumb one because the typical answer of normal teenagers nowadays when asked with this question is, “I wasn’t doing anything out of the ordinary when that thing happened”.

I tried to reboot the notebook several times but the same thing just kept on showing on the screen. I finally gave up after half an hour of trying.

My wife then came to the scene and told me that it appears that we might have to buy a new notebook since the cost of the repair might equal to half of the price of a brand new notebook. Though what she said is possible, I told her that I will try to find ways to repair the notebook without costing us an arm and a leg.

I took the notebook to my workplace and showed it to two network programmers who work in our Information Technology (IT) department. The first thing they asked me was if I have a Recovery disc. I told them I do not have one. They told me that whenever I buy a new PC and the PC did not come with a Recovery disc, I need to create one before operating anything in the PC. Well, this is one lesson I sure will remember.

Both of the programmers tried different commands to get the notebook to be in a mode called “safe mode” (Not sure what that means). After numerous tries, they finally told me that my PC is corrupt and I need to buy a Recovery Disc from the PC manufacturer or take it to a PC repair shop so that they can restore my PC.

I called the notebook manufacturer and was told that the Recovery disc will cost $20 plus shipping. The price seemed reasonable but the thing that kept me from purchasing it was I needed to order it via their website using my credit card. With identity fraud so rampant in the internet, I did not feel safe typing in my information in the internet even though I have a fancy anti-virus program in my other PC.

The other option I have, which is to take my notebook to a repair shop, does not appeal to me that much. I view these PC repair shops as dishonest leeches bleeding the bank accounts of every person that brings into their shop a PC for repair. I am sure not all of them are dishonest but the bad apples within their ranks had caused a bad virus to spread in their industry smearing their reputation.

After two weeks of trying to figure out the most cost efficient way to repair our notebook, I decided to seek the help of someone whom I remiss to ask—God. I placed my son’s notebook next to my laptop and prayed. I know that this might look strange to you guys but God has never failed me in the past. I believe that I should have presented my PC problem to God first before doing anything else.

After praying for a minute or so, I turned on both PCs and wondered how I will be able to fix the malfunctioning PC. I went to PC technical websites trying to figure out if there are any instructions that I might be able to spot to help me repair my notebook. While I was doing this, there is this nagging voice in my mind that kept on telling me, “If two PC experts at your office cannot figure out how to repair your notebook, what makes you think you can fix it yourself?”. Though I felt that my efforts could potentially be futile, I just kept on going with the hopes that God is leading me somewhere in the net. I felt so incompetent to fix my PC because I know absolutely zilch (squat, zip, nothing) about PC programming.

After typing into my notebook numerous programming commands which I all found in the internet, I came into a DOS screen containing a list of settings. One of them said something like a factory setting and it was disabled. I changed it to “enable”. I roamed around that window and I pressed something that brought me to another screen and this time it was asking me if I want to restore the PC to factory setting. I was hesitant at first thinking that I might potentially make the problem worse. After thinking for a minute, I took the plunge and just pressed the “OK” command. To my surprise, the PC restored itself to its original factory settings! I was stunned!

After the PC went through 25 minutes of restoration, I finally saw a familiar screen with program icons in it. Though I felt jubilant, I noticed that the MS Word program plus all my son’s school work files were deleted. When I showed this to my son, he scratched his head in disappointment but was relieved that his notebook is working again.

I do not want to credit pure luck as the source of the solution to my computer problem. God is the one that made it all possible. Everytime I am in a tight spot, He has never failed to provide me with the best solution. This is a clear proof that God solves all sorts of problems including PC programming.

Is God your life’s Technical Support?

Monday, October 18, 2010

First in the Philippines

In the history of the Philippines, there are a lot of “firsts” and I would like to list a few of them in this article because they are hardly mentioned during Philippine historical lectures.

First Landing
In March 16, 1521, Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan in service of Spain landed at Samar.

First Mass
In March 31, 1521 (Easter Sunday) Spanish friar Pedro Valderama conducted the first Catholic mass in Limasawa, Leyte. Rajah Kolambu, who forged a blood compact of friendship with Magellan two days earlier, attended along with Rajah Siagu.

First Filipino
ChristiansIn April 14, 1521, Rajah Humabon, Rajah Kolambu, and 400 other Filipino natives were baptized into Christianity during a ceremony administered by friar Pedro Valderamma.

First Filipino Priest
In 1590, Martin Lakandula was ordained as an Augustinian priest, becoming the first native Filipino to serve as a friar. In 1906, Jorge Barlin became the first Filipino bishop under the Roman Catholic Church. The first Filipino archbishop was Viviano Gorordo while the first Filipino cardinal was Rufino Cardinal Santos.

First Chair
It was said that Filipinos first used a chair in April 1521 when Ferdinand Magellan gave Rajah Humabon of Cebu a red velvet Spanish chair. According to Halupi, a book of essays on Philippine history, early Filipinos used to sit on the floor.

First Spanish Monument
April 14, 1521, Ferdinand Magellan planted a huge cross in Cebu. It was here where friar Valderama baptized Rajah Humabon, Rajah Kolambu and 400 other Filipinos into Christianity.

First Battle
In April 14, 1521, the first battle between Filipinos and the European conquerors took place in Mactan, Cebu. Filipino chieftain Lapu-lapu defeated Magellan and his men. After Magellan was killed, Sebastian del Cano led his men back to Spain, completing their voyage around the planet.

First Religious Order
The Franciscans were the first Catholic religious order to establish their presence in the Philippines. The Franciscans came here in 1577; Jesuits, 1581; Dominicans, 1587; Recollects, 1606; Paulists, 1862; Sisters of Charity, 1862; Capuchins, 1886; and Benedictines, 1895.

First Spanish-Filipino Marriage
In 1585, Spanish soldier Pablo Alvarez married Nicolasa de Alvarez, a native of Lubao, Pampanga.First MuslimsMakdum, Rajah Baguinda and Abu Bakar propagated Islam in the Philippines in the 15th Century.

First Spanish Governor General
Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, who founded the first European settlement in Cebu City in 1565, is considered the first Spanish governor general in the Philippines. He founded the city of Manila and declared it the capital of the archipelago on June 3, 1571. The last Spanish governor general in the Philippines was Riego delos Rios in 1898.

First Archbishop
Domingo Salazar was the first archbishop of the Philippines, which was regarded as a single diocese in the 1580s.

First Filipina Directress
According to Pampango historian Zoilo Galang, Sor Candida Ocampo was the first and only Filipino who became a directress of an Spanish institution in the Philippines. In 1594, Ocampo, who was born in Camarines Sur, was appointed as the directress of Colegio de Santa Isabel.

First Cannon Maker
Even before the Spaniards came to the Philippines, Filipino natives had already learned the trick of making cannons, perhaps from Chinese traders. Historians claimed that Panday Pira who lived between 1483 and 1576 had devised the cannons which Muslim leader Rajah Sulayman used to protect Manila against the invading Spanish troops. Panday Pira was from Tarlac.

First Chinese Kingdom
After attacking Manila, Chinese conqueror Limahong established a kingdom near the mouth of Agno River in Pangasinan province on December 3, 1574. Agno was the seat of the old civilization. Historians have mentioned one Princess Urduja who ruled Pangasinan before the Spaniards came. In 1660, Filipino leader Malong attempted to establish another kingdom in Pangasinan.

First Revolt
The first attempt to rise against Spanish colonial rule was carried out by chieftains of Bulacan led by Esteban Taes in 1587. On October 26, 1588, Spanish authorities discovered a plot by Magat Salamat of Hagonoy who tried to enlist the support of his relatives in Borneo.

First Filipino in Exile
Felipe Salonga of Polo, Bulacan (now Valenzuela City) became the first Filipino who was put in exile by Spanish authorities for starting a revolt in Bulacan in 1587. He was exiled to Mexico.

First Mention of King of Tagalogs
New historical writings have mentioned the name of one Raha Matanda or Rajah Ache (Lakandula) who ruled over Tondo, a kingdom encompassing an area that now includes Bulacan, Metro Manila, Rizal and Quezon in the 16th Century. Rajah Matanda was the heir to his father's throne and was a grandson of Sultan Siripada I (Bolkeiah I) of Borneo. In 1643, Don Pedro Ladia of Borneo who claimed to be a descendant of Rajah Matanda started a revolt and called himself the king of the Tagalog. He was executed in Manila. Historians said that when the troops of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi attacked Manila in 1571, the men of Rajah Soliman - the king of Manila - rose up in resistance.In 1847, Apolinario dela Cruz of Tayabas was considered king of the Tagalogs. Bernardo Carpio, a mythical giant character, was also regarded as a king of the Tagalogs. In the 1900s, the revolutionary government proclaimed Macario Sakay as the president of the Tagalog Republic.

First Chinese Revolt
In October 3, 1603, the Chinese rose in revolt in Manila and was driven away to San Pablo, Laguna where they made their last stand.

First Juan dela Cruz
A certain Pantaleon Perez led the Pangasinan revolt on November 3, 1762. Perez assumed the name Juan dela Cruz Palaris. It was mentioned that on November 11, 1849, most illiterate Filipinos during the administration of Spanish governor general Narciso Claveria y Zaldua were given the Christian surname dela Cruz. Our great ancestors, who could not read and write, drew a cross as their signature on documents and so were known for their dela Cruz surnames. In contrast, Filipino descendants of rajahs and noble men were given the option to keep their names. Among the clans, who were also exempted from forced labor and paying taxes under the Spanish rule, were the Lakandulas, Solimans, Gatmaitans, Gatbontons, Salongas, Layas, Lapiras, Macapagals, Salamats, Manuguits, Balinguits, Banals, Kalaws, among others.

First Filipino
The first man who used Filipino as a title of citizenship was Luis Rodriguez Varela, a Spaniard who was born in Manila. He preferred to be called El Conde Pilipino in 1795. (Source: Halupi)

First Map
The first Philippine map was drawn in 1734 by Nicolas dela Cruz and Francisco Suarez under the instruction of Jesuit historian Pedro Murillo Velarde. The original map was 27 inches wide and 42 inches long.

First Dutch Presence
In June 10, 1647, a Dutch fleet arrived in Manila Bay and later attacked Cavite province.First British PresenceIn October 4, 1762, British forces invaded Manila. They took possession of Intramuros until May 31, 1764.

First Filipino Printer
The Spaniards introduced the art of printing in the Philippines, almost half a century before the Americans learned how to use it. It is believed that the first book in the country was Doctrina Christiana en letra y lengua China, which was printed in 1593 by Juan de Vera, a Filipino-Chinese. In 1948, Fray Jose Gonzales of the Dominican Order discovered this book in the Vatican Library. Tomas Pinpin is regarded as the first Filipino printer. He was born in Abucay, Bataan but records about his birth were lost after the Dutch invaders destroyed the town of Abucay in 1646. Pinpin learned the art of printing from the Chinese artisans when he worked in the shop of Filipino-Chinese printer, Luis Beltran. Among his works were Arte y Reglas de la Lengua Tagala (1610) and the Librong Pag-aaralan nang mga Tagalog nang Uicang Castila (1610) printed in Bataan. From 1609 to 1639, Pinpin printed more than a dozen titles. Other literary pieces, which appeared during this period were the poems of Pedro Bukaneg (1590-1626), Fernando Bagongbanta (1605), and Pedro Ossorio (1625). The art of modern printing was discovered by German scholar Johannes Gutenberg (1394-1468). The Chinese, however, are credited for having developed their own system of printing, hundreds of years before Gutenberg was born.

First Newspaper
In 1637, Tomas Pinpin published Successos Felices (Fortunate Events), a 14-page newsletter in Spanish that is now widely regarded as the first Philippine newsletter. On December 1, 1846, La Esperanza, the first daily newspaper, was published in the country. Other early newspapers were La Estrella (1847), Diario de Manila (1848) and Boletin Oficial de Filipinas (1852). The first provincial newspaper was El Eco de Vigan (1884), which was issued in Ilocos.

First Magazine and Journal
Seminario Filipino, the first religious magazine in the country, was first issued in 1843. Meanwhile, El Faro Juridico became the first professional journal in the country when it saw print in 1882.

First Guide Book
According to Pampango historian Zoilo Galang, the first guidebook in the Philippines (Guia de Forasteros) was printed in 1834.

First Novel
According to literary expert Bievenido Lumbera, the first Filipino novel was Ninay, written by Pedro Paterno and published in 1880. Jose Rizal's Noli Me Tangere was published in 1887 while El Filibusterismo came out of the press in 1891. The first English novel written in English by a Filipino was Zoilo Galang's A Child of Sorrow.

First Woman Writer and Poet
According to Pampango historian Zoilo Galang, the first Filipino poetess was Leona Florentino of Ilocos while the first Filipino woman writer was Rosario de Leon of Pampanga. The first Filipino woman novelist, Galang added, was Magalena Jalandoni from Visayas while the first Filipino woman who wrote an English novel was Felicidad Ocampo.

First Non-Catholic Marriage
The first non-Catholic marriage in Manila under the Spanish control took place in the early 19th Century when American Henry Sturgis, who arrived in the country in 1827, married Josephina Borras of Manila. They were wed aboard a British warship at the Manila harbor.

First Bakery
In 1631, the Spanish government established and operated the first bakery in Manila.First DrugstoreBotica Boie is considered the first drugstore in the country, having been established by Dr. Lorenzo Negrao in 1830.

First Lighthouse
In 1846, the Farola was built at the mouth of Pasig River, becoming the first lighthouse in the country.

First Electric Lamp
The first electric lamp in the country is said to be the one designed by Ateneo students in 1878, 12 years before Thomas Houston Electric Co. installed Manila's first electric street lights.

First Botanical Garden
In 1858, Governor General Fernando Norzagaray ordered the establishment of the Botanical Garden. It can now be found beside the Manila City Hall.

First Waterworks
Manila had its first centralized water system in July 1882 following the completion of the Carriedo waterworks, whose reservoir was in Marikina.

First Railroad
In 1892, a railway connecting Manila and Dagupan was completed. It was operated by the Manila Railroad Company.

First Telephone System
The first telegraph line was opened in 1873 while the country's first telephone system was established in Manila in 1890. Electric lines were first installed in 1895.

First Mining Firm
In the early 19th Century, Johann Andreas Zobel founded the first iron and copper mining firm in Bulacan and Baguio. The first Zobel in the country was Jacobo Zobel Hinsch, a German who went to Manila in 1849. One of the Zobels - Jacobo Zobel Zangroniz latter married Trinidad Ayala de Roxas, an heir of the rich Ayala and Roxas families.

First Calendar
The first calendar with a Philippine almanac was first released in 1897. The first issue of the calendar was titled "La Sonrisa".

First Filipino Chemist
Johann Andreas Zobel also founded the first chemical laboratory in the country. Meanwhile, Anacleto del Rosario is considered as the first Filipino chemist.

First Philanthropist
Dona Margarita Roxas de Ayala, a daughter of Domingo Roxas, is considered as the first philanthropist in the country. She assumed the control of the family's Casa Roxas in 1843 and was one of the founders of La Concordia College.

First Social Club
The first social club was established in Manila in 1898. It was the Filipino Independiente, a circle of educated and rich Filipino nationalists. It succeeded Jose Rizal's La Liga Filipina, which was more of a movement.

World's First Steel Church
The steel church of San Sebastian, now Basilica Minore, is considered as the world's first-ever all-steel basilica. Designed by Don Genaro Palacios in 1883, this small, jewel box church was prefabricated in Belgium. The steel plates, weighing about 50,000 tons were brought to the Philippines in six ships. The walls were filled with mixed gravel, sand and cement to fortify the structure. Stained glass windows from France were later installed. The church, an earthquake-proof structure, was completed in 1891. There were arguments that French architect Gustavo Eiffel, who designed the Eiffel Tower of Paris and Statue of Liberty in New York, was also the one who designed the San Sebastian Church.

First Hotel
It is believed that Hotel del Oriente in Binondo, Manila was the first hotel built in the Philippines. The hotel was a two-story building with 83 rooms fronting the Plaza de Carlos III. It was a first-class hotel constructed in the 1850s just beside the famous landmark, La Insular Cigarette and Cigar Factory. The national hero - Jose Rizal - reportedly stayed at Room 22 of that hotel, facing the Binondo Church. Hotel del Oriente was among the crown jewels of the old Binondo (or Minondoc as it was earlier known) which was named after binundok. It was part of the Provincia de Tondo (now Manila) and was declared one of its districts in 1859. Both Hotel del Oriente and La Insular were burned down during the Japanese Occupation. The Metrobank building now occupies the former site of the two buildings. The oldest surviving hotel in the country is the Manila Hotel, which was built in 1912. The world's first hotel was the Tremont, which opened in Boston in 1829. It had a dining room for 200 people, 12 public rooms and 120 bedrooms.

First Republic
Early Philippine republics were Kakarong de Sili republic in Pandi, Bulacan; Tejeros Convention in Malabon; and Biak na Bato republic in San Miguel, Bulacan. Historians, however, wrote that the first real Philippine republic was established in Malolos, Bulacan on January 21, 1899. Two days later, the First Philippine Republic was inaugurated while General Emilio Aguinaldo was declared its first president.

First President of Katipunan
It was Deodato Arellano who became the first president of the Katipunan, a revolutionary movement against Spanish rule in the Philippines.

First Vice President
Mariano Trias is considered as the first Filipino vice-president who assumed the post in 1897.

First Army Chief
General Artemio Ricarte served as the first captain general of the Philippine Army which was established by the Tejeros Convention on March 22, 1897. Ricarte was replaced by General Antonio Luna on January 22, 1899.

First Calendar
The first calendar with a Philippine almanac was first released in 1897. The first issue of the calendar was titled "La Sonrisa".

First Protestant Mission
The first Presbyterian mission arrived in the country in April 1899. American couple Dr. and Mrs. James Rodgers led the mission.

First Filipino Protestant Minister
Nicolas Zamora, a former Catholic priest, later became the first ordained protestant minister in the Philippines.

First Election
The first municipal election in the Philippines was held in Baliuag, Bulacan under the supervision of American military governor general Arthur MacArthur on May 6, 1899.

First Ice Cream Parlor
In December 1899, Clarke's Ice Cream Parlor became the first ice cream parlor in the Philippines when it opened its store at Plaza Moraga in Binondo, Manila. Metcalf Clarke owned it.

First Autonomous Region
Before the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and the Cordillera Autonomous Region (CAR) were formed in the 1980s, Panay Island used to have "Cantonal Republic of Negros". The Americans, however, abolished the republic and turned Negros into a regular province on April 30, 1901.

First American Civil Governor
The first American civil governor in the Philippines became the 27th president of the United States. William Howard Taft, who served in the Philippines from 1901 to 1903, was also the only man who became a US president (1909-1912) and then a Supreme Court chief justice (1921-1930). Known for his weight of over 300 pounds, Taft became a very notable person in the US and the Philippines. One of the largest road networks in Metro Manila, the Taft Avenue, was named after him. President McKinley sent him to head the Philippine Commission in 1900. His task was to form a civil government in a country disrupted by the Spanish-American War and the rebellion led by General Emilio Aguinaldo, whom local historians called the country's first president.

First Superintendent of Manila Schools
Dr. David Prescott Barrows, one of the passengers of American ship USAT Thomas, was appointed the first superintendent of schools for Manila and later the first director of the Bureau of Education. USAT Thomas was named after General George Henry Thomas, a hero of the Battle of Chickamauga during the American Civil War. American journalist Frederic Marquardt coined the term Thomasites to refer to American teachers who came to the Philippines aboard USAT Thomas in 1901. (Source: Panorama Magazine)

First Filipino Superintendent
Camilo Osias was the first Filipino division superintendent of schools. Osias later became a senator.

First American College
The Philippine Normal School (PNS) was the first college established in the country under the American government. PNS opened its campus to Filipino students in Manila on September 1, 1901. It became the Philippine Normal University on January 11, 1992.

First Concrete Building
According to Pampango historian Zoilo Galang, the Kneedler Building was the first concrete office building in the Philippines.

First Filipino Chief Justice
In 1901, Cayetano Arrelano became the first Filipino chief justice of the court.

First Registered Professionals
A friend of Jose Rizal, Dr. Trinidad H. Pardo de Tavera, holds the distinction of being the first doctor to sign in the Book I of Registered Professionals on January 25, 1902. Pardo de Tavera, a scientist, was a part of the first Civil Government in the 1900s. Among the members of the Pharmacy profession, it was Dr. Leon Ma. Guerrero who appeared as the first registrant on the second earliest compiled Book I. The date was May 22, 1903. Guerrero is known in history books as the first among many Filipinos to put the Philippines on the scientific map of the world. In Book I of Dentistry, it was Dr. Wallace G. Skidmore who first registered on September 21, 1903. The Board of Dentistry was the first board of professionals created in 1899. The idea of organizing the boards of professionals came from the Americans who occupied the Philippines in 1899.

First Inventor
In 1853, the Spanish colonial government awarded a gold medal to Candido Lopez Diaz, a Filipino who invented a machine for Manila hemp or abaka.

First Filipino Chemist
Johann Andreas Zobel also founded the first chemical laboratory in the country. Meanwhile, Anacleto del Rosario is considered as the first Filipino chemist.

First Dentist
Bonifacio Arevalo is widely considered as the first Filipino dentist. In 1908, he was the founding president of Sociedad Dental de Filipinas, the first dental organization in the country. In 1912, Colegio Dental del Liceo de Manila became the first dental school. The first woman dentist was Catalina Arevalo.

First Economist
According to Pampango historian Zoilo Galang, the first Filipino economist was Gregorio Sanciangco.

First Pilot
Leoncio Malinas is considered as the first Filipino pilot. He first flew his plane on April 20, 1920.

First Accountants
Vicente Fabella is considered as the first Filipino certified public accountant (CPA) and Belen Enrile Gutierrez, the first woman CPA in the country.

First Cardiologist
The first Filipino cardiologist was Dr. Mariano Alimurung, who became an honorary member of the Mexican Society of Cardiology.

First West Point Graduate
Vicente Lim was the first Filipino who graduated from the prestigious West Point Academy, a military school in the United States.

First Female Professionals
Among Filipino women, it was Maria Francisco de Villacerna who became the first lawyer; Honoria Acosta-Sison, first physician; Catalina Arevalo, first dentist; Encarnacion Alzona, first historian; Celia Castillo, first sociologist; Filomena Francisco, first pharmacist; Belen Enrile Gutierrez, first CPA; Socorro Simuangco, first dermatologist; Carmen Concha, first film director and producer; Criselda J. Garcia-Bausa, first paleontologist; Felipe Landa Jocano, first anthropologist; and Ali Macawaris, first oceanographer. A visitor of this website said that Elena Ruiz Causin of Cebu could be among the first female lawyers in the country.

First Railroad
The Manila-Dagupan Railroad was completed in 1901, becoming the country's first railway system.

First Automobile
In 1900, La Estrella del Norte shipped from France to the Philippines a "George Richard", the first ever automobile to have landed on the native soil. Its owner was one Dr. Miciano, a rich doctor. The first shipment of automobiles for sale in the country was in 1907, with Bachrach Motors, an affiliate of American firm Ford Motor Co. as the importer.

First Labor Union
Isabelo delos Reyes, a writer, established the Union Obrera Democratica, the first organized labor union in the country on February 2, 1902.

First Political Party
In November 6, 1902, Pedro Paterno, a writer, scholar and former prime minister of President Emilio Aguinaldo, founded the Liberal political party.

First Opera
In 1905, Magdapio, the first Filipino opera, was staged at Zorilla Theater. Pedro Paterno wrote the opera, which was set to the music of Bonus.

First Convention of Governors
For the first time on October 2, 1906, the governors of Philippine provinces met in a convention in Manila. Sergio Osmena presided the convention.

First General Elections
The country's first general elections were held on July 30, 1907 under the American government. The people elected the members of the First Philippine Assembly.

First Speaker
The first speaker of the Philippine Assembly, whose members were elected in 1907, was Sergio Osmena.

First Actor in Politics
Before Lito Lapid became governor of Pampanga and Bong Revilla assumed the governorship of Cavite, Jose Padilla Sr., a movie actor in the 1930s, had served as the provincial governor of Bulacan. The first actor who invaded the senate was Rogelio dela Rosa.

First Diplomats
Benito Legarda and Pablo Ocampo were the first Filipino resident commissioners to the Unites States.

First Labor Day
The first Labor Day in the Philippines was celebrated on May 1, 1913 during the first National Labor Congress in Manila.

First Film
The first Filipino-produced film, "La Vida de Rizal" was released in 1912. Jose Nepomuceno produced the first Filipino full-length film "Dalagang Bukid" in 1919.

First Movie Theater
Salon de Pertierra, the country's first movie theater, was built in Escolta, Manila in 1897. A short French film was first shown in the threater.

First Comic Stip
"Kenkoy" is considered as the first comic strip in the Philippines. Cartoonist Tony Velasquez first published the comic strip in 1929.

First TV Station
Alto Broadcasting System (ABS) Channel 3, the first television station in the country, went on the air in 1953.

First Woman Cabinet Officials
Sofira Reyes de Veyra served as "social secretary" under the Quezon and Roxas administrations. In 1941, former President Elpidio Quirino named Asuncion Arriola Perez as the secretary of the Bureau of Public Welfare.

First Woman Senator
Geronima Pecson was elected to senate in 1947, opening the doors for Filipino women who wanted to join national politics.

First Olympian
David Nepomuceno, a Filipino serving in the US Navy, was the first Filipino Olympian. A sprinter, Nepomuceno was the country's sole representative to the 1924 Olympics, which was held in Paris.

First Balagtasan
The first balagtasan, a local term for poetic debate in honor of Francisco Balagtas, took place in Manila on April 6, 1924. The first participants were Jose Corazon de Jesus and Florentino Collantes.

First International Opera Singer
Before Lea Salonga became famous in London, New York and Paris for her portrayal of Kim in the musical Miss Saigon, a Filipino woman had long gained international recognition in the world of theater. Jovita Fuentes became famous in Europe for her opera lead roles in Madama Butterfly, Turandot, La Boheme, Iris, Salome and Li Tae Pe in the 1930s.

First Grand Opera
Noli Me Tangere, an adaptation of Jose Rizal's first novel became the first Filipino full-length or grand opera in 1957.

First Woman Barber
In June 1927 issue of Philippine Free Press, Martina Lunud from Olongapo City was featured as "Manila's Lady Barber" who could also be the first professional woman barber. She had to find her niche in the male-dominated profession and worked for La Marina barbershop and People's barbershop in Sta. Cruz, Manila later. "This is not a girl's work, I think, but I have done my best to a certain extent, and my customers like my work," the Free Press quoted Lunud as saying. (Source: Ambeth Ocampo, Philippine Daily Inquirer)

Asia's First Airline
The Philippine Airlines (PAL), which was established in 1941, takes pride in being Asia's oldest commercial airline. However, huge financial losses forced its owner Lucio Tan to close the airline in September 2000. It resumed operations a few months later. The first commercial flight in the country was recorded on March 15, 1941 when a twin-engine Beech Model 18 owned by PAL carried five passengers from Manila to Baguio City in 45 minutes.

First Senate President
The country's first senate president was Manuel Quezon (1917-1935) under the US government. The senate has produced a number of presidents and political luminaries such as Manuel Roxas, Sergio Osmena, Claro M. Recto, Jose Laurel, Camilo Osias, Eulogio Rodriguez, Juan Sumulong, Quintin Paredes, Lorenzo Tanada, Jose Diokno, Benigno Aquino, Ferdinand Marcos, Arturo Tolentino, Gil Puyat, Jovito Salonga, Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

First Female Justice
Cecilia Munoz Palma became the first woman to top the bar exam with a score of 92.6 percent in 1935. Palma also became the first female prosecutor in 1947, the first woman judge at the Court of First Instance in the 1950s, first female justice of the Supreme Court in 1973 and first female president of a constitutional commission in 1986.

First House Speaker Under Republic
Eugenio Perez of San Carlos, Pangasinan became the first speaker of the House of Representatives under the Republic in 1946. Among the laws passed during his tenure were the Magna Carta for Labor, the Minimum Wage Law, the Rural Bank Law and the Central Bank charter.

First Woman Cabinet Officials
Sofira Reyes de Veyra served as "social secretary" under the Quezon and Roxas administrations. In 1941, former President Elpidio Quirino named Asuncion Arriola Perez as the secretary of the Bureau of Public Welfare.

First Woman Senator
Geronima Pecson was elected to senate in 1947, opening the doors for Filipino women who wanted to join national politics.

First Woman Battalion Commander
Lt. Col. Ramona Palabrica-Go became the first woman battalion commander in the history of the male-dominated Philippine Army in January 2003. She was appointed as commander of the elite Aviation Battalion under the Light Armor Brigade based at Fort Magsaysay in Laur, Nueva Ecija province. She was 45 years old and had three children at the time of appointment.

First National Celebration of June 12
The first national celebration of June 12 as Independence Day took place in 1962 under the Macapagal administration. Former President Diosdado Macapagal signed the law moving the celebration of the holiday from July 4 to June 12 on May 12, 1962. Quezon Representative Manuel Enverga was the one who proposed the law.

First US President To Visit Manila
US President Dwight Eisenhower became the first incumbent American president to have visited the Philippines when he arrived in Manila on June 14, 1960.

First National Artist
Fernando Amorsolo, a painter, was the first national artist declared by the Philippine government. The award was conferred on Amorsolo in April 1972, several days after his death.

First American Multinational Firm
Computer chips manufacturer Intel Philippines Mfg. Inc. claimed that it was the first American multinational company that established a branch in the Philippines in 1974. Today, the Philippine branch of Intel is one of the top exporters of semiconductor components in the country and contributes significantly to the cash flow of its mother company in the US, which is said to be the world's largest corporation in terms of gross income.

First Woman President
In February 1986, Corazon Cojuangco Aquino, widow of the late Senator Benigno Aquino, became the country's first woman president and the country's 11th president. In January 2001, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, a daughter of the late President Diosdado Macapagal, became the 14th president of the Philippines and the second woman to assume the government's highest post.

First President in Prison
Deposed President Joseph Estrada, who lost the presidency to a military-backed people's revolt, was arrested on charges of plunder and corruption in April 2001. His arrest fomented the now infamous May 1 mob revolt that was suppressed by government forces. As this was being written, the trial of Estrada was still ongoing at the Sandiganbayan or the anti-graft court.First Muslim Justice SecretaryIn January 2003, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo appointed Simeon Datumanong, a Muslim, as the secretary of the Department of Justice, replacing Hernando Perez, who resigned on corruption charges.

First Award of Ancestral Domain
In what the Arroyo government described as a historic event and the first in the world, it awarded on July 20, 2002 a certificate of ancestral domain title (CADT) for the town of Bakun in Benguet province where some 17,000 Kankanaey and Bago people live. The title covers some 29,444 hectares of ancestral land.

First McDonalds in the Philippines
The very first McDonalds outlet in the Philippines was opened in September 27, 1981 in Morayta, Manila.

First Jollibee outlet in the Philippines
In 1975, Mr. Tony Tan opened a Magnolia ice cream outlet in Cubao and this outlet later became the first Jollibee outlet.

First hospital in the Philippines
San Juan De Dios along Roxas boulevard in Pasay. The hospital was started when the Franciscan missionaries arrived in the Philippines on June 24, 1578. Among them was a lay brother, Fray Juan Clemente who despite of his difficulty in learning the language of the natives devotedly studied the medicinal value of tropical plants in curing diseases of the sick and the poor. Consequently, the Franciscan porteria in Intramuros was converted into a dispensary. Later that year, Fray Juan Clemente built a nipa hut and bamboo hospital with two wards of 300 square meters each. Another ward was added when Fray Juan Fernandez de Leon arrived in 1590. He became the first hospital chaplain.

First Philippine airlines flight
The first PAL flight happened on March 15, 1941 with a single Beechcraft model 18 and it flew from Manila to Baguio. On July 31, 1946, PAL became the first Asian airline to travel across the Pacific when a chartered Douglas DC-4 ferried 40 American servicemen from Nielsen Airport in Manila to Oakland, California.

First Progressive Academy
A government recognized private school with FAPE accreditation located at the city of San Jose Del Monte. Owned and operated by Bobet Refran.

The first Kikiks (Kataas taasan, Kahuli-hulihan Klase sa Ateneo) batch in the Philippines.
The first Kikiks (KKK) batch was formed in 1979 in the largest classroom in the first floor of Santos hall building in Ateneo De Naga University on the first quarter of the school year 1979-80.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Graceland Restaurant in Naga City

During my short visit to the Philippines back in the year 2007 and 2008, I dropped by the Graceland food manufacturing building along P. Burgos Street in Naga City to visit our batch mate, Benjamin “Ben” Dy. I found Ben at his office and he greeted me with his usual, “Oh, Ivan. Kumusta ka na padi?”

During our short conversation, I noticed a picture on the wall of what appears to be a class picture. Ben told me that the men and women in the picture are his classmates at the culinary school that he attended in the U.S.

The Dy family is an enterprising family whose tireless efforts built one of the most successful restaurant and bakeshop chains in the Philippines. Like every successful business, it has humble beginnings. Below is an article I spotted written by another blogger who seemed to be familiar with Graceland’s history on how it started from a rented garage and grew into a large restaurant chain whose branches dot many areas in the Bicol region. Here is their story:

In the late 70’s when fast food was virtually unheard of in the provinces, Felipe Dy Eng Chong pioneered the fast food industry with Graceland. Graceland is now a far cry from the original “garage operation” when it started in 1976. Like most local businesses in Naga, it had a very humble beginnings.

Felipe and Felicidad Dy entered the food business with the primary objective of meeting the needs of his growing family. Back then, Tyo Peping (as Mr Felipe prefers to be addressed) was undeterred by his lack of formal education. He knew in his heart that what he wanted was to provide for his family and give his children a better future. He had big dreams for his business and wanted it to grow.
Tyo Peping started earning his keep at a very young age. Born to poor Chinese immigrants, he started working when he was only 11 years old. He did odd jobs around Divisoria working as a kargador, tindero, anything that would earn him a few centavos. Many years later, he moved to Naga city along with his young wife and family. With very limited education, the young couple had very little options to earn a living. Tyo Peping only graduated high school and his wife, Fely, reached only elementary.
Though they had a handicap on education, there was one thing going for them and that was their willingness to try anything. They were instinctively creative. What they lacked in academic knowledge, they more than made up for in resourcefulness and great desire to learn. While Tyo Peping, for instance was working as a sales clerk for a small hardware supply store, Fely taught herself how to make ice candy and ice drops and sold them to augment the family income.

Still, their pooled efforts weren’t enough to support an unusually large family. In 1976, with 10,000 in borrowed money, the Dy couple opened a four-table corner turo-turo in a rented garage. The “garage operation” was the original Graceland.

It was a micro operation. The number of employees can be counted in one hand as the couple could not afford to pay salaries to more employees. The labor supply mostly came from the nine children. The children were assigned to help out in the business doing sorts of work like cashiering, washing dirty dishes, taking orders and assisted in the cooking work. Tyo Peping, himself was washer, cashier and waiter rolled into one, while Fely was the cook. They weren’t even expert cooks, so to remedy that, the couple read cookbooks, sampled other eateries’ fare and even took pictures of actual food samples to teach themselves how to make ice cream, halo-halo, pancit guisado, cakes and sandwiches – whatever their hungry customers asked them to serve. Their improvisatory approach to the menu became the prototype for Graceland which today serves highly diverse product lines that goes beyond the burger-fries-spaghetti staples of other fast food chains. Unstructured, it was easy to act fast to quickly respond to the ever changing tastes and preferences of its customers.

The business grew as a result of the commitment, hard work, cooperation and dynamism of the family. From the four-table small eatery place at Elias Angeles St. (the location where Naga Optical is now), outlets of GFII or Graceland Food Industries Incorporated is now found in 3 of the 6 provinces in Bicol Region. Now, it has 5 kinds of restaurants to suit and cater to the different palates of the marketThe first born, GRACELAND, was the product of the ever changing trend and innovation in the food business during the 70’s and 80’s era. The 4-table eatery which used to serve “made to order” meals like pancit guisado, chopsuey, fried chicken and many similar items later on incorporated the ice cream parlor concept which was the trend in the early 80’s. Soon after, the fast-paced lifestyle of people prompted it to offer the “turo-turo” concept where people can just point the food items they want from a wide array of display of “ready to eat” viands.

The mid to late 80’s was the proliferation of hamburger chains in Naga. Most of the players then were local restaurant. Graceland too joined the bandwagon and opened a hamburger store in 1986 (along General Luna St in Naga City). It became an instant hit as it soon became the favorite hang-out place of teenagers. Even then, the company was into a lot of food introductions. It even introduced pizza way ahead of its time. Variety had always been GRACELAND’s strength.

The bakeshop concept had always been incorporated in Graceland’s operation even when it was just starting. The family used to buy chiffon cakes from a cousin and sell it in the store. Slowly, they learned the trade and started producing their own breads and cakes. Soon after, they gained loyal patronage. The sales of the bakeshop section showed a lot of promise. This encouraged them to innovate and introduce more variety of quality breads and cakes.The bakeshop market was growing and was becoming more discriminating. The family saw a window of opportunity in it. Thus, it gave birth to another baby, Baker’s Plaza. It was the first of its kind in Naga City. Baker’s Plaza introduced and whipped up a delectable array of specialty refrigerated cakes, pastries, croissants, breads which were then only available in Metro Manila. The store lay-out, the lightings, color motif, fixtures, equipments were also comparable to the ones seen in Metro Manila. Many first time buyers even thought that the food stuffs were brought in from Manila. In fact, every single one of them was homemade – a product of the entire Dy family’s endless taste tests and experimentations. But they made sure that the prices of the products were affordable to the Nagueño market.

Opportunities to open Graceland outlets in the neighboring provinces came. Franchising inquiries poured in. Prime properties were offered for possible Graceland location. Graceland became synonymous to quality, variety and affordable foods products.

The stiffest competition came in the 90’s when the big players entered the Bicol Region specifically in Naga City. It shook the local food industry so badly and Graceland was not spared from it. The semi-complacent years of Graceland were over. The company thought it could not compete. However, instead of giving up, it fought. It focused! As a result, Geewan was born.

Graceland and Geewan were separated into two distinct restaurant divisions. Graceland offered the fastfood burger-fries-chicken-spaghetti staples but added distinctively unique products to its menu such as pinangat, pork cordon bleu, sizzling products and other delectable dishes. Later on, true to its thrust of offering variety, meal items were expanded to include Baby Back Ribs, Lechon Bicol Express, Sizzling Sisig to name a few. Merienda items on the other hand include Fresh and Fried Lumpia, Lomi, Pancit and Bihon Guisado.

Graceland also retained the original set up of having a bakeshop section thus, almost all Graceland restaurants have a twin Baker’s Plaza outlet that on its own, sells varied breads, specialty refrigerated cakes, wedding and birthday cakes, pastries and rolls that are certified freshly baked daily.On the other hand, Geewan inherited the old “turo-turo” concept where viands are available for choosing along the counter. Geewan was slowly positioned also as the first Bicolano must-go restaurant for tourists, transients and even Nagueños for a taste of authentic Bicolano cooking. A visit in Bicol and in Naga City in particular is not complete without a taste of Geewan’s sumptuous dishes. It even offers Bicolano “pasalubong” food items such as (frozen) pinangat and Bicol express.

With the refocusing, it was able to analyze and understand its problems better. Specific solutions on products, manpower, marketing, store lay-out and motif, packaging, and other major concerns were made.The competition also compelled the company to look for other profitable avenues. It challenged the company to move beyond its comfort zone and explore uncharted territories. Thus, in 1996, two Graceland outlets were opened one after another in the city of Legazpi. Sorsogon was next to be explored in 1998 while Tabaco in 2001. With the opening of Pacific Mall in Legazpi City, Graceland also opened its very first outlet inside a mall in 2002.Rather than view competition negatively, the entry of the giants paved the way for the company to use them as benchmarks. Instead of looking at competitors as rivals, they saw them as mentors and they learned a lot from them. The excellent service, superb food and the cheery ambiance they provide are now within their arms reach for studying and learning.

Another unexplored area was a pizza parlor. In an area where pizza was an exotic novelty, Benjamin Dy has dreamt of offering light, fancy and affordable pizza to the Bicolanos. In 1999, the dream became a reality. It was aptly named Benjo’s (after Ben’s name). This baby came as a response to the growing pizza and pasta market. It was the first of its kind to be opened in the region and it offered diverse but complementary menu, including chicken (long before the competitor of its kind did). Benjo’s offers a different twist in pizza, pasta and chicken dining experience, something really deliciously different. Benjo’s caters to the hip group who was fast developing a fancy taste for affordable and flavorful pizza.

Lastly, the youngest baby born to GFII was in March 2004 right in the heart of Naga. The Naguenos have now acquired a taste for fine foods. Steaks, chops and ribs were now becoming a byword. More and more people were becoming coffee drinkers! However, most of the restaurants who offer these menu lines are located in Magsaysay Ave and can only be reached by cars. The company thought of bringing the same concept to Centro. As they say, “If Mohammad cannot go to the mountain, then let’s bring the mountain to Mohammad”. Thus, Red Platter was born.

Red Platter is another breakthrough in the established menu, a fusion of the best Asian and western dishes. It is a haven that will stimulate not just the sense of taste but all the other senses for a complete and satisfactory dining experience. The original idea for the concept of Red Platter was to “experience the delectable difference”.

These days, visiting Naga’s centro is being witness to the remarkable business ascendancy of the Dy family. Along P Burgos St., at the back of Plaza Quezon, one can easily find Red Platter, Geewan and Baker’s Plaza all in the same row. A stone throw away, along Barlin St., is the huge spic-and-span bakehouse and commissary where restaurant and bakeshop supplies and food products are prepared round the clock.

With the 10 different outlets and still expanding, one would think that the unassuming family patriarch would already take it easy. But Tyo Peping will have none of that. He still visits his stores everyday or when he can. His always word of advice “Don’t lose hope and you have to know what you want. You cannot reach your destination if you don’t know where you want to go’.

Truly remarkable of a man who have already received the prestigious Rokyaw award by the Ibalong committee (1998) where he was honored for – as Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist Josephine Darang write it – (having) moved from being a vendor, waiter and sales clerk to owning the famous Graceland Food Industries. Numerous citations for Graceland Food Industries, Inc include the Model Establishment Award (1992) accorded by the Department of Trade and Industry and the Consumer Council of Naga City, Outstanding SME Entrepreneur for Services handed out by the DTI Cam Sur and PSMEDC in 2003 and the Special Mayoral Award 2005 from the Naga City Government in June 2005. The Graceland Central Processing Area, garnered Regional 1st Place “AA” Meat Processing Plant (commissary group category) by the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) for 2 straight years (2005 & 2006)In February 2006, the prestigious Philippine Marketing Excellence Awards Institute has accorded Graceland the Best Food Chain (Luzon Category).
I would like to give credit for majority of the information in this article to a blog website entitled, "Bicol's Finest Food".