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An old Tagalog province

The Singkaban Fiesta is observed this week, from September 8 to 15, also known as Bulacan Week. The province of Bulacan is known for many important historical events. The First Malolos Congress was declared on September 15 more than a century ago by General Emilio Aguinaldo in formal ceremonies held in Barasoain Church , Malolos, Bulacan. The Congress elected its first officers, with Pedro A. Paterno as President, Benito Legarda as Vice-President, Gregorio Araneta as First Secretary and Pablo Ocampo as Second Secretary. They put together the first Malolos Constitution, drafts written mainly by Apolinario Mabini in his Constitution Program for the Republic published in July 1898. The church was then filled with people who want to share the excitement of a new Republic and a festive spirit dominated the atmosphere while the Pasig Band played the National Anthem. There were no divisions and bickering like the recent scenes we are familiar with; there was only one political agenda — that of starting a new government and starting it well. The early achievements of the Malolos Congress include the ratification of Philippine Independence earlier declared in Kawit 14 days after it was convened.

Among the other achievements early in the new government was the mandate given in the Malolos Constitution for the provision of a free and compulsory system of elementary education. It also established three other schools of higher learning, namely: The Burgos Institute of Malolos; the Military Academy of Malolos; and the Literary University of the Philippines. Tagalog was the language used and taught at all levels during the revolution. A law was also passed allowing the government to take out bank loans for its rehabilitation and a new currency was issued. Barely into operating the new government, however, the revolutionary Congress declared war against the United States. The great power trained its eyes on the strategic location of our islands to further its ambitious conquests in the Asia Pacific, hence we were once again put under US colonial rule.

Also meaningful to me is the city of San Miguel de Mayumo in Bulacan where my late wife Irene came from. She is the granddaughter of Dr. Maximo Viola, who together with his two brothers led a battle against the Spaniards. Few people know that Viola helped Rizal print the first 2,000 copies of his famous novel “Noli Me Tangere”. He was given the first copy by Rizal with his note: “To my friend, Maximo Viola, the first to read and appreciate my work — Jose Rizal, March 29, 1887.” Dr. Viola is an unsung hero who also helped in the work of other revolutionists in their propaganda to work for justice and reform. For my part in contributing to his work, I had discovered and translated into English an old manuscript entitled, “My Travels with Rizal” by Dr. Maximo Viola.   

With its rich historical past, the province of Bulacan, once a land of abundant cotton (bulak), is now very progressive and holds much promise for its citizens. Its close proximity to the metropolis as well as its geographical connections with the rest of the provinces in Central and North Luzon contribute to this. However in recent news, as is already common during rainy seasons, inundation caused by overflowing rivers threaten the continued growth of its 24 municipalities, among them, Malolos, Obando, Hagonoy, Bulacan Proper and Paombong. If no corrective measures are adopted, the continued development of the province as a whole may be affected. Its rivers, like the polluted Marilao and Meycauayan Rivers, groan from manufacturing wastes dumped into them. Bulakenos must rally together to protect their rich heritage and care for one of the most abundant and fertile lands in the archipelago.

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