"Glimpses of Old Cebu" through the collection of Lucy Urgello Miller

- Maria Eleanor E. Valeros () - May 29, 2010 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - She is a shutterbug, so that explains why she is in love with photographs.

Lucy Urgello Miller shared she took a lot of pictures of her son, John (Henry Gregory U. Osmeña, Jr.) and placed his pictures neatly in an album, and that since they were put in albums soon after she took them, they are all in chronological order.

But collecting vintage postcards and photos on Cebu didn’t come till she got married to Richard Miller of California. “My husband has always encouraged me in my hobby and it was through his hobby of collecting old car literature that led me mine,” Lucy said via electronic mail exchanges.

In college, she mentioned that along with her groupmates they took part of Sister Delia’s (Coronel) photography club.  “This is where I learned to take pictures, to frame them, etcetera. Up to now, I am an avid photographer but not to the caliber of an artistic photographer.  I just love taking pictures, that’s all,” she said.

Her husband, Rick, was looking for old car literature at a postcard show in Pasadena and she came along.  “I asked a dealer if he had postcards on the Philippines, and to my surprise, he did.  That was how I got started in the hobby,” she said.

This hobby of collecting vintage photos and postcards has also expanded to collecting books and ephemera on the Philippines. “They seemed to go hand in hand,” she added.

Of her collection of vintage Cebu postcards and photos, the first one that touched and thrilled her was the postcard of Colon Street.  “I did not know how beautiful it looked in the colonial days,” Lucy explained.

The next one that touched her was the photo of the Paterno Residence on Mango Avenue (complete with canopies of mangoes lining the roadside). “As a student in STC (Saint Theresa’s College), I had always wondered what those ruins were and could find no one who knew.  It was such a serendipitous moment when I saw the photo of that house because I instantly recognized it as the ruins and seeing how it looked like in the past was like finding an answer to a puzzle,” she enthused.

The third one she admires most was a photo of Osmena Boulevard (once called Juan Luna) because it showed that Urgello Road was not there yet, at the time the photo was taken.  “It was so thrilling to see what this now busy street looked like in the old days.  It was out of the old town, then.”

On her vintage postcards and photos on Cebu collection, she said that she had them in acid and PVC (polyvinyl chloride)-free pages in albums organized by topics: Streets, Government Buildings, Buildings, Schools, Churches, Industry, Other Towns, etcetera.

“The climate here in California is dry and the postcards are in the house so there is no need to do anything special to conserve them as we keep the house at a steady temperature of 70 degrees Fahrenheit,” she pointed out.

Lucy was born January 7, 1948 in Cebu City to Manuel Urgello and Milagros Valenzuela (1937 Cebu Carnival Queen).  Her mother passed away when she was just two years old. Her father’s sister, Milagros Espina Urgello adopted her. 

She went to school at St. Theresa’s College from kindergarten to college and graduated with a Bachelor in Arts with minors in both Mathematics and English in 1970.

Lucy got married to John Henry Osmeña (Sonny) in 1969.  They had one child, John Henry, Jr.  “Our son John now lives in the States and is now 40 years old,” she also shared.

“We moved to the United States in 1974. In 1983, I remarried to Richard Miller, a teacher at Little Lake City Schools where I was also working.  We have been married since and John is like a son to my husband, Rick.  I was also a teacher. I taught kindergarten, first grade and third grade.  My husband, Rick and I retired from teaching in 2006.”

They moved to Valley Center in San Diego County upon retirement.

Last April 30, Lucy came home for the launch of the book “Glimpses of Old Cebu: Photographs and Other Images of the Colonial Era” published by the University of San Carlos Press as part of the ongoing celebrations marking the Diamond Jubilee of the SVD (Societas Verbi Divini) mission at the USC.

The special photo exhibition and book launching at the SM Northwing Atrium showcased an “extraordinary exhibit of selected images from the collection of a true-bloodied Theresian who has unselfishly shared with us through this book rare, never-before-seen images of Cebu,” said Ms. Marissa Fernan, vice president of Prime Holdings, Inc.

It was USC Press head Prof. Jose Eleazar “Jojo” Bersales, who found her online and after a three-month constant email exchange, the book finally saw its launch. “’Glimpses…’ is a 276-page coffee table book of nearly 600 of the best photographs, postcards, stereoviews and lantern glass slides of Cebu and its many towns,” Bersales also said.

“Photos were taken between 1899 to 1940 with the bulk of the photos and postcards being between 1910-1920,” Lucy clarified.

It is believed that a community is truly “enriched by efforts at historic preservation that allow us to save our past, our cultural heritage, and our historic environments,” Fernan said.

According to Bersales, “these images form part of over a thousand images collected over the past 20 years by Lucy Urgello Miller, who has been living in California since the early 1970s. A select few are also taken from the Cebuano Studies Center Photo Archive, the Ernesto Chua Collection, the Dr. Noel Ponce Collection, and the Rep. Emerito Calderon Album.”

The launch coincided with a special exhibition of 80 photographs found in the book jointly sponsored by SM City Cebu, the Arts Council of Cebu and the USC Press. The exhibit runs until May 14.

“It’s more than just a mere showcasing of rare, never-before-seen images, for the book also provides a treasure trove of information accompanying nearly every picture. Lucy has mined every possible source of information such that the reader is able to locate every picture and understand its place in Cebu’s history. She herself injects personal anecdotes that were told to her by her aunt, Milagros, on some of the images shown in the pictures,” this was further learned.

Inquiries on copies and price as well as discounts when buying by bulk, call 2531000 loc. 175 (ask for Tina or Anita) or email uscpress@usc.edu.ph.

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